This was the first trip to the USA and New York; I was introduced to Sagafjord, a ship that was to turn out to be my favourite of all; and I discovered Bermuda, which began a love affair with the islands that would bring us back many wonderful times over the following years.

This was Andrew's 3rd cruise and with John & I, Gerry came with us on this his 2nd cruise, so we were 4 guys again! We were among the youngest cruisers of the day and we found it funny that so many of the other passengers thought us all ship's entertainers; at least brothers; even Mormons!

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Stately Sagafjord in Charleston, South Carolina
Itinerary Show Map
= ports at anchor
Thursday 27th April- Fly to New York, USA
and stay 2 nights at
the Waldorf-Astoria
Friday-New York, USA
Saturday-New York, USA
(pm) embark Sagafjord
Sunday-Norfolk, Virginia
Monday-at sea
Tuesday-Charleston, South Carolina
Wednesday-Savannah, Georgia
Thursday-at sea
Friday-at sea
Saturday-Hamilton, Bermuda
Sunday-Hamilton, Bermuda
Monday-Hamilton, Bermuda
Tuesday-at sea
10th May
-New York, USA - disembark
and fly overnight to UK

For this cruise, commencing in New York and to get us off to a spectacular start, we also booked Cunard's "pre-cruise package" of an additional 2 nights' stay at the famous Waldorf-Astoria hotel on Park Avenue, which included a sight-seeing tour and tickets to a Broadway Show.

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Boeing 747 Flight & Day 1 in New York
This was also the first long haul flight and first time on a "Jumbo Jet" and it was something of a rude awakening to realise that travelling "economy" wasn't like the TV adverts!
And 8 hrs later, we stood on the continent of North America and discovered that entry into the "Land of The Free" involved form-filling and an intimidating queue!
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Park Avenue
The Pan-Am & Helmsley Buildings
Waldorf-Astoria Hotel
Main Lobby
St Patrick's Cathedral Grand Central Station
The Main Concourse
The Chrysler Building (1930)

Show Picture Full Size Already in awe of New York, we found our rooms at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel to be huge! Built in 1931 in palatial style with 47-storeys and 2,150 bedrooms, it was a labyrinth of corridors; we had to walk miles from the lifts! At night we had the wonders of American TV, but by day there was some serious sightseeing to do!

Empire State Building
At the junction of Fifth Avenue & West 34th Street is the city's No.1 tourist attraction. Opened in 1931, it was the World's tallest building for more than 40 years, until the completion of the World Trade Centre in 1972. Ironically, since the 9/11 disaster in 2001, it is once again the tallest building in New York City at 1,250 ft (381 m) high and 102 floors.

Trivia: The Mooring Mast (1931)
A dirigible mast, now the base of the TV tower, was part of the original construction of the Building. One attempt to moor a privately owned blimp was successful for three minutes. But during a second attempt, in September 1931, a Navy Blimp was almost upended and nearly swept away celebrities attending the historic affair, while the water ballast drenched pedestrians several blocks away. The mooring mast idea was ultimately abandoned.

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The Empire State Building Tenants' Nameboard! Lobby Fifth Avenue
(View North)
The Flatiron Building

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The 22-storey "Flatiron Building" (above right) was one of the first to use steel frame construction and is one of the earliest of New York's "sky-scrapers"!

From 1,050 ft (320 m), the view from the 86th Floor Observatory was spectacular and at dusk, we got this fantastic view of Downtown Manhattan, the Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre, Verazzano Narrows Bridge and, of course, the Statue of Liberty in the Hudson River.

Friday 28th April
Day 2 in New York
Our morning tour began with a visit to the Cathedral Church of St John the Divine, which claims to be the largest Cathedral in the World outside Rome. Still under construction, it was commenced in 1892 and has an interior length of 601 ft, while the Nave vaults rise 124 ft above the floor.

