Thursday, November 19, 2009

To Be Continued...

Everyone needs a vacation now and then, right? Even lucky stiffs like me deserve a break so I'm closing up shop ever so briefly and will return with your tropical news and island updates on December 1. But before I go, just a couple of things to keep an eye out for: New episodes of Forbes Luxe 11 continue to air every Saturday night on the Travel Channel at 10pm EST. If you've forgotten why you should be watching, it's because I'm part of a panel of travel experts commenting on affluent excursions like shark-cage diving, race car driving, and super yacht vacationing. (In case you've missed it check out this short sneak peek video; I show up about one minute in). On November 21 we'll be discussing First Class Travel, including renting a Saleen F7 from Gotham Dream Cars, flying a Zeppelin along the San Francisco coastline and riding the rails on the Orient Express. And on November 28 tune in for Icy Hot Spots, when we discuss the Blue Lagoon in Iceland, the ski town of Jackson, Wyoming, and London's Absolut Icebar (where you can drink ice cold vodka from real ice glasses). In the meantime stay tuned for a busy December in Bermuda: the Christmas boat parade, a boozy Boxing Day, and the official start of golf and spa season. Winter here we come.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A Trip Fit For a Queen: PART II

Heard the news? Queen Elizabeth is coming to Bermuda next week for a two-day visit. Considering she hasn’t been here since 1994, I figured I’d do Her Royal Highness a favor and put together an itinerary fit for a queen. In case you missed yesterday’s installment of Bermuda Shorts, I recommended Lizzie head to the historic town of St. George’s on day one then end up with a romantic dinner with the Duke of Edinburgh at Fourways Inn and a suite at Tucker’s Point Hotel & Spa. Well I hope you get a good night’s sleep Queen Liz, because I’ve got a full day slated for you when you wake up. Here’s what you should do on day two: Eat breakfast at the hotel. Your water view balcony is the perfect spot to enjoy tea and crumpets before you hail a cab for the west end. Yep, you’re headed to Dockyard, home of the mega cruise ship piers and more interestingly, the Maritime Museum. (Pssst, you’ve got cash on you, right? Because you’ll probably owe something like fifty bucks by the time you get there. I know, I know, Bermuda’s expensive! But maybe you can get a discount since your face is on the money). When you arrive, tour the Commissioner’s House—built in the 1820’s, it was once the home of the civilian commissioner of Dockyard and is now a soaring museum devoted to the history of the island. Don’t miss the mural depicting 400 years of life in Bermuda, which reportedly took artist Graham Foster four years to paint. When you’re done hop a pink bus to Horseshoe Bay (thanks for the suggestion @AEEvans!). After all, you can’t leave Bermuda without exploring one of our pristine pink sand beaches and considering it’s shoulder season, there’s a good chance Horseshoe won’t be inundated with day-tripping cruise ship passengers. I’m betting you’ll be hungry by now so follow South Shore road until you reach Henry VIII, an English pub that serves one of the best bowls of Bermuda fish chowder in Southampton. When you’re done hop a bus to the Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art in Paget Parish. You’re just in time to catch the final month of We Are Sailing, its stunning exhibition that explores Bermuda’s connection with the sea. Time for a royal snack? Tuck in for afternoon tea at Heritage Court in the Fairmont Hamilton Princess where you’ll enjoy scones, finger sandwiches and a pot of Earl Grey. You’ll be fairly close to town so when you’re done take a walk along picturesque Front Street—buy some Cuban cigars for the Duke, a designer handbag for Camilla, rugbys for Princes William and Henry—go ahead, knock yourself out. As for dinner I’ll leave that up to you, but it’d be a shame to leave town without trying a succulent spiny lobster and for that I’d recommend a table at Port O Call. Got all that Queen? I hope you have a great stay in Bermuda, but just watch out for those dark n' stormys—they have a way of sneakin' up on you.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A Trip Fit For a Queen

