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  #31 (permalink)  
Old May 13th, 2010, 07:37 PM
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Default Not sure if this was just built in my honor

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Old May 13th, 2010, 07:42 PM
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Default Not sure if this was just built in my honor

Hamilton, Bermuda
I’d mentioned our tour supplied by the Bermuda Department of Tourism on Wed. We began the morning with a guided tour of the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute. I was pleased they took us there, because quite honestly it’s not a place I’d have probably chosen to go on my own. It was interesting to see the exhibits referring to both the history and future of underwater exploration, particularly within the waters surrounding Bermuda.

From there we toured the Masterworks Foundation Gallery, which is located within the Botanical Gardens. Perhaps sadly, I am not a man of culture. I have a bad ear for music, and just as badly, no eye for art. But those who appreciate the art and culture of the area they are visiting, I’m sure you’d likely enjoy a tour.

We then toured the Botanical Gardens, and I did enjoy the gardens very much!! It was interesting to hear about the various vegetation, and how it came to Bermuda, and how the government has programs in place to control what might be coming into the country now. It's a beautiful and tranquil place, and worth a visit.

After the Botanical Gardens, we went for lunch. Now that I know about! Lunch was on the beach at Mickey’s Restaurant, located at the Elbow Beach Hotel. This is an incredible looking property, with an incredible beach front. It’s out of town, but worth the taxi ride to enjoy the property, if you have the opportunity.


In my last report I detailed having cocktails that evening with the Minister of Tourism. It was after 8 P.M. when I left the lounge, and thought I might just head up to Lido Deck for a light dinner. I was disappointed to see it had already been closed for the evening. I could have gone to the dining room as a walk in, but ended up just having some pizza, by the retreat, aft on Lido Deck.

I love the aft outdoor areas on every ship that has them. It’s normally the spot anyone who might be looking for me, can most often find me, and it’s no different on the Veendam. There’s lots of tables for al fresco dining, and the area also features the huge outdoor screen. This was all added during the refit in April ‘09.

The only surprise, the table tops don’t seem to have been replaced at that time. They are all in fairly sorry shape, with deep stains, and rather dirty looking. It would take very little to replace the table tops, and it really doesn’t have to wait until a dry dock… nor should it.

I was up early this morning, as I had to report for my golf tour, at 8:00 A.M. I’d ordered room service to act as my wake up call, and requested 7 A.M. service. It arrived promptly at 7 A.M., and was as ordered.

I then headed out to meet up with the others who’d booked the golf day at the Port Royal Golf Club. This is a magnificent golf course, with many incredibly scenic ocean views. It is a rather difficult course, made much more so today, with wind gusts approaching 50 MPH at times.
 
By the time we finished our round I was exhausted; very happy that I had played the course, but exhausted!!


The golf tour, as sold by the ship is kind of odd, as it’s sold noting that the transportation to the golf course is not included in the cost. Printed on the tour ticket was the estimated cost of a taxi to the course; $40 each way. That cost is per taxi, not per person, and those of us on the tour split the cost. However going in I had no idea of how many people were playing, or if it was going to cost me $80 for the transportation, on top of the cost of the golf, and the extra for club rentals.

To me, the Port Royal Golf Club would have been worth the cost, for the pleasure of seeing this magnificent golf course, but communication on the details of the day from the ship’s shore excursion department could be better.

I also had a tour booked for 5 P.M. tonight, for a two hour “Famous Homes and Hideaways” cruise. I didn’t get back to the ship from the golf game until 4 P.M. and after being battered by the high winds all day, I simply didn’t have the energy to do the cruise tour. Very selfishly, I napped instead.
 
 
 
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Old May 13th, 2010, 07:51 PM
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That's too bad about not taking that tour..I heard through the grapevine, Catherine Zeta Jones and Michael Douglas had cocktails waiting for you!
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Old May 14th, 2010, 09:36 AM
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::..once Michael Douglas found out that Mrs Kuki was not on this cruise..he cancelled the cocktails ::::
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Old May 14th, 2010, 01:49 PM
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Default Trayless in Seattle

Trayless in Seattle
Alright, admittedly it’s a lame title, but I challenge you try and come with a cutesy little title for this topic.

