The stylish Carnival Splendor is Bermuda bound in 2016

Over the past couple of decades, the summer Bermuda cruise season has become more or less dominated by a ‘big three’ composed of Celebrity Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, and Royal Caribbean International.

So complete is this dominance that many potential Bermuda bound passengers overlook other possible options for travelling to the island from a number of different American ports.

For 2016, Carnival is offering no less than ten ex-USA sailings to Bermuda on five different ships, each of which offers at least one overnight stay, and some offer two. Like most ships these days (exception; the four 2016 sailings by Holland America Line), all ten of these calls will use the main mega ship berth at King’s Wharf, on the western side of the island.

So, for those of you that might want to add a little ‘Fun Ship’ style and frivolity to the peace and beauty of Bermuda, here are the options available to you throughout 2016.

Carnival Pride is offering  a brace of five day cruises from Baltimore, Maryland. Sail dates are April 10th and October 26th.

She will also offer a pair of seven night cruises from the same port, departing on September 4th and 18th.

Carnival Sunshine will sail a five night itinerary from Norfolk, Virginia, on October 23rd. Prior to this, the same ship will sail on a seven night itinerary from New York on October 1st.

From Charleston, SC, Carnival Ecstasy showcases a pair of seven night sailings to Bermuda, departing on May 12th and November 6th, respectively.

Carnival Victory offers a southern twist on the classic Bermuda cruise experience, with a one off, eight night sailing that departs from Port Canaveral on May 19th.

Last, but not least, the Carnival Splendor features a nine day Bermuda cruise, sailing from Miami on May 26th. This cruise features a single overnight stay in Bermuda, and additional Caribbean calls at Amber Cove in the Dominican Republic, and also Grand Turk, in the Bahamas. This one is a particularly lovely combination.

For the UK market, many of these cruises can be packaged with stays in landmark cities such as Miami and New York. And, for something more than a little different, you could combine a Bermuda cruise with a stay in the genteel, old world pace and grace of beautiful Charleston.

All of these cruises present good options to enjoy this beautiful, still very much off the beaten track destination, at the best time of the year.



Bermuda is a famous beauty

Bermuda is a famous beauty

Royal Caribbean International has just issued a new, 132 page brochure for the UK market, covering all of the line’s worldwide itineraries through into 2016.

Among the first time offerings is a package of seven night, round trip fly cruises to Bermuda from New Jersey’s soon to be upgraded Cape Liberty cruise terminal on board the 2007 built Liberty Of The Seas, the second of the three ship Freedom class.

A total of twelve, seven night packages are on offer, inclusive of flights to New York or Newark, an overnight hotel stay with all transfers, and a five night cruise to Bermuda on Liberty Of The Seas. At 154,500 tons, this is a huge resort style ship, with accommodation for 3.634 passengers. Each sailing will feature an overnight stay in the King’s Wharf area of Bermuda– originally known as the Royal Naval Dockyard- a definite step up on the normal daytime visits in the Caribbean trade.

While it has long offered Bermuda cruises to the British traveller, this is the first time that Royal Caribbean has offered a programme of dedicated fly cruises for the Bermuda market. Also cruising to Bermuda from Baltimore, the smaller, Vision class Grandeur Of The Seas is offering her usual summer programme of seven night voyages, each of which includes a full, two night stay at King’s Wharf. These are currently sold as cruise only.

The Liberty Of The Seas fly cruise package runs from May through October. Departures from the UK: May 15,29/June 12,26/ July 10, 24/August 7,21/September 4,18/October 2,16. Prices (based on an inside cabin) begin at £1,369 per person for the fly cruise package, or £529 per person as a cruise only option.

Flowers of Bermuda. Literally blooming beautiful.

Flowers of Bermuda. Literally blooming beautiful.

Twenty one miles long and two miles wide, Bermuda is compact enough to explore pretty well over the course of two days. Highlights of the island include the current capital of Hamilton, and the original capital of St. Georges, now a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Blessed with amazing, blush pink coloured beaches and a benign summer climate, Bermuda is a real alternative summer time destination to the islands of the Caribbean, a full thousand miles to the south. The hospitality of the locals is world renowned, and with very good reason; the area around King’s Wharf also offers a good range of open air bars, dining venues and clubs, all within a short distance of the cruise ship piers.

While relatively short on time, these are very highly styled breaks that combine the beauty and tranquility of Bermuda with all the fun and attractions of one of the most modern, state of the art mega ships currently at sea. Add in the potential to do some shopping and sightseeing in New York, and the appeal of this trip becomes obvious.

