After 12 years cruising, this was the first time I went on two cruises in the same year, Canberra to the Canaries having been in May, barely 5 months before this one. The others didn't come on that trip but Dad did, so this was his second cruise in the year too. He was a mere 71 years old at this time! And making our group 5 this time, Gerry was back with us.

Itinerary Show Map = ports at anchor
20th October
- Fly to New York, USA
& stay overnight
Saturday-New York, USA
(pm) embark Horizon
Sunday-at sea
Monday-Hamilton, Bermuda
Tuesday-Hamilton, Bermuda
Wednesday-transfer to St George, Bermuda
Thursday-St George, Bermuda
Friday-at sea
Saturday-New York, USA
Sunday-at sea
Monday-at sea
Tuesday-Nassau, Bahamas
Wednesday-at sea
Thursday-St Thomas, USVI
Friday-Philipsburg, St Maarten
4th November
-San Juan, Puerto Rico
disembark & fly to UK
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Celebrity's Horizon, tied up at St George, Bermuda.

Strictly speaking though, this trip was two cruises anyway; it was the end of the Summer season and Horizon was making her "positioning" cruise to the Caribbean immediately after her last weekly cruise to Bermuda, so we booked both cruises "back-to-back". This was our first time with Celebrity Cruises and they did not endear themselves to us......
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Friday 20th October
Flight to New York, USA

It did not go well; it was our third time on American Airlines and things had not improved; it was more like "Prisoner Cell Block H", with greasy sandwiches served by rather brutish cabin-staff!

When we got to New York, we were supposed to be met by the Suncoast Rep but there was no-one there and the help number we had been given turned out to be in Miami, so we wasted a lot of time and ended up having to arrange our own transport to our hotel, the Sheraton, Park Avenue.

We finally checked-in and after a short recovery, we went out to the Rockefeller Center to get something to eat and to try to make use of what little time we had in New York. On our return, there was an apologetic message on the telephone system from the Suncoast Rep!

Saturday 21st October
New York, USA
New York Map >> Show Map

From his message last night, the errant Rep was supposed to meet us in the hotel at 9.30 am but it was gone 10 when he turned up, with more apologies - as well as $70 for our taxi costs yesterday!

Show Picture Full Size Our "transfer arrangements" today consisted of 2 pre-booked cars that for some reason we had to phone at 12.45 to get the numbers; then when they arrived at the hotel, the drivers didn't even know where they were going; it was a shambles! And to cap it all, it was pouring with rain!

Check-in & Boarding Horizon
Boarding was a long and tedious process but by the time we reached our cabins, our luggage was already there and we could unpack straightaway.

First impressions of the ship were good; this was our first "modern" ship and everything seemed very smart and new.
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Horizon departed her berth earlier than expected at 3.30 but while we were having boat-drill, the ship then dropped anchor in Upper New York Bay and didn't get under way again until 7pm. This may have been because of the foul weather or the fact that the Cruise Port of New York was celebrating it's 50th Birthday but this delay was going to have a knock-on effect on our arrival in Bermuda.

Show Picture Full Size The Starlight Restaurant
Meanwhile, the ship had got our Restaurant table reservations all wrong and we had to get the Maitre d' to re-assign us all at one table! Nevertheless, service was good and we were impressed with the restaurant and the food.
Typical Dinner Menu >>

Sunday 22nd October
A Day at Sea en-route to Bermuda
At dinner and during the night, I noticed that Horizon seemed to handle the Atlantic swell poorly and it was proving difficult to get used to. That and the constant announcements and piped music everywhere were beginning to get a bit annoying!

Even so, we were impressed with this very modern ship, which seemed smart and spacious, well organised, and impeccably maintained. And for the first time, the evening's entertainment was presented in a dedicated "Show Lounge" - although the shows themselves were still mediocre!

