The NCL Crown
16.11.2004 - 19.11.2004
Bob's brother Dave persuaded him that he should take a cruise to Bermuda. Bob had never been on a cruise ship before, and my experience was limited to crossing and re-crossing the Atlantic from NY to Europe on the Nieuw Amsterdam in 1950 when I was 12 years old. We are accustomed to cruising on our own sailboat which is about 48 feet (depending on whether you count the dinghy davits). Much smaller than even the smallest cruise ship. I found that it was cheaper to take a cruise ship than it was to fly and stay on land. We didn't stay as long as I would have liked, but we still had a good time. By this time I was using a digital camera
Embarkation: Our documents told us that embarkation could begin at 1 pm. Our daughter dropped us off at the McComas Street terminal about 1:20. After we gave our luggage (3 small suitcases) to large persons in reflective vests, we joined the longest check-in line for US citizens that were not Latitude members. I had retained a large fanny pack (aka bum bag) with 3 cameras (I ended up taking over 750 digital photos of Bermuda and the ship) and a bag with a computer and Bob had a small bag with his razor and medications.
The line moved fast enough that I did not become uncomfortable (I have osteoarthritis in my back and cannot stand for very long without a lot of pain). Since it *was* November, the temperature in the building was reasonable. The lady that checked us in said people were waiting for her at noon already. Even though we pre-registered and had passports, she still had to have Bob's driver's license to get our home address which was not in the system.
Note: in the summer this metal building will heat up and it may become unbearably hot. According to the lady that checked us in, she has sometimes just had to leave because she could not stand it.
She told us that we would need our photo ID to board, and that turned out not to be true and resulted in a lot of unnecessary shifting around. This was a theme - the ship people were always saying that we needed a photo ID to get off or on along with our NCL card, but no one ever looked at the photo ID, and why should they? since when they swiped the NCL card, our photos came up on the computer screen. It was explained to me later that the photo ID was in case the computer swiped card did not work. If I had known that it would have made things easier.
We did have to go through X-ray and Bob had to be wanded as he was wearing a large bronze belt buckle which set it off. We went through security every time we returned to the ship. But the personal X-ray doorway was turned off, and no one ever looked at the items that were passed through on the belt, so eventually we stopped putting things on the belt altogether.
We entered on deck 5 and were directed to the aft elevators to get to our cabin on deck 9. There was only one elevator in operation. When I asked about it, I was told that they were using the other elevator for luggage, but this was obviously not true as the elevator showed that it was on deck 9, and it was not on deck 9 when we got there. Indeed this elevator did not work (was continuously on deck 9 for two days) and when it did start to work, the other elevator went out. I found this to be unsatisfactory because not only did all the passengers with mobility problems have to use this elevator, but also the crew had to bring various carts with equipment all on this one elevator because Monday, the forward elevators were out of service due to rough seas.
We booked the lowest rate cabin, and were upgraded to a Superior Inside Stateroom which has two lower beds that can be converted into a queen-size bed, bathroom with shower, spacious closet with mirror, television for in-house movies and CNN, hair dryer, individual air-conditioning, direct-dial phone, music console, and personal safe (which we didn't use). Average size 154 sq. ft. On Riviera Deck (deck 9). We were upgraded from a Deluxe Inside Stateroom on deck 4 which was about the same amount of square feet. The cabin was right around the corner from the elevator. I found this to be a perfect location - close enough to the stern decks for quick access and also close to the elevator and stairs.
However, when we entered, we found an ashtray full of cigarette butts in the cabin, and it smelled of stale cigarette smoke. Very unappetizing. Bob suggested that I clean the ashtray myself, but this would have merely transferred the smelly stuff to the waste basket. He refused to let me call housekeeping, so I took the ashtray and contents outside and set it on the housekeeping cart which was outside in the corridor. There was no 'plan of the day' information, so we did not know that we could have gotten lunch.
