Jost van Dyke’s Hidden Heaven: One little paradise can make an early wake-up call worth the pain.

Monday Mantra

I have no pain to kill… I have no pain to kill… I have no pain to kill…

Hidden Heaven

One little paradise can make an early wake-up call worth the pain.

San Juan. St. Thomas. St. Maarten. Jost van Dyke.

Jost van what???

Unless you own a private yacht or have cruised aboard tiny vessels like SeaDream Yacht Club’s, chances are you’ve missed this little speck of paradise and its uncrowded, pristine beaches and clear, aqua-blue waters.

It was an “Oh my God!” moment during my recent Norwegian Gem sailing when I spotted a shore excursion to Jost van Dyke hidden among the offerings in our tour description booklet. Limited to 100 participants, the tour would depart upon our arrival at Tortola at 7 a.m. Okay, nothing’s perfect.

This early-morning departure sucked for a variety of reasons, the worst being the 6 a.m. wake-up call that I needed. And I don’t know about you, but at that ungodly hour, the last thing I’m in the mood for is a hearty breakfast, which wouldn’t ordinarily be a problem except that no visit to Jost van Dyke is complete without a visit to the Soggy Dollar, a shabby, nondescript bar that has earned a global reputation for creating the painkiller, a lethal libation that is a delicious combination of dark rum, cream of coconut, and orange and pineapple juices, topped with a generous sprinkle of nutmeg that resembles the powder-soft sand that surrounds the bar.

As soon as my watch shows a respectable hour — I’m thinking 11 a.m. — I’ll be ordering my first painkiller. And on a stomach filled only with a few gulps of coffee and half of a bran muffin, this simply can’t end well.

To while away the time, I’m basking in the sun beneath a cloudless sky and slipping into the crystal waters of Jost van Dyke. As I wade, schools of fish are darting past like a rush-hour crowd running for the 5:40 at Grand Central. Somehow the fish aren’t grossing me out — they’re small and sleek and create what feels like my own private segment of a Discovery Channel program.

With the little hand on the 11 and the big hand on 12, it’s painkiller time. I approach the bar to find that many of my shipmates have a different — and much earlier — definition of what constitutes a respectable drinking hour. The bartender is whipping up four painkillers at a time, struggling to keep up with demand. Nutmeg is falling like a blizzard from his grater as he garnishes all four drinks simultaneously.

It’s baffling how a drink called the painkiller could have been invented in a place as idyllic as Jost van Dyke. On this beautiful island, the only pain I can imagine comes when it’s time to leave.


— Judi Cuervo


Judi Cuervo is a New York City native who fell in love with cruising in 1976 during her first sailing aboard Carnival Cruises’ Mardi Gras. Twenty years later, she began her freelance cruise writing gig and, since that time, has covered mass market, ultra-premium, riverboat and expedition ships for regional, national and international publications as well as cruise websites.