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US Visa Waltz…

 

We did the US Visa Waltz yesterday.

I can honestly say it was the most annoying and bureaucratic process we have experienced to date – get ready to write off a day. I am writing this as advice for any travellers following in our footsteps.

I am guessing that our first mistake was to go on a Saturday. A day when a lot of villa clients were ending/starting their holiday… so first tip is don’t go on a weekend.

One thing we did get right was to get the largest; fastest; and most stable ferry of the ones on offer. It’s the "Road Town Fast Ferry" the kiosk nearest the entrance doors to the ferry terminal.

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The ferry departs at 0700 and 1000. Naturally we went for the 1000. Actually we thought it was 0900 so we waited an hour for the ferry to arrive. The ticket including departure tax was $100 US for two people. You then queue to clear “formalities” (30 minutes). Then you wait for the arriving ferry to disgorge passengers and luggage (45 mins).

The journey itself was pleasant. Inside the ferry has great seats and a/c – on the top deck you get the breeze and a great view. We took the top deck. What struck me as we sped past the islands was how beautiful the anchorages looked and what a fantastic sailing area – I wish we had more time !

On arrival (journey time 60 mins) we waited 30 mins to get a berth at the dock – another ferry was unloading. Eventually we docked. MOST important tip – get to the front of the queue on the ferry before it docks. It will probably dock on the portside. Ignore the public address system that tells you to stay in your seats. Start a queue at the door. You will find out why.

The ferry insist on unloading luggage first – before the passengers are allowed off. So luggage unloading (45 mins). Then you are allowed off, to queue for “formalities”. How long this takes depends on passenger numbers of course, but it took us 60 mins. On the immigration form where it asks for address in USVI put "Day Trip – Providence III" or whatever is the name of the ferry you are on.

When you eventually get out the terminal don’t get a taxi. Just walk to the main road (if you can manage it). Cross to the eastbound carriageway. And get a "Dollar Taxi". Yes – flat fare $1 each. These are large open single decker mini buses – you can’t miss them and they are very regular. Go two stops. And get out in the old quarter where there are many tiny alleyways and restaurants. Very quaint – we ate at Gladys Café as the guide book tells you too. Very enjoyable. Nice area to window shop in.

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We then thought we would try and make contact with the shipping agent – who remained determined not to answer any emails. We got a Dollar Taxi to Crown Bay. Ask the driver to tell you when to get off – it’s not obvious. There is then a 10 min walk from the bus stop to the marina.

Crown Bay Marina is a typical overpriced and well-heeled marina. On the plus side, the office staff were extremely helpful. Allowing us to sit in their office, use their Wi-Fi and their desk phone to make contact with Stuart – the shipping agent on the ground. His office is very close by and he appears to operate out of Crown Bay. Unfortunately for us it was Saturday and he was at home on Water Island. But we had a chat on the phone and we hope that our arrangements are working out to plan. We shall see.

The return ferry journey to Road Harbour, Tortola was pretty much the same as the outbound in terms of queuing, waiting, more queuing, more waiting. With the added twist that we wanted to “check out” at Road Harbour so we could sail on Sunday. This meant we had to officially "arrive" with the usual 1 hour queue etc…clear formalities then wait outside the terminal to be called back in when all the ferry passengers had been cleared – so that we could “depart”. This was another 30 mins. Then we went back in to the terminal and "checked-out" as cruisers.

What a ridiculous rigmarole…still we had a glimpse of St Thomas – our final destination…

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