It was about a month ago when I first told you about the impending visit of Queen Elizabeth, which officially takes place next week. Well, her passport is ready and her dates of travel have been confirmed: HRH arrives Tuesday, November 24, for a short two-night stay. Why am I telling you this now? Even lucky stiffs like me deserve some time off—so while Lizzy is politely waving to the island crowds and admiring her picture on the Bermudian dollar bill, I’ll be sipping gingerbread lattes in New York City. So in the spirit of the royal visit I’ve decided to put together a proposed itinerary for the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh when they arrive next week. After all, 36 Hours in Bermuda is a good start, but I doubt Her Royal Highness is into shipwreck diving (one of the more adventurous pursuits I covered in my aforementioned New York Times article). Queenie listen up, because here’s what you should do when you get to Bermuda. Day One: By all reports you arrive at L.F. Wade International Airport at 3:24pm. Enjoy the sounds of the steel drums as you walk through the terminal and please, please, please try not to ogle the life-sized portrait of yourself that hangs over the immigration checkpoint any longer than necessary. It’s just plain rude. You’re not far from St. George’s, Bermuda’s historic former capital that was settled by the British in 1609. Meander its labyrinth streets and admire its charming colonial architecture. Looking for a few gifts for the royal family? Stop by the Bermuda Perfumery for handmade scents or pop into the Book Cellar, which specializes in nautical, architectural and historical tomes about Bermuda (and tell the Duke he can buy himself a fancy pair of Bermuda shorts at the English Sports Shop). When you’re done emptying the royal purse check out St. Peter’s Church, said to be the oldest Anglican house of worship in the Western Hemisphere and make sure to stop by the replica of the Deliverance, the ship that eventually carried Britain’s shipwrecked sailors to Virginia to save the Jamestown colonists. I’m guessing you’ll be hungry by now and although you’ll probably be asked to dinner at Governor Sir Richard Gozney’s mansion, I say jettison the invite for a romantic meal with the Duke at Fourways Inn. Hey, you’re in Bermuda. Why not let the sparks fly? Housed in an 18th-century Bermuda cottage with coral stone walls and exposed cedar beams, the candlelit restaurant features a full menu of steaks and seafood, plus a dining room pianist gently tinkling the ivories. When you’re done gobbling up its scrumptious dark n' stormy souflee (which you smartly ordered ahead of time) check into a suite at Tucker’s Point Hotel & Spa. Bermuda’s newest and most luxurious hotel has traditional colonial stylings and is sure to make you feel right at home. Whew! Now that was a long day. So what should the Queen do on day two? Leave me a comment below then tune in tomorrow to see where she should visit next.

Monday, November 16, 2009

On the Pitch

One of the best parts about moving to a new country is learning its subtle differences—and even though Bermuda is just a 90-minute flight from the U.S. it sure does have its fair share of them. Saying good morning and good afternoon before making conversation? Check. Driving on the left hand side of the road in a car with a steering wheel on the right? Check. Rooting for your favorite hooker? Check. Wait a minute, you don’t know what that last one means? Neither did I until I attended the 22nd annual World Rugby Classic last week (now get your minds out of the gutter). You see, I’ve never been much of a rugby fan. Having spent my childhood in baseball crazed New York City it was always about the Mets, whether or not my beloved team was causing the craze. That’s why I was delighted to attend this year’s tournament, which featured squads from around the world: the Lions from the United Kingdom, the Pumas from Argentina, the Wallabies from Australia, the Canadians from Canada, the All Blacks from New Zealand, the Springboks from South Africa, the Eagles from the United States, and Team France. We watched the Springboks play the All Blacks, a defensive struggle that ended in a 5-0 win for New Zealand and a few bloody noses all around. Seriously. American football players are a bunch of pansies next to these guys who play with no helmets, virtually zero padding and don’t leave the game unless something is broken or torn. Talk about toughness. All in all an excellent sporting experience, but consider this a lesson I'm happy to learn off the field.  

Friday, November 13, 2009

TV Guide

I’ll make this short and sweet considering you’ve probably already read about my past television appearances last week. Be sure to tune into Forbes Luxe 11 on the Travel Channel tomorrow night, November 14th at 10pm EST. I’m part of a panel of travel experts who’ll be commenting on Extreme Excursions—eleven adventurous expeditions including shark cage diving, race-car driving, and super boat racing. (If you stayed up to watch last week’s episode you would’ve seen me in about half of the show’s segments. I expect this week to be much of the same). For a sneak peak of what to expect check out this short video. In the meantime, enjoy the show!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Deal or No Deal?

Maybe it’s the onset of shoulder season, but there seems to be quite a few Bermuda travel deals floating around the web these days. On Tuesday I told you about a hotel steal from the Department of Tourism, yesterday The Reefs hotel in Southampton went on sale for veterans, and today I found this little gem—a three-night golf package from the luxurious Pink Beach Club in Tucker’s Town for $2,200. But is it really a deal? Here’s what included: A three night stay in an oceanfront junior suite (like the one above), two rounds of golf at Tucker’s Point Golf Club, two sleeves of golf balls per person, one golf cap, one bottle of wine, roundtrip hotel transfers plus a full English breakfast, afternoon tea, and a five-course dinner daily. Sounds like a lot, but the only way to know if it’s truly a deal is to see what the package costs if booked separately, so let’s do the math.

