171004 Halifax

Halifax is the seaside capital of Nova Scotia. Enjoy which ever excursion you choose.

Overnight, we leave the United States and cruise on to Halifax, Canada. The entertainment for the evening is a young saxophonist who plays all his own arrangements of old songs as well as some he has composed himself. After he is done, we went to the BB Kings Show for some African American pop-type music.

Halifax has lots of history to do with the setting up of the country by the British and the wars and take-over bids for various parts of the ‘colonies’ of the day. There are many types of parkland, we notice, and after the 3-hour city tour and walk around the Fort George Garrison Grounds, we make a beeline back to where we noticed the Public Gardens. (Did I say that was after we had a delicious Cows brand ice cream for lunch?) At noon, an old cannon is fired to signify the event, which causes many in the tour group to wonder where we were.

There are three cruise ships in port today; the Zuiderdam, the Queen Mary 2, and a Celebrity Cruises vessel (Haven’t seen the name yet). With so many tourists wandering about the various ‘high’ spots in the town, it becomes difficult to manoeuvre to where you want to take the photos you want to capture, especially in the public gardens. A cold snap of weather is due to arrive next Monday. The locals say this brings the leaves to their colour-change season. We haven’t seen the REAL colours of autumn, yet, but are hoping to in the next 3 days or so before this cruise ends.

The hydro package we bought into is a good one, especially for when we are about to go to bed. We missed the evening’s show and spent the time in the spa, and some time on the heated ceramic beds; the best way to end another day on a cruise.

We head to Sydney, Nova Scotia, this evening.

171008 Saguenay

Today we will cruise the Saguenay Fjord and marvel at its immense glacier-carved rock walls.

I awoke with the ship’s foghorn blasting signals into the dense fog. We were in the St Lawrence River about to enter the Saguenay Fjord. There was hardly a ripple in the bow wave but we were moving towards this little town of 12,000 inhabitants to what turned our to be the best welcome we had received of any of the ports along the cruise. The town was giving away blueberry welcome pies and the local Indian people had a tepee set up with an open fire. Happy dancers were performing their folk moves to entertain the passengers lining the balconies before breakfast.

We had booked a kayak cruise in the Parc National du Saguenay Interpretative Centre, which was preceded by a one-hour drive through the colourful countryside in a disused school bus. You could tell it was a school bus; it was yellow and the knee space was very limited between the seats. We had come all the way from Melbourne to see the Fall Colours and only two days ago, the leaves started to show colour. However, Saguenay sure has turned it on for our farewell to the tour. The roads are literally lined both sides with autumn yellows and reds. The only thing missing from our photos today were blue skies and sunshine, but you can’t always have that after nearly four weeks of sunshine.

After arriving at the interpretive centre, the twelve of us budding kayakers were given a 5-minute lesson in the art of paddling and steering an ocean kayak. We then proceeded to get changed into wetsuits and kayak garb for our paddle across the fjord. Grey skies, but calm waters with a little rain is better than sunshine and wind blowing us out to sea. The kayaks were great to paddle, but when Lyn and I were told that our rudder was not in the water and we needed to pull a rope to set it down in the water, we started to get some distance in a straight line. The steering was done with pedals in the back seat, and fortunately, that was my role. Oooops! I think I have said too much.

When the rain stopped and the water was glassy calm, we had some great reflections of the colours up the sides of the cliffs leading into the fjord. Our kayaking experience was terminated after an hour and we were back on that school bus for the trip back to the ship. We did enjoy the time but have not decided on buying a kayak for our trip around Australia in the motorhome next year.

Tomorrow, our cruise ends in Quebec and after a night there, we fly back home to Melbourne.

171006 Charlottetown

Get your old storybooks out to renew childhood acquaintances of adventures we read. Here we explore the home of ‘Anne of Green Gables”.

Our ship berthed very early in the morning as there was a medical emergency on board last night and the old man had to be taken to hospital in the waiting ambulance. We were in the shops about 8:45pm and this guy right next to us collapsed onto the floor. Seriously, it was full on heavy stuff. I checked to see his breathing was ok and moved him into a comfortable position and then set the medical alert alarm going. His wife certainly was distraught as one would be. I was surprised that none of the staff seemed to know first aide other than to call for the doctor. I took on the role of letting the medics know which way to head when they arrived to attend the man. It shook us up a little so we went to the spa to relax and take it easy. I don’t know what happened, but I suspect he had a stroke. I checked the reception this morning for an update but staff would not say anything.

