Visiting Bermuda – Day 1

Focusing on the time we spent ashore in Bermuda brings a smile to my face. This is by far one of the coolest islands we’ve visited, and we see why so many people do the Bermuda cruise more than once. Also, because of everything I’d like to cover, I’m going to split this in to three posts, one for each day we were there.

We went in to this cruise far less prepared than we normally are thanks to a hectic schedule leading up to my daughter’s graduation. Normally we have all excursions booked with various operators a few months in advance, and for places we just want to walk around, we’ve done some scouting online. This time, the most we did was come up with a list of things we wanted to see while we were there, and drew up a rough idea of what day we wanted to do or see each thing.

Now, Bermuda’s a bit different than normal ports in that they have an outstanding public transportation system. When you get off the ship, there’s a little pink building where you can buy ferry/bus passes, and we’d decided from the start to buy 3-day passes to use while there and get around the island that way, versus using taxis or doing tour excursions. When we arrived in Bermuda, we decided not to get off right away to try and avoid lines at the ticket booth, so we waited about an hour, and ate breakfast on the balcony again.

Getting off the ship was easy, with very little wait (I love docking :)). We walked over to the transportation ticket office, and with only one person in line in front of us, got our 3-day transportation pass within a couple of minutes. Here’s a shot of the building where you buy the passes, the windows where they’re sold are on the left where the group of people is:


One tip here: they only take cash. The 3 day pass that we bought was $35 per person (current prices and more information are available here). Once we had our passes, we hopped the ferry to Hamilton. Our initial plan for that first day was:

  • Visit Fort Hamilton
  • Hop the bus and head to St George to see the unfinished church
  • Visit Fort St Catherine
  • Head back to Hamilton for Harbor Nights

But plans don’t always work out, right?  It was really humid during our stay, and as a result, things got moved around and removed from the schedule based on how hot and tired we were at any given time.

Anyway, we got to Hamilton and walked up to Fort Hamilton. The fort itself is beautiful, and sits up on a hill, providing some great views of the island.

FortHamilton1 FortHamilton2FortHamilton HamiltonView

You can also walk down in to the area where the moat used to be, and even into the tunnels in the outer walls at the front of the fort

Moat tunnelentrance insidethewalls

Now if you visit the fort, beware. When you walk down to the moat and into the tunnels, you do have to walk back up :). When you’re already hot, that climb seems unforgiving


After climbing the stairs and walking around the rest of the fort, we decided to head back in to Hamilton to walk around and shop a bit on Front St. We stopped in a few stores, enjoyed some AC, and bought some shirts. Being that it was now around lunch time, we decided to head back to the ship and grab something off the buffet to avoid having to spend money on lunch. Once we ate, we checked out the shops around the dock area, including the Clocktower Mall. After spending a bit of time over there, we went back to our list to see if we could squeeze anything in before dinner. We decided to grab a bus and head to Somerset Bridge, which I’d heard about from a friend who grew up in Bermuda.

Somerset Bridge is claimed to be the smallest drawbridge in the world, and it’s on what basically seemed to be the main road from the docks to everything else. While on the bus, we weren’t sure where to get off for it, and the bus driver was more than happy to let us know when we should get off. Once our stop came, we found ourselves having to walk down the road hugging the stone wall on one side to avoid traffic, as the main road is two very tight lanes (In hindsight, I wish I’d gotten a picture). Once we got to the bridge, we quickly saw why it’s the smallest drawbridge (yes, that’s me)

Somerset Somerset2

The opening is only 32 inches side to side, so I can definitely see how this is the world’s smallest.

After making our way back to the bus stop – oh, and another tip: blue poled stops take you away from Hamilton, pink take you towards it (more bus info) – we headed back to the ship to get ready for dinner. Having what more or less equated to a floating all-inclusive resort handy, my wife wanted to pay for as few meals as possible while in Bermuda, which is why we ate both lunch and dinner onboard on day 1.

After dinner, we headed back down to the ferry and took the ride over to Hamilton. During cruise season, they put on a little festival in Hamilton called Harbor Nights. We arrived a little before 8pm, and things were in full swing. There were quite a few tourists (duh), along with a line of vendors set up on Front St. In addition, there was live music, and booths selling delicious smelling food. In hindsight, I wish we’d skipped dinner on the boat and eaten at one of the booths.

HarborNights4 HarborNights3 HarborNights2 HarborNights1

We really enjoyed our time there, and my daughter ended up buying a couple of pink sand picture frames for her and her boyfriend. One theme throughout our stay in Bermuda was that no one’s pushy in trying to sell you stuff, and Harbor Nights was no different. After we finished walking around and checking out booths, we stopped for snow cones:


Harbor Nights doesn’t end until 10pm, but we’d pretty much walked it all and seen what we wanted by around 9:15pm, so we hopped the ferry back to the ship. I should note that the ferry is obviously more packed going to and from Harbor Nights, but the local transit authority does a good job of adding more boats as needed and getting people in and out quickly.

