Friday, February 26, 2010

History On Ice

It’s been a wild Winter Games this year, hasn’t it? From the horrific tragedy on the Olympic luge to Tucker Murphy’s highly acclaimed Bermuda shorts, the storylines from Vancouver have been plenty. And as the Games are set to close this weekend—what I’m sure will be yet another colorful ceremony—let me offer just one more. It’s been well-reported that Bermuda had just one athlete in this year’s Olympics, the aforementioned Tucker Murphy who finished 88th out of 95 starters in Monday’s 15-kilometer cross-country skiing event. But did you know we almost had two? That indeed there was another Bermudian in this year’s Games, but she competed for France instead? As was first reported in the Bermuda Sun, pairs figure skater Vanessa James couldn’t find a local sponsor to make her Olympic dream come true, so she found her own way to the Games: Along with partner Yannick Bonheur, she won last year’s French National Championships, which qualified the duo for Vancouver making them the first black pairs skaters to ever compete in the Olympic Games. Pretty heady stuff. That's the pair at last year's International Skating Union competition, where they placed fourth. Unfortunately at their event in Vancouver the pair came in 14th, but I’m sure the thrill of competing on such grand stage was medal enough. At the very least, James and Bonheur have cemented themselves into Olympic immortality—a true athletic achievement that bypasses nationality and is way shinier than gold.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Show Your Love

Have you heard the news? Bermuda was nominated as a “Favorite Island Getaway In The World” in this year’s Budget Travel Readers’ Choice Awards, a distinction bestowed by the magazine’s editors based upon suggestions from readers themselves. The good news is Bermuda is currently in the lead behind Maui, St. Lucia and Kauai, respectively, but in order to stay number one the island needs your help. That’s right folks, it’s time to show your love for Bermuda. It’s very easy and just two clicks away. Go to Budget Travel’s Readers’ Choice homepage, scroll down until you reach the Destinations tab on the left, then click Favorite Island Getaway In The World. You’ll see some choices pop up at right; this is where you click on Bermuda and cast your vote. Easy, right? But in case you’re still unsure if Bermuda is indeed the world’s best island getaway, here are a few reasons to help earn your vote.

BERMUDA’S PINK SAND BEACHES. Okay, okay, that was fairly obvious, but really our beaches are just divine and unlike some of Bermuda’s Readers Choice competitors, unbelievably numerous and completely accessible. PROXIMITY TO THE EAST COAST. We’re just a 90-minute flight from New York City and less than two hours from most east coast gateways including Boston, Philly, D.C., Miami and Halifax, Canada. Currently in second place is Maui, which from Los Angeles would take at least twice the flying time to reach. OCEAN VIEW GOLF COURSES. You don’t even have to be a golfer to appreciate them. Take Port Royal for example, with sweeping ocean views from nearly every hole and one of the greatest holes in all of golf—the stunning sixteenth with nothing but the Atlantic between the tee and the pin. WORLD-CLASS WRECK DIVING. Bermuda is home to a thriving reef system, one that has claimed over 300 wrecks in the country's 400-year history, many of which are in a mere 30 feet of water. RICH COLONIAL HISTORY. The east end town of St. George’s was founded in 1609 and looks much the way it did when the island was first claimed by the British, boasting labyrinth alleyways and charming colonial architecture. WE’RE QUIRKY! Where else can you wear brightly colored shorts with knee-high socks while zipping around on a moped without a second glance? That’s right, only in Bermuda. So what are you waiting for? Go cast your vote for Bermuda today!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

