Family Cruise to Bermuda
June, 2012

By Jack Welsch

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This was a family trip with my Dad plus all the kids and grand-kids. A cruise is a perfect way of having a family vacation because, while we're all together, everyone has his or her own space as well.

We chose a cruise from the metropolitan New York area to keep the cost of air travel down; all but Eric and his family could easily drive.  At the trime of year we chose, there were three options for cruises out of the New York area; Celebrity from Port Liberty, NJ, Holland America from Brooklyn and NCL from Manhattan.  For better or worse, we chose Celebrity Summit.  Given the demographics of our group, it was probably the best choice but they did, frankly, a lousy job and we won't use them again. The cruise line left a lot to be desired but we still had a great time.

As always, the opinions shared here are mine and I recognize that others may vary drastically. I just try to call 'em as I see 'em.

Sunday, June 17 - Off again!

Since 7 of us (Dad, Don and his family plus Lin and I) were traveling from northeastern PA, I hired a driver to drive us to the pier. He arrived at our house on schedule at 9:30 and Don and family were already there. Unfortunately, I'd mis-communicated with my Dad; he thought we were picking him up at his house.  A phone call corrected the matter and we were soon on our way. 

Stephen had driven with his family from the Philadelphia area and, as luck would have it, was unloading his car as we pulled in a few spaces away!  He had to park the car, however, so the 7 of us started through registration without them.  My Dad had hurt his back shortly before we left so we asked for and got a wheelchair for him and the guy who pushed it got all 7 of us through registration and onto the ship very quickly. 

By agreement, the 7 of us assembled for lunch on the terrace aft of the Oceanview Café and Steve and company joined us shortly thereafter.    Eric and his family had frown from Duluth the previous night and were staying at a nearby hotel.  While we were eating I called him and he was still enroute to the ship.

By the time we'd finished eating, the rooms were ready and, before going to ours, we got Dad settled in his.  We'd made arrangements for an electric scooter for Dad and it was waiting in his room.  Unfortunately, its presence made the small room almost uninhabitable.  We had asked for a handicapped room for exactly this reason but were told none were available.  Imagine our anger later in the cruise when we met a perfectly mobile couple who had booked an inside cabin and were upgraded to a large handicapped room because they are frequent passengers on Celebrity!  That alone tells you a lot about the company!  Fortunately, there was a jog in the passageway outside of Dad's cabin that provided a place to park the scooter.

Our room was a concierge-level balcony room and was rather large for a ship. We found a bottle of sparkling wine awaiting us which was rather nice.  After unpacking the carry-ons we headed for the pool where we'd all agreed to meet at 2:30.

We've been through a lot of muster drills and know that they are never fun but this one was a total disaster.  The muster station for the rest of the family was the theater and apparently that wasn't too bad.  Ours, however was the Rendezvous Lounge.  We were packed in like sardines and you could hear and see nothing.  God help the people in that muster station in a real emergency.

Naturally, we were on deck for the ship's departure but after the Verrazano Narrows bridge, we went down, unpacked and drank the sparkling wine.  Linda, of course, took a nap.

There was ballroom dancing in Revelations on deck 11 at 7:30.  It was only a DJ but the music was good and the crowd not bad.

We all had late seating for dinner.  Understandably, they could not give us a table for 14 so we'd agreed to take 2 adjacent tables and figured we'd just mix it up from night to night.  They did give us the two adjacent tables but, incredibly, two separate waiters.  Ours, Allan, was quite good but the folks at the other table were not so lucky.  Some of the folks at that table got their food 10 minutes later than others.  I complained and by the next night, we all had Allan.

After dancing in the Rendezvous Lounge to the excellent group, the Rhythmix, and having turned the clocks to Atlantic time, it was 1:00 when we hit the rack.

Sunday, June 18 - First Day at Sea

With the time change, I was up at 8:00 and read on the balcony for a bit before going up for coffee and tea.  We had breakfast on the terrace behind the Oceanview with all but Eric and family then searched in vain for chairs near the pool.  We eventually ended up in a shaded place on deck 11 where we spent much of the day.  There was a quartering sea and the resulting corkscrew motion was probably a factor in Kelly's, Althea's and Eric's seasickness.

Julian & MadieAt about 5 we went down to dress for the first formal dinner, then explored the ship a bit.  Julian and Madie stopped by to see our room and we headed to the Rendezvous to dance to the Rhythmix.  I took Madie out into the hall to teach her a waltz box step and talked her onto the dance floor with me.  What a treat; I was in heaven! She looked beautiful and my only regret is that no one captured that one on film!

Our second table had been changed per my request so now all of us had Allan as our very competent waiter. This was the captain's formal dinner and we were happy to see that Celebrity enforced the dress code of at least jacket and tie. The kids said they saw people being turned away due to improper attire.  I'm prejudiced, of course, but I thought the family all looked GREAT!  Since Madie's birthday is this month, we took the opportunity to make this a birthday party for her, complete with cake.

Dancing with my oldewst princess.After dinner we returned to the Rendezvous and Madie waltzed with me again.  It was about midnight when we got to bed.

