Southern Allure to Bermuda on the Oceania Regatta
4/19/14 to 5/1/14

Due to the length of the review, it is in three parts to help with the download time. The links to the other pages are at the top and bottom of the page.

Page 1  -  Embarkation; Ship; Cabin; Dining; Entertainment; Activities

Page 2  -  Ports of Call: Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas; Hamiliton, Bermuda;  St. George, Bermuda

Page 3 - Ports of Call: Norfolk, Virginia;  Charleston, South Carolina;  Port Canaveral, Florida; Miami, Florida 



Ports of Call

Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas
We had taken a Holland America cruise the month before this cruise and couldn’t stop at Half Moon Cay, their private island, due to the winds being too strong for us to use the tenders.  We were looking forward to visiting Great Stirrup Cay, since the beaches and water looked so inviting at Half Moon Cay.  With Half Moon and Great Stirrup Cays within viewing distance of each other, we assumed that the beaches would be just as inviting.

We were supposed to arrive at Great Stirrup Cay at 7:00 AM.  With us having an inside cabin and no morning sun to wake us up, we slept until 8:00 AM.  When I looked at the clock and felt the ship moving, I knew that something wasn’t right.  Sure enough, we had missed another stop at a lovely Bahama island due to the winds being too strong for safe operation of the tenders.  On the positive though, we would be able to arrive earlier in Bermuda.  Instead of arriving at 3:00 PM, we would have 6.5 more hours in Bermuda by arriving at 8:30 AM.  That was great news for us, since we live close to beaches and have similar weather to the Bahamas; but there were some people from colder climates that were unhappy that they would be missing a much needed beach day.


Hamilton, Bermuda
Day 1
We have always heard from our friends how we had to visit Bermuda, since it is so beautiful.  So needless to say, I was quite excited to see what everyone had been talking about.  I went up on deck at 7:50 AM to be able to see the island as we approached it.  I couldn’t believe when I went out on the deck that we had already passed by St. George, which is at the north end of the island.  Oh well, I could catch it on the way out three days later.  I could see Ft. St. Catherine behind us.

The island was much longer than I had expected.  It was going to take a while to get into Hamilton.  We could see some of the brightly colored houses along the coastline.  I was getting excited to dock and start exploring. 

The weather forecast for our three days in Bermuda had not looked very good when I checked it out before boarding the Regatta.  There were a lot of clouds around that morning; but there was also more sunshine than I expected.  We finally got closer to the Royal Naval Dockyard and Kings Wharf where the larger cruise ships dock.  The Explorer of the Seas was there but would be leaving later in the day.  I could see the small shopping mall behind the Explorer that we would visit the next day.


As we approached the narrow passage to Hamilton, I could see why the larger ships couldn’t stop at the Hamilton City Dock.  The small island on the starboard side looked pretty close to our smaller ship.  As we passed through, I went to the port side to see how close the small island on that side was.  It was a narrow passage; but we would find out later that it was much wider than the one on the St. George side we were supposed to go through in two days.  I also took a photo of the passage from further away to get both sides in one photo.


As we approached downtown Hamilton, there were some gorgeous large homes lining the water.  This looked like a nice place. 


As we passed by a large pink hotel, I assumed that it must be the famous Fairmont Hamilton Princess Hotel; which it was.  It is a very old hotel that originally opened in 1885 as the Princess.  It has had many owners and renovations since then.

Close to our dock, I was fascinated by a very tall and narrow sail boat.  The city of Hamilton was in the background.

I tried to take several more photos of downtown Hamilton from the ship before we docked but the view was blocked by the terminal.   The large Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity definitely stood out from the other buildings.


One of the many ferries that took passengers between the Royal Dockyards and Hamilton was at the ferry terminal.

The cruise terminal was in a pink building.  Pink was a popular color in Bermuda.

After we docked, the view of Front Street was quite nice.  


I was ready to step onto land after two sea days.  I had downloaded a nice Hamilton walking tour from the web that I planned on using.  I piddled around a little bit with Carol on Front Street before we separated so she could shop and I could explore.  My first stop was at the Cabinet building where the Senate meets.  Just in front of it is the Cenotaph with the flags of the four armed forces.  It honors the soldiers who died in World War's 1 and 2.


