HAMILTON, Bermuda—HAMILTON, Bermuda
Three of the four roofs above our heads were made of slate and painted white. My wife, Juju, and I ran around for a week, sampling places to stay, and most had in common those white slate roofs.
The exception? I'm not sure what material they used on it, but the thing managed to stay put during 40-knot winds one dark and stormy night.
Because tropical gales do hit Bermuda now and then, the building code calls for sturdy, whitewashed roofing that laughs at hurricanes. The whitewash purifies rainfall, the only intrinsic source of fresh water on the islands. The heavy slate partners with gravity to keep roofs from blowing away.
That one roof deviated from the norm because it was stretched over a sort of tent and therefore the entire "room" had the flexibility of an Olympic gymnast. I'm referring to our cabana at the 9 Beaches resort, where 84 cute little units wear cloth walls and roofs stretched over metal frames.
9 Beaches falls into a specific Bermudan lodging slot called Cottage Colony.
For its size (only 24 miles long and a mile wide at its widest), Bermuda offers sleep options in six categories, most of them expensive, but all precisely defined in Department of Tourism listings.
Besides Cottage Colonies--which can range from those tent-like cabanas to fair-sized detached houses--those categories are Bed-and-Breakfasts; Inns; Cottages, Suites and Apartments; Resort Hotels, and Small Hotels. (Private Clubs would be a seventh category--but only for the chosen few.)
In such a short time, we couldn't even get a feel for all of the lodging segments, let alone take a good look at every facility. But Juju and I did stay at a Small Hotel, a B&B and a Cottages, Suites and Apartments (a Cottage in our case), as well as the 9 Beaches Cottage Colony.
Of course, 9 Beaches is almost all about those beaches--some long, some tiny, but every one a suitable playground for people who come to Bermuda for sun, sand and sea. The colony is about as far west as one can get--out on a peninsula called Daniel's Head.
The nine beaches aren't covered by that famous but elusive Bermuda pink, but they squish pleasingly between the toes anyway.
Guests at 9 Beaches find most of their amenities in an all-in-one resort building, a sort of hilltop mother ship. Inside, the Hi Tide Dining room handles breakfast (included) and dinner (extra). The main building also houses the main cocktail lounge and the only TVs. Dark `n' Stormy--a beachside bar named for Bermuda's trademark rum and ginger-beer libation--serves up drinks and light meals all day.
For room service or beach service, a meal cart makes deliveries around the resort. At check-in, the staff reveals how you summon the cart, reserve dinner, call a taxi or seek out anything else on the 18-acre spread. They hand over a cell phone with all pertinent numbers on speed dial. No charge for local calls.
That explains the lack of a land-line telephone in the cabana. A portable, floor-model air conditioner takes the edge off a really hot day--just barely. The bathroom--shower only--was small enough that the Essence of Bermuda after-sun lotion and Lord & Mayfair conditioning shampoo stood within easy reach.
We stayed in a Top Banana cabana, top of the line with a rate of $375 a night in high season (June 1 through Oct. 31) last year. Other cabanas went for $240, $280 and $335.
Our cottage stood on pilings directly over the water. A 2-by-4-foot Plexiglas panel in the floor allowed a view of the ocean below. We thought it might compensate for the lack of television, but nary a fish appeared during our stay.
Since our stay, there's been a name change for the former six Top Banana cabanas that stand directly on the water. They're now called Paradise Pier. The 10 Top Bananas are scattered on the coastline and are partially over the water--but all have Plexiglas viewing panels.
While poking around the islands, we looked in on a few of the other Cottage Colonies. They offer more solidly constructed white-slate-roof cottages, some of which had the substance of Caribbean villas. Most include the full complement of amenities and luxuries, beach access and high-priced views. Rates tell the tale: Nothing under $300 a night in high season, and at Cambridge Beaches (near 9 Beaches) and Pink Beach Club and Cottages (South Shore) you can spend well over $1,000 a night. Only Willowbank (far west)--a faith-based, non-denominational Christian colony--charges less than $200 a night.
For a Small Hotel exemplar, we chose the pink/peach-painted Waterloo House hotel just outside the capital city of Hamilton. We peeked at enough rooms and suites there to get the idea that the hotel's 30 units vary significantly in size, luxury touches and decor. But that really isn't the point with the Waterloo House, because customers have access to a wonderfully decorated series of public rooms, cozy courtyards and a harborside terrace, constant reminders that they have arrived at a special place. Our room was No. 15, and had a small balcony and harbor view. The rate was $430.