Have you ever wanted to take an "easy" cruise vacation -- no flying, no lines, no hassle? For those living on the east coast of the United States, I've got an excellent suggestion - a cruise to Bermuda from Norfolk, Virginia, on the 490-passenger Regent Seven Seas Navigator. In addition to a long weekend (three nights) at the dock in Bermuda, this seven-day cruise from Norfolk features a day in New York City and two full days at sea to relax and rejuvenate! All you have to do is drive to Norfolk, locate the downtown Norfolk pier, drop off your bags, park the car in an indoor lot across the street and cruise!
This interesting cruise itinerary allows passengers to embark or disembark in either Norfolk or New York City. Passengers who board in Norfolk have a day to explore New York while other passengers are disembarking or boarding. Passengers who board in New York City have a day in Norfolk to visit the beautiful tidewater area of Virginia or take a tour of colonial Williamsburg. Either way, you get a seven-day cruise to Bermuda on a wonderful small ship that can dock in both Hamilton and St. Georges, Bermuda.
We drove the 600 miles from Atlanta to Norfolk the day before our cruise and stayed in downtown Norfolk. For those driving to Norfolk, there are many hotels near the cruise ship pier. The Norfolk and Newport News Airports are both just a short distance from downtown Norfolk. After checking into the hotel, we strolled the downtown area. We really enjoyed walking on the lighted path along the river. We had a great view of Portsmouth on the other side of the river and of the Nauticus Maritime Center. What a wonderful "easy" way to start a cruise vacation!
Continuing the "easy" theme, we enjoyed a relaxing morning at the hotel before driving to the ship a little before noon. The ship was sailing at 3:00 pm, but we thought we could meet some of our fellow passengers or enjoy the Nauticus National Maritime Center next door. Ronnie and I dropped our bags with a porter at the curb and parked the car across the street in the parking garage designated for use by the Seven Seas Navigator.
We couldn't board the ship until about noon, but we enjoyed sitting on the dock and getting to know our fellow Norfolk cruisers. Most seemed to be from Maryland, Virginia or the Carolinas, but there were also a few who had driven up from Georgia as we had done. One of the crew told us that less than 100 passengers were boarding in Norfolk. Several of the passengers in New York expressed their envy that we were just boarding, while they had to disembark the next day! Those comments certainly made us feel good about the week to come.
Our cabin #1106 was lovely and much like the one I had stayed in when I had last cruised the Seven Seas Navigator in November 2002. We decided to unpack later and dashed off to our first of many wonderful lunches on the ship. The shore excursions returned in the early afternoon, and the Seven Seas Navigator sailed down the Elizabeth River and into the Chesapeake Bay. A late afternoon thunderstorm made for a spectacular sail away. We had crossed the Chesapeake Bay numerous times via the Chesapeake Bay Bridge tunnel, but this was our first time to sail over the tunnel on a luxurious cruise ship. The ship exited the bay and turned north for New York City.
Author's Note: This article was written in the summer of 2004, and the Seven Seas Navigator no longer routinely visits Bermuda. The ship does have a few itineraries that include a stopover in Bermuda, and other cruise ships routinely visit this lovely island in the Atlantic Ocean.
Sailing under the Verazzano Narrows Bridge and past the Statue of Liberty into New York City is a memorable time for anyone on a cruise ship. The Seven Seas Navigator cruise ship arrived in New York on an overcast early morning, but we stood on our balcony and felt a sense of pride as we passed by the Statue of Liberty, which was on the port (New Jersey) side of the ship. The ship docked on the Hudson River right next to the Intrepid Museum. It was fun being able to completely ignore the instructions for the disembarking passengers. They all looked very despondent to be leaving the Seven Seas Navigator.
After breakfast, we left the ship with a fun couple we had met the day before in the Norfolk parking garage. When they suggested at dinner our first night that we use our day in New York to visit Ellis Island and the WTC ground zero area from 9/11/01, we jumped at the opportunity to see these two sites. Much like other cities around the world, one day in New York is not nearly enough! We were glad our new friends had a good suggestion to see two places we had not visited before.
The four of us grabbed a New York City taxi cab and rode to the Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island ferry at Battery Park. We bought our tickets and enjoyed the ride (along with a few hundred other tourists) to the Statue of Liberty, followed by Ellis Island. Seeing the place where many immigrants first entered the United States was interesting, and would be really special for anyone whose relatives passed through this entry point. Ellis Island has been recently restored, and the main building was impressive. We quietly walked around the large space where thousands had waited their turn to find a new life in the United States, wondering about all of the stories that the building held.
We caught another ferry for the ride back to Battery Park and walked the short distance to the site of the World Trade Center terrorist attack. Many buildings still show the damage from the disaster, and the atmosphere and sense of loss will stay with me forever. It is one of those places that you want to see, but don't want to see. I'm glad we went, but have to admit I didn't like the feelings it aroused in me--hate, loss, sadness, and the confirmation that nothing will ever be the same as it was for us before 9/11/01.
