Port of Kings Wharf Bermuda

Port of Call Bermuda

Bermuda is a British Overseas Territory or one of the United Kingdom Overseas Territories of which there are 14 that fall under the jurisdiction and sovereignty of the United Kingdom. They are the parts of the British Empire that have not been granted independence or have voted to remain British territories. Bermuda is located in the western Atlantic due east of Hilton Head South Carolina. Even though it is at a northern latitude it is a tropical island being washed by the warm currents of the Gulf Stream. The islands boast a lush landscape that includes a large number of cedars and palm trees. Famous for its beautiful beaches (one pink) it has long been a favorite destination for the wealthy from around the world that probably helps support a reasonably high standard of living for Bermuda.

Where You Dock

The northwest tip of the islands is home to British fortifications that date back to the 17th century and included the dockyards including Kings Wharf which is now home to the cruise piers. The British fortifications were greatly expanded during the American Civil War over fears of attack by the Americans and now house the Bermuda Historical Museum, a dolphin encounter, a glass blowing operation, a nice beach with snorkeling areas and a number of shops and restaurants. The dockyards are also the center of the areas water sport concessions and excursion boats.

 

Transportation

Taxis are readily available but the best way to get around is by public transportation. You can buy a one or two day pass that provides unlimited use of the ferries and buses starting at B$18. Bermuda is actually a set of islands very close together and arranged in the shape of a fish hook. The cruise port is located in the west near the tip of the hook. The town of St. George is near the hook’s eye to the northeast and the capital of Hamilton is near the inside bend of the hook. Most large beaches are on the coast across the island from Hamilton. The islands have about fifty miles of roads serviced by a very good bus system along with regular ferry service between those three major locations. There are also scooters and cars that can be rented but this is not recommended because of the narrow roads and the English left hand driving system.

Money

The local currency is the Bermuda Dollar and is kept on par with the US Dollar. American currency is readily accepted as well as most major credit cards.

 

Attractions

There is a lot to see and do right in the Kings Wharf area but don’t miss visiting Hamilton. There is a large fortification high above Hamilton with sweeping views of the city and beyond. Hamilton is also home to a number of historic buildings and some beautiful architecture. Good restaurants and great shopping are also a feature of Hamilton and a trip out to St. George is highly recommended. Almost everywhere you go in Bermuda boasts great scenery including pocket beaches, attractive seaside villages and historic landmarks.

Horseshoe Bay is perhaps the most famous beach in Bermuda. It has been rated the #8 beach in the world. A popular tourist spot, it lies on the main island’s south coast, in the parish of Southampton.

The Bermuda Aquarium, Museum and Zoo is a facility located in Flatts Village, Bermuda. It was established in 1926 by the Bermuda government.

Crystal Cave is a cavern located in Hamilton Parish, close to Castle Harbour. The caverns are approximately 1,500 feet long, and 186 feet deep. The lower 60 feet of the cave are below water level.

Gibbs Hill Lighthouse. Built in 1844 by the Royal Engineers, is the taller of two lighthouses on Bermuda, and one of the first lighthouses in the world to be made of cast-iron.

Bermuda Institute of Marine Science http://www.bios.edu/#!/who-we-are is a non-profit institute located in Hamilton and features a number of exhibits and programs.

Fort Hamilton Bermuda. Located in Hamilton City, Fort Hamilton is a picturesque site with lush gardens overlooking the harbor. It was built in the mid 1800s to protect the Hamilton Harbor and form a defense from American forces during their civil war.

Somerset Bridge. Advertised as the worlds smallest draw bridge (see our story about the bridge HERE). If you pay attention while taking the bus from Kings Wharf to Hamilton you will drive right across the bridge.

St. George. This is a picturesque town located at the far end of the islands from Kings Wharf serviced by bus or ferry.

Good Sites For Additional Information

Bermuda Tourist Board

 

 

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Going To Somerset Bridge

Bermuda’s Famous Somerset Bridge

A short Story

As part of a recent cruise we spent two days in Bermuda and struck out early to see all we could. The first day we made it by ferry to Hamilton, where we spent the morning, took a bus out to St. George for lunch and a ferry back to the dockyards. One of our goals was a visit to the village of Somerset and with an hour and a half to sunset we decided to check off Somerset and the Somerset drawbridge. The bridge was described in a guide as the world’s smallest drawbridge with an opening of only 18 inches (actually it was less than 12 inches) and seemed to make it an interesting goal.

Not sure what to expect and with our bus day-pass in hand we climbed aboard the next bus toward Hamilton and asked the driver if he could let us off at Somerset bridge. I have to mention that everywhere we went in Bermuda everyone was very friendly and extremely helpful (another story about that later). The bus stops along the way are either stone and mortar shelters or are only marked by a six foot pole in the color of the route. Bermuda’s roads are very narrow and they are often cut thru notches in the coral and limestone rock with barely room for traffic going in both directions.