  • Three nights in an oceanfront suite: $495 per night plus $198 gratuities, $107 government tax and $59 resort levy. Total accommodations $1,849.
  • Two rounds of golf per person: $250 per 18 holes. Total golf $1,000.
  • Twelve golf balls: $40 (this is Bermuda after all)
  • Golf cap: $20
  • Bottle of wine: $20
  • Hotel transfers: $40 each way. Total $80
  • Breakfast daily: always included in rack rates
  • Afternoon tea: always included in rack rates
  • Dinner daily: always included in rack rates
Total cost if booked separately: $3,009. Verdict? Deal! I know, it’s not exactly budget travel, but it is a savings of over $800. Plus if you’re at all into golf, Tucker’s Point Golf Club is among the island's best. Not only was the championship course designed by Roger Rulewich—protégé of the great Robert Trent Jones—it has some of the most scenic water views in all of Bermuda (next to Port Royal, of course). If you're interested in hitting the links sooner than later book now: The package is good for travel through November 30, then again from March 15, 2010 through May 1, 2010. This deal is not yet on its website, so for more information call the Pink Beach Club at 800/355-6161 or email

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veterans, Bermuda Salutes You

Yesterday I told you about a ridiculously good hotel deal from the Bermuda Department of Tourism—a four-night stay for the price of three, with rooms starting at $79 plus vouchers good for $1,000 worth of products and services at island golf courses, spas, and restaurants, all of which is valid until January 31, 2010. Well, the deals just keep on coming. In honor of Veteran’s Day (that’s today in case you hadn’t heard) The Reefs hotel in Southampton is offering a 15% percent discount for active and retired members of the U.S., U.K., and Canadian armed forces, valid for any length of stay through March 31, 2010. That means a poolside room for veterans including breakfast, afternoon tea, and dinner for two costs $313.65—still pricey for the off-season, but a good value nonetheless considering The Reefs was just picked as the number one resort in the Atlantic by the readers of Condé Nast Traveler. For more information check out the hotel's Armed Forces Discount. In the meantime to all you veterans out there, thanks for keeping us free. And as for you Lieutenant Desmond, whenever you and the family are ready for a vacation you know who to call. Bermuda salutes you!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Deal of the Day

Hotel rooms from $79 a night? In ritzy Bermuda? Welcome to November when the average daily temperature is a balmy 70 degrees Fahrenheit and shoulder season bargains come rolling in. Check out this latest deal from the Department of Tourism: Book now for travel valid through January 31, 2010 and you’ll receive a four-night stay at participating hotels for the price of three. That means you can stay in a water view room at the Granaway Guesthouse for just $79 a night (including breakfast); in a deluxe room with private patio or balcony at the historic Fourways Inn for $125 a night; or in an ocean view room at the beachfront Grotto Bay Beach Resort for $159 a night. Still not convinced? There are 17 other hotels to choose from, even better, you’ll be given a coupon booklet good for up to $1,000 in combined savings at island golf resorts, restaurants, spas and more. Here are just a few sample discounts to whet your appetite: Buy one round of golf and get the second round free, rent one scooter and get the second half price, buy one spa treatment and get a free manicure/pedicure, buy one entrée and get the second half price (valid at over 15 participating restaurants). So what are you waiting for? Swami says a Fall getaway to Bermuda is now within reach. For more information check out Bermuda’s Finest Values Offer.

