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Westin St. John [Master Thread]

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ekinggill

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WSJ Trip Report

Recently returned from our Week 32 10th anniversary trip. Layla and I plus 9 friends. Great time all around.

Highlights:

Villas
-Renovations look great. We have a 1BR in building 34 and they really did a nice job. One exception: the guys who put the brown-dirt-colored industrial deck paint on our patio tracked it right into the villa. Permanenant dirty shoe prints on the tile.

-Had two sets of friends rent separate 2BR villas in building 33, which also already has the exterior done. Both loved it.

-Other friends had a 3BR pool villa in building 41 which was not yet remodeled. It was my first time in one...pretty nice but I would miss the view from the top of the hill

Improvements
-FreeCycle was great. Got beach chairs, dish liquid, some canned goods. There were lots of beach toys and bug repellent. I left chairs (which were snapped up before I even made it inside), the detergent, some soft drinks, tennis balls, and a box full of half full liquor bottles.

-The grills at the building 33/34 pools are in horrible shape. Saw flames shoot out and singe the hair of the arm of someone trying to light it. Good to see the recent e-mail that the HOA is working on fixing this isssue.

-New surface on the tennis courts is awesome. They did a great job. If it wasn't too hot to play more than a couple games, it would be even better.

Staff
-Service levels, especially from the front desk staff, are as bad as ever. Way undermanned on check in/check out days. We had 5 keys to our villa all stop working on Friday while we were out. 40 minute ordeal to get new ones.

Travel
-Flew into San Juan on Friday, spent the night at a Hampton near the airport, and flew over to STT in the morning. I like this approach as it gave us an additional day of vacation than our past approach of flying all the way from Dallas on our St. John check in day.
-On the advice of @DavidnRobin I rented a car at STT and took the car ferry over to St. John. This was a game changer. We shopped in St. Thomas, got over to St. John on our schedule, made several trips to the market during the week, and most importantly, saw so much more of the island than ever before.

Activities
-I arranged for sailing to Jost Van Dyke for the group, 5 on Tuesday and 6 on Wednesday on the sail boat Dream Weaver. (www.stjohnusvisailingcharters.com) We all had the best time ever! She asked the night before what we wanted to drink on board and all of our brands were there. Her first mate mixed drinks for everyone and made sure we wanted for nothing. The ride was smooth and easy. We lunched at the Soggy Dollar Bar (don't miss the onion rings). On the way back she stopped the boat in a narrow channel between two island so we could snorkle. This was my first time snorkling on a reef that rarely sees people and it was breathtaking. I even got some free sailing lessons on the way back. ($125 a person + tip + BVI customs)

-Thursday I chartered a private Baths / Caves / Willie T's trip through Cruz Bay Water Sports. There was more than enough space for 11 on The Blast. There were really professional, got us in and out of customs quickly, and a great time was had by all. Plenty of soft drinks, beer, and mixed drinks, muffins and fruit for breakfast, and a large sandwich plate for lunch. Price per person was about the same as if you joined one of the regular trips that have 30 or 40 strangers on board. It was really convenient to be able to board a private charter right there on the Westin pier.

Thanks to all of the Tuggers who posted tips for an enjoyable villa trip. The composite of all of your ideas helped make this trip, by far, the best of our three to St. John.
 

DavidnRobin

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thanks for the trip report - glad to see someone else other than me offering observations of WSJ and STJ.

Yes - the BBQs between B33-34 are safety hazards - I often end up lighting the BBQs for people (while wet and staying as far back as possible).

I haven't really ever had issues with the Front Desk or Maintenance - although I have had our keys become deactivated - which is really a drag after returning from all-day at a beach - wet/sandy and tired.

Don't you have tile floors off of your balcony? We do (in 3410) - I would suspect that the stain will come off those tiles.

I would like to see a rug placed under the dining room table and chairs - I could hear the chairs being moved (scraped) against the tile floors, and have never in previous years ever heard anything from our next door neighbors.