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The Card Room
and Library
The America's Cup Club The Plaza Bar The Palladium
Show Lounge

Monday 23rd - Tuesday 24th October
Hamilton, Bermuda
Show Map Map >> Show Map

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The South Channel
approach into Bermuda
Off Point Shares
entering Hamilton Harbour
Sessions House
(Bermuda Parliament)
Bustling Front Street
& Hamilton Cathedral

With our delayed departure from New York and having made only 18 knots because of the weather, our arrival off Bermuda was late. But on the good side, the weather had improved and the now-familiar passage down the length of Bermuda and into Hamilton Harbour was a feast for the eyes.

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Front Street The Birdcage Horizon
& The Birdcage
Horizon at her berth
& the Harbour Ferry Terminal

Horizon eventually docked alongside busy Front Street, where the colourful colonial-style buildings house numerous shops and offices and where you can also find the famous "Birdcage", from where a Policeman in Bermuda Shorts (sometimes!) directs the traffic. See Photo >>

Show Picture Full Size Show Picture Full Size Having collected our transportation passes, we took the Harbour Ferry across Hamilton Sound to Dockyard, where we visited the Maritime Museum and did some shopping.

We enjoyed the trip so much that after dinner aboard Horizon, we took the Night Ferry for a 1-hour trip around the Harbour.
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Yacht on
Hamilton Sound
The Ferry at
From aboard the
Night Ferry

Next day, we all took the bus to Horseshoe Bay, one of the many beautiful beaches dotted along the South Shore. We had great fun in the waves and discovered that Bermuda sand really is pink!

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at the beach
The pink sands of
Horseshoe Bay
Stunning views from 354ft above sea-level
Gibbs Hill Lighthouse
Anglican Cathedral

Completed in 1846, Gibbs Hill Lighthouse was only the 2nd in the World to be made of cast-iron and it was shipped in pieces from England. The 185 steps to the top don't include the hill climb but at 354 feet above sea-level, there is a stunning view over Bermuda!

Wednesday 25th - Thursday 26th October
St George, Bermuda
Show Map Map >> Show Map

In the dawn quiet, Horizon slipped away from her berth alongside Front Street to make the 2-hour passage back up the South Channel to the town of St George, passing on the way, Celebrity's first cruise ship, SS Meridian at Dockyard, as well as exchanging ships' whistles with Cunard's 5-star plus Royal Viking Sun and Royal Caribbean's Song of America, both making their way into Hamilton.

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Celebrity Cruises'
SS Meridian (1963)
(30,447grt - 1,106 pass)
Cunard Line's
Royal Viking Sun (1988)
(37,845grt - 740 pass)
Royal Caribbean Cruise's
Song of America (1982)
(37,584grt - 1,414 pass)
Entering St George
Gates Fort & Town Cut

Although we had been to St George before, this was our first time entering the harbour from the sea, which is an exciting experience, as the ship has to navigate the Town Cut, a narrow channel, blasted through the coral rock in 1917. At the entrance stands the ruined Gates Fort (dating from 1609) where the Town Crier stands and greets the ships as they enter the harbour.

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Majesty Cruise Line's
Royal Majesty (1992)
(32,400grt - 1,050 pass)
Ordnance Island, St George
Royal Majesty & Replica of
"Deliverance" from 1609
At Penno's Wharf Cruise Terminal
Celebrity's Horizon

The town of St George is the historical heart of Bermuda; it was here in 1609 that 150 castaways from the wrecked "Sea Venture" took up residence while they built a new ship, "Deliverance" to continue to their original destination, Jamestown, Virginia. About 50 settlers returned 2 years later however, and founded St George in 1612, and it still has many historic buildings and features.

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Water Street, St George's
The tourist centre of the town
Fading Grandeur
Gate-posts are all that remain of one home!
The Unfinished Church (1870's)

Up on the hill above the town is the Unfinished Church, begun in the 1870's. They hoped it would become Bermuda's Cathedral but, beaten by financial problems and storm damage, another church was completed in the new capital of Hamilton and that became Bermuda's new Cathedral in 1897.