In Appreciation Of…The Rum Swizzle

There are many things I love about Bermuda—the island’s powdery pink sand beaches, its ocean view golf courses, the friendly people I meet each day—but there’s one aspect that hardly gets enough attention: the Rum Swizzle. What? You’ve never heard of a Rum Swizzle? The woodsier, more savory version of a typical rum punch? Then consider this your master class in cocktailing, but first a bit of history. The Swizzle was first invented in 1932 at the similarly named Swizzle Inn in Bailey’s Bay, Bermuda. Originally a quiet country pub, it has now become Bermuda’s most beloved dive bar—a patina-ed watering hole with ramshackle furniture, graffiti-covered walls and wooden rafters plastered with business cards tacked up by drunken patrons. It’s a fun place as the popular slogan suggests: “Swizzle Inn, Swagger Out.” And while you can easily order up a Rum Swizzle at any bar in Bermuda, for the original, you’ll have to go to Bailey’s Bay. So, what’s in this mysterious cocktail? To learn how to make one all you have to do is watch the above video. It was filmed by, a new travel website loaded with HD videos and Q&A forums where people like you can ask people like me questions about locations worldwide (No, really. I’m the Resident Editor of its Bermuda page. Check it out!). If you’ve got five minutes to spare it’s a great way to learn how to make Bermuda’s national cocktail. If not, then consider this your cheat sheet from a retired professional bartender: Fill a shaker with ice, pour in a three-count of Gosling’s Black Seal rum, a three-count of Gosling’s Gold rum (or Mount Gay), a two-count of Triple Sec, a one-count of Bermuda falernum (or simple syrup), add equal parts orange and pineapple juice (about 5 ounces each), the juice of a lemon and a dash of Angostora bitters. Shake until frothy and serve in small cocktail glasses, ala the Swizzle Inn. Wanna take it up a notch? Add some apricot brandy and call it a day. You can thank me later.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Calling All Brides To Be

It’s beginning to look like giveaway city here in sunny Bermuda. Yesterday I told you about how you can win a five-night stay at Southampton’s The Reefs Hotel & Club by voting for your favorite contest submission online (really, it’s just that easy; go here to find out more). A luxurious ocean view room with meals daily is a fantastic prize, but in case you’re planning a wedding instead of a vacation then listen up, because today’s giveaway is a whopper. In order to celebrate the hotel’s 125th anniversary this year, the Fairmont Hamilton Princess in cooperation with Destination Weddings & Honeymoons magazine is giving away a fabulous destination wedding for one lucky couple getting married in 2010. What’s included? A better question would be what’s not included, because you and your guests will hardly have to reach for your wallets if you’re the lucky winner. Here’s what you’ll get: A ceremony and reception at The Fairmont Hamilton Princess in Bermuda for up to 20 people (or $10,000); 10 double occupancy hotel guest rooms; 20 JetBlue airline tickets departing from New York's JFK or Boston Logan; and a $1,000 Saks Fifth Avenue gift card for a total retail value of—wait for it, wait for it—$45,000. I told you it was a whopper of a prize. So, how do you win? All you have to do is submit a brief essay (500 words max) about why you want to have your dream wedding in Bermuda. In contest parlance: “Tell us how the Fairmont Hamilton Princess is the perfect location to host your Ultimate Dream Destination wedding and what getting married in Bermuda means to you.” That’s it. All submissions must be received by May 31, 2010 and potential winners will be notified by email on or before June 15. For more information about the contest click here. And to learn more about the historic Fairmont Hamilton Princess click here. Finally, for a little inspiration on what makes Bermuda such a special place for a wedding have a quick read here, but really, who wouldn't want to get married at the Pink Palace? Just picture you and your sweetie standing beneath that limestone moon gate and go get writing. Your dream wedding awaits.

Monday, February 22, 2010

This Could Be Your View

Remember when I told you about how you could win a free vacation to The Reefs Hotel & Club in Southampton? In case you don’t remember, the hotel formerly known as The Reefs—still the top resort in the Atlantic as voted by the readers of Condé Nast Traveler in 2009—sponsored a contest where entrants were asked to share their favorite memories of the hotel and of Bermuda in 300 words or less. The stories would be narrowed down to a small pool of finalists, then a winner would be chosen by the public after the hotel posted a select few online. Unfortunately the deadline has passed to submit stories, but the good news is you can still win a fabulous vacation for two, just by voting for the winner. That’s right folks, there are TWO prizes at stake: A five-night stay in an ocean view deluxe room including breakfast, afternoon tea and dinner daily for the winning storywriter and another trip for two at The Reefs Hotel & Club for one lucky voter. So how do you win? All you have to do is vote for your favorite story. There are seven finalists—a mix of lovey-dovey tales including how one now-married couple met while waiting in line at customs or when a husband surprised his wife by arranging to renew their wedding vows on the beach. Very cute stuff. I won’t publicly announce my favorite story—heck this is a contest after all, the last thing I wanna do is sway public opinion—but let’s just say it’s filled with love and pink sand memories, just like most Bermuda vacations. So what are you waiting for? Choose your favorite story by February 28 for a chance to win a fabulous trip for two to The Reefs Hotel & Club. And forget about multiple clicks: Only one vote per email will be counted. Vote away!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

At Least He Looked Good...

