Upon arrival, you can immediately sense why Bermudians take so much pride in their country. The surreal charm and spotless beauty is evident everywhere you visit on this delicate chain of islands, from the UNESCO World Heritage community in St. George to Somerset Village’s bright pastel colonial homes nestled between sweeping pink beaches, crystalline turquoise waters and tropical gardens that flourish throughout the archipelago.
“Gorgeous, beautiful, I’m amazed how everything is really so well kept, clean and pristine. It’s absolutely stunning,” says Sandra Daniel, President/CEO of Fire Light Group in Madison who’s here with our group of senior meeting planners working on a 5-night incentive program.
However, that pride the islanders have for their home goes way, way beyond the impeccably manicured lawns. The islands were originally populated by the survivors of the clipper ship Sea Venture, which ran aground off the coast in 1609 during a hurricane thought to be the basis for Shakespeare’s play, The Tempest. But while other Englanders sailing to the American colonies during the same period eventually grew at odds with the English crown, the bulk of Bermudians by the middle of the 17th century remained adamant loyalists. Afternoon tea, anyone?
Located at the very eastern tip of the islands, St. George was settled in 1612, a mere six years after the first British settlers landed in Jamestown, making this the oldest continually occupied English colony in the New World. Walking among the painstakingly restored buildings captivated all of us with the elegant architecture, narrow alleys, charming shops and museums highlighting the birth of European colonial expansion. Consider booking a group tour starting at The King’s Square along the waterfront near the original stocks, pillory and whipping post. Or, organize a tour aboard a replica of the sailing ship Deliverance, captained by Admiral Sir George Somers, the naval hero and founding father of Bermuda.
At the opposite end on the westernmost tip of the islands, The Royal Naval Dockyard has undergone a revival into a thriving destination for exploring, shopping, dining and more historical education. Within the walls of a 19th century fortress, the dockyard pays tribute to the maritime trade and all things Bermudian made. More than 60 artisans share their stories and showcase their work in the Bermuda Craft Market.
Ceramic artists carry on centuries-old traditions at Bermuda Clayworks, a working pottery production studio. Delicious smells from the Bermuda Rum Cake Bakery fill the air. And we watched in awe as artists at the Dockyard Glassworks created stunning works of red hot molten glass.
The Royal Dockyard is also home to the 30,000-sf Commissioner’s House featuring rich mahogany walled indoor dining areas and intimate outdoor dining verandas with outstanding views, well suited for 100 pax. Designed in 1822 with cast iron from England, the restored mansion is a Bermudian landmark filled with educational exhibits. Imagine having a regiment from the Bermuda Islands Pipe Band dressed in Gordon tartan welcoming guests with Scottish bagpipes and drums for an evening celebrating Bermuda’s European heritage.
Bermuda is graced with many fabulous private mansions, many of which will open their doors for private events with a donation to the homeowner’s charity of choice. For example, the waterfront 5-bedroom Tideway estate sits poised on a quiet 2-acre peninsula 10 minutes from the capital city of Hamilton.
Equally dazzling, the Pink Chimneys estate home is an astonishing wow experience for attendees, which is both unique and often unattainable for individuals. Whether you’re looking for an elegant evening dining poolside with breathtaking tropical vistas or a fun whimsical night with colorful characters or enchanting entertainers, these mansions are the perfect canvas to paint your masterpiece event.
“If you put your mind to it, it can be an extraordinary place. You’ve got to stretch the envelope a bit but you can do anything in Bermuda,” says Starla Williams, Executive VP of the local DMC, Select Sites Group, who helped organize our itinerary.
Our colleague Renee Adams, senior planner for Cyberonics, said to Williams following our experience in Bermuda, “It was just incredible and met all of my expectations. I wanted to raise the bar and you did just that!”
Bermuda’s waters beckon everyone from ashore to enjoy the bounty they bestow. Charter one of many sailboats on the island for a relaxing sail and swim around the island or an exhilarating sailing regatta challenging sailors to stretch their abilities and work together towards success. Or, inspire fierce competition among your blue water anglers in a fishing tournament for the illusive blue marlin, as well as sailfish, tuna and wahoo. Hosting three major fishing tournaments each year with prizes totaling over $500K, the fishing is spectacular. And if piloting your own craft and speeding under the sun in the fresh air speaks to you, Bermuda offers 75-minute jetskiing group tours for a thrilling sightseeing adventure of shipwrecks, reefs and forts.
Prevalent throughout the island are “petal bikes” for cyclists seeking picturesque landscapes filled with gardens along winding roads with a few hills added in for sport. The perfect spot recommended for pedaling is the Bermuda Railway Trail, with 18 miles of both paved and unpaved trails linking three islands for lovely, stress-free riding without automobiles.
“Bermuda could be the new “it” place offering the best in value, recreation and luxury,” commented Eleanor Kubacki, CEO of the EFK Group, who is especially excited about the golf options available on the island. After all, Bermuda has more golf courses per square mile than anywhere else.