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The incomplete
West Front
The Great Bronze Doors
depicting scenes of the Revelation of St John
The High Altar The Nave
& Sanctuary

(guide book photo)
Peace Fountain
by Greg Wyatt (1985)

Impressive though its dimensions are, I found the building rather dark and dismal; something of a disappointment. The style is gothic but unlike English or French Gothic, it's heavy and overbearing. The stated aim is to complete the West Towers by 1992 but whether or not they do before the money runs out is anyone's guess!

Trivia: St John The Divine (2008)
They didn't! Moreover, on the night of December 18, 2001, a fire swept through the unfinished north transept, destroying the gift shop and for a time threatening the sanctuary of the Cathedral itself. Fortunately, the Organ was also spared, although many tapestries were lost and smoke damage was extensive. From 2007, a programme of chemical stone cleaning has been on-going.

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Central Park South
see also this Picture of John >>
9 West 57th St Trump Tower
The Atrium
Trump Tower
on Fifth Avenue

Our tour continued with stops at Central Park, Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue for coffee and then the Rockefeller Centre, a fine example of Art Deco 30's regeneration in post-Depression New York.

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by Lee Lawrie
RCA Building
Art Deco by Lee Lawrie
The 69 storey
RCA Building
RCA Building
Main Lobby

Show Picture Full Size Of the 19 buildings comprising the 22 acre site, the "flagship" is the 69-storey RCA Building (now called the GE Building) towering over Rockefeller Plaza. The entrance & lobby are a wonderful study in Art Deco from 1933.

The United Nations Building (1950)
Designed by an international team of architects led by Wallace K Harrison from the US, on a site overlooking the East River, the UN Headquarters still presents a quite

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The General Assembly
East River Frontage
Flags of the United Nations The General Assembly
(brochure photo)
The Security Council
Mural by Per Krogh

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Statue of Liberty
modern, even avant-garde look and we took advantage of the opportunity for a brief tour of this iconic building.

Helicopter Sightseeing Flight
While John and Andrew went back to the hotel, Gerry and I decided to round-off the afternoon by seeing New York from a spectacular new angle!

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The UN Secretariat & General Assembly

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Our Helicopter
World Trade Centre Empire State Building
Brooklyn Bridge
& Manhattan Bridge

The 20 minute ride cost $55 but it was worth every penny! And if that wasn't enough on this truly memorable day, we had one more treat to come......

Tickets to a Broadway Show!
And the show was the award-winning Stephen Sondheim musical "Into The Woods". However, notwithstanding the ovations and curtain-calls, we thought it dreadful; we were the only ones in the UK Cunard Group who didn't walk out at the interval!

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Saturday 29th April
Day 3 in New York - Embarkation!
After 2 fantastic days for this our first time in this exciting city, the weather turned wet for our departure day (indeed, this would set the tone for many future departures over the years!).

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Me & Gerry Departing Pier 88 USS Intrepid
Air/Sea Museum
Royal Viking Star

But our spirits were not dampened by the rain, as we enjoyed the traditional streamer departure. Gerry was having a great time with his new video camera! In the adjacent berth, Royal Viking Star was preparing for her weekly excursion to Hamilton, Bermuda and as we pulled away, we got a splendid view of the US Aircraft Carrier Intrepid, opened in 1982 as an Air/Sea Museum.

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Royal Viking Star
just pulling away
34th Street USS Forrestal
arriving for Fleet Week
Statue of Liberty shrouded in cloud
The World Trade Centre

As we sailed down the Hudson River in the drizzle past the iconic landmarks of New York, we also passsed the US Aircraft Carrier USS Forrestal (1955), just arriving for New York's "Fleet Week".

And now, Sagafjord.....

Show Picture Full Size The similarity between Sagafjord and Vistafjord was striking and once aboard, we soon felt at home. But her significant difference was her 2-deck high Dining Room & traditional ocean-liner-style grand staircase. She was fabulous & I instantly fell in love! Show Picture Full Size
The Grand Staircase See Menus & Photos of the ship herself at the Sagafjord Gallery >> The Saga Dining Room

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Newport News, Virginia
You would never know that we were just a stone's throw from the first American Colonial settlement at Jamestown, when we docked opposite what appeared to be a vast coalyard! But this area is steeped in American history - and in ship-building. First stop on our tour was Fort Monroe (1819-23), built on an island at the junction of the James River & Chesapeake Bay. The first sea-battle of the Civil War took place

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Fort Monroe
(post card)
USS Abraham Lincoln
(under construction)
SS United States
SS United States

near here and while most of Virginia was part of the Confederate States of America, Fort Monroe remained in Union hands throughout the War. It's now an interesting museum.

