Help a cruising newb plan a trip to Bermuda

My family’s in the midst of planning a vacation in the month of July (we have the 16th to the 24th open). We’re looking at doing either a cruise to Bermuda cruise, which we have never done before – actually, we’ve never done cruising at all and are a little wary.

We’re a very active and well-traveled family of 5 - my parents are in there 40’s, I’m 20 and my sisters are 18 and 11. We like off-the beaten track kindof stuff, meeting interesting people and are all major foodies.

We’ve looked mostly at NCL as a starting point, though are open to looking at other lines as well. We can leave from either Boston or New York. Our main concerns, so far, are:

  1. What’s the food situation really like? We’ve researched the ‘Free Style dining’ NCL offers, and haven’t really been impressed - out impression is that for one the flat rate you get bad to mediocre food, and for extra you get mediocre to slightly above average food.

  2. How crowded is it? Or maybe a better question would be how crowded does it feel?

  3. What are the entertainment options for young adults/college aged kids under the age of 21?

Also any recent cruising experiences would be greatly appreciated :slight_smile:

try www.cruisecritic.com

We’re utilizing cruise critic in our research already - Thank-you though.

First, take the Cruise Critic opinions with a grain of salt. The way some people there follow their cruise lines can be cultlike.

1.) I can’t speak for Norwegian, but I’ve cruised Holland America and Princess. Holland America had only traditional dining (Early and Late). Princess had Early and Late Traditional, and an option for “Anytime Dining.” In Traditional, you have the same table, same servers, and same tablemates at the same time every dinner. With “Anytime” you walk in like a regular restaurant and you’re sat at a random table with random people. Unfortunately, though I believe they do quite a good job with lines, this also means a possible wait if you come at peak times. We’ve never done “anytime” since the formal dining is one of the highlights for my mother. However a tablemate with 20 or so cruises under her belt said an astonishing number of people never even see the formal dining room. They eat exclusively at the buffets and pizza type places. Also, IIRC, some cruise lines are moving towards Anytime Dining being the standard.

Ships usually offer multiple dining options. There is the random eateries around the ship (pizza, burgers, buffet) that may be open during certain hours, there is the formal dining (formal meal), then there are the special restaurants that you must pay a premium. Food quality was just decent. Nothing bad, but nothing blew my socks off either.

2.) Allegedly, there were 5,000+ people on my British Isles cruise. I say “allegedly” because I swear we never saw more than a few hundred of them. The ship is HUGE and the shows are the only time I ever saw more than just a handful of people. Doesn’t feel crowded AT ALL.

3.) There are usually shows every night. They could range from comedy acts to very traditional broadway revues. The cruise lines run games trivia contests, bingo, there’s usually a sign up sheet for people who want a game of bridge or chess, etc.

How open minded are your parents? You should check your cruise line’s policy regarding drinking and gambling. I believe the age to gamble was 18. Drinking age was 21, although on my first cruise on Holland America I was only 20. I ordered a Brandy and they brought it with my mother’s permission.

They may have some kids things for your younger sister and kids her age, but it sounds like you guys have a sizable group and you’d have to be careful she doesn’t just feel abandoned.

*I wouldn’t worry too much about entertainment. Unless you have multiple sea days, you spend most of the day ashore. By the time you get back to the boat you eat dinner, drag your ass to the show, then pass out from exhaustion the second you hit your state room. :slight_smile:

Thanks, Cyberhwk.

You’ve confirmed what we’ve heard other places re. food, but that’s alright, we’re awfully spoilt and we’ll probably be fine. Good to here that the boat doesn’t feel crowded.

Sounds like the older kids shouldn’t have a problem finding things to do; we both like shows and such. Parents are fairly open-minded, don’t mind responsible glass-of-wine with dinner type drinking. I’d like to try blackjack with my dad at least once, he’s a ridiculous card-shark :smiley:

The youngest is a very old 11 and hates to be left out of anything, so that concern is well placed - so far she’s been very against doing any “kid’s club” type things. I think she’ll probably bounce between the parents and sisters, and eventually meet up with some kids her own age and ditch us old fogies :stuck_out_tongue:

Any must-see shore things in Bermuda, or things to avoid?
Looks like we’re leaning more towards NCL, departing from NYC, just 'cause the dates work out the best for us. If anyone could chime in experience with them that’d be great :slight_smile:

I was on a New York-Bermuda cruise a couple of years ago. We took Norwegian because of the Freestyle dining. I didn’t feel that being tied down to a set dinner time with the same dinner companions every day was something I could do. The price was that the food was indeed mediocre. NCL had several dining options on board including a Chinese restaurant and steak place, which required a small surcharge in some cases. They also allowed us to get a voucher to have one meal onshore from a local restaurant which was a nice change of pace. Actually, it was probably the best meal on the trip.

