Bermuda By Cruise Ship
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by Kris Krenz MCC
The first thing I want to clarify is Bermuda's location. Many people mistake a Bermuda Cruise for a Caribbean Cruise which it is not! Bermuda, situated on top of an extinct volcano, is located in the North Atlantic a few hundred miles east of the Carolinas. Because of its location in the Gulf Stream, Bermuda's climate is very pleasant but cool in the winter. Bermuda is considered the northern most tropical island, so if you go snorkeling you will catch a glimpse of tropical reef fish.
In 1609 seven large ships and two smaller vessels, call pinnaces, gathered at Plymouth, England to carry supplies and colonists to a tiny weak English settlement up the James River from Chesapeake Bay. The largest ship in the fleet was the Sea Venture, 300 tons broad in the beam, built to carry goods and people. On board was the admiral of the fleet, Sir George Somers--little did he know that he would play a key part in settling the island of Bermuda.
The ms Dreamward and Fort Catherine on the island of St. George, Bermuda - Photo by K. Krenz
When the ships were about a week away from making it to their destination, the weather changed for the worse and the vessels quickly disappeared from each other's sight. Only one of the pinnace and the Sea Venture failed to reach Jamestown safely. Heavily damaged by the hurricane force winds, the Sea Venture was leaking badly. After days of bailing water and throwing supplies overboard trying to stay afloat, the crew almost gave up hope. Then Sir George Somers sighted land--it was Bermuda!
It was 1609, and Sir George Somers sighted St. David's Head, close to today's location of St. David's lighthouse in St. George's Parish. (Like Sir George Somers, as a cruise ship passenger your first land sighting as you approach Bermuda will be St. David's Light and Head. On the many cruises I have taken to Bermuda, I have never missed getting up early to watch the sun rise and catch that first glimpse of Bermuda coming into view over the horizon. Faithfully St. David's light is there to welcome us and guide us safely to port.)
As the Sea Venture headed toward shore she got wedged in the reef outside of St. George near where Fort Catherine (an excellent tourist stop) is located. Some of the Sea Venture' s remains are in the vicinity to this day.
Getting Around Bermuda
Getting around Bermuda is very easy, and the public buses and ferries are the most economical way to go. Unlimited three-day transportation passes are available for around $20 per person thus perfect for cruise passengers (this includes both bus and ferries) and can be purchased at the Bus Terminal near City Hall in Hamilton and near any of the cruise ship berths in St. George and Kings Warf. Note: If you are selling the concept of public transportation to your cruise customers keep in mind their abilities. Some walking up and down hilly terrain is required to get to certain bus stops.
Another form of transportation popular with the visitors are mopeds--on one of my visits, I rented a moped and had a fantastic time. But remember Bermuda is part of the British Commonwealth, so you're going to be driving on the left hand side of the road. It is almost inevitable that you or one of your shipmates will end up in the hospital due to a moped accident, so I advise caution. Car rentals are not available on this island (in fact all families are limited to one car per household).
View of the St. George harbor - Photo by K. Krenz
While docked at St. George( the earliest settlement on Bermuda):
"For anyone with a yearning to stroll through narrow streets flanked by the shops and houses of another era altogether, the town of St. George provides the perfect setting." - David F. Raine, The Islands of Bermuda Another World
The structures in the town of St. George have been carefully protected by preservation ordinances which forbid all attempts to update and modernize their appearances. Therefore, the town has evolved quite naturally during the last four centuries.
You can easily occupy your day in St. George with a simple do-it-yourself walking tour. Since the town of St. George is so small, in almost any direction you turn you will find a shop, gallery, museum, historic sight or pub/restaurant. In my opinion, St. George offers more within a short walking distance than any other port of call by a cruise ship.
The perfect place to start your visit in St. George is Kings Square, where Town Hall is located. This is a good place to pick up tourist information and maps to plan out your visit, as well as to view a short movie on Bermuda and her history. Just off of Kings Square, on Ordinance Island is a replica of the ship built by the survivors of the Sea Venture to complete their voyage to Jamestown.
Many other interesting museums and historical sights are within a short walking distance of your ship while docked at St. George. Just a few of these sights include: The Tucker House, an early 18th century house with many antiques. The Carriage Museum, which offers a unique look at Bermuda's transportation history, housing a collection of old Bermuda horse drawn carriages. St. Peter's Church is the oldest continuously used Anglican church site in the western hemisphere. Also, a must for any civil war buff is the Confederate Museum, learn what role Bermuda played during the war between the states.
For the more energetic, a longer walk over the hills of St. George is Fort Catherine. Located here is a museum with dioramas showing local history, replicas of the crown jewels and other historical items of interest. A walk around the walls of the fort also provides a nice view of the surrounding coastal area.
If you come to St. George to shop, many great items can be purchased such as local crafts and perfumes, English, Scottish, and Irish clothing, Tea's, Spice's and many miscellaneous souvenirs to keep or take home to your family and friends.