On Veendam (and assuming that translates to all Holland America ships) there are no longer trays available for passenger use at the Lido Deck buffet. This has become true on many cruise lines recently. However, on other lines, like Princess for example, they use very large plastic platters which can at least function a bit like a small tray; accommodating more than one food item.

Here, at the Veendam buffet, it becomes a problem because they are still using what I presume are their older small plates, bowels, et. As I moved through the buffet line, the first item I got was two pieces of bread, placed on a 3” circular plate, next I chose some fruit, placed in a small bowl, then a bit of pasta handed to me on one of the smaller plates again. So, there I was, having not made it to any soup, garden salad or entrée choices, hands already full with three small plates and bowls.

I tried stacking, that didn’t work. I tried holding one with my teeth, and that didn’t work. I thought of sliding the fruit bowel into my pockets, but I thought Noro-virus might be hiding in there, plus of course all the lint and particles from previous buffet visits would end up as part of my fruit salad. Heaven forbid I’d want an entrée and an ice tea. Even if I knew the trick to balancing plates on my head there was no way I was going to have enough appendages to get through the full buffet line.

This afternoon, while relaxing at my perch by the Retreat, on the aft deck, I had a conversation with a “young” lady, learning she was on a cruise with a friend.

She told me she had “just” lost her husband, a year ago this past February, and her friend had convinced her to come on the cruise; the first “real thing” she had done since her husband of 51 years had passed away.

It became a rather emotional conversation for me, as my father passed away a year ago this past November, and in many ways it was very similar to many conversations I’ve had with my mother.

In marriages of that generation it was quite common that “the man” took care of many day to day maintenance areas of the marriage; the finances etc. Not to sound chauvinistic, but that’s the way the arrangements often worked in that generation. She described to me how difficult it was for her to learn how to handle simple tasks like banking and bill paying, when “he” had taken care of that for so many years. She spoke of how difficult it was, and how badly she felt relying so heavily on her children to help her get caught up on how to handle her own affairs at this stage in her life.

I told her how happy I was to see her coming on this cruise, as her friend had urged her to do. Then I admit I went back to my cabin and wept, remembering my own father’s passing vividly still. And I called my mother on the telephone to say hello, and check up on her.

Afterwards, I thought how delighted I am that cruises allow so many people who face these very tough adjustments to their lives to have such a convenient and safe form of travel, and a means to begin to enjoy their “new” lives.

The Veendam was scheduled to sail from Hamilton, Bermuda today at 2 P.M. for our return to New York City. Everyone must have been back onboard early, as we pulled away from the pier a half an hour early.
 
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Old May 14th, 2010, 01:51 PM
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Originally Posted by Trip View Post
That's too bad about not taking that tour..I heard through the grapevine, Catherine Zeta Jones and Michael Douglas had cocktails waiting for you!
Michael apologised in advance that he'd be away filming Wall Street 2, and dear (and hot) Catherine was in NY working on a new broadway play.
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Old May 14th, 2010, 02:31 PM
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I sat next to them last June at lunch at Beau Rivage, overlooking Hamilton Harbour from Paget. They had their kids with them and seemed very nice. And yes she looked very very good.
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Old May 14th, 2010, 03:15 PM
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Great thread Kuki. I love Bermuda and would love to go back. I love Holland America too, but did move away from them due to their smoking policy. Everything else about them is great.
It was great fun when ships docked in St. George's.....what a great port.
Hope the rest of your cruise is way good too!
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Old May 14th, 2010, 08:59 PM
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sooooo Kuki..understand that when you dock in new york, Catherine has left you a ticket in will call at her theatre for an afternoon performance and then a late lunch with her in her dressing room and Michael has left one ticket for Mrs Kuki to come to the premier of Wall Street 2 ::::

enjoy reading your daily journal
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Old May 14th, 2010, 11:39 PM
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The Last Straw
I’ve spoken in a previous day’s report about steps taken onboard to try and prevent any spread of gastronomical illness (Norwalk type viruses), such as keeping reachable sides of the buffet covered in film wrap.

Yesterday included with the Daily Program an insert was also included stating there had been some cases reported onboard, and reminding people to wash their hands well, and often. There were also signs of more thorough cleaning of public areas by the crew, as well as banisters, tables, etc.