Show Picture Full Size St David's Lighthouse is the smaller of Bermuda's 2 lighthouses. Built in 1879 of local limestone, it is 55 feet high to the lantern, which is 208 feet above sea level and provides a great view of the harbour.
(right) St George's Harbour from St David's Light
View of St George Harbour from St David's Lighthouse

The hourly bus service between St George and the Lighthouse was just enough and we were back in St George in time for a snack and then another trip using our bus passes, this time to the lovely Camden House, originally an early 18th Century private house but today the Official Residence of the Premier of Bermuda, set in 36 acres of landscaped grounds which form the Botanical Gardens.

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Camden House & the Botanical Gardens Sheltered snorkelling at
Tobacco Bay
Fort St Catherine
& St Catherine's Beach

On our last morning, Andrew, Gerry & I went snorkelling at Tobacco Bay, a short walk over the hill from St George. After the exhilaration of the waves at Horseshoe Bay, here the sheltered waters were warm and calm and full of colourful fish that nibbled at your toes!

Nearby Fort St Catherine dates from 1612 but was rebuilt in the 1820's and is now a museum. The adjacent beach is where the survivors from the wreck of the Sea Venture came ashore in 1609.

Show Picture Full Size At the best part of 4 days, this had been our longest stay in Bermuda but it still wasn't enough!

Sailing at 3pm, we headed for the Town Cut and saw Royal Viking Sun ahead, having left Hamilton earlier.
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(Above) Horizon prepares to leave St George and (Above right) Royal Viking Sun sails on ahead as Horizon approaches the Town Cut

Friday 27th October
A stressful day at sea
Today there was another problem with Celebrity's management of our booking; the ship's routines were structured around their American guests and a weekly itinerary and it seemed to be expected that we should leave the ship tomorrow. But as we had booked 2 weeks "Back-to-Back" in the same cabins, all we wanted was to go ashore for a few hours and not to have to check-in again with all the other new passengers joining tomorrow. Only after a bit of an argument did good sense prevail!

Saturday 28th October
New York, USA (again!)
New York Map >> Show Map

Alas, it was raining (again!) but we felt a bit like freed immigrants, armed at last with our "Transit Passes" and finally allowed to go ashore!

While Gerry & John went off to look for bookshops, Andrew, Dad & I took a taxi down to Battery Park for the Ferry to the Statue of Liberty.
(Far right) Royal Viking Sun again (with Horizon just behind) at the Manhattan Cruise Terminal
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The Statue of Liberty
Ellis Island & Manhattan from the Pedestal
Inside the statue
354 spiral steps!
Inside the Crown The Arm
42 ft long!

When I last visited New York in 1991, there wasn't enough time to climb to the top of the Statue, so I wanted to finish the job properly this time! Needless to say, Andrew & Dad went as far as the Pedestal and it was only me that went all the way to the Observation Deck in the Crown!

The Statue of Liberty
A gift from the French to the American People, the statue was designed by Frederic Auguste Bartholdi and was unveiled in 1886. Supported on a steel frame designed by Gustav Eiffel, the torch is 305 ft from the ground but visitors are not allowed up there any more. As it is, there are 354 spiral steps to the Observation Deck in the Crown - and no lift!

The Statue holds a tablet dated 4th July 1776 and an engraved plaque at its base includes the words, "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free." Read more about the Statue of Liberty at www.nps.gov/stli >>

Show Picture Full Size Fortunately, the rain eased off during the morning and by the time I rejoined the others down at Pedestal Level, we were rewarded with this view of Manhattan and the 110-storey twin towers of the World Trade Centre. We could not know the tragedy and devastation yet to come on 11th September 2001.

By 3.30pm and having by-passed the check-in queue, we were back aboard Horizon for the second part of our cruise.

Sunday 29th & Monday 30th October
2 Days at Sea
Main Voyage Maps >> Show Main Voyage Map

Predictably, they messed-up the Dining Room table assignments again but after sorting that out, we ended up with an excellent table and 2 excellent stewards, Philippe and Sal. The menu was a repeat of the first week's menu.