I found the cabin quite acceptably large, with two good sized closets (a bit bigger than on our boat) but with very little drawer space (much less than on our boat - only 6 drawers altogether). There was more room to move around than on our boat which basically has room for only one of us to stand at a time. But I found the decor of the cabin ugly. The carpet was grey and was stained and spotted, and the bedspreads were tan (one of my least favorite colors) with green and brown and teal stripes.
The beds were reasonably comfortable. The foam mattresses tended to shift around on top of the springs. We did not try to make a queen out of them. I didn't see a room steward to ask about it, and we were afraid that one of us would have to climb out over the other one to go to the bathroom. The shower was quite nice, with a shower head that could be adjusted in height and removed to be hand held.
This meant that when it was rough and I couldn't stand up reliably, I could sit on the toilet and stick my head into the shower and wash my hair. There was quite a bit of cupboard space in the bathroom.
There was a safe (which we didn't use), direct dial phones (ridiculously expensive either to call out ($5.95/minute) or for people to call us - $7.95 a minute), piped-in music and satellite TV which had only CBS, ESPN, TNT, and some tapes (without commercials - hooray) of History Channel presentations like for instance one on the America's Cup.
We read the information that was provided, but it did not tell us how to get the loudspeaker announcements in the cabin and it was a couple of days before we figured out how to do that. Although maybe they were turned off from above, because we didn't get any at debarkation either). Our luggage arrived about 3 and we unpacked.
We went out on deck to observe when the ship left the pier. We would have liked to go to the Top of the Crown or the Pasta Cafe to see the harbor passing by and be out of the quite strong wind, but there was a group playing live music in there and it was WAY too loud for us (although the music was quite nice if it had been about 10 dB less). The decks were wet and there was no place to sit that we could see what was going on on that deck (deck 11). I had mistakenly worn only a thermal vest instead of my winter coat and even the vest was too hot in the Top of the Crown, but it wasn't enough out on the deck. This deck also had the running track. After the first day, we never went up there again.
We went down to deck 10 and tried to get something to eat at the Cafe Italia, but although the buffet seemed to be ready, they said we couldn't eat until 4:30, so it would be 10 more minutes. After 10 minutes, we got a little bit to eat.
We ate here one more time during the cruise, but Bob doesn't like to eat outdoors. The hot tubs, beauty shop and fitness center were also on this deck, but we didn't use any of those things.
I finally gave up because of the cold, and went down to our room. I had wanted to see us go under the Key Bridge and I really wanted to see us go under the Bay Bridge, but I couldn't stand out on the deck any longer. I think we saw the Bay Bridge on the bow camera (which was broadcast on the network to the TV in our room), and Bob said he saw us go through the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel at about 2 am - also on the bow camera.
We went to dinner and I took a photo of the flowers on the table and our reflection in the mirrors on the ceiling. When it came time for dessert, one of the ladies said she didn't want any dessert, so they gave her
I found that there was much more vibration from the engines than I expected (all over the ship-not just in the cabin). But, I was impressed to see them maneuver the ship with the thrusters which appeared to be both on the bow and stern. No tugs were used, going into or out of port although they stood by in case they were needed.
Dave tells me that this ship has no stabilizers. The water got a bit rougher when we went out into the Atlantic - not surprising to me since I know up close and personal (so to speak) what the waves are like when there's as much wind as we were having. It just looked like there were some rollers, and maybe cross waves of 5-8 feet with tiny white caps every so often which I would not have said was rough. When I would take the GPS out on deck, it would show that we were doing 19+ knots so the rough weather did not slow us down.
I did not consider that it was rough as I define rough. Rough to me is green water over the bow. Bob has taken movies of the seas breaking over the carrier deck of the USS Essex (60 feet up) in the North Atlantic which broke the keel of the ship in 3 places and resulted in it going to the scrap yard. That's rough!!