Next stop was the Mariners' Museum, dedicated to local ship-building; aside from building numerous naval ships, the famous Atlantic liner SS United States was built here in 1952 and we were even to see her as we sailed away that afternoon, now languishing sadly in lay-up since 1969. Once the fastest liner to hold the "Blue Riband" of the Atlantic, her future is still uncertain.

Under construction in the ship-yard, however, was the Aircraft Carrier USS Abraham Lincoln. At 97,000 tons and 1,092 ft long, she is nuclear-powered and the 5th in the giant "Nimitz-class", due to be commissioned in November 1989.

Aside: An abortive attempt at a reunion
An old school friend of mine, Martin, had long since moved to live in Boston and I thought it would be an opportunity for us to meet and for him to see Sagafjord. I had even made arrangements with the ship's Security Officer to allow him aboard for lunch.
However, in our official Itinerary, we were listed as calling at "Norfolk, Virginia" and that is what I told him. Unfortunately, we were docked not in Norfolk (which is about 25 miles away on the other side of the James River) but here in Newport News! It would later transpire that Martin drove all the way from Boston to Norfolk, and couldn't find the ship in time before we left!

A Rough Passage!
On the first night out from Newport News and heading south, we rounded Cape Hatteras,
Show Map
a notorious headland, known locally as "The Graveyard of the Atlantic" because of the number of ships lost in an area noted for unpredicable storms! Fittingly, we passed through a storm-front in the night and experienced the roughest night at sea in all our cruises so far! Sagafjord rolled and heaved through the night and I'll never forget looking out of our port-hole to see the lightning reflecting on the sea as huge black troughs opened-up under the ship and we heeled over, the view from the port-hole then obscured by a great wave crashing over the side!

Monday 1st May
At Sea
Group Photo >> Show Picture Full Size
The Captain's Cocktail Party and Welcome Dinner (open the Menu right) were not held until our first sea-day, which wasn't until the 3rd night, but Dinner was worth waiting for!
Open Welcome Dinner Menu

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Tuesday 2nd May
Charleston, South Carolina
A Confederate $100 Note
After a day at sea to recover from our stormy passage, the bad weather was now behind us and we arrived in the heart of the Confederacy. Here we discovered an elegant, cultured city, filled with the gracious homes and public buildings of a bygone age, thankfully spared any serious damage during the Civil War of 1861-65.

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St Michael's Episcopal Church (1761) St Michael's Church (1761)
The US Custom House
The Joseph Manigault
Second Presbyterian Church (1809)

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No.1 East Battery
Middleton Place
Middleton Place
Patriots' Point Naval
& Maritime Museum

In the afternoon, we travelled to Middleton Place Plantation, America's oldest landscaped gardens laid out in 1741. Famed for its "butterfly lakes", we walked beneath live oaks hung in spanish moss and experienced a taste of the "antebellum" (or pre-Civil War) period of grace and elegance that was also the age of wealth, cotton and slavery. Burned and looted by Union troops in 1865, today only the South Wing of the original house survives as a museum.

Charleston Harbor is also the location of the Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum, centre-piece of which is the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown (1942-70). Adjacent is the NS Savannah (1962-72), the first nuclear-powered cargo-passenger ship and one of only 4 such ships ever built.

Nuclear Ship "Savannah" (Picture >>)
After a short and economically unsuccessful career, when she was moved to Patriots Point in 1981, the Museum hoped that "Savannah" would be refurbished and made into a successful exhibit. However, she never achieved the same level of public interest as "USS Yorktown" and in 1994, she was moved to Baltimore, Maryland where she remains. She has since had all her nuclear parts removed and been stripped of all her fittings. As a piece of major maritime history, there are still hopes that she will be made into a museum but no investors have yet come forward.

