Bermuda cruises from New York City: A trip to paradise in the North Atlantic

The America's Cup yachties are practise-racing their flying machines as we dock before breakfast in Bermuda, a little piece of Britain in the North Atlantic, three sea days from New York City.

From our window table in Celebrity Summit's Ocean View cafe, we watch Team USA's technologically astonishing $10 million catamaran, Oracle, skim across The Great Sound. In a few months, this immense harbour will be the battleground for international sport's oldest trophy.

We feel the pre-race buzz as soon as we disembark at King's Wharf Hamilton, where the Cup Village is a short stroll away at the Royal Navel Dockyard. Signs of the looming ocean contest this June are everywhere. We wander the visitor's centre bulging with merchandise for fans of all six countries taking part and chat with excited locals who are waiting for the fun to begin.

We'll be here for two nights and three days – giving us the chance to get a really good look at this UK tax haven, renowned for its pink sand, celebrity residents, those shorts and that triangle.

Two nights in port means we can go further afield on our island adventure than is possible when ships stay docked between breakfast and the cocktail hour, as is so often the case.

We can shop in the capital of Hamilton (a 20-minute fast ferry ride away) and take a local bus to popular beaches like Horseshoe Bay without having to watch the clock. Fellow passengers play golf, do the museums and scuba dive in their own time. We have dinner in local restaurants and sample the nightlife, wandering back to the ship each night at our leisure.

During our stay we also luck into the one week every two years when the prestigious Royal Bermuda Yacht Club opens its historic pink doors to non-members.

We lunch at the bistro where the mega-wealthy congregate, curious to overhear what makes conversation here in this monied sanctuary. A collection of corporate mega-yachts, luxury playthings and floating feats of engineering lines the marina in this city where sailing is a way of life.

Next day, during a sightseeing and snorkelling half-day tour, the crew regales us with examples of the high cost of living here – a loaf of bread comes in at $A8. We also hear a cavalcade of fun facts about the America's Cup yachts criss-crossing the Sound in the distance. It takes $100 million a year to keep Team USA on the water so they say. On the trip to the idyllic Devil's Isles, they also point out the pastel piles of the rich and famous who call this island resort home.

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At the end of this enjoyable three-hour shore excursion, we have plenty of time to lazily wander the docklands shops as well as have a quick swim at nearby Snorkel Park Beach Club, where holidaymakers don flippers and masks between drinking rum cocktails.

Celebrity Australia & NZ boss Adam Armstrong says the line began including one and two overnight stays on popular itineraries so guests could experience destinations as locals do. And the plan is for more Celebrity ships to add more extended stays to meet this growing demand.

Celebrity Solstice made three overnight calls in Tauranga, New Zealand, this summer cruise season with another night in the port in Cairns added to her next Queensland sailing this March.

Back on Celebrity Summit, recent refurbishments add another layer of elegance to this stylish mid-sized ship. Summit's mission is modern luxury with an emphasis on top-notch entertainment and food.

Broadway-standard stage shows and mini-musicals dazzle audiences three times a week with art auctions, trivia, health seminars, cooking demonstrations, dance classes and deck games filling our days. Kids are not forgotten, with a light-filled, well-equipped, modern kids' club getting the thumbs up from our 11 year old.

Fine dining – and drinking – is de rigueur aboard Celebrity Summit. Qsine restaurant on the top deck is a world tour of fascinating and delectable cuisine, ordered from an iPad at your table. Tuscan Grille restaurant was added during Summit's makeover last year and offers American-style steak and pasta dishes along with Italian wines and cocktails.

On sea days we head for the cushion-filled cabanas at the new Rooftop Terrace. When you're not enjoying an outdoor movie on the big screen over snacks and cocktails, it's a very welcome quiet nook for reading or dozing when it's time for a break from the pool games and music on the main lido deck.

The new Taste of Film experience, which pairs the theme of a movie with a matching gastronomic encounter, is a cute idea.

The first of these was the screening of The Hundred Foot Journey, a story about adjacent feuding restaurants in a town in France, served up with a multi-course tasting menu based on the French and Indian cuisines featured in the movie. It's a fun and clever concept and crispy shrimp with tamarind and truffled mushroom risotto sure beats popcorn and a choc top.

The 2016 makeover also spruced up the penthouse and royal suites with extra luxury, including new marble, fixtures and seating, for those whose budget opens these exclusive doors.

Our balcony cabin is spacious and comfortable. The cabin service is top notch. Our room is made up, laundry done and complimentary cup of tea brought to us each night with friendly, smooth efficiency.

But of all the interesting features of this stylish liner, without a doubt the one that tops the list is 37-year-old American Captain Kate McCue.

This smiling, sociable, Christian Louboutin-wearing officer-in-charge sets the tone for daily life on board. From the moment she took the helm in August 2015 – the first woman in the cruise industry to command a mega-ton cruise liner – she did it with unapologetic humour.

Her daily Dad Joke follows essential information about Summit's position and conditions at sea in her 10am ship-wide message. ("Confucious say wise man never play leap frog with a unicorn").

She can be found in command of the bridge answering highly technical questions from tour groups, behind the counter serving pastries to passengers and in the front row of the theatre watching the shows.

She takes the stage at each sail-away safety muster, immediately tackling stereotypes head on.

"We'll get underway just as soon as I remember which purse I left the keys in," she jokes to her fresh batch of 2156 charges gathered in the theatre before setting off from Cape Liberty, New York.

The Instagram-loving commander, who has 17,400 followers, posts images of herself doing the dishes in the ship's kitchen, river-tubing on a shore excursion in Dominica, at work with fellow officers, meeting passengers and her beloved designer shoes.

Like the ship she steers, Captain Kate McCue is thoroughly modern.

"The new generation of captain doesn't sit in an office all the time – we like to be out and about," says Captain Kate.

Come June in Bermuda, looks like Team America's biggest fan will be the one with four stripes and red-soled stilettos.

TRIP NOTES

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traveller.com.au/cruises

celebritycruises.com.au

FLY

Virgin Australia flies daily from Sydney to Los Angeles, American Airlines connects to New York City.

STAY

For pre-cruise sightseeing, overnight in NYC's Hotel Beacon in the tree-lined Upper West Side before transferring to Cape Liberty Cruise Port in Bayonne, New Jersey.

CRUISE

Celebrity Summit America's Cup sailing June 18, 2017 – nine-nights from NYC to Bermuda with three overnights. Fares from $2679 per person twin share for an interior or Ocean View from $3289 with two free perks (beverage package, internet or on-board credit).

Three more overnight-stay cruise itineraries

  1. Celebrity Reflection 11-night Best of Western Med sailing departing Rome on October 9, 2017. Includes overnight in Barcelona and calls to Florence/Pisa, Nice, Malaga, Gibraltar, Cartagena and Ibiza. Fares from $2799 per person, twin share.
  2. Azamara Journey 14-night Thailand and Vietnam sailing departing Singapore, December 9, 2017. Includes two nights in Bangkok, one night in Ho Chi Minh City, one night in Hanoi, and calls to Ko Samui and Hue and Hong Kong. Fares from $5169 per person, twin share.
  3. Ovation of the Seas eight-night Tasmania & Southern Australia sailing departing January 27, 2018. Includes an overnight in Adelaide. Fares from $1399 per person twin share.

Angie Kelly was a guest of Celebrity Cruises.

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