Monday, June 19 - Second Day at Sea

I slept until 8:45 and, after getting croissants and tea for Lin, ate alone on the Oceanview terrace.  There were, of course, no chairs by the pool again so I found a shady spot on deck 12 forward where Lin eventually found me.  We had lunch in the dining room and loafed away the afternoon before heading to the Rendezvous at about 6:30.  We'd hoped to catch the last part of the "Acapella (sic) Quartet" but they'd finished so we watched the first part of a comedy act in the theater before returning to the Rendezvous to dance.  Christine, the singer with the Rhythmix asked me where my princess (Madie) was.  Most of the family joined us there by the time we went in to dinner.  After dinner, of course, we danced in the Rendezvous and were in bed just before 12.

Tuesday, June 20 - Arrival in Bermuda and the Snorkel Tour

Eric & DadThe kids were on deck early but, having been in Bermuda twice before, we were already docking at the Dockyards by the time Lin and I awoke.  Breakfast was in the dining room with Eric and family. We were seated near the large stern window and at one point I saw a yellow inflatable go by.  It looked like the picture I'd seen of the boat used for the snorkel trip we'd booked and on closer inspection, it was.  We'd booked the trip independently rather than through Celebrity and the owner/operator said that, while the tour really starts in Hamilton, she'd pick us up at about 12:45 at a certain point on the dock.   This was apparently her morning run so I rushed out on deck to see where she came in so I'd be sure of spotting it later.

One of the many disadvantages of large ships is that they can't get into many places.  Among those inaccessible places are the ports of St. Georges and Hamilton, Bermuda.  Therefore, we were at the remote "King's Wharf" AKA "the Dockyards".  The area had been built up with shops and a few tourist attractions (read "traps") over the years but it's still a poor substitute for the "real" Bermuda.  After breakfast we left the ship and explored the dockyard area a bit, then returned to prepare for our tours.

The whole gang met at the grill by the pool for lunch after which we split up for our tours.  Don, Kelly, Julian, Steve, Krista, Noah, Eric, Madie and I headed for our snorkeling trip while Dad, Linda, Althea, Becka and Hannah prepared for their glass bottom boat cruise, leaving a bit later. 

Those of us going snorkeling arrived on the pier somewhat earlier than requested but the boat arrived almost immediately.  The tour was through Jesse James Cruises, captained by Chloe McKey.  There were 5 other passengers on the boat when it arrived and we took all of the 9 remaining spaces.  Since there was some rather rough water at the wreck site that was far offshore and some members of both groups were inexperienced, we went first to a sheltered area where there were some reefs near small islands.  The boat's bottom had a glass section so next was some time over a wreck not far away,  There were many other boats there all doing the same thing, though, so we had to stay in the boat.  Last was another reef but I must admit that I saw few fish there.  That was a tad disappointing.  If I were alone or with only experienced people, I'd have wanted to do the wreck dive, but it was definitely better for the kids that we took the gentler approach.  The trip in total was about 2½ hours and all in all it was great. I highly recommend it.

Just as we arrived at the dock, a ferry was unloading and its hoards were heading to the ship so we walked around a bit.  By the time we returned, the other members of our family were already on the ship and I found a spot by the pool where I sat until 6:00.

Most of the family joined us in the Rendezvous before dinner and, of course, we returned afterwards to dance some more and I had another great waltz with Madie. One of the things we like about ballroom and Latin dancing is that there is something of a community among the dancers and we'd become friendly with several couples, including Olga and Mark, who are originally from Russia.  The band broke at 10:45 and after sitting for a while we learned that they were not returning until 11:30 so we decided to call it a night. Just as we were about to get on the elevator, though, Olga and Mark were getting off it and dragged us back to dance some more. We especially enjoyed having an opportunity to get to know them a little better andn finally headed back up to the room at 12:15.

Wednesday, June 21 Visit to St. Georges

One of the best deals in Bermuda  (or maybe the only one!) is the ferry and bus pass.  For less than 30 US bucks you can ride the ferries and busses at will for 3 days.  We were up at 8:00, had dinner on the stern and were on the 10:30 ferry to St. Georges.  This was a high-speed ferry and the trip took about 45 minutes.  To my way of thinking, St. Georges IS Bermuda.  It's small, still quaint and still not terribly crowded. 

St. GeorgesWhen we were last here we bought some salt and pepper shakers that have unique caps that keep the salt dry and free-running.  Unfortunately, the caps had cracked over the years so our first mission was to find replacements.  After buying 2 new sets (one as a backup), we found in another shop replacement caps so we bought a set of those as well.  Now we don't have to go back to Bermuda for a while! 

There used to be a really nice pub on the town square where we intended to have lunch but we found it closed so we ended up at Wahoo's, right on the water.  Lunch (wahoo, of course, mine grilled and Linda's deep fried) was great but, as we well knew, the prices in Bermuda are not for the faint of heart.  Two glasses of wine and the two dishes of wahoo with fries came to $75 US.