Methinks Royal Caribbean is on a winner with this one.

Side streets of St. George's, Bermuda

Side streets of St. George’s, Bermuda


Bermuda is a famous beauty

Bermuda is a famous beauty

In a move that will surprise a few people, Holland America Line is making a partial return to summertime Bermuda cruises in 2015.

The line attempted to revive the historic run over three years, from 2010- 2012, using the 50,000 ton, 1300 passenger Veendam, on a series of seven night sailings from New York.

Initially, the idea was for Veendam to spend two nights alongside in Hamilton, and a third at the historical capital of St. George. However, access to the latter proved difficult through the narrow cut, and the local tender operation used as a substitute proved unsatisfactory.

Other factors weighing against the itinerary at the time included the fact that the Bermuda government refused to allow cruise ship casinos to open in port. That meant three redundant nights out of every seven in terms of casino revenue; quite a financial hit over the course of a nineteen cruise summer season (based on 2012 figures).

Since then, however, the government has relaxed the restrictions on cruise ship casinos, and this is undoubtedly a big part of the reason why Holland America has decided on an at least partial return to Bermuda. If successful, it could presage the resumption of a full season of sailings for 2016 and beyond.

According to the Bermuda Sun newspaper, the company is bringing back the popular Veendam to operate six sailings next year, all seven day round trips from Boston. All six will dock for four days and three nights along the famous front street in Hamilton, with easy access to the beaches, snorkelling, dining and world class shopping for which Bermuda is renowned.

Veendam will dock right on Hamilton's famous waterfront

Veendam will dock right on Hamilton’s famous waterfront

There are three sailings, on May 2nd, 9th and 30th, two more on June 6th and 27th, plus what is sure to be a popular July 4th Independence Day departure. All are listed and on sale now on the Holland America website.

All of these cruises sail on a Saturday, arriving in Bermuda at one o’clock on Monday afternoon for the three night stay. The Veendam then sails from Hamilton at one in the afternoon of the following Thursday, arriving back into Boston that Saturday morning.

What makes these itineraries unique is the fact that the Veendam is far more intimate than the other Bermuda ‘regulars’. Plus, the fact that the ship spends three full nights alongside in the capital, rather than the two night stays offered by the big ships over at King’s Wharf, also gives her another definite edge over the opposition. And sailing from Boston might also give her a bit of a competitive edge over the ‘weekend’ sailings from nearby Manhattan and Cape Liberty.

This one is going to be interesting. As ever, stay tuned.


Bermuda is a famous beauty

Bermuda is a famous beauty

Bermuda is looking forward to a bumper 2014 cruise season, according to a report in the Bermuda Sun newspaper.

Well, at least a part of it is.

The north western port of Kings Wharf, hugely and extensively developed for cruising since 2004, will play host to no less than 132 cruise ship calls, disgorging a total of 356,000 passengers onto the island in the peak season between May and October.

Meanwhile, the former landmark ports of Hamilton and St. George’s are practically barren all year round.

New to the island next year is Royal Caribbean International’s Vision Of The Seas. The recently refurbished ship will sail three ten night, round trip cruises from Fort Lauderdale on June 9th, August 18th and September 1st, 2014. Each will spend three days and two nights in Bermuda, as well as making calls at Charleston, Nassau, and the company’s private island at Coco Cay.

From New York, the Explorer Of The Seas is scheduled to make twenty-seven calls and, from Baltimore, the Grandeur Of The Seas is slated for some fourteen Bermuda landfalls.

Sister company, Celebrity Cruises also offers nineteen round trips from New York on the Summit, the line’s Bermuda stalwart of several years past.

Meanwhile, the ground breaking Norwegian Breakaway returns from New York for some twenty-two calls over the course of 2014. The new ship had a hugely successful first season in 2013, during which she brought some ninety thousand passengers to the island, making a net contribution of some $26 million to the Bermuda economy.

Rounding out the roster of Bermuda round trip ‘regulars’ over 2014 is the Boston based Norwegian Dawn, with some twenty-two round trips on sale.

Side streets of St. George's, Bermuda

Side streets of St. George’s, Bermuda

The island is also expecting a one off call from Carnival Splendor in June, and there will be three calls from Princess, with Emerald, Ocean and Ruby Princess making one visit each.

The Bermuda government is also said to be courting Germany’s Aida cruises with a view to future business. Over the last year, the government has made key concessions to cruise lines, including allowing them to open their casinos while docked in Bermuda for the first time ever. The move was widely seen as a response to the exodus of lines like Holland America, the last bastion of the typical ‘Bermuda run’.