Our driver pointed out the bus stop poles and let us off just before the famous bridge. Once off the bus we weren’t sure we hadn’t made a mistake. Standing on the side of the road there wasn’t anything to see in either direction except the narrow road and bushes grown to the edge of the road. Looking in the supposed direction of the bridge the road cut thru a rock formation with no pedestrian path at all. Without much of a choice we march off toward the rock cut. The good news was that the speed limit sign approaching the cut was 15 Km. The bad news was that nobody paid any attention to it as cars just roared by. We commented to each other about if it was better to get hit from behind and not see it coming or to be facing the oncoming assault as we walked the narrow road?

Needless to say we made it to the bridge and I’m not sure what I expected but that surely wasn’t it. The bridge is again a narrow two-lane stone bridge over a channel thru the island. The center is a wooden structure with a section in the middle less than eighteen inches wide on hinges. It is obviously intended for the mast of a sailboat to thread that gap and there are a number of signs with the phone number to call to open the drawbridge. I could be wrong, but I doubt the drawbridge is opened often. It also probably requires a good sailor to keep from gouging his mast. Later locals said that the gap is almost never opened any more except for publicity.

We took some pictures and trekked back along the road to the bus stop, living to sightsee another day and getting back in time for sunset in the dockyards.

 

Cruise Port Grand Turk

Port of Call Grand Turk

The Turks and Caicos are a group of small islands stretching out into the Atlantic on the southeast edge of the Bahamas chain. They are part of the British West Indies and a British Territory. Most cruise lines have over the years developed “private islands” where their ships usually anchor for a day of beach activities for their passengers. Grand Turk is a twofer. It has good docking facilities right in the middle of great expanses of beautiful beach.

 

Where the Ship Docks

Grand Turk is equipped with a modern new dock right next to a nice shopping village with all the usual outlets. A short walk down the pier are also restrooms, food venues and and tour options.

 

Currency

The official currency of these islands is the U.S. Dollar and credit cards are usually accepted.

Transportation

This is a small island and there are a few taxis that offer an opportunity to tour the island. There is also a tour “tram” that travels around the island for about $30.

Attractions

Grand Turk is a very small island and the real attractions are the beaches and water sports. It wouldn’t be inaccurate to characterize virtually the entire island as a beach with the highest point being only about twenty feet above sea level. There are a number of snorkeling and scuba diving options as well as other water sports.

The salt ponds around the island provided a living in the past harvesting salt for export but are now more valuable as home to a number of birds with the most famous being the endangered pink flamingo. There are tours that provide an opportunity to visit ponds for bird watching with one being the Tram.

Good Web Sites for More Information

Carnival Cruise Grand Turk Tours

Port of Call Victoria Canada

Port of Victoria and Vancouver Island Canada

Located on Vancouver Island in southwest Canada, Victoria is another popular cruise ship port of call on many Alaska itineraries. It is a beautiful town with a number of things to see and do and is only a short ferry ride or plane trip away from the city of Vancouver.

Where You Dock

Most cruise ships now dock at the cities port facilities within walking distance of downtown. The ferry terminals serving Vancouver and other areas are located almost an hour out of town.

 

Transportation

Taxis are readily available and local bus service is provided by the Victoria Regional Transit System. A fleet of modern single and double-decker buses that offer frequent service to Victoria BC’s attractions. . Typical fares for the buses include:

  • Cash Fare            C$2.50            Single boarding only – No Transfers. Drivers do not carry change.
  • 10 Tickets            C$22.50
  • DayPass            C$5.00 and are only available on bus. Drivers do not carry change.

There are also water taxis and float planes available on the cities waterfront.

Money

The local currency is the Canadian Dollar and unlike the cities in the east of Canada US Dollars are not generally accepted. If they do take the US Dollar expect them to charge an additional amount.

Attractions

The Butchart Gardens – Located in Brentwood Bay, near Victoria. The gardens receive over a million visitors each year. The gardens have been designated a National Historic Site of Canada.

Chinatown – It is the oldest Chinatown in Canada and the second oldest in North America after San Francisco’s. Victoria’s Chinatown had its beginnings in the mid-nineteenth century in the mass influx of miners from California to what is now British Columbia in 1858. It remains an active place and continues to be popular with residents and visitors.

BC Museum – Founded in 1886, the Royal British Columbia Museum consists of The Province of British Columbia’s natural and human history museum as well as the British Columbia Provincial Archives.

The Victoria Bug Zoo – This unique facility is a two-room minizoo that is located in downtown Victoria, just one block north of the Fairmont Empress Hotel.

Victoria is also home to several architectural landmarks and parks of note and offers a number of great pubs and cafes.

Vancouver Island is now home to a very good and growing number of vineyards with one day wine country tours available.

