It seems Bermuda has a plan; one which it hopes will help lure additional amounts of cruise ships to visit the beautiful island.

Next time, there will be people in this photo!

Next time, there will be people in this photo!

In their most recent attempt at allowing cruise ships’ casinos to open while in port, the Bermuda Cruise Ship (Casino) Act 2013 passed last October. On-board casinos can now operate between 9pm and 5am, in return for a license fee per ship payable to the Bermuda Government. Smaller ships, with a passenger capacity not exceeding 2,000, would not be charged the fee. It is interesting because Bermuda has seen a decline in attracting smaller, high-end cruise ships. The Parliament feels the exemption would encourage more visits.

Bermuda from above!

Bermuda from above!

At the same time, Bermuda does not want to discourage the larger, newer vessels; ships like the forthcoming Quantum-class of Royal Caribbean, for example. In the news recently, Parliament is investigating ways in which narrow channels can be widened to enable mega-cruise ships to visit Bermuda. In order to allow bigger liners access, Parliament is considering realigning either the North or South Channel or upgrading the existing route of the South Channel.

Whether you are a fan of mega-ships or not, the real news here is the fact that Bermuda is open to all of this. In past years, Bermuda has had some of the most stringent policies regarding what cruise companies may and may not do while visiting. It seems the  Bermuda Cruise Ship (Casino) Act is a sign of things to come.

The view from aboard the Allure of the Seas as she departs from Port Everglades, in Ft. Lauderdale, FL.

The view from aboard the Allure of the Seas as she departs from Port Everglades, in Ft. Lauderdale, FL.

The Cruise Customer Experience includes so many factors: research, the booking process, on-board experience, flight (getting to the port) and much more. But, what about the time leading up to your next cruise, the period from the time you make deposits (or final payments) to the time you begin your trek to the port? Sure, there’s dieting (maybe?), shopping, researching ports of call and excursions, online check-in, but, what if you could get a bit of a cruise fix in between times of the actual cruise?

If you live near a port city, you can actually visit port inlets and view the cruise ships as they depart for their journeys. You can view them as they arrive, too, but that is typically before the sun comes up! There is also YouTube, of course, where thousands of cruise videos can be found. Videos ranging from corporate marketing pieces to those created by passengers and crew.

Then, there’s my favorite…Live Webcams, particularly cams providing live, moving video. Below I have provided links to several active webcams. The PortCams are particularly interesting, as they are in HD and provide Live Video, great for cruise ship fans and boating/yachting buffs alike. Enjoy!

PORT WEBCAMS

CRUISE SHIP WEBCAMS

Note: With some of the Cruise Line links above, you will have to choose the ship first, then, if the ship has a Cam, click on the Cam link.  Once again, Enjoy!!

CLG0038-606In the past, I’ve written about certain items to pack, gadgets to buy for your cruise, clothing and more.  Most of those were for conveniences and comforts.  This one will save you money!  Purchase and pack an inner tube (deflated, of course!).

If your cruise includes ports of call with a beach, and you plan to visit the beach, water sports rental supplies can run you big bucks…especially if you are traveling as a large family.  An inner tube or an inflatable raft can run between $10-$25…just for a few hours.  This adds up if you are traveling with several people and you do not want to share.  Before your cruise, stop at a local store and buy an adequate amount of inner tubes or rafts for the family.  They pack flat, they are inexpensive, and they are yours for the entire cruise…as well as for future trips!  We purchased four inner tubes before our May Bermuda cruise; the total cost…$16.  It beats beach rental fees and, they are cheap enough that if you decide not to return home with them, it isn’t the end of the world.

Got a later start on Friday, but breakfast foods were still available in the Garden Cafe at 11am. The staff keeps ¼ of the buffet open for breakfast while lunch is being prepped; great for the late risers!

We did not want to wander too far from the ship today, our final day in port. We walked towards the Maritime Museum, and as we got closer, noticed a sign for “Fun Golf” and “Beach Water Sports.” We actually saw these signs upon arrival two days ago, but assumed it had something to do with boarding a bus and traveling elsewhere, since neither of these amenities were mentioned anywhere on the ship; not even in any of the literature. We were (pleasantly) surprised to learn that we were already there!

That’s right…just on the other side of the wall of the Maritime Museum! A beach with chairs for rent and all types of water sports and activities, AND, next to it, a separate entrance for FUN GOLF. Fun Golf has an 18-hole putt putt course, and each hole is a miniature version of a famous hole from 18 different PGA tour stops! The facility is brand new (about 45 days since its opening), and obviously well maintained. The co-owner, Jill, explained to us that there will be more, with plans to add a restaurant to the already popular Caddyshack Bar, where we hung out for about 90-minutes, after our 18-holes! The cost to play golf is $15 per person, and is well worth it. This was not one of those putt putt courses that you can complete in 20-minutes! We wish we knew about these two facilities earlier. Be sure to check them out, and look for pictures on our Facebook Page soon!

