July 7, 2004 -- Unlike its Caribbean neighbors to the south, you won't find hawkers, straw markets, stray dogs or taxi drivers hustling for fares in Bermuda. Edged in pretty pink sand beaches and rocky cliffs, the British Crown Colony is a beautiful, yet orderly place, and the perfect cruise destination if adventure and hijinks aren't on your agenda.
In Bermuda, you don't have the throngs that routinely descend on the Caribbean ports of Cozumel, Grand Cayman, Nassau and St. Thomas, where as many as 10 mega ships squeeze in on a single day, dispatching thousands and thousands of t-shirt searching, bar-hopping rowdies. Genteel Bermuda never sees more than five or six ships per day -- and never more than two at one port.
"Bermuda has a limit on the maximum number of daily and annual cruise visitors, currently set at 7,500 and 225,000," according to Dr. Ewart F. Brown, Minister of Transport. "This is to ensure that all air and cruise visitors receive a high quality experience and that the infrastructure can cope with a high number of cruise visitors," Dr. Brown added.
Ships are dispersed among five docks in three different port towns, including two piers each in Hamilton and St. George's, and one at King's Wharf at the Royal Navy Dockyard. Passengers fan out across the island, visiting its famed pink sand beaches (created from eons-old crushed coral and shells), historic sites (from the nearly 300-year-old St. Peter's Church to a number of museums and fortresses), golf courses, and shops selling mostly English items like linens, china, and Bermuda shorts.
Most ships visit Bermuda on 7-night itineraries, taking a day and a half to get to the island from east coast ports like New York, Boston, Baltimore and Philadelphia, and spending three whole days there -- ordinary voyages don't spend more than one day at any given port. You can explore Bermuda at your leisure, and truly treat your ship as a hotel.
For years, a rarely changing line-up of aging mid-sized ships has been doing the Bermuda run, departing from east coast ports on Saturdays and Sundays. This season, which runs between late April and October, saw the return of five ships, all built between 1988 and 1992: Celebrity's 1,374-passenger Zenith (7-night round-trip out of New York) and 1,354-passenger Horizon (7-nights roundtrip out of Philadelphia and Norfolk, Virginia); Royal Caribbean's newly renamed and refurbished 1,600-passenger Empress of the Seas (formerly called Nordic Empress, 6- and 8-night from Bayonne, New Jersey); and NCL's 1,078-passenger Norwegian Crown (7-night round-trip runs out of New York and Baltimore) and 1,460-passenger Majesty (7-night runs out of Boston).
Joining these five ships again this season, is the ultra-lux, all-suite 490-passenger Seven Seas Navigator. Built in 1999, the Navigator departs Wednesdays from New York on 7-night runs.
For 2005, the mix will be dramatically altered, as Bermuda opens its doors to more calls from larger, newer ships. While the same four cruise lines will be plying Bermuda's waters, Royal Caribbean will replace Empress of the Seas with 1,950-passenger Grandeur of the Seas, sailing out of Baltimore, and add the 3,114-passenger Voyager of the Seas, sailing from Bayonne (Cape Liberty). The mega ships will do 5-night Bermuda runs to King's Wharf on alternating weeks.