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St. Croix Research Report Aug. 2017

Discussion in 'Lesser Antilles' started by drrich2, Aug 20, 2017.

  1. drrich2

    drrich2 Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Southwestern Kentucky
    7,279
    4,228
    113
    Over the past several months I've researched St. Croix as a 'dive trip disguised as a family vacation' (per wife) destination, benefited greatly from the info. shared by many on Scuba Board and elsewhere, had a fine 8-day trip Aug. 5 - 13, 2017, and now I'm sharing my compiled research fortified by my own observations, including from a Jan. 2014 cruise ship stop in Frederiksted with 2 dives (Shallow Butler Bay Wrecks & Spratt Hole) - Quick Trip Report from that. I hope to post a detailed specific trip report later, but here focus on the destination. Kudos to Moon Travel Guides for making publicly assessable for non-commercial use an excellent map with just the right amount of detail in a clean, easy-on-the-eyes format.

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    Map via link to Moon.com - © Avalon Travel​

    St. Croix

    -----St. Croix is an island 22 miles long, 7 miles wide at widest point, 84 square miles in area with highest elevation 1,165 feet. Its two best-known towns are Christiansted to the east (pop. 2,626 in 2010), and Frederiksted (pop. 3,091) to the west. Per the 2010 census the population was 50,600. People drive on the left-hand side of the road (but most vehicles have left-sided steering columns). English is the dominant and official language. The USVI are designated a free port in a separate customs zone, so U.S. travelers must clear U.S. customs but don't require a passport. It is a constituent district of the U.S. Virgin Islands, an unincorporated territory of the United States whose capital is Charlotte Amalie on St. Thomas. They’re on Atlantic Standard Time (no daylight savings time; they match EST in summer & are an hour ahead in winter). Electricity is U.S. style: 110 volt, 60 Hz and the same plug type. Currency is the U.S. dollar.

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    Frederiksted Pier​

    -----Trade winds blow across the length of St. Croix, striking the east coast (windward side) and flowing across (leaving the west coast as the leeward side, with calmer seas). N2TheBlue noted (Post #14) the east is sparsely inhabited and very dry with grasses, shrubs and cacti, the middle (e.g.: Christiansted) the heavy population center and the west has rainforest and large, green estates; the south side lacks diving due to wave break and few live there (aside from Divi Resort and Casino). The island lacks fresh groundwater or streams and rivers; despite a desalination plant most residential homes and businesses have built-in cisterns to collect rainwater (details). N2TheBlue also noted it takes about 30 minutes to get from the far east to Christiansted, then another 30 to reach Frederiksted.

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    Christiansted​

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    Nice view on Tan Tan Tours jeep trip​

    -----Multiple sources recommended renting a car to get around, and noted dining out tends to be rather expensive. Tim Linse with Sweet Bottom Dive Center (pers. com.) noted local law forbids dive centers and private businesses from transporting customers in company vehicles, so taxis or rental vehicles are needed. Christiansted is reputedly the more 'happening' town, with Frederiksted comparatively sedate. As of 9-1-14, N2TheBlue noted (Post #19) St. Croix had Kmart, Home Depot & Radio Shack, but other stores were local vendors with no mega-grocers except the local chain Plaza Extra (I saw an Office Max). I saw KFC, McDonalds, Subway, Little Caesar’s and Domino’s Pizza.

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    -----Cell Coverage & Getting Around: We saw an AT&T Store and had decent iPhone AT&T reception in Christiansted (I noticed on the road near Cane Bay we didn’t). A March 2015 Trip Advisor thread claimed with AT&T on St. Croix you get no extra fees for data, pics or calls. The iPhone’s Apple Maps app. GPS’d us around fine. Traffic wasn’t bad but with left-sided driving, where traffic signs were placed, which way to look last before pulling out turning at an intersection, it’s different.

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    Near Christiansted​

    -----Richard’s Update: Entering St. Croix 8-5-17, we had no involvement with Customs. Exiting 8-13-17, we went through the Customs desks where they asked a few questions, it was pretty quick & we didn’t have to fill out Customs forms. At our flight’s gate, I was paged and told after clearing Customs we were supposed to reclaim our bags and turn them in again (like when you fly into a U.S. airport from outside the U.S.). Weren’t we told? Not that my wife or I recalled! I was blessed when a helpful gate staffer quickly took me back out to transfer the bags, helped me through Security (again) quickly, and I made the flight (albeit quite stressed).