I found the motion of the ship quite unpleasant. It also made me walk like a drunk - I was tacking from side to side if I didn't have something to hold onto. They shut down the forward elevators due to the weather, and in some cases we were not to open the doors to the deck because of wind. Someone broke off one of the grab rails in one of the elevators, but that was fixed eventually. Neither of us are prone to seasickness, although if I tried to read or write for any length of time, I would get a headache, so I spend a lot of time sleeping. But we did NOT miss any meals.
We ate all our breakfasts on the ship in the Yacht Club. I really liked the decor here - there were brilliant blue paintings of sailboats - very saturated color.
The buffet was decorated with melons and other food carved into shapes and there were up-to-date labels which explained what the food was if you couldn't quite identify it. There were also sort of comic statues - a chef, a unicorn, a man at the wheel of a ship etc.
In addition to the rolls, pastries, toast, bagels, English muffins, pancakes, hot cereal, cold cereal, bacon, sausage, corned beef hash, fries, salmon, herring, two kinds of scrambled eggs, cold cuts, baked beans and yogurt, there were omelets and waffles done to order, various kinds of fruit including figs, cheese blintzes, and cream cheese rosettes on cucumber slices. And probably some other stuff that I've forgotten. We could chose from about 6 different juices, hot tea, ice water, coffee and decafe to drink.
I had originally signed up for two ships tours - one was a night glass bottomed boat trip which was supposed to be at 9 pm. I figured we could eat dinner and then go on the glass bottomed boat trip. But when I got my tickets, they'd changed the time to 5:45 pm, way too early to have finished dinner. The other tour was for a King's Wharf tour Friday morning when we were leaving at 11 am. I assumed there would be little else we could accomplish in that time. However, I got an email back from NCL saying that there was no room on this tour. Then when I got my tour tickets, I found I'd gotten it after all.
So I just canceled both trips. And as it turned out, we didn't follow the published port schedule anyhow- it was too rough to go in to St. George on Tuesday, so we went to Hamilton instead. And then instead of going to King's Wharf on Thursday, we went to St. George, We never got to Kings Wharf at all and we just left at noon from St. George.
NCL has Freestyle Cruising. This means that there are no dinner reservations for a set table at a set time. In 2004, you could also get a dining coupon to have a meal ashore. I was very unhappy to discover that I was limited to one dining coupon to dine ashore. I had assumed that I could have as many as I wanted. Not so. Originally I had intended to eat dinner Tuesday at the Carriage House in St. George, lunch Weds in Hamilton, dinner Weds at the Hog Penny, and lunch Thursday at the Frog and Onion at King's Wharf. The changed schedule made mincemeat of that idea.
This is what we did in Bermuda.
November 16, 2004
The entrance to St. George harbour is very narrow and in a rough sea state is impassible for even small cruise ships. The ship (NCL Crown) that we visited St. George on in 2004 was unable to get in to the dock when we first arrived because of rough seas, so the ship docked in Hamilton.
From the Visitor's Center we purchased two 3-day bus passes ($28 @) which are also good on the ferries. At the same time, we got a Bermuda Heritage Pass. I've seen some websites that say these passes are $35, but we were only charged $25 @. The Visitor's Center only takes cash (although they will take US $$). No plastic.
We walked around to the ferry terminal and took a ferry to Somerset Bridge
I talked to the ferry assistant, and he said he worked a 14 hour shift. He was lying on the bench at the front of the ferry eating a candy bar in spite of the fact that there is no eating on the ferry.
Somerset Bridge is a tiny drawbridge only 22" wide and is one of Bermuda's sights.
Next to the Somerset Bridge is Sandy's Rectory which was built about 1740 by Chief Justice John Tucker. The historical record says:
"Tradition has it that artisans were brought from England. A fanlight above the folding doors between the two parlours is said to have been copied from the embroidered design of Miss Kitty Tucker's petticoat, the daughter of Chief Justice Tucker. The house was passed down to the eldest of the six sons, Henry (als "Somerset Henry"). He married Frances, sister of St George Tucker of Williamsburg, Virginia. Henry started The Somerset Bridge Club, an intellectual society and was a member of the Assembly. He was implicated in planning the gunpowder plot, where powder was removed from the Government magazine on 14 August 1775, for use by the American revolutionaries. Henry's father-in-law was Colonel Henry Tucker." ( Bermuda Historical Quarterly Vol XXV, No 1, 1968).
and then we walked up the hill to the bus stop
and caught a bus out to King's Wharf.