Bermudian cross-country skier Tucker Murphy has been turning lots of heads during this year’s Winter Olympics—unfortunately however, it’s not because of his skiing. The 28-year-old Murphy, who finished 88th out of 95 starters in yesterday’s 15-kilometer event, was a full 9 minutes 2.8 seconds behind gold medalist Dario Cologna of Switzerland. A valiant effort for sure, but with all of those ladies snapping photos of his bright red Bermuda shorts during Friday night’s Opening Ceremony who needs a medal? He’s all the rage that Tucker Murphy. According to PopWatch, a blog written by the editors of Entertainment Weekly, Murphy won honorable mention for the night’s best-dressed athlete, right behind the oh-so-stylish Italian delegation who wore waist-length, high-buttoned coats designed by Italian clothing maker, Freddy. NBC Sports called the arrival of Murphy in his Bermuda shorts one of the Top Ten Olympic Opening Ceremony Moments. And the skier was even featured prominently on ESPN’s Olympic Blog (thanks for the picture Getty Images), which later reported that his coach, Argentine Martin Bianchi, was embarrassed to don the traditional Bermudian garb. From the report: “He was worried that everyone back in Argentina would see him and laugh,” said Murphy, “Then he realized that all the girls wanted to take pictures with him, so he got over it fairly quickly.” There you have it folks. Bermuda shorts are officially lady killers. Just one more reason I’m proud to call the island home.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Deal of the Day

Looking for a quick weekend getaway? Don’t feel like spending an arm and a leg? Then check out this latest airfare deal from American Airlines: The carrier is offering a special low fare of just $99 each way from New York City’s JFK airport to Bermuda. That means a roundtrip ticket with taxes and fees costs around $270—one whopper of a deal considering airfare is often double the price. Tickets must be booked by March 17 for travel valid through March 24, so book fast. For more information go here. So, what does one do in Bermuda in February and March? It won't exactly be beach weather—after all, temperatures will be in the low 70's—but winter and spring visits are perfect for hitting the links, relaxing at the spa or taking long strolls along Bermuda’s stunning coastline. Oh yeah, did I mention that it’s still spiny lobster season? Mmmm, sweet, delicious lobster. And hey, it beats digging out from all that snow in the northeast, right? So what are you waiting for? That could be YOU on the sixteenth hole of Port Royal instead of yours truly. Book your cheap flight to Bermuda today. Happy travels!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Going For Gold

Tonight marks the beginning of the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, Canada and although the opening ceremony doesn’t start until 9:45pm Atlantic Standard time, I for one will be tuning in. After all, its not every day one gets to cheer for an athlete carrying the flag of your adopted country. I may be a proud American, but when the Bermuda contingent marches through the stadium tonight you-know-who will be hootin’ and hollerin’. So who exactly is representing Bermuda in this year’s Olympiad? That would be the one and only Tucker Murphy, a 28-year-old skier who will compete in the men’s 15k free individual star cross-country ski event (whatever that is, exactly). The Oxford University student is the island’s solo representative, so he alone will be carrying the national flag during tonight’s parade (unlike his compatriot Katie Stevenson, a 15-year-old Bermudian girl who carried the Olympic torch briefly in December). There was a chance the Rhodes scholar would’ve had company, but as has been widely reported in the local press, Bermuda skeleton slider Patrick Singleton didn’t qualify for this year’s event, which would’ve been his fourth appearance at the Winter Games. That means the hopes of an island nation are resting on your sturdy shoulders Tucker. No pressure, now get out there and win gold!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Storm Watch

