We made it through…the Bermuda Triangle!
Skirting the northwest part of the Bermuda Triangle we arrived safely in Kings Wharf this past week to the picture perfect Royal Naval Dockyard. The week of August 21 my wife and I decided to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary on a cruise to Bermuda, the same place where we spent our honeymoon.
It all started with an overnight cross-country flight to Newark, NJ. This trip was 60% familiarization (FAM) trip and 40% pleasure or something like that. The point is, when one of our clients asks about a cruise to Bermuda, we have the experience. So what has changed in 20 years since our first trip? Continue reading to find out. (Look for the link at the end of the blog for a chance to win a $5 Starbucks card.)
The biggest fear that keeps me awake at night is when our clients arrive at the destination airport, will they find a cruise tour representative. As we were approaching the baggage claim there they were, I spotted the big “Celebrity Cruise X” on the back of a three ring binder. I had just mentioned to my wife, “how do our clients find where to go?” Then across the crowded room I found the X. We originally planned a transfer from Newark to the cruise terminal in Bayonne, NJ. However, since we had time, we arranged with family friends who live close by to pick us up and go to breakfast. The cruise representative was understanding and took our names off the list with ease. They even suggested that we look into changing the transfer to after the cruise back to the airport since we hadn’t made those arrangements yet. We did this on board with ease.
As nice as a cruise terminal can be this one was well organized with signs and personnel at the ready to answer your questions. On the way to board the ship was the guy with the drink package promotion. We already had the classic drink package as part of Celebrity’s GO BIG, GO BETTER, GO BEST promotion. We convinced ourselves that it was a good idea to upgrade to premium without the help of the sales guy. In hindsight it was an excellent decision.
Why you may ask? If you enjoy a glass of wine and not the cheap stuff, cocktails, rum swizzles, specialty coffees, soft drinks and bottled water, then the premium package is a wise choice. What we liked most about the package is that we never had to wonder how much we spent on beverages. If we wanted a glass of champagne with breakfast or a cappuccino in the afternoon the cost was included in the package. The package also allows a 20% discount on bottles of wine. Picture it this way, order a to-go coffee in the morning, two rum swizzles in the afternoon, two glasses of premium wine at dinner, an after dinner espresso, then during late night ABBA trivia, another rum infused drink to top off the night and you used your drink package well, don’t judge!
This is our first time on a Celebrity Cruise ship and our beautiful vessel was the celebrity Summit. She holds 2,158 passengers and was launched in 2001. The Summit spent some time in dry dock earlier this year to upgrade her public spaces. Upon entering the ship, we landed on deck 4. I was expecting the usual grand staircase or piazza style atrium, but was this is not the style of this ship. Its subtle beauty is in the marble staircase that leads to Deck 3 where you find the service desk, excursions and restaurant reservations. Pulling out of the dock, the most famous and iconic skylines of lower Manhattan come into full view form the port aft area of the Summit.
We booked a veranda stateroom, concierge class on Deck 7 aft. The room is a typical balcony room with twin beds pushed together to make a queen size bed. The closet space is generous with plenty of hangers and drawer space. The bathroom is adequate with a single sink and a private shower. One thing, if you don’t want a sauna when you step out of the shower, the bathroom door should remain open. The remainder of the room is a small desk with storage underneath, a sofa bed, a sliding glass door to my happy place, the veranda.
Our stateroom attendant was friendly and always quick with a smile. We asked for two body pillows and she gasped and asked if we were sure. When the body pillows arrived, we knew why she laughed. These things were five feet long and fluffy. They were very functional but if left under the covers one might mistake that there was a person still sleeping.
We slow cruised our way to Bermuda. During the two glorious days at seas, the ship comes alive, the Emporium Shops open, the casino opens and people are milling about learning the ships layout. During that time, we enjoyed the main dining room and Tuscan Grill. I highly recommend the Tuscan Grill for amazing food, the welcoming staff, and oh yeah, the ambiance. The cover charge is $45 per person. If you were to eat at a similar restaurant in the city, one might pay well over $100 per person for the same experience.
Day 3 arrives, the one day we have been waiting for, docking at Kings Wharf, Bermuda. Remember earlier I would mention how things change in 20 years, well here is the first; the Royal Naval Dockyard has grown into a bustling port for cruise ships. When we were here 20 years earlier this area had just a few things, the old naval fort, the Clock Tower plaza and the Frog and Onion Pub. Now there are two docks for cruise ships, a water activities shack, taxis, a transportation hub, water ferries to St. George and Hamilton and more restaurants. Outside of Dockyard is new housing and retail which translates to an increase in population.
What brings people back to Bermuda is the islands beauty. The water surrounding the island is turquoise blue with coral reefs just below the surface of the water. Look in any direction to see white limestone roofs and pastel colored houses. More importantly are the Bermudian people with their welcoming and friendly personality. Tourism is the mainstay for Bermuda so they make you feel welcomed, it’s a way of life. What did not change in 20 years is that welcoming spirit of the Bermudians.
If this is a first trip to the island, then take the shore excursions to the furthest destination of St. George on the first day in port. On the second day head out to Hamilton and save time to take in breathtaking Horseshoe Bay – pink sand beach. On the third day stay close to the ship and discover Dockyard, the youngest of the three major cities since the ship leaves at 4:00pm. The highlights of the island are the pink sand beaches, the snorkeling of colorful reefs, world class duty free shopping, the tiniest draw bridge in the world and of course the famous Swizzle Inn.
Let me make a recommendation for lunch while shopping in Hamilton. Angelo’s Bistro in the Walker Arcade. The Bolognese spaghetti is worth the trip alone but if fish n’ chips are your thing I hear they are amazing. Or try the fried gnocchi in a cream sauce, my wife counts it in her top three. The number two thing that has changed is 20 years is there are TWO Swizzle Inns! The original in St. George and a new one half way between Hamilton and Dockyard. In any case, order a pitcher of the famous, the tasty, the orange colored liquid sunshine – Rum Swizzle. Their motto is Swizzle In – Swagger Out.
Another recommendation while in Dockyard, Hamilton or St. George is K.S. Watersports and take the SeaDoo 75-minute tour. We did this in Dockyard with our tour guide Sean. On our water steed we headed out to the west end where we learned of a sunken ship and played in the water with sea turtles. Sean as an awesome guide, he was patient with the group and had great knowledge of the island. This is a great way to see the island from the water side.
Overall Bermuda has changed little. We cannot return to the hotel where we spent our honeymoon, it was destroyed by hurricane Fabian with extensive damage too costly to rebuild. Today the footprint is barely visible, the Moongate where we took our picture is gone, just a ghostly foundation where the main dining room once stood. We shed a tear.
The third and last notable change we encountered is the influx of cars on the island. Twenty years ago the moped was the mode of transportation. The change came about seven years ago when residents were allowed to purchase small cars and now there is pending legislation to allow tourist to rent cars. There are hills, roundabouts, blind corners and narrow streets, stick to the efficient public transportation.
Why use Happy Feet Travel Club travel consultants? We can give you real world experience. We know where on the ship are desirable rooms, we recommend restaurants and fun excursions and we care about your vacation experience. With this trip the journey and destination are intertwined.