Cruise Guide: Bermuda beckons cruise passengers

By Mike Coleman

Bermuda, the secluded island paradise in the Atlantic Ocean, has been one of the world’s most popular cruise destinations since the 1960’s and for good reason: Ideal weather, world-class golf, tennis, shopping, colonial history, picturesque pastel-colored towns and villages, pink sand beaches and a welcomed proximity to North America.

 Through November, Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) will send a number of ships to one or more of Bermuda’s three ports – Hamilton, St. George’s and King’s Wharf. In fact, most visits are five-to seven-day Bermuda-only itineraries from Baltimore, Boston, New York (Brooklyn), New Jersey (Cape Liberty), Philadelphia and Norfolk.

“Its history, natural beauty and ideal location gives Bermuda a character unlike any other cruise destination in the Americas,” said Terry L. Dale, president and CEO of CLIA, the chief marketing organization for a host of premier cruise lines and travel agencies. “And, for millions of passengers sailing from the East Coast, it’s a destination that requires no air travel because Bermuda cruises are offered from so many homeports.”

Through October, Celebrity Journey makes seven-day cruises from Cape Liberty featuring one-night stays in St. George’s and two-night stays in Hamilton. Two transatlantic itineraries, and two Caribbean itineraries in April, October and November on Celebrity ships also include Bermuda port calls.

On November 9, Crystal Serenity departs on a 10-day repositioning cruise from Lisbon to Miami – complete with a Big Band theme, featuring the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra. The itinerary includes a port call in the Azores’ Ponta Delgada, as well as an overnight in Hamilton, Bermuda.

Offering one of the most comprehensive Bermuda cruise schedules, Norwegian Cruise Line features three ships – Norwegian Crown, Norwegian Dawn and Norwegian Majesty – that sail nine separate itineraries to Bermuda on five, six and seven-day sailings. Departures through November are available from New York, Philadelphia, Boston and Charleston, with port calls in Hamilton, King’s Wharf and St. George.

Princess Cruises’ summer season includes six Eastern Caribbean itineraries that include port calls to Bermuda’s west end. The nine-day itineraries, aboard Crown Princess between May 12 and September 6, sail roundtrip from Brooklyn and also visit San Juan, St. Thomas and Grand Turk.

Bermuda is featured on seven Royal Caribbean ships offering transatlantic and Caribbean repositioning cruises, Bermuda-only itineraries and Bermuda and Caribbean voyages, through October. Bermuda-only cruises ranging from five- to seven-nights depart from Baltimore, Cape Liberty, Norfolk and Philadelphia. Look for eight-night sailings from Philadelphia and Norfolk to also feature Caribbean port calls.

CLIA is North America’s largest cruise industry organization, representing the interests of 21 member lines and 16,500 travel agencies.

Cruise Guide: Silversea offers golf getaways

By Mike Coleman

Affluent cruise passengers looking for an extraordinary golf vacation need to look no further than Silversea Cruises. The line is offering golf getaways on 15 diverse itineraries aboard Silver Shadow and Silver Whisper, featuring more than 45 challenging courses in more than 25 countries and islands in Europe, the Caribbean and Mexico.

 “Our golf cruises are perfectly tuned to the passions and tastes of the high-end luxury traveler looking to score a perfect round on the finest international links and fairways,” said David Morris, Silversea’s executive vice president of worldwide sales and marketing.

At each of the line’s golf-rich destinations, guests will have the opportunity to improve their game aboard ship with the help of the line’s onboard PGA-classed golf professional. In port, from the rolling fairways at the elegant Fairmont Pierre Marques Golf Club on Acapulco’s Revocadero Beach, the hairpin turns and swirling mountain winds of Montego Bay’s White Witch Golf Club, to the ancient dunes and pine groves at Zeebrugge’s Royal Zoute Golf Club, guests will have a chance to perfect their game at some of the world’s most challenging and revered courses.

