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  • 标题:They're Your Islands - U.S. Virgin Islands travel information for the disabled
  • 期刊名称:Accent on Living
  • 印刷版ISSN:0001-4508
  • 出版年度:2000
  • 卷号:Spring 2000
  • 出版社:Cheever Publishing, Inc.

They're Your Islands - U.S. Virgin Islands travel information for the disabled

The sights, sounds and even the fragrant smell is part of experiencing America's Paradise. That is what the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVIs) - St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix: are - a paradise.

No longer just a cruise destination, the USVI are working to entice travelers to spend more than just an afternoon on the islands.

They (hoteliers, businesses and the board of tourism, etc.) have been rebuilding the resorts, restoring buildings and revamping the landscape and their reputation since hurricane Marilyn hit in 1995 and want to get the word out that the Islands are, "In better shape than ever before." (Hurricane Hugo in 1989 was even more destructive and that hurt tourism for quite some time.) As Richard Doumeng, president of the St. Thomas Hotel Association put it, "We have been getting ready for a party -- we just forgot to send out the invitations." They [invitations] are going out now via increased advertising, promotions, special fares/rates, etc.

Of course, for disabled travelers this is good news because in the rebuilding process, in many cases, the ADA has been adhered to (it's law there too since it is an American territory) and many of the large resorts now have more accessible rooms and features than five years ago. So, if you visited the USVIs more than five years ago, you might be pleasantly surprised if you check it out again.

The USVIs sunny, warm climate, the tropical ambiance, the breathtaking vistas with views of the other islands from atop a lush green hillside, and clear turquoise water makes for magical memories. Sounds like an ideal vacation spot, right? But if you're disabled it depends on what you are able/want to do and how much you want to spend.

There are 50 islands in all. However, the USVIs consists of three major ones. All three islands are different. St. Thomas has been called "energetic," with its premier resorts and world-class shopping districts. St. Croix is described as "historic" and St. John, "serene." Promoters of the USVIs like to say that St. Croix is the "appetizer," St. Thomas, the "main course" and St. John, the "dessert."

When flying to the islands, you will either fly into St. Thomas or St. Croix as St. John does not have an airport. It is reached by a 20-minute ferry ride from St. Thomas. To reach St. Croix from St. Thomas you can fly or take a boat. Cruise ships dock at both St. Thomas and St. Croix.

If you are going to visit one of the many large resorts on any one of the islands, chances are you will never have to (nor maybe want to) leave the premises. When you consider they have acres of manicured, tropical grounds and all the amenities you would ever want, that's not farfetched by any means.

St. Thomas

If you have been on a cruise ship that stopped at one of the three islands, more than likely it was St. Thomas as more cruise ships stop here (about 10-1) than the other two islands. Also, you are aware that many of the aspects that make the islands beautiful are likely to make them inaccessible, i.e., the mountains and hilly terrain, the quaint shops, and narrow brick streets. It is sometimes crowded with cruisers, too.

Another reason for inaccessibility is due to impractical planning by Danish engineers back in the mid-1700s who decreed that the city be laid out in a grid-like pattern, which meant building steps into nearly every hillside. One such famous set of steps are the '99' steps (actually there are 103) that lead to the summit of Government Hill.

Charlotte Amalie is world-renowned for its duty-free shopping. While some of the shopping areas can be negotiated in a wheelchair, chances are good you will be sitting it out part of the time -- which might not be so bad. You might get stuck at a shade-covered table sipping a fruit punch watching the boats and natives going about their business.

If you're a history buff, you'll be anxious to get away from the hustle and bustle and explore many of the historic landmarks on the island. Also, many of the white sand beaches, some of the most beautiful in the world, including the beach at Magens Bay, afford peace and tranquility from the hustle and bustle of the port. If you visit Mountain Top at the summit of St. Peter Mountain, you will get a scenic view of Magens Bay and over 20 other Virgin Islands that was rated by National Geographic magazine as one of the ten best views in the world.

St. Thomas, which is 32 square miles, has accessible transportation called Dial-A-Ride and you can schedule a tour of the island by calling 340-776-1277 or fax 340-777-5383. The tour lasts for about three hours but it really depends on what you specify. This service is also on an on-call basis. You should call in advance to book the tour. They can also refer you to accessible spots including restaurants and help you coordinate your vacation according to your interests.

St. John

If you're an outdoors enthusiast who enjoys camping, snorkeling (some of the best in the world is here) and white sand beaches, you would appreciate what all the islands, but especially St. John, have to offer.

Just nine miles long and three miles wide (19 square miles), St. John is the smallest of the three Virgin Islands. There is no airport on St. John but it is a short (20 mintues) ferry ride from St. Thomas. Two-thirds of the island is national parkland. Philanthropist Laurance Rockefeller deeded two-thirds of the island plus 5,000 offshore acres to the federal government as national park land more than 40 years ago. There has been little commercial development so St. John has retained its tranquil, unspoiled beauty. More than one-third of the national park land is underwater. Some of the best snorkeling in the Caribbean is at Trunk Bay where an underwater trail with submerged markers leads visitors on a journey amidst the island's colorful marine life. Vacationers have 40 beaches to choose from to spend a day in the sun. Hawksnest, Trunk, and Cinnamon bay beaches are the most famous and popular.