St. GeorgesWe knew there was a bus stop on York Street but were not quite sure where.  However, just as we got to York Street, a Hamilton bus came along and the driver let us on.  It turned out that the route of this bus was a rather round-about one but that actually allowed us to see parts of the island we had not seen before.

We got to Hamilton a bit before 2:00 and the next ferry to the dockyards wasn't scheduled until 2:30. However, there was apparently an extra ferry at 2:00 and we caught it just as they were about to pull up the gangway.  Back on the ship, I sat by the pool for a bit but eventually went down for a short nap.

We went to the Rendezvous before dinner but Lin's ankle was hurting so we didn't dance at all.  After dinner they had karaoke in the lounge so that was the end of the night's dancing.  We did stay long enough to hear Eric perform, though, and he was great.

Thursday, June 22 - Time at the beach and departure

Astwood CoveAll the kids and I wanted to go to the beach while Lin and Dad wanted to stay behind.  I was up at 7:30 and met the kids on the afterdeck for breakfast before taking a bus to Astwood cove. Don and Julian had chosen that one since there was supposed to be a good place for bouldering. The descriptions said the beach was nice as well but when we got there, Stephen was unhappy with it so he, Eric, heir families and I took a bus back to Warwick Long Bay Beach.  That beach is about 1/2 miles long and was not the least bit crowded.  We were in about the center of the beach.  There were two or three people about 150 yards away and another 15 or 20 several hundred yards beyond them and that was it!  Not exactly New Jersey!  The surf was substantial enough to be fun yet not terribly dangerous and the sand was soft and pink.  Warwick Long Bay BeachAll in all a great place.  We stayed about 90 minutes and had a blast before taking the bus back to the dockyards.  I'd intended to walk around a bit before getting back on the ship but was hot and tired so figured I'd stop in the room, drop my pack and snorkel gear, take a shower, and head back out.  The AC felt great, though, so after having lunch on the afterdeck with Kelly & Julian, I just read in the room and then in the library.

I eventually found Lin and we went on deck for the departure from Bermuda.  We ended up outside on deck 4 with some of the kids until the pilot was picked up off of St. Georges.

After dressing for the second formal dinner, we naturally went to the Rendezvous to dance to Rhythmix again.  I'd hoped to dance with Madie when she was in her formal dress but sadly the band had quit by the time she arrived. Linda had taught Julian some waltz steps but he had not shown, either.

The GangAs the end of a cruise approaches, the staff become hyper-sensitive about the rating sheets so, when I could not decide between the tuna and lobster, Allan predictably brought me both.  With a professional photographer giving him some grief, he also was good enough to take group pictures of us on the steps.

Since Rythmix had finished their final set before we finished diner and Eric had said he was not doing Karaoke, we went directly to bed.  Steve called a bit later to say Eric WAS going to sing but we were already in bed so opted out. This was the night to set the clocks back, giving us another night of sleep.

Friday, June 23 - Last Day at Sea

I was up at 7:30 and went up for coffee and tea to go.  I read on the balcony while Lin ordered room service for both of us.  She had gone back to bed so, after reading a  bit more, I walked around a bit.  HannahBy the time I returned to the room, she was gone so we both did our own thing.

Not being very happy with the buffet, Lin and I had lunch at "Bistro on Five", which is a crèperie.  There is a $5 per person cover charge but then you can eat as much as you want and it was GREAT!  I wish we'd eaten there every day!!

AltheaThe day's highlight for us was the kids' talent show.  Of course, had we been alone, you could not have dragged us there but with TWO of our kids performing, you could not keep us away.  Althea and Hannah each sang and they were both fantastic. OK, maybe I'm just a tad biased…

Of course, we dance in the Rendezvous before dinner and both Madie and Julian showed up so I danced with Madie and Linda with Julian.  Unfortunately no one got really great pix.

The last night is always a bit sad…

Saturday - June 24 - Going Home

I HATE the day you leave a cruise ship though in recent years, most cruise companies have made it less painful that it was in the past. Celebrity, predictably, did a pretty poor job here as well. Because Dad needed a wheelchair, he was to go to the Martini Bar. Naturally, we went with him. After we'd been there a long time without getting called, I went to the theater to see if I could lean something. The attendant at the door rudely told me that no announcements were made in the Martini bar! I asked him if he didn't find it strange that people were asked to wait in an area where there were no announcements. He failed to see anything wrong with that. We sent someone to listen by the theater but eventually someone came buty and, seeing my father's luggage tag, said, "Oh, you can get off." Lord know how long we waited needlessly!

Of course, finding the luggage is always a treat but usuially works out OK, This time, though, Don was missing a bag. The staff didn't really seem to care a lot and we searched all over for it. Quite by accident, Don stumbled onto an area for bags whose tags hade become attached and there was his. Would it not have made sense for staff to suggest that FIRST?

Swearing we'd never use Celebrity again, we said our sad good-byes and headed for our separate ways home.

In spite of Celebrity's pitiful performance, it was a week well-spent. Due to geography, it doesn't often happen that we are all together. For some in our group, this was their first cruise and they were awed by it all. For some of us, cruising and Bermuda are old hat. I think that all of us, however, had a great time. I know I did!