In just a few months look for a seven-day, Aug. 17 sailing aboard Silver Whisper from Rome to Monte Carlo with optional golf excursions to Cosmopolitan Country Club (Livorno); Cannes Mougins Golf Club (Cannes); Servannes Golf Club (Sete); and Club de Golf Son Parc (Mahon, Minorca). On August 24, the ship sails on another seven-day excursion, this time from Monte Carlo to Barcelona with optional golf excursions to Sainte Maxime Golf Club (St. Tropez); Le Fregate Golf Club (Marseille); and Son Vida Club de Golf (Palma de Mallorca).

Silver Shadow, meanwhile, departs Sept. 23 on a 9-day voyage from Lisbon to Las Palmas with optional golf excursions to Marbella Golf Course (Malaga); Sherry Golf Jerez (Cadiz); Royal Golf Anfa-Mohammedia (Casablanca); Palheiro Golf Club (Funchal); and Real Club de Golf Las Palmas (Canary Islands). On October 26, the ship begins a 10-day Caribbean roundtrip from Fort Lauderdale with optional golf excursions to Wyndham el Conquistador Golf & Resort (San Juan, Puerto Rico); Teeth of the Dog Golf Club (La Romana, Dominican Republic); White Witch Golf Club (Montego Bay, Jamaica); Links at SafeHaven Golf Club (Grand Cayman); and Key West Golf Club (Key West, Florida).

Escorted, optional golfing excursions vary in price from course to course but include all transfers to and from the select golf courses, pull or power-drive carts, green and any applicable caddy fees. Should guests choose to leave their clubs at home, Nike clubs, shoes and golf essentials are available for rental, demo or purchase. The line will also be offering private swing analysis utilizing the most advanced digital coaching systems.

Guests aboard both ships will enjoy spacious, ocean-view accommodations, most with private veranda, award-winning gourmet cuisine, personalized service, Italian hospitality and Silversea’s selection of all-inclusive shipboard amenities including complimentary beverages, wines and spirits served throughout the ship, 24-hour room service, stocked in-suite beverage cabinet and all gratuities.

Cruise Guide: Silversea offers golf getaways

By Mike Coleman

Affluent cruise passengers looking for an extraordinary golf vacation need to look no further than Silversea Cruises. The line is offering golf getaways on 15 diverse itineraries aboard Silver Shadow and Silver Whisper, featuring more than 45 challenging courses in more than 25 countries and islands in Europe, the Caribbean and Mexico.

 “Our golf cruises are perfectly tuned to the passions and tastes of the high-end luxury traveler looking to score a perfect round on the finest international links and fairways,” said David Morris, Silversea’s executive vice president of worldwide sales and marketing.

At each of the line’s golf-rich destinations, guests will have the opportunity to improve their game aboard ship with the help of the line’s onboard PGA-classed golf professional. In port, from the rolling fairways at the elegant Fairmont Pierre Marques Golf Club on Acapulco’s Revocadero Beach, the hairpin turns and swirling mountain winds of Montego Bay’s White Witch Golf Club, to the ancient dunes and pine groves at Zeebrugge’s Royal Zoute Golf Club, guests will have a chance to perfect their game at some of the world’s most challenging and revered courses.

In just a few months look for a seven-day, Aug. 17 sailing aboard Silver Whisper from Rome to Monte Carlo with optional golf excursions to Cosmopolitan Country Club (Livorno); Cannes Mougins Golf Club (Cannes); Servannes Golf Club (Sete); and Club de Golf Son Parc (Mahon, Minorca). On August 24, the ship sails on another seven-day excursion, this time from Monte Carlo to Barcelona with optional golf excursions to Sainte Maxime Golf Club (St. Tropez); Le Fregate Golf Club (Marseille); and Son Vida Club de Golf (Palma de Mallorca).

Silver Shadow, meanwhile, departs Sept. 23 on a 9-day voyage from Lisbon to Las Palmas with optional golf excursions to Marbella Golf Course (Malaga); Sherry Golf Jerez (Cadiz); Royal Golf Anfa-Mohammedia (Casablanca); Palheiro Golf Club (Funchal); and Real Club de Golf Las Palmas (Canary Islands). On October 26, the ship begins a 10-day Caribbean roundtrip from Fort Lauderdale with optional golf excursions to Wyndham el Conquistador Golf & Resort (San Juan, Puerto Rico); Teeth of the Dog Golf Club (La Romana, Dominican Republic); White Witch Golf Club (Montego Bay, Jamaica); Links at SafeHaven Golf Club (Grand Cayman); and Key West Golf Club (Key West, Florida).

