Best destination wedding hotels in the U.S. Virgin Islands

Choosing among the three U.S. Virgin Islands for a wedding or honeymoon can pose a happy challenge since each has outstanding hotels and beaches. It helps to understand how each differs in order to select the one that best suits you.

The busiest and most developed of the three is St. Thomas, which also is the major airline hub. Its main city, Charlotte Amalie, is one of the region's great shopping ports and often crowded with tourists during the day. Of course, most of the major resorts are located well away from downtown.

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Neighboring St. John has frequent ferry service from St. Thomas (about a 20-minute trip). Mostly a protected national park, some of the best beaches are on St. John but they can be crowded if a cruise ship is anchored offshore during the day.

St. Croix (pronounced "St. Croy"), 40 miles south of St. Thomas, has direct air service from Puerto Rico and sea plane shuttles from St. Thomas. St. Croix, almost as laid back as St. John, contains two wonderful old Danish cities, Christiansted and Frederiksted, well worth exploring on foot. Famous Buck Island Reef National Monument is a short sail offshore.

On the other hand, maybe you don't care about which island you visit; you're more interested in the right resort for you. Here's a selection of the best beachfront wedding-destination hotels on each island. Space permits only two descriptions for each island plus a third listed option.

ST. THOMAS

Frenchman's Reef and Morning Star Beach Marriott Resort

This property contains two very different resorts in one. The Frenchman's Reef Tower sits on a palm-fringed hillside offering dramatic views of the Caribbean and Charlotte Amalie Harbor. The Morning Star Beach Club is closest to the beach and tends to attract families. Among it's many features are a fitness center (with complimentary classes), spa with eight treatment rooms, three poolside cabanas and a private plunge pool. Adults enjoy their own infinity pool. The hotel has a smoke-free policy and Marriott rewards can be redeemed here.

Hosting numerous destination-wedding groups, the resort offers certified wedding and even a separate website to help plan your event. Wedding venues vary from formal indoor affairs to casual ceremonies on Morning Star Beach, though many couples prefer the wedding gazebo located on a high bluff over the Caribbean for it's spectacular scenery. For small parties, the wine cellar called the Beacon Lounge (seating up to 12) is a memorable event location.

The Marriott's wedding packages start with the basic Joy package including event arrangements, site cost and officiating at the wedding ceremony ($1,099) to the ultimate Romance package, which adds digital photography and professionally edited video, wedding cake, live music and more ($3,199).

The Marriott website is especially good at providing wedding planning information including how to budget for one. No wonder this is such a popular wedding resort.

The Ritz-Carlton' St. Thomas

This is not only a luxurious hotel but a top choice for honeymooning couples. Overlooking Great Bay on St. Thomas' eastern coast, this 30-acre waterfront estate has 180 guest rooms that include ocean view suites, Ritz-Carlton Club Level rooms and regular guestrooms, all with king beds and loveseats that convert to single beds and private balcony or terrace.

The hotel's wedding venues are varied, including private ceremonies for two in an ocean-side gazebo, large-party oceanside weddings as well as indoor ceremonies in elegant locations featuring vaulted ceiling and marble floors. The website features an impressive wedding advisor containing all the necessary requirements to hold a destination wedding on St. Thomas, how far in advance to reserve a date, even the average food and beverage costs per person.

THE TIME OF YOUR LIFE: High-end Caribbean honeymoons

The types of available wedding packages (with prices spelled out) are also detailed. The high end ($9,000) "Cruise Beginnings" features a sailing trip for 30 aboard a luxury catamaran where the wedding is officiated, followed by an open bar with hors d'oeuvres and music by a solo musician. A beachside ceremony with all the frills is the least expensive ($3600).

Another St. Thomas wedding destination hotel option to consider is the all-inclusive Sugar Bay Resort and Spa with included meals, drinks and activities.

