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Optimizing the ferry portion of our trip? (and rental car?)
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Link to this postPosted: Mon Mar 07, 2016 4:50 am    Post subject: Note Optimizing the ferry portion of our trip? (and rental car?)

I was thinking the seasoned pirates here on might have some insight/opinion for a STT->Tortola transfer and tortola car rental.

Here's the scenario...
We'll be flying into STT, arriving on a monday at 230pm (Delta Airlines).
We want to get to Tortola, get a rental car, and get to the Sugar Mill by 630pm.
The next day we will be boarding a moorings bareboat at like 6pm and will want to drop off the rental car around that time in Road Town.

First question is the STT to Tortola trip...
Given the posted ferry schedule, options seem to be...
(from and other info available on the internet...)

1) Smith ferry : 3:30pm Charlotte Amalie -> West End -> Road Town
(I suspect we can make this ferry from the airport; we will only have carry on bags.)
Arrival time would be around 430pm (road town or west end), and then i figure Customs will take another 30 minutes: get car at 5pm
I'm thinking we should disembark in the West End and get a rental car there as we'll be staying at Sugar Mill that night.
If we cannot make the 330pm ferry then (iirc) the next one is at 430pm, which means getting the car at 6pm. But this ~might~ work also.
My concern is after reading about the Customs wait with the ferries -- I'm a bit concerned it could drag on -- yes, i should be more ~relaxed~ by then, but we do want to get to the hotel by 630pm.

2) Dolphin Water Taxi
This seems to be convenient as they have a car/bus that picks the party up from the airport.
The downside is it leaves from Red Hook which will add at least another 15 minutes to the trip.
However, if we can get out of the airport and to Red Hook before 330pm then it seems like a faster route -- plus Doplhin says clearing customs is faster than the regular ferries.
In theory, we should be out of customs and able to get a car by 430pm.

Of course the Dolphin taxi is going to be much more $$ than the Smith ferry. Afaict, alot more.
I'm assuming if the minimum 4 passengers dont materialize, then I would need to foot the bill; there are only two in our party.

3) AirSunshine:
It leaves at 330pm from STT... its not clear if we could make this as AirSunshine wants you to checkin 1.5 hours before departure (i'm thinking of calling them to find out if the Delta connection would be ok).
The advantage with AirSunshine is it arrives EIS at 3:45pm.
(Another advantage: No taxi needed from STT!)
I figure we would be able to clear customs at EIS and get the car by 430pm.
One downside is we are on the other end of Tortola, but that just means more touring to get to the hotel.
Also, kinda pricey - $150 plus fees per passenger, so $300+ for the two of us.
It seems AirSunshine is the "safest" regarding schedule (shortest travel time), but i do wonder about clearing customs in EIS -- how long will it really take?

Summary of alternatives..

  • Smith ferry to West End - cheapest, but takes the longest: clear customs at 5pm (if next ferry, then 6pm)
  • Dolphin ferry to West End - a bit quicker, but expensive: clear customs at 430pm
  • AirSunshine to EIS - also a bit quicker, no taxi hassle in Saint Thomas, but expensive and we end up on Beef Island: clear customs at 430pm
  • Others?

(Maybe i'm overthinking this.)

Related question : rental car pickup/drop-off
Ideally, i'd like to pick up a rental car at either EIS or West End and drop it off the next day around 8pm in Road Town (ideally at the Moorings base). Is this doable?
Or will i need to drop the car at the same place as the pickup and taxi back to Moorings?
DeDe seems quite flexible with pickup / dropoff at airports or ferrys. Presumably the Moorings base would be acceptable also?
Or.. D & D Car Rental -- they seem to have an office in Road Town and West End; e.g. maybe we could pick up from D&D in West End and drop off in Road Town.
(yes, i'll call to verify when i make arrangements.)
Any car rental suggestions given this itinerary?



Ps.. yes, i know there is a Delta (and AA?) flight that arrives STT around noon. And I wanted the noon arrival when i booked, but the 230pm arrival was a bit cheaper per ticket. (silly me.) Of course, i booked non-refundable airfare with a $200 change fee (per ticket); fwiw i've contemplated changing the arrival time to save us a few hours on that travel day. In the future i'll be wiser on the earlier arrival.
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Link to this postPosted: Mon Mar 07, 2016 7:39 am    

It looks like, for either of your three choices, the only real question is whether or not the Delta flight will be on time. I would have Sugar Mill's phone number with me so that, should something slip, you can just call them and tell them that you are running late.

I don't know a lot about arriving from STT. We never come in that way. We always do SJU-EIS. However, I know that a lot of people do come into STT on that flight (2:30 arrival) and make it to West End by ferry. On the west end of Tortola, Denzil Clyne will be your best for car rental. I don't know how they handle picking up the car at Moorings. There may be a charge for that.