Also on the grounds is the War Memorial with the names of over 3,000 veterans, and a large granite ball that continues to rotate on water when manually pushed to get it started.

There is also an obelisk monument to a former governor of Bermuda, William Reid.

The most memorable monument to me was that of former slave, Sally Bassett, who was burned at a stake.  She was found guilty of poisoning her granddaughter’s owner.  News of her burning started slave uprisings throughout the Caribbean.


I headed up the hill to Fort Hamilton.  It was a shorter walk than it looked like on the map.  Before entering the fort grounds, you cross over a wooden bridge.  It is worth stopping there and looking at the tropical foliage on both sides.


I really didn’t know much about the fort, so wasn’t sure where to go when I got inside.  There was an enclosed stair case that went down to a lower level; but I passed on it to check out ground level first. 

There were paths that went left or right with no signage telling which way to go.  It turned out that it made no difference since it was a circular path that came back to the same place.  As I walked into the fort area I was surprised that it looked more like a botanical garden with lush green grass and colorful flowers. 



It was just a beautiful area set amongst the numerous embankments, canons and gun pits. 





The views from above the city were also quite nice.


I hated to leave the fort, since it was such a lovely and relaxing area.  It was well worth the walk up to the fort.

As I continued on my walking tour, I saw a strangely dressed gentleman across the street while I was waiting for the traffic light to change.  I took his photo while we were passing.  After I got to the other side of the street, I realized that he was actually giving a walking tour.  Then I remembered that there was a fellow named Ed Christopher, who is the Town Crier, who gives free tours each day from the City Hall.  I probably should have joined the tour; but I had already been where he was going.

A nice looking building was the Sessions House, where the lower house of Bermuda’s Parliament meets.  This building was built in 1826.  We would see where the first session of Parlliament was held in 1620, when we visited St. Peter’s Church the next day in St. George.

My next stop was at the tallest building in Bermuda, the Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity Anglican church.  The timing was very good, since it started to rain just before I went inside.  The large gothic structure really stands out from the other buildings in Hamilton due to its size and style. 

The interior is also most impressive with the many arches and lovely stained glass.



The altar with its multiple statues and mosaics was also quite nice.


I had read that many people like to climb the 157 narrow steps to the top of the tower to see the highest view in Bermuda.  Since it was getting close to lunch time, I passed on it. 

I also liked the beautifully carved granite pulpit.


By the time I was finished admiring the interior, the rain had stopped.  Everything smelled so fresh after the short rain and I couldn’t resist taking a photo of a hibiscus flower just outside the cathedral.

Just down the street from the cathedral was the City Hall and Arts Center.  It was easy to spot the large white building glowing in the sunshine.  At the top of the spire was a metal sailing ship.  The same ship is portrayed on the large emblem in front of the building. 


There was also a nice brass statue depicting a mother and two children reading, that I thought was appropriate for an arts building.

In addition to a large theater, the Bermuda National Gallery is housed inside the building. A strange grouping of naked statues was right inside the main door.  Kind of unusual.

I walked upstairs to the National Gallery.  I took a couple photos of the unusual artwork that took up a large section of the first room before I was told that photos weren’t allowed.  I hadn’t seen any signs or I wouldn’t have taken the photos; but since I did, I am sharing them.


I would have liked to see more of the gallery, since what I saw was rather interesting; but it was almost noon and I needed to get back to the ship to meet Carol for lunch.  Close to the ship, I passed by the famous Birdcage.  This is where policemen used to direct traffic.  Traffic lights have now replaced the need for a policeman there, but it is now an icon and tourist attraction. 

Since Front Street didn’t have much traffic, I took a couple of photos of the stores and one showing the Regatta docked right next to Front Street.


After lunch I was ready to see more of Hamilton, so I decided to walk down to the Fairmont Hamilton Princess Hotel.  On the way there, I passed an interesting statue of whale tails in front of an office building.

