Cruising to Bermuda
We sailed to Bermuda from NYC on the Disney Magic, docking at 10am and boarding to leave at 4pm the following day. Much of our planning revolved around considerations for weather and the fact that we arrived on a Sunday.
Bermuda was sunny with a high in the mid-80s during our first day. The evening was cooler, and our second day was overcast with a few passing showers. The water temp was around 78 degrees, and swimming was comfortable when it was sunny. Most tour guides and locals will note that Bermuda is a VERY religious (mainly Christian) country, so most shops and many restaurants and museums are closed on Sundays.
Horseshoe Bay Beach
There are a few options to get from the Dockyard to Horseshoe beach, including the public transportation system. We purchased our tokens at the visitor center, then boarded the bus a short distance away. The “pink line” ran toward Hamilton, and the various stops along the way included Horseshoe Beach.
We returned to Horseshoe Bay later for sunset and found no crowds. There were large public restrooms, a bit worse for the wear after a long day, but convenient. While there weren’t any cabs or shuttles late in the day, a large parking area would have been filled with them earlier.
Royal Naval Dockyard Area
The Royal Naval Dockyard area was just steps away from where we docked, making it easy to take short trips. With more time we would have walked to the snorkeling beach and played mini-golf. We felt comfortable leaving Alice on the ship in the Oceaneer’s Club and spending a few hours on our own to visit the National Museum of Bermuda and explore the shops. Taxis were readily available, and public buses were just a 10 minute walk from the ship.
National Museum of Bermuda
The National Museum of Bermuda included a comprehensive history of the island, including settlement (there are no indigenous Bermudians) and the cultures built around shipbuilding and agriculture. As with other Caribbean islands, enslaved Africans were forced to work to build wealth for Europeans and provide essential services for the island. Wampanoag, Pequot and Narragansett people from what is now New England were also forced to come to the island as slaves after wars with the British in the late 1600s. The blending of these cultures is mostly unique to the island of Bermuda.
The bulk of the exhibitions are in the Commissioner’s House, including a two-story mural depicting the history of Bermuda.
We had just over an hour at the museum, but could have spent much longer. The views from the ramparts alone were worth the price of admission.
Dolphin Quest, a marine sanctuary and animal encounter opportunity, and a children’s play area made the museum a more attractive family destination.
We booked our snorkeling tour with the Restless Native company through Disney Cruise Line Excursions. The catamaran was conveniently docked just a 5-minute walk from ship. During the 30-minute sail to our anchoring destination, our captain explained the history of Bermuda, and answered questions from the passengers, mostly regarding sharks (they are very rare around the reefs) and jellyfish (we may see a few but they likely wouldn’t hurt us). On the return trip we were served warm-baked cookies and rum-based drinks (the free ones were understandably weak, but Alex was able to purchase a full-octane Dark & Stormy from the fully stocked bar).
While we snorkeled for the full 1 ½ hour, other families also used the provided stand-up paddleboards and kayaks.
The weather wasn’t on our side when we stopped, and rain and wind made the waters a little murkier than usual. We were still able to see colorful coral and fishes along the edge of the island.
We took the bus to the Hamilton shopping area, and spent some time to visit the few open shops and stroll through the Queen Elizabeth Par-La-Ville Sculpture Park.
We were lucky to have Rebecca, a Bermudian and high school classmate of Alex, to give us the local’s tour. We decided to focus on natural attractions in Hamilton Parish for our afternoon in Bermuda.
Tom Moore’s Jungle
Tom Moore’s Jungle likely wouldn’t have been on our radar if it wasn’t listed as an excursion from the cruise. That full day tour included lunch and transportation, which we didn’t need. The large park was filled with unmarked winding trails to swimming holes, caves, rocky shores and beaches. I did understand the value of having a tour guide, but we were glad to not have the crowds that others have noted in reviews.
With more time, we would have visited both Crystal and Fantasy Caves; with just an hour the staff recommended Crystal and we weren’t disappointed. The tour covered the history, geology and ecology of the caves as we crossed a floating walkway over the crystal-clear 40-foot deep waters. A short pause without any light gave us the sense of what the two teenage boys who found the cave in 1907 may have experienced if they turned off their bicycle lamp.
Swizzle Inn & Pub
Within walking distance of Crystal and Fantasy Caves we were able to meet all of our dietary and drink needs. Bailey’s Bay Ice Cream Parlor is famous for its homemade ice cream (including banana flavor!), and has a small amount of indoor seating and a large outdoor patio. The Swizzle Inn is famous for creating the Rum Swizzle, which it boasts as Bermuda’s national drink. We opted to dine indoors as a break from the hot sun, and to enjoy the graffitied walls/sports bar-atmosphere. It was quiet in the bar mid-afternoon, but we did note that the tables for that evening had already been reserved.