My wife grew up near Buffalo, and to a young girl freezing through the harsh winters of western New York, just the thought of escaping to sunny Bermuda was often the warmest thing around. Over the years, it became a main line on her “bucket list.” So, recently we decided to book a cruise to Bermuda. As luck would have it, there was a cruise right out of Charleston, in South Carolina, a mere five hours from home.
We booked a cruise on the Carnival ship Fantasy.
Six days of sun and relaxation and, according to the information, we would be in Bermuda on Saturday and Sunday. But, the devil, as they say, is in the details, and we really didn’t read them as closely as we should have.
We drove down to Charleston on Thursday morning and we were a little nervous about traveling to a strange town and leaving our shiny new car for a week. But as we drove into downtown Charleston we were quite surprised by the ease of long term parking. It was as if half the town was outside pointing us in the right direction.
Retire in Charleston? Maybe
Charleston is a beautiful southern city and the port is downtown near the charming historical section. We took some time and drove around sight-seeing. we decided it’s definitely worth coming back some day just to visit Charleston. After clearing the usual governmental nonsense they call “customs,” we boarded the ship and headed straight to the Lido deck. Experience has taught this seasoned cruiser that the food will be found there first.
Next, we found our cabin, and then headed back upstairs to watch the boat sail away. The ship sailed at four and we watched as Charleston faded into the west. After this came the usual emergency drill where all the passengers wander about and calmly find their “muster” station. This is where we are supposed to come as the ship sinks. I don’t think a real emergency will look quite as relaxed on board, but I hope I never find out. Next came my favorite part of the cruise . . . early seating. Yep, it’s all about the food for me. Oh sure, the different places are nice to visit but, they could go out and steam in circles for a week for all I care. Just don’t let the food run out. (they actually do this now- they are called cruises to nowhere)
After dinner we walk the decks looking at all the other people looking at us until our sea legs can’t take anymore. Now back in our room we settle in for the night and amuse ourselves with the onboard tv channel showing us videos of overweight, half-looped people trying to fit under the limbo stick.
Now, if you haven’t been on a cruise I don’t know if I can accurately describe the room. Its beautiful. It’s clean. It’s small. I don’t mean small like a small motel room, I mean small like a large refrigerator box . . . with a bathroom. . . . It’s a great way for newlyweds to really get to know each other.fast, of course) we found the perfect spot. At the back of the boat, just above the deck with all the food, was the perfect place to just sit and do nothing. That right! Nothing.
We learned on earlier cruises not to waste time running all about watching the pool activities or the gambling addicts. Nope, we just find a couple of nice deck chairs and soak up the sun. nothing is more relaxing than just watching the sun slowly set from a deck chair.The trip to
Bermuda was great weather-wise in that unlike the Caribbean, the air was cool, and the sun was warm. No sweating, no burning, just ice-tea and peace, it was perfect.
After a Saturday morning of relaxing in our favorite new spot, anticipation was growing all over the ship. The islands of Bermuda were now in sight. Everywhere we looked people were hanging out at the rails watching as the islands loomed larger.
We arrived at the dock at 4:00 in the afternoon and after the usual scurrying around that happens when a big ship comes in, we managed to get off the ship at about 4:45. So, here we are, my wife and I, finally standing on the fabled island of Bermuda, at a dock called King’s Wharf. There were shops everywhere and a couple of restaurants. We decided to beat the crowd to the nearest restaurant and have a meal in Bermuda. My wife was thrilled. At last, after all those years of shoveling snow, doing laundry, and raising kids, she had arrived. It was about an hour later when we started for the gift shops. That’s when our cruise hit the “reef.”
Bermuda is a quaint little island. The islands of Bermuda (or “the Bermudas”) were discovered in 1505 by Spanish sea captain Juan de Bermúdez. Renowned for its weather and beauty. Sitting alone, in the north Atlantic, just a scant 600 miles due east from Charleston, the British colony has recently enjoyed a revival of sorts. After Hong Kong reverted to China in 1997, many British companies, fleeing Chinese rule, moved their headquarters to Bermuda. This has caused some discontent among the locals, as they have almost been forced out by the inflation brought about by the influx of new money. Housing and food, as well as everyday items, are very expensive. But we almost didn’t know this because of another “quaint” custom. It seems that, in Bermuda almost everything closes on Saturday night at about 6 O’clock. They have to . . .by law. Yep. In fact, as my wife and I walked into the souvenir shop, she proceeded and I was stopped by a security guard. She was the last one they let in because they were closing in 10 minutes. So I waited outside the shop. That’s where I had the chance to meet the little overgrown yard gnome in the picture.
Oh, and did I mention that everything stays closed until Monday! That’s right. Monday. The day after we were leaving. My wife was crushed. They (Carnival) hadn’t told us this in the brochure. We were not alone in our displeasure. Many of our fellow travelers were grumbling and fuming to the point that mutiny was being openly discussed. It was now painfully evident that we had sailed all the way to Bermuda only to find it was closed ! My wife was heartbroken, inconsolable. We decided Sunday morning to catch the water-taxi over to Hamilton, the capital. After breakfast (naturally) we went off ship to the ticket office for the water-taxi and found that the next ride to Hamilton was booked solid and we wouldn’t actually get to anywhere before noon. After considering that nothing was open in Hamilton anyway, we just gave up the idea altogether.
That’s when providence stepped in. As we stood on the dock pondering our misfortune, we noticed another couple standing there about as happy as we were so, I asked them if they would like to share a taxi and just go somewhere, anywhere really, just so we could say that we had, at least, seen part of Bermuda. They agreed and we grabbed the first taxi in line. It was driven by a retired school teacher and local native, who introduced himself as “Mr. Lloyd.” Mr. Lloyd listened to our predicament and offered that, if we didn’t mind the meter running, he would personally take us on a tour. It turned out to be the best part of the entire cruise.
It seems that as a long time school teacher and soccer coach on the island, Mr. Lloyd knew everyone. I mean everyone! Every person we passed waved and hollered hello to this kind old man. And he took us on a mini-adventure. He took us to fancy private hotels, and up Gibb’s Hill to the lighthouse and their convienient gift shop. We crossed over the world’s smallest draw bridge, ( like 18″ wide) just big enough for the mast of a sailboat to pass through, and he took us by his house and the downtown port area of Hamilton. Everywhere we went, he would stop and, with the meter still running of course, he would let us sight see and tell us interesting nuggets of information only the locals would know.
All the while we were riding in his 200,000 mile Honda mini-van, he was telling us the story of Bermuda. We went to a private beach, and heard stories of all the crazy real estate price increases that had seriously hurt the locals. He explained how, after one-third of the island had changed hands, the government finally passed a law forbidding foreigners from buying anymore of his beloved island. After our whirl-wind tour of Bermuda we returned to the boat. We had learned more about the island, the people, and the history of Bermuda ( did I mention that he was a teacher?) in two or three hours than we ever could have in several days of wandering about. All for the price of $100 bucks with tip. And this we split with the other couple. It was such a great afternoon.
We spent the rest of the afternoon visiting the old Customs house at king’s Wharf which had a wonderful museum. Then as promised, we sailed away at 4. We had been at the dock for only about 23 hours! Thanks for almost nothing Carnival!
The next two days were spent back at our deck chairs on the back of the boat. Our entire trip was saved by a single taxi ride, and Mr. Lloyd our personal tour-guide.
In the, end the sun going down over Bermuda from the deck chair was the final cap on, what turned out to be one of the best experiences we have had cruising. But, next time we will read the itinerary a lot closer.