We returned last week from a stay in the Aquamare I residence, and I'll try provide a relatively concise summary while attempting to answer what I hope are the questions most members have. Feel free to ask any questions which might remain, either in the ER Community, through direct contact, or through your ER Ambassador.

We and other family members have stayed at Little Dix Bay on multiple occasions, so we were already familiar with Virgin Gorda prior to the incredible hurricane devastation. Thus, we were familiar with the island and incredibly saddened by the destruction that will undoubtedly not be fully repaired for years. And, of course, the island is suffering from an almost complete absence of tourism, its major industry. We were very glad that we decided not to cancel our reservation; we enjoyed ourselves and enjoyed supporting the local residents and learning about their experience last September. Our inconveniences were minor and generally expected.

Island Infrastructure

First - since I understand many Members are still uncertain whether or not to utilize their reservations - the infrastructure is gradually being repaired. All the roads are passable (in some places single lane) and gradually being cleared. Unfortunately, the worst potholes and local flooding that we encountered were right in Spanish Town. The road to the villas from the dock is fine, no problems at all.

Cell service is still spotty, but according to William (the concierge) gradually improving. The VOIP is not connected, and for the first few days we had only brief periods of wireless with very limited bandwidth, but after new modems were installed, we had WiFi the majority of the time in the main living area and some of the bedroom suites. The DISH satellite television service worked flawlessly, which was great because it is what we use at home, so I knew all the channels except the local and network channels from San Juan and South Florida.

Status of the Home

Aquamare I

The generally minor structural damage to the residences (shingles, etc) has been repaired. Most of the interior furnishings in the ground floor interior living area of Aquamare I (closest to the bay) have been replaced and the appliances were in working order except the dishwasher and second refrigerator, both to be replaced soon. The beach furniture has been replaced, and the homes are very thoughtfully laid out (as the floor plans on the Source indicate) with a central living area that can be kept completely enclosed with sliding track doors closed. There is no A/C or TV in that area, but there are multiple indoor and outdoor ceiling fans there, in each bedroom suite, and in both indoor and outdoor dining areas. We did not use the A/C - in the bedrooms, we just took advantage of the ocean breeze and cross ventilation, although I would suppose that if it is much warmer in summer (or for those members who prefer extremely cool sleeping areas) that the A/C will be put to use. One further note: there is no screening on the doorways in the central living area, and when the breezes subside, gnats and mosquitoes can be a problem and necessitate the use of the bug repellent, which is stocked in the residence. All sleeping area are screened, although not the outside decks with the comfortable seating and hammocks.

The residences are in a sheltered area at the base of the mountain, accessed by a steep driveway. And the roads on that part of the island have continual upgrades and downgrades, some quite steep. So if you want to bicycle, ensure you have low gears, or if you are a runner or walker as I am, the exertion level is rather high. The beach sand is soft. At high tide, the water comes right up to the seawall, but at low tide you can walk along the beach past several of the other residences. The private beach behind the seawall is quite large, although if all three villas were occupied by large groups (we were the only ones in residence this week), it could get relatively crowded. There is a lot of beach furniture, and kayaks and snorkeling gear as well. We loved being right on the beach, but if all residences were occupied Aquamare II and III have somewhat more privacy.

In summary, we loved the enclave and the residences and have entered a CWL to return in the event that our current reservation in Little Dix Bay for early 2019 has to be postponed.

Status of Little Dix Bay

Rosewood's tentative reopening date of holiday season this year seems very ambitious to me, given the destruction at Little Dix Bay, one of the hardest hit areas, the ER residences as well (several lost roofs, massive interior repairs needed, complete refurnishing planned), and the logistical difficulties given the island location. Obviously, the incentives to accomplish it are great, but so are the obstacles since it all has to be done in a first class manner.

As an example of how severe the damage was, the marina in adjacent Spanish town is still just an incredible jumble of yachts, sailboats and other vessels (probably about a hundred) piled randomly on top of each other, lying in the beach area next to the road near the pier.

Getting To Virgin Gorda

Transportation was easy, and we experienced only one minor delay. Karen and I flew nonstop from JFK to SJU, and then Seaborne from SJU to EIS (Beef Island). In the past, we had flown the small Cape Air planes. We like the Seaborne Saab commuter planes much better - and no luggage limitations. Our daughter Heather joined us from a conference in California and got a connecting flight through Dulles to SJU. The upgrades of the SJU airport are impressive since our last visit. They are still in progress, and with some hurricane damage, our return through immigration there was stopgap, but handled well by Seaborne.

Speedy's ferry service between Virgin Gorda and EIS is now on a regular schedule seven days a week, and it is posted on the web. Given our tight flight connections and several pieces of luggage, we took a taxi to the ferry - if you are not in a hurry or totally loaded with luggage, it is an easy walk from the terminal. There is a discount if you purchase a round trip ticket, and seniors have a reduced fare as well. There is a snack bar and ice cream shop at the airport should the ferry schedule necessitate you spending some time there.

William had arranged for our rental car to be on the pier when we arrived, and he and Trevor the residence manager met us and led us to the house. (This was our choice - they offered to transport us and have the car delivered there.) We drove back to the pier on our departure date after they loaded our luggage and then met to to say goodbye and get our luggage to the ferry. So the only change from Little Dix Bay's arrangements is that you are not met at EIS and shuttled to the resort.

Dining Options

Most restaurants have not reopened, but they are gradually doing so. Several are in the process of reconstruction, including Hog Heaven and The Mine Shaft Cafe (we missed those great views and resident chickens). And with Little Dix Bay closed, there are no high end choices for any real foodies, although William can arrange in residence chef service.

We had dinner at The Bath and Turtle - very broad selection, including vegetarian choices, fine but not outstanding food - and lunch at CocoMaya - much quieter than dinner, great location on the beach, limited but excellent menu, and food not at all spicy as we requested.

We had a small grocery order for our arrival, but prefer to do our own selection. The Riteway grocery store in Spanish Town was generally well-stocked, although their shipping container with fresh produce and dairy had not arrived as scheduled. We prepared most of our meals ourselves and enjoyed eating in the residence with the wonderful views from our table.

Service Experience

Trevor and William were very responsive to any minor problem or requests that we had, and made our stay relaxing and enjoyable. William lives on property and Trevor was also in residence while we were there, given the lack of other guests and the work still being done to complete the re-landscaping and planting which is in progress. Housekeeping does an excellent job.

The homes adjacent to Aquamare all suffered major damage and are unoccupied, but the construction activity is limited and the noise generally minimal.

I hope that these observations are helpful and answer most questions, and I encourage our fellow members to visit these wonderful residences and enjoy a relaxing time on Virgin Gorda.