As Snowpocalypse continues to blanket the U.S. mid-Atlantic coast with the white stuff, the big news in Bermuda is a weather pattern of a different sort—wind and lots of it. Yesterday island residents received an alert from the Bermuda Weather Service advising of “severe and unsettled weather conditions” that will include “wind gusts of over 50 knots and storm force winds gusting to hurricane force until around midday on Thursday.” The agency also warned cyclists to use “extreme caution” when moving about the island. Ya know, in case they get blown over. If the howling winds that kept me from sleeping last night are any indication, then the good folks at the Bermuda Weather Service were spot on. Boy is it blowin’ outside. Of course, I couldn’t leave well enough alone and stay in my home office while watching white caps curl on the Great Sound this morning. Nope. Instead, I took a little adventure down to Church Bay. You remember Church Bay, don’t you? When I was tracking Hurricane Bill last summer I filmed this Al Roker-esque video live from the beach. The waves were crashing pretty hard then too, but today gives that August afternoon a serious run for its money. Even better, I got to see a rainbow just as the storm approached (see above). Wanna see what 50 knots of wind looks (and sounds) like? Then check out this short video I shot this morning. And you thought your weather was bad.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Cruise News

Okay I admit it. I’ve only been on one cruise my entire life. But considering it was aboard a bright orange boat with cabins the size of closets, I’m pretty sure the no-frills experience doesn’t count (no it wasn’t the Staten Island Ferry, but in the way of amenities, it sure as heck was close). Maybe it’s the ubiquitous buffet courts, the unending embarkation lines or the nagging perception that the ship is one big floating hotel—whatever it is, I’ve never really trumpeted the cruising experience. That said I realize there are plenty of nice folks who love to cruise. Just love it! So in the spirit of equal airtime I share with you an exciting bit of news from Norwegian Cruise Lines: The company announced yesterday that it will begin sailing newer, more elaborate ships to Bermuda starting in 2011. Out goes the seven-year-old, 2,224-passenger Norwegian Dawn (pictured) and in comes the two-year-old, 2,400-passenger Norwegian Gem, which will sail to the island weekly from May through October, calling on King’s Wharf at the Royal Naval Dockyard for three days. So what’s so fancy about the Norwegian Gem you ask? As the newest vessel in the fleet the Gem features a four-lane bowling alley, professionally trained chefs slicing lobster and steak at personal Teppanyaki tables, plus a massive two-story screen where guests can play Nintendo Wii. Best of all if you can pull yourself away from its Tahitian pool, the Ultra Lounge and Night Club or the Stardust Theater you can explore—wait for it, wait for it—Bermuda! By all means take the cruise, just promise me you’ll get off the ship and poke around a bit. Deal?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

From the Tarmac

Last week I told you about a great deal from WestJet, a Canadian airline that will begin flying nonstop from Toronto to Bermuda at super low prices. How low you ask? As little as $129 each way beginning on May 3, a fare I found easily by searching on its website. Today there’s more good news from the tarmac, but this time it’s for all you islanders out there. That’s right Bermuda, this one’s for you. Feel like going to Europe? Then check out this massive seat sale from British Airways: From today through February 16, the trans-Atlantic carrier will be selling fares from Bermuda to London for as little as $150 each way. That means a roundtrip ticket to the UK costs $300 plus taxes and fees, which clock in at $353.94 for a total of $653.94. Sure, it’s unfortunate to have to pay more for the taxes than for the ticket but such is the state of modern aviation. Bottom line, it’s still one whopper of a deal, but you’ve gotta act fast: The sale lasts until February 16 and is valid for travel from that date through March 28. Happy jetting Bermuda!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Jazz On The Rock

