UPDATE: US Virgin Islands set to reopen (again)
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U.S. Virgin Islands set to reopen (again)
The U.S. Virgin Islands is setting a date to reopen again.
Governor Albert Bryan Jr. (D) of the US Virgin Islands now says that he is allowing some of the island’s “safer at home” measures to expire and leisure travel will again be allowed as of September 19.
A surge in coronavirus cases after an initial reopening back in August led to a new shutdown.
On August 17 all non-essential businesses and churches were ordered to cease operations and the public was ordered to stay at home.
No quarantine is required for healthy visitors and people will again be free to leave their hotel or resort and explore, but a negative COVID-19 test will be required for all incoming passengers.
Anyone without a negative test result will be required to quarantine at their own expense and according to the government, “are responsible for all associated costs, including transportation, lodging, food, and medical care.”
The U.S. Virgin Islands which includes St. Thomas and St. Croix initially welcomed back tourists as of June 1 with restrictions.
Related Coverage: State-by-state guide to coronavirus reopening
Although the U.S. Virgin Islands are part of United States territory, the islands had been limiting incoming travel even for domestic travelers. The only passengers allowed to enter the USVI had been residents, medical personnel, business travelers and property owners. Furthermore, the local government had implemented rigorous “safer at home” protocols, resulting in closed restaurants and similar non-essential businesses. Local beaches were also closed.
Opening again with some restrictions
Masks will be mandatory when going into businesses and attractions, beaches will also be open but social distancing is required. Large gatherings remain prohibited. Hotels, guesthouses, villas, timeshares and Airbnb accommodations will soon again be accepting bookings. COVID-19 guidelines are in place for retail businesses and attractions; taxi vans, safari and limo services.
Arriving in the Virgin Islands
Flights are also resuming.
A spokeswoman for the USVI tourism board told TPG, “There are routine temperature checks and health screenings at the ports of entry and public places. There is no quarantine required if travelers are healthy. Testing, quarantine, and isolation protocols are in place for suspected and confirmed cases of COVID-19 and also for contacts of confirmed COVID-19 cases.”
In fact in updated government guidance, every traveler who enters the U.S. Virgin Islands after September 19 is required to produce a COVID-19 test result obtained within five days of commencement of travel to the Territory. The government website reads, “Travelers unable to produce a test result will be subject to mandatory self-quarantine for 14 days or the duration of the person’s stay in the Territory.”
A toolkit for travelers and other updates are available at www.usviupdate.com.
How to get there and where to stay
Many major carriers fly to the U.S. Virgin Islands including American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, JetBlue, Spirit and United Airlines. I found flights from New York beginning at $312 roundtrip on United Airlines with one stop. American Airlines flies direct from Miami for $195 roundtrip in the main cabin. American wanted 30,000 AAdvantage miles for coach and 85,000 roundtrip in business class. Flights from New York on AA in October are just $322 for basic economy or $352 for main cabin.
Spirit also flies to Henry E Rohlsen Airport St. Croix (STX). Delta has flights non-stop from Atlanta beginning at $430 in basic economy or $480 in main cabin to Cyril E. King Airport in St. Thomas (STT). Delta wants 39,000 Skymiles for main cabin redemptions.
Many hotels are accepting reservations.
Keisha Nelson from the tourism department said, “The U.S. Virgin Islands offer a variety of accommodation options based on travelers’ preferences and budget. Travelers looking for a larger resort experience can opt for The Buccaneer on St. Croix, The Hills Saint John or The Ritz-Carlton on St. Thomas. For a smaller boutique option, there is The Fred on St. Croix and Gallows Point on St. John.”
The Margaritaville Vacation Club by Wyndham had rooms in St. Thomas for $215 a night.
If you are looking for chain hotels where you can redeem your points there’s the Westin St. John Resort Villas for $379 a night or 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per night.
There are also two new Marriott properties that are set to open in June of 2022. So stay tuned for details on those.
A reminder that this tourism-dependent country is still vulnerable to coronavirus exposure from outsiders as travel is one of the biggest factors in spreading COVID-19 disease. TPG recommends you speak to your doctor about the risks to yourself and others around you, and research destinations before you plan nonessential travel.
Where else in the Caribbean can you go?
Meantime Antigua, St Lucia, Aruba, and others have announced they are beginning to accept foreign tourists.
You can see our stories on those destinations here:
Additional reporting by Katherine Fan.
Featured image of Carambola Beach St Croix US Virgin Islands by cdwheatley/Getty Images.
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