We arrived at the Ritz-Carlton a little weary from a day of travel, but excited about finally being in paradise. We were shown to our room, which was fantastic and had a beautiful ocean view. The bellman did explain that September is a slow month in St. Thomas, so a few of the hotel restaurants were closed or had limited hours. Sure, no problem, right?
We found out the next morning that we had one option for breakfast--the only open restaurant at the hotel that offered food that time of day. I guess that made the decision easy. We walked into the room that housed the breakfast buffet and immediately noticed flies. Everywhere. All over all the breakfast foods that were out for our dining pleasure. Deep breath. We decided to put away our diva attitudes and just choose from the foods that were in covered dishes and get on with our day, although this was not exactly what comes to mind when you think of putting on the Ritz (Carlton).
After our delicious(?) lukewarm breakfast, we went back to our room to get ready for some time by the pool. I hopped into the huge shower with the rain showerhead, and that's when I saw it. "Clint?" I asked. "Have you been in the shower since we got here? Like, maybe to shave or something?" The hubby assured me that he had not set foot in the shower, since we had barely been in our room for twelve hours at this point. That's when I had the gag-inducing realization: I was staring at a soap dish and shower wall covered in hair. Apparently, the previous guest had shaved what I am fairly certain was their nether regions--and it was still in our shower. A stranger's discarded bikini line was staring me in the face. Ew, ew, horror. I couldn't get out of there fast enough. Clint called and specifically told housekeeping about our situation and that our bathroom needed to be cleaned thoroughly ASAP.
We changed into swimsuits and soldiered on, ready for some rest and relaxation poolside. Funny thing though: the hotel was doing some construction to the facade of one of their buildings, conveniently located right beside the pool. We spent the afternoon trying to talk over the soothing, constant sounds of jackhammering and skill saws. But it's when we left the pool and went back to our room that the final straw came.
Thankfully, housekeeping had been to our room and it had been cleaned. We were willing to try and forget that whole hairy (pun very much intended) shower incident and put it behind us. Except that, when we checked the shower, the hair was still there. Unbelievable. We spoke with the manager and checked out less than an hour later.
We checked in at the only other big resort on the island, the Marriott, which is where we stayed for the rest of our vacation. Was it paradise? Well, not quite. The walls were paper thin and we could hear every conversation taking place on our floor, which meant we got to enjoy waking up to the friendly banter between the hotel staff out in the hallway every morning starting around 7:00 a.m.. Granted, we were semi-awake anyway, since I am fairly certain our mattress was made of cardboard. By night two, I felt like I was part of a sleep deprivation study. Lest you think I am whining, I am even going to omit the details about the sand flies and unairconditioned bathrooms.
Now that you know about the hotel situation, let's talk about the best part of every vacation: the food and the drinks. We did find one awesome place called Pie Hole, which served the best pizza either of us has ever eaten (and believe me when I say we have plenty of experience to draw from on this). We also happened on a place right next door to Pie Hole called Rum Shandy that was amazing. Every ingredient in our shandy cocktails was fresh, housemade, and delicious. Our fantastic bartender made us some freshly squeezed liquid sunshine one afternoon after a round of shopping in downtown St. Thomas (which didn't take long, since it was September and practically everything was closed. They should really post signs that say: Welcome to St. Thomas--unless it's September, in which case, we are CLOSED).
Everywhere we went, we were asked if we had taken the ferry over to St. John for dinner. Multiple people back in Charlotte had told us it was a must-do, and even though we were a little adventure wary at this point, we decided to go ahead and make the trip, which required another half hour of those glorious taxi rides, plus a 20-minute ferry ride to the island.
One of our most anticipated dinners was at the hotel restaurant, Havana Blue. It touts itself as Cuban fusion food and has gotten rave reviews from Caribbean Travel magazine and Fodor's. I put on a cute new sundress, but later realized that I was way overdressed. You would assume a certain level of attire at a fine dining (read: expensive) restaurant, however, as I have told friends, the dress code in St. Thomas is clearly a "My First Myrtle Beach T-shirt" and a pair of Keds. Our food wasn't mind blowing, but it was good. I guess. I liked it better before I woke up several hours later throwing up, with chills and the shakes. I suppose you could say I was feeling Havana Blue.
Finally, the day came for us to depart. We were told at the airport that, due to mechanical problems, our flight had been delayed for five hours. Sweet mother of all things holy, we were just trying to leave and were now stuck in the San Juan airport for a grand total of eight hours. In an effort to feed ourselves and kill some of the slowly passing time, we attempted to find a sit-down restaurant and grab dinner. As luck would have it, the only such place in the airport was Jimmy Buffett's Air Margaritaville restaurant. You really haven't enjoyed a dining experience until you've been able to do so while listening to the same six or seven Buffett songs on a continuous loop. I know Jimmy likes his with lettuce and tomato, Heinz 57, and french fried potatoes. I guess when I ordered my "Cheeseburger in Paradise" I should have specified that I also like mine not freezer burned, without brown, wilted lettuce, and not with a patty the size of a half doller on a Frisbee-size bun.
Around 7:45 Sunday night, we boarded our plane and headed toward Charlotte. As a final vacation luxury, we made up for the fact that our dinner was inedible by enjoying some gourmet Cheddar Chex Mix and a pack of Twizzlers. It's hard to give up that kind of pampering, but I think I can honestly say we were relieved to finally get back home. We had thought that a bad day at the beach is better than a good day in the real world. Or is it? I realize everyone has a different idea about what makes the perfect vacation. Personally, I don't want to know what it's like to live somewhere; I want to know what it's like to vacation there. I suppose we like being pampered a bit, feeling indulgent, and maybe not seeing wild roosters fighting on the side of the road across from the restaurant where we're having lunch (yes, it happened). I can truthfully say this year's trip was a real adventure. Bless our hearts.
"You got to be careful if you don't know where you're going, because you might not get there."