It was also choppy at sea again, and we had a deaf "noisy neighbour" who we had to ask to turn his TV down at 11.15pm!
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Dad has been coming down with a cold or 'flu and decided to go to the ship's Doctor, who diagnosed an upper chest infection; he gave him an injection, a load of antibiotic tablets and a hefty bill!

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Tuesday 31st October
Nassau, Bahamas
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It was immediately apparent, from the fact that there were no fewer than 6 other cruise ships in port today, that this was no sleepy sightseeing spot.
(Left) Stern to stern with Premier Cruise Line's "Starship Atlantic" - 35,143grt & 1,062 passengers

Like Bermuda, Nassau has flourished through successions of pirates and privateers, blockade-running in the American Civil War and bootlegging during Prohibition, remaining largely British since 1629. However, unlike Bermuda, Nassau has fully opened-up to the cruise industry - and paid the price with crowds of tourists, traffic noise and pollution!

Stepping ashore, my day was nearly ruined when a brief gust of wind snatched my excursion ticket and I lost it in the crowd. Fortunately, by the time I found the Excursions Manager, someone had thoughtfully handed it in, so I was reunited with my ticket and able to board the ferry for the 20 minute journey to my destination.
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The fabulous 360 degree Reef Tank Grouper Reef Shark Feeding the fish
Stingray Pool

Show Picture Full Size Coral World Marine Park & Aquarium
Developed in 1987 by Coral World International on the private barrier island of Silver Cay, this ecological marine park incorporates aquatic animal pools for sting rays, sharks and sea turtles, a "touch pool", snorkel trail, and a secluded villa hotel, as well as a fabulous innovative 360 degree enclosed Reef Tank and an Underwater Observatory accessed via an iconic "lighthouse" tower.
(Left) The iconic "lighthouse" tower of the Underwater Observatory at Coral World

Regrettably, Coral World was sold in 1995 to the Marriot Hotel Group and it was later renamed "Crystal Cay Marine Park". Then in 1999, the Park suffered heavy hurricane damage and has remained closed to the public ever since.

Show Picture Full Size Above the town of Nassau is Fort Fincastle, built in 1793. Unfortunately, today it's no defense against half-a-million tons of cruise ship parked in the harbour!

The 65 steps of the Queen's Staircase Right >> were carved from the limestone rock by local slaves; the handicraft market is more recent!
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Amazing Grace(1988)
(1,750grt - 94 passengers)
Nordic Empress (1990)
(48,563grt - 1,850 pass)
Holland America Line's Statendam (1992)
(55,451grt - 1250 passengers)

Show Picture Full Size By far the most attractive ship in the harbour was Amazing Grace(Above Left) Currently operated by Windjammer Barefoot Cruises, she was built in 1955 in Scotland and served as the lighthouse service ship Pharos but she was also designed with appointments and facilities intended as a back-up for the Royal Yacht Britannia.

(Left) Carnival Fantasy (1990) 70,367grt and up to 2,600 passengers
(Right) Starship Atlantic (35,143grt) was originally Home Line's "Atlantic" of 1982
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Wednesday 1st November
A Day at Sea
Caribbean Maps >> Show Caribbean Maps
With a rough sea and the clocks put forward an hour last night, it was a quiet ship this morning and we were almost the only ones in to Breakfast!

Today we had to endure US Immigration formalities for the 3rd time this cruise - half an hour of queuing and wasted beaurocracy!

Thursday 2nd November
Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands
It was a choppy night and Horizon did not handle it well; it felt like driving over pot-holes all night!

Our original programme had said we would be in St Thomas today from 12noon until 7pm but last night, the Daily Programme announced it would be 3.30-8pm - and lunch would be from 11.30am!

Show Picture Full Size In the event however, we didn't arrive in Charlotte Amalie until 4.30 and with us on early sitting for Dinner at 6.30, it was hardly worth going ashore!