Learn how we disembarked in Victoria and took the ferry over to Vancouver to beat the Jones Act HERE.

 

Port of Auckland New Zealand

Auckland New Zealand and The Bay of Islands

Approaching Auckland
Approaching Auckland

Auckland is a popular port for cruises around Australia and New Zealand as well as southbound Pacific repositioning cruises. Most itineraries also include a stop at The Bay of Islands due north from Auckland.

 

Where You Dock
Princess Wharf
Princess Wharf

The Port of Auckland has a number of piers east from the ferry terminal at Princess Wharf. All of the docking spaces are right in downtown Auckland so it is only a short walk from the dock into the CBD. There are also a number of public facilities not far from the port.

Transportation

With only a few hours on average for exploring while in this port there are a number of places within walking distance and the downtown area is very pedestrian friendly with lots to see. Taxis are readily available but Auckland is the center of a large metropolitan area so it is best to have a destination in mind and agree on a fare before heading out. There is also an extensive bus and ferry system around the area with a good web site that shows your options HERE . The city also has a visitors one and two day pass that includes admission to a number of attractions HERE.

CBD Auckland
CBD Auckland
Money

The New Zealand currency is the NZ$ currently worth about 65¢ US. Foreign currency is not readily accepted but credit cards usually work fine.

Attractions

Within walking distance are a number of good sights including:

  • Albert Park – Historical, park with trees andflowerbeds, a Victorian fountain & statues.
  • Auckland Art Gallery – A collection of national & international art, with Maori works, in a château-style historic building.
  • New Zealand Maritime Museum – exploring the country’s seafaring history through exhibits & sailing trips on replica ships.
  • The Skywalk Visitors Center
  • Auckland Bridge Climb (Bungee jumping available)
Downtown Auckland

Also about twenty miles west of Auckland is a very nice wilderness area called Waitākere Ranges Regional Park that if you have a few days this area should be considered.

The Port of Bay of Islands

Anchored Bay of Islands
Anchored Bay of Islands

Located about 175 miles north of Auckland is the Bay of Islands. The area is somewhat rural and one of the big attractions is the various vineyards nearby. While the production is on a much smaller scale than the southern island the quality is very good. A local industry has developed offering tours to the cruise passengers and probably the best way to see some of the region is booking one of these tours. Many of these excursions are focused on the waters around this port.

The Wine Trail
The Wine Trail

 

 

 

International Cell Phone Service

Current cell phones are one of modern life’s miracles, but they also present multiple issues in international travel especially for Americans. U.S. based cell service is usually a costly option when traveling outside of America and, from experience, we’ve found it is often not the most reliable option. Before you leave on a trip, contact your carrier to find out what your options are and the potential costs and apply a bit of skepticism.

CDMA vs. GSM, Prepaid vs. Contract Service.

There are three U.S. based CDMA providers: Verizon, Sprint and U.S. Cellular. While these companies offer international roaming, there may be countries where the service doesn’t work or is unreliable, primarily because most countries are based on GSM service. It is also dependent on your specific phone (i.e. These companies international service do not work with iPhone 4 and older iPhones). These CDMI providers offer special international plans but they are limited to specific countries and vary by cost. Again, we recommend that you find out your specific options before traveling.

All the rest of the U.S. service providers use GSM. Because of this, phones from these providers are more likely to work reliably while traveling internationally. Their service costs can still be high so, again, we recommend that you find out your specific options and costs before traveling.

Buying Sim Cards While Traveling

We would also strongly suggest that you find out if your GSM phone is unlocked or if it can be so you can buy a sim chip from a local provider in a country you are visiting. Often this can provide really inexpensive service for using data, calling locally as well as home. (See information on our Australia trips for an example of this).

A word of caution when buying a sim card while traveling outside your home country; make sure that the provider shows you how to call back home because many countries and providers have different ways of accessing international service and entering country codes. On one long trip we wasted much of our loaded credits not making calls properly and even when going back to the outlet where we purchased the sim they had difficulty placing an international call using the procedure they recommended. The only thing we recommend is to make sure they and you know what to do and a demonstration is highly recommended.

If you currently use one of America’s GSM companies our recommendation is to buy an inexpensive dual-sim GSM phone so you can subscribe to one of the international service companies or buy sim cards while traveling. There are dozens of options in phones for less than $100 and this would allow you to use your U.S. GSM service along with a foreign sim card in the same phone. We purchased a Blu 5.5” phone for about $80 several years ago and it still provides good service while overseas. We use a OneSimCard chip in the phone and can leave it for months without using it at no additional cost. We do have to use the phone once every six months to prevent losing loaded credits.

If you use one of the popular discount service providers (i.e. Citizen, Straight Talk, Metro PCS) or use a prepaid phone plan, you really need to look into you options for using these services for international roaming. With a majority of these, international service is just not available. Often when they advertise international calling it is only referring to calling from inside the United States.