    Dive Conditions

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    -----Wikipedia notes water temp.s range from 77 - 86 degrees F. Review of a range of sources indicates good to excellent viz. N2TheBlue noted the Christmas winds - seasonal winds running roughly from late Dec. through Jan. and possibly part of March, which can interfere with north coast shore diving. St. Croix is in the hurricane belt, so be aware planning late summer/fall trips. Reading multiple online reviews indicates varied underwater topography and good general Caribbean diving with frequent shark sightings (a S.C.U.B.A. guide, Cory, mentioned way back (like 2008) divers went ~ 80-90 feet to see sharks, but since lionfish feeding they’re common shallower and direct lionfish feeding to sharks is discouraged (due to altering natural behavior/habitat usage).

    Most St. Croix diving may be broadly divided into 2 main regions:​

    1.) West Coast - the famous Frederiksted Pier (shallow, not over 30 feet deep, a legend for a variety of small creature finds (e.g.: sea horses, frogfish) and especially night diving (but you can't dive it when a ship is in port! Check the schedule). Also along this region are wrecks (e.g.: the Shallow Butler Bay Wrecks) and reefs over a flat bottom (e.g.: Spratt Hole) as opposed to wall diving. The west coast offers the calmest conditions and best vis. on average.

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    Frederiksted Pier​

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    Shallow Butler Bay Wrecks (2014)​

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    Spratt Hole (2014)​
     
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2017
    ResortDiver850 likes this.
  2. drrich2

    drrich2 Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Southwestern Kentucky
    7,279
    4,228
    113
    2.) North Coast - subject to more waves and reports of choppy conditions, the North coast offers shore diving off a wall that plunges into a deep trench vastly beyond recreational depths. Dfx (Post #13) reported a very long swim-out on a Cane Bay shore dive; TN Traveler (Post #14) suggested for shore diving the wall head to Davis Bay by Carambola Resort for a shorter swim-out with good spur-and-groove formations before reaching the wall. Sweet Bottom Dive Center has a diving page with distance specifics on Davis Bay vs. Cane Bay distance-to-wall.

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    -----Sweet Bottom Dive Center summed it up, noting the north shore has wall diving, and the west end has 5 shipwrecks, the pier and reef dives. ShoreDiving.com notes 8 shore dive sites (+ 1 on nearby Buck Island); Frederiksted Pier and Dave’s Pool (west coast), Butler Bay (northwest), then North Star, Cane Bay, The Waves, North Shore & Rust Op Twist (all north coast). Butler Bay entails a long swim out and the risk of currents and boats (I’d boat dive that one). Sweet Bottom Dive Center’s diving page cautions about the North Star site (e.g.: “This entry is no joke”).

    -----The island is small enough to make sampling both east and west coast diving desirable in a multi-day trip; the Frederiksted Pier is not to be missed, and the 'diving freedom' of shore diving the north wall part of St. Croix's draw. I think most divers choose a 'home base' (hotel, etc...) at or near Christiansted, Frederiksted, Cane Bay or Davis Bay (e.g.: Carambola Resort). Ed Buckley (S.C.U.B.A.) mentioned July is typically their busiest month, and things generally start to slow down a bit by about mid-August.

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    -----In an e-mail 5-23-17, Jim Linse with Sweet Bottom Dive Center noted their house reef, Davis Bay Wall, is only 75 yards from shore; most dives are on Davis Bay West (features canyons) and Davis Bay East; late spring/summer if seas are flat they can dive a segment called The Cut (very shallow & rocky entry/exit). Wall slopes ~ 45 degrees. In comparison, Linse noted Cane Bay Wall has a 100 yard sand chute for easy entry/exit, but the wall lies about 300 yards from shore and starts at about 30 – 45’, with a drastic drop-off about 60’. He said along the north shore they normally have 1 – 3’ waves in Fall and Spring, 2 – 6’ waves in Winter and 1’ seas in Summer. GoToStCroix.com has a page on Dive the World Famous Cane Bay Wall that describes how to dive Cane Bay Wall.
     
    Schwob and KathyV like this.
  3. drrich2

    drrich2 Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Southwestern Kentucky
    7,279
    4,228
    113
    Davis Bay

