My wife's friend Erica opted for a destination wedding on St. Thomas. After a very brief discussion, Krista and I opted to attend. Besides Erica being one of Krista's college roommates, when else would we have the opportunity to go to a tropical paradise? We were both slightly hesitant since we dislike hot temperatures, but that seemed like a fairly small detail.

Sunday, 2012 June 10 and Monday, 2012 June 11 - Getting There

We spent all day Sunday relaxing, packing, and otherwise getting ready for our trip. About 9:30 PM our taxi picked us up and we were off.

The security line was longer than you might expect that late on a Sunday, but we made it through in maybe fifteen minutes with no problems. After a quick stop at a newstand for snacks and reading material, we reached our gate.

The flight took off on schedule and we arrived at Atlanta on time as well. I managed to sleep through most of the flight but Krista, typically, was wide awake. We had probably an hour to wait before boarding our flight to St. Thomas. I had received a rare first-class upgrade for both of us on this flight, so we got to enjoy the trip in style. It was particularly nice after being squeezed in coach for the five-hour flight from Seattle. The meal was good too. Plus Krista actually managed to get a little much-needed sleep.

As we landed in St. Thomas we could tell it was hot out. The flight crew actually requested that we open all of the air vents full-blast and close all of the window blinds before deplaning. Sure enough, the heat and humidity hit us like fists as we walked out. Yes, that's right - in St. Thomas they do it old-school; you actually leave the plane, descend some stairs, and walk across the tarmac to the terminal. We got an early peek at the gorgeous terrain as we did this.

Other than the heat picking up our luggage was uneventful. We shared a taxi with several other groups and made it to our resort, the Marriott Frenchman's Reef and Morning Star. Traffic was heavier than we had expected - but there were two cruise ships in that day, which we later learned explained it.

After checking in we spent a few minutes relaxing in our (wonderfully air-conditioned) room, then did a little exploring around the resort. We met the local iguanas, saw the resort's stretch of beach, and began to realize just how beautiful the island is.

Next up: one of the outside bars. Wow! Drinks were insanely expensive. But what the heck - we were on vacation. I had a mojito or two and Krista asked the bartender to surprise her. He made her a "tropical daiquiri", which proved to be very agreeable and became her official drink for the next few days.

Soon after getting the first round we ran into Jesse, Erica's fiance. He took us down one level to the poolside bar where he and Erica were hanging out. We all chatted a while.

They had things to do and we were hungry so we parted ways and Krista and I had supper at the outside bar and grill. Expensive, of course, but the food was really good. The service was also excellent, something we later learned not to take for granted. The sunset was gorgeous.

Finally we headed back to our room to relax a little before bedtime. It was a great start to our trip.

Tuesday, 2012 June 12 - Hitting the Beach

We had no plans for Tuesday, so we decided to head down to the beach. By about 10:15 we were laying on a couple chairs on the beach under an umbrella. Krista slathered on the sunscreen but I decided not to - after all, I was going to be under the umbrella, I had nothing to worry about.

After enjoying the view and relaxing for a few minutes we both started reading. A little after noon a waitress came around, so I ordered my first mojito of the day.

The waitress came by a second time maybe an hour later - and then we never saw her again. So I walked up to Coco Joe's, the restaurant/bar right on the beach, and ordered another mojito.

I was making great progress reading, but by about 2:00 I realized I had a problem - my legs were bright red and starting to hurt. That's when the realization set in that I hadn't accounted for reflected light when deciding not to put on sunscreen. As a ginger who has been living in Seattle for over four years, I'm not surprised that I didn't pick up on that. It turns out that in the tropics the sun is dangerous when it comes off of water and white sand.

An hour later we headed up to Coco Joe's for an early supper. The crab cakes we got as an appetizer were absolutely awesome. My burger was overcooked (I ordered medium-rare and got medium-well; this was going to be a recurring theme of our stay). The fries were good, and a couple beers helped me put my sunburnt legs temporarily out of my mind.

Wednesday, 2012 June 13 - Turtles!

Tuesday night was pretty rough. My sunburnt legs hurt every time I moved them, keeping me up for a few hours in the middle of the night.

Luckily we didn't have to be anywhere until 10:15, when we met up with Erica and some others for brunch. The brunch was expensive - like everything else at the resort - but was very tasty. I was particularly fond of the large container of bacon, but pretty much everything I tried was good.