Glad to hear that the STT car rental worked out for you. I keep saying that it is not a big deal to rent on STT and take the car barge over - so easy that most who plan to rent a vehicle should consider this. I will always rent from Amalie car rental - their service and great vehicles make it worth the extra $50/week.
 

tomandrobin

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Glad to hear that the STT car rental worked out for you. I keep saying that it is not a big deal to rent on STT and take the car barge over - so easy that most who plan to rent a vehicle should consider this. I will always rent from Amalie car rental - their service and great vehicles make it worth the extra $50/week.

Trying to convince my Robin on STT car rental. She is too spooked about breaking down on STJ and having to paying towing back to STT. Robin still rather pay the $$$ pp to ride the Westin Ferry. We have 6 going next July.....I rather spend the money elsewhere.
 

ekinggill

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Yes the stained tiles are right inside the patio. I had housekeeping come up because I thought it was actually dirt. They told me they tried everything they had to get the stains off. They said it should be fixed before I come back next year, but I am not holding my breath.

Tom>>> My wife was a little nervous about the car rental as well. It was so simple. We rented from AVIS and they have a roadside assist option for STJ. For $30 per week it covers running out of gas, flat tires, even lost keys. (The charge if you don't get the coverage and lose your keys is more than the cost of a week's rental.) The only issue with going this way is if you arrive late. The last car ferry is at 6 PM. We had friend with a flight delay who had reserved a car. They landed at 5:30. They just cancelled their car and took the Westin Breeze and rented for a couple days on STJ. They also could have taken the passenger ferry which runs until mid-night. The driving on the left with a US car was not hard to adjust to.
 
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ekinggill

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Slow Processing of Tax Payment

Just a heads up. I recently got my 2008 tax bill which showed my 2007 taxes as delinquent. I called and told them I mailed my payment back in July with a return receipt, which I got showing they received my payment on July 17 and that to date, my card hasn't charged.

They told me they had someone quit just as the workload dramatically went up from the back tax bills and that one person was handling all of the payments. They also said it could be months before they are caught up.
 

okwiater

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Re: renting a car on St. Thomas and worried about breaking down on St. John...

I called AAA and they confirmed that I would be covered for roadside assistance in my rental car on St. John or anywhere in the US Virgin Islands.
 

DavidnRobin

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Trying to convince my Robin on STT car rental. She is too spooked about breaking down on STJ and having to paying towing back to STT. Robin still rather pay the $$$ pp to ride the Westin Ferry. We have 6 going next July.....I rather spend the money elsewhere.

Amalie Rental vehicles are almost brand new, and they always refresh their fleet (our 4dr Jeep Wrangler was <8 months old - looked brand new). The real issue is if you get into an accident, and that issue exists for any vehical rental.

below is a photo of our 4dr Jeep Wrangler (from Amalie) on the car barge - the red one
IMG_1048.jpg
 
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DavidnRobin

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Re: renting a car on St. Thomas and worried about breaking down on St. John...

I called AAA and they confirmed that I would be covered for roadside assistance in my rental car on St. John or anywhere in the US Virgin Islands.

AAA roadside assistance in STJ? I am very surprised to hear this - does STJ even have AAA? Again - it really is a non-issue compared to getting into an accident (considering any car that has been on the islands for a while are dinged up). This goes to making sure your rental is as in good shape as possible - this is why I will always be renting from Amalie - and paying the extra $50/week (or so...).
 
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DavidnRobin

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Just a heads up. I recently got my 2008 tax bill which showed my 2007 taxes as delinquent. I called and told them I mailed my payment back in July with a return receipt, which I got showing they received my payment on July 17 and that to date, my card hasn't charged.

They told me they had someone quit just as the workload dramatically went up from the back tax bills and that one person was handling all of the payments. They also said it could be months before they are caught up.

My checks cleared the bank about 2 weeks after I sent them - I did not use a return receipt as my cancelled/cleared checks are proof of payment.
 
