Getting there & away
A passport is the preferred document for entry into Bermuda and is required of visitors from all countries that require a passport for re-entry purposes to their home country.
Your passport should remain valid until well after your trip. If it's about to expire, renew it before you go.
Applying for or renewing a passport can take from a few days to several months, so don't leave it till the last minute.
Direct flights to Bermuda are available from several major cities on the US east coast, as well as from Canada and London.
It pays to do a bit of research before buying a ticket. A good starting point is with online travel services such as www.orbitz.com or www.travelocity.com in the USA, www.expedia.com or www.travelo city.ca in Canada and www.trailfinders.com in the UK. These are excellent places to get a sense of the range for current fares, but you should also take the time to find the airline websites to search discounted web fares. These days cash-strapped airlines sometimes offer the very best deals exclusively to travelers who purchase their tickets directly from the airline websites.
Fares vary with the season you travel, the day of the week you fly and the flexibility the ticket provides for flight changes and refunds. Still, nothing determines fares more than business, and when things are slow, regardless of the season, airlines typically drop fares to fill the empty seats.
Fares can fluctuate so wildly, particularly in the US, that it's not uncommon to find prices dropping by half (or doubling!) from one day to the next. With fixed fares a thing of the past it's hard to put a price on air travel, so take any prices that follow as only a general barometer of what you can expect to encounter.
Bermuda has made a big splash on the cruise ship map. More than 200,000 passengers sail to the island each year during the cruise ship season, which runs from April to mid-November.
The typical cruise ship holiday is the ultimate package tour. Other than the effort involved in selecting a cruise, such a trip requires minimal planning - just pay and show up - and for many people that is a large part of the appeal. Keep in mind that much of your time will obviously be spent at sea, so you'll have notably less time on the island than someone with a vacation of comparable length who takes a flight. Cruises, which are typically one week in length, spend only about half of that time in Bermuda.
Because cruises cover your rooms, meals, entertainment and transportation in one all-inclusive price, they are sometimes relatively good value. Although cruises cost more than lower-end independent travel, they do not necessarily cost more than conventional package tours that cover airfare and expenses at a resort hotel.
The conventional cruise ship is indeed a floating resort; those sailing to Bermuda hold between 650 and 2000 passengers and have swimming pools, dinner shows, casinos, multiple restaurants and lounges.
In addition to the cruise lines' websites given below, also take a look at Cruise Lines International Association(www.cruising.org), an organization of cruise lines that works in affiliation with thousands of travel agencies.
The following four cruise lines all offer regularly scheduled roundtrip cruises to Bermuda throughout the cruise ship season.
Celebrity Cruises (800-235-3274; www.celebritycruises.com) Departs from New York City from April to October and from Norfolk, Virginia, from May to October. It docks in Bermuda at both the City of Hamilton and the Town of St George.
Cruises are actually quite equalitarian. Passengers are not divided into class categories, and all are offered the same dining services and amenities - at least when they're outside their cabins. Cruises are offered at a range of rates, however, depending mainly on the size, type and location of the cabin. Price also depends on the dates of the cruise, the number of people in each cabin and your point of departure.
Standard rates for cruises to Bermuda start between $900 and $1600 per person, based on double occupancy. Discounts abound, however, and very few people pay the full rates. These days, the general rule is that the earlier the booking is, the greater the discount - and, of course, the better the cabin selection. Still, cruise lines want to sail full, so if there are seats leftover at the end there will be discounts available close to sailing as well. And always ask about promotions, as there are often deals for travel club members, seniors etc.
Meals, which are typically indulgent affairs, are included in the cruise price, as are most onboard activities. Alcoholic drinks usually are not included and generally are comparable in price to those in bars back home. Also, expect to pay extra for any activities in Bermuda.
Before paying for your cruise, be sure to check the fine print about deposits, cancellation and refund policies, all of which can be very restrictive.
Yachting is immensely popular in Bermuda and lots of people sail to the island, some during regattas, others on solo trips. Most yachters who sail to Bermuda depart from the US east coast. Bermuda is approximately 640 nautical miles southeast from the state of Virginia, 670 nautical miles from New York City and 690 nautical miles from Boston. Of course, sailing time will vary with the weather and the boat, but the typical voyage time between Bermuda and the US east coast is five to six days.
Bermuda's two main boating entrances are at the Town Cut channel and the Narrows channel, both at the eastern side of the island. Because of the vast reefs that lie as far as 10 miles offshore, the approach must be made cautiously, using updated charts. Bermuda has two lighthouses and numerous beacons, buoys and shore lights to aid navigation.
The government's Bermuda Harbour Radio (297-1010; www.rccbermuda.bm), with the call letters ZBM, maintains a continuous listening watch at 2182kHz, VHF Channel 16, and all vessels approaching Bermuda are required to make contact for entry and berthing instructions. A call should be attempted at approximately 30 miles from the island, giving the estimated time of arrival. Weather forecasts and navigational warnings are broadcast 24 hours a day at VHF Weather Channel 2 on frequency 162.4MHz.
All visiting yachts are required to obtain customs, immigration and health clearance in the Port of St George before proceeding elsewhere in Bermuda. The clearance facility is at the east side of Ordnance Island. Instructions on departure formalities should be obtained here as well; there's a $15 passenger tax.
Anchorage for yachts is available in St George Harbour, Hamilton Harbour and the Royal Naval Dockyard, the latter through the full-service Dockyard Marina (234-0300). For information on how to berth in Hamilton Harbour, contact the Royal Hamilton Amateur Dinghy Club (236-2250). Bermuda Harbour Radio can provide information on anchorage options in St George.
Because there are several yacht races between Bermuda and the US east coast in early summer, yachters who are not racing should keep in mind that it can be a difficult time to secure a berth.
Bermuda is straightforward to visit. All tourists landing in Bermuda must be in possession of a return or onward ticket.
Bermuda International Airport (293-2470; www.bermudairport.com; airport code BHA), on the eastern side of the island, is Bermuda's only airport. This small but modern facility has a couple of gift shops, a duty-free shop, a bar and food kiosks. If you have any banking needs, there's a Bank of Bermuda (293-1414;10am-3pm Mon-Fri) at the ground level of the terminal.
Bermuda's arrival and departure formalities and customs are generally straightforward. An unusual quirk is that if you're flying to the USA from Bermuda, you will actually pass through US customs at the Bermuda airport before your departure, and arrive in the USA as if on a domestic flight.
British Airways (www.britishairways.com; BA; 293-1944; hub Heathrow Airport, London) Has five flights weekly from London.
US Airways (www.usairways.com; US; 800-622-1015; hub Charlotte-Douglas International Airport, Charlotte, NC) Has daily nonstop flights from Baltimore, Boston, Charlotte, New York City, Philadelphia and Washington DC.
British Airways flies from Gatwick Airport in London to Bermuda several days a week, on a schedule that varies with the season. The roundtrip excursion fares typically fluctuate between £500 to £700 depending upon the day of the week and the season of travel.
About 90% of Bermuda's air traffic arrives from the USA. Although the US airlines serving Bermuda operate year-round, the service on some routes gets beefed up in summer. If you have a little flexibility and begin your planning well in advance of your trip, you'll increase the odds of finding a good deal.
Markets that have multiple carriers, such as New York City, typically have the cheapest fares. With the arrival of Bermuda's first discount airline, USA3000, bargain hunters can sometimes find roundtrip fares for as little as $250 to Bermuda from New York and Baltimore.
On direct flights from elsewhere in the USA, roundtrip tickets average around $450, though flights during the busiest summer periods, such as holiday weekends, can cost upward of $600.