Wednesday 3rd May
Savannah, Georgia
Venturing further into the "Deep South", we discovered America's first planned city, founded in 1733 & set-out on a grid pattern by British General James Oglethorpe, founder of the colony of Georgia. Known as the "city of squares", it was considered by Union leader General Sherman too beautiful to destroy on his all-conquering trail from Atlanta; so instead, he presented the city as a Christmas gift to President Abraham Lincoln.

In the morning, we explored just a small part of the 20-square block Historic Landmark District, set up in the 1950's to preserve and protect the downtown area from modern development.

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Statue of
The Waving Girl
Riverfront Plaza
Historic Landmark District
City Hall
Oglethorpe Square
Historic Landmark District
Gingerbread House (1899)

The Legend of "The Waving Girl"
Born in 1869, Florence Martus was the Tybee Island lighthouse keeper’s sister and from 1887 to 1931, she greeted the ships entering the Port of Savannah by waving a cloth during the day and a lantern at night. Some say she had fallen in love with a sailor who failed to return but she never missed a ship. She died in 1943 and the statue, by Felix de Weldon, was erected in 1972.

In the Victorian District, a favourite with the tourists (and wedding parties!) is the Gingerbread House, a rare surviving example of "steamboat gothic" architecture.

Our organised tour today took us past beautiful homes in the residential district of Ardsley Park, to a low-lying area beside the Skidaway River, known as the Isle of Hope See Map >> Founded as a retreat from the fevers rampant at one time in the city, it's an area of outstanding natural beauty.

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Live Oaks & Spanish Moss
Ardsley Park
A home in
Ardsley Park
A house on Bluff Drive
Isle of Hope
Avenue of Live Oaks
Wormsloe Historical Site

At the Wormsloe Historic Site, we were taken to see the "tabby ruins". Seemingly the nearest thing the USA has to a true archaeological site, we were unimpressed! I was more interested in the mile-long avenue of live oaks at the entrance to the site, a view rumoured to have been used for the setting of "Twelve Oaks" in the 1939 epic film "Gone With The Wind".

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Thursday 4th - Friday 5th May
2 Days at Sea en-route to Bermuda
Show Map of the Cape
By now we were discovering that we really enjoyed these longer passages at sea; it was time to relax, unwind from the stresses of work and recharge the batteries. Back home, we had recently signed-up to buy a house in The Lynch and we were trying to sell the house in Southgate just as the UK property market was crashing!

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Heading for Bermuda
Foredeck & crew's pool
View from
the Bridge
Lido Deck
Sun-deck, cafe and pool
John! Andrew & Gerry
Playing Shuffleboard

Saturday 6th - Monday 8th May
Hamilton, Bermuda
Show Map Map >> Show Map

Having approached from the south-west, Sagafjord first passed the length of Bermuda beyond its treacherous reefs before arriving at the pilot-station off the north-eastern tip of the island. Here, we passed inside the reef to follow the main ship channel back down the island to the city of Hamilton.
(Sagafjord approaches at dawn, to pass inside the reef and make the long passage into Hamilton)
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Inside the reef
following the South Channel
Two Rock Passage
entering Hamilton Harbour
House on Point Shares
Hamilton Harbour
approaching Front Street
City of Hamilton

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Sagafjord alongside Front Street
The entire approach to Hamilton was a magical experience; the climax was the narrow entry through "Two Rock Passage" into the harbour itself, where Sagafjord tied-up alongside Front Street, right in the heart of town!

The next 3 days were like a dream in Paradise! First, the perfect introduction was a whistle-stop tour aboard one of Bermuda's little pink & blue buses, to show us the main sights of the island.

