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Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Bermuda’s beaches are extraordinary.  They make for an ideal vacation.  The most famous is Horseshoe Bay.  Given enough time, we could travel from beach to beach; each one is more spectacular than the next.  I actually brought a list of beaches, some with trails leading from one to the other, some small with quiet, seldom-visited coves, some with incredible rock formations, and some with long curved stretches of beautiful sand and magnificently colored water. 

Horseshoe Bay Bermuda
This photo is NOT retouched.  These colors are REAL!  Gorgeous, isn't it?

Horseshoe Bay Bermuda
Pretty Amazing!  I can lie on the beach and look out at this ALL DAY!

Unfortunately, we have time to visit just two: the famous Horseshoe Bay Beach, and Snorkel Park. 

Horseshoe Bay Bermuda
This is beautiful Horseshoe Bay.  No question why it is so popular with tourists.

We take the bus from King’s Wharf to Horseshoe Bay, and that gives us another opportunity to see more residential areas.  This is the most popular beach, and I have read reviews complaining of crowds.  Maybe in early June we are not fully into high season, and the beach is not crowded at all. 
Horseshoe Bay Bermuda
Even the beach umbrellas add a colorful gaity to the day.  This is too beautiful.

We rent beach chairs and an umbrella, but we do a lot of walking along this beautiful curved beach.  The water is LOVELY.  It’s calm with a gentle fine, sandy slope, and the sand is soft underfoot.  Little coves by the rock formations are beautiful.
Horseshoe Bay Bermuda
These are incredible rock formations

We also take the bus back to Kings Wharf from Horseshoe Bay—a slight waiting line, but everyone is happy and pleasantly tired from a day at the beach.  Just look at these photos of Horseshoe Bay.
Horseshoe Bay Bermuda
The water is clear and spectacular
Horseshoe Bay Bermuda
The rocks are high, but the setting is so serene, people were not afraid to climb.
Horseshoe Bay Bermuda
The colors just continue to WOW!

Horseshoe Bay Bermuda
Alas, it is time to leave this magnificent beach
On the day we are to sail, we stay in the Dockyards, stop at some of the shops and then head to Snorkel Park, only minutes from our ship.  We can't miss the sailing, and we don't want to worry about transportation or changing out of wet bathing suits.  Once again, I had read reviews complaining about crowds and costs at Snorkel Park, but the beach is not crowded and the entry fee is reasonable. I often wonder why people feel everything (when they have to be maintained) should be free. The rental costs for chairs and an umbrella are also reasonable.  The attendant carries the chaise lounges down for us.  We find a wonderful spot, uncrowded, and the water is calm and beautiful.  We have views out to sea, the beautiful fortress buildings, and here we were able to put on our snorkel gear and see some beautiful fish. 

Snorkel Beach Bermuda
This is Snorkel Beach, just a short walk from our ship.

Horseshoe Bay Bermuda
This is a lovely gently sloping beachfront wonderful for a family too.

We have a nice, leisurely lunch in Snorkel Park’s restaurant, get in some last minute water time, and then, regretfully, it is time to board our ship, just a few minutes' walk away.  Cannot think of a better way to end our Bermuda stay.
Snorkel Beach Bermuda
Here's a view of the restaurant and shaded seating areas and more of the beautiful waterfront.

This is another wonderful trip.  It is for our 40th wedding anniversary, and we love it. 

I recommend our ship, the Norwegian Gem, for people who have not done much cruising.  Overall, we felt it lacked the kind of special attention we’ve experienced on other cruises.  While the ship offered all the amenities one could ask for, we felt crowded at some venues and oftentimes, particularly at some of the mealtimes, a lack of coordination between the staff.  On the other hand, the overall entertainment was superb—perhaps the best consistency we’ve experienced.  We chose this ship because it left from NYC and stayed at Kings Wharf, and I was probably remiss in not checking further.  Nothing bad, I add, but somehow something was missing.  Nothing that in any way spoiled the event.

We are not sure we’ll return to Bermuda.  During its high season, we’re doing wonderful things here at home, gardening, golfing, swimming, etc.  I long for that beach during our winter, and unfortunately Bermuda is not in season then.  I say this with sadness because it is so special.

It was nice coming back into New York Harbor and seeing the Statue of Liberty waiting to greet us.  It was wonderful getting through customs, getting our car, and being on the West Side Highway in less than half an hour.  HELLOOOOOOO New York.
Statue of Liberty

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Bermuda  Part I

Hamilton, BermudaEveryone should go to Bermuda!  At least once!  Before you ever set eyes on a tropical island, the one you imagine is Bermuda.  It is a place of pastel colors as well as of colors bright and vivid.  It is a place of beautiful beaches, sparkling waters, gardens and flowers, friendly people, colorful homes, British influences, Gombey dancers, and peaceful, beautiful nights.  It’s small enough to be easily accessible and big enough to offer diversity.  It really is a tropical paradise. 

But don’t think Bermuda and Caribbean; Bermuda is about 1,000 miles north of the Caribbean.  It is in the North Atlantic, and it is warmed by the Gulf Stream.  It has a second flaw.  It lies just about 600 miles east of the Carolinas, so it is not a year-round summer paradise.  Unfortunately.  Natives will tell you the swim season is from the end of May until September.  Sound familiar?  I’m afraid so.  So think about Bermuda as you would think about the Carolinas.   And go.  You will not be disappointed.

