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Bermuda onboard ms Veendam

Bermuda onboard ms Veendam

View itineraries onboard ms Veendam

My husband and I booked a week cruise to Bermuda with Travel the World leaving at the end of May. I’ve always wanted to see Bermuda, an island influenced by the British. We chose the Veendam, a Holland America ship which left from New York. I liked the itinerary better than NCL and Celebrity because there were more days on land and the ship was small enough (around 1250 passengers) to dock at Front Street, Hamilton. Also I have always liked the service onboard HAL and the more sophisticated entertainment.

The day we left New York the weather was sunny and warm. It was wonderful to see the famous skyline from the boat. As we passed the Statue of Liberty my husband pointed out Ellis Island in the distance. It was here that his grandparents landed on their migration from Europe.

We had booked an outside cabin which was big enough for us. Another feature I like about the HAL ships is that the bathroom has a bathtub which is great if you’ve had a hectic day onshore.

There was the usual pool, casino, jackpot bingo, trivia and movies, and of course dance lessons, but, being such a short cruise, there wasn’t time to participate in all the activities. There was also an excellent program onboard where you could go to hands on lectures on computers and digital photography.

The shows were disappointing – more production shows than special acts although there was a comedian/magician and his small dog. However, this was compensated for by an excellent string quartet. Each evening before dinner we enjoyed a cocktail while listening to classical music.

We requested a 6-8 seat table and were put together with an American couple in their late 70s and their daughter. We had a great laugh with them as the father regaled us with jokes. I was the only Aussie onboard except for one staff member.

On the first day ashore, the ship was to dock at the heritage listed old town of St George but the ferry, which was supposed to be used for our transfers (since the harbour isn’t deep enough for the ship to enter), had broken down so, much to everyone’s delight, we had to go on to Hamilton. The reason everyone was so pleased (including the captain) was that it takes over an hour and a half to get to the port (including loading time) and the next ferry isn’t till two hours later. This way we spent three and a half days in the capital, Hamilton.

As mentioned, we were docked right in the centre of town where all the shops and restaurants were located. The sights of the town were all within walking distance. Pastel-coloured and white buildings greeted us. It reminded me of the Italian and French Rivieras - at least the colourful buildings did. There was a festival one night and we had only to step off the ship to see it – lots of little stalls and entertainment. The buses were so easy to use and modern.

Since the ship couldn’t dock at St George, HAL gave us a free day bus pass and so we went by bus to St George which was less than an hour away. The bus is a great way to see the island. St George is a lovely, small and quaint town with pastel-coloured buildings and a 17th century town square. A calypso band played in the square and a Bermudian in his 70s was swaying to the beat for hours. There were also British style pubs and red post boxes and, if it hadn’t been for the calypso music, you could have been forgiven for thinking you were in a village in Cornwall.

We saw many islanders wearing the traditional bermuda shorts, long socks and jackets with ties for work. Everyone is very friendly on the island and smiles at you and says hello. The streets were clean and no one was trying to pull your arm or pushing you to buy things.

On the second day we had an excursion booked with the ship in the afternoon. In the morning my husband insisted on doing his customary one hour walk around the deck and thought I was going shopping which he was reluctant to do. As it turned out he should have come with me because I went on a walking tour with the town crier, a native Bermudian who has been the town crier since 1994. He was dressed in full regalia and seemed to know almost everyone in Hamilton. He was clearly delighted to have only women on the tour (four of us), as evidenced by his wide grin every time someone made a comment about the make up of the group.

In the afternoon we went on our tour in a minivan and the driver took us to an old inn for British high tea. He pointed out Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones’s house. Michael’s mother was from Bermuda and they still have family there. We stopped at the world’s smallest drawbridge and saw a church which dates from the early 1600s. The island was uninhabited until 1609 when the British sent some colonists there. Bermuda is Britain’s oldest remaining dependency and comes under the sovereignty of the U.K.

The third day we took a bus to Horseshoe Bay beach, one of the beaches famous for its pale pink sand. The water was crystal clear and we enjoyed a swim. We then continued by bus on to The Royal Naval Dockyards. This was the principal base of the Royal Navy in the Western Atlantic from 1795 till 1958. Remains of the old fortifications and warehouses still exist. It’s now a picturesque port for cruise ships and there are a number of restaurants and shops. We took a ferry back to the ship which only took 20 minutes.

The last half day we were in Hamilton we went to Parliament House and sat in on a session. The Premier (equivalent to our Prime Minister) was a woman, Ms Paula Cox.

Next door was the Supreme Court and there was a murder trial in progress so we were told we could go in. The judge had the full regalia - wig and red robes like in England. There was a forensic expert from Florida in the witness box.

All in all it was a lovely holiday - perfect weather, calm seas, a beautiful island and gregarious company on the ship.

We arrived back early in New York and stayed three days in the Hotel Elysee, a lovely boutique hotel near Central Park. On the last night I was able to satisfy my craving for fresh Maine lobster – only $25 for one and a half pounds. We were sorry to fly home.

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