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post #1 of 7 Old 10-17-2013 Thread Starter
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Getting from St Thomas to Tortola

The earliest flight I could find for our charter doesn't get get into STT until 5:01 p.m. (Sat. 11/23).

It looks like all the ferries will have left for the day by then. We paid to stay aboard the night before our charter.

Just wondering if anyone had tips for late arrivals. Take a water taxi like Dolphin SHuttle or St. Thomas Boat Rental? Or stay on St. Thomas for a night and head to the boat Sunday morning - really my last resort option because I don't want to be rushed packing the boat, etc...

Thanks,
Nick

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post #2 of 7 Old 10-18-2013
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Re: Getting from St Thomas to Tortola

The Ferry situation is a huge mess with no solution in sight. Quite often there are posts on Traveltalk Online BVI Forum with people looking to share Dolphin's or another service in order to reduce costs and if you post there you might be in luck. I've stayed on ST. Thomas for a night because I missed the last ferry in the early afternoon and it sucks being so close but unable to proceed.
I believe they are discussing implementing a late ferry but those talks are ongoing and unlikely to work out in the short term.


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post #3 of 7 Old 10-18-2013
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Re: Getting from St Thomas to Tortola

I've stayed in STT and gone in the morning. I completely agree, however, that staying aboard the night before makes departure day much more relaxed. By the way, I've also stayed in STT the night before flying back out, which also takes the pressure off turning the boat in and making the proper ferry back over. I've also stayed ashore on Tortola and taken an early ferry the next morning to fly out of STT, knowing there were a few before my flight.

While a little more expensive, I'm going to seriously consider flying right into Tortola next time. I always forget what a serious pain the ferry is. From checking in to hoping your luggage is in the pile on the dock to waiting in line at customs, its a real welcome to the third world and you're not mentally there yet. Other than cost, the big downside to flying into Tortola (technically Beef Island, TUPJ) is connecting in San Juan. I don't like connections when I have a charter schedule, but I always pack strictly in carry-on to limit the concern that my luggage doesn't show. If you can, carry your luggage aboard the ferry too. You'll know you have it and no one has gone through it.

If you do the ferry, when you see you are getting close to the island, be sure you are standing downstairs near the door you came in. You want to be as close to the head of the line at customs as possible. They will process BVI citizens first, understandably. But even a ferry that may only be half full will take well over an hour, probably more like two, to clear customs. You don't want to be at the end of the line.


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post #4 of 7 Old 10-18-2013
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Re: Getting from St Thomas to Tortola

The previous year we flew into Tortola (Beef Island), but this year we flew into St. Thomas and took the ferry over. Knowing we'd arrive around 4 PM or so, we stayed a night in St. Thomas and took the ferry in the AM. Having heard the horror stories about the ferries, we were prepared for the worst. However, our ferry experience was straightforward...bascially on time. Just about everyone on the ferry going over seems to be charterers. I cannot comment on the water taxis, other than knowing they are pricier. At the end of our charter we also stayed a night in St. Thomas before our flight for fear of missing the flight, but again, everything went smoothly and we easily could have deboarded the boat our last day, taken the ferry, and made our flight the same day...which is probably how we will handle it next trip. We took the Tortola Fast Ferry...so am unable to comment on the other ferries.

If you need to stay on St. Thomas and take the boat over Sunday AM, are you provisioning anywhere? If so, having that delivered Sunday AM (specifying a time) may help in packing as you wouldn't need to shop...or as much.
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post #5 of 7 Old 10-18-2013
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Re: Getting from St Thomas to Tortola

and if you do end up taking the ferry, I second the suggestion above about being near the front of the line when getting off in Road Town...be close to where you got on...if you are in a time pinch...going through customs at the end of the line will certainly slow you down.
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post #6 of 7 Old 10-18-2013
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Re: Getting from St Thomas to Tortola

This may be slightly off topic, but is related to a solution to your connection uncertainties.

Years ago, after dealing with connection anxiety to/from Tortola (both puddle jumper from Puerto Rico and ferry to/from Charlotte Amalie, we migrated to chartering out of Red Hook, at the east end of St. Thomas. The first night sleepover was very affordable and we would self-provision at a grocery store across the street from the charter base (i.e., a really short walk.)

A USVI-BVI itinerary requires checking in/out of the BVI (which you can do at the same time) and back in to to the USVI at Cruz Bay (for the Red Hook charter base). We've checked into the BVI a number of times at JVD, but also at Spanish Town. The USVI check is at Cruz Bay is incredible fast and free (if you don't tie up at the customs dock!).

There is something to be said for flying a "real" plane to/from STT and not having to worry about on-time arrival at either SJN or STT and missing a connection.
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post #7 of 7 Old 10-18-2013 Thread Starter
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Re: Getting from St Thomas to Tortola

Thanks for all the advice. Really appreciate it.

I contacted a charter airline service out of San Juan, but didn't hear back until after we already booked our tickets into STT. Wish I would have waiting. A charter flight from SJU to Beef Island for 4 is cheaper than the commercial flight to STT, not to mention the added cost of the ferry, etc...

Live and learn, I guess. Though my wife bawked at taking a 5 seater plane. Seems like an adventure if you ask me.

Nick S.
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