Thursday, June 26, 2008

NCL Dawn Bermuda - Crystal & Fantasy Caves

The Crystal & Fantasy Caves of Bermuda topped our "must see" list as we left for our 7 Night Bermuda Cruise on the Norwegian Dawn. This attraction is accessible from either Hamilton or St. George, Bermuda.

After arriving in King's Wharf (Dockyards), we disembarked the ship and stopped at the Tourist Information booth at the pier. We purchased 3 day passes for the Sea Express Ferry and Public Buses. The cost for the 3 day pass was $28 each. We weren't sure if we'd need the pass for all 3 days, but decided that if we didn't want to walk in Hamilton, we'd be glad we purchased it ahead of time.

The attendant told us where to board the ferry (across from the Bone Fish Bar & Grill) and we headed that direction. Upon our arrival there were two ferries boarding. One ferry was headed to Hamilton and the other to St. George. Originally we had planned to take the ferry to Hamilton, but after talking to the attendant at the ferry, we decided to take the St. George ferry instead. It would be a shorter bus ride to the caves from there (only about 10 minutes instead of 45 minutes to an hour from Hamilton).

Arriving in St. Geroge about 30 minutes later, we discovered that there were two other NCL ships in Bermuda. Due to the large number of tourists in town, the bus company had put extra buses into service. We walked from the ferry dock down the street about a block and boarded one of the special buses to the caves.

Upon arrival at the caves, we purchased the combo ticket for both Crystal and Fantasy caves. Each cave takes approximately 30 minutes to tour. It is worth seeing both of the caves.

Let's turn back the clock to 1884 when the Wilkinson family, owners of the property, learned about the cave. They immediately set about exploring the cave (which is known as Crystal Cave today). Their fourteen year old son, Bernard, crawled through a small hole with only a bicycle lamp. He had 140 feet of rope tied to a tree as his only life line. It was dark, damp, and cold. He could only see a few feet in front of him as he carefully crawled through the cave.

(Resetting the clock to today) You enter the same cave, but today you enter through a doorway. A cement stairway with a guardrail replaces the dirt path that Bernard used. Electrical lights light the path instead of relying on a bicycle lamp. It's a little damp and cool, but you are quite comfortable in your t-shirt and shorts. You walk along the pathway and are surrounded by stalactites hanging down from the ceiling of the cave.

The tour guide turns off the lights for a few minutes (after warning us).
We can now imagine what Bernard saw when he crawled into the cave.

Taking pictures with your flash in the total darkness produces fantastic photos. (click this link for our Crystal Caves photos and this link for our Fantasy Caves photos).

We retrace our steps and exit the Crystal Cave. Our new guide greets us and directs us to the entrance of the Fantasy Caves. There is a steep staircase that descends to the floor of the cave. For safety reasons, our guide asks us not to take any pictures until we are all safely at the bottom of the staircase.

Fantasy Cave is very similar to Crystal Cave, however it's the interesting shapes that makes it unique. One can use their imagination to "see" various shapes in the stalactites and stalagmites. If you've seen Pirates of the Caribbean, you might notice a familiar shape in the second collage above.

Another thing that makes Fantasy Cave different is the various colored lighting that accentuates the various shapes in the cave. We made our way to the rear of the cave. Since there isn't a lot of room in some spots, only a few people continue at a time. The guide repeats his narrative as often as needed to be sure everyone hears about the various fantasy shapes. Once again the lights are turned off for the full dramatic experience of the cave.

We were certainly glad that this was our first stop in Bermuda. We would not have wanted to attempt this on the Hamilton port day. There was still plenty of time for other sightseeing following our visit to the caves. In my next post, I'll continue with some other attractions.

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