(12:15 p.m. EDT) -- When is a Canada/New England cruise not your typical fall foliage sweep? When it's in the summer -- and includes Bermuda.
Oceania introduced a new unusual itinerary for late summer 2017, one that we were intrigued by. The 10-night "Cottages, Coves and Coasts" sailing onboard Oceania Cruises' Insignia followed three calls to New England (Newport, Boston and Bar Harbor) and one call in Canada (Halifax, Nova Scotia) with two sea days east into the Atlantic -- nearly 750 nautical miles to the island of Bermuda for an overnight stay. It's then a day and a half back to the Manhattan Cruise Terminal of New York. They aren't the only ones to do it - Holland America's Veendam also sailed six Canada/New England and Bermuda cruises this May into July.
Loyal Oceania customers and first-time cruisers were both represented onboard, discovering the appeal of combining a Canada and New England sailing with Bermuda. Here's what you need to know to plan your own cruise.
A Sense of Security
Cruises that sail this itinerary depart from New York (aboard Oceania) or Boston (some Holland America sailings) and for many, a stateside departure port is part of the allure -- if you don't have to fly, even better. Concerns over international terrorism and other world events have kept some Americans scoping out vacations that keep closer to home, or in relatively hysteria-free zones like Bermuda. Many are using it as a chance to revisit cities in their own country that they've never been to, or haven't seen in quite some time. While passports are recommended whenever you travel into a foreign country, they are not required for a closed loop sailing and so passengers may freely board with just a government-issued photo ID and their cruise card.
Mobility and the tribulations of travel also make an embarkation port that's drivable or close quite attractive for many older passengers. The demographic of cruisers who sail Canada and New England, especially on lines like Oceania or Holland America, skews past retirement and into seniority. Not having to go abroad makes a trip with a loved one who is traveling in a wheelchair or with another mobility device a lot more accessible. Additionally, many of the first-time cruisers onboard were convinced to book by friends who were already familiar with the line – and not having to book a flight on top of paying cruise fare was even more convincing.
Getting Back to Bermuda
For many onboard, Bermuda was a repeat destination. We met a fair amount of people who had visited Bermuda at least once before by land (if not frequently) and saw the itinerary with a few East Coast ports as an interesting means to an end. Cruises that sail to Bermuda from Boston, New York or New Jersey are offered by a handful of cruise lines, but only stop in Bermuda with no other ports of call. Ships that sail these itineraries also tend to be much larger vessels than Insignia's 684 passengers or Veendam's count of 1,350. Moreover, many of these Bermuda-only cruise ships have a family focus, and sail during the prime summer months when kids are out of school and most people have the time to take off work. A mix of New England ports along with sailings in the latter part of summer and into the fall almost guarantee little to no children onboard for a mature crowd looking for a relaxed way to get back to Bermuda with a few stops beforehand -- and plenty of downtime.
For Oceania Cruisers, This is a Short Getaway
We laughed when senior staff onboard Insignia referred to our week-and-a-half sailing as a "short cruise," but when you consider the line's other itineraries, 10 nights is comparatively quick. Other sailings on Insignia span weeks and even months on the ship's world cruises. That said, holidaymakers looking for some time away at a reasonable price point are able to experience an Oceania cruise on this itinerary, rather than dedicate an entire season to living at sea.
The Perfect Way to Welcome Fall and Send Off Summer
A variety of sail dates that begin in the late spring and are peppered throughout July and August mean you might be seeing Newport or Bar Harbor at the height of summer, outdoor festivals and all. But anything over or after Labor Day begins to take on the feeling of fall, even if the weather is still warm and the leaves haven't turned. We felt that our particular sailing -- August 31 to September 10 -- was the ultimate way to experience a brisk morning in Boston and snuggle up with some chowda but by mid-day jackets were usually relieved of duty. Then in Bermuda, sailing, snorkeling and lazy beach days with a rum swizzle in hand reminded us that it was still technically summer, and we should be soaking up every last ray of it.
Back onboard, if you're sailing with Oceania Cruises, afternoon tea is served every day at 4 p.m. sharp. Tea time is a fleetwide offering regardless of itinerary, but we feel it translates quite well between having a piping hot cuppa after a day in one of the New England ports and the British tradition of afternoon tea, which can still be found at fine hotels across Bermuda.
Storms & Suitcases
The only drawbacks to combining a Canada/New England cruise with Bermuda is that you have to give a little extra thought when packing, particularly since it's still Atlantic hurricane season (which begins June 1 and goes through November 1). While forces of nature are out of our control, packing for your cruise is a much easier problem to solve. Layers is a magic word, and will serve you well staying warm during crisp New England mornings and cool during humid Bermudan days. A windbreaker on top of a warm sweater for a foggy New England day will also serve you well during the frequent thunderstorms found in Bermuda.
We would say that the charms of Bermuda are a welcome addition to just about any itinerary. Programming never felt disjointed (tad more steel drums in Hamilton than Halifax), and logistically, it's a breeze as both foreign ports (Halifax and where you're docked in Bermuda) widely accept the U.S. dollar. Just be prepared to forget all about the changing of the seasons and have a tiny tropical withdrawal upon leaving island life behind, and heading back to reality -- wherever that might be.
Beginning in July 2018, Oceania Cruises is offering the same 10-night itinerary on six different Insignia cruises, as well as a 16-night "Eastern Seaboard Explorer" sailing in November that departs Montreal, covering New England and then Bermuda before returning to Miami. In May 2018, Holland America is offering a two-week version of this itinerary, from Boston to Bermuda then back to Boston and onward to Montreal.
--By Brittany Chrusciel, Associate Editor