It doesn’t seem the “outbreak” is very severe as I haven’t witnessed any passengers who appeared to be ill… if that means anything.
One oddity though in this regard; I drink quite a bit of Diet Coke, and each time I do, I’m given a can of Diet Coke, and a glass of ice, but no straw. That’s been the case from the first day, and continued. It’s only odd because I’m not given a straw to drink it through. This is certainly not a big issue, or I’d ask for a straw. It just something I’ve never seen before while cruising. The normal process I’ve seen, is straw placed in the glass with ice, with the top part of the paper covering the straw still in place, showing no staff members had touched the part of the straw you’d be putting to your lips.

Face it; we drink coffee and juices directly from cups and glasses; we put cutlery in our mouths when eating, and drink beer directly from the can occasionally, so the lack of use of a straw is not earth shattering. But in a state of diligence one might think even that measure would be considered preventative.

It does make the bit of the cynical side in me wonder how much money they expect to save by not using straws when they serve sodas.

This evening was the second Formal Night. Tonight we dined in the ships alternate (with a $30 PP surcharge). The Veendam’s Pinnacle Restaurant was added during the 2009 refit, and really doesn’t possess the standout ambience of other ship’s in the Holland America fleet. Though the service was quite slow, when the food did arrive it was outstanding. 14 travel writers present, and I think every morsel disappeared from everyone’s plate. Aside from speed, the service could be more polished in consideration of the fact that guests are paying a premium to eat there, but thoughts about that do disappear once you start digging in to the delicious food.

The only bad thing was getting out of the restaurant at 11 P.M. it was too late to see tonight’s production show, titled Encore, which I heard later was very impressive. I walked through the casino and the few blackjack tables were already filled, so I thought I’d go out by the Retreat upstairs. On my way past on Lido Deck, the late night snacks had started, and I had eaten so much, that seeing people piling food on their plates almost made me sick to my stomach. For a moment I thought I should eat some more to settle my stomach.

Bermuda Cruising
I understand that one can fly to Bermuda from most cities in the northeastern United States in about 1 ½ hrs. Apparently it’s quite common for many people to visit Bermuda using that means of transportation. I’m also told by the Bermuda Tourism people that the average stay in Bermuda is 3 to 4 days. Visitors from further distances might stay a full week.

I found the short terms of the stays quite surprising. I suppose I had always thought of Bermuda as a vacation destination, rather than as a quick weekend getaway. Other than the sometimes very good bargains available for flights to Bermuda, the cost of a land stay in Bermuda can quite high. Apparently, in high season hotels can run $300 to $400 per night, and dining and entertainment are not necessarily cheap either.
As the Director of Tourism explained to me, the costs of hotels in Bermuda is not really different from the same costs in cities such as New York or London, for example. Having just spent a night in New York, I certainly can’t argue that case.


Cruising from Bermuda is a bit different than “regular cruising”. By that I mean the majority of cruises I’ve taken involve multiple ports of call within a particular region. On some itineraries, and on a limited number of ships, there may be the odd overnight stay, but as a rule, in each port of call the ship arrives in the morning, and leaves sometime later that afternoon or evening.

When you book a Bermuda cruise, Bermuda is where you are going. It’s all about visiting Bermuda. In essence you are using the ship as your transportation, and accommodation while visiting Bermuda. Of course, by ship, there’s also the advantage of having whatever meals you wish to have on the ship, and those costs being included in your fare.

I know quite often, on Caribbean cruises, some experienced cruisers will even skip getting off the ship in some ports which they’ve visited often. This wouldn’t seem as likely on cruises to Bermuda, when it is the sole destination.
 
 
 
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Old May 15th, 2010, 06:29 PM
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Default Winding Down.. and Interesting Tidbits

Winding Down, and Interesting Tidbits

Today is the day most cruisers normally dread… the last day! It means tomorrow night there will be no towel animals on my bed (even if all mine were visually impaired). Today’s the day we’re told to pack our bags in preparation of walking off the ship, and back to our real lives, where no one really cares what we want for dinner. Today is the day of many goodbyes, and on cruises, often teary eyes because you’re not going to see your newly made friends again.

This afternoon the group of press I’m traveling with were given the opportunity for a Q&A session with Captain Peter J. Van Maurik, First Officer Tim Roberts, and Hotel Manager, David Wood.