While we didn’t stick to the original plan, day 1 was definitely a success. The transportation system makes it very easy to change things up, and there is no shortage of stuff to see and do in Bermuda!

Cruising the Summit

I’ve been going back and forth on what to write here. What I don’t want to do is make this a duplicate of my Cruise Critic review of this sailing, as that seems like a waste of typing. I’m still waiting for that to be published, so if you’re interested in my traditional review of it, keep an eye on the list of my CC reviews, hopefully it’ll be published soon (update – it’s published as of 6/24). That also shows reviews of our previous three cruises in case anyone’s interested. That said, on to the Summit.

After the afore-mentioned fun in Annapolis, we headed up to New York to catch the Summit for a 7 night cruise to Bermuda. We headed up a day early, in part to get a few hours to hang out in NYC, and also because we believe in giving ourselves plenty of time just in case something happened. As anyone who’s cruised before knows, the ship won’t wait for you if you’re late boarding, and I had no interest in missing two sea days and meeting the ship in Bermuda. Good thing we did, as we suffered a punctured tire an hour north of Annapolis and had to stop in some small town along the way and get it replaced. Things happen, and this is a prime example of why we like to get to our departure city a day early whenever possible. After that 3 hour delay, we made our way to a friend’s apartment we were staying at in Long Island City and had a fun few hours in NYC Saturday evening.

With Sunday morning came our departure day, and we were all very much looking forward to it. There’s something about stepping on to a ship that causes everything I might be concerned with in real life to just disappear. The idea of being totally disconnected until we arrive back in port is cathartic in a way that’s difficult to put in to words. This time around even more so, primarily because a few short minutes before we actually stepped on the ship, I was certain it wasn’t going to happen. My daughter occasionally gets motion sickness from riding in cars (but cruise ships have no affect on her), and apparently the drive from Manhattan to Bayonne triggered it again. After our boarding group was called, we got in line to take the bus from the terminal to the ship, and as we were about to get on she suddenly felt very ill, and ran to get to the bathroom thinking she was going to throw up.

See where this is going?

The woman managing the line saw it, and asked if our daughter was sick. My wife instinctively said yes, and I immediately had visions of the ship leaving without us. They had no idea what was wrong, and had to assume it was Noro. We were then directed to some seats off to the side to wait for the ship’s nurse, and ultimately the ship’s doctor. After about 45 min, she was cleared by the doc (who’s very friendly, BTW), and we were allowed to board. Whew.

That first day and a half on the ship had us reconsidering our choice of line. The CC review covers each specific topic in more depth, but the sailing we chose (June 8th) was prior to the area schools getting out, which meant fewer families. We had an idea of that going in, and really had no choice, as my daughter’s working as a counselor at Woodward most of the summer, and had to be there the day we got back. Regardless, the average age on the ship was quite a bit higher than that of our last three cruises, all of which were over Thanksgiving break. That first 36 hours, the ship just felt dead. Activities were light, including only one trivia session on the first full sea day, and the overall energy level just wasn’t where we’re used to. On the second sea day, things picked up quite a bit (thankfully), with more trivia, and more activities overall. The activities staff really busted their butts from that point on to keep people entertained. By the time we got to Bermuda on Wednesday, our tune had changed for the most part. I do admit that when we docked in Kings Wharf, I looked over at the water slides and ropes course on the Breakaway with a tinge of jealousy, even with NCL being at the bottom of lines we’ll cruise again (more on that in a later post). For a sample of the things to do on board the Summit, here’s the list of what we did prior to arriving in Bermuda:

  • Attended trivia twice and got killed 🙂 (there were only three the first two sea days, if I recall)
  • Attended the flash mob practices
  • Won the Amazing X Race (only one other family showed up)
  • Took the galley tour, highly recommended
  • Went to the crepe demo in Bistro, and my wife even got to go up and make a crepe
  • Watched the cooking competition
  • My daughter and her boyfriend attended a couple of dance classes
  • Watched officers vs guests pool volleyball

That last one was awesome. I’ve never seen a group of officers so involved. The captain was everywhere, very approachable, and funny. Kudos to Celebrity here, that’s a guy you don’t want to lose. I’d bet he and his “GoPro moments with the captain” were solely responsible for a few dozen DVD sales, too.

As far as Bermuda goes, I’ll save our time on the island for a separate post. What I will say is that we see why so many people do this cruise more than once, and it’s at the top of our list of places to visit a second time. It’s a very beautiful island whose residents are warm and welcoming. I also loved being docked in one place for two and a half days. Not being stressed about making it back to the port by a certain time each day was nice, and having a place to go eat “free” meals between land activities allowed us to save some money. Oh, and the cold towels they hand you each time you get back on absolutely rock. Bermuda’s a bit humid, and walking around the island for a few hours will leave you hot. I think those cold towels were my wife’s favorite part of the cruise, and she let the guys handing them to us know that each time :).

