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Westin St John [Master Thread] - Part 2 (June 2014 and forward)

Discussion in 'Vistana Signature Experiences (formerly Starwood)' started by DavidnRobin, Jun 24, 2014.

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  1. DavidnRobin

    DavidnRobin TUG Member

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    [This new WSJ Master Thread covers June 2014 and forward]

    Here is link to original WSJ Master Thread (pre-June 2014):
    http://www.tugbbs.com/forums/showthread.php?t=111510

    OK - as mentioned in the original WSJ thread - time for Part 2!

    This thread will cover WSJ-VGV (Hillside), WSJ-BV, and WSJ-CV (open in 2015) - as well as info related to St John and surrounding area.

    If you own WSJ, visiting WSJ, or a StJ lover - please participate with info you may want to share, or stuff you may want to discover. Be sure to tell others that may be interested in this great resort and spectacular island.

    Enjoy!
    David (DavidnRobin)
     
  2. DavidnRobin

    DavidnRobin TUG Member

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  3. DavidnRobin

    DavidnRobin TUG Member

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  4. LisaRex

    LisaRex TUG Member

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    Last edited: Jun 25, 2014
  5. DavidnRobin

    DavidnRobin TUG Member

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    Thanks LR - surprised I didn't find these - these are some of may favs. I recall the Booby Rock snorkeling discussion of your snorkeling-crazed DH. I was thinking the wrong 'rock'. Booby is certainly doable from Salt Pond - considering that it is SP Bay ;) I still wouldn't do it - especially alone.
    {more on why I am glad I wear a snorkel-vest later...}

    Booby Rock is in the forefront of the time-lapse video (raw) that I posted a YouTube link to. Hiking out to Ram Head for the sunset and full moon rising (sans Sahara Dust) certainly was Bucket List worthy.

    We had another fantastic time at WSJ/StJ - I won't write a trip report per se, but will plan to link photos and videos when I get a chance (I have hours of raw GoPro footage to go thru) - plus tidbits/highlights as well.
     
    Last edited: Jun 25, 2014
  6. tomandrobin

    tomandrobin TUG Member

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    Pretty cool video!

    We visited Salt Pond in May, but did not venture further to Ram Head.
     
  7. tomandrobin

    tomandrobin TUG Member

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    We leave in 20 days for round 2 of our WSJ trips this year. Maybe I'll combine the two trips into a semi-trip report.
     
  8. DavidnRobin

    DavidnRobin TUG Member

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    It can be a hot/humid (bring lots of water and some protein bars/nuts), but definitely worth the hike (IMO). The only confusing part is during Blue Cobblestone beach section - just keep on heading down the beach (cobblestones) until the end. You will see an entrance to the trail heading up towards Ram Head. Do not dismay - once you hit the middle section on the way up - you will get a strong breeze to cool down with (you will know it when you get there). Watch out for the assorted cacti.

    I am still working on my trip report... I will post (link) photos and vids.
     
  9. Conan

    Conan TUG Review Crew: Elite TUG Member

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    FYI we stayed last March in a hillside one-bedroom unit, renting from an owner, and we took the sales tour for the units now under construction.

    We didn't buy the timeshare, but we did buy the Explorer package for $4,500 - - a week's use of a 2-BR unit in 2016, ferry tickets, and 85,000 Starpoints. Valuing the Starpoints at as little as 2 cents each, that's $2,000 for the points and $2,500 for the week's use. [The booking I've made so far out of these points was worth 3.6 cents/point. By that measure the division of value is $3,000 for the points and $1,500 for the week's use.]

    We called this week to reserve for 2016. We had a choice of a new bayside unit (they said it was the last one available for the week we wanted) or a hillside unit. We decided to go with the hillside unit, since we liked the view and the privacy when we were there.

    The package requires that we take another timeshare tour. I wonder if another Explorer package will be on offer.
     
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2014
  10. LisaRex

    LisaRex TUG Member

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    HH? Hilton Honors? Now, that would be something.

    $4500 for a 2 bdrm + 85k SOs wouldn't be a horribly bad deal.
     
  11. Conan

    Conan TUG Review Crew: Elite TUG Member

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    Oops - - I'll edited my post.
    I got 85,000 SPG Starpoints as part of the deal.

