Sunday, December 30, 2012

Joe’s Island Tours in St Thomas USVI and Our Honeymoon Adventure

In 2011, I had a goal of writing 3-5 blog posts per week, and failed to achieve that goal, but it was certainly not for a lack of content. Interestingly I ran into a similar shortfall in my goal in 2012--maybe 2013 will be different? There was one particular post that eluded me in 2011, that I wanted to make sure I wrote in 2012. And that post is a post about Joe Penn and Joe’s Island Tours in St. Thomas.

Last year, for our honeymoon, Jamie and I drove to Florida, and hopped on a Carnival cruise ship for seven days around the Eastern Caribbean. One of our stops was a visit to the island of St. Thomas, one of the US Virgin Islands. Our stay on St. Thomas was limited from 8AM-6PM, and it was a bit of a rainy day on the island.

It appears that the typical cruise ship port itinerary consists of visiting a litany of duty-free alcohol, tobacco, jewelry, and clothing shops, and for Jamie and me, this was not our cup of tea. We also didn’t want to purchase a ‘shore-excursion’ through the cruise ship even though this was strongly encouraged. Every stop we had on the journey, we wanted to soak in the local culture and vibe, and find our way quickly away from the well beaten path to shopping, and tourist traps. We decided on St. Thomas we would splurge, and take a tour of the island. Initially, we had hoped to just walk and explore, but we had underestimated the size of these islands.

On St. Thomas, we met a taxi driver named Joe Penn who ran a business called Joes’s Island Tours. The deal with his tours were that you paid $25/person (standard rate for all taxi tours), but you could stop for a swim at Sapphire Beach for an hour or two, and he would pick you up on a subsequent island tour trip during the day.  Not only this, but he insisted that folks not pay until they arrived safely back at port in time to board their ship. 

Jamie and I had explored all of the island we could explore on foot, so we asked Joe if he had room on his ‘cab’. It was a pickup with a series of five bench seats built on the bed of the truck. He could haul 25 passengers at a time. Well, by the time we showed up, he was at capacity, but he offered us an opportunity to ride in the cab with him.

I’m so glad we did! Of course, Joe took us to all of the usual tourist spots, Drake’s Seat, top of the mountain, Blackbeard’s Seat, and Magen’s Bay. But he also took time to stop and share some of the medicinal plants and nature of the island. He also offered us an opportunity to stop for a swim at Sapphire Beach. While we rode in the cab with him, we enjoyed the same tour that he gave the 25 other passengers, but we received the added bonus that was our hope. We learned more about daily life on the island, we connected with Joe himself pretty significantly, and we learned more about Joe’s hard-work ethic, entrepreneurial spirit, and solid business practices.

As we made our way back to port, Joe drove us as close to the ship as he could, and dropped us off before collecting our $25/person taxi fee.  We really enjoyed the time we were able to spend with him and were grateful for what was for us, one of the high points of our Caribbean experience.

Joe shared many words of wisdom, and even shared his challenges and struggles both personal and professional. He is a successful businessman, and I wish him the greatest success in his endeavors. He understands that to be successful you have to be willing to work hard, and provide superior service.

Jamie and I think of Joe often, and if we ever have opportunity to visit the island of St Thomas again, I’m sure we will look Joe up. And, if you find yourself on the island, I suggest you do the same. Take his tour around the island. Whether you are riding in the cab or on a bench on the bed of the truck, you will be grateful for the experience.


Luxury Tours ireland said...

It is great to know about your honey moon tour and I also think that the self-driven tours are always a great choice and they can surely be consisted with pleasant moments.

Jeff Cornwell said...

We stumbled across Joe while making a port stop in St. Thomas on 3/12/2014. While at 1st hesitant after he approached us and offered his tour, we went ahead and did the tour. All I can say is I am glad we did, he was extremely professional, knowledgeable and added a nice comedic touch to his tour of St. Thomas. I would highly recommend taking his tour if anyone has the chance while visiting St. Thomas!

Karen said...

We just returned from our cruise, 7/25/2015, and also stummbled across Joe amd did his tour. We were so impressed with him, his tour and especially his work ethic, that we wanted to search for him online and let him know again how impressed we were with him. Hands down the highlight of our trip.

Anonymous said...

Can anyone give me contact info for Joe's Island tour?

Billy Williams said...

Unfortunately I no longer have Joe's contact info.

Bev Ferraiz said...

We just returned from a Carnival Cruise to St Thomas (April 2018). We ran into Joe Penn on the streets and spoke with him for few minutes and decided to take his 2 hour tour. He was fantastic! We had the best little tour of the island. He is funny and very knowledgeable. He is totally worth the $25.00 per person. He is also a great guy!

Unknown said...

We met Joe last yr and took his tour! Best tour guide ever.. going back in Nov and already trying to book with him in advance..