Hamilton (Photo:Andrew F. Kazmierski/Shutterstock)
4.0 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating

By Jana Jones
Cruise Critic Contributor

Port of Hamilton

The charms of a cruise to Bermuda are not lost on those who prefer big-ship voyages, but alas, neither the mouth of Hamilton Harbour nor the dock facilities in town can accommodate those larger vessels. Which means, increasingly, that cruise ships once based at Hamilton, Bermuda's capital city (or even at the picturesque St. George's) now must go to King's Wharf (also known as the Royal Navy Dockyard). But by no means does that mean one must bypass Hamilton; it's an easy ferry ride from the Dockyards.

In any event, you really shouldn't miss a visit to Hamilton. It's also the place that attracts the most visitors because it has plenty of sightseeing attractions -- including Bermuda's newest, the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute. Most attractions are easy to see on foot. As you stroll through this beautiful port town, you'll love the charming pastel-colored two-story buildings along Front Street (take a break inside the Par-La-Ville Gardens on Queen Street).

Amid the eye-candy viewing atop spots such as the Anglican Cathedral and Point Pleasant -- and the must-see "bird cage" near Queen Street where Bermuda-shorts-wearing constables direct the traffic -- is all the history that made this colorful and somewhat bustling town what it is today. Founded in 1790, Hamilton became the capitol of Bermuda in 1815 because of its central location on the island, which the Colonists believed offered more room to expand. The port city was named after Henry Hamilton, a British Lieutenant Governor and the island's governor (1788 - 1794), whose ancestry traced all the way back to Mary Queen of Scots. Maybe that explains why the passionate loyalty to England is way more than just fish and chips and cricket games.

Among Hamilton's other highlights? Golfing is a big deal, for sure, and beaches are conveniently close by. You'll be tempted to buy gorgeous porcelain and cashmere till the cows come home, and the nightlife's not bad either -- but remember, we're comparing it to the rest of Bermuda, not Vegas or Miami. That being said, at 6 p.m. on Wednesdays (when most of the cruise ships that call at Bermuda are docked at one or another of the island's ports), Hamilton's Front Street becomes party central; the street's closed off to traffic and suddenly the sidewalks are lined with food concession stands, live music and plenty of dancing. Boogie 'til 3 a.m. any night at After Hours, The Deep or Splash.

About Hamilton


Pro

Bermuda's British ties mean plenty of afternoon tea, golf courses and elegant, clubby eateries

Con

Large ships can't dock in Hamilton; you'll have to pay for a ferry from King's Wharf

Bottom Line

Close access to beaches, shopping, dining and historic attractions make time here breezy


Find a Cruise to Bermuda

Where You're Docked

If you are on cruise ship that is less than 700 feet long, you'll dock in downtown Hamilton, at Passenger Terminal 1, 5 or 6. If, however, you're on a larger ship, you'll be docking at King's Wharf, (also known as The Royal Navy Dockyard) since Hamilton Harbour cannot accommodate post-Panamax vessels. In that instance, you can take a ferry to downtown Hamilton from the King's Wharf Terminal.

Currency & Best Way to Get Money

Legal tender is the Bermuda dollar, which is divided into 100 cents. One Bermuda dollar is currently equal to one U.S. dollar. U.S. currency is normally accepted in shops, restaurants and hotels -- but currency from Britain, Canada and other foreign countries is not. Exchanging money is easy, whether it's at an ATM or a bank. There are plenty of ATMs throughout Hamilton, including locations inside Trimingham's and the Visitors Service Bureau. For more currency exchange information, visit www.oanda.com.

Note: Bank of Bermuda's ATMs can only take four-digit PINs.

Language

English is understood and spoken everywhere.

Shopping

Bermuda offers its best deals on U.K. imports, such as nice cashmere sweaters and Harris tweeds. You're shopping duty-free, so that means prices run at least 20 percent less than in the U.S. You might get closer to a 40 percent range at some places, but trust us -- prices aren't as good as they once were. Other souvenirs? You can pick up some ginger beer (it's an acquired taste) and Gosling's rum to make a Dark 'n' Stormy back home, but with the new rules on carrying liquids, you're going to have to figure out a way to keep it in your checked luggage if you are flying from your disembarkation port. Oh, yeah, don't forget the Bermuda shorts.

Best Cocktail

Dark 'n' Stormy, a concoction of Bermuda's own Gosling Black Seal Rum and ginger beer.