Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Tracking Katia

Bermuda has had a slow hurricane season this year—until the last couple of weeks, that is. Hurricane Irene recently whirled by before punishing the east coast of the U.S. and Tropical Storm Jose provided some killer surf, high winds and thick rain soon thereafter. And now there's a new storm forming. Introducing Tropical Storm Katia, which by all estimates will be a hurricane later today as it gains strength over the mid-Atlantic. The storm's maximum sustained winds were near 65 mph today just short of the hurricane threshold of 74 mph, but according to the National Hurricane Center and the folks at CNN, Katia should be much stronger and nearing our area sometime early next week. But who knows? Remember Hurricane Bill back in 2009? Otherwise known as The Storm That Wasn't, it came within 150 nautical miles of Bermuda and fortunately, left little damage in its wake (despite this windblown Al Roker-esque video I shot from Church Bay. Dramatic much?). Ahh well, it looks like it's time to buy more batteries, bottled water and of course, Gosling's Black Seal rum for my impending Dark n' Stormy party. Hunker down Bermuda!

Monday, August 29, 2011

That's Sandtastic!

As if the arrival of September didn't bring with it enough wonderful things—75-degree days and the beginning of lobster season for starters—we islanders and even those visiting the island will have one more event to look forward to next month: The 16th Annual Sand Sculpture Competition. Held each year at Horseshoe Bay, the competition draws hundreds of artists hoping to showcase their creativity for sand castle glory and, a few bucks. The creation above is by a Florida-based team called Team Sandtastic, which by the looks of its historical recreation of Sir George Somers' fateful arrival to Bermuda's shores in 1609, has a pretty good shot of winning the top prize. But there's good news for the rest of you: Cash prizes will be given to the best amateur sand sculpture in the competition, in addition to a grand prize award of $1,000 (second place gets $500 and third place scores $250). The competition begins at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 3rd, and participants will be given a theme and a 12-by-12 foot building area. For more information—like how to enter—check out Bermuda Tourism's signature events. Time to dig out those pails and shovels!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Book. This. Now.

Leave it to the notoriously whimsical folks at JetBlue to come up with a deal as good, and as wacky, as this one: $335 per person for a three-night trip to Bermuda in September, including roundtrip airfare from New York or Boston and hotel accommodations—but just which hotel is the big question. Yes, it's time for JetBlue's Top Secret Sale valid today only and good for travel between September 12 and 30th.

So what can you expect from your mystery hotel? Here's the description from JetBlue's website: "Discover old-fashioned British charm, lush gardens, shimmering pink sand beaches and some of the best scuba diving and snorkeling at this tropical oasis. Activities like golf and tennis are at your fingertips along with award-winning cuisine at six restaurants. All rooms feature a private balcony or terrace allowing guests to take in the striking vistas."

Sounds like a lot of hotels in Bermuda but given one key fact we can narrow it down to two contenders (although as you'll see, I think someone got his or her math wrong). The magic fact? Six restaurants. Newstead Belmont Hills has two spots to dine, so it's out. The Fairmont Hamilton Princess, Grotto Bay, Cambridge Beaches, Pompano Beach Club and the Reefs Hotel & Club all have three restaurants so they're out, leaving us two conspicuous choices (although neither have six restaurants): the Fairmont Southampton with eight on-site restaurants and Elbow Beach, which boasts five places to eat. Both are on pink sand beaches, have tennis courts and provide access to golf, however it's the outdoor space that leads me to believe the mystery hotel is the Elbow Beach Hotel from Mandarin Oriental (that's the beach above; if you go don't miss Mickey's, a great oceanfront cafe on the other side of the blue awning). JetBlue's description says all rooms feature "private balconies or terrace," but there are no terraces at the Fairmont Southampton, only balconies. So, Elbow Beach it is! And hey, even if it's not you're still getting one heckuva deal. Don't forget JetBlue's Top Secret Sale ends tonight at midnight so book now!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Deal of the Day

This just in from the bargain-hunters at Travel+Leisure: The Reefs Hotel & Club is currently taking 25% off the normal price of its ├╝ber-spacious two-bedroom Club Suites—2,500-square-feet of oceanview vacation paradise complete with two master suites, full-size kitchens, oversized bathrooms with soaking tubs and rain showers, washer/dryers, plus private verandas with whirlpool tubs accessible from the living room and bedrooms. Built just one year ago, they're the Reefs newest and most luxurious rooms and the good news is they're on sale until October 25. So what's the deal? For $7,857 you'll get five nights' accommodations in a two-bedroom Club Suite for up to four people; daily breakfast, afternoon tea and dinner; four $100 vouchers good for treatments at its La Serena Spa or for rounds of golf at Riddell's Bay, Port Royal or the Fairmont Southampton; roundtrip airport transfers; four 3-day bus/ferry passes; dessert and a bottle of champagne; plus all government taxes and gratuities. Sure, it might sound like a lot of cash but if you do the math that's $1,571 per night or $392.75 per person, per night if traveling with four people, which is a heckuva deal in notoriously expensive Bermuda. For more information visit The Reefs packages and specials page or call 800/742-2008. And don't forget, you have until October 25 to book your vacation.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