Moving back to the ship itself, boarding on the afternoon we left Bermuda was uneventful, and we didn’t encounter a line. We headed up to shower, change, and head out to watch for “pier runners”, but never saw any. Everyone must have made it back on time, although someone did get off wearing pool gear holding a beach bag of stuff right before we left. Hope everything was okay.

The final sea day featured plenty of activities, fortunately. List of things we did on the port days and the final sea day:

  • Watched the ‘Not so Newlywed Game’
  • Played in the “Family Feud” game, my team almost won the whole thing in spite of me
  • Went to the deck party, which was fairly dead in our opinion (second port day)
  • Played in ‘Mind the Gap’, which seriously needs to be pulled, way too corny.
  • Played the wheel of fortune-ish game hosted by the DJ
  • Attended round 3 of progressive trivia, got killed
  • Went to the captain’s talk on ship navigation. We both loved it, and highly recommend it, especially if Captain Dimitrios is there as he does an outstanding job
  • Watched the final officers vs guests pool volleyball game. Just as awesome as the first ones.

We did attend most of the evening shows, as well, but missed the production show on Wednesday, as we were in Hamilton. Overall the two production shows we saw were a let down, as they definitely seemed geared towards an older crowd. The singers and dancers aren’t the issue, they were great, but the actual shows and music just weren’t what we enjoy. The aerialists were great, as was the comedian.

So that pretty much leaves two things, the room and food. Hopefully you’re still reading 🙂

The room, 9156 (corner family FOV), was awesome. I’ll do a dedicated post on room selection later, but I think after this we’ll be looking for corner aft balconies from now on. The family FOVs on Summit feature huge balconies, and enough room for 5. If you want to see pictures of the exact room we stayed in, there are some really good ones in this thread. As the pictures show, the only downside in the room is that when the two sofa beds are made up, it’s hard to get to the balcony. That didn’t stop me from eating breakfast on the balcony most days. We absolutely loved it, and spent far more time out there than we did on the only other balcony we’ve had. The large field of view was awesome, and we even saw a few baby dolphins swimming by the ship on the first sea day! If you have any questions on the room, don’t hesitate to ask!

The last item on the agenda is the food. We went in with high expectations, as everyone we talked to said we’d be blown away considering our last three cruises were on Carnival. Honestly, we both felt like it was a bit of a let down. The MDR food lived up to the hype for the most part. We really liked it the nights we ate there. We did find a couple of nights where nothing on the menu really appealed to us, so we just grabbed food from elsewhere and ate on the balcony. Considering the view, no harm, no foul :). Oh, and huge tip: If you’re ordering room service during MDR dinner hours, you can order anything on the MDR menu (including appetizers and desserts) instead of ordering from the normal room service menu. Nice touch, Celebrity!

Moving on, the buffet is where the food fell flat, it just wasn’t that good. The breakfast items seemed the same every day, and while they did have different stuff at lunch each day, the overall quality just wasn’t there. We both agreed that the buffet on all three Carnival ships we’d sailed in the last three years was better overall, with one exception. The Summit is apparently a test ship for the new portioned servings in the buffet. We actually like that. You grab a metal bowl/tin/basket of what item you want and move on, no large communal bowl to scoop your food out of. The downside is that it’s hard to fit everything you might want on one tray, but that’s what seconds are for, right? We all liked that setup, but they need to work on ensuring the portioned food stays warm. Last three food items: The pizza stand was easily better than last year on the Breeze, and the pasta station was pretty good too. The pool grill was on the bad side both times I ate there due to the overcooked hotdogs and tasteless burgers. I’m a burger fanatic, and was only able to get through half of one due to lack of flavor. The argument that it’s hard to serve top-shelf burgers in a large-scale setup like this is lost on me, too, as other cruise lines pull it off just fine (Guy’s Burger Joint is a prime example).

I just realized I forgot the staff, so I’ll throw in a quick note. The staff was good overall, with the captain, officers, and entertainment staff being the highlights. The cruise director, Ken, was pretty good too. We’ve really grown to appreciate how a good cruise director can have a positive impact on a cruise, and Ken definitely helped to save our perception of this one. More on the staff is in the Cruise Critic review, so be sure to check it out once it’s posted.

I hope that covers everything as far as the ship goes. The Summit, while being nice and having an easy to navigate layout, is a bit small for our tastes, so I’d definitely like to try a Solstice class ship at some point if we cruise Celebrity again.

Also, please understand that none of the problems I expressed above ruined the cruise for us. Were the first couple of days slow? Sure, but we were still on a cruise, and still had a great time. A vacation is what you make it, not what you let someone else make it. We made ours great 🙂

Enjoy a few pictures from on-board!

Head pastry chef on the galley tour Central starcase The X Sunrise as we arrived in Bermuda Glassy seas, warm day Ahh, what a view Flash mob practice GoPro moment with the captain The captain talks about steering Yea, we ate out here more than once One officer makes a splashy entrance Panorama of a busy deck The captain introduces the officers


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