    So far I've spent 12,000 Starpoints to book two nights at the W Washington D.C. on a cash + points basis : 6,000 points/night + $110/night + $16 tax/night.

    The all-cash price for a comparable (refundable) booking is $299 + tax = $342 per night so 6,000 points spent this way are worth $342 - $126 = $216 or 3.6 cents/point.
     
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2014
  12. DavidnRobin

    DavidnRobin TUG Member

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    June letter to VGV Owners

    Dear fellow Virgin Grand Villas owner:

    We recently participated, as your elected directors, in the summer meeting of the Board of Directors of our owners’ association. The meeting was held by conference call, as the Board has only one in-person meeting per year, which occurs during the annual meeting. (There is also one informal face-to-face workshop to review a proposed budget for the following year, but no action is taken at a workshop).

    We are happy to report that electricity rates, while at record high levels, have held steady during the first half of the year, and that barring any major surprises (such as a damaging hurricane), we expect to be on budget for the year.

    Posting website
    The biggest news since our last report is that the owners’ website for posting units for sale, rental or exchange is now operational. (The website is also the home for the voluntary owners’ directory). As of mid-June, 347 owners had registered for the website, and there were 196 active listings on it, including 92 units offered for rent, 61 units offered for sale, and 19 units offered for exchange. We are all in debt to our Board chair, Teri Castleberry, for the creation of this website. She dealt for more than two years with an often-challenging software vendor, at the request of the Board, and was finally successful in achieving the result that you can now use. For your convenience, we reproduce below the instructions that we sent in May for using the website.

    Secure access to the site is provided to Owners registered with MyStarCentral. Please follow the steps below.

    I have a MyStarCentral account:
    Visit starwoodvactionnetwork.com and click on 'Owner Login' in the upper-left corner of your screen.
    Enter your Username or Email and your Password and click 'LOG IN'.
    Hover your mouse over 'Owner Quick Links' in the upper-right corner of your screen and select 'MyStarCentral' from the drop down list.
    Click on 'Your Owners Association' in the left-hand navigation menu.
    Select a 'Westin St. John Resort & Villas - Virgin Grand' unit and click 'View the Details of this Ownership Week'.
    Click on 'VGV Owner Posting Board' in the right-hand section of your screen.

    I do not have a MyStarCentral account:
    Visit starwoodvactionnetwork.com and click on 'Owner Login' in the upper-left corner of your screen.
    Click 'REGISTER NOW'.
    Follow the on-screen prompts to complete the online form.
    Click 'Go directly to the StarCentral homepage'.
    Click on 'Your Owners Association' in the left-hand navigation menu.
    Select a 'Westin St. John Resort & Villas - Virgin Grand' unit and click 'View the Details of this Ownership Week'.
    Click on 'VGV Owner Posting Board' in the right-hand section of your screen.
    This will take you to the Association's website where you must read and accept the terms and conditions of the disclosure statement. You will then be taken to the homepage where you can sign up and create your member profile.

    Please be aware that you must create a member profile and be logged in to create or view current listings. Just beneath the boxed message on the homepage, there is a link you may click on to view detailed instructions for use of the website. This detailed instruction document and the FAQ page can be accessed without logging in to the website.

    There is one tricky part about logging in for the very first time. When you have followed the instructions above and get to the main page for our posting website, you will see this box:

    {Instruction Box won't copy...}

    If you are registering for the first time on our bulletin board, DO NOT enter your email or password where it says to enter them. Instead, click on the words “New members click here to sign up.” After you have signed up as directed, on return visits to the site you will enter your email and the password that you selected.

    Construction at the resort
    As you know, quite a lot of construction and refurbishing is taking place on the hotel side of the resort this year. Three hotel room buildings have been gutted and refitted for sale as timeshare units in the new Coral Vista development. The Beach Café is being renovated and will re-open as the new Lemongrass Restaurant & Bar, which, like the Beach Café, will be operated by Starwood. The menu will be similar to that of the Beach Café, but we are told that it will have a more Caribbean flair. Mango Deli will move next to the new Lemongrass Restaurant & Bar, re-opening as The Marketplace at Great Cruz Bay. Both areas will be air-conditioned space. The resort hopes that another restaurant will open above the lobby by some time this winter, where Cruz Bay Prime was previously located. The gate house is being moved to the hotel side of the property. It will be staffed 24 hours a day. On our side of the road, there will be an automated gate arm that can be opened by swiping a room key, and there will also be an intercom at that location so that an operator can open the gate remotely. Renovation of the airport lounge is almost complete, and renovations of the lobby, fitness center, and kids’ club will take place during the late summer and fall.