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    Cane Bay

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    -----Richard’s Update: I did 12 boat dives with S.C.U.B.A. 8-6-17 – 8-8-17, and one shore dive each at Davis Bay and Cane Bay. The evening of 8-7-17 a tropical storm dumped over 5 inches of rain through the night/next morning. In overview, viz. ranged ~ 30 – 50 feet (which a dive pro. called ‘meh’ for them, indicating 60 – 80 feet is more typical) and temp.s warm with a mild thermocline maybe once and current usually negligible and never a real problem. The swim out at Davis Bay was long, and at Cane Bay very long, though I liked Cane Bay’s reef better my one dive each. I was told from the mooring buoy at Davis Bay if I turned east I’d see sand chutes cutting through the reef, if I turned west mainly wall. I turned east, saw the sand chutes, and also saw sand chutes at Cane Bay (where I headed west from the buoy). My impression (anecdotal with small experience base) of north wall diving was good often sloping wall reef (but varied; some sand channels and can get steep), overall not as good as Bonaire’s (but Cane Bay Wall was on par). Unlike Bonaire I saw a lot of reef sharks. My 1 dive at Frederiksted Pier was fine; the pilings are in sets of 3, huge and close enough together it’s easy to accidently fin kick the next while surveying one. The pier was too massive for me to cover in one dive. I saw a good variety of 'the usual Caribbean suspects' except no large grouper (plenty of conies & I believe graysbys).
     
  4. drrich2

    drrich2 Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Southwestern Kentucky
    7,279
    4,228
    113
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    -----Dive Shop Hours for Shore-diving Equipment: I contacted N2TheBlue about renting tank and weights to shore dive the Frederiksted Pier; they’re open 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. daily, you can pick up gear in that time, you can’t return it when they’re closed, and rental is based on a 24-hour clock (if you rent at 10 a.m. today, it’s due back 10 a.m. the next day). I was told full kit with tank was $30/day. Tim Linse with Sweet Bottom Dive Center told me the last tanks go out at 3:30 p.m. unless you set it up with them ahead of time, if you’re diving the house reef the storage lockers and store close at 5 p.m., and the store opens at 8:30 a.m. so if you do a night dive you can bring gear back the next day. Suzanne Rosbach with Cane Bay Scuba said they’re open 8 a.m. – 7 p.m.

    -----What About Solo Shore-diving? I went alone to N2TheBlue’s Frederiksted location and Cane Bay Dive Shop’s Cane Bay location to rent a tank and weights for a shore dive at each. I had to show a dive cert. card at each. At N2TheBlue, I showed my AOW; worked fine. At Cane Bay, I showed my SDI Solo Diver card, but the transaction was already underway, staff hadn’t asked for a solo cert. and I strongly suspect AOW would’ve been accepted. I didn’t try that with Sweet Bottom Dive Center because beforehand I’d e-mailed Tim Linse about coming for a shore dive and mentioned I had AOW; in a reply he said “Good afternoon Rich, we have plenty of equipment for rent. The last tanks go out at 3:30 unless you set it up with us ahead of time. Just bring your cert card and a dive buddy!” I replied I had an SDI Solo cert. and asked if that’d be a problem; he said “Nope just bring you card, you will however need to use a redundant air source (we rent them for $10 with a reg, choice of sizes are 30/40/80cu/ft and come with stage kit) and give us a dive plan prior to diving (depth/runtime/direction of travel). We are all technical divers and solo divers too, but we don't mess around with safety. I hope you understand.” They wrote my name and a time on a chalkboard at the dive shop. No one questioned my SpareAir3 for redundancy.
     
  5. drrich2

    drrich2 Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Southwestern Kentucky
    7,279
    4,228
    113
    Dive Operators

    -----Some often-mentioned and praised dive op.s I found in online reviews were St. Croix Ultimate Blue Water Adventure (S.C.U.B.A.), Cane Bay Scuba and N2TheBlue. Sweet Bottom Diver Center was highly praised where mentioned; they support shore diving and use S.C.U.B.A. to provide dive boat service (albeit with a Sweet Bottom guide along). Recently I've noticed the popular live-aboard operator the Juliet offering St. Croix trips in the winter. I found a highly complimentary review of Dive Experience (plus great Trip Advisor ratings), so I’m listing them, too. My summaries are highlights, not exhaustive listings, so for example I may list the main daytrip boat options but not guided shore services.

    St. Croix Ultimate Blue Water Adventure. Per their website checked 11-27-16, S.C.U.B.A. claimed to be the only dive shop diving all the moored sites around the north and west coasts of St. Croix. They have 2 dives boats – the 42’ Reliance (takes up to 14 divers) based out of the Christiansted Boardwalk in front of the Caravelle Hotel, visiting north shore wall and reef sites, offering a 2-tank (wall & reef) morning dive and an afternoon 2-tank reef dive (Note: We had ~ an hour between trips for lunch). Claims to be under 35 minutes to most north shore dive sites. The Scuba Dos is a 31’ Island Hopper boat taking up to 10 divers departing from Frederiksted Pier for 2-tank morning and 2-tank afternoon wreck and/or reef dives, claiming to be under 15 minutes from most west shore dive sites. S.C.U.B.A. offers a range of tec. diving courses. They’ve got 100-cf tanks for $10/tank upcharge.