The 2014 roster of Bermuda arrivals is expected to contribute something like $90 million in total to the Bermuda economy in all. As well as disposable income coming from passengers in terms of shore excursion sales, meals and drinks and taxi fares, these figures also take into account the spending patterns of off duty cruise members, taking time out ashore at the end of their working days and nights.


Crystal Symphony, tendering passengers into Hamilton, Bermuda

Crystal Symphony, tendering passengers into Hamilton, Bermuda

Cruise Industry News has posted a revealing little snippet about the possible future direction of summer cruises to Bermuda.

It says that the Bermuda government may be partnering with an un-named ‘major cruise line’ to deliver a new docking facility on the east end of the island, as well as upgrading existing docking facilities to allow the arrival of the largest classes of mega ships.

The latter part of this is a no brainer, It surely refers to the existing facilities on the west end of the island, over at Kings Wharf. These currently allow ships in excess of 150.000 tons to berth- the area is home port for the brand new Norwegian Breakaway-to dock, four at a time. Presumably, any further expansion is aimed at attracting seasonal visits from either the enormous, 22,000 plus tons Oasis and Allure of The Seas.

Those two giants regularly operate year round Caribbean cruises from Fort Lauderdale, but either could just as easily offer an alternative, one week round trip to Bermuda if demand was deemed to be sufficient. It would certainly be something extra for the ships to offer to attract passengers jaded with the Caribbean. And, with enhanced docking facilities at Kings Wharf, a trial run would be at least practical for Royal Caribbean.

The bruited new east coast passenger terminal is far more enigmatic, and infinitely more controversial. It could only be around the area of the original capital of St. George’s, a UNESCO World Heritage Site of outstanding natural beauty. Hamilton, the current capital, is on the north coast, midway between the western and eastern extremities, and so does not sound like the development in question.

Side streets of St. George's, Bermuda

Side streets of St. George’s, Bermuda

The problem with St. George’s is that the entrance to the harbour can accommodate nothing above 50,000 tons at present. The coral reefs that flank it would have to be cut away massively to allow access of any kind- a bone of contention that has bedevilled attempts to revive the once lucrative St. George’s cruise trade for the better part of two decades.

The area could desperately use a return of mainstream cruises. In the late nineties, St George’s was regularly attracting four overnight cruise ship calls a week, week in and out from May to October. In 2011, the same port attracted just two in six months.

Holland America Line tried to resurrect the traditional Bermuda cruise for a few years with the mid sized Veendam, but lack of berthing space at the east end eventually scuppered that. So, when both HAL and parent company, Carnival, reviewed options for the 2013 season, they decided to abandon Bermuda altogether. The loss of HAL in particular was a body blow to the rump of the island’s east coast trade.

So an east coast terminal would clearly be to the economic benefit of both cruise lines and locals. But who is the cruise line looking to actively build such a facility?

I’m guessing it’s Carnival, who have a fine track record for developing purpose built locations such as Grand Turk, and the terminals in Barcelona and Savona for their Costa brand. For years, their rivals- Norwegian, Celebrity and Royal Caribbean- have been holding court over at the lucrative Kings Wharf side of the island. Making a play for a dedicated east coast base would give Carnival a quite unique location.

The beauty of Bermuda is legendary

The beauty of Bermuda is legendary

But there are other potential obstacles on the horizon, such as the Bermuda government’s so far apparently steadfast determination to refuse on board casinos and shops permission to open while in port; a huge revenue loss to consider when ships are berthed in Bermuda for a minimum of two nights. Yet there did seem to be some signs of concession from the authorities ashore a few years ago, faced with a rising tide of cruise ship losses to the Caribbean. Perhaps some leeway in these laws could be the sweetener for the proposed new venture?

In any event, this is one worth watching. It will also be interesting to see how the infrastructure of Bermuda- an island only some twenty one miles long- can adapt to the anticipated increase in cruise trade.  The network of ferries and buses that cover the island are inadequate, there are precious few taxis, and private car hire is non existent.

All of these points will have to be addressed if the Bermuda cruise trade is to be revived but, faced with continually losing out to its neighbours in the Caribbean, the Bermuda government really has very little room for argument here.

Stay tuned.

Original report source: Cruise Industry News, 2/10/13.

Additional information: As of October 4th, 2013, the Bermuda Parliament voted to allow cruise ship casinos to stay open from 9pm to 5am while docked in Bermuda. Ships will need to remain in port for one night or longer to qualify, and a casino licensing fee will also be payable.