The Dockyard area was originally a Royal Naval Base. One of the outstanding buildings which every cruiser who docks at Kings Wharf sees is the Clocktower which was originally The Great Eastern Storehouse. The two 100 foot tall towers make a great landmark.
The Great Eastern Storehouse, with 3 foot thick walls was built in 1856. The clock on the south tower was cast in England in 1857 by John Moore and Sons. What seems to be a single hand clock on the eastern side of the north tower is a rare "tide clock." In Royal Navy days, the hand was set daily to indicate the time of high tide. The towers are still easily identified from a distance, making them an excellent reference point for mariners although they can no longer identify the state of the tide. Opened in 1990, the Clocktower Mall is one of the Bermuda’s most innovative examples of preserving a historical structure while putting it to modern use.
I have shopped at the Clocktower Mall, but I didn't go there on this trip. We stopped at the Craft Market in the old Dockyard Cooperage which is the first place I would take someone to shop in Bermuda.
Most of the other shopping is of UK imports - kilts from Scotland, Irish sweaters and linens, Wedgewood china, and also watches, jewelry and perfume from Europe. I like to buy things that are not only good bargains, but also actually come from the place that I am visiting. Here you can watch while wood turner gives weekly demonstrations of his art, making bowls, candlesticks and trinket boxes on his lathe. A jeweler creates elegant adornments from wire and semiprecious stones. In another corner, a doll maker deftly fashions dolls and ornaments out of banana leaves. Elsewhere, someone paints floral patterns on china or sea glass, while someone else knits wool hats and shawls. I got an iris pin and an iris cross stitch for my mom, and a hair ornament for my daughter.
In addition I think it is cool to be in a place where in the 19th century, skilled barrel makers in the cooperage (a cooper is a barrel maker) were amongst the busiest of workers at Royal Naval Dockyard. In those days, most perishable goods were preserved in salt and packed in wooden barrels. Liquids were kept in kegs. Thus barrels and other containers were in high demand.
During the cruise-ship season, the Craft Market offers a two-hour session of free tastings. On Monday and Thursday from April to October, Bermuda-made rum, beer and other products are served in the cooperage atrium, and during the market's winter program (November to March) visitors may participate in some of the craft activities and keep what they make.
Then we used our Heritage passes (instead of paying $10 admission or $8 for seniors), for the Maritime Museum
and we climbed the hill and toured the Commissioner's House (which was not open in 1995)
and toured the Commissioner's House.
There was a wonderful doll house full of carefully crafted tiny cedar furniture.
We walked back down to the entrance. Bermuda has a REAL Water Gate The watergate is an actual gate over the water.
There is a canal or slip and the gate (above) cranks down across it. This enclosed waterway once served to transport ordnance stores from ships anchored in Grassy Bay to storage houses within the Keep, safely allowing for ship repairs or refitting in the outer Dockyard. The sea gate enabled gunpowder and shot to be lightered out to the waiting warships with minimal risk of explosion occurring.The canal goes from the watergate to the keep pond on the inside of the Naval Base. The hanging portcullis gate operated by pulleys and a winch maintained security.
The Keep Pond is now the residence of the dolphins of Dolphin Quest. (UGH). I thought what the Dolphin Quest has done to the Watergate area was horrible.
Then got the high speed catamaran ferry back to Hamilton.
For dinner, we walked up to the Hog Penny and had the Upper Crust Supper ($46.00 including service charge for a 3 course dinner).
and had the Upper Crust Supper ($46.00 including service charge for a 3 course dinner). I had French onion soup and Bob had salad, I had Beef Wellington
and Bob had salmon phyllo, and we both had the Granny Smith apple pie with ice cream and drank iced tea.