Where is the island of St. John?
St. John is the smallest of the three United States Virgin Islands, located in the northern Caribbean Ocean. The best way to find it on a map is to go south from Miami until you hit Jamaica, then head east across Haiti and the Dominican Republic, past Puerto Rico, and stop just past St. Thomas, which by the way is one of the other of the US Virgin Islands, along with St. Croix.

Is St. John Island part of the United States?
Well, actually the United States Virgin Islands are known as a U.S. “territory”, which means the U.S. Dollar is the accepted currency, and the residents are U.S. citizens, but they cannot vote for President, and although they elect representatives to Congress, they can’t vote either. (Before you judge this a bad deal, consider how much better off we’d all be if none of the politicians in Washington DC were allowed to vote. Hmmm…)

Why would I want to go to St. John anyway?
Oh, let’s see… wonderful climate year-round, hiking, reggae music, world class shopping, boating, marlin fishing, beach bars, fine dining, hummingbirds, horseback riding, some of the most beautiful beaches in the world featuring white sand, crystal clear water, incredible diving and snorkeling, sun-set sails, side trips to shop on St. Thomas, visiting the Baths on Virgin Gorda,… what was the question again?

Are the locals friendly?
Absolutely, although there are certain niceties which will help you to be received as a welcome guest instead of “just another tourist”. On the islands, it is considered very rude to begin any conversation without a courteous “Good Mornin’!”, “Good Afta’noon!” or “Good Evening!”, or to walk up to even a smoothie stand on the corner and just demand service. You’re on vacation. Slow down. Relax. Take time to be nice! Oh, and the island is called
"St. John", NOT "St. Johns". The locals can be sensitive about this, so it's worth getting right.

Why would I want to stay at a villa instead of a resort?
Staying in your own private villa is one of the most enjoyable – and affordable – ways to vacation. For the same or even less than the price per room per night at a resort, you have an entire house to spread out in, and you and your family or friends don’t have to share your pool and spa with 872 other people and their rotten kids. In the morning, you can have whatever you want for breakfast and not have to wait 45 minutes and pay $14.75 plus tip for the privilege. You can lay by the pool all day while listening to your favorite tunes, and not have strangers dripping on you or trying to swipe your lounge chair if you go to the ‘fridge for a cold drink. In the evening, if you’re ready for a break from big dinners, you can fire up the grill and enjoy your own cooking on your private pool deck as the sun sets. The day’s agenda, menu, crowd size and dress code (if any) are always up to you.

I use a wheelchair or have other difficulties with steps, etc. Is Morningside barrier free?
The living room, kitchen, and dining areas, pool & spa, and two of the bedrooms are all on the main entry level. In addition, one of the baths is wheelchair accessible.

Can I drive there?
If you mean can you get there in your car, we wouldn’t recommend it. The Caribbean islands are notoriously difficult to drive to, mostly because of the lack of paved roads between Key West and Cruz Bay. If you mean can I rent a car there and drive around the island myself, the answer is “No problem, Mon,” in fact we’ll be happy to arrange to have the appropriate vehicle(s) waiting for you when you arrive. There is one small catch however: if you’re not used to driving on the left side of the road, it takes a day or so to get used to.

Wait a minute, people in St. John drive of the left side of the road?
Yep. Nobody’s certain how it got started (maybe something to do with the British occupation during the 1800s), but by now it would be too hard to change, and after a bit you’ll have to admit it has a certain charm.

Other theories mention that the original occupants of the islands used donkeys for transportation, hauling cargo, and all the other sorts of things that make living in close proximity to donkeys worthwhile. They postulate that the donkeys, who are short on the sort of critical thinking that makes long-winded discussions of 18th century British poetry pretty much out of the question but long on the sort of common sense that indicates that it is wise to stay as close to the side of a mountain on a narrow trail as possible, were unwilling to give up their cliff hugging ways.

This doesn't fully explain the practice of left-handed driving but it tends to gain more credibility in direct proportion to the number of Painkillers consumed while discussing it. It should also be noted that most proponents of this theory wear helmets made of aluminum foil to thwart alien efforts to read their minds.

How do I get to the island?
As mentioned above, driving is out of the question. Aside from hopping a cruise ship and asking to be marooned as they go by, the best way (OK, the only way, really) is to fly into Cyril E. King airport on St. Thomas. (American Airlines, Delta, United, Spirit and US Airways all have regularly scheduled flights, featuring large jet aircraft. The airport code is STT if you’re interested in checking flights and fares on the ‘net.) When you make your reservation with Morningside, we will take your flight information, and have a taxi waiting for you at the airport to take you to the ferry dock for a short 20 minute ride across the Sir Francis Drake Channel to Cruz Bay on St. John. We’ll meet your ferry there, set you up with your vehicles, take you to Morningside and show you the villa, answer any questions, etc. Sounds like a lot, but try flying into Orlando and getting yourself to a Disney hotel. This is way easier, and way more fun.