We ate lunch and then rode a taxi back to the Seven Seas Navigator. It was nice to be back at the ship, and we noticed that we had a few hundred new cruise companions on board.
As we left New York City in the late afternoon, another thunderstorm pushed us out to sea. This typical summer weather was getting to be a bad habit, but we didn't care. We were off for Bermuda!
We had two full days at sea on the Regent Seven Seas Navigator cruise to Bermuda, and they were timed perfectly. The first day was sailing from New York to Bermuda, and it allowed us time to get into serious "cruise mode". We didn't have to worry about dashing off to see the sites ashore. It was a perfect day at sea to sit on the deck and read a book. Many passengers sat in the sun; I chose the shade, but all of us enjoyed our day at sea. Four days later we had our second sea day--our last day on the Navigator--sailing from St. George, Bermuda to Norfolk, VA. This day was rough and rainy. I was glad I had scheduled a visit to the excellent Spa, where I had a facial. I certainly needed it after a few days in sunny Bermuda! Although the ship "rocked and rolled" across the Atlantic, the stormy, windy day was an interesting one. Most of us who love cruising do not mind an occasionally bumpy ride on a cruise ship. Of course, the same thing cannot be said for an airplane ride!
Both of the two sea days (and the rest of our cruise) seemed to fly by. It always amazes me how time can go so quickly when you are on vacation, but seem to drag when you are at work! A small ship like the Seven Seas Navigator does not have the wide variety of activities found on most large cruise ships, but there is still plenty to do. Some passengers enriched their bodies in the fitness center or the spa. Other passengers enriched their minds with a lecture on Bermuda, a bridge game, a jigsaw puzzle, a computer class, or a culinary demonstration. If none of the above activities appealed to some of the passengers, they could always get a lesson from the golf pro, join the needlepoint nook group, attend the art auction, play bingo, or sit on the deck and enjoy a good book. The ship had a children's program, but it was quiet and low key. The frenetic excitement found on many cruise ships is appealing to some children and teenagers is definitely missing from the Seven Seas Navigator. We were looking for peace and relaxation and found it on this wonderful ship.
Interspersed with the activities on the Seven Seas Navigator are plenty of "feeding periods" -- early riser breakfast, regular breakfast, mid-morning snack, lunch, tea, and dinner. There is no midnight buffet on the Seven Seas Navigator, but no one missed it. There are definite advantages to dining on a small ship such as the Seven Seas Navigator. Complimentary wines are included with dinner, and the food is superb. In addition, you won't find any long lines at the breakfast or lunch buffet on this small ship. Although breakfast and lunch ordered from a menu were served in the main Compass Rose restaurant, most passengers chose the buffet in the Portofino Grill for these two meals. The Portofino Grill is transformed into an intimate, reservations-only, Italian steakhouse in the evening. There is no charge for this alternative dinner choice, and the food was delicious. The Compass Rose is open seating from 7:00 - 9:00 pm each evening. I love being able to eat when I choose and with whom I choose. Open seating allows you to do just that.
Most of the suites on the Seven Seas Navigator have balconies and having a veranda to sit on while in Bermuda is an extra treat. The Seven Seas Navigator cruised into the harbor at Hamilton, Bermuda in the early morning. The ship is small enough to dock right in downtown Hamilton. Bermuda looks much like the wonderful photos and paintings I have seen of the island. Sailing into the harbor was delightful. The sun was beaming on the pastel buildings of the island, and the first thing we noticed was the pristine nature of Bermuda and the lack of poverty seen on most tropical islands. The passages into the harbors of both Hamilton and St. George are very narrow, but the Seven Seas Navigator is a small enough ship to sail right up to the dock. Other mega-cruise ships must dock at the West End of Bermuda near the Royal Naval Dockyard.
Bermuda is a picture-perfect island for a vacation, and is located in the Atlantic Ocean about 650 miles east of North Carolina and about 775 miles south east of New York City. Bermuda is fashionable and blessed with a temperate climate, brilliant beaches, friendly people, and magnificent golf courses. Bermuda is actually a series of numerous islands in the Atlantic Ocean, some of which are connected by bridges. Probably the most well known picture of Bermuda is of pastel buildings and pink beaches touched by a bright turquoise ocean. Interestingly, the beaches didn't look that pink when we visited, but certainly appear pinkish in some of my pictures. Go figure.
As we explored Bermuda, we quickly discovered why it is such a popular cruise destination. The island has many excellent resorts and restaurants, but many are very expensive. Everyone we spoke with on our ship agreed that using the Seven Seas Navigator as a floating hotel with "oceanfront rooms", was an enjoyable alternative to a resort, and a great bargain for the quality received. The ship's berth at the piers in both Hamilton and St. George was perfect.
