When an interesting opportunity presents itself, you have to jump at it or miss out. Going to Bermuda seemed like a no brainer when we had the chance to take a cruise on Norwegian Cruise Line and the Norwegian Dawn in August of this year. Since the ship was to be docked for two and a half days in port, it was going to be a nice, long visit in Bermuda and we were going to enjoy every minute of it. This picture is a view from over the 9m (30-ft.) ramparts toward the ships in port: Royal Caribbean Enchantment of the Seas and our ship was in front although not in the picture.
The main attraction, at least for us, was the Commissioner’s House pictured here. Designed by Edward Holl, Chief Architect of the Royal Navy, in 1822. The house was completed in 1827 and designed as a combination of private quarters, ceremonial residence, and administrative offices for a high-state official. It was once the British colonial government’s equivalent of the White House in Washington, DC. The Commissioner’s House was designed with cast iron replacing all structural wood and was the first residential building in history to utilize this method of cast iron framing. The house is located within the six-acre Keep and is an enclave within an enclave. The Keep was a proud symbol of British naval strength and was built entirely by convict labor.
All throughout the Bermuda Maritime Museum there are buildings with history emanating from all around you. From ammunition buildings like the Forster Cooper Ordnance House to the Queen’s Exhibition Hall, there is something for everyone here. Within the walls of the 1850 Ordnance House, now called the Queen’s Exhibition Hall, were once stored 4,860 kegs of gunpowder in gunpowder keg racks that lined 10 bays, each bay with its own entrance and air vents. For anyone with a love of history and/or the military, you will absolutely love checking every building throughout the Bermuda Maritime Museum. For families, you’ll find an abundance of educational information for you and your family around ever corner. Children will love the cannons and underground tunnels where you can explore on your own if you dare. Couples will enjoy discovering romantic spots among the flowers and near the ramparts throughout the many acres of land.
Inside the Inside the Commissioner’s House is an amazing collection of historical relics including that of Bermuda’s military history. I was ecstatic that they had a section dedicated exclusively to the women who served as well. Here’s a quick list of what’s there:
Commissioner’s House Exhibits
Bermuda’s Defence Heritage: The dynamic history of Bermuda’s fortifications, local military forces and war veterans.
The Slave Trade and Slavery in Bermuda: The legacy of slavery and its dramatic impact on Bermuda.
The Azores & Bermuda: Five hundred years of Portuguese-Bermudian connections and culture.
Bermuda & the West Indies: The maritime, economic, and cultural links between Bermuda and the Caribbean.
A History of the Bermuda Race: The story of the century-old Newport-Bermuda Race, a tale of seaworthy oceangoing yachts, amateur sailors, and adventure at sea.
Destination Bermuda: A History of Tourism traces the Island industry’s rise, decline, and ongoing reinvention.
Coin Collections: Major collections are displayed alongside intriguing vignettes on their production and significance to Bermuda history.
Note Collections: A new exhibition of Bermuda’s paper money is coming soon!
The Pillared Hall: An exciting new installation in this dramatic stairwell is coming soon!
Maps of Bermuda: Selections from the largest public collection of antique Bermuda maps spanning the 16th to 19th Centuries.
Historic Bermuda Collections: Temporary thematic exhibitions showcase selections from the Fay & Geoffrey Elliott Collection and other important collections of Bermudiana.
Rare Books: A growing collection of historic Bermuda, maritime, and military volumes on public display in an open storage library.
Royal Navy Collections: Items and furniture relating to the Royal Navy at Bermuda.
US Forces Collections: A tribute to the US Forces who served at Bermuda from 1941 to 1995.
If you love boats, you will love “The Dainty”, an ocean racer and beautifully restored Bermuda yacht that enjoyed a long career as a racing vessel (she participated in the Bermuda Race), an open water fisherman, and a cruise ship. Built more than one hundred years ago, she resides here along with other boats of significance, including the 5m (16-ft.) “Spirit of Bermuda,” shown here and located within the Boatloft. On the upper floor, the original working dockyard clock, chimes every quarter-hour.
While walking around the museum grounds, we noticed that there was an abundance of flowers and plants, including cactus, and sheep! They were quite tame and kept an eye on us and when we got too close, the entire flock would move in unison to a different direction for privacy. I highly recommend wearing closed toe shoes if you plan to walk this area as well, as it doesn’t look like there is anyone out with a “pooper scooper” picking up after the very cute, but extremely messy sheep. Let’s just say I gave you fair warning! We went here in August and although on the water, the breeze was nearly non-existent and the humidity stifling. Inside the Commissioner’s House the air was thick and we walked through it quickly in order to step outside on the balcony just to get some fresh air. Remember, no air conditioning inside so remember this when entering the building.
It’s always interesting to see modern day activities juxtaposed with something of great historical significance, like the Bermuda Maritime Museum. The Keep Pond is an enclosed waterway once served to transport ordnance stores from anchored ships to storage houses within the Keep. Now it’s home to the dolphins of Dolphin Quest. Ranging in price from $160 per person for a 20 minute Discover Dolphin program up to $650 per person for the Trainer for a Day for a 5 1/2 hour program, we chose instead to focus on the museum and the $10 admission. Maybe this is the only opportunity you’ll get to interact with a dolphin, but if not, why not enjoy your surroundings instead?
If you are looking to head to the beach and can’t decide on which one to visit and you don’t want to travel far, you can always end your visit to the Bermuda Maritime Museum with a stop at Snorkel Park located adjacent to the museum. Unlike the other public beaches of Bermuda, this one does charge an admission fee, which I believe is $5 per person. Lounge chair rentals are $15 each, umbrellas are $10, and so on. You can rent jet skis, kayaks, and snorkeling equipment. However, you can bring in your own snorkeling equipment. While we were at the museum, we watched as the beach became increasingly crowded, both on the sand and in the water. If you like feeling like a sardine, then you might like Snorkel Park. If not, let your adventurous side out and explore one of the many beaches of Bermuda.
Overall, exploring all of the grounds of the museum made it feel like an adventure interspersed with educational insights all along the way. This was our last day in port and it truly was a great way to end our time in Bermuda. With easy access to the ship, all of the shops and restaurants in the dockyard, and the Bermuda Maritime Museum, it makes for a simple self-guided day free of stress and full of fun. I highly recommend visiting Bermuda and I hope that the cruise lines will reconsider sending more to this great island soon. If not, you might want to opt for a weeklong stay here and fly to this beautiful destination complete with its pink sand beaches.