My ship had three ports of call, Hamilton, St. George and Kings Wharf. Not all ships stop at the three ports. I would recommend finding a ship that stops at all three or at least two of the three. I am not a beach guy and had no intention of spending time there. So the multiple stops allowed access to various other points of interest around the island. There was quite a lot of shopping on Hamilton for my wife.

I thought the entertainment was ok on-board. Most of it would probably acceptable to teenagers. There were trivia contests. The nightlife I thought was slightly more adult based. And the bars/clubs at the time were relatively smoky. Don’t know if their policies have changed.

They will have a fair number if shore excursions that you can purchase, many of which the whole family can enjoy.

Depending on where you board, the trip from Bermuda can be long. I think it took us a bit more than a day from NYC which was unpleasant since a hurricane had just been through an the seas were rough. And being cooped up on a ship for that length of time was just not fun.

We cruised Bermuda on the Celebrity Horizon a number of years back out of Norfolk, VA. It went to St. Georges and Hamilton. While I am not a foodie, I would say that the food on most every ship I’ve been on, including this one, was very good to excellent in quality.

As far as who to book with, I would use Vacationstogo.com as they have the best prices on cruises and specialize in unsold (or undersold) cabins. If food and activities are that important to you, go with a five star ship and use the cheapest one out of your chosen port for the length of time and dates you are available. I’ve been on Princess, NCL, Holland America, and Celebrity multiple times, and they are all about the same for the number of stars the ships get rated, other than to say that newer ships tend to be better.

We are avid scuba divers, so we spent all our time on dive trips. One exception was a visit to a cave with stalactites and stalagmites that you could swim in, which was pretty cool.

The shows on all the ships are usually pretty lame with the exception of the comedians in my opinion, but the contests on the ships (trivia, bingo, etc.) are usually pretty enjoyable.

As far as Bermuda itself, I don’t remember there being any cheap food options, and most things were very formal dining, so plan your activities around the food you eat on the ship that you’ve already paid for. Bermuda has excellent public transportation that was available in both St. George’s and Hamilton, so you can catch a bus to anywhere you want to go. I say this because many people on a first time cruise feel like they have to book their excursions through the ship. That’s not the case at all, and things like scuba and many snorkel trips are substantially cheaper and even more convenient if booked in the town. Cruisecritic.com is definitely a great resource for finding activities that your whole family enjoys.

We took the NYC to Bermuda cruise on NCL many moons ago. We traveled on the Norway, which was their largest ship at the time. Never felt crowded.

The food on cruise ships are known for quantity over quality. Mass production is the only way they’re going to handle that many people. However, friends of ours who recently cruised said that their ship had reservation-only restaurants that weren’t included in the price, so maybe that’s an option for foodies.

FYI, Bermuda is a gorgeous place, but it’s extremely small – half the size of Hilton Head Island, SC – and you can traverse the entire island on a moped in a few hours. The ports are only 5 or so miles apart. And it’s very quiet. After all, it’s claim to fame is being a tax haven for the rich and a golfer’s paradise. And that is exactly what it feels like. There are a few nice restaurants and expensive shops, but very little night life.

If you like to snorkel or scuba, there are lots of ship wrecks around the island that you can visit. Or, if you like water sports and have a lot of dough, you can rent jet skis, etc. I’m talking $150/hour.

You can rent a moped and putt around to different beaches. You can tour the island’s cave, lay out on one of the gorgeous beaches, play tennis, or golf. Other than that…not much.

We were in our mid-20’s when we went on our cruise and we regretted choosing the NYC to Bermuda trip. There were only a dozen or so people on the entire ship who were under the age of 60. Now summer time will invariably draw more families, but if I were traveling with teenagers, Bermuda would be at the bottom of my list.

Thanks again to everybody who’s chimed in :slight_smile:

Latest word is that we’re booking with Celebrity, taking the 17th to the 24th on the Celebrity Summit and leaving from Cape Liberty, NJ. Waiting to hear back from the travel agent (we’re going through Liberty) re. availability, trying to get a balcony for my parents and littlest sister, and an inside room across the hall for me and the middle sis (neither of us are crazy about that, but I don’t think we’ll be spending much time in our room anyway). Changed to this line 'cause the departure dates/location work for us the best (if we left from Boston, middle sis would have to ask an extra vacation day from her newish job, and Dad decided he didn’t want to deal with the hassle of getting into NYC).

Parents are still a little trepidatious, but I think that’s more about the unknown factor then anything else. Me and sisters all think it’ll be fine, we know that as a family we’re pretty good at rolling with whatever comes our way :slight_smile:

Regardless, we’re all pretty excited and are starting to look at various shore excursions more seriously now – littlest one definitely wants to go caving, Mum likes to kayak, middle sis likes to take it easy on the beach and Dad and me like everything but especially the “can’t do it anywhere else” sortof stuff.