This Luxury Viking Cruise Should Be on Your Pandemic Travel Bucket List

Take a floating five-star hotel to Bermuda, where shipwreck dives, underground caves, and local beer and rum await.

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You were ready to travel last spring when the pandemic seemed to be winding up, but the Delta variant shut that down, or did it? 

Yearning for the tropics? Enjoy snorkeling and diving shipwrecks, exploring underground caves, hitting the links on fairways swept by ocean breezes? Or how about sampling artisanal beer and rum

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Well, it’s all just a couple of hours by plane from New York City in Bermuda, which is still open for business, albeit with proof of vaccination and recent COVID-19 tests confirming you’re virus free.

And if contagion remains at the root of your anxiety, then there’s no safer way to travel than on a cruise ship like the Viking Orion, on board which all travelers and crew are vaccinated and tested daily. It boards in the capital city of Hamilton and sails an eight-day loop around the island, stopping only at the Royal Navy Yard where the harbor meets the ocean.

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Pastel-colored Hamilton is a charming town with a population of 900. After checking in on the Orion, use the ship as you would a hotel, albeit a luxurious one with distractions like a putting green, swimming pools, movies and of course the Abba tribute show. 

And for the epicurean, original drawings by Norwegian artist Edward Munch (The Scream) decorate the ship’s main lobby, while a reproduction of the famous Bayeux Tapestry adorns the stairway.

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Before shoving off, you might want to tee off at Belmont Hills, one of Bermuda’s premier golf courses with views of the harbor and the Great Sound. This par-70 course was remodeled in 2002 by course architect Algie M. Pulley, Jr., maintaining not just water hazards and bunkers, but narrow fairways to keep golfers on their toes.

With another day in Hamilton at the end of the week, you can tee off again at Tucker’s Point, designed in 1932 and remodeled in 2002 by course architect Roger Rulewich. Both courses include private transportation, golf cart and club hire.

Home at one time or another to celebs like David Bowie, actor Michael Douglas (whose mom is Bermudian), and literary figures like playwright Eugene O’Neill and Mark Twain, Bermuda’s unique history does not include the bloody expunging of indigenous peoples. 

Settled by Spanish explorer Juan de Bermúdez, who discovered the island in 1505, it was believed to be haunted when superstitious sailors mistook the eerie cry of a bird called the Bermuda petrel as a warning from evil spirits. 

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That could be why it was ceded to the British Navy with nary an argument, or maybe it’s because there is no fresh water on the island. Even today rooftops everywhere are coated in lime to ensure runoff when it rains, with water being stored in underground tanks for use.

Of course, Bowie, Douglas and Twain didn’t come to Bermuda for the golf, but perhaps for its pink sand beaches, or to dive the undersea remains of 300 shipwrecks accumulated over the centuries. 

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Excursions include visits to two of Bermuda’s most famous—the Constellation and the Montana, which sank 100 years apart, resting permanently on a seabed surrounded by parrotfish, trumpetfish, tortoise and other multi-hued reef dwellers. If you prefer your deep dives on land, head for Crystal and Fantasy Caves, which sound adventurous but aren’t. It’s a few steps through a doorway then down a flight of stairs. 

Whatever it lacks in pulse-pounding thrills, it makes up for in natural beauty with a pool of water an otherworldly glass-like verdant tone. The floor surrounding it is a garden of stalagmites reaching upward to their partners hanging from the ceiling.

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At sea aboard the Orion, you’ll be surrounded by the comfort and amenities of a four-star hotel. Dinner at the World Café buffet includes fresh crab legs and shrimp, pizza, sushi, or Mexican fare, other nights other cuisine. 

Fine dining is on the menu at Manfredi’s Italian Restaurant (dress code enforced), where Chef Potiphar’s Porcini Dry-Rubbed Ribeye with light brown sugar, ground pepper, red chili flakes, kosher salt and garlic powder will send you to bed with a smile on your face. Or take a seat at The Chef’s Table for the Chicken Trinidad with Orange Rum Sauce made with almonds and coconut.

At your second port of call, the historic Royal Naval Dockyard, visit the Dockyard Brewing Company, Bermuda’s only microbrewery, where you can learn about the process of mashing, fermenting, conditioning and kegging to create the perfect blend. At the Frog & Onion pub sample their lager, porter, ale and wheat.

Back on board, work out the kinks with a visit to the LivNordic spa for a sauna and cold plunge, then a massage or facial to set the tone for a sunset rum cruise. Raise a glass to all the souls that went down with the ship, and drink to the survivors. 

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Toast Bermuda and toast yourself for finally breaking free of the pandemic and doing what comes natural – kicking back, exploring and celebrating.

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Jordan Riefe