May 12, 2007
We arrived in Baltimore late evening and took a cab to our downtown hotel, the Sheraton City Centre.
May 13, 2007
We spent the morning and part of the afternoon exploring Baltimore’s magnificent Inner Harbor, which was within walking distance of our hotel. Our first stop was the USS Constellation, the last all-sail warship built by the US Navy and the only naval vessel active during the Civil War still afloat. We toured all the decks, and Bill was asked to hoist the flag on the spar deck.
Next was the incredible National Aquarium, an amazing collection of approximately 16,500 specimens and more than 660 species of animals -- everything from the gigantic pacific octopus to a blue poison dart frog to humpback whales, monkeys, sharks, puffins and more. There's even a simulated rain forest with piranha and sloths and a coral reef with vividly colored tropical fish.
In the heart of the harbor is Harborplace, a shopping, dining, and entertainment complex that we wandered through before heading back to the hotel to pick up our bags and hail a cab for the cruise ship terminal. Upon arrival at the entrance, our cab was
Multi-hued waters around Bermuda
thoroughly checked by security, including a bomb-sniffing dog. Our Royal Caribbean ship, the “Grandeur of the Sea,” departed at 4 p.m.
May 14, 2007
The first full day of the cruise was at sea. The Atlantic Ocean was very rough with 20-foot waves, so many of the outdoor deck activities were cancelled. About half the passengers seemed to be in their cabins with seasickness. Bill and I felt fine, so I attended an art workshop using pastel oil crayons. My concentration and focus may have contributed to some developing queasiness, so I took a meclizine, slept for a few hours, and awakened feeling better. Bill had never felt ill and continued reading his book all afternoon. It was formal night, but the dining room was sparsely populated, as many of the guests were still not feeling well. It was a delicious meal—I had escargot, roast duck, and bananas Foster--and I was glad we were able to enjoy it.
May 15, 2007
Our scheduled 8 a.m. arrival into King’s Wharf, Bermuda, was delayed due to the necessity of having had to use the ship’s stabilizers most of the way yesterday. We were finally able to begin our scheduled tour
Pufferfish and friend
around 11 a.m. Although many of the guests headed directly to one of the many tranquil, rosy-pink sand beaches, we selected an island tour that took us from the extreme western tip all the way to the easternmost point of this gorgeous island chain. We began with a 30-minute ferry ride across Great Sound to the city of Hamilton, Bermuda’s capital and only full-fledged city, where we met our bus driver, Jimmy, traditionally dressed in Bermuda shorts and knee socks.
We toured the picturesque Harrington Sound with its beautiful bays and coves and meandered through the town seeing such local landmarks as Fort Hamilton, Parliament Building, and the Bermuda Cathedral. The charming pastel colored homes with their distinctive architecture make this island so unique. Dictated by climate and the only type of building material available (coral stone), the picturesque pink, orange, blue, lime green, and purple cottages with gleaming white roofs are an indigenous art form. Coral stone has been quarried for generations on Bermuda. Cut into oblong building blocks, it is strong yet porous and can be painted in a rainbow of colors. The roofs are indeed a story of their own in that they solve the island’s
serious water problem. Gently sloping and painted a dazzling white, the roofs are limestone slabs bounded by gutters that collect rainwater and funnel it to cisterns under the house. Bermuda is prosperous, and the neat, trim houses are worth upwards of $1.5 million each.
Bermuda is incredibly scenic, and as we continued eastward from Hamilton, lovely panoramas and vistas unfolded at nearly every turn. Churches of every denomination and golf courses seemed to be everywhere! There are more golf courses here per square kilometer than anywhere else in the world. There are no billboards or any type of outdoor advertising to spoil nature, and there are no street addresses. Everyone seems to know where everyone lives, although there are over 60,000 inhabitants, making it the third most densely populated area in the world. Driving is on the left, and the speed limit is 20 mph all over the island, except for towns and villages where it is 15 mph. There are no rental cars, and cars are limited to one per family.
Our first stop was in picturesque Flatts Village, one of the island’s charming parish towns, at the Bermuda Aquarium, Museum, & Zoo. Founded in 1926, the
Playing with the seals in the zoo
island-themed zoo displays over 300 birds, reptiles, and mammals. A huge walk-through cage gets you within arms-length of ibises, iguanas, and golden tamarind monkeys. Harbor seals, Galapagos turtles, and wallabies were just a few of the other animals we enjoyed observing. The North Rock Exhibit, in a 140,000-gallon tank, allows visitors to experience a coral reef washed by ocean surge. The tank houses a living coral reef, as well as reef and pelagic fish species. It's the first living coral exhibit on this scale in the world.
As we approached Bermuda’s eastern end, we crossed the causeway across Castle Harbour and were treated to more magnificent scenery as we skirted the coast en route to Fort St. Catherine. Towering above the beach where the shipwrecked crew of the Sea Venture (headed for Jamestown) came ashore in 1609 is this1614 fortification named for the patron saint of wheelwrights and carpenters. We spent some time exploring the tunnels, cannons, and ramparts, pausing to enjoy the amazing view at various points.