Monday, November 9, 2009

GOLD STAR: Fairmont Hamilton Princess

It's not every day one receives above and beyond service from a hotel’s staff, so when I do, I make sure to shout it from the rooftops. Like other writers who cover travel and tourism for a living, I stay in a lot of hotels. We’ve all had our share of below-average experiences, but in my opinion it’s the good one’s that are worth writing about. Take my recent stay at Bermuda’s Fairmont Hamilton Princess for example. Booked in for two nights on an impromptu “staycation” weekend (I know, I hate that phrase too) my wife and I planned a leisurely lineup of activities: Fine dining, pool hopping, golfing, and an afternoon game of squash at an off-site club. It was going to perfect until I realized that I’d forgotten my racket. I didn’t want to go back home to get it—after all the point was to get away—so I called the club to inquire about a rental. None were available I was told, so in a last-ditch effort to salvage our game I asked the hotel’s concierge if he could round one up. “Not a problem Mr. LaHuta,” said Edward at the front desk. “Let me make some calls and I’ll get back to you shortly.” To my great delight I received a voicemail the following morning that a racket was indeed available. Score! But it wasn’t just any old racket, as I soon learned after reading the following letter: Good Day Mr. LaHuta. I just want to let you know that the grip on the racquet is deteriorating as it has been in storage for quite some time (it might leave a black mark on your hand that is easily removed with water…sorry). I also thought you might like to know that it was used by me in The World Squash Championships in Cairo, Egypt, quite a few years back. I have dubbed it “THE RED BARON.” I hope you SQUASH your opponent!!! Signed, Derek Wheeler, Assistant Front Desk Manager, The Fairmont Hamilton Princess. Well, to you Mr. Wheeler—squash champion and gentleman du jour—a hearty thanks for your kindness and generosity. The Red Baron was indeed triumphant but unfortunately for me, my wife’s squash lessons are paying off: I won just narrowly, three games to two. And to you Front Desk Edward, thanks for your unwavering hospitality and courteous service. You never balked at an odd request and even better, came through with stellar results. Gold stars all around! Fairmont Hotels and Resorts, you definitely have a repeat guest in me.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Shameless Self-Promotion

As some of you may know, in addition to writing for the New York Times, Travel+Leisure and Caribbean Travel+Life, I also make TV appearances on various news and lifestyle programs. Like the time when I was Rachael Ray’s “adventure buddy,” escorting her viewers on daring excursions including bungee jumping in Canada or shark diving in New York. Or when I’d have weekly chats about travel on CNN’s American Morning or FOX’s Good Day New York. (For a look at some of my past appearances check out the video above). It’s a fun part of what I do—no doubt a bit harder since moving to Bermuda—but the good news is there’s more to come and this time I’ll be on the Travel Channel. Do you like luxury? If so, set your DVRs for tomorrow’s premiere of Forbes Luxe 11 featuring eleven affluent escapes every Saturday night at 10pm EST. For a glimpse of what the show is like check out this two-minute sneak peek (I show up about one minute in, talking about flying in helicopters over bubbling Hawaiian volcanoes). Tomorrow’s episode: Mega-Toys where we highlight snazzy cars, swanky resorts, and over-the-top collections owned by the world’s super-rich (i.e. regular folks collect stamps, Paul Allen collects military planes). If you like what you see let me know! And be sure to tune in each week until December 26 for new episodes. What? You forgot already? Watch Forbes Luxe 11 on the Travel Channel every Saturday night at 10pm EST, starting tomorrow. 

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Kudos To...Wyclef!

Seems like pop superstar Wyclef Jean knows how to do more than put on a killer show. During his short visit to the island last weekend—in town to perform at the 14th annual Bermuda Music Festival—the musician spoke to 500 young people at an African Methodist Episcopal Church meeting at the elegant Fairmont Southampton on Saturday. According to the Royal Gazette, the musician spoke about his humble roots growing up in poverty-striken Haiti, how he was born in a thatched-roof hut and grew up hunting for food with a slingshot. And although his family moved to Brooklyn, New York when he was nine-years-old, it wasn’t before he learned an important life lesson—that one should always pursue their goals no matter how far flung they may seem, a sentiment he conveyed eloquently to the young Bermudians in the audience. So to you Wyclef, I say three cheers! Not only do you let strange fans approach you for photo ops while lifting weights in hotel gyms (ahem) but you’re a pillar of the world community and for that you get an official Bermuda Shorts round of applause. (Pause for hip, hip, hoorays followed by boisterous clapping). For more on how Wyclef is helping the public—and more specifically in his home nation of Haiti—check out Yéle Haiti, a non-profit organization he founded in 2005 to assist his native land. 