Even though visitors cannot rent a car in Bermuda, getting around is easy. We had originally thought we would rent scooters; however, when we saw the amount of traffic in Hamilton, all driving on the left side, we quickly changed our minds. Driving a scooter in the St. George area or out of the city of Hamilton in the countryside might have been easier, but I was too skittish to even try to navigate the narrow, traffic-filled streets of Hamilton. When we found out about the excellent bus service on Bermuda, that confirmed our change in plans. The Bermuda bus system is convenient, and the buses are clean and air-conditioned. Buses run about every 15 minutes and tend to be very punctual. Bus stops are marked with blue (buses going towards Hamilton) or pink (buses going out-of-Hamilton) poles. You will need to have exact change or a bus token; the driver cannot make change. Full-day passes are the easiest, unless you just plan to ride one time. The main bus terminal is within easy walking distance of the cruise ship pier.
Our first day in Hamilton, Bermuda was spent exploring the capital city and the western end of the island. Hamilton is a bustling city, and another cruise ship, the Empress of the Seas, was also at the dock. Our portside suite looked out over the harbor, so we had a great view of the sailboats, speedboats, kayaks, and other harbor activity. Passengers in the suites on the starboard side of the Seven Seas Navigator could enjoy watching the other tourists strolling on Front Street below or check out the numerous bars along the harbor from the comfort of their Seven Seas Navigator suite. We strolled the city and walked to see the famous pink Princess Hotel. My parents had stayed there in the 1980's, and the historic hotel was as lovely as ever.
Neither of us had visited Bermuda before, so we decided to spend our first day ashore just exploring the island. We rode the excellent bus system, marveling at the spectacular beaches, resorts, and homes. We couldn't believe the obvious prosperity and cleanliness of this island paradise. Every twist and turn of the winding road to the west end revealed another marvelous beach. We carried our snorkeling gear, and finally ended up at a small, picturesque beach on the southwest side of the island. The beach was almost deserted, and we struck up a conversation with a couple from Vancouver, Canada, who were living on a sailboat at the dockyard.
Our second day in Hamilton, we took a Seven Seas Navigator half-day snorkeling shore excursion on a catamaran named the Restless Native. The catamaran served some excellent fresh, hot cookies, and our guide was a native of Bermuda who provided us a great deal of information about the history of Bermuda and its people. The snorkeling was good, and the water temperature was just right and beautifully clear. There were numerous rocky caves along the cove filled with lobsters. Ronnie enjoyed picking up golf balls off the shallow sandy bottom. We thought maybe there was a golf course nearby, but our guide told us that many people enjoyed using the ocean as a driving range! It was a great shore excursion, and I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys snorkeling and sailing.
After two nights in Hamilton, the Seven Seas Navigator sailed early Sunday morning to St. George on the eastern end of Bermuda. The first thing we saw in St. George was the Town Crier standing on the dock to greet us.
The town of St. George is quite different from Hamilton. It is much smaller and quieter, but well worth the visit. St. George was the first capital of Bermuda, having first been settled by shipwrecked British settlers in 1609. Many of those settlers went on to Jamestown, Virginia, but some stayed in Bermuda.
We decided to walk through the village to see Fort St. Catherine on the northeast point of St. George's parish. We hiked up the hill to the Unfinished Church. This interesting Gothic structure built in 1874 provides a wonderful view of the village below. It was never finished due to lack of funds and political conflict.
Continuing our meandering towards Fort St. Catherine, we walked through the local golf course to picturesque Tobacco Bay and onto St. Catherine's Beach next to the fort. This impressive fortress was first built in 1614 and then rebuilt in 1812. We did the self-guided tour and really enjoyed seeing the tunnels and the underground areas of this marvelous edifice. The views from Fort St. Catherine are also quite spectacular.
We headed back towards the ship via a different walking route, arriving just in time for the re-enactment of the punishment of one of the local women who was going to be dunked because of her constant nagging, gossiping, and general meanness. The town crier and mayor presided over her tribunal, and we all had a good laugh at her expense. I was just glad it wasn't me, although the ocean dunking in the summertime would be refreshing.
After the dunking and a leisurely lunch aboard, we walked around St. George. Since it was a Sunday, only the tourist shops were open, but that was fine with us. We enjoyed the walk and the funny signs we saw. Much like Hamilton, all of the people we met were friendly.
The Seven Seas Navigator sailed from St. George and Bermuda for Norfolk in the late afternoon on Sunday. Those of us who had never visited Bermuda before could understand why so many go back again and again. Those passengers onboard who had never sailed with Regent before could understand why the cruise line has so many repeat customers. The Seven Seas Navigator has wonderful cabins and common areas. The staff pampers the passengers, and the free soft drinks, drinks, and no tipping make for a more enjoyable cruise experience.