Why does bread always fall butter-side down?
This is explained by a corollary of Murphy’s Law (Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.) called the Law of Selective Gravity. This means that any object allowed to fall will without fail land in such a manner as to do the most damage possible. For instance, heavy objects will land on your toe, fragile objects will miss the carpet, land on the tile and shatter, contact lenses will miraculously orient themselves vertically and land in a hairline crack in the pavement, and your wedding ring will slip from your finger directly over the drain for the garbage disposal that you just switched on. Children innately sense this law, and spend the first several years of their lives testing it meticulously.

Do I need a Passport?
While passports are not currently required for U.S. citizens to enter the USVI, they do serve to greatly simplify the identification process for both airport security as well as U.S. Customs, and frankly that dark blue U.S. Passport is always a great thing to have in your pocket when traveling anywhere outside the fifty states. Our advice: never leave home without it. If you do not have time to get a passport, an original embossed or stamped (i.e. not photo-copied) birth certificate will suffice.

If you plan on taking a side trip into the British Virgin Islands, you will need a Passport with you on the boat, and your skipper will then take care of clearing British Customs for you at either Virgin Gorda or Tortola.

What should I bring?
Suntan lotion, waterproof and with sun block. Oh, and be sure to WEAR the sun block, the sun is incredibly intense here, no matter what the season, and you can burn even through a pretty good tan.

You can bring your own snorkel and diving gear, although there are places to rent it really reasonably on St. John if you don’t want to drag it along on the plane.

A pair of Teva’s or waterproof sandals you can wear in and out of water. (The spandex bootie things are OK, but they tend to collect sand inside. Sandals are better.) Some of the beaches have patches of coral in the water in addition to the sand (it lives there, so what can you do?), and having something on your feet can prevent stubbed toes or cuts. Several stores on the island carry them if you can’t find anything you like locally.

Two extra bathing suits, and half as many clothes. We’ve found our guests tend to live in bathing suits and cover-ups most of the time they’re here, and there is a washing machine and dryer if you need to recharge your wardrobe. There is just about no place you would go for dinner or whatever on either island that nice shorts and a polo shirt or blouse isn’t just fine. The dining room at Caneel Bay, and perhaps the Westin Resort at times requires long slacks & dresses, but that’s about it. There are also a lot of nice stores to buy more shorts & shirts & sundresses on the island if the need arises. If you’re bringing more than you can put in a carry-on, you’re bringing too much stuff. (You can tell how many times a person has been to de ilons just by looking at their luggage at the airport. The newbies are the ones with the steamer trunks. The veterans are sporting only a carry-on or even just a back pack.)

What is the weather like on St. John?
In a word, great. If you insist, here’s all you really need to know: the average highs are in the 80s, lows in the 70s, all year around. The trade winds pick up a bit in the winter, and brief afternoon showers are common. (On a beach, you can again tell which are first-time visitors: when a shower hits, they grab their beach stuff and run for cover. The rest of us slide our paperbacks under a towel, enjoy the warm rain drops, and resume reading 5 minutes later when the sun pops back out.) Totally rainy days are very rare. In fact, it’s so nice there, they’ve located the entire island outdoors. If you're still concerned and really want to read more,
click here.

What is the atmosphere like around the island?
St. John is an island about the size of Manhattan, but size is where the similarity ends. It has two towns, Cruz Bay, which is where the ferry docks, and most of the shopping, restaurants and bars are, and Coral Bay, on the far side of the island where many of the locals live and hang out. Island population is around 4,000 permanent residents, not counting the 400 or so wild donkeys, several thousand mongooses, and two zillion hermit crabs. 2/3s of the island is actually National Park, complete with marked hiking trails, etc.

The feeling of a Caribbean island is entirely different than Florida, or even Hawaii, you are definitely not in Kansas anymore. Everyone is pretty laid back, nothing happens in a hurry (one local dive called Skinny Legs advertises “Same Day Service”), and things like Blackberries, subway tokens, and snow boots are not considered important. People take time to sit and chat, what doesn’t get done today may get done tomorrow, and after all, what’s the rush anyway? The roads are paved, but can be quite steep in places, so everyone pretty much travels around in jeep type vehicles. Cool.

