Take your shorts seriously in Bermuda

Without question, Bermuda is an intriguing, elegant and a secluded paradise that makes a great vacation destination.

Many people mistakenly believe that Bermuda is in the Caribbean, but it is actually north of the Caribbean Sea in the Atlantic Ocean. It has long been one of the world’s most popular vacation destinations.

As Britain’s oldest colony, its influence continues to dominate the government, educational and legal institutions. You may spot one of their judges walking through Hamilton in a powdered wig, see a bobby directing traffic or overhear a passionate conversation about a local cricket match.

African influences, while more subtle, can be found in the dance and music, especially reggae, calypso and the rhythm of the Gombeys.

Probably most famous: Bermuda shorts. Men in Bermuda are never shy about showing their knees. Standard business dress for men incorporates colorful linen or worsted wool shorts, worn with shirt, tie and blazer, plus the characteristic knee socks. Bermuda shorts were originally borrowed in the early 20th century from the British military's uniform for hot climates.

Although often very colorful (pink is a favorite), do not mistake the shorts as informal. Bermudians take their shorts so seriously they passed a law that no shorts shorter than 6 inches above the knee are allowed.

Bermuda has been a popular destination since modern cruising began in the 1960s, although not typically for passengers traveling from the Pacific Northwest.

Logistically, it didn’t seem to work well until a few years ago when new ports of embarkation started popping up in the northeast.

Bermuda offers many great reasons to visit including perfect weather, world-class golf courses, tennis, shopping, colonial history, picturesque pastel-colored towns and villages, pink sand beaches and a proximity to North America that welcomes cruises of five days or more from as many as seven East Coast homeports.

Between April and November, no fewer than eight cruise lines will send at least 16 ships to one or more of Bermuda’s three ports: Hamilton, St. George’s and King’s Wharf. Offering an ideal combination of time at sea and plenty of time ashore exploring the destination’s attractions, many of them are five- to seven-day Bermuda-only itineraries from such homeports as Baltimore, Boston, New York, Cape Liberty, Philadelphia, Norfolk and Fort Lauderdale. Other cruises feature Bermuda on transatlantic voyages.

Its history, natural beauty and ideal location give Bermuda a character unlike any other cruise destination in the Americas.

In years gone by, Bermuda waters were well known for more than their beauty to the earliest navigators who had business in the New World. The reefs were deadly to ships that ventured too close, and the wreckage of scores of ships dots the outer reefs as a result. Early seamen called Bermuda "Isle of Devils" for that reason.

Bermuda’s name is taken from a Spaniard, Juan de Bermudez, who paid a call in 1503. But the island remained uninhabited, despite visits by Spanish and English ships, until more than a century later.

It wasn’t until a hurricane blew a British ship called the Sea Venture onto the reefs in 1609 that a settlement was begun. The Sea Venture, which was commanded by Admiral Sir George Somers, was on her way to the New World settlement at Jamestown, Va., with settlers and supplies. Although most of the settlers continued on their way in a vessel they built while they were stranded on Bermuda, there have been people living there since that visit, and Bermuda’s character as a British colony was established.

In the early days of the settlement here, Bermudians were traders, and built swift ships of native Bermuda cedar to carry them and their goods south to the West Indies and west to the United States. They were a cosmopolitan, practical people who earned their way in the world with their wits.

Their shipbuilding skills were well known – Bermuda sloops were known as the fastest ships on the sea. At first, these vessels were gaff-rigged, but Bermudians developed the Bermuda rig, which is now the basis for the rigging of nearly all-sailing yachts.

The cosmopolitan nature of those early inhabitants is carried on by present-day Bermudians, some 67,000 who are among the world’s most-traveled people, and who trace their heritage back to Britain, Africa, the Azores, North America and the West Indies.

Made up of eight islands connected by causeways and bridges (including the world’s smallest draw bridge), Bermuda is an enjoyable adventure.

Jerry Vaughn is president of World Voyager Vacations in Federal Way and can be reached at E-mail Vaughn to be included on a mailing list of travel destination reports.

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