    -----If you want to make Christiansted your home base (e.g.: bring non-divers who aren’t beach-focused and need entertainment), a convenient choice. One oddity – I saw very little mention of shore diving on their website so I e-mailed asking. I was told they don’t send any gear not part of their boat or pier dive trips, but highly recommend Sweet Bottom Dive Center for wall shore diving, and Adventures in Diving STX for Frederiksted Pier shore diving (on King St. a block or two from the pier).

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    -----Richard’s Update: In 12 boat dives over 3 days, I found them friendly, competent, helpful (they set my tank and gear up & changed tanks between dives) and they even took us out with only 3 divers (and I think one was a staff who didn’t have to pay!). They would keep and rinse BCDs, reg.s & wetsuits (but I was to carry off other things, like mask, boots and fins). The Captain even offered to keep, rinse & return my gear tomorrow…when he knew I’d done my last dive with them! Incidentally, even at 4 dives/day x 3 days, I dove air every dive and didn’t have much trouble staying inside of NDL limits.

    Cane Bay Scuba. They have 4 locations (Cane Bay West in Frederiksted, Cane Bay Dive Shop on the north coast in Cane Bay, Cane Bay East in Christiansted and Cane Bay Divi at the Divi Carina Bay Resort on the southeast shore. Their 36’ Newton dive boat is moored nearby at Salt River marina. Per website they sometimes use 20’ inflatable pontoon boats designed for use by Navy Seals with easy entrances and exits through the hull, with a max. of 6 divers or as few as 2. Via e-mail Nov. 28, 2016 with Suzanne Rosbach with Cane Bay Dive Shop, I learned the Newton boat moors at and leaves from Salt River most days; each week they dive the wrecks and pier (on pier days clients meet the boat at the pier), and their other locations are retail outlets. Per follow-up e-mail 5-28-17 the boat leaves from a dock space at Salt River, it’s a 6-8 minute drive from Cane Bay to the marina, and when guests rent vehicles they usually drive there but when they’re at the dive shop and don’t have a vehicle they’re taken to the boat.

    I believe Cane Bay Dive Shop is what many think of as ‘Cane Bay Scuba’ – a north shore-based dive shop with on-site cottages (recently renovated except 2 of the Mountain View as of 11-18-16; they no longer manage the cottages) plus north wall shore diving out front, and restaurants nearby (some walking distance). The 2 cottage categories are Mountain View and Ocean View (formerly called Superior cottages).

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    -----Richard’s Update: They had 80 and 100-cf tanks on offer; someone (maybe staff?) said all the tanks were aluminum. Well worth using a bigger tank for that long swim out (or back).

    N2TheBlue. An op. with their main location close to Frederiksted Pier, who have a boat at the Salt River Marina (north coast). They specialize in boutique, private/semi-private small group diving and take out a max. of 6 divers/boat trip. Per e-mail with this op. Nov. 13, 2016, the Frederiksted location offers 2-tank morning boat dives and 1 or 2-tank afternoon boat dives; their Salt River marina boat offers 2-tank morning boat trips on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. I later learned N2TheBlue has 3 boats (typically one serves the wall/Salt River/North Shore, the other two the west coast), and limits each to 6 guests but can use more than one to accommodate larger groups. The Frederiksted location supports shore diving (e.g.: the pier and offer free gear cart use), but I was told they don’t have a full service dive shop at Salt River so they don’t provide tanks or offer surface support for shore diving from that location (but I was told Cane Bay is just a 20 minute drive from Frederiksted). Their website lists 2 boats (but they have 3), the 26’7” Apex panga N2theBlue and 26’ MayCraft Chasin’ Mason. Note: N2TheBlue has participated on Scuba Board and raised awareness of St. Croix as a dive destination.

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    Richard’s Update: I dropped in 8-11-17 to rent a tank & weights for a pier shore dive; they had AL80s but not larger tanks. Their rinse tanks were outside & around the side, so don’t miss them. Fairly close to Frederiksted Pier.

    Sweet Bottom Dive Center. Located at the Renaissance Carambola Beach Resort & Spa off Davis Bay (per website Cane Bay is about 2 miles east). They specialize in small group, personalized dive experiences by shore or boat (note: their boat diving is aboard a St. Croix Ultimate Blue Water Adventure boat, albeit with a Sweet Bottom dive guide to keep a small group feel). Per their website their average group size is 3 divers to 1 divemaster. Shore diving Davis Bay Wall is an option, per their website ‘only’ 75 yards from shore, with other sites minutes away. They offer some technical dive training and provide air, nitrox and trimix fills.

