Use the following itinerary to set your schedule for a day of your vacation in Bermuda: this is especially useful for your one full day on the island if you are visiting via cruise ship!
7:00 AM: Breakfast
To see the entire island in one day you’ll need an early start. Grab breakfast either on board your cruise ship or at your hotel. Don’t forget to take a few extra cereal boxes and fruit for snacks throughout the day!
8:00 AM: Depart for the Beach
Purchase your all-day bus pass first thing: you’ll need it to hop on and off the public buses and ferries throughout the day. Take the bus right to Horseshoe Bay beach, one of the quintessential pink Bermudan beaches! If you want a stunning view of the island on the way you can get off a stop early (if coming from the Royal Navy Dockyard) and walk up to Gibbs Hill Lighthouse.
If you’re not ready for the beach first thing in the morning, you may skip this stop and instead visit Tobacco Bay beach at the end of the day. Note that if you choose this second option your timing for the day will be earlier than listed below, leaving extra beach time at the end of the day.
Pink, sandy beaches of Horseshoe Bay
11:00 AM: City of Hamilton
Arrive in Hamilton just before lunch to see the main city on the island. This is a hot spot for shopping, especially for the famous pink sand jewelry sold in a number of jewelry stores around town. Classic vacation souvenirs are also available here, including apparel that can be found in a Vineyard Vines store dedicated almost entirely to Bermuda. You may choose to enjoy lunch at a restaurant along the water, or wait until your next stop to dine at the Swizzle Inn.
12:30 PM: Hamilton Parish
Disembark from the bus at the stop for the Swizzle Inn. Here you can enjoy the infamous rum swizzle right where it was created! The drinks are delicious, but be warned that they are also strong. You can have a full lunch here, or just eat a few conch fritters to hold you over until dinner and temper the drinks.
After your rum swizzle, forego the Crystal Caves and walk over to the Grotto Bay Beach Resort and Spa for some spelunking and cave swimming. Note that the grounds are technically reserved for guests, so to access them you must act as though you belong. Use the path to the left of the front lobby to walk around the building and go down the path towards the water, spa, and caves. The entrance to the cave is well-marked, just before the spa, on your left. The water is somewhat cold but the swim is well worth it! If you continue walking up past the swimming hole there are more caves to explore: the first few are lit but the cave system looks like it could go for miles and could be explored with a flashlight.
Your final stop in Hamilton Parish is another short walk away at the Blue Hole. Enter Blue Hole Park through a parking lot and walk along the path past some caverns until you get to the swimming hole. There is a platform built over the water to stand on and leave your belongings if you decide to venture in. You can enter the water one of two ways: slowly on the left side of the platform or by jumping from the 10- or 15- foot cliffs up the path on the right side of the platform! The water under the cliffs is at least 20 feet deep, and as of October 2017 there were no underwater obstructions. Use the rocks on the other side of the platform to get out of the water and back to your belongings.
4:00 PM: St. George
Take your final bus ride to the town of St. George on the North side of the island. Have a look around the town center, and then head for Fort Saint Catherine. It’s a bit of a hike up to the fort but you should have plenty of time to get there, look around, and get back to catch the last ferry to the Royal Naval Dockyard. If you chose to skip the beach earlier in the day, stop at Tobacco Bay Beach on your way back from the fort for some music, sand, sun, and swimming.
Tobacco Bay Beach
5:30 PM: Royal Naval Dockyard
End your day back at the dockyard where you can explore the shops or take a short taxi ride to Sea Glass Beach to look at the mounds of sea glass on shore as well as the creations left in cement.
7:00 PM: Dinner
Return to your ship if you are on a cruise, or to your accommodations to get ready for dinner and the rest of your evening!
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Last October I joined some of my family members for a 7-day, 10-person family and friends cruise! My aunt, uncle, cousin and her family, and three family friends flew out to Boston from Chicago to embark on the Norwegian Cruise Line ship the Norwegian Dawn with me on a cruise to Bermuda. Being an only child, most of my family vacations growing up consisted of traveling with just one or both of my parents, so having such a big group was a much different experience for me, and one that I certainly enjoyed!
