Quality-of-life issues at the forefront on island


ST. GEORGES, Bermuda -- When Celebrity Cruises Horizon eased up to the pier in St. Georges, Bermuda, it was the only ship in port. My wife and I were pleased about the limited number of ships calling here and in Hamilton, the capital.

Although New York-to-Bermuda cruises have been operating for years, theres a simple reason for the limited number of ships on that run: The Bermudians know how to balance tourism with quality-of-life issues.

The British colonys tourism officials not only limit the number of ships calling regularly, they also mandate vessel size limits, thus protecting the island from tourist overload.

(Editors note: Bermuda is altering its policy in 2005, as large ships like Royal Caribbeans Voyager of the Seas will dock at the Royal Naval Dockyard in Hamilton. See story, Cruise port welcoming more and larger vessels.)

Celebritys Horizon and Zenith were built to Bermudian regulations, and it seems that the premium cruise designation also helps to deliver the targeted, upscale demographic. 

Traveling last year on Horizons seven-day New York-to-Bermuda itinerary (the Horizon now sails its Bermuda season from Norfolk, Va., and Philadelphia instead of New York), we witnessed the Celebrity Cruises/Bermuda synergy firsthand.

We enjoyed delicious food, upscale comforts and great service onboard while being charmed by the islands British culture, beautiful beaches and gracious locals.

Those who bemoan modern cruisings short port calls are impressed by the Horizons four-day island stay, including three days in prime docking position on Hamiltons Front Street and a day in St. Georges.

Stepping off the ships no-incline gangway right onto Hamiltons bustling Front Street is so easy that passengers come and go all day.

We were accommodated for an early-seating dinner (we had signed on for the late seating) so that we could rush off to the Harbour Nights Festival, a weekly street fair held Wednesdays from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

The Bermudians have crafted a formula for success as a model tourist destination: a relatively affluent, fully employed populace; a tourism policy that limits hotel development and cruise ship calls; and an islandwide obsession for preserving and maintaining Bermudas aesthetics. Adding large doses of hospitality to this mix further enhances the product.

We reached beaches, the aquarium and the Royal Naval Dockyard via clean and safe public buses and ferries. Courteous drivers obligingly called out stops. Polite locals dispensed welcome advice about the islands attractions along the way.

When not lounging on Bermudas famous pink-sand beaches, activity options are myriad and varied. The low-lying reefs encircling the island that were the bane of ancient mariners are now a boon to modern-day snorkelers and divers.

Hundreds of shipwrecks, most in shallow water, provide a glimpse into the past as well as views of the colorful sea life. The geological wonders of the Crystal Caves impressed our shipmates, many of whom canceled their golf and tennis plans due to rainy weather.

To contact the reporter who wrote this article, send e-mail to [email protected].


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