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DavidnRobin

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okwiater

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AAA roadside assistance in STJ? I am very surprised to hear this - does STJ even have AAA? Again - it really is a non-issue compared to getting into an accident (considering any car that has been on the islands for a while are dinged up). This goes to making sure your rental is as in good shape as possible - this is why I will always be renting from Amalie - and paying the extra $50/week (or so...).
I have no idea if STJ has an AAA facility; however, there may be contracted service providers on the island. Or, they may be on St. Thomas in which case I'd assume they'd take the boat over to rescue you.

I, too, was surprised to hear that AAA covers in the USVI; however, I asked the question 3 different ways and from 2 different AAA agents, both of whom put me on hold for a few minutes and came back on the line to confirm that YES, I would be covered anywhere in the USVI.

Nice perk right?
 

okwiater

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Incidentally, my wife and I are staying at WSJ for the first time this week. We left the east coast yesterday just hours before they started shutting down the airports for Hurricane Irene. Lucky timing!

Happy enough just to be here, we checked in to our 44,000 StarOption 1-bedroom, and ended up receiving a 2-br Hillside townhouse instead! Very nice unit; although it seems a waste for just the 2 of us to be sharing this giant place.

Looking forward to starting to explore the island a bit today...
 

LisaRex

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Happy enough just to be here, we checked in to our 44,000 StarOption 1-bedroom, and ended up receiving a 2-br Hillside townhouse instead! Very nice unit; although it seems a waste for just the 2 of us to be sharing this giant place.

We shared it with another couple and thought it was a waste for just the four of us!
 

bobpark56

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AAA roadside assistance in STJ? I am very surprised to hear this - does STJ even have AAA? Again - it really is a non-issue compared to getting into an accident (considering any car that has been on the islands for a while are dinged up). This goes to making sure your rental is as in good shape as possible - this is why I will always be renting from Amalie - and paying the extra $50/week (or so...).

I just queried our AAA East Central office: "Is AAA roadside assistance available on St John, US Virgin Islands?"

Their reply: "Thank you for your email, unfortunately we do not have an office in the Virgin Islands."

I'm not sure who they mean by "we."
 

DavidnRobin

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I just queried our AAA East Central office: "Is AAA roadside assistance available on St John, US Virgin Islands?"

Their reply: "Thank you for your email, unfortunately we do not have an office in the Virgin Islands."

I'm not sure who they mean by "we."

Having never seen a AAA sign on a tow truck in the STJ (only having seen maybe 2 in a 6 year period during our 2 weeks) - it doesn't surprise me. It may be that they have a contract with someone, but you can be assured that the AAA contract would be held by someone in STT and not STJ - and they would take the tow truck on the car barge anyway (which is where I have seen a tow truck).

Regardless - the issue is not about breaking down unless you get a trashed vehicle (and why I will rent from Amalie now on), but the real issue in regards to needing a tow would be an accident which IMO is much more likely. If you are in an accident that needs a tow (recall that the speed limit on STJ is 20mph) you are going to be screwed whether you rented on STJ or STT. Mostly likely - you will never need a tow on STJ - or if you do, it will need to be something that you adapt to anyway - since it is likely that the tow truck is coming from STT.

So... if having to get towed is truly a concern - then I would recommend not renting a vehicle at all - and use the taxi-buses instead. For us - we are renting in STT and taking the car barge over. I wish I had done this years' earlier. If you are going to rent a vehicle the entire time, then rent in STT and take car barge - it is too easy not to. lesson learned...

IMO - to not rent on STT because you may break down on STJ is a non-issue in the scheme of things - balanced against covenience and cost - and all the other things that could go wrong on a vacation (like needing emergency dental work on STJ, or getting stranded due to airline issues {2x} - both have actually happened to me)
 
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Politico

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David--

We arrive at WSJ on Friday. Are you aware that Amalie does not rent vehicles during the low season? We tried, but they told us they are closed in September. :confused:
 

DavidnRobin

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David--

We arrive at WSJ on Friday. Are you aware that Amalie does not rent vehicles during the low season? We tried, but they told us they are closed in September. :confused:

No - I wasn't aware. That is too bad - I guess they figure it is not worth it to them to stay open in Sept. You could ask them for an alternative recommendation. I did rent from Dependable, but was disappointed with our vehicle, but perhaps the larger ones are better (we got a 2Dr Jeep Wrangler soft top that was a mess). People alse use Budget and Discount - I know nothing about them, but you can read the BBS on Vinow.com (or post).