Suitably fortified, we took a taxi to the Bolongo Bay Resort to rendezvous with some of Jesse's family (they were staying there) and to embark to go snorkeling. There were about 50 people on the catamaran, named Heavenly Days, but once we got underway everyone spread out on deck and it was roomy enough. Everyone except me, that is - I hid down in the cabin to avoid the sun. Unfortunately it was hot and stuffy, but that was the price I paid for being stupid yesterday.

After a short cruise we arrived at Turtle Cove off Capella Island for the snorkeling. Krista had a blast; it was her first time snorkeling but I guess she picked it up pretty quickly and then really enjoyed it. I, of course, kept hiding from the sun - I was glad I brought a book. The crew and captain were great; overall it was a fantastic time. Rum punch (recipe below) was plentiful, and since I wasn't snorkeling I was allowed to start drinking as soon as the boat got underway (but I didn't).

After a couple hours in Turtle Cove (which got very busy - it's a popular spot) we headed back to Bolongo Bay. We chatted briefly with Jesse's family, then bummed a ride back to our resort from one if his brothers. On the way we stopped at a grocery store and got a few items for the hotel room.

After that we relaxed for a while. We then met up with Krista's friend Sara and her boyfriend Tom. We headed back down to the outside bar and grill where we had eaten two nights earlier. Unfortunately our experience was not nearly as good this time. Our server was glacially slow and massively disorganized. Simply putting in a drink order was an hour-long ordeal (I'm not exaggerating). The food we received wasn't (quite) what we had ordered - Krista's "medium rare" steak was well done, and Tom's tuna had somehow morphed into swordfish. Still, other than the steak, the food wasn't bad.

Then it was back to the hotel room, where Krista wrote up a bunch of post cards.

Thursday, 2012 June 14 - Coral World

I slept much better. Not great, but my sunburn had settled down to a relatively steady, manageable pain. Breakfast consisted of some of the muffins we had picked up from the grocery store the day before - they were very tasty.

It was an early day - we met dropped off the postcards in the lobby at 8:45, then met Tom and Sara and took their car over to Coral World. The drive was nice - twisty, hilly roads, and of course the occasional glimpse of an absolutely gorgeous ocean view.

Coral World was very cool. It's small, but the exhibits they have are good. They also provide opportunities to do things like feed manta rays and touch a live shark. The highlight, though, was Franco. Franco is a trained 480-pound sea lion that does daily shows.

After the requisite pass through the gift shop, Tom drove us back to Charlotte Amelie for lunch and some shopping. I was running low on cash. Bank of America doesn't have any branches on St. Thomas, but their website told me that I could use ScotiaBank ATMs for free. That turned out to be true.

Flush with cash, we stopped for lunch at The Greenhouse. It was, in a word, great. Our server, Misty, was phenomenal. The food was great - I ordered fish and chips and it was prepared perfectly. Krista loved her crab wrap as well. Sure, it's a tourist restaurant, and I'd expect the quality to suffer when it's busy, but if you can catch it when it's relatively empty I'd highly recommend it.

Then it was on to shopping. Krista found a purse and wallet in the street market, haggling like a champ (thanks to her time in Korea, no doubt). I found a liquor store but managed to emerge with only two 1-liter bottles, one of rum and the other of Scotch. We also found a flavored rum variety pack for Krista. There was also a Belgian chocolate shop (we didn't try the chocolate there, but after getting back to Seattle we were both distinctly underwhelmed by the chocolate).

Leaving town (after a very short wait while the person who had parked us in moved their car) we went off in search of a dive shop for Sara and Tom. That errand accomplished, it was back to the resort.

Krista headed out to one of the pools, and the swim-up bar, to meet Erica and some of her other friends. I was still leery of getting too much sun so I just relaxed in the room, reading.

After Krista got back we were both feeling a little peckish so we decided to order some room service. Being the classy sort of guy that I am, I paired my club sandwich and fries with red wine to drink. Krista was extremely amused by the tiny condiment bottles. The food was quite good.

Friday, 2012 June 15 - The Wedding

It was a short night - I woke up at 2:15 and couldn't get back to sleep. I'm not sure what was up with that.

We met Erica and bunch of her entourage for brunch again. Since we weren't planning on eating again until the reception that night, I stuffed myself. Making greasy bacon a key part of this strategy was probably a mistake, as I was soon headed back to the room.

After brunch we basically took it easy all day until it was time to get ready for the wedding. By early afternoon I was fighting sleep.

We walked up the beach to the Morningstar resort, where everyone was gathering for the wedding. The wedding itself was on the beach, just a short walk away.