Dolphin is a safe bet, but I think the ferry will get the job done.

Air Sunshine should not have any problem with your connection from Delta - but again, I think you are OK with the ferry.

If you do go Air Sunshine to EIS, get your car from Dede's car rental. I always rent from Dede. They meet me at the airport with a car, and we leave it at the Road Town ferry dock when we head to Anegada. I have been renting from Deadman (Dede's name) for 9 years and he has never let me down.
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Calypso Me
Link to this postPosted: Thu Mar 10, 2016 1:16 pm    

Just be aware if Air Sunshine does not have a nearly full plane for the 3:30 departure they will put passengers on the next flight with no recourse. they will not refund. They also have a weird luggage policy. My hubby brought a fishing pole holder that we had as carry on and Air Sunshine charged $85 dollars to transport it.
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Link to this postPosted: Fri Mar 11, 2016 10:09 am    

I would do the ferry option and save a few dollars.

We used Dede's car rental a few years ago for a 1 day rental. They met us with the car at West End ferry dock (where we did the paperwork) and we left the car in the ProValor Charter Company parking lot (which happens to be a few hundred yards from their East End office location). No extra charge for pickup/dropoff. Call them to confirm the ferry you are on, once you have your ferry ticket and the ferry has actually left the dock. Book early for high season - it is sometimes difficult to secure just a 1-day rental.
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Link to this postPosted: Sat Mar 12, 2016 6:53 am    

We just got back and arrived on Delta a little early so was just able to catch the 2:30 ferry to WE which made things really nice. You shouldn't have any problem catching the 3:30 ferry in time even if your plane is a few minutes late. It is a pretty short drive to the ferry terminal.
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Link to this postPosted: Sat Mar 12, 2016 9:00 am    

BaardJ wrote:
Book early for high season - it is sometimes difficult to secure just a 1-day rental.

Very true! It is sometimes difficult to get any booking during high season without a reservation a couple of months ahead, and 1-day reservations get lowest priority.
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Link to this postPosted: Sat Mar 12, 2016 2:57 pm    

Another factor is baggage handling when arriving at STT. We've been to the BVI about 10 times in the past ten years and arrived about half the time in STT vs EIS. If we have a close connection between the airport and the ferry we often avoid checking luggage if we can. We've waited as long as 30 minutes before just for the carousel to start moving. What in the world takes them so long I will never know.
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Link to this postPosted: Mon Mar 21, 2016 10:32 am    

I would opt for a Native Son ferry vs a Smiths. Every issue I've ever had with the ferry system has been on one of Smith's boats. If you do in fact use Smith, PAY CASH for the ticket, DO NOT use a credit card.
Take the ferry to West End, C&I is much quicker there.
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Link to this postPosted: Mon Mar 21, 2016 2:00 pm    

Thanks for all the info.. most useful... so, here's the status...

1) Dede's only does minimum 3 day car rentals. (we need just a bit more than a day).

2) It turns out that Alamo and Hertz seemed rather trivial to book online! Pickup/dropoff location is important to us...
Alamo -- Maria's By the Sea in Road Town
Hertz -- West End and Road Town (The Moorings).

Since we'll be chartering from The Moorings, Hertz seems like the most convenient.
Afaict, Hertz is served by Big Sexy in the West End.
So, i've booked a pickup in the west end and drop-off at the moorings.
(To be honest, this all seems a bit cagey, so i'll be calling to confirm this plan.
But if anyone has some experience with such a plan feel free to chime in.)

3) Regarding the ferry -- unfortunately, Native Son might not work for us as we arriving STT on a monday at 230pm; the ferry leaves at 230pm. The later ferry leaves from Red Hook and i figure it would be less than ideal to get our butts over there.
So.. i think the easiest option from STT to the West End is Smiths.

Should i book that ferry in advance (eg paypal)? (I'm thinking not.)

> avoid checking luggage

yep, we are limiting everything to fit in carry-on.

Thx again.
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Link to this postPosted: Mon Mar 21, 2016 4:46 pm    

The 3:30 Smith's was canceled when I was there 2/1. The Native Son boat didn't leave the dock until 2:50, which worked out great as we landed at 1:50 (due in at 2:15)and actually had checked two bags, (which we rarely do) which I never thought I'd see appear on the luggage carousel.
I'm thinking you might want to make arrangements with Kevin to pick you up at the airport and get you to the ferry. He may very well have you on the 230.
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Link to this postPosted: Wed Mar 23, 2016 9:46 am    Post subject: Note Update on getting a one-way rental car

I booked Hertz (West end pickup , dropoff moorings base) but the phone numbers on the confirmation email rang to a "service has been discontinued" recording. Mysterious.