There was another statue further down the street that I couldn’t pass up.  Bermuda has just too many photo opps, which is a good thing.


Of course there were plenty of pretty homes and condos along the way.


When I finally got to the Princess, I was ready to rest.  It took longer than I expected.


I was a bit disappointed in the interior, since it was plainer than I expected.  I was expecting Fairmont elegant and it was just a normal hotel.  When I went to the back of the hotel it was nice; but it just seemed like it had passed its prime.  The photos actually make it look nicer than what it appeared.  Resorts normally have very fancy pool areas; but not this one.  It looked like one you would find in an inexpensive hotel.


So my long walk was disappointing; but it made for some great exercise.  On the walk back to the ship, I passed by an interesting statue called Against Da Tide.

Close to the ship, I went to a small restaurant bar to get a beer.  The beer cost $8.00; but my main goal was to be able to get their free WiFi code so I could check my email that I hadn’t seen in three days.  There aren’t a lot of places to get free WiFi on Bermuda, so I was very pleased to be able to get a very strong signal.  The best part was that both Carol and I could use the code for the three days we were in Bermuda by just walking close to the restaurant.  Some people also told me that there was free WiFi at the library; but since so many people had gone there, it was difficult to get signed on and it was quite a slow connection.

Prior to the cruise we had heard from some friends who we had met 17 months earlier on a Hawaii cruise, and who were also joining us on our upcoming Panama Canal cruise in November.  They were going to be on the Celebrity Eclipse, which was docking at King’s Wharf during the same time that we would be in Bermuda.  The ship was arriving in the afternoon and leaving the next day, so we had made plans to meet up with them.  We were thrilled to be able to visit with Bill and Sandra.  They are a very nice couple.  Unfortunately with the ferry operating an off season schedule, they had to take the 5:25 PM ferry back to King’s Wharf, since the next and last one was at 9:10 PM.  The more convenient summer schedule begins on May 1 each year.  It was a very short, but nice visit.

After dinner, I went out to take some night shots of Front Street and the Regatta.


Our first day in Bermuda had been most enjoyable and we were looking forward to the next day, since we had a tour scheduled.

Day 2
We were joining Bob and Peggy from our Cruise Critic roll call group who had booked a tour guide for the day.  I was thrilled when they asked us to join them, since they had booked tour guide David Fox ( ); whom I had unsuccessfully tried to book.  

Tour guides are regulated in Bermuda and should be Blue Flag certified.  This verifies that they have completed the necessary tour guide curriculum.  The rates for these tour guides was $40 per hour for several years; but was changing to $50 per hour on May 1, 2014.  So we lucked out that we were in Bermuda right before the new season started.

David met us just outside the cruise terminal.  He was a very friendly fellow and we would find him to be very knowledgeable of the area.  He also had a very comfortable Hyundai Van.  It was wider than some of the vans we have been in; which meant that three of us could comfortably ride in the second row of seats rather than someone having to get into the third row.


Our first stop was at the beautiful Elbow Beach Resort.  We got our first view of the beautiful Bermuda beaches.  Now this was a nice resort!


Sharing the view with us was a very cute little pug, whose owner didn’t mind us loving on him.

David then took us to Warwick Long Bay.  He told us that to him this was the nicest beach on Bermuda for swimming and natural beauty.  It was indeed a gorgeous beach even with the cloudy weather.  I would love to see it in the bright sunshine.  We stopped first to see it from above.


We then went down to the road to get a closer view. 

I had to take a photo of the beautiful pink sand.  It does make Bermuda that much more special.  Since all of the grains aren’t pink, there is just enough pink in it to give the beach a nice pink hue.

As we were leaving the beach, we passed by a Bermuda police car.  Even the police cars are pretty in Bermuda!

Just down the road we stopped to look down at one of the most popular swimming beaches on Bermuda, Horseshoe Bay.  It was also a great looking beach; but we didn’t need to go down to it, since we had just stopped at a lovely beach.


The Gibbs Hill Lighthouse is a normal tourist stop.  Unfortunately, it was being renovated while we were there.  It is one of the first all cast-iron lighthouses and was built in 1844.