Our next stop was historic St. George Town on St. George Harbour, the second English town established in the New World (after Jamestown). We spent some time visiting the town
hall in King’s Square, the pillories, stocks, and ducking chair (a medieval form of waterboarding torture), and the oldest building in Bermuda, the Old State House, which was constructed in 1620 with turtle oil and lime mortar.
The return drive took us along the south side of the islands this time, enjoying more beautiful but different scenery. In Hamilton, we took the ferry back to the ship, where we grabbed a quick dinner and got ready for our evening tour, a glass-bottom boat trip into the baffling Bermuda Triangle.
We boarded a 78-foot yacht and were treated to lively commentary and fascinating legends and mysterious tales of disappearance as we set off on our adventure. The most famous of all the legends involving the infamous Bermuda Triangle concerns the disappearance of five U.S. Navy bombers while on a routine mission out of Florida in 1945. The weather was fine, and no storms of any kind threatened. A short time into the flight, the leader radioed that they were lost, and then the radio went silent. A rescue plane was dispatched to search for the squadron—but it, too, disappeared. To this day, their disappearance remains a mystery!
View of the coral and other creatures through the glass bottom of the 78-foot yacht as we cruised the Bermuda Triangle at night
passed Devil’s Head Island, considered to be the northernmost tip of the triangle, and entered the notorious waters as we slipped into complete darkness. Suddenly the ocean beneath us was flooded with brilliant beams of light as we hovered over one of the many coral reefs that circle the islands. We were treated to a glimpse into “Bermuda’s nightlife” as colorful coral, sea cucumber, a variety of fish, and other wonders of the sea entertained us. Next, we hovered over the shipwreck Vixen for more views of living sea gardens. En route home, we were treated to unlimited complimentary rum swizzles.
Our ship remained in port overnight, so there was plenty of entertainment on the dock when we returned, including Gombey dancing, the island’s premiere folk art. Dancers outfit themselves in outlandinsh colorfulo costumes and perform strenuous, rhythmic dances.
May 16, 2007
On the second day in Bermuda, we employed Bill’s favorite method of exploring a foreign country…hop on a bus and mix with the locals! Although I am always a bit apprehensive about jumping on a bus going to who-knows-where, this is something Bill is really good at and enjoys. We took bus route 7, which
hugs the Atlantic Ocean southern coastline from King’s Wharf to Hamilton, and enjoyed panoramic seascapes and conversations with local students, housewives, and other fellow passengers. When we arrived in Hamilton, we strolled around Victoria Park before taking bus route 8 back to the ship. This route took us took us on a route along Little Sound and across the 17th century Somerset Bridge, which boasts the world’s smallest drawbridge. When opened for marine traffic, the space between the spans is a mere 22 inches, just large enough for the mast of a sailboat to go through.
With only a few hours remaining before leaving Bermuda, we stayed close to the ship and explored the Royal Naval Dockyard, which has been transformed into a park with Victorian lighting and a sprawling complex of attractions, including the multi-million dollar cruise ship dock. First, we visited the Bermuda Arts Centre and Crafts Market, where we shopped and watched local artists at work in an eclectic range of media from Bermuda cedar-wood sculpting to metal and gem sculpture. Then we stepped into the immense 19th century Victorian fortress that houses the Bermuda Maritime Museum and spent a couple of hours seeing the exhibits
The colorful homes with shiny white roofs
of Bermuda’s nautical history and watching the Atlantic bottlenose dolphins play in the Dolphin Quest pool.
We returned to the ship, enjoyed a late lunch, and relaxed on deck as the ship departed the dock at 4:00. The usual activities of dinner, dancing, a show, blackjack, and a beautiful midnight buffet entertained us for the rest of the evening, Bill was very lucky (skillful?) at blackjack, winning $175 on a $60 initial investment.
May 17, 2007
Our last day on the cruise was spent at sea with a full day of activities. We read; worked out in the fitness center; attended a “money origami” class, a rumba dance class, a piano lesson, a discussion with the captain, and a backstage tour of the Palladium Theatre led by Dane, the dance captain. The farewell dinner was wonderful—I had lobster and cherries jubilee—and the farewell show featured amazing acrobatics by Olympic gold medalist Lance Ringnald.
May 18, 2007
We docked in Baltimore at 8 a.m., taxied to the airport, and took a noon flight home.
In 1609 the British ship Sea Venture, on its way to Jamestown, Virginia, struck one of the many reefs that
Native Bermudean plant that has no two leaves alike. It is used medicinally to treat URI.
surround the islands of Bermuda. Some of the shipwrecked colonists stayed to build a settlement, which thrived and is now home to 60,000 residents. Most people think of Bermuda as one island, but it is actually an archipelago of more than 150 small islands blessed with fabulous beaches and surrounded by a turquoise sea. Bermuda is only 21 square miles and is never more than a mile and a half wide. Often confused with the Bahamas a thousand miles to the south, Bermuda is located 500 miles due east of North Carolina, the nearest point on the U.S. mainland. Despite being nearer the U.S. than Britain, the islands maintain a distinctively British visage. The homes are studies in color—pink, yellow, lime, turquoise—all topped with stepped white roofs that funnel rain water into cisterns. It’s clean, well-maintained, and there is virtually no poverty. In addition, the people are friendly, and the weather is great…truly an enjoyable destination!
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