Escorted, optional golfing excursions vary in price from course to course but include all transfers to and from the select golf courses, pull or power-drive carts, green and any applicable caddy fees. Should guests choose to leave their clubs at home, Nike clubs, shoes and golf essentials are available for rental, demo or purchase. The line will also be offering private swing analysis utilizing the most advanced digital coaching systems.

Guests aboard both ships will enjoy spacious, ocean-view accommodations, most with private veranda, award-winning gourmet cuisine, personalized service, Italian hospitality and Silversea’s selection of all-inclusive shipboard amenities including complimentary beverages, wines and spirits served throughout the ship, 24-hour room service, stocked in-suite beverage cabinet and all gratuities.

Cruise Guide: Cozumel rebounds from Hurricane Wilma

By Mike Coleman

COZUMEL, Mexico – It was almost a half-century ago when famed underwater oceanographer Jacques Cousteau happened upon this sleepy, sun-drenched oasis at the eastern tip of the Yucatan Peninsula, declaring it among the most spectacular dive locations in the world.

Much has changed since Cousteau’s first visit here – today the island and its unpretentious town of San Miguel welcome some three million cruise ship passengers annually. But this paradise and the busy tourism industry built around it was almost wiped off the map when Hurricane Wilma made landfall on October 21, 2005. Her 140-mph winds battered this 30-mile-long, 10-mile-wide haven, inflicting considerable damage.

That was then, this is now.

San Miguel’s cozy, downtown core has been revitalized and two of its three cruise ship piers have re-opened – International Pier welcomed vessels in May, 2006 and Punta Langosta Pier began hosting vessels in September 2006. Heavily-damaged Puerta Maya Pier, however, remains a work in progress and may take another year to complete.

Despite the pounding, Cousteau’s underwater assessment still holds true to this day. The dive and snorkel opportunities here remain among the finest in the world. Some 37-plus dive sites teem with tropical fish, marine life and multi-colored coral reefs, which often feature limestone caves and tunnels. Divers can explore the island’s most famous dive site, Palancar, face off with great grouper and moray eels at Tormentos, plunge 120 feet into the brilliant green abyss of San Francisco or make a day of it diving at Chankanaab Park, a prized national facility.

Many cruise ship shore excursions typically include snorkel equipment, beverages and snacks. Average tour length is about 2.5 hours and costs around $40 per adult and $25 for children. More than 30 reefs range in depth from 15 to 90 feet. Transparent waters in some locales provide divers with up to 200 feet of visibility. Contributing to the island’s allure are year-round water temperatures ranging from 77 to 82 degrees.

Punta Sur Park is an ecological reserve featuring tours, a beach, lighthouse, maritime museum, small Mayan ruin and a free catamaran trip through mangroves. A visit to El Cedral, once the largest settlement in Cozumel, features the oldest Mayan structure on the island. The eastern side boasts many secluded beaches and rustic bars.

Small archeological sights, surprisingly untouched by Wilma’s wrath, can be found here, including the restored Maya-Toltec ruins at San Gervasio, not far from San Miguel. Look for the region’s history to come alive at the Museum of the Island of Cozumel, located downtown.

Downtown – a hub of pastel-colored boutiques, open-air restaurants, souvenir shops and jewelry chains – has been revitalized since Wilma’s pounding. Popular haunts like Pancho’s Backyard, Carlos and Charlie’s, Hard Rock Cafe and Señor Frog chains are often packed with cruise ship passenger traffic.

Virtually every major cruise line sails here. Look for three new mega-liners – Carnival Cruise Lines’ Carnival Freedom, Norwegian Cruise Lines’ Norwegian Pearl and Royal Caribbean International’s Liberty of the Seas – to call later this year.