It was interesting, and through the course of our discussions, it seemed we were given somewhat contradictory information about some things, than we’d been given before.

To explain, the topic of tendering in St. George came up once again. The Captain explained what they felt the problems were, and the resolution he described was somewhat different than the impressions were left with from Bermuda’s Director of Tourism.

After our talks with him, I was at least left with the impression, that Bermuda would add more tender boats if necessary for smooth tendering processes each visit. The way Captain Van Maurik explained it, there would only be using the one large tender (which can accommodate 750 people at one time), but would be adhering to a schedule, where guests would understand there was a tender every one and a half hours. They would have knowledge of the wait, and make their decisions when and whether to go to shore based on that.

They did admit to problems with a lack of communication with the shore side staff, and Hotel Manager David Wood said he had just purchased 4 telephone, so the shore excursion staff on shore could contact the ship.
I did ask why they simply wouldn’t avoid the hassle, dock in Hamilton, and let guests take land transportation to St. George if they chose. The response was that the stop in St. George is printed in the itinerary, and they suspected a good number of people booked the cruise wanting to stop in St. George.

If weather does not safely allow tendering to St. George, there will be the option of continuing on to Hamilton to dock there if necessary.

We’ll most likely just have to wait and hear more details of the process on future cruises, to see how this all plays out, and if passengers are pleased by it.

Another topic I raised was the issue of having the film wrap blocking access at the buffet lines, preventing passengers from simply helping themselves. In essence it’s a move fleet-wide to prevent the spread of gastrointestinal illness (Norwalk like viruses).


The initial measures will be in place for the first 3 days of every cruise, and then, according to how much illness displays, if the numbers are low, full self service will be reinstated. If a higher number of incidents exposes itself during the 3 day period, the preventative measures will be kept in place for the duration of the cruise (as was the case on this cruise).
They admitted it put some additional strain on the scheduling of staff to man the buffet and coffee/ice tea juice stations. However in their view it’s much better than the consequences of more serious outbreaks of the illness.

A rather “hot topic” these days is the exposure of some wrong doings by Park West Art Galleries, who’d been managing the art auctions onboard most major cruise lines. We were told that HAL has changed over their art auctions to a company called Global Fine Arts in August of this year. Global Fine Arts is an in house program from sister Princess Cruise Line.
Personally, it has never made sense, and still doesn’t, that someone thinks it’s a good idea to go on a cruise to buy fine art. I just don’t get it!

As I’ve been unable to send these daily reports from my cabin, I asked why they hadn’t added bow to stern Internet access during the refit. Captain Van Maurik was surprised by my question because he said it is supposed to be available. He was even more surprised when I told him the Internet Manager told me bow to stern access is only available on the newer ships. I had a little chuckle to myself, because Id guess I got someone into deep do do.

There’s more to tell, and I’ll try to complete a last report including all the other interesting tidbits, and a wrap up once I arrive home.

I do hope you’ve enjoyed reading along during the cruise, and invite you to join me again in July, when I head to the shipyard in Italy, and sail her out of the shipyard and into Venice for her Christening July 3.
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Old May 15th, 2010, 06:41 PM
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Kuki,

Makes me want to cruise to Bermuda again. Last time was in 1988 on the Nordic Prince for our 20th anniversary. We are still together celebrating 42 years in July. We are cruising, mostly on HAL, our drug of choice.

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Old May 15th, 2010, 10:23 PM
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Good report Kuki:

I found the same thing last week. I did seem to hear more of what's going on around me when I'm alone.

The tiny plates would be a pain in the rear at the busy times. I don't mind not having a tray but give me a big enough plate to allow one trip. I don't need to carry my weight in food.

Bermuda sounds interesting but I don't know if I really want to do it at this time.

Take care,
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Old May 16th, 2010, 05:36 PM
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Default Veendam Tender

Thanks for all your help. We booked the Veendam because of the Ports of St George and Hamilton. I would just like to email someone to let them know that many people are very unhappy with a 45 minute tender, with only 1 day in st George. Any idea? We are on the June 27th cruise to Bermuda.
Thanks, Sharon
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Old May 17th, 2010, 10:00 PM
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Having just returned from a cruise myself, I'm only just now finding and reading your cruise review Kuki.
Enjoyed very much reading along with you on your Veendam cruise, and found many similarities on my own Noordam cruise.
The "No-access, no -tray" business in the buffet led to big line-ups, but eased off after the first day or two when the ship scored a 100% on their cleanliness check. From then on, we were allowed access to the drink station, and to a certain extent, the food, although most was still served behind glass barriers.
After reading your review, I'm intrigued to visit Bermuda, as I've never been there before, but I think I will avoid trying the Segway!

