I had a great time on the cruise, the staff was incredible, the ship (Norwegian Crown) was nice, and everything went well except for a little bit of the weather. We were on the Norwegian Crown, operated by Norwegian Cruise Lines, for a seven day adventure to the isles of Bermuda. What follows is mostly a recount of our trip and the fun times and isn’t meant to be a critical review… I was on vacation after all. 🙂
We departed out of Philadelphia on Oct. 9th and the naval base there was a little confusing to navigate the unmarked roads between abandoned buildings but we found the check-in building. Check-in was a breeze and even without any physical tickets, we were printed out our cards (after providing photographic identification) and permitted to enter the ship. We sailed on the Norwegian Crown, brought into service in 2003 (corrected), and probably had about a thousand passengers. It looks enormous but having been on an even bigger ship (a Carnival ship, the name escapes me) I knew this one would rock quite a bit on our trip.
NCL has this concept of Freestyle Dining where you eat whenever you want to eat in the dining rooms. On the Crown there was one main dining room, one buffet dining room, and three specialty restaurants. The specialty restaurants required dinner reservations and one of them required a $15 charge per person, we never had the opportunity to eat at any of those. In the main dining room, we received fantastic service and we requested the same pair of waiters each night (Joselito and Colleen) after we met them on the third night. Unlike most waiters, they were cordial, made conversation, and gave us great tips for what to do on Bermuda since they’d been there about… thirty times. 🙂
The first stop was at St George’s [interactive city map]  on the northeast end of the island. One of the benefits of being on a smaller ship is that it can navigate through the St. George’s cut, an opening between islands that is barely the width of two cruise ships, believe it or not. Tobacco Bay is the name of the most well known beach in the area and easily within ten minutes walking distance. Nestled up next to St. Catherine’s fort ($10 to see it, we skipped), the sandy pink beaches were nice and the waves were calm but kicking. Tobacco Bay, while nice, was probably the smallest beach on the island in that you couldn’t really explore the coastline like other beaches. At around 3pm, it started to drizzle in rain and so we made our way back to the ship. Taking the scenic route, we walked through quaint neighborhoods of pastel-colored one-story homes and were pounded by the rain. The weather was warm so the rain didn’t really both us too much and we were able to see much of the island.
The second stop was at Hamilton [interactive city map] , the capital of Bermuda, and you could feel the more city-like atmosphere. There were a lot of shops, most of my gift-shopping was done here, and the beach (Horseshoe Bay specifically) was an $18 cab fare away. Horseshoe Bay was fun in that it’s the end of a chain of beaches. During low-tide, you could walk along the coastline, through caves, and see half a dozen other beaches. During high-tide, it’d be impossible. The city of Hamilton itself was pretty small by standards in the U.S. but probably pretty sizeable for Bermuda (given that it’s the capital).
The third stop was the Royal Navy Dockyard [interactive city map] , a great little historical site. At the two other stop we were able to walk into the forts and cannon emplacements, but only here was there a truly educational historical site. We went to the Bermuda Maritime Museum ($10, well worth it) which included Dolphin Quest, Commissioner’s House, and The Keep. Dolphin Quest was something where you could sit in the water and actually play with dolphins, I think it was a shore excursion and cost $185!!! The Maritime Museum was a collection of six or seven buildings detailing the rich history of Bermuda. For example, we learned that the first settlers of Bermuda shipwrecked on its reefs (on the way to Jamestown, Virginia) and made their way to the island. From the wreckage, they made two smaller ships and about sixty people stayed behind.
As for the food, we loved it. The beauty of freestyle cruising is that you only eat with your group and not with strangers so you can order as many appetizers, entrees, and desserts as you want. At a minimum I ordered two entrees a night. One of us, who would later win the King of the Crown competition and be named Mr. Six-Pack, ordered four one night and he put it all down.
As an interesting side note, we had spent a little bit of time in the casino while we were at sea (an aggregate of three days) and so one night at The Top of the Crown (the name of the disco onboard) an “executive casino host” named Jules recognized me and started buying all of us drinks. One of those drinks was a shot of Sambuvca, licorice liquor like Jaeger, which you shoot in an interesting way. First you light it, slam your hand on the shot, the fire burns out what little air was trapped, and you pull it from your hand. Then you shoot it, flip it over, and with a straw suck the remaining drips off the table. Later on, he hooked us up with some $5 match play coupons and free drinks in the casino.
I’d say that the cruise was a success even though we did have a little bit of rain and the water was a little choppy (made worse by a small ship, but Bonine saved the day). I’d recommend that cruise to anyone especially at the price we paid, $750 per person plus a $100 Target Gift Card, which included insurance of about $75/person.