I was quite intrigued with the Bermuda roofing.  It is designed to channel the rain water into retention tanks under the houses, since water is a scarce commodity in Bermuda.  There are several desalinization plants on the island; but that water is expensive.  The roofs are coated with lime, which purifies the water. The second photo shows how the channels direct the water to where it is collected. 


Since the roofs are unique to Bermuda, they are depicted on paintings and many types of souvenirs.  We bought one later in the day to help us remember Bermuda.

Our next stop was the Port Royal Golf Course, where the PGA Grand Slam of Golf is held.  Now this was a gorgeous golf course; and oh what a view.  We had to have our photo taken there.



Not far from the golf course we stopped at the worlds narrowest draw bridge.  The section that opens is just 18 wide.  The original structure, which has not changed much, was built in 1620.  It is obviously just used to allow sail boat masts to pass through.


While there, David threw some bread into the water to feed the many cod that hang out waiting for the regular feedings.  Once the bread lands there is a rather entertaining feeding frenzy.  Some other guides came while we were there and also fed the cods, so they do appreciate the tourists.

Nearby the bridge we passed by the lovely Parrish Church of St. James’ Sandys.  The tall spire was hit by lightning in 1939 and totally destroyed.  An exact replica was rebuilt.

We finally reached the end of the island and the Royal Navy Yard we had seen the previous day while sailing into Hamilton.  This was mainly a short restroom and shopping stop at the Clocktower Shopping Mall.  It is a nice area for the cruise ship passengers to spend lots of hours.  We were impressed with the quality and uniqueness of some of the crafts that were available.  Since we were trying to explore the island we only stayed about 40 minutes; but we could have spent much longer there.



We then headed to the other end of the island to visit St. George.  I was so glad that we were going there, since before the tour started there was an announcement on the ship that we would not be able to dock in St. George the next day due to high winds.  We were quite disappointed, since being able to dock in St. George would be so nice for exploring there.  But the Captain’s first priority must be the safety of the passengers.

We were really enjoying our ride around the island.  Everything was so pretty and clean.  The views along the road were eye candy.




Along with the beautiful water views we saw a Moon Gate entrance to a garden.

We even got a nice glimpse of the Regatta while passing by Hamilton.

Just outside of Hamilton, David pointed out a fellow named Johnny Barnes standing on the edge of a traffic circle.  He is 91 years old and since 1983 he has stood at this point every week day from 5:00 AM until 10:00 AM, rain or shine.  He welcomes people by waving and yelling out “I love you, Good Morning, God bless you”.  He is a Bermuda institution and has even been honored by Queen Elizabeth II.  Unfortunately, I didn’t see him; so I was very disappointed.  I did get to see the statue honoring him that was put up in 1998; but not quite the same.

As we continued our drive I was so enjoying the beautiful views everywhere we passed.




The brightly colored houses were especially interesting.


At last we entered the town of St. George.  It was almost 2:00 PM and we were starving.  After all, we were used to regular and frequent feedings on the ship.  David recommended a nice restaurant named Wahoo’s Bistro and Patio.  It was quite popular, even at this late a lunch time.  The location on the water was quite pleasant and the menu looked quite appetizing.



Carol and I both ordered the breaded Turbot sandwich on raisin bread.  I don’t think I’ve ever had a sandwich made on raisin bread, especially a fish sandwich.  It was great!

During lunch we had a brief rain shower.  Fortunately it passed by quickly.  After lunch we did a short walking tour of the city.  It was a much quieter, less congested town than Hamilton.


I was surprised to see the stocks and dunking stools in the main square.  I guess they are proud of their historical punishment methods.  They were certainly interesting; but it was much better to look at them than to actually experience them.



It was a short walk to St. Peter’s Church.  The church was established in 1620 and is the oldest surviving Anglican church in continuous use outside of the British Isles; as well as the oldest Protestant church in continuous use in the New World.  That made it quite special and a place we had to visit.  Some parts of the church are from the original structure over 400 years old.