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Old May 18th, 2010, 08:30 AM
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Originally Posted by SharonCulian View Post
Thanks for all your help. We booked the Veendam because of the Ports of St George and Hamilton. I would just like to email someone to let them know that many people are very unhappy with a 45 minute tender, with only 1 day in st George. Any idea? We are on the June 27th cruise to Bermuda.
Thanks, Sharon

Sharon - I think the powers that be already know so don't waste your time writing anyone.

As far as I know it's always only been 1-1/2 days in St. George. I don't know why they don't just dock in Hamilton and then anyone wanting to go to St. George could take the public bus. It's not that big an island.
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Old May 18th, 2010, 12:22 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SharonCulian View Post
Thanks for all your help. We booked the Veendam because of the Ports of St George and Hamilton. I would just like to email someone to let them know that many people are very unhappy with a 45 minute tender, with only 1 day in st George. Any idea? We are on the June 27th cruise to Bermuda.
Thanks, Sharon
During our conversation with the Hotel Director and Captain we asked the question... why not just dock in Hamilton, and let those who want to vist St. George do so from there (not difficult).

We were told it was because the itineraries published for both the '10 and '11 state there will be a 1 day port visit in St. George and people would object if the attempt to stop there wasn't continued.

Entirely conjecture on my part... but I think there may also be some "politics" at play within the HAL and Bermuda government, in this regard.
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Old May 18th, 2010, 12:28 PM
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Default NEW HAL entertainment format - Stars At Sea

During my daily reports I didn't talk too much about the entertainment onboard. This was as a result of our schedule, where we didn't get to see alot of the showroom entertainment.

It was explained to us that HAL has put a program in place, they call "Stars at Sea". With this they are attempting to bring higher quality entertainers onboard who are able to not only be part of the production shows, but also carry some shows on their own.

There will still be the occassional comedian, magician or such. But they will be limiting their "fly in entertainment" program.

So it appears you can expect much more musical entertainment in the showroom as opposed to "headline" acts.
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Old May 18th, 2010, 12:31 PM
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Default My FAVORITE thing on the Veendam Cruise

On many cruise lines you're required to leave your cabin by 8 AM and wait in the ship's public areas until your "color" is called, or you do self-disembark.

On HAL are you not only allowed to stay in cabin until you are called to disembark, but you can order a full breakfast delivered through room service on the last morning.

I think this does wonders in making the cruise feel likes it's over, only when you are actually leaving the ship. It makes for a much more relaxing disembarkation morning.
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Old May 18th, 2010, 05:10 PM
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Kuki:

I agree. Being able to remain in the stateroom and have a leisurely breakfast truly makes the end of a cruise more enjoyable. Having to be herded into a lounge area to sit and wait with crowds of folks with luggage is not conducive to a happy experience.
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Old May 18th, 2010, 05:47 PM
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Default My second Favorite Thing on Veendam

I love the pre-dinner complimentary appetizers served in all the lounges.

Or, I guess that should read I love that they serve complimentary appetizers in the lounges. I don't love all the appetizers they serve
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Old May 18th, 2010, 07:13 PM
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Hi Kuki , Have a wonderful inaugural cruise aboard the Niew Amsterdam ! Let us know all about it when you return . I am certainly looking forward to board this new ship in October 2010 for a magnificent 32 day Mediterranean cruise with Atlantic crossing back to Ft. Lauderdale . Love to cruise . . . .Ln
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Old May 19th, 2010, 08:28 AM
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I love the pre-dinner complimentary appetizers served in all the lounges.

