Marcia Levin is sailing on Cunard’s Queen Victoria on a transatlantic cruise.
I flew out of Bermuda on Sept. 10, 2001. My husband and I had attended a Board meeting and convention of the Society of American Travel Writers and were booked to fly home on Sept. 9. A hurricane warning closed the airport, but we were lucky enough to be rescheduled on Monday, Sept.10 ,when the hurricane bypassed the island.
Everyone remembers where they were on 9/11 and everyone knows how the world changed that day.
When Queen Victoria called at Nelson’s Dockyard this week – it was her maiden call at a new pier not here 10 years ago – I went ashore and met Bermuda guide Quinton Bean who drove me around this glorious island.
He told me 180 ships will call at Bermuda this year, 140 on scheduled calls and another 40 – like Queen Victoria – which makes periodic calls. (That is, not on a weekly basis. Queen Vic spent the day en route to Europe. Many ships spend three days on Bermuda.)
Bermuda‘s beaches are even more beautiful than I remembered and the sense of history daunting. The island is clean beyond words. Don’t expect to find gum wrappers, beer cans or cigarette packs everywhere. Bermudans treasure and care for their property. More than 75 percent of the population own their homes.
Nelson’s Dockyards dates back to the 1800s and was the former Royal Naval Dockyard. Today it is a restaurant and retail mecca with everything from local crafts, where, for example, Bermudan native Phyllis Pedro makes and sells bags and totes to the Frog and Onion pub which features its own brewery.
Also new near the Dockyards is the Maritime Museum and the Commissioner’s House.
The island’s history dates back to its discovery in 1505 by Spanish navigator Juan de Bermudez who claimed it for the Spanish Empire. Settled by the British in 1609 it is the oldest and most populous remaining British overseas territory. Original settlers were on their way from Britain to Jamestown in the U.S.
St. George’s, the island’s original capital was designated an UNESCO National Historic Heritage site in 2002.
The island’s economy relies first on off-shore banking and second on tourism. There have been changes in recent years. The Sonesta Hotel where I stayed during the convention has been leveled. Wyndham was going to build, but financing was through Lehman Bros. so the Sonesta is now a pile of rubble. What was the Princess Hotel is now a Fairmont, and is as elegant as ever. The smallest drawbridge, dating back to the 1500s still exists, and the Verdmont House, a National Trust house, dating to the 1800s, is a museum.
Several reserves and trails make for nice hiking options.
Many passengers opted for ship-sponsored shore excursions. Others took scheduled ferry and bus rides on their own to see the island and stopped, for example, in Hamilton the capital for lunch. Historic sites dot the island.
Last night at dinner Bermuda was a wonderful memory for most the ship’s passengers.