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    I corresponded by e-mail with Tim Linse Nov. 2016; he indicated it’s a 20 – 30 min. drive to the boats from Renaissance Carambola Beach Resort and Spa; there’s no way to expedite that as local government won’t let them put in a pier at the resort for pickups. Richard’s Update: From near Hotel Caravelle in Christiansted, by iPhone estimated ~ ½ hour to cover 12.5 miles to reach the Carambola resort, and there are a number of turns on that (at times scenic) route. It was a walk from the front parking lot to the dive shop at the rear of the grounds, but staff golf-carted my gear & I to the beach shore gear-up site, back to the shop after my dive, rinsed my gear for me than carted us back to our rental vehicle in the parking lot…at no extra charge! They offer 100-cf as well as 80-cf (& some smaller size).
     
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2017
  6. drrich2

    drrich2 Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Southwestern Kentucky
    7,279
    4,228
    113
    Dive Experience. Located at the boardwalk across from the boat dock at King Christian Hotel in Christiansted. Dive Experience II is their custom Delta 28 dive boat, licensed for 15 total, usually with 2 crew and up to 13 divers. They offer professional level courses including PADI IDC Instructor training. They list 2-tank morning or afternoon dives, 1-tank afternoon dives, 1-tank afternoon Lionfish Hunt dives, night dives and Frederiksted Pier night dives. UW videography and photography service is available.

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    Juliet Live-aboard. A 104’ long, 26’6” beam (max. width) 3-masted schooner with 6 cabins (max. 12 passengers) and 12 tank stations with private gear holds. They offer nitrox. Often suggested as a more comfortable, less crowded yet still budget live-aboard option compared to Blackbeard Cruises (albeit more expensive), the Juliet alternates a range of destinations seasonally (e.g.: Bahamas, St. Croix, Mona Island). The website listed St. Croix starting Dec. 2016 through March 2017, with a planned itinerary departing from Frederiksted Pier to dive wrecks and reefs of Butler Bay, walls off Cane Bay and reefs and slopes of the northern shores around Salt River and Christiansted. Trying to pin down a definite ‘conditions allowing’ dive # on a Juliet trip eludes me; reporting from a Bahamas trip, ScubaBoard member scbaNE2179 said (Post #9) if conditions are right, they offer up to 19 dives for the week (around 4 dives/day). They don’t by default put dive guides in the water (Post #6).

    -----Live-aboard diving offers a lot – very simplified trip planning (room, food, transportation, no rental car required and you get a lot of diving over a large area). You get less choice, but are freed from the tyranny of too many over-detailed choices, at the cost of enjoying topside attractions such as the towns, rainforest, etc… But you’ve got a narrow window of time to dive it in St. Croix, when the water’s somewhat cooler (and remember the Christmas winds).

    Christiansted vs. Frederiksted

    -----The choice of who to dive with for some hinges on where they stay, with topside concerns in mind, non-diving family, civilized attractions vs. a secluded escape, budget vs. splurge, proximity to deep wall diving up north vs. more reliably benign surface conditions and pier access to the west, etc…

    -----If you want seclusion (but not too remote) yet the niceties of a resort (which will cost you) with a beach, north wall shore diving, a boutique operator and you’re willing to drive 20 – 30 minutes to make the dive boat, consider Sweet Bottom Dive Center at the Renaissance Carambola Beach Resort and Spa at Davis Bay.

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    -----If you want a beach, north wall shore diving, a dive boat with that op., cheaper housing and can spare some of those resort amenities, consider Cane Bay Dive Shop, perhaps staying at one of the (preferably ocean view) cottages (which they no longer manage). Or consider an area hotel like Arawak Bay – The Inn at Salt River (off the water but not far).

    -----Richard’s Update: Carambola Resort’s grounds are beautiful and the ocean view nice, but while our 4-year old daughter enjoyed the beach at both, my wife said she could get in and out unassisted more easily at Cane Bay (as in pic below). On the other hand, the wife said some beaches at Frederiksted were prettier (but they didn’t get in the water there).

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    Last edited: Aug 20, 2017
    KathyV likes this.
  7. drrich2

    drrich2 Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Southwestern Kentucky
    7,279
    4,228
    113
    -----But if you’re not staying at Cane Bay or Davis Bay, your decision probably comes down to staying in or near Christiansted or Frederiksted. The Frederiksted Pier is a very popular shore dive site, but otherwise neither seems to be a prime shore dive place (e.g.: compared to Cane Bay or Davis Bay).