We boarded the Breakaway about 3:30pm, had a late lunch, and then headed for the obstacle course. Not much of a wait time at all, so I was in gear in no time. I am not fond of heights, but saw all of these kids doing the course, so I had to do it! I’m happy to say that I completed the course, but did so in probably half the speed of everyone else. I got to the plank, and actually walked it…and even thought it was easier because it was a solid piece to walk on, while most of the course was suspended and gave a bit when you walked on them. It was cool, because the ship was leaving the port as I walked the plank. By the way Oasis-Class Ship Fans, there is a zip line on the NCL Breakaway too…it’s part of the course, and is about the same distance across!

After dinner we made our way to deck 16 to grab some chairs for the fireworks display, set to begin about 11:15pm. The music of the 80’s Party was fantastic, and it led straight into the fireworks display, which was choreographed to the music! The fireworks lasted for about 5-minutes, and while others expected it to last longer, I did not think it would last five minutes. What can you expect at sea? Another successful innovation for Norwegian Cruise Lines!

On Saturday, weather permitting, it is off to the water park. Enjoy the weekend…cheers!

The beautiful weather continued, and the wind died down, so it seemed a bit warmer although it was only about 75 degrees. But, it was a welcomed change for someone who currently calls South Florida his home.

We decided to be served breakfast today, so it was off to O’Sheehan’s…and yes, they DO serve breakfast…and we were glad! It seemed to be one of the best kept secrets on the ship. All of the servers were smiling, friendly and attentive, and it was a nice experience to start the day.

Today we rode the ferry, also just steps from the ship, into Hamilton. The cost was the same as a round trip bus ride, but takes a fraction of the time; about 25 minutes compared to a 50-60 minute bus ride. NOTE: Ask the dockside workers about the ferry schedule! The printed schedules that were handed to us only noted one-hour intervals. It turned out that there were ferries every half-hour, and the schedule only showed that for weekends.

Hamilton was very beautiful, but typical of most of the cruise ship island destinations in the Caribbean. Typical meaning the same types of shops, pubs and restaurants that cater to the mainstream masses. Venture down some of the side streets and then you will find where the locals go. And THIS IS WHERE YOU WILL NOTICE THE DIFFERENCES!! In Hamilton, you will feel much safer; it just seems this way. You also do not have several people coming up to you asking for money, or if you want your hair braided! The city is well maintained, and we joked that it should be called “The Island of Boca Raton (Florida).” Definitely more upscale in appearance, offerings, and yes, in price!

We had lunch at a local restaurant called “The Lobster Pot.” Everyone in our party enjoyed the atmosphere and the food. We each had an alcoholic beverage with our lunches and the bill was a reasonable $101, and it included the gratuity. The lobster bisque was excellent, though none of us had lobster for lunch.

From there, after a little shopping, we caught a cab ($22 divided by 4 people) to the Crystal Caves. Entrance into the caves cost us $22 per person, and included a guided tour. The caves were beautiful and the stories behind how they were discovered are very interesting. The tour was brief, maybe 30 minutes, and there is a lot of climbing involved. It is about 87 steps back up, and then a subsantial incline to reach the exit (also the starting point). Don’t drop your cameras or iPhones into the waters, because that is where they will stay. The guide called it “the other gift shop!”

We returned to the ship, but not before stopping at the Rum Cake and Glass Factories at the dockyard shops. You can sample the rum cakes and watch the artists create glass art!

We had dinner at the Noodle Bar, on board, and it was very reasonably priced. I had the fried rice with beef and pork, and a vegetable spring roll. My wife had the Peking noodles, and she enjoyed it enough to order another!

Later in the evening we enjoyed the GLOW PARTY, formerly known as THE WHITE HOT PARTY. I don’t think we were the only passengers that did not know about the change, because three-fourths of all in attendance were in their white-hot get-ups! If it is on NCL’s website, either we missed it, or it needs to be more obvious. Regardless, it was fun, and is the reason why Day 5’s blog update is coming to you this morning!!

Time fell short on us yesterday, so today we are going to, hopefully, get onto the rope course, and walk the plank. Make it a great day everybody!

Today was our first day in Bermuda, docked at King’s Wharf. The beautfiul weather encountered during our days at sea continued today. Because of this, we decided to make this our beach day, so we headed to Horseshoe Bay beach.

Transportation was easily accessible, and the buses were large, comfortable and air conditioned. Tokens and bus passes were available for purchase just steps from the ship, and the buses were located close by as well. Note that they only accepted cash or travelers checks; no credit cards. It was $7.50 round trip per person.

