If you missed Part 1 of my Caribbean blog series, check it out to understand precisely what and where we mean when we say “The Caribbean.” In that post, I teased that Part 2 would be a review of a Leeward Antilles island in the West Indies (confused? Learn more about it). But now, learn about Caribbean incentive travel in St. Thomas!
Did you guess I would be detailing a US Virgin Island? If you’re looking to offer a tropical incentive experience that doesn’t require a passport and isn’t a Hawaiian island, the island of St. Thomas is the place for you! As a US Virgin Island, flying into the modern Cyril E. King Airport is no different than flying into a small regional US airport. Still, one look at the clear turquoise waters and you are quickly reminded of the vast difference between St. Thomas and the rest of the continental USA.
Located 50 miles southeast of Puerto Rico, 50,000 people from across the globe call this 13-mile-long island home. English is the official language, and the US dollar is the local currency, so trip communication and logistics are a little simpler for both incentive trip planners and attendees. As a bonus, mandatory adherence to US guidelines means USDA food and water regulations must be followed, along with coast guard and medical restrictions. In a nutshell, US regulations & government funding result in a clean, well-run island that’s both beautiful and safe, the perfect combo for a successful President’s Club trip or tropical meeting.
Not needing to clear customs makes it quick and easy to get out of the airport and on the road, where the most noticeable Dutch influence remains; your driver will be on the wrong side of the car and driving on the wrong side of the street. Side note: I close my eyes around corners and highly discourage clients from allowing attendees to rent cars on their free day. The roads are thin and winding, and the risk is just too high.
Twenty minutes outside of the airport, you come to the port town and capital city of Charlotte Amalie. The beautiful and historic town is home to over 400 waterside shops offering souvenirs, handcrafted goods, jewelry, and more jewelry. You won’t pay tax on any purchases here, so offering a shopping shuttle is a must for attendees when they have some time on their own. Make sure your guests leave themselves an hour to enjoy the Skyride to Paradise Point, 700 ft above Charlotte Amalie, with views that will take your breath away.
A quick left turn at Charlotte Amalie and winding roads take you another 15 minutes, past gorgeous beaches, through the Red Hook shopping and nightlife zone, to the Ritz-Carlton Resort.
Caribbean Incentive Travel in St. Thomas – The Ritz-Carlton Resort
The resort is set on 30 beautiful acres and boasts a traditional island architecture that’s been richly updated to include all the modern comforts that define the Ritz Brand. It’s my favorite group property on the island, and I always find the fresh colors and relaxed vibe to be welcoming and relaxing.
Each of the four restaurants offers the top-notch food and service we’ve come to expect from the brand. Bleuwater (not a typo) is upscale casual and open for breakfast and dinner. Essenza serves authentic Italian cuisine at dinner each night, Coconut Cove offers casual beachfront dining for lunch and dinner, and Sails serves up a laid-back lunch daily.
You won’t want to miss the opportunity to bring your group together for a private and interactive event utilizing Sails restaurant and the adjacent beach. Local fishermen will pull their boats right up onto the beach and offer your guests a selection of local seafood, caught fresh that day. Sails will cook up the catch, and serve each guest their hand-picked meal. It’s also a great outdoor spot for a welcome reception or gifting experience.
The 180 sleeping rooms underwent a soft goods upgrade in 2013/2014, and blues and grays replaced the yellow wall color. The resulting color scheme is much warmer and feels fresh and clean. Sixty standard suites are available, along with 4 Presidentials.
If I’m honest, the only challenge I had with the property was the layout of the guestroom buildings. There are six buildings total, four of which have three floors and two with five floors. The staircases on each floor are independent of each other, so getting up and down can be challenging for the first day or two until you get used to the layout. Only one of the buildings (F) has an elevator, so access can be limited for older attendees or those with limited movement. There are, however, several handicap rooms on first floors, so guests with wheelchairs have good access.
The main ballroom is a 2,500 sq ft rectangle, which can be accessed by entering the Essenza restaurant, and through a back hallway. Outside the sliding ballroom doors is another 2,500 sq ft of outdoor patio space. We found it was a little small to accommodate a group of 225 for an awards dinner, but groups of 160 or less would be very comfortable, and the view is perfect at sunset for group or couples photos.
With so many activities and excursions to choose from, every winner and guest will enjoy an experience that will stick with them for years. This island is a sailor’s dream, so group regattas, sailing lessons, and all-day sailboat snorkel tours are always a big hit. Other popular tours include swimming with sea lions, playing the Tom Fazio golf course, sea trekking, submarine rides, and deep-sea fishing. For the adventurous, a full day cruise to Jost Van Dyke or a day trip to St. John may be in order. Or, if your guests are looking for a little zen time, The Spa at the Ritz is a beautiful facility offering a full-service salon and 11 treatment rooms. Your guests will want to stay all day and receive treatment after treatment after treatment.
Your assignment until we meet again for Part 3 of this Caribbean series? Reach out to your Ritz NSO, get a site visit scheduled, or call me, and I’d be happy to go with you! If you make the trip and experience it for yourself, you will go back with your group, and you will thank me!
For further information on how Brightspot can help you plan the perfect Caribbean incentive trip, visit our Travel page!