Two beaches within one "hilly" mile walking distance of the ship is Tobacco Bay and St. Catherine's Beach--both near Fort St. Catherine. Tobacco Bay is shallow beach with unusual rock formations and is an excellent place to snorkel. Public restrooms, snorkel rentals, and a snack bar are here for your convenience. If this shallow rocky cove is not to your liking, head over to St. Catherine's Beach, a more traditional sunning beach but with fewer conveniences. If you don't want to walk, shuttles are also available for a nominal fee.
Other popular beaches near St. George that are available by public transportation are Shelly Bay, Clearwater Beach and other small hide a-ways.
While Docked at Hamilton:
Hamilton was incorporated in 1773 and became the capital of Bermuda in 1815, taking away from the honor of St. George, the island's first capital. Hamilton is the largest city and, centrally located, has become the favorite spot for many because of its world class shopping, restaurants and pubs that are located directly across the street from the dock.
Hamilton also gives you direct access to all public transportation (taxis, ferries, and busses). Via Hamilton you can get anywhere on the island easily.
The author strolls along the path between Warwick Long Bay and Horseshoe Bay - Photo by M. Krenz
The famous south shore beaches such as Elbow Beach, Warwick Long Bay Jobson Cove (my favorite hide away) and Horseshoe Bay are less than 20 minutes away from Hamilton by bus.
Like St. George, a self-guided walking tour can be rewarding for those who are interested in local history and sights. I recommend visiting the Bermuda library (a five-minute walk from the pier), situated near the Perot Post Office in Par-la-Ville Gardens (another must-see while in the area). The library is virtually unknown to most tourists, and contains a small but important museum containing some of the country's most treasured pictures and artifacts.
If you are interested in the arts, make your way up to city hall to check out the Bermuda National Art Gallery, which brings in world-class exhibits, and also features work by local artists. After visiting the art gallery go next door and check out the Hamilton Cathedral--the largest on the island. If you are adventurous, go to the Cathedral tower for a spectacular view if the entire island.
If you are not tired, walk on to Fort Hamilton. Within this early nineteenth century fort there are tunnels and an attractively planted moat to explore, as well as a nice grassy area with benches. Here many city workers come to take a break, eat their lunches, and relax in the peace and quiet of the nearby park. The park also fords a nice view overlooking Hamilton.
If you come to Bermuda for her pink sand beaches you will not be disappointed. The South Shore beaches are among the best. If you are looking for a scenic hike and swim, start at Warwick Long Bay and make your way west towards Horseshoe Bay. Trails here will take you past postcard perfect Jobson's cove, Chaplin Bay, and having a light lunch at the concession will make an end to a perfect beach day.
King's Warf (Ireland Island North):
If your ship does not dock here, a special visit to this island can be very rewarding. Hopping the ferry from Hamilton to the Dockyard (King's Warf) is half the fun. From the ferry's vantage point you will be able to view the coast line of Great Sound and Somerset. If you don't catch the direct ferry from Hamilton to the Dockyard, you can catch a glimpse of the Somerset Bridge, the world's smallest draw bridge.
While at the Dockyard you can visit the Bermuda Maritime Museum located in the Royal Naval Dockyard, or shop in the nearby buildings, such as the Clocktower Building that has been converted into shops and flea markets.
Because cruise ships usually dock in Bermuda for three nights, it gives you ample time to explore some of the local nightlife. There are many restaurants and pubs located just a short walk from the ship. Although all of the meals are included on the cruise, my wife and I wander off ship to try some of the local cuisine, or after our dinner on board, soak up some of the local atmosphere at an English pub.
Nightlife in Bermuda ranges from pubs to jazz clubs; check out the local tourist information center on the places, times and acts, or if you need to call ahead for reservations. Wandering around at night is relatively safe for tourists--Bermuda is probably one of the safer islands you can visit. Nevertheless, I always recommend caution and street smarts as you would in any city.
Bermuda has golf, caves, aquariums, lighthouses, hiking trails, dolphin encounters, pubs, secluded beaches, and more. Bermuda offers so much more for all tastes, that I can't mention them all. If you think you will be bored here then you will never be satisfied where ever you go. I always find something new and exciting or relaxing and pleasurable to do when visiting Bermuda. -Kristopher Krenz Master Cruise Counsellor and Owner/Manager of PAK-N-GO Cruises and Tours, Brick , NJ - "Hope to see you on board!"
For more information on Bermuda Contact the Bermuda Department of Tourism, Suite 201, 310 Madison Ave. New York, NY 10017.
Note: All places mentioned were personally visited by the Author during several cruises to Bermuda.
All historical facts that were presented were from chatting with local Bermudians and from the following books that I highly recommend:
The Story of Bermuda and her People (2nd Edition revised) - W.S. Zuill, Macmillan Caribbean.
The Islands of Bermuda Another World - David F. Raine, Macmillan Caribbean.
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