Cruise to Bermuda

... best behavior all the time -- you never know who will see you ...

by Ann Robbins Talbot

We are so fortunate to live in the Boston area. Besides the usually mentioned advantages of excellent health care, education and historical places, we can have a week in Bermuda without flying. We can cruise from the Black Falcon Terminal any Sunday afternoon.

The Norwegian Majesty was my "home" last week, and I would recommend this cruise as a fine week's getaway. The shipboard activities were varied including a casino when at sea. If the daily news did not list an activity to suit you at a particular time, you could always eat. I cannot speak for the wee hours of the morning, but all day food beckoned.  I shall boast that I actually lost 2.5 pounds because the meal choices were so numerous and of manageable portions. My roommate and I chose to eat in the main restaurant most of the time, but some people raved about the buffet, and one dinner at Le Bistro specialty restaurant was a most pleasant experience. The Majesty also gives a voucher for eating on land, and we enjoyed a delicious lunch at the Carriage House.

Kay and Ann.

On Monday morning I was finishing my first breakfast, sitting back with a cup of decaf. Not four feet away I saw Kay McCarte, of Melrose Mirror fame, walk by. I jumped to my feet, sent my chair flying, and called out her name. Someone in her party heard me and stopped her, so we had a mini-reunion right there in the diningroom. Not only was Kay there, but also her sisters Betty and Margie. The McCarte family lived around the corner three houses away all my growing up years, they on Melbourne  and I on Crest Avenue.  In age I was between Margie and Evie, my all-day-long, all-summer-long Monopoly opponent. Kay introduced me to five other women from Melrose, with whom I could chat at different times during the voyage. You never know who will see you; you must be on your best behavior all the time.

On Tuesday morning the Majesty docked in St George on the east end of the island. We had pre-registered for a five-hour bus tour of the island and were happy to have done this as it only runs on Tuesday. Our driver/guide is a native of Bermuda and dearly loves his island. Among the sites we saw were the home of his birth, his grade school, many of his favorite swimming spots, tennis courts, and watering holes. We also had an opportunity to leave our shoes on the bus and wade on the beach, stroll around the botanical gardens where the bougainvillea stole the show, stand where Queen Elizabeth II viewed the island in 1953, and browse around the Royal Dock Yards. We drove through Hamilton where two other cruisers were docked. Repeaters were disappointed in how commercial the city had become, but for shoppers, it was paradise. The highways have only two lanes, and we were advised not to rent cars or mopeds, a good piece of advice. I would hate to negotiate the round-abouts (rotaries) with all the traffic coming on the left side of the road. As we bid farewell to L.R.F. Jones around 5:30, a few stray raindrops fell on our shirts, foreshadowing Wednesday's weather.

The town of St. George.

Wednesday was an in-and-out day, in while there was a deluge of rain, out during a break in the clouds. If you went too far from the ship during a break, you got soaked in a heavy shower coming back. On the Majesty it was like a rainy day at summer camp with everyone finding something to do. We actually watched a movie before dinner,  "Memoir of a Geisha". I also joined the golf putting adventure, coming in second one day and second-to-last another. There is something about putting on a moving ship that adds to the challenge.

Thursday dawned sunny and warm. Many people walked to the beach and had a great experience at both St Catherine's Beach and Turtle Bay. L.R. had told us that the difference is that a bay has rocks and a beach has no rocks (and he should know). I took a walk with my trusty camera. St George is an old colonial town with several buildings remaining from the 1600's and many from the 1700's. One of my favorites is St Peters Anglican Church, still in use from 1612. The inside is divided into pews each with four walls, the seats being attached to the walls. That means that some of the people were sitting back to the pulpit! A few pews were so big that a table was placed in the center for books or elbows. I was drawn to an odd piece of furniture which was a "dole cabinet" designed to hold anything people brought for the poor of the parish. Part of it was surrounded by spindles that "helped prevent mould growth" on food donations. It is made of the lovely Bermuda cedar and it is the only piece of its kind in Bermuda, perhaps the only one in the world!

Children on a field trip

I loved the distinctive architecture of the buildings in Bermuda, each with a white roof designed to catch rainwater. Pastel colors were used for the walls making a lovely mural to any photographer. Walking on the one- and two-lane streets took some skill as the cars were all going the "wrong way". But I never caused an accident as I strolled up and down the streets of St George feeling perfectly safe. It is an advantage to travel in a country where everyone understands your language. As most tourists, I can make myself known in French and Spanish, but cannot carry on a conversation in either one. Here I connected with a group of children on a field trip. Each had a bit of colonial dress over their school uniform, and they were happy to pose for a picture that was "going all the way to Boston".

In the afternoon I took a ride on a glass bottomed boat. We began by sitting on the top deck, sailing out to St Catherine's Fort and searching for sea turtles. The turquoise water was so clear with the bottom showing that turtles were easy to spot as they swam up to the surface to breathe. We then sailed to coral reefs to look at many different kinds of coral and lots of fish of varied markings thorough the glass panels in the bottom of the specially designed boat. There was enough natural light to get a few photos.  Bermuda looks like it is made up of porous volcanic rock, but actually it is the build-up of the reefs that is being seen. A side trip on this afternoon took us by beautiful homes with lots of additions. When children become of legal age, parents rent space to them, because each house may only have one car unless there are independent people living there.

The evening presentations were excellent. The Production Company made up of eight young song and dance entertainers was outstanding. I am a harsh critic of shipboard shows and these were the best I've seen. A visiting jazz singer, a comedian, and a comic/juggler were all first rate. They performed each show twice each night and filled the theater each time. My only complaint was the lack of ventilation in the casino. However, it did not keep me away. I found the slots very stingy; perhaps I did not have the proper finesse. There were slot tournaments and Texas Hold'em tournaments which were fun to watch.

A Dole cabinet at St. Peter's Church.

Our cabin was very comfortable. We were on deck 7, the promenade deck, convenient to most of the activity on decks 5 and 6. The cabin was built for four so the storage for two was great.  It was equipped with a refrigerator, desk, and safe. Since we only used it for changing and sleeping, it was great. There were plenty of places on the ship for reading, playing board games and cards. And our stewards were very friendly making animals out of our clean towels.

Free style dining suited us perfectly. We chose to share a table at nearly every meal, so we got to chat with people of all ages and experiences. Talking about other cruises broke the ice immediately as did telling where we were from. My last day I met a woman from Hingham whose nephew is Moderator of my church. I related that I had eaten at his house during a "progressive dinner", where he had grilled fish caught that very morning. She said, "My son caught that fish!" Such a small world.

As we put our luggage outside our cabin on Saturday night, we marveled at how quietly and efficiently it disappeared. Waiting in the theater to be called to disembark, we had a chance to compare notes with Kay McCarte and her group. We agreed that the cruise included something for everyone. Signing in and out at the port in Boston was quick if you had all of your papers in hand. And driving from the pier to Holliston via the Mass Pike was a piece of cake on a Sunday. I think the cruise to Bermuda is a good take!

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