History, Horticulture and Hospitality in St. Croix
By Fyllis Hockman
The manor house, still in use today, was built in 1653 by the Knights of Malta. The sugar mill, constructed in 1733, now serves as a venue for weddings. Former slave quarters dating back 250 years provide lodging.
It's not often a visit to a destination hotel includes a history tour spanning several centuries. However, history permeates the grounds of The Buccaneer resort on St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands, which was originally opened by Douglas Armstrong in 1947. As the longest-running property in the Caribbean, it is also the only one run by the same family. The Buccaneer was the exclusive home to the Federal Emergency Management Agency -- as opposed to tourists -- during the early days of recovery from the hurricanes that hit the islands in 2017 -- a huge boon to the entire island.
Set on 340 sprawling acres with dramatic views of the sea or the mountains around every turn, the resort could be full and you would not feel crowded. Separate groupings of rooms and buildings span the layout; yet, somehow, the entire complex seems easily accessible.
The activities are endless: tetherball to basketball, corn hole to pingpong, kayaking and snorkeling to kids' camp and fitness center -- those are the free ones. For a fee, there are spa treatments, art lessons, yoga, golf, tennis and salsa lessons. Those into jet-skiing will have to go elsewhere; most guests are delighted there's nothing motorized to break the serenity.
Although it's the largest of the U.S. Virgin Islands, St. Croix is small enough to be manageable in a single day's drive. The island provides a comfortable, laid-back middle ground between the frenzy of shopping, commercialism and noisy nightlife on St. Thomas and the tomb-quiet setting of St. John, with much to see and appreciate within a short-driving distance. The Buccaneer reflects that St. Croix quality.
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The current Armstrong, Elizabeth, is Douglas' grandchild and eighth-generation Crucian, and it is her emphasis on service that really distinguishes the resort. I didn't encounter a single employee who didn't greet me with a warm smile and a sincere desire to help. That doesn't happen by accident. Hiring is very stringent, and every member of the staff undergoes a training process that took two years to develop and is reinforced daily.
The only breakdown in service occasionally comes at mealtime. While the food is well-prepared and presented, you could practically play a round of golf between courses. Just think island time -- it's how the Caribbean runs.
Elizabeth's first job at the hotel at age 8 was picking up litter. Fascinated by all the lights and sounds, she graduated a year later to switchboard operator and continued on to learn every aspect of the hotel business. Some of the staff she knew as a child still work at the resort:
"Fifty percent of the staff has been here 20-plus years -- they feel like it's their Buccaneer," she said.