    Frederiksted – Per its Wikipedia page 12-3-16, it’s ‘mostly a sleepy town’ that in its peak month (January) gets ~ 15 cruise ships, but only 0 – 1 over the summer, has little retail shopping (livens up when a cruise ship comes) but several restaurants and beach bars, a few water sports companies, and the area offers many expansive beaches. Also noted to ‘operate at a slower pace’ than Christiansted except during Carnival (January) or when cruise ships dock, and have a 7 street x 7 street city design and several historic structures. N2TheBlue’s dive shop is here, conveniently close to the pier for shore or boat diving.

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    Christiansted – Per its Wikipedia page 12-3-16, the largest town on St. Croix, it features small hotels and many restaurants and preserved the 18th century Danish-style buildings built by African slaves, with streets running at right angles to the waterfront and a popular area for walking tours. GoToStCroix.com’s Christiansted guide notes it’s got boutique hotels, historic Danish architecture, offers a National Historic Site, and has several water sports operations and a boardwalk. Best Virgin Islands Guide describes it as the ‘lively, bustling heart of St. Croix,’ and notes it has fine shopping, nightlife, an array of sporting activities and historic attractions (check its page for more on that). VInow.com claims the town is one square mile, and discusses historic sites shown on a street map. St. Croix Ultimate Blue Water Adventure and Dive Adventure each have a dive boat based here.

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    -----Richard’s Update: Christiansted does seem more ‘bustling;’ Frederiksted had wider roads (in greater disrepair) with more street signs, and my wife thought the beaches looked better than what she saw up north. If you want beach in Christiansted, head down the boardwalk and pay the ferry ($5 apiece round trip, free kids under 12, I was told the ferry runs 24 hours) for a short ride over to Hotel on the Cay (ferry’s free for their guests) where there’s a sloping, sandy beach (snorkel near the dock to see a variety of fish). There’s a fee to rent lounge chairs. Both towns had plenty of free-range chickens.
     
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  8. drrich2

    drrich2 Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Southwestern Kentucky
    7,279
    4,228
    113
    Parting Thoughts

    -----Our family enjoyed St. Croix. It’s pretty lush and scenic topside, quaint enough to charm with enough civilization to eat and entertain yourself, the people were friendly, there were good beaches and the diving was varied and good. I finally understand what They Call Me Tater meant when he posted “I can't say St. Croix has the best of anything we have experienced but it was very good in most everything.” Driving on the left was a little freaky; with Jami driving and me navigating by iPhone Maps app. we did okay. Pretty sure I got a glimpse of mongoose 4 times.

    It wasn’t quite what I might’ve hoped; a rainforested topside ala St. Lucia (albeit less and not as starkly mountainous) with convenient shore diving ala Bonaire (albeit with fewer sites) or Grand Cayman, plenty of reef sharks (they’ve got) and the pier crowded with sea horses & frog fish (my ‘streak’ of never finding either continues but I’m confident they’re there).

    The surface swim-outs to Davis Bay and especially Cane Bay walls were more laborious than a short swim-out at Buddy Dive Resort in Bonaire. I was surprised how lush parts of St. Croix were, but I’d estimate even the lushly forested region had tree canopy maybe 30+ feet tall, not on par with my hike in St. Lucia (fewer palms, but the many flamboyant trees of St. Croix were a plus); scenic views on a Tan Tan tour bested Bonaire topside.

    While there’s no match for the Mayan ruins in the rainforest of Belize, the forts and sugar plantation remnants were historic and interesting, and with Belize, the best diving is far from the topside attractions of the mainland.

    St. Croix put me in mind of a tough but tasty piece of steak; took some chewing but well worth it.

    Useful Links


    Dive Op.s.

    -----St. Croix Ultimate Blue Water Adventures website.

    -----Cane Bay Scuba website.

    -----N2TheBlue website.

    -----Sweet Bottom Dive Center website.

    -----Dive Experience website.

    -----Juliet live-board website.

    Info. on St. Croix.

    -----Wikipedia entry on St. Croix.

    -----St. Croix Tourism.com – multiple pages covering many topics, & posts an advance schedule for when cruise ships are due at Frederiksted Pier (meaning you can’t dive it).

    -----Trip Advisor overview of St. Croix.

    -----Trip Advisor ‘Things to Do’ in St. Croix.

    -----Shore Diving.com entry on St. Croix sites.

    -----Moon Travel Guide’s downloadable maps re: St. Croix. Printing permitting for personal non-commercial, non-infringing (& for students classroom) use (see website for specifics). A nice, clean-looking map with much of what you’d want listed on it.

