Fifty years ago while managing A & W Root Beer Drive-Ins in my then home state of California, one of the other managers was an Englishman named Neil Jones. Neil, like myself, was a golfer. He spoke with great enthusiasm about his love of living in and playing golf in Bermuda prior to coming to the US.
Neil’s enthusiasm for golf in Bermuda stayed with me over the years to the point that visiting and golfing in Bermuda became one of my goals in life. I decided that someday, somehow, I was going to travel to Bermuda to enjoy its scenic beauty and play golf there.
As golfers, when we think about golf vacations most of us think not only about destinations and courses, but also about how to get to our chosen destination. As an avid cruise enthusiast with 24 cruises to all parts of the world under my belt, the obvious answer for me when and if I visited Bermuda to play golf was to cruise to Bermuda
I reached my goal this year by cruising to Bermuda from New York City on Norwegian Cruise Line’s magnificent BREAKAWAY and playing golf at Port Royal Golf Course, home of the 2013 and 2014 PGA Grand Slam of Golf.
The BREAKAWAY, a gorgeous four-star ship built in 2013 was outstanding in every way. Staterooms, bars and restaurants, entertainment, service, and activities for both young and old alike, were terrific. With 18 decks, and just over three and one-half football fields long, it is one of the largest cruise ships in the world. With a 4,028 double occupancy guest capacity and more than 1,600 crew members, it carries more passengers and crew than there are residents in many cities in the US. However, the passengers we spoke with didn’t find it overly crowded.
The BREAKAWAY has 27 dining options including The Waterfront which houses outdoor dining areas; 22 bars and clubs, three Broadway shows, a water park with five multi-story water slides, two pools and four hot tubs; a rope course, a rock climbing wall, a spa with views of the ocean, and an abundance of daily activities to keep you busy. For quiet relaxation the ship has cozy corners where you can read a book, play cards or write the always important post cards. And, for those who like to tempt Lady Luck, the BREAKAWAY has a large and well laid out casino with hundreds of slot machines as well as a variety of table games.
Dining aboard the BREAKAWAY offered an excellent variety of options. Most room service meals were complimentary as well as meals in The Garden Café and the three main dining rooms, the Manhattan Room, Taste and Savor. Specialty restaurants… Cagney’s Steakhouse, Teppanyaki, Lu Cucina, Le Bistro, Moderno, Shanghai’s, Ocean Blue, Wasabi Sushi, O’Sheehan’s Irish Pub and the Raw Bar had either cover charges or a la carte menus. Casual breakfast, lunch and dinner meals in The Garden Café Buffet on deck 15 all offered a great variety to fit all types of palates. We found dinners in all the main dining rooms to be excellent and were absolutely wowed by the entrees in the specialty restaurants.
While on board we experienced The Ice Bar, a unique bar where the temperature stays at 17 degrees Fahrenheit and the specialty vodka drinks are served in ice glasses. While in the bar I received puzzled looks from other passengers, who were decked out in ship supplied hooded parkas, as I wore my Coveted Fagapo Blazer which I won in 2013 at the Annual Fagapo Invitational Golf Tournament in Graeagle, California.
Following two and one-half days of leisurely sailing from New York City, the BREAKAWAY docked at Kings’ Wharf in Bermuda at the Royal Navy Dockyard where within minutes, golf, sightseeing, shopping, soft pink sand beaches, kayaking, scuba diving and snorkeling were awaiting.
Bermuda, which is a British Overseas Dependent Territory with significant autonomy, was first discovered in 1503 by Spanish Sea Captain Juan de Bermudez after whom Bermuda was named. Shaped like a fish hook, Bermuda is not just one island but 122 islands connected by bridges and waterways. Its main seven islands are home to a vast majority of its 69,000 residents, scenic bays, outstanding sand beaches, historic sites, shopping opportunities and yes…gentlemen dressed in Bermuda shorts and long socks.
Golf was introduced to Bermuda in the late 1800’s by British Army Officers and prior to the expansion of golf in California, Arizona, Florida and other states, Bermuda was the place to golf There are presently nine courses, six private and three public courses owned by the Bermuda government including The Port Royal Golf Course which we played. Designed in 1970 by Robert Trent Jones, Jr. and reworked in the past few years by Roger Rulewich, one of the original design team, it is a 6,842-yard beauty, with emerald green fairways and spectacular views of the ocean. It is a challenging course with left and right dog legs and elevated, well bunkered, smooth, fast and undulating TifEagle greens.
October 13-15 of this year Port Royal will once again host the PGA Grand Slam of Golf with the winners of the four Majors competing for a pink blazer and the $600,000 top prize in the 1.35 million dollar purse This year’s 36-hole event will pit Master’s Champion Bubba Watson, U.S. Open Champion Martin Kaymer, and British and PGA Champion Rory McIlroy. Since McIlroy won two of the four Majors, former Grand Slam and Fed Ex winner Jim Furyk received an invitation and will compete in this year’s prestigious event.
Port Royal’s signature hole, the stunningly scenic and extremely challenging Par 3 235-yard 16th hole, may well decide the winner. From the tips it is a treacherous hole. A highly accurate tee shot will be key when hitting slightly downhill to the narrow green. To the left of the fairway shrub covered cliffs drop off into the shimmering light blue, turquoise and dark blue waters of the Atlantic Ocean. The right side of the fairway has sloping grass bunkers and rough which will provide awkward stances for chip shots to the green. I can hardly wait to see how the hole is played by the world’s top players.
Golf excursions to Port Royal and other Bermuda courses, which include transportation to and from the course of choice and 18 holes of golf with a cart, can be arranged with the PGA pro on board the BREAKAWAY. Scott Perryman, a PGA Professional with 17 years of experience organizing golf excursions, was the pro on our cruise. He gave informative seminars, answered questions, and organized and accompanied golfers to Bermuda’s well groomed and scenic golf courses.
Since we only played Port Royal, we hope to return to Bermuda to play some of the other courses, especially Turtle Hill, an 18-hole Par 3 course that is rated one of the top five Par 3 courses in the world.
When not golfing Bermuda has plenty to see and do. One of our favorite excursions was swimming with the dolphins at Dolphin Quest located within the National Museum of Bermuda only a short 10 minute walk from where the BREAKAWY docks. Swimming with, touching, and even kissing a dolphin, was a thrilling experience.
Dolphin Quest, with locations in Hawaii and Bermuda is an international organization devoted to public education and conservation of marine wildlife. According to its literature, in addition to entertaining thousands of people like ourselves since it opened in 1988, Dolphin Quest has donated over 3 million dollars in funding, resources and field support to vital marine research projects around the globe.