There is a camping area at the state park which is very popular. If you plan on staying at the park, you need to make reservations at least a year in advance. This gets filled faster than the luxurious resorts. Many of the villas on the island are built into the mountain side and have stairs; therefore, are not accessible. Even though some have accessible features, they would not be workable for someone in a chair.

St. Croix

Like the other two islands, world-class accommodations and dining are available on St. Croix. Also, like St. John, the history of St. Croix is rooted in sugar cultivation and other farming traditions. However, for disabled visitors one of the better features is "Wheelcoach Services" which provides accessible transportation. You can be picked up at the airport upon arrival and depend on this service for all of your ground transportation while on the island. Another arm of the company, "Discovery by Design," can tailor your stay to suit your likes and capabilities and plan as many of your activities on St. Croix as you would like. One of the owners, Dynel HerSoto stressed that this is not a travel agency. There is a fee for the transportation services but not for the hotel suggestions and activity planning. For information call, 340-719-9335.

St. Croix is the largest of the three islands, 28 miles long and seven miles at its widest (84 square miles). It lies entirely in the Caribbean, whereas the other two lie between the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean. St. Croix is 40 miles to the south of its sister island and is accessible by a 25-minute flight or high-speed catamaran. The duty-free shopping in the cities of Christiansted and Frederiksted is on a smaller scale than St. Thomas but enough to keep dedicated shoppers happy. Danish architecture abounds and wonderful snorkeling can be anticipated.

On the south shore is Frederiksted, the quieter of the island's two cities. On the north shore is Christiansted which combines old world architecture with modern shops and restaurants. The terrain on St Croix is in sharp contrast, one part being a rain forest and another part having very dry, desert-like conditions. The beaches and snorkeling are outstanding on this island.

As with the other islands, accessibility is sporadic. Some shopping areas have accessible shops and walkways but others have narrow walkways and curbs.

Following are just a few of the premiere luxury hotels on the three islands. There are many others with different amenities and prices. Also, there are special rates during the year. So, after you determine when you will be vacationing, you can check prices at different hotels.

St. Thomas

The Ritz Carlton is a 15-acre waterfront estate. There are two rooms that have roll-in showers. All three dining facilities are accessible. Bell services will transport guests around the property. Summer rates start at about $250 per night. For information or reservations call 340-775-3333, or FAX 340-775-4444.

Frenchman's Reef Marriott Beach Resort has undergone a $52 million renovation to repair the damage it sustained in 1995 from Hurricane Marilyn. It has two rooms with roll-in showers. Hallways are wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs and there are elevators that take you to different levels. Rates start at about $210 per night. Call 800-524-2000 for more information or reservations.

Bongola Bay Beach Club is smaller in comparison to many of the other resorts. This 75-room hotel has accessible accommodations and it prides itself on being family owned and operated for the past 25 years. Rates are as low as $100 during the summer season. Call 800-524-4746.

St. Croix

Sunterra Resorts Carambola Beach Resort features 28 acres of accommodations and amenitites. It's beautifully set between lush green mountains on the waterfront and is secluded but convenient to many of the surrounding activities. This resort has one accessible room with a roll-in shower. Rates run $185 during the low season. Call 800-424-1943.

St. John

The Westin Resort is a 45-acre resort on St. John's Great Cruz Bay. Rates are $220 to $1,450 for a 3-bedroom villa. per night.

It has three accessible units, two with roll-in showers. The transfer services from the airport are not presently accessible so persons would have to be lifted into the vehicle and onto the boat. The Westin has installed an elevator that takes guests to the main dining area which is on the second level. Other poolside/beachfront dining areas are accessible. Call 800-808-5020.

Caneel Bay. When Rockefeller visited and bought the 5,000 acres on the northwest shore, there was a small group of cottages that he renovated and reopened as a resort in 1956. Today, this 170-acre exclusive resort is situated on Caneel Peninsula which makes it especially receptive to the cooling tradewinds for which the Virgin Islands are famous. As a result, until recently, there was no air conditioning in the rooms (this is true in many of the villas and resorts, but is also changing). There are two accessible rooms, one with a roll-in shower. A vehicle with a lift can transport disabled guests around the grounds of the resort. Rates begin at $250. Call 800-928-8889.

These are just a few of the hotels/resorts on the islands. As with any destination, you should call or and discuss your needs and specify them very clearly making sure there is no misunderstanding so you can enjoy your stay in paradise.

COPYRIGHT 2000 Cheever Publishing, Inc.
COPYRIGHT 2001 Gale Group

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