Although hurricanes Irma and Maria did enormous damage in several Leeward Islands, including St. Croix, The Buccaneer came through in unusually good shape. Only a half dozen or so rarely used rooms at the 138-key resort were damaged. Just note that for next few weeks The Buccaneer will be hosting FEMA workers, so it isn’t accepting last-minute bookings. This report is from a visit just prior to this season’s hurricanes, but everything mentioned here is as it was before the storms.

The Buccaneer is the grande dame of the U.S. Virgin Islands: Owned and operated by the same family since 1947 on a plantation founded in 1653, The Buccaneer has a pink plantation house on a hill and 17th-century stone buildings that have earned it membership in Historic Hotels of America. But the present tense matters, too, because it’s this resort’s beaches (the 138-key resort occupies 340 acres, much of them seaside), par-70 golf course, tennis complex, kids activities, restaurants, warm staff, modern traditional rooms, and easy access to Christiansted that make it a favorite for today’s vacationers, many of them repeat visitors.

My room, an 800-sq.-ft. Luxury Beachside Doubloon, featured a carved four-poster, easy chairs, raised ceiling, marble flooring, and a marble bath with a big jacuzzi. The terrace had a balustrade fit for a Roman villa, beyond which a wall of sea grapes was low enough so guests could sit on the outdoor couch and see the sea, but high enough so people on the beach couldn’t see if I, like Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Palmer, was modeling Hanes.

For lunch at the beachfront Mermaid I asked the server if I could have the tropical salad with mahi-mahi instead of chicken. “Of course,” she said, and the result had just
the right mix of fruits, vegetables, fish, and spicy accents.

At the nearby watersports center, staffers were helping some children stage a hermit crab race. Hermit crabs being squatters, each one wore a different species’ shell. One boy “bet” on the one with the biggest shell, but that crab, with so much to lug around, came in last. The guests’ kids learned a lesson there, as did some locals on the beach who were watching the Crab Preakness.

Over the next few days I borrowed kayaks and SUPs; I also snorkeled out to the reef that keeps the bay calm, but because I was alone, I stayed on the inside rather than the outside of the reef system. (Some days there are guided snorkeling tours of the outer reef.)

One morning I took a half-day snorkeling trip to Buck Island Reef National Monument. Caribbean Sea Adventures sent a mid-size boat operated by two scientists to pick up a half-dozen Buccaneer guests at the dock.

Buck Island is one of the holy grails of snorkeling. As we approached it, dolphins played in the wake and sea turtles emerged to eyeball the boat. When we entered the water, crowds of angelfish surrounded us. We saw live coral of every kind and color, red parrotfish, blue parrotfish, butterfly fish, and more. Somehow, I missed the nurse sharks and rays, but that, if you’ll pardon the expression, was a fluke.

One day I had a good look at the eight resurfaced tennis courts because the new fitness center, where I was going, shares a building with the new tennis shop. I also got a close look at the golf course, a 1973 seaside beauty, when I followed the Par Course trail around the fairways.

St. Croix itself is a big draw here: the Cruzan rum factory, the well-preserved Estate Whim, the fort in Christiansted, the building where the teenage Alexander Hamilton worked, and the St. George Village Botanical Garden. How to refuel after all that? Dine in Christiansted at star chef Digby Stridiron’s balter, 40 Strand Eatery, or Zion Modern Kitchen. What if someone has just one night in town? Eat three dinners. (For all sights and restaurants, check ahead with the concierge to make sure they’re recovered.)

Speaking of dinner, one night at The Terrace, in the Great House, I had a mahi-mahi picatta whose moist flesh and lemony tang combined for a masterpiece. Another night I ate at the bar, where I couldn’t decide between the tacos and the flatbread (aka pizza), each priced in the teens. Next to me, a local wrestled with the same dilemma, so we split the two while listening to a singer/guitarist who wowed the guests with R&B classics.

Rates include full American breakfasts, watersports gear, beach chairs and floating mats, introductory scuba lessons, free WiFi, and other perks. Great House Ocean View rates start at about $300 per couple, but, Vicki Locke, director of sales, told me, “The 50 deluxe oceanfront rooms [from $400] are the most popular.” My Luxury Beachside Doubloon, the newest and largest room category, starts at $650. The 2-bedroom, 1-bath Family Cottage Suites (from $430), said Locke, “are the best value at the hotel.” She added, “We have a very good travel agent following, and we want agents to talk to us, to let us know if your clients have trouble with stairs or if there’s an anniversary.”

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