Leaving port, wearing our matching Bermuda shirts: key for locating each other on the first day!
This post will focus on adventures and advice on board the ship that can transfer to almost any cruise, especially those on the Norwegian Dawn. In my next post I’ll provide a one-day itinerary of Bermuda and some tips and tricks for the island.
On Board the Ship
Our cruise consisted of three full days at sea, one on the way to Bermuda and two on the way back. On the outbound trip the weather was warm and sunny so we were able to spend most of the day sitting by the pool and enjoying our unlimited drink packages, which are totally worth it! However, the return to Boston was marked by stormy skies and rough seas, thus requiring us to stay inside and partake in many of the on-board activities offered by the entertainment crew. We still made the most of it and had an awesome time on board.
Here are some of my top recommendations for cruising on the Norwegian Dawn.
Food and Drink
If you have options for free packages with your cruise, the all-inclusive drinks and specialty dinners are absolutely worth it. The bar tenders will make any drink you want (don’t like the pre-made margarita mix? Ask for a cocktail made with just tequila, triple sec, lime juice, and simple syrup) and the food in the specialty restaurants is unique and delightful. The best part about the all-inclusive packages is that you can remove the stress of thinking about the prices of these things from your vacation!
For those of you concerned about how to stay healthy with all-inclusive food and drinks, I’ll share a secret with you: one of the keys to eating in an all-inclusive environment is recognizing that it is not “all-you-can-eat” but instead a break from worrying about price. At an a la carte restaurant perhaps ordering two fried appetizers would be cheaper than the grilled salmon and your favorite vegetable, but in an all-inclusive situation you can go for the salmon with no worries. The same goes for the drinks: if you want to try the rum swizzle and then decide it’s not for you after two sips, you can ditch it without thinking about the $14 you may have just paid for it in order to spend your calories on something you will enjoy.
On the cruise, my travel companions and I appreciated having the all-inclusive option because it allowed us to enjoy a welcome cocktail when we first boarded, drink any wine we desired with dinner, and try a variety of mojitos from the mojito bar on the top deck. Keep in mind when ordering wine that the all-inclusive drink package will give you unlimited glasses, but you will be charged for a bottle! Instead of ordering a bottle of wine for dinner, we would each order a glass of the same kind of wine, and it was completely free. We also dined at two specialty restaurants, the Bamboo Asian Restaurant (which has free options) and Cagney’s Steakhouse, both of which I would highly recommend. Be warned that portion sizes in the dining rooms are smaller than on land: don’t make the mistake I did the first day at lunch thinking I could subsist on just a soup and appetizer salad!
Checking out the unfortunately small sushi appetizer and debating eating it with two knives since we were not provided chopsticks
One of the first questions I always ask whenever I go anywhere is “what should I wear?” For the most part on the cruise, typical vacation or warm-weather attire will suit you well. If you plan to dress up, be sure that you wear shoes that can withstand walking on a rocking boat (aka no stilettos). There are no formal nights on Norwegian Cruise Lines, but you will not be out of place if you decide to throw on a cute dress or a collared shirt. In fact, in order to dine in the Venetian Dining Room at dinner time you must be wearing either pants or a dress/skirt: you will be turned away if you are wearing shorts, as our party learned the hard way. There are many other dining options so you will not be out of luck if all you have are shorts, but keep this in mind and pack at least one nice outfit if you want to keep your options open.
Our typical evening attire
The other special attire recommendation is to bring something white for the White Out party, hosted on the top deck the night you leave port. Usually the pool deck is relatively quiet at night, but for the White Out party the ship’s Cruise Director brings out live music and the dancing entertainment crew for a huge black light party! You can still participate if you are wearing colored-clothing, but most people will be wearing white, and it’s fun to get in on the festivities with them.
