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By The Bar In St. Croix

St. Croix, US Virgin Islands

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St. Croix, the largest island of the US Virgin Islands group, has had something of a checkered history. It was originally discovered by Christopher Columbus in the fifteenth century. He called it ‘Santa Cruz’. The natives, however, weren’t too happy with Spanish colonization, and existed in a state of near constant warfare with their imperial masters. After a century or so the Spanish decided that the island was more trouble than it was worth, and it was passed around like a hot potato between various European empires, undergoing drought, war and slave rebellion before eventually winding up with, of all people, the Danes. The Danish government were responsible for giving the islands’ towns their distinctively Scandinavian names.

These days, however, St. Croix is very definitely a US possession: Denmark sold it to States in 1917 in return for American backing for the Danish claim on Greenland – an altogether larger island, but not necessarily one where you would want to spend a beach vacation. The correct pronunciation of the island’s name is ‘San Qua’, though the natural French sound has been a little eroded over the years, especially as the island’s main language is now English.Hotel Caravelle

Most of the resorts and hotels are concentrated on the north coast, around the island’s main town of Christiansted. One of the most popular is the Hotel Caravelle. The Caravelle, which offers outstandingly good value for money to vacationers on a budget, is situated in a beautiful pink and white building with views northwards to the deep blue Caribbean.

Hotel Caravelle: Room The rooms, forty-three of them, have recently been refurbished to a very high standard, and now feature state-of-the art technologies for business-minded vacationers. If you’re talking your laptop on vacation, for example, each room has wireless coverage to allow quick and simple connection to the internet. Each room also has en suite bath and toilet, cable TV, refrigerators and air conditioning to allow comfortable sleeping and relaxation in the sultry Virgin Islands climate. Considering the low price of a vacation at the Hotel Caravelle, this room specification can be considered to represent among the best value in its class. Guests have a choice between deluxe, superior and standard rooms – the chief difference between them being the view you enjoy from the window. Deluxe rooms enjoy a full ocean view, superior rooms a view over the pool and Christiansted boardwalk and harbor, and standard rooms a rather less glamorous vista, which, nonetheless, allows you to make the most of the rich Caribbean sunshine. If you really want to push the boat out, the hotel does offer a two room, top floor penthouse suite – but there’s only one, so you have to book well in advance!

As the Hotel Caravelle is located so close to the main settlement of St. Croix there’s an awful lot to do for those who enjoy an active vacation. The local Scuba center runs training courses as well as one and two tank dives for certificated divers. Or you can join one of Big Beard’s adventure tours to nearby Buck Island National Park. These tours include a return trip in a catamaran to the fantastically beautiful Buck Island, including a tour of the island and its beaches – there’s even the opportunity to do some snorkeling along the way!

If you want to keep your feet on dry land, you can join one of Sweeny Toussant’s St. Croix island tours. These take in many sites of interest, including the island’s rum distillery. A legacy of St. Croix’s sugar cane growing past, the Cruzan Rum distillery is one of the main rivals to giants like Bacardi.

Hotel Caravelle: Restaurant and Bar Eating and drinking in St. Croix is an adventure in itself. The Hotel Caravelle is associated with one of Christiansted’s most famous restaurants, Rum Runners, which is open to guests and non-guests alike. Rum Runners, and its chef, Mark Bartle has won a series of awards, and, despite serving relatively ordinary food at reasonable prices, has been consistently voted one of the best places to eat in the US Virgin Islands. The restaurant specializes in fresh meat and seafood. The surf’n’turf options on offer are extensive, and there is also a wide variety of steaks to choose from. If you feel like lobster for your dinner, you can choose your own from the island’s only lobster tank. The restaurant also has an excellent bar which serves a variety of beers and cocktails – many of the latter based on St. Croix’s local white rum.

St. Croix is a great place to go if you want a vacation that’s a little like home from home. Although there are a few cultural differences – everyone drives on the left, like the Brits – the island, in common with the rest of the US Virgin Islands, is culturally very Americanized. It’s a great place to have fun and relax – especially if you’re vacationing on a budget.

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