No Wilt In Bradley

Alright, fine. I lifted that deliciously punny headline from the official PGA Championship website, but it was just too darn good to pass up. No Wilt in Bradley? Well done PGAers. But let's get to the meat of the story, shall we? In case you're clueless as to who Mr. Bradley is and how this has anything to do with Bermuda let us take a trip in the wayback machine beginning with this video I shot and hosted at Port Royal Golf Course from last year's PGA Grand Slam of Golf. In addition to watching me drink multiple Dark n' Stormies, you'll see why Port Royal is the island's premier golf course and certainly one worthy of hosting the Grand Slam, a season-ending tournament featuring the winners of golf's four major championships. Which brings us to that witty headline, since virtual unknown Keegan Bradley just won the 93rd PGA Championship in a thrilling three-hole playoff, earning a spot in this year's PGA Grand Slam of Golf at Port Royal in Bermuda. Makes sense now, right? The 25-year-old rookie will join Masters champion Charl Schwartzel, U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy and British Open champion Darren Clarke as they play the two-day tournament at Port Royal on October 18 & 19 (televised live on TNT). So, congrats Keegan Bradley and all of golf's 2011 major champions! Here's hoping there's enough Black Seal rum for all of us.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Movie Night

I'll keep this short and sweet mostly because the content speaks for itself and I have a feeling my little guy's nap will soon be over! (Stay-at-home-dad-ness is officially in full swing). Like movies? Love the beach? Then don't miss Movies on the Beach at Horseshoe Bay when family-friendly films will be playing at Bermuda's most beloved bay through August. On deck: Rango, an animated movie featuring the voice of Johnny Depp and The Adjustment Bureau, a romantic thriller starring Matt Damon and Emily Blunt. The event starts at 7pm on Friday, August 12 and the first feature begins at 9. And best of all, it's free!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Bermuda Soup

Lots of random bits to report on today—otherwise known as, Bermuda Soup (which of course, is best enjoyed in a fancy Bermuda fish chowder mug; keep reading to learn how to own one yourself). According to Travel Weekly, tourism on the island is bouncing back. Reports the travel trade mag: "Air arrivals totaled 80,462 passengers from April through June, up from 77,512 in the same period the year before," which basically amounts to a 3.8% increase in the second quarter. Nice work Bermuda! Even the Royal Gazette agrees. But let's just make sure none of those incoming tourists pick up sea lice when they're swimming in our waters. Itchy rashes? Yuck! In other news, the Department of Tourism recently launched its Bermuda iPhone app, a free island travel guide that when downloaded from the Apple Store, will enter you into a contest to win a trip for two to Bermuda from Boston or New York with a four-night stay at Elbow Beach Bermuda. Score! And of course, everyone is still winding down from Cup Match, last week's two-day cricket tournament that was won by the team from St. George's in a spectacular finish. And finally, it looks like Bermuda will be spared the wrath of Tropical Storm Emily, which is currently barreling its way towards the U.S. eastern seaboard and will pass, at closest, 762 miles west-southwest of the island at approximately 6am this Saturday. Time to get out those surf boards! Oh yeah, and if you're interested in owning that fancy Bermuda chowder mug, just buy it on eBay.

Monday, August 1, 2011

And the Award Goes To...

When was the last time you did something 14 years in a row? Or received an award year after year for over a decade? Probably never, I'm guessing (and no, that perfect attendance certificate you got in fourth grade doesn't count either). That's why the recent announcement of Travel+Leisure's World's Best Awards is so darn exciting. For the 14th consecutive year—14 years in a row people!—the magazine has named The Reefs Hotel & Club among the Top 25 Resorts in the Caribbean, Bermuda and Bahamas alongside luxurious stalwarts like Curtain Bluff in Antigua, the Nisbet Plantation Club in Nevis and the Ritz Carlton in St. Thomas (one of the hotel's I checked in for my Caribbean Travel+Life feature, Road Map to Romance). Even better, The Reefs' La Serena Spa made its debut on this year's list being named among the Top 10 Best Hotel Spas in Caribbean. Considering the brand new wellness center features the finest relaxation room in Bermuda—a bamboo-floored sanctuary with floor-to-ceiling Atlantic Ocean-facing windows that's just perfect at sunset—frankly, I'm not that surprised. A hearty congrats to The Reefs for 14 years of excellence!