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Dear Readers

I’m not sure how it happened—my best guess is the daily touting of Bermuda Shorts on Twitter is slowly paying off—but according to my trusty SiteMeter, I’ve got readers from around the globe: Haifa, Israel; Orihuela, Spain; Okotoks, Alberta; West Islip, New York (go Bulldogs!). Best of all a handful of you are contributing handily with thoughtful critiques and comments. Just yesterday, in response to my post about having to vacate my home due to a visit from the exterminator Anonymous in California wrote, “Perhaps your entry tomorrow can detail the best way to sweep up six million ants that seemingly turn to dust upon death. My experience has shown that the pestiness of the common Bermuda ant continues as they become so small when they die, they defy the use of a broom and dustpan.” Thanks Anonymous! Maybe we can talk about it over a glass of Pinot Grigio at Mickey’s Beach Bar? Funny thing is, you’re not alone in your ant advice. Greg from Costa Rica had this gem for me: “I live in Costa Rica where the jungle meets the beach and here the ants also are never ending. Keep in mind that they were here first so we’re actually invading their turf. Rather than trying to kill them off with spray simply do what we do, compost your food and seal all uneaten food in containers. If there’s no reason for the ants to come in they’ll move on to somewhere else. Besides, composting is environmentally friendly, helping your plants and reducing your garbage loads. Simply put a large container next to your kitchen sink and keep it sealed until you have to throw out food. When the container is full, put it in your composting pile in your yard. You can dig a small hole and cover the food with dry leaves or saw dust to avoid odors. After a few months fill the hole in and dig a new one. Give it a try, what do you have to lose!” Thanks Greg. I’d love to dig a hole in my backyard—really, I would—but I have a feeling my landlord wouldn’t be terribly thrilled about a rotting mound of food on his property. Just call it a hunch. So to everyone else reading out there, wherever you may be around the globe, don’t be shy. Go ahead, leave me a comment and let's get talking world.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Join The Club

When I was an editor at Budget Travel magazine—long before my office had a view of swaying palm trees and Bermuda's Great Sound—I, along with my well-traveled editorial team used to tell our readers to join every hotel, car rental, and airline loyalty club possible. Why? Because they're often free to join and give its members perks and discounts usually not found anywhere else. Case in point: I've been a member of Fairmont's President's Club for years, a membership that came in handy yesterday when I had to vacate my home after it was exterminated for ants. (Remember that line from the film Blood Diamond when Leonardo DiCaprio's character said, "TIA mate?" It was short for this is Africa, a sentiment he conveyed after experiencing a particularly stressful situation. Well, TIB mate. This is Bermuda). Not wanting to cast aside a whole day's work I brought my laptop to the Fairmont Southampton, a 593-room resort on Bermuda's south shore. With my President's Club membership number in hand I grabbed a seat at Jasmine's—the hotel's casual lobby restaurant—plugged in my laptop and picked up the Fairmont Guest Access Wi-Fi signal. For free. (Check out the picture above; that was my office for the day). Of course I made sure to order lunch before I took off—an excellent shrimp caeser, by the way—but my free Wi-Fi was just one of the many perks the President's Club offers its members. Some of my other favorites? Complimentary TaylorMade golf clubs at select hotels, free Lexus courtesy vehicles, and 10% off treatments and products at its Willow Stream Spas. So what are you waiting for? Next time you see one of those loyalty club brochures at check in do yourself a favor and fill it out. It'll be the most worthwhile three minutes you've ever spent.

Monday, November 2, 2009

BMF VIDEO: Man In The Mirror

The big news from day three of the Bermuda Music Festival was supposed to be the special performance of Thriller on Halloween night. Sounds pretty incredible, right? After all the Keep Yard had all hands on deck: Quincy Jones and his orchestra, pop singer John Legend, even Wyclef was rumored to be hanging around backstage, no doubt still recovering from his now-legendary Thursday night performance (which for the record was the festival’s best show). The stage was set, but aside from spirited dancing from the Warwick gombey troupe and an average vocal performance by Siedah Garrett, the night’s finale was more like a sleeper than a thriller. Fortunately for us the aforementioned singer totally redeemed herself with an earlier performance of Michael Jackson’s Man In The Mirror, which had the entire crowd on its feet, clapping hands along with the soulful Bermuda Mass Choir (check out the video above to see what I mean). What? You’ve never heard of Siedah Garrett? Neither did I until I learned she wrote the popular Michael Jackson anthem and has paired with the late King of Pop for duets including I Just Can’t Stop Loving You from his 1987 album, Bad. Her resume gets even better: Garrett also wrote Love You I Do, the Grammy-award winning, Jennifer Hudson-sung tune from the 2006 film Dreamgirls and fronted the acclaimed London neo-funk group, Brand New Heavies. Gosh, it looks like Bermuda got its special Halloween night performance after all.