Charlottetown is the main town on Prince Edward Island (PEI). There are between 35-36,000 people in Charlottetown that has 35 churches. PEI has 308 churches so they must have been a very sinful people at some stage.

There is a CBC in town and it is said that the only news item each year is when a mother duck and her chicks make their way to water for the day. The traffic police are given the assignment to care for mother duck and her offspring. Apparently, they have set up a webcam in her nest to be sure of her movements and can report the progress of the goings on and what the offspring are doing, direct each morning from the webcam.

The economy of the island is based on agriculture, fishing, and tourism. There are 95,000 acres of potatoes. 60% of the potatoes become French fries, 30% cooking potatoes, and 10% become seed potatoes and are exported around the world. The record pumpkin size is 660 kilograms for one pumpkin. 75% of oysters are wild, 25% are cultivated in plastic baskets. Muscles grow on nets for two years before being harvested.

There are no business billboards on the island but businesses have a directional sign installed on the intersection poles free of charge.

I didn’t get the details but robotic dairy farms have an automated system for the cows to be milked. When the cow wants to offload its milk, it comes to the milking shed and somehow gets milked by a robot. The farmer gets an alert on his phone and knows which cow has entered the shed. So, the farmer can do all his work while he is on 3 month vacation, if he so desires.

Lobsters are a big industry. May and June are the only months they can be harvested. Each fisherman is only allowed 300 traps for their lobsters. Female lobsters are not harvested but thrown back into the ocean to keep reproducing.

With 20 golf courses on the island, there is a lot of lush green land with deciduous trees lining the fairways. The picture postcard farm-houses are surrounded, more with mown lawn than scrubs and trees. Very few houses have well tendered flower gardens.

Our tour was mainly to see the site of Anne of Green Gables. Everything is neat and the site is surrounded by another lush golf course with colourful autumn trees all around. There is a house to walk through to view the setting of the books written by L.M. Montgomery. I haven’t read the books at all. I hear they are more young girlish books but I might just take a sneak to see the gist of the story sometime. The first chapter starts with “Mrs Rachel Lynde lived just where the Avonlea main road dipped down into a little hollow, fringed with alders and ladies eardrops and traversed by a brook that had its source away back in the woods of the old Cuthbert place.” The last sentence in the 4 volume set is “But as Anne drove away from Windy Poplars the last message from it was a large white bath-towel fluttering frantically from the tower wind. Rebecca Dew was waving it.” What intrigue! I think I will have to get my grand daughters to do the reading and give me a two-sentence summary of the 4 volumes.

We departed for our sea day at 4:00pm spent cruising the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

 

171005 Sydney

Sydney is on Cape Breton Island. It is rich in Gaelic, Mi’kmaq and Acadian culture and so we should learn something to tell our grand children about.

Sydney, Canada was our next stop. There is no fabulous harbour like the Sydney of Australia. There is no opera house, no grand habour bridge and no skyscrapers. This Sydney is just a little village that ‘closes down’ for the icy cold winter for 7-8 months of the year. This is ‘fiddle’ country and a big one welcomes us at the wharf.

After a full breakfast and some time on shore to use the free Wi-Fi, we check out the street shops nearby. Trying to find Wi-Fi while waiting while for the ladies to shop brings an idea to mind: why don’t shops have a Wi-Fi signal called “For Husbands Waiting for their Wives while shopping”? That would make things so much easier than waiting for all the different business Wi-Fi signals to show up on the device in hand.

When we booked for the Harbour Hopper, we didn’t realise that the mode of travel would be another ‘duck’, similar to how we got around Boston. This one was a little different but did the same thing; toured the city by land and then took us into the water for a quick sail around the harbour to view our ship from a different perspective. The Harbour Hopper idea is just three weeks old for this town and as we pass elementary schools, the kids wave and cheer to us and we shout back “quack, quack”. I guess the novelty will wear off soon but will begin again when the winter passes and the cruise ships return. Winter here, is not too far away and apparently comes all of a sudden and with a vengeance.

