The Virgin Islands and many other Caribbean travel destinations were badly damaged by hurricanes Irma and Maria. Based on research conducted by Virgin Holidays, many repeat visitors to the islands say that they will not be returning in 2018 because they believe the islands have not recovered sufficiently to support tourism. Whether this is true or not, this belief could result in a severe economic downturn for the USVI and BVI.
The best way to speed the recovery and support of the economy of the islands is to book your hotel and flight today. Most areas of the Virgin Islands have already bounced back – hotels, beaches, and restaurants are opened or are reopening and infrastructure is restored in most areas. Your courage will be rewarded with great deals; uncrowded, peaceful beaches; and grateful, smiling faces.
Despite these words of optimism and welcome, you still may not be able to visit this year. No worries. If you can’t support the Virgin Islands by going there, you can bring the Caribbean home for the holidays. Buying island-produced goods is second best to letting little wavelets lap at your toes while you stretch out on the sun-warmed sand in person.
Gifts that support the Virgin Islands:
1) Captain Morgan Ugly Sweater
“The US Virgin Islands has been home to Captain Morgan since we opened our distillery on St. Croix in 2010. As a native of the USVI, I am delighted Diageo and the Captain Morgan brand is able to support our community and people,” says Cynthia Arnold, Operations Director, Diageo USVI.
Captain Morgan parent company Diageo has pledged $1,000,000 to support relief and recovery efforts in the US Virgin Islands. Great news, especially because Captain Morgan’s online store has some of the most kitschy and hilarious holiday gifts ideas, ever. This year, they have released their second ugly sweater. Last year’s design is already highly collectible and going for big bucks on eBay. Beyond ugly sweaters, they have adult onesies, lamps, bottles with personalized labels, and much more. If none of that appeals to you, just buy some rum. All this can be had at the Captain Morgan online store.
2) Rum Punch Kit
Line an authentic or inspired Caribbean basket with brightly colored yellow and red madras cotton. Fill the basket with a set of mason jars or tall punch glasses. Add a bottle of the Virgin Islands’ own light Cruzan rum, a bottle of 9 (spiced) Cruzan rum, and a bottle of Grenadine. If you can, find a fresh pineapple, and throw that in. Hand write or print out the Rum Punch recipe below and top the basket with a red tulle ribbon.
2 part Cruzan Light
1 part Cruzan 9
1 part Orange Juice
1 part Cranberry Juice
1/2 part Grenadine
Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into a long drink glass. Garnish with pineapple.
Cruzan rums can be found at all fine liquor stores.
3) Hot Sauces, Condiments, and Bush Tea
You will find many food items that have “Virgin Islands” in their name. Be warned, many of these products are produced elsewhere – on other islands, in the States, or even in China. With a little careful research, you can assure that you are actually buying a locally produced gift. Here are a couple of superb brands that I can guarantee are handmade in the USVI or BVI.
Blind Betty’s Hot Concoctions
Blind Betty’s has been producing award-winning habanero-based hot sauces and condiments since 1997. Betty’s offers everything from curl your toes hot to pineapple sweet sauces. A Caribbean roti would be incomplete without her chutney on top. The Blind Betty website also features a selection of recipes. To order direct, visit the Blind Betty online store.
Bush tea is made from steeped Caribbean botanicals. Hundreds of different leaves, barks, seeds and more can be found in an endless variety of blends. Many families have secret signature combinations that are prized. Bush teas can be used medicinally but are more often a soothing beverage enjoyed throughout the day and, in particular, for breakfast.
Bushtea of the Virgin Islands out of St. Thomas can ship a variety of tea to you in time for Christmas including moringa, lemongrass, mint, bay rum, balsam, soursop, sugar apple, and my favorite, the beautiful pale blue butterfly pea tea. To order direct, visit the Bushtea online store.
4) Steve Simonsen Calendar or Coffee Table Book
The Virgin Islands are filled with extraordinary photographers. It’s the beauty of the islands and the colorful culture that draws shutterbugs from around the world. Steve Simonsen, however, stands above the rest for both his talent and his tenacity. Steve has been photographing the Virgin Islands from every angle for over 20 years – underwater, aerial, video and award-winning and Smithsonian shown stills. The list of notable publications, companies, and celebrities he has worked for can be counted in the hundreds. Give the magic of the Virgin Islands to friends and loved ones this year by gifting them one of Steve’s coffee table books or calendars. To order direct, visit Steve’s Facebook page.
5) Hook Bracelet
Several jewelers in the Virgin Islands fight over the title of creator of the original hook bracelet. Whoever it was, we thank you for the iconic design that symbolizes a deep connection to the islands. “The hook brings you back,” as John Popper says. Search online for “Virgin Islands hook bracelet” and you will find many sellers and many styles which you can order in time for Christmas. My pick for best hook bracelet is Caravan Gallery or The Vibe Collection out of St. John.
Caravan sells hook bracelets made by native jewelry designer and musician Whealan Massicott. To order direct, visit the Caravan Gallery online store.
Vibe has great quality and a variety of designs using different gems and metals. To order direct, visit The Vibe Collection online store.
Buying VI this holiday season is shopping that gives both ways. These gifts will touch the hearts of those who are away from their beloved islands and will help those who remain to rebuild. Happy holidays and don’t forget to select 2-day shipping.