Bolongo Bay review…

This was my second stay at Bolongo Bay Beach Resort. This trip was about pure relaxation; no shopping, no site seeing, no bar hopping… Just sitting on the beach or by the pool, enjoying some of the islands best adult beverages, having a wonderful dinner at the Lobster Grille, and crawling into bed sun-drenched and exhausted.

The transfer to the hotel was easy ($16 for a shared van) and I was greeted in the lobby with a much-anticipated cup of rum punch and smiling faces. Check in was a breeze, where I was given an all-inclusive wristband and a schedule of events for the five days I’d be staying. I was in the room in less than 10 minutes, despite a number of other check-ins and phone calls the front desk was fielding. I reserved an ocean front room and was not disappointed. The room was recently renovated and the mattress was actually better than the one at home. The shower was a bit tight, but if you’ve traveled to Europe, it was still bigger than many I’ve encountered over there and plenty good enough to wash the salt off and get ready for the evening. The room was about 20 steps from the bed to the water. It’s not a white sand beach once you’re past the tide line, but there’s plenty of sand for lounge chairs, towels, and spreading out. Because of the rocks, I found the snorkeling to be very good right in front of the hotel.

Iggie’s is the place to be for a very casual meal and a great “beach bar” flavor. Had dinner there the first night and then switched between there and the Lobster Grille for meals the rest of the stay. Lobster Grille tends to be a little more “formal”, although for us that mostly meant putting on something other than swimwear and knocking the sand off our feet. The second night, I had the filet and lobster combo and was very, very impressed. An excellent meal and very large portions; one of the best-prepared steaks I’ve had anywhere in my travels. There was live entertainment (ranging from steel drums to a rock trio from Boston) every night we were there. Eric Stone has a nice Jimmy Buffett flavor if that’s your thing. I enjoyed his sets quite a lot. The bars close up around 11-12 most nights, so if you’re looking for somewhere to drink and dance all night, this might be a strike against Bolongo.

The bar at Lobster Grille doubles as the swim-up bar for the pool and better bartenders would be hard to find anywhere on the island. They were like old friends by the second day and knew what you were drinking, but would mix it up for an occasional “surprise” drink now and then. The pool isn’t large, but even when 20-30 people were milling around on the pool deck and in the water, it never seemed crowded.

Overall, I was very pleased with the hotel, staff, and location of the resort. Last year, I had an ocean view room (balcony) and did not have the all-inclusive plan. After this year’s stay, all-inclusive and ocean front is definitely worth the extra cost. If you eat and drink well and plan on staying on-property most of the time, it will save you money in the long run.

Things to know before you go: It’s not the Ritz Carlton (that’s on the other side of the island), but it is clean, quiet, and very well maintained; It’s a bit of a drive to Red Hook or to Charlotte Amalie. If you plan on spending a lot of time in these places, the cab fare adds up quickly or you’ll need to rent a car; Once the sun goes down the place gets very quiet unless you’re at Iggie’s and that sidewalk rolls up around midnight, so if you’re planning on partying all night, you may want to look elsewhere.

With that said, Bolongo Bay is exactly what I look for in my beach vacation – the opportunity to be as active or lazy as I want to be on any given day. With customer service that was top notch from start to finish, I don’t have a single complaint about my stay. The next time I’m on St. Thomas, I’ll be staying at Bolongo Bay. Check them out at www.bolongobay.com or on Facebook.

Showers…

We’ve now reached the point in vacation planning where I start obsessively checking weather forecasts, flight details, reservations, etc. At the moment, the next ten days are a solid strip of “showers” according to the National Weather Service. I hope that’s just your typical early morning showers and not the all day torrential downpour type. I’ll feel awfully silly sitting by the pool in a driving rain pounding down rum punch… But I’ll do it if I have to.

Counting down…

The countdown is on for the second of what has every likelihood of becoming an annual trek across land and sea to the beautiful island of St. Thomas. It’s not a party mecca like Cancun or a mega-resort like Atlantis, but if all you really want to do is sit on a secluded beach with a stack of good books you’ve been meaning to read or belly up to the pool bar for a few rounds of Cruzan rum punch, this place fills the bill very, very nicely. For five days at least, the only plan is to eat well, drink well, sleep well, and repeat as necessary.

If I’m feeling adventurous, it’s a night of bar-hopping in Red Hook or the search for duty free local booze and rum cakes in Charlotte Amalie. For the record, Bolongo Bay Beach Resort isn’t anything flashy and it’s about as far from the Ritz as you can get… literally and figuratively. It’s low key and a little dated but the beach is only three steps outside the room, the tiki bar is maybe 30 paces past that, and they have one of the best steaks I’ve had anywhere in my travels at their Lobster Grill. If your expecting luxury, I wouldn’t recommend it, but if you really just don’t want to give a damn about anything, this is the place for you.

One of the real perks of the USVI is that it’s a “domestic” trip. That means no passport necessary. You’re not going to be subject to foreign laws, you’re not going to get caught between warring drug cartels, and if the worst does happen, you’re still protected by American law. Running into those issues has never been an issue for me, but knowing it’s different-but-not-foreign is actually a little comforting. For all good things, there is the inevitable down side. In this case the first of them was the gang-rape I was subjected to at the hands of Delta Airlines. I won’t go into details, but will say that my AmEx now has a smoking hole in it thanks to two tickets from Memphis.

The problem with the travel bug is that it can be a painfully expensive disease, especially when you’re use to doing your traveling on Uncle Sam’s credit card. Because it’s an island, anything that can’t be grown natively has to be brought in by air or sea… and that means everything is expensive. The all-inclusive package mitigates that for dinner and booze, but if you want a snack “on the economy” you’re going to pay big for the privilege. In most places in the Caribbean, tourists benefit from a relatively strong dollar when compared to the local currency. Since St. Thomas is a US Territory, their currency is the dollar. What that mostly means is that you’re not going to get the bang for the buck you would get going elsewhere. For me, the few extra dollars are offset by the fact that everyone speaks English (more or less). You can still find some deals at the duty free shops and if you’re planning to keep most of your gluttony on the resort, you won’t spend that much anyway. Long story short… I’m not quite to the point of counting days, but Mid-May can’t get here soon enough. I fell better just knowing there’s a mark on the wall out there and that good things are coming.

A while yet…

Even if all I did was sit on the beach and read, grab an occasional rum punch, and eat whenever the mood struck me, I’d have a while yet before this vacation got old. Of course that’s not all that’s in the cards. It’s a snorkling trip tomorrow, probably an island tour on Saturday, and then climbing back on a 757 for the ride back to the world. Time hasn’t grown so short that my thoughts have turned brooding just yet, but every sunset is a reminder that an end is coming and that it’s almost time to be an adult again.

Maybe a little too much…

A little too much sun this afternoon combined with a little too much rum and a sunset cruise this evening have conspired to make this a bit of a rough evening. I definitely think I’m over the rum punch for the rest of the night. Of course if someone twists my arm, I could possibly be convinced to give it one more go. As it is, I’m struggling to get up the steam to wander across the beach for dinner and steel drums at Iggie’s.