Rob and I sail from NYC for a week’s cruise on Norwegian Line’s Gem.  This cruise offered two particular plusses.  It sailed from Manhattan, and it docked at King’s Wharf, also known as the Royal Naval Dockyard, in Bermuda for the entire stay giving us total freedom of movement—a floating hotel.
New York skyline
Statue of Liberty
We could easily spend our entire vacation on Bermuda beaches—a new and beautiful beach each day, but the temptation to explore proves irresistible, especially when there is a Segway involved!  I love these things and wish I had one at home.
Rob & Wendy and Segways

After meeting our guide, we begin with the area right around the Dockyards and learn a little about the island’s background.  We visit the main fort, The Keep, and ride around much of the 24 acres.  It's beautifully done in stone, and many of the buildings have been converted into restaurants and shops featuring local artisans.  There is also the Bermuda Clay Works.  We actually visit these places later on during our visit, as we keep riding those Segways!

Kings Wharf, Bermuda Off we go, down the road past the walls where visiting ships’ crews leave their signs to let others know they’ve been there. 
ships' crews' insignia wall  Kings Wharf, Bermuda
Off into the country we pass one inviting beach after another, lots of flora and fauna, and wild chickens that roam the island.  We actually taste and/or smell some of the plants, and our guide makes it a fun guessing game to see if we recognize the very herbs we use at home but which grow here. 
Rob & Wendy and Segways Bermuda beaches everywhere
Bermuda beaches everywhere There is only one other couple on the tour; I guess Segways are still a bit off-putting for some people.  It certainly works to our advantage as we zip along the roads or follow nature’s unpaved trails through the garden-like parks.  We pass brightly colored homes.  Everything is sparkling clean and inviting.
Bermuda home
Even the cemetery has a beautiful view.
Bermuda cemetery with a view
When our tour is over, we walk back to the ship and pass a Moongate, a wedding band-shaped arch.  Couples who kiss under Bermuda’s Moongates are assured of a long and happy life together.  We, of course, seal our happiness beneath it.
kissing in the Moonstone    Bermuda
Snorkeling is a passion, and we book what seems to be a great tour, but unfortunately the weather turns against us, and it is too rough to go to the wrecked ships.  Our inventive guide takes us to another location as well as narrates a great tour of the island from the boat.  Again, we are with only one other couple, so touring like this is up front and personal.  We do get to do some snorkeling in the most beautiful sparkling teal water I’ve ever seen.  Of course I’ve said this before at other sites, but suffice it to see, this experience among the coral was memory-making. 

So we have toured quite a bit of Bermuda by land on a Segway and then by water on the snorkeling tour.  It is early Wednesday, and as we are heading to Hamilton by bus, we are going to see Bermuda from another vantage point.

Hamilton on Wednesday nights means Harbor Nights, a weekly festival of music, Gombey dancing, crafts, food, and fun.

The public bus ride from King’s Wharf is wonderful.  The uniformed school children are on the bus, many carrying their cricket bats.  We pass more residential sections and small stores and clubs as well as some lovely beaches, hotels and marinas.  B stands for Bermuda and also for boats. 

Our driver lets us off in the middle of Hamilton where another cruise ship is docked.  Hamilton is a pastel city for the most part, although some building are in the rich, deep colors we see in New England.  The contrast is strikingly beautiful.  All is immaculately clean and inviting.  We spend the remainder of the afternoon wandering around, stopping for a coffee, and people watching.  Motorcycle seems to be the preferred mode of transportation, and yes, Bermuda shorts are worn by many of the businessmen.  It is familiar yet different.  It is beautiful. 
Hamilton, Bermuda
Let's not forget Bermuda's British heritage.  This bobby is probably more for the tourists than for practicality.
Hamilton Bermuda policeman

Bermuda shorts We walk along the waterside and see lovely boats, and up into Storywalk Park where one can follow the signs associated with a children’s tale.  Here we spend some time sitting under shade trees and talking.  The leisurely pace is lovely.
Hamilton, Bermuda

As the afternoon slowly eases into evening, we head back toward the center of town past booths that have miraculously appeared, and we follow the music to a wide street.  Coming down in a serpentine dance are the colorfully costumed Gombey dancers, Bermudians of all ages in costumes resembling bird plumage. 
Gombey Dancers)
Gombey Dancers

Gombey is a mixture of British, West African, and indigenous new-world  cultures.  The dancers are accompanied by young men playing a variety of drums. 

As they reach the bottom of the street, they move into a plaza surrounded by the crowd where they perform interpretive dances, vigorous and thumping, all very intriguing.  Then, they make their way back up the hill into the night.
Gombey Dancers
We visit the booths along the wharf, and I do pick up a memento or two.  And then we take the ferry back to Kings Wharf.  What was nice about the ferry was the ability to bring your bicycle if that were your mode of transportation.  There are many bike trails on Bermuda.  As we leave the city by water, we have lovely views of Hamilton in the twilight as well as of boats coming home for the night.  Yes, it is paradise, albeit a bit crowded on the ferry, but not irritatingly so, just a lot of people heading home for the night.
Boats in Hamilton Bermuda

Hamilton Bermuda  harbor sunset

Here's a travel tip for Bermuda.  You notice that on the two tours we took, we were accompanied by just one other couple.  Normally when we cruise, we book our tours through the ship, but here we did not.  We were docked so we could conveniently get off the ship:  no tender and no waiting for the ship's shore excursions to leave.  I did a lot of research about these tours, consulting Trip Advisor, Cruise Critic, and Frommer's.  I know we had a far better experience doing it this way.  I don't recommend this method for every cruise, but I do for Bermuda.
Boats in Hamilton Bermuda
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