    Sale of reacquired unit weeks
    As you know, the Association has acquired several dozen unit weeks as a result of foreclosures and of negotiated settlements with owners who were delinquent in their maintenance fee payments. In order to generate revenue to the Owners Association from these unit weeks, we have now conducted two bargain sales of these unit weeks to existing owners. This spring sale was very successful; we offered 63 unit weeks for sale, and 33 of them were purchased. These sales replace owners who were not paying their maintenance fees with new owners, and therefore help to hold down maintenance fees for all owners. Foreclosure actions are currently pending for 109 unit weeks and may be initiated for additional unit weeks for which liens are in place, and owners locked out, because of non-payment of maintenance fees. Notwithstanding the delinquencies, the percentage of maintenance fees that we actually collect is on a par with that of the other SVO resorts.

    Energy costs
    We continue to seek ways to reduce energy costs, given the very expensive cost of electricity in the Virgin Islands (currently about 50 cents per kilowatt hour). We have decided against installing solar panels in a ground array, for aesthetic reasons, but at this meeting, we approved the installation of additional photovoltaic (solar) panels on the roofs of the hillside buildings. Starwood is installing similar panels at several locations on its side of the resort. An outside company is providing the cells and installation, and will maintain them, and we will pay it 35 cents per kilowatt hour for the electricity we purchase. Although our new solar panels will account for only 10% of the total amount of electricity to be generated by the project (with the hotel side producing the other 90%), we will receive approximately 18% (based on our current proportionate consumption rate) of the energy that is produced, which results in about a 2.4% cost savings by not purchasing that power from the power company.

    The photovoltaic cells that already exist on buildings 41 through 44 and those that will be added to the hillside buildings will not come close to meeting our need for energy. We are continuing to study the desirability of purchasing a co-generation facility to meet most of our needs. One factor for us to consider is that the local utility on St. Thomas is converting its fuel source from diesel fuel to propane, and it expects that the conversion will reduce fuel costs by about 30%. To the extent that this saving is passed along to customers (and not offset by rate increases to cover the cost of conversion), this step could decrease the difference between the cost of electricity purchased from the utility and electricity that the co-generation facility would produce, with the result that it would take longer than the estimated seven years for the co-generation facility to pay for itself. Another factor for us to take into account is the siting of the co-generation facility. As we reported after the annual meeting in March, two sites are under consideration: one on the hotel side of the property, and one in the yard behind buildings 43 and 44. From our perspective as your elected directors, the former would be preferable, but we we will not support the project unless we are convinced that occupants of those buildings will not hear noise from the equipment. A possible advantage of locating the facility on the hotel side of the property is that it will generate waste heat, which could in principle be harvested for the hotel laundry and for some of its heating and air conditioning. However, Starwood would have to invest in the infastructure in order to use the heat. We have asked Starwood to consider whether it is interested in using the heat. No decision on purchasing the co-generation equipment will be made before our next meeting in November.

    Walls in Buildings 41 and 42
    As you will recall, the vast majority of owners in buildings 41 and 42 would like us to construct a wall to bisect the large upstairs room into two separate bedrooms. The Management Company has advised that this would require, for any particular unit, the unanimous consent (or at least affirmative non-objection) of every owner of that unit. The owners have now been polled by email and mail. At least one objection was registered for each of these units: 4111, 4112, 4113, 4114, and 4213. No objection was interposed by an owner of units 4110, 4115, 4210, 4211, 4212, 4214, or 4215. However, for each of these units, 6 to 10 owners have not responded to the mail or email. Starwood is going to try to contact by telephone the owners who have not responded. A wall will be built, at no additional expense to the owners, in any of these units for which all owners can be reached and none objects to its construction.

    Minor matters
    We remind owners that smoking is prohibited on the property, including in your units and on your terraces, except as permitted at designated smoking areas. At present, there are three such areas: at the turnarounds for the hillside buildings, and in one area near the pool villas. Signs will soon be put in place reminding owners that smoking is allowed only in those designated areas, and the Board is in the process of drafting a formal rule barring smoking except in the areas provided.