I ended up calling Hertz at EIS ... A nice lady there gaave me a number in the West end.
Called the West end number , spoke to another nice lady by the name of Valencia... She told me to call her back when our ferry departs At Thomas and she will pick us up at the ferry terminal.

So this is looking promising.
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Link to this postPosted: Thu Mar 24, 2016 8:28 am    

What rate did Hertz give you?
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Link to this postPosted: Fri Mar 25, 2016 12:24 am    

walker wrote:
What rate did Hertz give you?

The rate for a 4door compact SUV is $75 / day.

This is just from the Hertz website.
I might have some corporate discount I can use.
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Link to this postPosted: Tue Nov 15, 2016 4:36 am    Post subject: Note Followup on this old post on ferries...

Fwiw.. we took the Native Son ferry from STT to Tortola west end, disembarked, went through customs, and then discovered my bag never made it off the ferry boat.

Fortunately, we had a car that day.... so we hightailed it up to roadtown, and (after waiting for the customs guards) finally got them to release my bag from the dock. Just a big hassle at the end of long long travel day.

And fwiw, my bag was tagged correctly. They just missed it at the west end stop. Typical i suppose.

Heading back from roadtown -> STT we took the roadtown fast ferry. Much better.

Next time... we're going to plan our schedule to get on the fast ferry.
I'd like to skip the whole STT/Ferry thing and fly into EIS, but the layover in SJU looks painful.
(We're traveling from the US west coast.)
So, we might spend the first night on STT, then take a ferry to roadtown the next day.
Last trip (april 2016) we stayed the night-before-the-STT-ATL-flight at emerald beach.. it was "ok", but definitely a step down from the BVI restaurants... i felt like i was already back in the states.
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Link to this postPosted: Tue Nov 15, 2016 7:47 am    

Next trip give CYOA Yacht Charters a look if you want a sail catamaran or monohull. It's only 5 minutes from the STT airport. No ferries, fewer lines, fewer taxis, no extra hotel overnight -> much less stress.

We rent an Avis minivan (in advance, ~$90 for 24 hours) for transport to CYOA and for the provisioning run. Pickup location is directly across from baggage claim, then I drop off at the Avis office at the seaplane base next to the BVI ferry dock. It's a 150 yard walk back to the CYOA dock.

In the time that you would be dealing with the late afternoon BVI ferry, BVI C&I, taxis, and arriving exhausted at the boat well after dark, we can have our provisioning run completed, all gear stowed away, drinks prepared, and then walk the 50 yards to the several nearby excellent Frenchtown restaurants for dinner.

When you arrive in the BVI, only the captain needs to go into C&I. Your crew (and baggage) relax onboard. You fill out the usual C&I form per person, plus there is a one-page vessel & crew list manifest to fill out. CYOA provides you all the forms in advance. The National Park Trust fee is the same whether chartering from BVI or USVI. The per-person cruising tax is $4/day coming from USVI vs $2/day (high season) chartering from BVI. You will usually be charged a customs fee of $10~$20 for the boat. However you won't be charged the $20 per-person departure tax when you clear-out of the BVI. You'll have also saved the cost of the roundtrip ferry tickets (~$100 per-person) and roundtrip taxi from ferry to charter base.

If you plan to be in the BVI for 14 days or less, most times the C&I agent will allow you to clear-out at the same time, if you know your departure date. Otherwise, you will need to stop in at C&I to clear-out. This takes less than 5 minutes if there are no day boat captains in front of you, and costs 75 cents for the customs form.

You will need to clear back into the USVI - usually done at St John though St Thomas is possible. Grab a mooring ball at Lind Pt, then 5 minute dinghy to Cruz Bay, and short walk to C&I. All crew needs to be present. Present the 2-page vessel and crew list manifest (CYOA will provide the form which should be filled out in advance). The per-family customs declaration form is no longer used. Should take less than 5 minutes to complete clear-in, if you don't get stuck behind an arriving ferry.

We usually clear-in to USVI the day before our departure from STT. After drinks and shopping in Cruz Bay, head over to Francis Bay/Maho Bay for a relaxing last beach day. Depart at sunrise for the 1.5~2 hr downwind sail back to Crown Bay Fuel dock to refuel (opens at 8 am) and short motor to CYOA dock. You can easily be on the dock by 9 am. Finish your packing, tidy up the boat, shower, consume/drink the remainder of your provisions (or walk to several nearby Frenchtown restaurants for lunch), then take a 5 minute taxi to the airport.

Unless you have a morning flight from STT, there's no need to return to the base a day early. And there's no stressing to make the morning ferry from BVI, loading/unloading the taxi, standing in line to buy ferry tickets, standing in line to pay departure tax and clear customs, standing in line to board ferry, standing line to exit ferry (as it circles Charlotte Amalie harbor waiting for 2 other ferries to offload), and standing in line again to clear customs.
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