It’s not every day a Grammy award-winning musical act visits Bermuda. Sure, Mary J. Blige performed last summer and superstar turned Haitian relief king Wyclef Jean dropped by for the Bermuda Music Festival in October (along with special guests Michael McDonald, Kenny Rogers, Patti Austin and James Ingram who teamed up for a rendition of We Are The World). But it’s not like it happens all the time, so when it does, I make sure to line up for tickets. Two weeks ago I told you about a performance by the Soweto Gospel Choir, a soulful troupe that brilliantly kicked off this year’s Bermuda Festival of Performing Arts. Fortunately for us islanders the culture fest continued over the weekend with a rousing performance by Arturo O’Farrill and his 17-piece Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra. Son of famed composer and trumpeter Chico O’Farrill, Arturo created the ensemble in 2002 along with legendary jazz musician Wynton Marsalis and the support of Manhattan’s Jazz at Lincoln Center. Together they’ve since won the 2009 Grammy for Best Latin Jazz Album of the Year for “Song for Chico,” including sultry tunes like Caravan and Such Love, both of which the band played with aplomb on Saturday night. (Wanna hear what they sound like? Go here). It was a barn-burner of a performance filled with fast-paced Latin percussion, thick brassy horns and grand piano solos from Arturo himself. Best of all a local musician even got in on the action: When the plane of one of the band’s trombonists couldn’t land in Bermuda due to wind, Arturo sought out his temporary replacement by tapping an island resident to fill in. His name was Graham and he totally rocked it, even being selected by the bandleader to be the featured soloist during the orchestra’s finale. Three cheers to you Arturo and of course, to the band, which is officially welcome back to Bermuda anytime. You come back real soon, ya hear? I'll be the first guy in line.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Reef Patrol

It’s no secret that Bermuda has some of the most idyllic beaches in the world. Just take a look at the stunning south shore, with miles upon miles of powdery pink sand, a rosy hue derived from a mix of calcium carbonate, crushed coral and pulverized protozoa. Indeed Bermuda is a gem of the Atlantic but the island would be a much different place if it weren’t for it’s thriving coral reefs. Just ask Sir George Somers who shipwrecked on the reefs and eventually, an east end beach creating an island nation in 1609. What? He’s dead? Right, right. Carry on then. According to the Department of Conservation Services, Bermuda’s coral reefs are more than just a popular dive site: A recent departmental study found the island's coral reef ecosystem has a total economic value of more than $700 million, potentially amounting to $1.1 billion per year. In case you’re trying to do the math, that’s 12% of Bermuda’s GDP, which currently is the highest per capita in the world. So how exactly do the reefs generate all that revenue? In addition to supporting a vast network of tourism activity—dive operations, fishing charters, snorkeling outfitters—the reefs provide substantial economic benefits by protecting the coast and its infrastructure from damaging storms and hurricanes. In short, the reefs are Bermuda’s greatest protectors. I’m not sure if we needed a study to tell us how important they are, but to the government's credit, this report solidifies the reefs' value, perceived and otherwise. So the next time you're in the water, think twice before you touch one of Bermuda's most valuable commodities. The reefs are indeed a living, breathing asset.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Free Vacation, Anyone?

On Monday I told you about the latest promotion from the Bermuda Department of Tourism, a romantic Valentine’s Day weekend including luxurious accommodations, sumptuous meals and smooth R&B performances (Chuck Jackson + Babyface = Crazy Good). The package deal is still very much available, but in case you were looking for a Bermuda getaway that costs even less—like an all expenses paid five-night vacation for two—then listen up. That’s right folks, there’s a free trip up for grabs, best of all it’s sponsored by newly renamed The Reefs Hotel & Club—formerly The Reefs but still the top resort in the Atlantic as voted by the readers of Condé Nast Traveler in 2009. So how do you win said vacation? Submit a story of 300 words or less about a favorite experience at The Reefs or in Bermuda—maybe a proposal you got in the sand, a special family vacation, an encounter with Bermuda’s one and only Johnny Barnes—it could be anything, but you’ve gotta enter by February 14. Once all submissions are made, the stories will be narrowed into a group of finalists then posted online, when the public will select its favorite story from February 18 through the 28, sort of like American Idol Bermuda style. The winner will receive a five-night stay in an ocean view deluxe room at The Reefs Hotel & Club including breakfast, afternoon tea and dinner daily and one lucky voter will also be selected to win an additional five-night vacation for two. Not too shabby. So, what are you waiting for? Time to let those Bermuda memories bubble up to the top. Remember, you’ve got until February 14 to enter the contest (for more information click here). And in case you're wondering, yes, that'll be the beach you'll be relaxing on during your free vacation. Now go get writing!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Money Matters