The most striking part of the interior to me was the wood beamed cathedral ceiling.


Carol’s main destination was The Bermuda Perfumery.  It is quite a popular destination and in addition to perfumes they have an afternoon tea which is supposed to be quite special.


It was a cute shop; but not the type of place I wanted to hang around for long.  Actually Carol didn’t either, since the prices were outrageous.  I was surprised that the ceiling was so similar to that in St. Peter's Church.


We were more interested in walking around the waterfront.  It was a lovely area and had some interesting sights.  The most obvious being the replica of the old sailing ship The Deliverance.  This was a ship that was constructed on Bermuda as a rescue ship for the Jamestown colonists in 1610.


There is also a statue of Sir George Somers nearby.  He is the founder of Bermuda and for whom St. George is named.

There was a touring service called the Olde Towne Trailway that has a 45 minute tour of St. George.  There is a charge for it; but had we been spending the day in St. George, as originally planned, it would have been a good way to see all the sights.

It was then time to head back to Hamilton.  Since we weren’t going to be docked in St. George the next day as planned, David showed us around the area a bit.  He took us by the Unfinished Church.  Construction on the church began in 1874 after St. Peter’s Church was badly damaged by a storm.  The main reason it wasn’t completed was that the people preferred to repair the old church rather than building a new one.  I guess it worked out, since it provided an extra tourist destination. 

We then drove to Tobacco Bay Beach.  Just a lovely beach!  It is also supposed to be one of the best snorkeling beaches on the island.


Our next stop was at Fort St. Catherine.  This was the fort I had seen from a distance when I first looked out on Bermuda.  It was a much nicer view than in the morning.  It was originally established in 1612 as a wooden structure to defend the northern parts of Bermuda.  It was quite a lovely area and I wish we had time to visit the grounds themselves; but we were already running later than we had originally planned.  The whole area around the fort was just gorgeous.


We then went nearby to Gates Fort Park.  Another beautiful place. 


While there we were able to see the Town Cut, where our ship was supposed to have gone through to dock in St. George.  It was quite narrow and we could all understand why the captain decided to stay in Hamilton rather than attempt to pass through the cut during the strong winds.

It took David 50 minutes to get us back to the ship, since he wanted to show us as much of the beauty of the island as he could. 



We were so impressed with Bermuda.  It more than exceeded our expectations. 


By the time we got back to the ship it was 4:30 PM and we had spent seven hours touring.  We were ready to get back on the ship and relax before dinner.  We only had to wait a half hour for Happy Hour in the lounges.

Day 3
Since we had thoroughly explored the island the previous day and we had to be back on the ship at 2:30 PM for our 3:00 PM sailing, we decided to just hang around Hamilton.  There were a few places I wanted to go back to for more photos and I wanted to walk to some areas I hadn’t already visited.  My main destination for the morning was the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute; which is referred to as BUEI.  It looked quite interesting and I was looking forward to checking it out.  On the way there I was able to get some photos of the Longtails statue we had passed by the previous day.  It is a very popular bird in Bermuda, since it is the only sea bird that nests in significant numbers there.


While looking at the street map to see how far BUEI was from the ship, I was surprised that it wasn’t much further past BUEI to where Johnny Barnes welcomes people into town.  So I decided to get the photos I missed the previous day.  Sure enough Johnny was there talking and waving to people as they drove by.  I spoke to him and he gave me greetings and threw me a kiss like he does for everyone.  For 91 years old, he had a lot of energy to spend five hours a day standing and waving.  Thirty one years, five days a week in the same spot, rain or shine, he’s never missed a day.  This exercise program has probably helped him to maintain his health and stamina.

As I headed back, I passed Johnny’s statue.  It was quite an honor to have it erected for him.  He must be much loved.  It will be a sad day in Bermuda when he is no longer there.  He is a special person indeed.


When I arrived back at BUEI I was impressed with the Remotely Operated Vehicle sitting outside the building.