International Cell Service Providers

International cut rate cell service providers are also an option. They all work on GSM phones and most provide plans that don’t expire and only charge for actual usage*. Some of the providers are World Travel Sim Card, Mobal, OneSimCard, National Geographic Travel Cellular and Cellular Abroad. While all advertise free incoming calls in a large number of countries, they all require the person calling you to call you on a foreign registered phone number. This shifts the cost to the person calling you. We have used One Sim Card service for a number of years and they offer the option of opting for a U.S. based second phone number ($10 year) and than your account is charged, usually about 20¢ a minute for incoming calls. (See our article on our Asia trip for a review on this service as well as using Verizon.)

Most of these services use VOIP (Voice Over Internet) to place calls. Often this process requires a two step method of placing a call. You call and it hangs up and reconnects when it has connected to the called number. Apps for smart phones often simplify these steps.

World Travel Sim Card. They supply a sim card for $10 that allows Voice, Text and Data service with airtime credit that never expire. Includes a U.K. number and extra U.S. number and works in the USA and in over 200 countries. Voice rates start at $0.25 per min and Text rates start at $0.19 each with data rates that start at 10c per MB

One Sim Card Service. Service similar to World Travel Sim Card. It offers a sim card package for $40 that includes $10 worth of service. You can travel internationally on their pre-paid service with charges as little as 20¢ a minute outbound calling.

National Geographic Travel Cellular. This is also a similar service but the provider is actually Cellular Abroad Service which offers their own plans as well.

All of these services offer toll free support along with packages of additional services.

T-Mobile service may be the one U.S. provider with the best international roaming service. This is probably because of T-Mobile’s international roots and the structure of their network. If you are a T-Mobile customer (check your plan) you can use your phone in a large number of countries at no additional cost for text and data. Phone calls average about 24¢ a minute and they have an additional voice discount option.

U.S. Provider International Cellular Rates

As of Early 2018

AT&T and Verizon offer a service where each day of international travel costs $10 (24 hours) from first use. Data, text and calls are used against your monthly service plan. The down side of this service is a two-week trip would cost an $140 for full usage.

Verizon has a 30 day plan that works in 140 countries for $40 for 100 minutes talk and 100 outbound text messages. Incoming text is free.

T-Mobile has some of the best international roaming services. One plan allows you to use text and data internationally at no extra cost with most calls billed at 25¢ max per minute.

Sprint also has a plan that allows you to use text and data internationally at no extra cost with most calls billed at 20¢ per minute. They also offer new discounted international roaming with Canada & Mexico at $2/day or $10/week and most other countries at $5/day or $25/week.

Coming Soon – Updated and New articles on:

Port of Call Skagway Alaska

Spending a Day in a Gold Rush Town

Skagway is a very popular port of call for Alaska cruises. With a population that fluctuates between 700 and 2,000 from winter to summer it is easy to see what the economy is based on. While Skagway is small and isolated that doesn’t mean there isn’t anything to do. Historically Skagway has its beginnings in the Yukon gold rush established as the port of entry for the Chilkoot trail leading up to the gold fields. Today it is a tourist destination with a lot of options for just spending a day off a cruise ship to even longer wilderness adventures.

Where You Dock
Cruise pier Skagway
Cruise pier Skagway
Ships tag the rocks above the pier
Ships tag the rocks above the pier

There are a set of modern docks right near town with specific docks designated for different cruise lines. While there are no facilities right on the docks it is a short walk right to the foot of State Street that runs up thru town.

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Transportation

Taxis are available but the town itself can be walked in a short period. There are locations to visit on the outskirts of town like the gold mine where a taxi would be your best option. There are also Pedi cabs and a number of tour operators that offer short ecursions.

Currency

Alaska is a U.S. state and the U.S. Dollar is the preferred currency with most major credit cards accepted.

Riding The White Pass & Yukon RR
Riding The White Pass & Yukon RR
Attractions

If you are looking for a scenic ride The White Pass and Yukon Railroad offers excursion trains up thru the mountains and back. The station is right in town. There is also a gold mining attraction near town and whale watching tours normally available. One of our favorites was the helicopter tour up to a glacier.

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State Street also has the usual lineup of tourist retail stores with an emphasis on jewelry. Look for local crafters and gift items.

Helicopters heading for a glacier
Helicopters heading for a glacier

If you are looking to book a tour our suggestion is to book on your own instead of thru the ship. You will have a whole day in Skagway with plenty of time to set something up. We called the helicopter tour service the day before we docked in Skagway and save almost fifty percent on the booking.

The National Park Service also has a Skagway facility with good information and exhibits about the Yukon gold rush.

Tip: Most U.S. and Canadian cell services do not have any surcharge for using you phones in Alaska. Just make sure you have a land based signal and are not on Cellular At Sea.