Have a good trip - watch out for TS Katia - 5-day forecast has it going north of the USVI, but...
 
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Politico

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Katia

No - I wasn't aware. That is too bad - I guess they figure it is not worth it to them to stay open in Sept. You could ask them for an alternative recommendation. I did rent from Dependable, but was disappointed with our vehicle, but perhaps the larger ones are better (we got a 2Dr Jeep Wrangler soft top that was a mess). People alse use Budget and Discount - I know nothing about them, but you can read the BBS on Vinow.com (or post).

Have a good trip - watch out for TS Katia - 5-day forecast has it going north of the USVI, but...

Alas, we have been monitoring KATIA since she was a wave off the horn of Africa, then Tropical Depression 12 deep in the Atlantic, now Tropical Storm KATIA approaching the Caribbean, and likely Hurrince KATIA which hopefully will make a dramatic North-East turn out to sea. Oh, we are watching :eek:
 

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2012 reserve

I apologize if this has been asked, but a search did not yield any answers. There may not even be an answer yet! Does anyone have an idea of what the replacement reserve is looking like for 2012? I own in Bldg 32 and was curious if they are due to go down yet or not until 2013.
 

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2011 was supposed to be the last year, but they deferred a small amount from 2011 to 2012. They're also planning on starting a reserve in 2012 to cover the insurance deductible.

It will be interesting to see the new amount ...
 

Politico

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Budget

We used Budget to rent our 4 door Jeep Wrangler and had no issues. Rented at STT, drove to Red Hook (after a stop at Cost-U-Less), and took the ferry to STJ from 9/2 - 9/9. Great trip.
 

DavidnRobin

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We have a Winner!

OK - so I was the only one who took a guess on the 2012 WSJ VG MFs...
I forgot which post, but recall my guess for my MFs (2Bd TH) was $2400. Turns out that I was only $49 off...

Just received a mailing from WSJ HOA BOD and it lists the MF as $2449 - too bad no one else had the guts to make a prediction - so I win the prize! :D

btw - this MF includes a RR fee of $451, and this is the proposed budget - not actual

Studio = $1469
1Bd = $1959
2Bd TH = $2449
2Bd Prem = $2939
3Bd = $2939

This is an 8.46% decrease from 2011, and 2011 was a 6.65% decrease from 2010 - color me happy...

It also appears that SVN fees will once again go up - $125 for 1st and $158 for multi-week
 
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jdds

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OK - so I was the only one who took a guess on the 2012 WSJ VG MFs...
I forgot which post, but recall my guess for my MFs (2Bd TH) was $2400. Turns out that I was only $49 off...

Just received a mailing from WSJ HOA BOD and it lists the MF as $2449 - too bad no one else had the guts to make a prediction - so I win the prize! :D

btw - this MF includes a RR fee of $451, and this is the proposed budget - not actual

Studio = $1469
1Bd = $1959
2Bd TH = $2449
2Bd Prem = $2939
3Bd = $2939

This is an 8.46% decrease from 2011, and 2011 was a 6.65% decrease from 2010 - color me happy...

It also appears that SVN fees will once again go up - $125 for 1st and $158 for multi-week

I was so happy when I saw this in the mail today. Could they ever get the MFs back down to what they were when I bought in 2005? :hysterical:
 

clsmit

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Got a call from Starwood yesterday. They have a week for sale next to my week and wanted to know if I wanted to buy it. Seriously, it was nice of them to call me to see if I wanted it (I said no-- shhh, don't tell the DH ;) ). Hope it goes to a good home.
 
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