Seeing the sights: Dockyard is enjoying a surge in business as cruise ship visitors signal  the start of the new tourism season. *Photo by Kageaki Smith
Seeing the sights: Dockyard is enjoying a surge in business as cruise ship visitors signal the start of the new tourism season. *Photo by Kageaki Smith

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 8: Mention the tourism industry and you’ll find no shortage of people to grumble about what’s wrong and what we need to do to prevent its demise. But what are the tourists themselves saying? As the summer season opens, reporter Raymond Hainey went to Dockyard to find out. Visitors were generally happy with the island experience and there was a strong consensus on the perennial issue of island gambling — ‘don’t do it’ was the overwhelming message.

Bermuda shouldn’t bet on casinos to turn around the tourism industry, visitors tell us.

Cruise ship passengers are against gambling on the island because it would damage the uniqueness of the Bermuda experience.

But some said the island’s transport network, especially taxis, could be improved, while younger people complained about the lack of nightlife and regular visitors wanted better entertainment in hotels.

Stan Shaffer, 57, from Pennsylvania, a retired health service maintenance worker, said: “My opinion on casinos is no — keep Bermuda the way it is. That’s what makes Bermuda unique.

“This is my first time here and I’ve enjoyed it — my favourite thing was St Catherine’s Fort. We went to the aquarium and a few churches as well. We toured the whole island and saw most of the highlights.”

Mr Shaffer’s wife Pam, 58, a former nurse, added: “Bermuda is fine the way it is – the people are really friendly and willing to help.”

John and Dee Coliukos, from Woodstock, New York State, said they had cruised to Bermuda around 40 times over the years.

Nightlife

Dee said: “When we first came here, they always had good shows at the Hamilton Princess — there’s not a lot of nightlife now. They should bring back the shows in the hotels. We both have happy memories of Gene Steede. He was amazing.”

Her husband added: “We’d love to see the old days come back when you could fly here and take a ship back or vice versa or have a land package added on.

“Bermuda is missing out on a lot of money, I think. You have the beauty – you just have to market the value. The airlines, hotels and cruise lines should work more closely together.”

Joe Errickson, 70, a retired gas and electricity worker from New Jersey, said: “I don’t need a casino — it wouldn’t help the island’s image at all.”

Bill Smythe, 60, from New York, travelled on the Norwegian Gem to Dockyard with wife Patti on their fourth visit to the island.

He said: “We absolutely love it — we love the people in Bermuda. We’ve been all over the island and it’s beautiful.

“If you have casinos here, you would lose a lot of the charm of Bermuda. Back home, I can travel in the car for three hours and get to a casino. People come to Bermuda to get away from all that.”

But another long-time visitor, Eugene “Mickey” Hung, who has visited Bermuda a dozen times since he served here with the US Air Force in the 1950s, said casinos could work – as long as they were discreet.

He added: “If it wasn’t overdone, it could work here. I enjoy casinos myself, but I appreciate they’re not to everyone’s taste.”

Brenda Blackburn, 50, from Connecticut, and wheelchair user Glenn Andrews, of Rhode Island, travelled to Bermuda on the Celebrity Summit.

Mr Andrews, 50, said: “The first two days here, we couldn’t find any transportation. We kept asking people where we could get a taxi suitable for disabled access, but nobody knew.

“Eventually, a driver from Suburban Transport said he could take my chair, which isn’t the folding type. He was brilliant.

“He said he wasn’t a tour guide, but his knowledge of the island’s history and culture was amazing. He was a godsend.  I’ve seen a lot of people in a similar position staying on the ship because it’s too difficult to get transport anywhere.

“People in chairs can’t take shuttle boats when the weather’s rough – in Bermuda the boats come right into Dockyard, so you get a lot of people in chairs coming here because of that. It’s a shame the transport isn’t here.”

Benjamin Leung, a student from Brooklyn, New York, said: “It’s a beautiful island and the people are really nice. But you don’t have many clubs or parties, though. I’d rather see a bit more of that.”

Kristen Colleti and Britany Brando, both 21 and students at Rutgers University, from New Jersey, were on their first trip abroad on the Celebrity Summit.

Ms Colleti said: “It’s really pretty – but things like nightclubs are somewhat important and they would make me more likely to come back again. I liked Hamilton, but I didn’t like St George – it was run-down and small.

Ms Brando added: “There’s a lot to see – different little shops. I’d say nightclubs are a bit lacking, but we can always go back on the boat. There doesn’t seem to be much to do for people our age.”