This island paradise is less than 600 miles from North Carolina.

By Fran Golden
April 22, 2009

Fortunately for those of us who can’t quite swing a trip to Greece, Bermuda affords a closer-to-home island setting in the Atlantic, only 570 miles off the coast of North Carolina.

There are many great cruising options to Bermuda, among them Royal Caribbean’s bargain five-night sailing on the Explorer of the Seas out of Bayonne, New Jersey. The 3,114-passenger Explorer of the Seas is longer than three football fields and packed with more activities than you can possibly do―even on an itinerary that includes two full days at sea. There’s a challenging outdoor rock-climbing wall, in-line skating track, ice-skating rink (for both free skate and performances by pros), and a well-equipped ocean-view gym. Staying active is no problem on this ship.

Arriving in Bermuda, most people will want to hit the famous pink sand beaches, Elbow Beach on the south shore being among the most popular. Since the Explorer spends two full days in Bermuda, you’ll have plenty of time to see the 20.7-square-mile island and soak up the sun, sand, and sea. Your docking spot is on the west-end at the Royal Naval Dockyard, a historic area now filled with shops and restaurants.

Eat Smart: Head across the island (a ship transfer or public bus is recommended as taxis are expensive) to the capital city of Hamilton, where Bermuda’s status as a British colony is clear at The Fairmont Hamilton Princess. Traditional tea is served at the historic, pink hotel complete with finger sandwiches, warm scones, and pastries.

Greece has its ouzo, Bermuda has its rum. Bacardi is based on the island and Bermuda takes credit for both the rum swizzle (rum, fruit juice, and grenadine) and the Dark and Stormy (rum and ginger beer). Both are in plentiful supply and worth a stop at a beachside bar.

Be Fit: The ship can easily arrange a myriad of shore excursions, including golf on Bermuda’s famous courses, such as Tuckers Point and Riddells Bay. Dive centers, such as Blue Water Divers and Watersports, offer a chance to explore some of the hundreds of shipwrecks off Bermuda.

Live Well: As in the Greek isles, the landscape of Bermuda―waves hitting the shore, sandy beaches, quiet coves, blue skies―has inspired writers and artists. One frequent visitor was Mark Twain. “You go to heaven if you want to,” Twain wrote on his last visit in 1910, “I’d druther stay here.” To see visual works by local and international artists, head to the city hall building in Hamilton, where the Bermuda National Gallery occupies the second floor.