It was a nice ceremony - short and to the point. Congrats to Erica and Jesse!

Then it was on to the reception. It was served buffet-style, which I always treat with a certain amount of suspicion as I've been to a few receptions where they run out of food. Well, my fears were misplaced, for they had an absolute feast ready for us, including a small roast pig. Everything I tried was great - the pig, the jerk chicken, it was all good.

There was an open bar as well, which both Krista and I took full advantage of. They were serving their own take on rum punch (recipe also below), and Krista found it quite agreeable.

Finally we headed back to the room. It was a great night.

Saturday, 2012 June 16 - Island Tour

After another pretty good night, we headed down to the hotel lobby at 9:45 for a "scenic island tour". We knew there were other people on the tour; happily, we discovered that they were Erica's parents and a group of their friends.

The tour was given by Mr. Allen, a 32-year army veteran originally from St. Thomas who had returned there after retiring. He commented on how it's much cheaper to book such a tour directly through a taxi operator; it would have been less than half the price per person had we done that rather than going through the resort.

The tour was very interesting. We went all over the island, with several stops at particularly scenic locations. Mr. Allen kept up a running commentary throughout. We learned such interesting tidbits as:

Mr. Allen dropped Krista and I off in Charlotte Amelie at the end of the tour. I wanted to take some pictures of Ft. Christian, with the thought of building a Lego model someday. Krista wanted to take another pass through the open-air market. Sure enough, she found another purse she liked and haggled down the price.

After that we stopped for lunch at Tavern on the Waterfront. It was good, but nothing special. The service was pretty slow, but by this point we were fully on island time and barely noticed.

And then it was time to wander through downtown again. Unlike our previous trip, where we were rather focused in what we looked at, this time we just took our time. We also went back one street, discovering many additional shops. And some local chickens.

We took the resort's water taxi back. It was a cool trip - the pilot/guide pointed out some sights for us, such as Frenchtown and an old fort. Also the house where, apparently, "Real World St. Thomas" was filmed. The water was surprisingly rough. We also saw a huge yacht; I have no idea what it's name was, but its true scale became apparent when people started moving around on deck.

We relaxed in the room for a while. I may or may not have nodded off.

Then down to Coco Joe's for supper. The crab cakes were way overdone this time, unfortunately. The fish and chips were good but not as good as at The Greenhouse.

Sunday, 2012 June 17 and Monday, 2012 June 18 - Getting Home

The resort offers a late-checkout option each day, but the exact time varies depending on several factors (this is how it was explained to us). So, instead of having to check out at 11:00 AM - we got to stay until noon.

This actually worked out pretty well for us. We chilled out in the morning, then packed up and headed down to the lobby. After checking out we ran into Erica, Jesse, and some of her family, so we talked a bit with them before taking a cab to the airport.

Just like when we arrived, leaving was a little different from how things are done on the mainland. First we went up to the Delta counter and got our bags tagged. Then we had to stand in a very long (albeit fairly quick-moving) line to go through customs (this line was mostly outside, with just the end indoors). After clearing customs, we had to stand in another line, again fairly quick-moving, to go through TSA.

The terminal was small but serviceable. It was also, in general, pretty full. We staked out a row for us and anyone else that wanted to join us, as Erica, Jesse, and some of his family were all leaving at about the same time as us.

We had gotten upgraded to first class again for the flight back to Atlanta and we took full advantage of it. The meal was again pretty good.

After landing in Atlanta, it felt like we had taxied a very long time and were going in circles. Our suspicions were confirmed when the pilot came over the PA to tell us that he had been told to go to one gate, then another gate, then back to the first gate, then to the second gate again. And, of course, once we got to the second gate there was no ground crew, so we had to wait a few minutes before finally beginning to disembark.

After a short layover we started back to Seattle. The flight was horrid - either the air conditioning was broken or they had turned it way down, but in any case the plane was sweltering. I was squeezed into the middle (since Krista had taken that spot on the flight out) and was a sweaty, miserable mess pretty much the entire flight.

Finally we landed in Seattle. We grabbed our bags, got a taxi, and were home at last around 1:00 AM.

Rum Punch Recipes

Both recipes are from memory and so I may be slightly off. Krista has been making the second one regularly since we got back to Seattle, so I'm more certain of it.

As prepared on the Heavenly Days:

As prepared at the wedding reception:

Sunday, 2011 November 19 Saturday, 2012 July 21