ST. JOHN

Caneel Bay Resort

Long ranked among the Caribbean's top resorts, this luxury property was built by multimillionaire Laurance Rockefeller who also purchased about 60% of the island and later donated the land to the U.S. National Park Service. The 166-room resort enjoys one of St. John's prime locations a 170-acre peninsula with seven beaches adjoining the lush Virgin Islands National Park. Situated on the grounds of an old plantation, the resort is famous for ignoring the outside world: no telephones or TVs in guest rooms. A member of Leading Hotels of the World, Caneel Bay Resort also is known for it's understated elegance and fine dining.

The popular wedding resort offers three packages starting with "Simply Us" for two, featuring wedding arrangement and fee for the wedding officiant, plus bridal bouquet and boutonniere, a single tier 6 wedding cake and a romantic dinner for two on the beach (from $1,500-$2,500 depending on day of the week with rates being highest Thursday-Sunday). For a wedding party with a minimum of 30-50 guests, added features include an evening sunset cocktail cruise ($5,000). Regardless of package, the bride and groom receive a Caneel Bay Memory Box to hold all keepsakes of the event.

Westin St. John Resort

With 47 richly landscaped acres, The Westin St. John Resort borders a beautiful 1,200 foot-long, crescent-shaped beach. With all this space, the resort contains only 96 guest rooms, all 100% smoke-free. All rooms feature Westin's wonderful Heavenly Bed, marble baths, flat-screen TV and refrigerator. Westin St. John Resort is a Starwood Preferred Guest Member Favorite where Starwood members can spend their points. Note it also charges a $40 per day, per room, resort fee in addition to the daily room rate.

The hotel is a popular destination for both honeymooners and business travelers, who usually mix well. Wedding venues include the resort's outstanding private beach or the Garden Gazebo near the Caribbean shore. For large wedding parties, the resort's 3,500-square-foot grand ballroom easily handles up to 200 guests for dinner and dancing. Catering is provided by award-winning executive chef Roland Czekelius, who offers a nicely varied reception menu.

Another popular St John honeymoon option is the oceanfront Gallows Point Resort in Cruz Bay close to numerous restaurants and shopping.

ST. CROIX

The Buccaneer

With 340 groomed acres and an 18-hole golf course, the 138-room Buccaneer hotel has a long history of welcoming guests dating back to the 17th century. One of the Historic Hotels of America, the family-owned Buccaneer has long been regarded as one of the Caribbean's great hotels. The stylish rooms are available in a variety of locations, from the hilltop main house to the beachfront. Rooms have satellite TVs and minifridges but lack the lavish bath furnishings (Jacuzzi tub) some couples demand. For most guests, the attentive staff, excellent dining, three fine beaches, challenging 18-hole golf course and 8 tennis courts more than compensate.

The Buccaneer's varied wedding packages are designed to accommodate groups of varying sizes, starting at just two. The basic couple's "Elope to Paradise" includes private round-trip taxi from the airport, welcome champagne and chocolates, taxi to the territorial court for legal paperwork, wedding at the 18th-century Sugar Mill or beside the beach, services of a non-denominational minister and witnesses, one hour of professional photography and online gallery of all images (but no prints), champagne and wedding cake for $1,350 for weekday ceremonies, $1,550 for weekends, with a minimum three-night hotel stay. For larger groups, the $5,500 Sugar Mill Wedding Package for 12 features a three-course Sugar Mill dinner with hors d'oeuvres, open bar, champagne toast, wedding cake and farewell breakfast for wedding guests staying at the hotel. The Buccaneer provides an excellent wedding FAQ section.

The Palms at Pelican Cove

The 40-room Palms at Pelican Cove sits on seven acres of palms and beachfront close to the historic town of Christiansted. With an emphasis on the casual, prices at this small hotel even during the winter high season shouldn't break anyone's budget. The award-winning Palms restaurant features both Caribbean and American foods, and it's steak have been voted the best on the island. Daily snorkel trips, tennis courts and intro to scuba course are offered without charge, and wireless internet access is available in guest rooms, the lobby, pool area, restaurant and bar.

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Posted in Food Post Date 05/29/2017


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