It’s no secret that Bermuda is one of the wealthiest countries on the planet. Not only does the mid-Atlantic archipelago boast the highest GDP per capita in the world—an astonishing $91,477 per person, about $4,000 more than oil-crazed Qatar in the Middle East—but it’s also home to some of world’s richest people, including New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former presidential candidate Ross Perot and on-again off-again Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. Here’s one more for the mix: Roman Abramovich, a Russian billionaire who currently owns the world’s largest private vessel—a 560-foot $485 million super yacht that’s registered in Bermuda (see above; thanks for the pic GizMag). According to a recent Bloomberg report, the tycoon outfitted his ship with $326,000 worth of contemporary art, a relative drop in the bucket considering he shelled out a whopping $86.3 million for Francis Bacon’s Triptych in 2008. In addition to two helicopter pads, a disco hall and a submarine capable of submerging 50 meters, the ship boasts a German-built missile defense system and bulletproof glass in Abramovich’s master suite. Paranoid much? It’s one heckuva boat, although I still haven’t seen it on Bermuda’s shores. My guess is he’s laying low to avoid major embarrassment in the yachting community: CNN Money reported today that a Belgium-based design firm has plans to build an even bigger private vessel, a 656-foot super yacht that would reportedly cost up to $900 million with amenities such as a 100-foot swimming pool, two 98-foot day boats and a drive-in garage. Sorry Roman, I guess you’ll have to settle for number two.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Calling All Canadians

This just in from WestJet, a Canadian low-cost carrier akin to JetBlue in the United States: According to a recent press release, the airline will start flying nonstop from Toronto to Bermuda effective May 2010. Even better, it announced a massive seat sale on select dates. So just how good are these prices you ask? During a recent search on WestJet’s website, I found airfares for $129 each way! That means with taxes and fees, a roundtrip flight from Toronto to Bermuda departing June 1 and returning June 8 cost a total of $341.20. That's the best deal in the air. So to all you Canadians looking for a quick weekend getaway—after all, it’s just under a three-hour flight from Toronto—I’d recommend booking as soon as possible. These fares won’t last too long. Happy travels!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Feel the Love

Ahhh, February. The month of hearts and chocolates and professing your undying love to that oh-so-special person. Valentine’s Day might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but in case it’s yours, let me assist you with a few suggestions for the ultimate romantic getaway. Still haven’t made plans for the big day? No sweat, I’ve got you covered. Fortunately tickets are still available for the Bermuda International Love Festival, a blissful weekend event that boasts luxurious accommodations, decadent meals and world-class entertainment. And it's a deal! Here’s what you’ll be doing on the Most Romantic Weekend Ever: You and your sweetie arrive Bermuda on Friday, February 12, where you’ll check in at the historic Fairmont Hamilton Princess for three nights in a Fairmont Gold Level room. That night you’ll join Bermuda’s Premier, Dr. Ewart Brown and his wife Wanda, for cocktails, hors d’oeuvres and dinner at ritzy Tucker’s Point Hotel & Spa, featuring a special presentation from the editors of the Robb Report (they’ll bring their annual “Best of the Best” issue to life, featuring selections of cigars, wines, spirits and more). The following morning you and your sweetheart will play a round of golf at Port Royal—host of the 2009/2010 PGA Grand Slam and by far Bermuda’s most picturesque course—and that night you’ll be treated to a special dinner at Port O’ Call, a Front Street favorite specializing in fresh local seafood. Into live music? Perfect, because you’ll also be given two VIP seats to a performance that night by R&B singer Kenneth “Babyface” Edwards (oh he smooth, he very very smooth). As if all that wasn’t enough, on Sunday you’ll have brunch at the Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art before a sumptuous dinner that night at the Fairmont Hamilton Princess. Even better, that evening the best seats in the house are yours at a private performance by legendary bluesman Chuck Jackson. So, how much does all this cost you ask? The entire weekend can be yours for just $800 per person, not including flights. Considering Fairmont Gold rooms at the Hamilton Princess would cost $419 per night that weekend, the package is a whopper of a deal. Three nights plus food, activity and entertainment for $1,600? That’s a bargain and lovely one at that. For more information on the Bermuda Love Festival, go here. In the meantime, go grab yourself a box of chocolates just to be safe.