Or, I guess that should read I love that they serve complimentary appetizers in the lounges. I don't love all the appetizers they serve

Totally agree with you Kuki. In the "old" days, the appetizers were great - now we take one look at what they are serving and often say "no thank you".
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Old May 19th, 2010, 09:28 PM
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thanks for the review... a very enjoyable read

we are on the Sept 19th sailing.... first time on HAL
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Old May 20th, 2010, 07:28 AM
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Default Holland America in B ermuda

Just found this thread/blog and I am taken aback by tenders being used in St George. First I heard in February that the ship was going from Boston.. guess they were wrong and also heard that Carnival is going to Bermuda.Parrot Pop and I have cruised Bermuda until the past 5 years the minimum of a dozen times when the Royal Majesty sailed from Boston and several years did it twice. The fact that the "powers that be" are welcoming cruisers is shocking!!! Yes, you read that right "shocking" One of the major players (name on request) told me personally they did not want cruisers because they didn't spend $$$. This was as I was buying collectibles in his shop. They felt that tourists who stayed at hotels were most likely to buy china, crystal, and woolens. Many of the wonderful shops in downtown have closed and office buildings put up. St George that wonderful little spot in the West End had many of the downtown stores annexes close. Wandering the side streets of St George you get a taste of the island, the gardens and their colorful home..no big tourist attractions. Your pictures were wonderful btw. When we started going to the Dockyard.. there was nothing but a couple of shops..now thanks to the cruise industry who have built the docks a major attraction . For many years Bermuda and the "powers that be" did not want to cut the area again where cruise ships cruise through and now they are using tenders. Bermuda had very strict guidelnes as to how many ships and passengers were allowed. With Carnival going to Bermuda..I'm afraid it's going to look like the Grand Caymens where there were five ships docked a few weeks ago and Nassau. Crime has increased against tourists, more accidents on mopeds and the charm of this wonderful island and it's people will be gone. Ride the local buses, the Bermudians are wonderful, kind and helpful people. The NCL Majesty was the most rebooked ship in the line until the Dawn went to Bermuda..now the NCL Spirit is leaving Boston and the Dawn is going to make the run starting next year...more cruisers.. so I guess Bermuda needs the $$ from us. BTW I love the bus and ferry system and our favorite place is the Swizzle Inn. If we were docked in Hamilton for one day.. that is one day too much. Oh yes. entertainment.. Bermuda had strict rules as for what entertainment was allowed when the ship was in port....has that changed?
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Old May 23rd, 2010, 11:52 AM
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Bermuda USED to have pretty strict rules limiting the number of cruise ship visits. They are now encouraging more ships to visit.
I believe this year they are expecting 149,000 cruise ship visitors.

There was some sort of show in the showroom each evening while in Bermuda, though casinos and shops onboard remain closed.

While we were visiting NCL Dawn was there, as was an RCI ship and a couple of others. Some were just on one day visits I think.
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Old May 23rd, 2010, 02:43 PM
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Default Cruisers in bermuda

Sadly I write this.. "there goes the neighborhood".. the charm of
B ermuda..crime is increasing ...well one last time next June... oh yes, discovered that H/A is stopping in Gloucester, MA...an old fishing city..not that close to Boston.
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Old May 24th, 2010, 01:21 PM
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Default Royal gazette

Now, we know, just read the Royal Gazette and they reported that since 2000 there has been a 31% decrease in hotel beds and 11% since last year Bermuda isn't the paradise it was, but it won't stop me from going back As for only 8 stores opened in St George, how sad I remember the ladies at Smiths and the funky shop of Pollys
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Old May 24th, 2010, 03:12 PM
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Well this year beds were lost as the main portion of the Elbow Beach Hotel closed for renovations. Now these could take some time, as the financing still needs to be worked out. But other resorts are also being renovated, expanded or built. 9 Beaches has closed and is being completely redone, with a new larger more permanent portion of the property being built in addition to the Cabanas. The old Munro and Lanata properties are being completely rebuilt, by the developer of the brand new Newstead. The Tucker's Point Resort opened last season, and is spectactular. There is a sea change when it comes to Bermuda Resorts, but I think in about 3 years, there will be many more and nicer options than there are currently. I visit the island a couple of times each year, and it is still delightful. And Hamilton is looking better again, with most of the construction just about finished.
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Old May 24th, 2010, 03:47 PM
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Default Hamilton

When I go back I will miss those wonderful ladies at Smith's. and I will hate o see Hamilton turn into another Nassau or Grand Caymens... Guess you can't keep a secret idyl place like that secret for too long.
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