    -----Fantastic St. Croix: Too much to do in one vacation! A guide by John Boyd, long-time resident, published Jan. 4, 2017, available in print & Kindle formats.

    -----Cisterns 101: Residential Water Supply in the USVI. St. Croix Realtor Chris Hanley notes island homes are required to be built with cisterns, large holding tanks collecting rain for running water.

    -----VI Health Directory’s Pharmacies listings.

    Places to Stay.

    -----Chosen from dive op. websites and organized by listing op. to help find local options. Some shops have >1 location (e.g.: if you’re diving with S.C.U.B.A. using their Frederiksted boat, pick a hotel there instead of Christiansted). The dive op. websites give much more info. so read them; my listing is a convenience. Listings shown by multiple op.s aren’t hyperlinked every time. I’ll link Trip Advisor offerings for 3rd party reviews. Check if there’s a discount for customers of the dive shop.

    -----Richard’s Update: Hotel Caravelle and Holger Danske are next door to each other; H.C. is part of a long continuous ‘block’ (which includes S.C.U.B.A.’s dive shop) and ends in Rum Runners restaurant (S.C.U.B.A.’s dive boat Reliance picks up right outside), whereas Holger Danske Hotel ends in Angry Nate’s restaurant. It’s ~ 5-minute walk up the board walk to reach King Christian Hotel (with Dive Experience’s dive shop and boat at the end). Close to Dive Experience is the ferry over to Hotel on the Cay, where you can enjoy sandy beach. It’s all in a small area.
     
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  9. drrich2

    drrich2 Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Southwestern Kentucky
    7,279
    4,228
    113
    St. Croix Ultimate Blue Water Adventure at the Caravelle Hotel in Christiansted.

    -----Caravelle Hotel (waterfront). The north shore dive boat departs from directly in front of it. Trip Advisor.

    -----Holger Danske Hotel (waterfront). Next door to the dive shop, on the boardwalk. Per S.C.U.B.A. (12-9-16) typically the most economical hotel. Trip Advisor.

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    -----Club Comanche/Hotel St. Croix (waterfront). A couple hundred feet from the dive shop. Trip Advisor.

    -----Hotel on the Cay (beachfront). Located on its own small island in Christiansted Harbor; you ferry to/from the boardwalk in under a minute, then easy walking to the dive shop and more (per S.C.U.B.A. website). Trip Advisor.

    -----The Buccaneer Hotel (beachfront). Trip Advisor. Well-spoken of but expensive.

    -----Sand Castle on the Beach Hotel (beachfront).

    -----Palms at Pelican Cove (beachfront). Trip Advisor.

    -----Tamarind Reef Resort (beachfront). Trip Advisor.

    -----These 3 condo.s are along Sugar Beach within 10 minutes of the dive shop.

    -----Club St. Croix Beach & Tennis Resort. Trip Advisor.

    -----Mill Harbour Condominiums.

    -----Sugar Beach Condominiums. (Trip Advisor – Sugar Beach Condo Resort).

    -----S.C.U.B.A. lists 3 villa rental companies they recommend, and notes many guests, especially larger families, prefer to rent a multi-bedroom villa. Donna Ford Vacation Rentals, Vacation St. Croix and Villa Margarita.

    Cane Bay Scuba Shop (multiple locations).

    -----Stay@Cane Bay – a mix of Oceanview (previously called Superior) and Mountainview cottages across the street from Cane Bay Beach offering easy access to dive shop and shore diving.

    -----Arawak Inn Bed & Breakfast – described as budget-friendly and low-key, not on the water near Cane Bay and the Salt River Marina.

    -----Divi Carina Bay – as of 12-9-16 said to be the only all-inclusive beach resort in St. Croix. Located on the far eastern edge of the island. It’s got a casino. Trip Advisor.

    -----Hotel St. Croix (waterfront) – downtown Christiansted.

    -----The Buccaneer Hotel (beachfront) – Christiansted.

    -----The Palms at Pelican Cove (beachfront) – Christiansted.

    -----Renaissance Carambola Beach Resort & Spa – Davis Bay, near Cane Bay.

    Sweet Bottom Dive Center at Renaissance Carambola Resort at Davis Bay.

    -----Renaissance Carambola Beach Resort & Spa – Davis Bay, near Cane Bay. Trip Advisor.

    N2TheBlue in Frederiksted.

    -----Via e-mail from Paul at N2TheBlue I was told they highly recommend Cottages by the Sea, about a mile down the road on one of the best beaches on the island; their sister location is the Inn on Strand (in town, no beach) just a few blocks from their shop.