Most notable is the Robert Trent Jones-designed Port Royal Golf Course—home of the PGA Grand Slam Tournament—which recently underwent a $14 million renovation by original design team member Roger Rulewich. The course’s signature #16 hole is a short 235 yards skirting the edges of a seaside cliff. It was here where 2009 US Open Champion Lucas Glover said, “I have never been so scared standing over a shot.”
When it opened in 2008, the refined Tucker’s Point Hotel & Spa was the first hotel built in Bermuda in over 37 years. Guests are greeted in the classy chic manor house where your every need is attended to and wishes anticipated and granted. Hints of the island lifestyle meander everywhere from the hotel’s colonial-style architecture to the Bee Keeper #5 spa ritual celebrating the hotel’s homemade honey.
Tucker’s Point is comprised of 64 exquisite and spacious guestrooms and 12 two-bedroom suites, and all of them feature expansive water views. The state-of-the-art, 5,000-sf conference center is perfect for intimate groups of 100, with an additional 2,000 sf of space available at the regal Golf Clubhouse.
Perfect for high-end incentive programs, the resort poses a plethora of options. At the Manor House, groups can dress white and partake of the Croquet Lawn with the hotel’s champion player. Spend the day being pampered in one of eight full-service spa treatment rooms, complete with Bermuda’s only Silver TAG™ shower hydrosuite and authentic Indian Shirodhara table. Swim laps in the Palm Court Pool or take advantage of the personal trainer available in the well-stocked fitness center.
The Tucker’s Point Golf Beach & Tennis Club is a brief tram ride away. The Beach Club offers Bermuda’s largest pink sand beach, two horizon pools, and a fantastic restaurant and bar. The Golf Clubhouse is home to four lighted Har-Tru tennis courts and an 18-hole championship course designed by Roger Rulewich. It’s a golfer’s paradise and groups also have access at the private Mid Ocean Club golf course next door.
Sitting prominently high on a hilltop standing sentinel over the sea, The Fairmont Southampton specializes in large meetings and incentives up to 593 rooms, with the largest and most versatile function space in Bermuda. A blend of traditional and tropical sophistication and style, the meeting options are limitless with a 12,000-sf ballroom, 4,500-sf junior ballroom and a posh amphitheater for up to 700 pax.
Outside of meetings, the manifest of group activities abound. For golfers, there’s a scenic and most challenging par-3 executive course. For spa goers, there’s the massive 31,000-sf Willow Stream Spa. Charming trolleys usher sun seekers to the exclusive Beach Club fronting exquisite pink sand, while the Waterlot Marina offers watersports of all kind.
There’s divine dining on-property from causal to elegant at the six varied restaurants, highlighted by the 330 year-old Waterlot Inn. Not to be missed, this unrivaled steakhouse can host 200 inside or out.
At The Fairmont Hamilton Princess, Mark Twain said in 1910, “You may go to heaven if you want to. I’d druther stay here.” At the Princess, history is revered, service is paramount and modern luxuries flourish. Directly on Hamilton’s spectacular harbor amid Bermuda’s best restaurants and shops, the 410-room hotel boasts two fabulous restaurants, plentiful meeting space and outstanding outdoor venues. The renowned Fairmont Gold Lounge dates back to 1931, and it’s the largest of the Fairmont collection, offering exceptional club services, comforts and conveniences such as the aptly named Churchill Boardroom for 14, complimentary to Fairmont Gold Guests. Another Gold benefit is Fairmont Fit where workout apparel, footwear and accessories await in one’s guestroom as requested for use while at the hotel.
“It’s been 20 years since I’ve been here and it’s as beautiful, charming and spectacular as it ever was,” said Joe Lipman, President of Summit Management Services in Cedar Grove, NJ.
Operated by Mandarin Oriental Hotels, the highly acclaimed Elbow Beach Bermuda melds contemporary luxury infused with subtle Asian design motifs. It absolutely sparkles in the sun following a recent $5.5 million renovation, including revamped meeting space for 70 persons, and the setting is unmatched with verdant landscaping and a half mile of exclusive pink beaches.
Here’s the best part. The 98 rooms and suites are spread throughout an impossibly cute array of single and multi-room cottages located along the sloping lawns and beachfront. For any type of spousal program, these are hard to beat. Also love the six unique and comprehensive spa suites with huge handcrafted granite tubs and river pebble-lined steam showers.
At the west end in Somerset Village, the Cambridge Beaches Resort & Spa also offers a delightful colony of stunning cottages, full services amenities, extraordinary outdoor venues and charming meeting space for groups under 30. With 94 suites, four private beaches, marina activities, a chic spa, putting green, tennis and croquet, this adult-only resort is a perfect retreat location.
Don’t simply take my word for it. Dana Taylor, President of New York-based Phlawless Events, said, “I’ve heard amazing things about Bermuda as a leisure location, but after seeing the hotels and venues, this event surpassed any and all of my expectations for incentive business trips too.”