Mind you, St Thomas in the drizzle didn't hold much attraction so we just did an hour's duty-free shopping in the nearby Mall and came back!
(Left) Blue roofs around Charlotte Amalie harbour reveal the tarpaulins following hurricane damage

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Friday 3rd November
Philipsburg, Sint Maarten
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Thankfully, the weather next day was much better and we arrived on time, dropping anchor in the bay and going ashore by local tender service.
(Left) Putting ashore at the little town pier in one of the local tender-boats

Show Picture Full Size In a quaint and peaceful co-existence since 1648, this 37sq mile island has been shared between the Dutch and the French. The French took the north, with all the best beaches, while the Dutch took the smaller south and the highly lucrative salt-flats. Show Picture Full Size

(Above) Duty-free shopping in quaint Philipsburg takes on a photogenic look - I even bought a new Canon camera here!
(Above right) Also anchored nearby was Celebrity's Meridian (1963 - 30,447grt): she followed us from Bermuda & Nassau

By 1939 however, the salt trade had diminished and the Dutch made Sint Maarten a duty-free port and coined the phrase, "The Friendly Island" to describe its gregarious and hospitable people; not without a hint of sarcasm in the direction of the French, I suspect!

To end our cruise on a high note, today we decided to do something a bit different...

5-Star Catamaran sail/snorkel aboard "Golden Eagle II"

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The news that the first "Golden Eagle" had been destroyed in a hurricane just weeks before our arrival did not put us off this fabulous 4-hour trip! Before we knew it, our 76-foot by 34-foot beam, multi-million dollar catamaran was motoring (against the wind) along the island, in search of a beach and a sheltered inlet where we could swim and snorkel with equipment provided on board.

After our dip in the real Caribbean, our luxury yacht then went impressively under sail back to Philipsburg while the crew did all the hard work and delivered a 5-star service of drinks and canapes. A truly memorable and exhilarating experience!

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(Above) Anchored in the bay at Philipsburg, Sint Maarten, Celebrity's Horizon (1990 - 46,811grt) and Meridian (1963 - 30,447grt)

Saturday 4th November
San Juan, Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico Maps >> Show Map

We arrived in port at 4am today and with so much noise and commotion, there was no chance of a lie-in! But the slow disembarkation process that followed had one more frustration in store....

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Cunard Countess(1976)
(17,593grt - 820 passengers)
Old & New
Cunard Countess and
NCL's Windward
NCL's Windward (1993)
(39,217grt - 1250 pass)
Song of America (1982)
(37,584grt - 1400 pass) &

Fascination (1994)
(70,367grt - 2,100 pass)

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The Sands Hotel
Frustration and woes....
We had never been to Puerto Rico before and as our flight wasn't until much later in the day, we decided to take advantage of the opportunity of Celebrity's optional "Excursion with Airport Drop-off". And to be fair, Celebrity had even arranged with the Airlines to provide check-in facilities for everyone on the dockside.

Unfortunately, that's as far as it went because American Airlines could not locate any of our names on their check-in schedules!

At this stage, Celebrity were unable or unwilling to help, so our only option was to retrieve our luggage, get our money back from Celebrity's Excursions Manager for our aborted sightseeing excursiont and go direct to the Airport (5 hours earlier than necessary) in order to sort things out.

It was all a confusion over flight numbers because of our UK flight-connection in Miami of course and we were all angry but Andrew went ballistic and demanded to see a Manager! The result? We got to spend the rest of the morning at the Sands Beach Hotel, with lunch and all our taxi-fares, courtesy of American Airlines! Oh the joys of International Travel! Show Picture Full Size

Needless to say, we were not impressed by our first experience of Celebrity Cruises but it didn't stop us trying them again in 3 years' time!

See Detailed Mileage Log for this cruise >>

Cruise Mileage: 3,484 nautical miles
Total Mileage to date: 52,372 n miles

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