    In our last report, we mentioned that a sidewalk was being built alongside the driveway leading to the lobby. It has now been constructed, and there is also a sidewalk from the pool villa area to the main road.

    The General Manager is investigating the possibility of installing rods, hooks, or retractable clotheslines on the patios of the pool villas.

    And once again, we ask owners to turn off the air conditioning (or increase the temperature) while they are not using their units during the heat of the day. This is the single most important thing that owners can do to keep maintenance fees down, as many of our costs are fixed, but our energy cost depends largely on how much power the owners draw.

    Your owner-elected members of the Board of Directors,
    Philip G. Schrag
    phil.schrag@gmail.com

    Robert Werbel
    robert.werbel@yahoo.com
     
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2014
  13. DavidnRobin

    DavidnRobin TUG Member

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    Thread needs a bump...
    During our June trip to StJ/WSJ some friends of ours were in the USVI/BVI for a 1-week sailing charter (they met up with us one night in Cruz Bay). This is not WSJ or StJ centric, but great video of their sailing adventure. Thought some of you USVI lovers would enjoy this.
    Makes me motivated to get my photos/videos in order.

    YouTube link:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6zdUAYgphfg&feature=youtu.be
     
  14. clymberz

    clymberz TUG Member

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    We are thinking of going to St John Aug 9-16 but after researching weather, we have become worried about Hurricane season. A google search said that hurricane season is August and September. We would be bummed if we made such a big trip only to find rain every day and snorkeling cloudy. Any comments about going to St John Mid-august?
     
  15. DavidnRobin

    DavidnRobin TUG Member

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    Nice to see a posting here (other than me...). I do not think mid-August is a big worry. It is mainly about unstable weather that can occur during these months. For example - there is a TD (TS?) that is/was heading to USVI right now (they need the rain, but not a downpour...) - I think it is dissipating. The odds of getting a hurricane at the time you are in the USVI are slim, but you can always buy Trip Insurance.

    Mid-Sept to mid-Oct - a lot of StJ businesses shut down and it is real quiet (that can be good or bad depending on your perspective).
     
  16. clymberz

    clymberz TUG Member

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    Thanks David! I love all the info you've posted here.

    I guess my concern is not about running into an actual hurricane. Instead, I'm just worried about running into plain old rain. I'm just trying to figure out if it is safer to just save the miles and go another time in the year when good weather is more likely. Having said that, I'm not too worried about a a scattered shower. I just don't want to be stuck in the room waiting out the rain, only to find snorkeling visibility is poor due to the sand being kicked up.
     
  17. DavidnRobin

    DavidnRobin TUG Member

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    That chance always exists (of course). We go in June to reduce our chances (look at an annual rainfall chart for the USVI). One thing is almost assured - it will rain... we have been lucky for the most part - but it is always a gamble one must take when visiting the Carib.

    generally - it is a 20% chance of rain - meaning if you stand in one place - you will have a 20% chance of being rained upon (most rain happens at nite).

    I would not worry about mid-August - other than it will be hot/humid - and a 20% chance of rain...
    Weather predictions are usually not accurate more than 7 days out.
     
  18. LisaH

    LisaH TUG Lifetime Member

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    I was there Aug 10-17 last year and weather was fantastic. Didn't rain much at all and when it happened, it's in the late afternoon, evening or night. There is at least one other Tugger who owns in that week. Hope he will chime in...
     
  19. okwiater

    okwiater TUG Member

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    Our first visit to WSJ was with a StarOption trade in "hurricane" season. The weather was fantastic. Many shops are closed for the off-season, but enough of them were open that we didn't miss anything. However, since it tends to be wetter during that time of year the mosquitoes can be worse.

    All that said, I wouldn't hesitate to book during hurricane season but would probably consider trip insurance just in case.
     
  20. LisaRex

    LisaRex TUG Member

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    I wouldn't avoid going to St. John in the fall because of the risk of a hurricane. I'd consider taking out trip insurance, though if a hurricane hits, you won't really need it because both the airline and the hotels will re-route you to another location for free.
     
