(Originally published at OnePaper.com)
One of the most delightful aspects of the internet is being able to ‘try out’ your next vacation without plunking down a dime. Many destinations host information to help you connect with travel agencies, hotels and tour operators; technology is often limited to providing details and photos. What if you could stand on the shore of a treasured beach and actually see the sunlight tickling a wave that has been captured for your enjoyment? This is the purpose of Virtual St. Thomas.
An ever-present topside menu launches indexes that include links to java applets (small applications within your browser based upon Java programming language) which load panoramic, virtual reality views of famous places like the legendary Magens Bay, unique shops like Pirate’s Chest, and historic landmark and restaurant Hotel 1829. For the full experience, you should have MacroMedia Flash installed. While most pages load vistas automatically, some will require the Apple QuickTime viewer or will offer a slide presentation. Whatever the method of image distribution, the visitor to VirtualStThomas.com is treated to a collection of vivid and engaging photos and Virtual Reality experiences.
Exceptional among the pickings: a shot of the interior-to-exterior of Haagensen House Museum. Perched atop the famed “99 Steps” in downtown Charlotte Amalie, the museum shares tradewinds, a striking view of the Harbor, and 19th Century pride. All of these are magically combined in one 360-degree sweep of the verandah.
There are pages on Boating, Restaurants, Beaches, Shopping, and Hotels, among others; as more places and activities are added, the site will continue to grow. Even St. Thomas residents will enjoy taking a brief jaunt through the site every now and again – there’s no need to leave the office to take in a refreshing reminder of what brings thousands to visit each year.
(VirtualStThomas.com also hosts pages on behalf of the St. Thomas/St. John Navy League.)