Located on this tiny island are restaurants ranging from funky beach bars to corner Bar-B-Q stands to island casual to world-class fine dining. A couple of notes: Forget about Appleby’s or Outback, and don’t be fooled by the appearance of some of the establishments. Some of the finest restaurants on the island don’t have doors or windows (or walls or roofs, for that matter), since the climate is perfect for being outdoors all year round, and walls can be so confining, don’t you think?

Shopping? Some of the finest jewelry, clothing and art galleries to be found anywhere are located right in Cruz Bay. If you want a bigger selection (and are willing to deal with the cruise ship crowds), Charlotte Amalie in St. Thomas is just a ferry ride away.

What does stuff cost around the islands?
Ferry rides between St. John & shopping etc. in St. Thomas: $6.00 one way, ferries leave every hour from 7:15 am to midnight. You can take a 20 minute ride over to Red Hook & then pay about $8 per person for a taxi into Charlotte Amalie, or just take the 45 minute ferry straight into Charlotte, total time between leaving St. John and arriving downtown on St. Thomas are about the same either way, one just has more boat ride. Bag tags for the ferry are $2.50 a piece.

Average dinner in a restaurant: around $35 per person, plus drinks and 18% tip. Can be way more or less depending on where you go.

Groceries: More expensive than at home probably, less than eating in a restaurant (remember on an island, the freight to get the loaf of bread to the store probably costs more than the bread itself). Morningside has a great kitchen and gas grill, so meals by the pool are always an option. Bringing food down with you has become cumbersome since the new airport security rules require that all checked baggage be openable by screeners. There's just no good way to be sure your steaks make the trip still frozen and intact. Our advice: take advantage of either Dolphin Market in town, or Starfish Market which is just a couple minutes away and has a great deli, butcher shop, bakery, wine shop, and just about anything else you could want.

Drug Store: There is a fully stocked drug store in the Market Place shopping center, just on the way out of town heading for Morningside.

Shopping: As mentioned above, there is some serious shopping to be done on either St. John or St. Thomas. If you’ve been thinking about a major jewelry, wrist watch, or art purchase, this is a great spot to take the plunge. There are genuine bargains to be had, but know what you’re looking for, and the major stores like Little Switzerland will ship anywhere in the world. Do some research, and budget accordingly.

Cash is best for taxis and ferries, travelers checks and credit cards are accepted virtually everywhere else. Beads may work for some purposes, but we won’t get into that.

Why would I stay on St. John instead of St. Thomas?
The locals on St. John refer to St. Thomas as “St. Traumas”, if that’s any indication. St. Thomas does have many fine large resorts, a major shopping district, and is the USVI cruise ship port of call. Along with all of that comes traffic grid-lock, crowds of tourists with blue hair and sensible shoes looking for a quick bargain before getting back to the cruise ship, and fast food. St. John is where the cool, travel-savvy, get-away-from-the-crowd types (like yourself) go.

Is this a good place to go alone?
Depends. If it’s solitude you desire, you can find it here. If you’re looking for wild parties, night life, and lots of other singles to “mingle” with, it might be best to try a cruise or the inclusive resorts on Jamaica. This is a small island.

Do you need to be a strong swimmer to enjoy the beaches?
Not at all. In fact, most are only about waist deep for quite a distance from shore, and the vast majority of the time there is little or no surf or undertow to contend with. We have seen many non-swimmers fall in love with splashing and paddling around the beaches of St. John.

Before they invented drawing boards, what did they go back to?
Nothing. This is why people did so many manifestly ridiculous things back then. They couldn’t just say “Forget this!” and start over, they were forced to finish what they started no matter how poorly things were going. While frequently mistaken for heroic perseverance, this inability to abandon an obviously losing proposition did result in several useful outcomes like the invention of the light bulb, the proper recipe for long island iced tea, and the eventual discovery of the North American continent.

How far in advance should I make my Morningside reservations?
It’s never too soon to check availability and get on the list. Some times of the year are busier than others, so you don’t want to wait too long.

Is this a good place to bring a family?
Definitely. Unless your kids don’t like swimming, watching the colorful fish, building sand castles, chasing hermit crabs (they don’t bite), living in their swimming suits, boat rides, shopping for tee shirts, smoothies and jeep rides. If they absolutely have to have roller coasters, people dressed as cartoon characters and long lines to be entertained, then you already know where to look.

This place is sooo cool! We had such a great time! I put coffee grounds on a place downstairs and a lot of hermit crabs came. We got a grand total of 89! Try to beat that! We want to come back soon. DG, age 8

Nice try with the FAQ page, but I still have questions. Who should I talk to?
Feel free to drop Morningside’s webmaster and resident St. John-o-phile a line at info@morningsidevilla.com
You've finally found your place in the sun!