Our guide shows us the different types of dwellings that are built in the town. A different style for those areas that doctors and lawyers and well-paid workers live compared to the labourers and small wage earners. Interestingly, all are wooden and many have large stockpiles of cut timber ready for the fireplace. The leaves are showing signs of turning colour but we are running out of time to see the real autumn colours we came all the way from Australia to see. Yes, the weather has been sunny and warm, but that is not what is needed to bring on the colour. Up at this latitude, it takes one or two frosts and the leaves can change colour and fall within a few days. Hopefully, that beauty is at our next stop.

This Harbour Hopper is one of nearly a thousand built for the Vietnam War. Many were left in Vietnam in a bad state of disrepair but some were either returned or just didn’t get to Vietnam and were kept in ‘hiding’ until recently. It’s a novelty way to show us around Sydney, Canada. I wonder when Sydney Australia will catch on to the idea and start running similar modes of travel around that city?

It was great to sit out in the warming sunshine as our ship left Sydney and headed towards Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. After dinner and the evening show, we returned to the spa for another relaxing experience.

Tomorrow, we visit Anne of Green Gables territory on Prince Edward Island.

171003 Bar Harbor

Excursions to Bar Arbor’s idyllic natural surrounds, including Mount Desert Island’s coast and Acadia Nation Park are just some that are available.

Bar Harbour! Sounds interesting but then, it is tucked away in the Maine State of the far North East of the USA away from the mainstream touristy areas, so not much is ever heard of Bar Harbour in Australia. The NBC News rarely has to visit, it seems. But lots of tourists visit and there’s very good reason for them to wander around this mainly National Park region.

Our ship sneaks in in the early morning, making its way through all the lobster fishing spots laid in the harbour. Many fishermen have been out collecting lobsters for the restaurants to serve to cruise boat vacationers that invade the village for a day. And what a lovely little fishing village it is; well manicured lawns and gardens all around and shopkeepers ready early for the influx of prospective customers for the day. Yesterday, the Ovation of the Seas was here and today the Regal Princess is here with us. But the season of cruise boats only lasts for 4 or 5 months before it is just too cold for anyone to go on vacation.

We had chosen to go on a 2-hour walk around the Arcadia National Park. Only a small group of people thought of the same option, and so it was easy to get along between stops where a guide provided us information on the geological structure or the foliage of the coastline. Our 2-mile walk took about an hour of walking. The scenery looking out over the region was fabulous with sunshine and blue sky to match, again. Although there are no mountains in the area, the slight increase in altitude was enough to give us some autumn colours we had really come for.

We returned to the pickup point and continued to walk around the lower coastline near the village to just enjoy the clean air and sunshine and watch fishing boats pass by.

After dinner and the evening show in the main Vista Room theatre, the BB King Band with its loud slow, and fast, blues music filled the small theatre.

Tomorrow, we are off to visit Halifax, Nova Scotia in Canada.

171002 Boston

Early in the morning, our cruise boat will berth at Boston. There are various excursions to choose to do or, you can just sit around the ship. Often the spa areas have discounts on their treatments at this time, but be warned if you do. The prices are way above those charged for similar treatments in Australia.

After a full day at sea, we arrive into Boston early in the morning for a ‘duck tour’ of the city. What’s a “duck tour” you ask? From back in the days of the war, Boston is renowned for using these amphibious vehicles for city tours. They were used by the military, during assaults in difficult terrain. Cumbersome to look at and difficult to board, the tour commences with a view of the city through the eyes of our guide dressed in, who knows what, but he is very informative and privy to interesting stories of past presidents and politicians that Boston is famous for. We saw where John F Kennedy lived, and where Marilyn Munroe is said to have visited, often. (Oh, the private life of politicians is revealed years later by historians with a bent for the unusual – even his platform shoes have clear plastic heals housing famous goldfish. Of course, they are guarded by his flared white trousers of the days of Elvis).

This “duck” also takes us on a tour of the city with a river view, and some of the passengers are invited to drive the thing up river while the driver/captain takes his “unionised” break. We have certainly been blessed again with beautiful sunshine and clear blue skies. Initially, we were going to go back to the ship for lunch then return to the city for our self-guided walking tour of the ‘touristy stuff’, but decide that a sleep on the deck is well worth the ‘effort’; oh, and then another ice-cream. Are you counting, John?