The bus ride to Horseshoe Bay took about 25 minutes, and there were no stops between the ship and the beach. It is a winding, one-lane road in either direction. Once we reached the stop, it was another 500 yards, downhill, to the beach entrance. If it is the return to the top you are worried about, there is a $2 per person shuttle that will take you in either direction! Beach entry is free.

At the entrance, there are restrooms, showers and changing stations. Both the mens and the womens sections were fully functional and cleaned throughout the afternoon. To the left, you will find a snack bar restaurant, with seating located just outside, and beautiful views of the beach. Cold soft drinks, beer, coffee drinks and water are all for sale, along with sandwiches, wings, burgers, chips and more. By the way, beers are very reasonable here. And, Coolie made us feel very welcome!

The beach is very picturesque, but we favor a calmer surf. We call Florida home for now, and we are more accustomed to the calmer waters of South Florida and the Caribbean. The sand was incredibly fine and soft, and easy to clean off of everything, including our bodies. After a few hours, we walked up the hill (our workout for the day), and waited in line for the next bus. We boarded, and it was standing room only. If you have difficulty standing for long periods of time, I advise you to wait for the next bus (if you find yourself in this situation). It is a very winding road, and there is LOTS of stop and go traffic. It can be a challenge!

We arrived back at the shipyard and headed straight to The Frog and Onion Pub. We had fish and chips, fried pickle chips, French Onion Soup and wahoo (a local catch). They also brew their own beer, so we ordered their IPA and the Wheat Beer. We were four people, and the bill was $127, which already included the gratuity. They also gave us souvenir pilsner glasses, which was a nice surprise. Heading back on board, we had to show our stateroom keys AND government issued photo IDs.

Once on board, I went back up to deck 15, pool deck. This time, I analyzed the layout more closely. Most of the areas to lay out near the center of activity are shaded! If you want to catch some rays on Breakaway, you’ll need to head aft, toSpice h2O (adult only area), or find a lounge away from the pool area, where you really won’t hear the music. For a ship based out of the cooler Northeastern U.S., I am kind of surprised at all of the shaded areas on pool deck; and I do not mean temporary structures that can be moved. This would be more understandable in a ship based out of a warm weather climate, going to more warm weather climates! But, not complaining…just an observation, since my mind is built this way!

We will be back tomorrow, with more from Bermuda, and a plan to try the suspended obstacle course and the plank! Good night!

The Rockhouse Restaurant in Negril, Jamaica.

The Rockhouse Restaurant in Negril, Jamaica.

I’ll never forget the first time my mother said, “why are you going to eat in Jamaica when you can eat for free on the ship?”  I’ll tell you why!  For me, it’s more than wanting to sample the local cuisine (although it is the primary reason)…I just like having options.  And, I love having options aboard as well.

Two of the great debates (among cruisers) lately are traditional dining versus anytime dining, and whether the surcharge for certain alternative venues are justified.  Regardless of your preferences and opinions, one thing is certain…the cruise lines don’t make us do anything…we choose…and we have options!

I’ve never understood the debate between anytime diners and traditional diners, since you have the ability to choose either option!  Yes, even on NCL; the company that introduced the Freestyle dining concept.  In fact, before the terms “Freestyle” and “anytime” dining existed, we’ve all swayed from our assigned times in the Main Dining Room to eat at the buffet; or to dine ashore!  “Anytime dining” has always existed!  Although dining in the main room was what the majority of folks were accustomed to, it also served as the “fall back plan.”  We knew our settings would be there waiting for us, in the event we did not want to dine elsewhere.  Even with the assigned time, we CHOSE to dine at that time!

Surcharges seem to be another hot topic with regards to cruises.  And, I have absolutely no problem with surcharges…for several reasons:

  • The Specialty Cafe example:  Take any specialty coffee shop on any ship…if these items were included (in your fares), everybody would patronize and the wait times would be ridiculous.  Furthermore, you can still get your FREE coffees and teas at their traditional locations on board
  • The Specialty Restaurant example:  Again, you have a choice, and these choices do not have to be made way in advance.  The inclusive dining options are still there!  And, for several, when you are on holiday, you might want to take your dining experience to the next level of service.  It is nice to have the option.
  • The Cruise Fare example:  Cruise fares, on average, have decreased over the years.  If several of these extras were to be included in the fare, the cruise-only price would certainly increase, whether you take advantage of the options or not.  Currently, cruise prices are reasonable, and you only pay for the extras if you use them!

There are no right or wrong answers to the debates briefly touched upon above, but I do know this… the Bermuda restaurateurs will certainly get to know us as we “Breakaway in late May!”