I’m sure thinking of cruise activities you immediately pictured yourself sitting by the pool all day while at sea, maybe reading a book, listening to music, and occasionally dipping into the water. Almost everyone else reading this also pictured the same thing, so you’ll either have to arrive poolside early to stake your territory or pick different activities to entertain yourself while at sea. Even if you do claim a coveted poolside chair, your space in the water will be limited.
One alternative is to spend some time in the gym or the spa. The gym on the Norwegian Dawn was incredible! They offered classes in their studios (some which cost money), and had a full set of cardio and strength machines as well as free weights. I made a commitment to go to the gym each day we were at sea and do either a HIIT, Cardio Dance, or Cardio Kickboxing workout. Two of the three days I used the studio because it was unoccupied and also had the most incredible views of the sea in its floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall windows. If you are able to make this type of commitment, as well as commit to taking the stairs instead of the elevator (saving time as well as calories) and practice the stress-free version of all-inclusive food and drink options, you could have an awesome vacation and come back a couple pounds lighter like I did! One thing to keep in mind if you do go to the gym is that the ship will be rocking, so this may not be the best time to practice your static squat.
One of two gorgeous studios in the gym
Another activity option is to check out the daily schedule of activities around the ship and pick a couple that appeal to you. Because my travel group was so large, we were able to attend the activities we wanted, usually with two or three others from our group, and then reconvene for dinner in the evening. I was drawn to some of the travel trivia games, such as “Flags of the World” visual trivia, my aunt attended all of the arts and crafts options, and my niece was excited to help with the towel-folding demonstration.
The evening entertainment is also plentiful, and you can’t go wrong with whatever you choose. We enjoyed the performances by the entertainment crew, comedy shows by Chicago’s Second City cast, and demonstrations by the resident illusionist. I was particularly excited for the Sunday night entertainment because the week I was on the cruise was the week the American football team the New England Patriots were playing a Super Bowl rematch against the Atlantic Falcons, and because the cruise left out of Boston, the game was being shown in the Atrium on a jumbo screen! A few of the ship entertainers hosted a pre-game tailgate in the Atrium and the Irish pub overlooking the Atrium, then all the Patriots fans on board were able to watch the game and cheer together as we were once again victorious over Atlanta. I even made friends with other young adults from Boston once my Midwestern family became bored with the crushing blow the Patriots were serving the Falcons. My one regret from that night was not realizing that everyone else would be donning their Patriots apparel: I hadn’t even thought to bring it, as I hadn’t realized what a big deal the game would be while on vacation.
My #1 recommendation is to download the NCL app to your smartphone before you even get to the ship. Once you’re on the ship, pay the $10 per person for the on-board communications in the app. It was so much easier communicating plans among the group using the app communications rather than our original plan of writing notes to slide under each others’ doors and hope the other people saw the note. The app will also give you the schedule of activities for each day of your trip, restaurant hours, and any other logistic information you need. If you decide to purchase WiFi, you will do this through the app as well.
My second recommendation is to forego the WiFi and enjoy your disconnected vacation. If you need to purchase WiFi, purchase the cheapest plan, turn it on to quickly check your email, send a text, and post to Facebook, then go back to the website on which you turned it on and turn it off again. This will allow you to conserve your purchase and hopefully stick to the lowest paid plan, which was $25 when I went, for the entire trip.
Another consideration is to try to select on-board activities that are not located in Gatsby’s Champagne Bar. I was disappointed with how the Champagne Bar was connected with the cigar lounge on board. Even though the smoking area was completely enclosed, the smell still eked out after a while. My 10-year-old niece and I enjoyed a few activities in Gatsby’s, like making flower crafts and learning Filipino phrases, but we couldn’t stick around too long because of how awful the smell became.
Finally, my most fun advice: every day when you return from the island, put your bathing suits on, grab a drink, and head right for the hot tubs. There were almost no people there at this time because everyone else was getting ready for dinner, so we had the hot tubs to ourselves to relax and enjoy before beginning our evenings. It was the perfect end to each day, and something not to be missed. Cheers!
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