Tomorrow we will be at Bar Harbour.

170930 New York to Boston

We try to complete our Group Tours with a Cruise to give our clients a holiday, with a bit of fun and sightseeing thrown in. We board the ms Zuiderdam and check into our Verandah Staterooms for a wondrous cruise.

There’s something about cruising that gets my mind and body into relaxation mode. Many think that you have to be well off financially to cruise, but these days, cruising is for all, whether it be a 3 day familiarization cruise out of Sydney or a 104 day world cruise visiting 50 ports along the way, the prices per day, are not all that exorbitant.

Departure or arrivals at dockside are busy times until you are on the ship. Some ships carry over 5,000 passengers which makes embarkation or disembarkation, a very involved and active process. When immigration is involved, that adds to the confusion and paperwork, required to be completed by each of the excited passengers. All are looking forward to a calm ocean and lots to do. Ships’ staff make sure there is plenty to do or, if you like, nothing to do. I prefer an even mix.

Although our departure pier is not too far from our Times Square accommodation, we find out that at 10:30 on a Saturday morning, New York is still alive from the night before. Our 8-minute drive becomes almost an hour. There is bedlam at the cruise wharf as there are 3 passenger ships changing over passengers on the one day. However, without too much problem, our suitcases being cared for, we board before mid-day and await our 8:00pm departure. The other two ships cast off around 4:00pm so we have a free departure and are able to view the lights of New York as we head out to sea.

The statute of Liberty is floodlit and stands out from the darkness as we cruise on by. Some keen photographers were complaining that the movement of the ship and the darkness of the night meant they were getting light flares on their camera shots. Shutter times and aperture settings were played with to get the right exposure for a good photo of “the lady”.

During the first few hours of a cruise, orientation is important and many are found just wandering about, to see just what this ship has to offer; what packages are being offered in the spa, are the classes worth attending? does the shop have good bargains? etc. Many passengers get lost for a time but all find their way to the dining rooms without too much hassle. It is said that passengers put on 1.2 pounds of weight per day on a cruise so they want to prove that fact. It is not unusual to see a grossly overweight person ‘pigging-out’ at 4:00pm or even 11:00pm

For the first time, we chose to purchase a package that gives us access to the spa facilities from 6am to 10pm almost every day of the cruise. Massages are expensive on a cruise and the cost of the hydro for two of us is less than one 90-minute massage for one person. There is a large pool with air and water jets to massage the body, a couple of steam rooms and a dry sauna, and a lazy boy bed that is heated to give you 20 minutes of relaxation to end your self-treatment. Membership numbers are limited and so there is no waiting around to use the facilities. I’m sure we will give these facilities a good workout.

There are 5 or 6 restaurants on board this ship for just 1600 passengers. But they are well used. Scenic has organised a lunch when the 60 of us can get together to keep that Aussie Spirit and new friendships going, just in case you haven’t met up with fellow travellers while wandering around lost.

After a good night’s sleep, (I think the most we have had in a night on this tour), we keep to our exercise program and are in the gym for an hour. A walk around the 3rd deck turns out to be a winter walk and we move into the gym out of the cold. The gyms on a ship are there to encourage people to change their lifestyle and to take off that 1.2 pounds of flesh gathered the day before. However, always be careful of costs that can come around when you go to the ‘health and fitness’ lectures that are available. There are many ‘unfounded’ new programs being trialled on ships and what better way to conduct that trial than amongst people who are on a cruise and trying to change their lifestyle? We got ‘dudded’ one cruise and we returned the miracle product the following day.

Our first day is a ‘sea day’, which is a great time to take a nap in the morning and a nap in the afternoon and enjoy doing nothing the rest of the time. Yes, we used the hydro package twice, once in the morning and then again at the end of the evening. The stage shows on a cruise are always well done, and the one last night was the best I had seen on any of the cruises we have been on previously.

I managed to say “no” to the evening dessert at dinner. Now that’s a plus and worth many brownie points.

Tomorrow, we are down to do a ‘duck’ tour of Boston; an interesting way to see a famous city.