Rub shoulders with the stars... well their houses
A sightseeing tour for pokey locals and tourists
Friday, July 17, 2009 6:38 AM
It is said that true Bermudians are pokey, but do they really know who lives right on their doorstep?
Popular trip: Up to 70 passengers head straight from their cruise ships to board the daily Famous Homes & Hideaways Sightseeing Cruise.
The rich and the famous have a knack of snapping up secluded homes tucked away in far-flung corners.
Some celebrities are full of praise for Bermuda for allowing them to escape the hordes of paparazzi and get on with their lives relatively unnoticed.
That is until now! The secret is out in the form of a celebrity-spotting boat trip crammed full of excited passengers armed with cameras.
All is revealed about who lives where if you hop aboard the Famous Homes and Hideaways sightseeing cruise.
The two-hour cruise - which usually departs three times a day -takes up to 70 people as close as they can get to the mansions of the filthy rich.
Okay, it's not the Hollywood Hills, but you'll be surprised to discover just how many celebs or perhaps more like wannabe-celebs live here.
Movie stars Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones are obviously the 'biggies' but you also get a good look at the homes oftennis player Pat Cash, playwright Eugene O'Neal, whose daughter was married to Charlie Chaplin, and the favourite hang-out of John Lennon.
You'll start to get stalker tendencies as you get so close to these properties that you are practically peering into their back yards. So much for the security of these homes, the burglars on board may as well be shown straight down the garden path!
The boat cruise, which is run by Consort Cruises, is catered towards tourists as it promises to be "the highlight of your vacation."
But if you forget the fact that you've lived on the island all your life and go play tourist for the day, captain Ronnie O'Connor is sure to teach you something new.
You never know you might just discover you live round the corner from someone half famous. Even if you don't, you'll certainly get to know what goes on behind plenty of closed doors. This trip is a gossiper's paradise!
Captain Ron knows the island inside out and talks your ear off in the best possible way. With 17 years in the tourist industry, he reels off his informative and entertaining spiel effortlessly.
The boat cruises along the shoreline slowing down at the exclusive pristine condition homes with their manicured lawns - some of which are only accessible by boat.
Captain Ron doesn't mess around, saying: "There's to be no talking on this boat. You may not want to listen, but the people in front and behind do."
There's no chance of missing anything as you are constantly told to look in front and to the side as Captain Ron tells you 'at 1pm on your watch' quickly followed by 'at 11am.'
Captain Ron has the whole boat's attention as he tells the crowd "I hope you have your cheque book with you" as he shares the average price of a Bermuda home. He knows which homes are for sale explaining that only 47% of Bermudians own their own homes with most homes being passed down through generations.
From Dockyard the boat headed to Spanish Point, Millionaires Row aka Fairylands ("Home to the 40 Thieves who stole their treasures and sold them along Front Street.") and Point Shares.
Passengers were then taken into Hamilton (past Miles Market; "our miniature Harrods") along Harbour Road, then into Paradise Lakes.
The home of author Dr. James Martin on Agar's Island used to be the aquarium and now comes complete with an infinity swimming pool, a huge art collection, a 300-year-old temple brought all the way from Bali and 32 benches to enjoy the view. And just in case the ladies were wondering, "Dr. Martin is about 70 and is married."
It's then straight onto the house where John Lennon stayed in the summer of 1980 to write his last album Double Fantasy. He was a "fine sailor" and was "inspired by Bermuda and loved the Botanical Gardens." Then there was the home of Fernance Perry, who owned the island's first supermarket chain; Piggly Wiggly which is now Marketplace. We later pass Mr. Perry's "island with a church on it" called Grace Island.
The houses just kept on coming with the Gorham family of the DIY store fame and the place where Mark Twain used to stay.
Moving along Harbour Road, we saw the home of Richard Norwood, Bermuda's first surveyor, the 18th century home which was owned to Chief Justice Butterfield, plus the homes of principal puppeteer with The Muppet Show Kathy Mullen and artist Carole Holding.
As for American presidents, we were showed the house where 28th president Woodrow Wilson had an affair with socialite Mary Peck and apparently Chelsea Clinton was conceived in Bermuda when Bill and Hilary were on vacation.
Most of the homes pointed out belonged to local personalities rather than world-wide superstars, so the passengers were delighted to get a glimpse of the 200-year-old Bermudian home of Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones.
Barely visible from the water, the balcony of the house could just be spotted through the trees. We were told that there are two-and-a-half acres of manicured gardens, a stable block and a small guest cottage within the grounds. The fact that the movie stars have actually upped sticks and moved to New York didn't seem to matter. The sheer sight of bricks and mortar was enough to get people snapping away with their cameras.
But the boat cruise is actually much more than celebrity spotting as it touches on just about every detail of Bermuda's history and culture.
No-one could say that this boat cruise wasn't ultra informative, Captain Ron really does us proud as a Bermuda ambassador.
Before you know it, you are being told about pink and blue buses, how we get our water, how Bermudians love their rum and everything there is to know about the island's flora and fauna.
Captain Ron also proved to be very knowledgeable about surrounding islands, rightly explaining that: "If it has a tree on it, Bermudians classify it as an island."
Best of all Captain Ron mixed up his wealth of historical facts with humorous tales about his family, as both his father and grandfather were lighthouse keepers at St. David's.
This is the ideal trip for a pokey Bermudian who thinks they know it all as they'll probably discover they don't. They'll also become suitably jealous at how the other half live.
Captain Ron explained that after six years on a work permit "your butt is out of here."
So his parting piece of advice was simple: "The only way to get to stay in paradise and to own one of these homes is to marry a rich Onion." And getting a taster of how the other half live, that is a very tempting idea!Sightseeing Cruise
- The Famous Homes and Hideaways gives you two hours of non-stop sightseeing
- See the homes of the rich and famous, as well as learning about Bermuda's history and culture
- Two-level 48' motor cruiser run by Consort Cruises
n Departs up to three times a day from Albouys Point, Hamilton, and King's Wharf, Dockyard
- Call 236-3207 or 355-7201 for reservations
- For further information email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the website at www.consortcruises.com