    -----Cottages by the Sea. Trip Advisor.

    -----The Inn on Strand Street. A budget offering. The ‘sister hotel’ of Cottages by the Sea (~ ¼ mile apart), and guests may use the beach and facilities at Cottages by the Sea. Trip Advisor.

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    -----On Scuba Board, JonHall (Post #25) mentioned the pink condo.s on Sunset Beach, studios up to 2-bedroom units, with good onsite snorkeling plus you can see the pier from the condo.s.
     
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  10. drrich2

    drrich2 Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Southwestern Kentucky
    7,279
    4,228
    113
    Dive Experience at the boardwalk across from their dock in Christiansted.

    -----King Christian Hotel – downtown Christiansted. Trip Advisor. (Note: I saw King Christian Hotel on the side of the building).

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    -----Hotel on the Cay – on a small island in Christiansted Harbor.

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    -----Holger Danske – on the boardwalk in downtown Christiansted.

    -----Chenay Bay Beach Resort – luxury resort 10 minutes from downtown Christiansted. Trip Advisor.

    -----Paradise Found – on the southeastern end of the island.

    -----Sugar Beach Condominiums – luxury condo.s.

    -----Discovery Grove.

    -----Paradise Found Villa.

    -----Tamarind Reef Hotel – at Green Cay Marina.

    -----Sea View Play.

    -----Villa Soleil.

    -----Villa Margarita – beachfront next to Salt River dive sites.

    -----Villa Dawn.

    Scuba Board Trip Reports.

    -----St. Croix, USVI (STX) – Trip report 5/24/16 – 6/4/16. RadHal posted about trip with Craig66 and SteveAL. Rented a 3-bedroom condo. 10 minutes outside Christiansted via VRBO.com. Took ~ 30 min. to drive between Christiansted & Frederiksted; roads were paved. Used S.C.U.B.A. for morning boat dives and N2TheBlue or Sweet Bottom Dive Center for shore diving. Dove both north & west coasts, including the pier (9x’s).

    -----Overall Impressions from first visit to St. Croix – Feb. 2016, MoreCowBells rented a condo. at Coakley Bay, shore dove at Cane Bay (1 shore dive at Davis Bay with Sweet Bottom Dive Center), 2 north coast boat dives with Cane Bay Dive Shop, 3 Frederiksted Pier dives + a nearby site (rented tanks from N2TheBlue). Very nice broad report with fine detail.

    -----They Call Me Tater’s trip report (Page 4, Post #34 of the above thread). Stayed at a ‘beach rental’ at Rainbow Beach, dove with N2TheBlue before but this time chose tec. training and had a good experience with Sweet Bottom Dive Center; still used N2TheBlue for pier diving.

    -----St. Croix (Page 2) – DenbyS (Post #11) Feb. 2015, stayed at Carambola Beach Resort, dove with Sweet Bottom Dive Center, hit Cane Bay Wall, Davis Bay Wall and the pier. They Call Me Tater (Post #12) discussed ‘Why St. Croix?’ vs. other destinations.

    -----Quick St. Croix Trip Report – My Jan. 2014 cruise ship stop in Frederiksted; I did 2 boat dives with S.C.U.B.A., the Shallow Butler Bay Wrecks and Spratt Hole. Loved it. Couldn’t dive the pier with the ship in, but included some area photos that may help.

    -----St. Croix March 28 – April 4, 2009 Trip Report. By WarmWaterDiver. Dove with Cane Bay Scuba. Dove Cane Bay and Frederiksted Pier. Rented a villa called Paradise at Cane Bay through Vacation St. Croix.

    -----Moose visits St. Croix V.I. – Late 2016. Dove with S.C.U.B.A. Posted videos diving the pier. TN Traveler (Posts #3 & 6) noted the north shore (Cane Bay & Davis Bay) have the edge of the wall with beautiful spur & groove formations, then starting at ~ 60 feet drop (ultimately to > 4,000 feet); the swim out at Davis Bay is ~ 50 yards to the spur & groove and maybe 80 to the 1st major drop – Cane Bay is a little longer swim out.

    -----Trip Report: Rebreather Friendly Shop in St. Croix – DoctorMike’s early May 2017 report highly complimentary of Sweet Bottom Dive Center.

    Non-Scuba Board Reports.

    1.) Under The Boardwalk: Diving St. Croix’s Frederiksted Pier (California Diver – Jan. 20, 2017). Also discusses St. Croix more broadly.

    2.) Cane Bay Dive Shop, St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands (from Nov. 2013 Undercurrent). Discussed diving from a RIB, not just the Newton dive boat.
     
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