  21. canesfan

    canesfan TUG Member

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    We visited mid August 2010 and didn't have any rain. Weather was absolutely beautiful. The following week, they got hit with a hurricane. It's the luck of the draw when it comes to weather in the Caribbean that time of year. I'd take my chances again though. Our first trip to Hawaii, it rained the entire time and that was very unusual. Nothing is guaranteed. As others have advised, trip insurance.
     
  22. clymberz

    clymberz TUG Member

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    Thank you everyone for your input on our August trip. My wife has been reading recent reviews on TripAdvisor this evening and is becoming very concerned with the amount of negative reviews due to construction noise, lobby mayhem and lack of certain facilities like the fitness center.

    I'd like to think that this is affecting the hotel guests more so than the timeshare owners, but I really don't know.

    Would someone who has visited recently or perhapsis still there mind commenting?

    In particular, what should I expect for the fitness center. I saw the notes from the BoD meeting about the fitness center work going on now. Also, the website states that the fitness scrente/spa have been relocated. I'm curious to know what to expect?

    Also, since this is our first time, are there any requests that I should add to the reservation? I'm just really glad to go and will be pretty happy with anything. But if there is anything construction oriented to consider, please let me know.

    Also, Amalie may not have a car for us based on our flight arrival. Is there a 2nd (or 3rd) choice we should consider?

    Thanks for reading this post. We are excited to go and just have some pretrip excitement jitters :)

    PS: I'm reading through the whole thread and so apologies if any of my questions were already answered elsewhere. Thanks again.
     
  23. DavidnRobin

    DavidnRobin TUG Member

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    They are in remodeling phase
    It affects everyone
    It is the Islands after all - do not over think it.
    People are inclined to write poor reviews over good ones
    Good word for StJ adventure... Adapt.
     
  24. Henry M.

    Henry M. TUG Member

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    Austin, TX
    I was there with my wife and daughter in May. I did not experience any issues with the construction/renovations for the Coral Vista phase of the resort. We were located just above the construction site, in the Bay Vista phase.

    The lobby had not been relocated when we were there, so can't comment on that.

    I never even looked for the fitness center. We were active enough in the island that the fitness center didn't cross our minds. You can swim and hike around various beaches and get some real outdoor excercise.

    I rented from Amalie Car rental. The previous time I rented from O'Connor, right at the resort. I had a good experience with them. On that trip, we used the Westin ferry to get between STT and STJ. We were just two people, so because the fact that we didn't need the car for the full week, we about broke even taking the ferry and renting 3 days from O'Connor, vs. renting the full week from Amalie Car Rental. The second time there were 3 of use. The more there are, the greater the savings renting in STT, since the Westin ferry is pretty pricey per person.
     
  25. czar

    czar TUG Member

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    We're in the midst of trying to figure out what to do this year. Our 2nd oldest is now 4, so the cost for the 5 of us (we have a 2 yo who ships for free) is $420. Last year, we only rented a car for one day - the kids are still a little young to last going out for more than a few hours and still really prefer the pool. Would be nice to get out 1-2 days to see some of the beaches again and go visit the other side of the island, but we may not even do that depensing on temperaments ;) But at the very least, I know we don't need a car for the week, and we'd have to rent at least 2 days from O'Connor's to break even on renting in STT and taking ferry compared to WSJ ferry and then renting from O'Connors.

    The big issue trying to grapple with is what to do with the ferry. If we can somehow navigate the public ferry with our 3 kids and luggage, we'll save quite a bit of $$. I'm guessing we'd save ~ $300; however, not sure what that would be like (are they helpful with luggage once you get out of taxi; do they store it somewhere for the ride over)? If it's not a huge ordeal, we'd be better off (financially) taking a taxi to red hook and then the public ferry and taxi into WSJ from there.

    Our flight arrives (delta) 12:16pm and departs 1:29pm Friday-Friday.

    Any advice?

    EDIT: Actually, I think I underpriced the cost of a taxi for 2 adults and 3 kids. I'm guessing the taxi to the dock from airport likely costs $40-$50 for all of us incl luggage? Plys another $25 or so on the other side (StJ)? So conservatively I am thinking $150 for taxis R/T plus the ferry cost of ~ $60 with luggage R/T. So maybe $210 versus $420. Plus, talking with wife, sh'ed really prefer NOT ro drag car seats like last time, so thinking we won't even rent a car this trip - we can always taxi it to beach if we want to go.
     
    Last edited: Jul 27, 2014
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