There weren’t many cars in the parking lot, so I assumed that I would have the place to myself.  I walked in to the building and went up to the ticket booth.  The attendant told me that they didn’t open until 10:00 AM.  I was 45 minutes early.  She said I could shop around the store and hang around the lobby area if I wanted to.  I decided to just take some photos of the lobby area and continue my walk.  I was disappointed, since it is supposed to be an enjoyable place to visit.


I next went into a grocery store to check out the prices for some common items for Carol, since we had heard how expensive food was in Bermuda.  They were quite high.  I took photos of some of them to show Carol.  For example:
    2 liter bottle of Coke - $4.95
    Chicken breasts - $8.99 per pound
    Newman’s Own Dressing - $5.95
    Fresh Express mixed salad greens (12 Oz) - $6.99
    Iceberg lettuce (small head) - $2.99

I then walked back to the ship; but stopped at a jewelry store to buy Carol a pendant necklace that she had admired the first day we arrived in Hamilton.  She loved it! From the jewelry store, I was finally able to get an unobstructed view of the Oceania emblem on the stack.  I had been trying to get a shot from the ship, but it isn't possible.

The wind was very strong during sail away.  It made the turquoise colored water look that much prettier with white caps; but it didn’t bode well for a smooth sailing to Norfolk, VA.  We were grateful that we had very nice weather while visiting Bermuda; but the future day’s forecast was not good.


I went to the back of the ship after we passed through the narrow passage to Hamilton to get a photo.  It isn’t very wide.

Shortly after leaving Bermuda, the captain told us that we were experiencing 50 knot or 57 mph winds and 18 foot seas.  Less than an hour later, he announced that we were now experiencing 60 knot or 69 mph winds and 25 foot seas.  We were definitely moving and shaking.  Since Carol and I both take ginger pills when the seas get rough to avoid sea sickness, it wasn’t making us sick; but we did need to be careful while walking around the ship. 

That night we had reservations to the Italian specialty restaurant, Toscana, which is on the top deck at the back of the ship.  Not the best place to be in rough seas.   We were holding on to the walls as we went in.  We could really feel the motion up there.  I had to go back to the room to get my camera.  When I returned there was a woman lying on the floor who had fallen down.  They made a call over the ships speakers for the medical team to come to Toscana.  She had apparently hurt her arm and she was put in a wheelchair.

Our table of six had an interesting evening with the sound of trays in the kitchen falling the whole time we were there.  There were many broken glasses and dishes that night.  It was amazing that the waiters could even carry the trays.  Even they needed to hold on to the chairs to support themselves.  We noticed that the large paintings on the wall were swinging out from the wall when the ship lurched from side to side, so we told the maître d about it.  He took off one of the paintings and we could see that it was just held on by two screws, not even hooks; so he took down all three of the ones hanging on that wall just in case.

At one lurch, the large table for six actually slid toward Carol who was sitting with her back to the window.  Everyone held on to it as it moved to keep it from going further.  Even with all the excitement going on we still had a lovely meal.  There weren’t too many people in Toscana.  Most weren’t feeling too well.  It will definitely be a dinner to remember.

The next day was a day at sea.  We heard many stories of the previous evening’s excitement.  Peggy, who we had taken the Bermuda tour with, fractured a toe when a chair in her cabin fell on her foot.  Stan and Connie, who had an ocean view cabin on deck 4 had waves hitting their windows with water leaking in.  We were told by several people who had been in the Horizons Lounge at the front of the ship on deck 10 that the spray from the large waves was hitting against the windows.  We did hear that it was one of the worst seas that had been experienced in the area in many years.

During the evening, the Captain had changed our routing to go southwest to avoid some of the worst weather.  He announced that due to the weather we would not be arriving into Norfolk until 3:00 PM, six hours later than the originally scheduled 9:00 AM.  Since it would be too late to be able to do any of the tours, we would be modifying our schedule to spend the night in Norfolk and only spend one day in Charleston.  Most passengers I talked to, including me, were not happy to miss spending two days in Charleston.  Norfolk had not been a major incentive for booking the cruise.  We had planned on renting a car to drive to Williamsburg for the day; but that fell through, since the rental company was closed on Sundays.

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