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John Smith's Bay
pink sand & turquoise seas
Flatts Village
Replica of "Deliverance" (1610)
Town of St George
Kings Square, St George
Town Hall (1782)

The remoteness of Bermuda has protected it from the ravages of modern tourism and it still retains its quirky "Britishness", its beauty and exclusivity. It had us spellbound! However, having arrived an hour late in Hamilton, our morning tour also ran late, so to catch our afternoon excursion, no sooner were we off the bus than we were bundled into a high-speed boat! Show Picture Full Size

Show Picture Full Size Reef Adventure aboard the Submarine "Enterprise"
Out at the reef, we were transfrred to the Enterprise. Carrying just 44 passengers, this submarine dives to a maximum depth of about 50 ft to pass over the coral reef and in this case, the wreck of the ship "Lartington", one of dozens of such wrecks surrounding Bermuda.

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Living Coral Wreck of
The "Lartington"
The "Lartington"
& Coral

We were fearful that it might be claustrophobic inside the sub but with its large port-holes and air-conditioned interior (See Picture >>) it was quite unlike a conventional submarine and it gave a unique and wonderful view of an undersea world we had not seen before.
Open French Dinner Menu
To round-off an amazing day, it was the Chef's French Dinner (Open Menu left) aboard Sagafjord that night and it was a feast of gastronomic proportions!
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Sagafjord from the harbour by night

The magic of our wonderful first day in Bermuda was completed by the rare luxury of an evening stroll ashore after dinner and an unforgettable view of Sagafjord, illuminating the harbour.

Bermuda Aquarium
The next day, we were emboldened to go off on our own on the bus, to revisit some of the places we had seen so briefly the day before. At the Bermuda Aquarium, and this time away from the tour bus crowd, we were able to spend a more leisurely time enjoying its many exhibits.

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Live Coral Dusky Shark Rhinoceros Iguana Alligator Parrot

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Black Grouper Spiny Lobster Seahorse Loggerhead Turtle

Show Picture Full Size However, that afternoon we travelled back out to the reef again, this time to undertake one of our most adventurous exploits yet!

Greg Hartley's Underwater Helmet Dive
At a depth of only 8-10 ft above the reef, here we donned wet-suits (as the water was a bit chilly this time of year) and stepped down the ladder off the back of the boat to the sandy bottom. (See Additional Picture >>)

The weight of our huge glass-sided helmets helped to keep us down but balancing was a problem, so we were initially led around the bottom on our knees, 3-4 at a time, all hanging on (like grim death!) to a metal bar, in case we were tempted to drift away!

On the bottom, we had a crash course in coral identification, were introduced to a fearsome-looking moray eel skulking in a crevice and were encouraged to feed the fish while our photos were taken! It was one of those things that you really need to do twice because the first time, you are too terrified to enjoy it!

After that, we were glad to get back on dry land and back to the safety and luxury of Sagafjord. It was fish for dinner that night!

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Sagafjord alongside Front St. Hamilton

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Departing Hamilton
& Royal Viking Star
Departing Hamilton, Bermuda A choppy Atlantic
on the return to New York
Arrival in New York
Verrazano Narrows Bridge

Our third day turned wet and we were joined by Royal Viking Star on her weekly visit. But we only had the morning to explore the shops in Hamilton before we departed at 1pm, totally smitten by the beauty of Bermuda, vowing that some day we would return. That night aboard, what could be more appropriate than the Captain's Farewell Dinner. Open Farewell Dinner Menu

Show Picture Full Size The return passage to New York continued grey, dismal and choppy, and our arrival in New York was met with rain; a fittingly miserable end to our cruise. However, the memory of this holiday would endure because on it were formed two new loves; a love for Sagafjord and a love for Bermuda.
(left) Our 4th Rosenthal Souvenir Ashtray - this time a Sagafjord one!

The Lure of Bermuda
More than anywhere else we would visit in the ensuing years, our love for Bermuda would cause us to return and never be disappointed. Over the next 17 years, John & I would return 9 times, Andrew 8 times, Gerry 6 times & Dad came with us 3 times!
Visit the Bermuda Photo Gallery for pictures from all of these visits.

See Detailed Mileage Log for this cruise >>

Cruise Mileage: 2,383 nautical miles
Total Mileage to date: 18,260 n miles

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