By Erika Hueneke
Hurricanes Irma and Maria couldn’t keep this luxury retreat down.
When two Category 5 hurricanes lashed the U.S. Virgin Islands in 2017, reducing much of the infrastructure to rubble, tourism experts predicted it would take four years for the area to make a full comeback. Happily, restoration is moving ahead of schedule, with almost three-quarters of the destination’s hotel inventory back online — including The Ritz-Carlton, Saint Thomas’ 180 guest rooms and suites, each flaunting Frette bedding, a 55-inch LED TV, and an ocean-view balcony or terrace.
Officially reopened November 29 after a two-year, $100-million renovation, Saint Thomas’ most upscale address brims with upgrades, including a revamped infinity pool and a new family pool with a fun slide. Also new: the property’s Alloro restaurant, featuring a seafood-heavy menu of traditional Sicilian fare, including house-made pasta, craft pizza, and Italian wine.
An airy aesthetic incorporating swathes of white defines the property’s fresh look, infusing everything from the public areas and event spaces to the reimagined Club Lounge, an upgraded guest experience decked in shiplap and oyster chandeliers (worth the splurge for the private check-in, dedicated concierge, and impressive food-and-beverage presentations that are rolled out all day long).
The resort’s own catamaran is also bigger and better—the newly minted 60-foot-long Lady Lynsey II can take 75 passengers on snorkeling sails, sunset dinner cruises and island-hopping day trips, as well as private parties. Another don’t-miss offering: “Catch and Cook” beach barbecues.
Blissfully, some things haven’t changed, and returning guests will find the same spirit-expanding views across Great Bay, as well as beloved restaurants Sails, Coconut Cove (sip painkillers to a soundtrack of live music in the evenings), and surf-and-turf favorite Bleuwater. During the popular rum-tasting experience, sample locally produced rums infused with flavors like coconut, lemon-lime, mango, passion fruit and pineapple.
Resort fees also cover garden tours and daily fitness classes, including water tai chi, as well as the use of water-sports gear such as kayaks, Hobie Cats, paddle boards and water tricycles. (Tip: Adults can get out on the water while children ages four through 12 take part in locally inspired environmental and cultural activities such as iguana feeding and sea-creature crafts, courtesy of the Ritz Kids program.)
Beyond the resort’s 30-acre grounds, the beauty of Saint Thomas awaits. Contribute to its recovering economy on downtown Charlotte Amalie’s Main Street, lined with souvenir shops and duty-free stores. Other popular attractions include the crowd-pleasing Magens Bay Beach, the Skyride tram to Paradise Point, and the historic 99 Steps that overlook Blackbeard’s Castle.
As Saint Thomas continues to rebuild, and as marine and plant life return, the relaunch of the iconic Ritz-Carlton is all the incentive you need to put this re-emerging destination back on your travel radar. Best of all: no passport required.