New England and Canada Cruise, Boston to Sydney.
I recently had the privilege of taking a pleasure cruise with my family from Boston, Massachusetts to Quebec City, Quebec. I had never been on a cruise before, and thought I’d share some highlights:
Day 1: Boston, Massachusetts
The trip started in Boston, and we had to board our ship, the MS Veendam, a couple hours before it was to leave port. Before the ship could leave, all passengers had to check in, get their room keys, and show their passports (since we were leaving the US). We also had to take part in an emergency drill in which all passengers had to congregate at our assigned tender boat/lifeboat. The rest of the time in Boston was spent exploring the ship. My sisters and I played tennis and basketball on the ship’s courts, and we met for drinks in the bar on top of the ship, naturally called the Crow’s Nest. Our ship left Boston at 4:30 pm, headed for Maine.
Day 2: Bar Harbor, Maine
Day Two of the cruise found us in Bar Harbor, Maine. We left the ship in the morning but found out we couldn’t use the dock. Apparently, this happens pretty often. In those cases, cruise ships use tenders to get the passengers on and off the ship. The family had been to Bar Harbor before about twenty years ago. I didn’t remember much, but my mother remembered taking a picture of the kids under one of the taller docks. Hopefully she can find it. We had an excursion at 12:45 so we had some time to shop and eat ice cream. It was a very warm day, and would prove to be the only one on the trip. My father wanted to visit the scrimshaw shop. (Scrimshaw is whale bone art.) There, he discussed how new laws about whale bone affected the proprietor’s business. It turns out you can still buy it and take it with you, but the shop cannot ship it to another state because that would fall under interstate commerce.
Our excursion was a bus tour of some of the sights in Bar Harbor, including the neighborhood where all the wealthy people (such as the Rockefellers) live. The homes were right on the water, naturally. The tour guide mentioned that sometimes a visitor thinks he has found a great parking spot by these houses, but when he returns, the tide has come in and his vehicle is under water. The excursion ended at Acadia National Park. The view of the harbor was gorgeous, and it was a very clear day. You could see the Veendam from our vantage point. (I have included a photo.)
Day 3: Halifax, Nova Scotia
Day three was spent in Halifax, Nova Scotia. We arrived in Halifax the next morning, my father’s birthday. Overnight, we had lost an hour since Bar Harbor is Eastern time and Halifax is Atlantic time. Halifax is the capital of Nova Scotia, and a pretty large city. Before visiting, I knew absolutely nothing about Nova Scotia so it was a pleasure to learn about a completely brand new place. Nova Scotia is Latin for “New Scotland.” Most of the people in Nova Scotia have Scottish heritage, and the provincial flag is a reverse Scottish flag. Our excursion in Halifax lasted the whole time we were docked at the port, and it was designed to bring tourists to all the highlights. Our tour guide was an older man named Ed who had lived in Halifax his whole life. I liked him a lot; he was very adept at answering questions, was very funny, and was quite cynical of the Canadian government and mentioned high taxes several times. (Of course I liked him.)
Our first stop was the Halifax public garden. Some of the highlights were the ornate main gate, a duck pond named after a murderer, and a tree planted by the British Queen. It was quite a lovely garden, and I was very surprised to see cacti planted amongst the other vegetation. Our second stop was the Halifax Citadel on the top of a hill overlooking the downtown area. We could not go inside, but we did get to see the site of the Halifax Explosion, which was the largest man-made explosion in history until the bombing of Hiroshima.
The next stop was the Halifax Historic Properties, where tourists can shop and grab a quick bite. Afterwards, we headed to, which turned out to be our favorite stop on the whole trip. Peggy’s Cove is about an hour’s drive south of Halifax. It is a small, rocky fishing village that looks like another world if you’re used to living in urban areas. It is right on the Atlantic Ocean, so there are lots of rocks and very few trees as the salt water prevents their survival. It was also pretty cold, definitely warm jacket weather, and very windy due to the lack of trees. I can only imagine how cold it is in January, the permanent residents must be very tough people.
At Peggy’s Cove we grabbed lunch at the only shop in town. It was one of those combination restaurant/souvenir shops and it was decorated with an old British-looking phone booth, a rusty anchor, and several lobster traps on the outside. Their seafood chowder was excellent. After lunch, we didn’t have much time left before we had to leave so we made the most of our time and took lots of photos. I took quite a few of the lighthouse; I think it’s a great representation of the North Atlantic fishing lifestyle.
Our last stop in Halifax was the Titanic grave site. When the RMS Titanic sank in April of 1912, the city of Halifax was responsible for the collection of the bodies of the victims. Many bodies either could not be identified, or their next-of-kin could not make the journey to Halifax to identify the remains. These bodies are buried in Halifax, in their own section of the graveyard. The stones are arranged to reflect the shape of a ship’s bow. Two particular graves stood out. One was dedicated to an unknown 18-month-old boy who had lost his life at sea. Ed told us the story of how he’d been incorrectly identified on three separate occasions, the latest coming in 2003. Finally, in 2011, he was given a new identity. Hopefully this one is correct. The other was “J Dawson”… Ed pointed this one out because sometimes he’ll go to the grave site and there will be flowers or lipstick on the stone. This is not Jack Dawson from the 1997 Titanic movie as he was a fictional character. Rather, this is the grave of a young man who worked shoveling coal.
After the tour, my sisters and I decided to explore the port before it was time to be back on the ship. We stopped at a brewery, and learned about one of the alcohol laws in Canada. If an establishment doesn’t serve food, they can’t serve alcohol. You can buy beer and bring it home, but you cannot imbibe it on the premises. The way the breweries get around it is by selling “samples” in plastic cups. It’s essentially the same thing as going to a bar and buying a glass of beer on tap. One’s legal, one’s not. Go figure.
Day 4: Sydney, Nova Scotia
The following morning we arrived in Sydney, which is a small, blue-collar town on the northeastern tip on Cape Breton Island. Like in Bar Harbor, it was too dangerous to dock, this time due to the weather. (It was raining.) We took the tenders out to the port where we were welcomed by a giant violin that actually played music. After some shopping and lunch, my father, my sister, and I went to go see some of the historic sites, including the Cossit House, the small home of a minister from the 1780s. Most of the historically significant sites in Sydney are churches. The other historic sites, such as the Fortress of Louisbourg, are located outside the city on Cape Breton Island. Due to the rain and the expense, we didn’t visit any of them.
Next: Charlottetown to Quebec
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