A Kiwi couple's cruising adventures on America's Great Loop and around the coast of New Zealand

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

On the Great Loop again (well sort of)

 After the success of our USA trip last year (nobody even got sick!), we had decided we would try it again this year. Auntie Lyn (my sister and our dog sitter) has a grand-daughter living in Canada and she had decided to go and visit her for her 21st birthday. It would be her first major OE other than a couple of trips to OZ, and it would also be her 70th birthday while she was away. Accompanying her was her son and other grand-daughter, who was also turning 18 while away. So we decided to go at the same time and meet up for the celebrations. Since the grand-daughter lives in the middle of Manitoba, halfway across the continent, we decided we would go right across to Boston and take a cruise down the St Lawrence to Montreal - somewhere we intended to go on our Great Loop trip - and meet up with Lyn and Co. on the way back. The cruise was a 7 dayer on the Holland America ship "Maasdam".  We left in June and were there during the festivities for Canada's 150th birthday on July 1st as well. As we were accompanying our usual dogsitter, we got Charlie and Pauline to look after Woody. The rest of this post is made up of emails that we sent to them and others as our trip progressed.

Tues 20th June 2017..

The trip stared out with a bit of a bump, with Carolyn tweaking her knee as we caught the shuttle from the car park to the airport. The check-in guy was concerned enough that he organized a wheel chair for her at Auckland and another at San Fransisco. This turned out great as we got priority boarding going out and were whisked through customs when we arrived in Sanfran. – her knee was OK by then, but we took advantage of the service anyway! The plane was chocker and, even though it was a 777-300, it didn’t have the “egg seats” in premium economy that we expected! However, they were big seats anyway, with plenty of room (Carolyn even said she preferred them to the “egg” ones) so we arrived in reasonable condition.

The Travelodge at SF was old and tired, but that’s what you get for screwing up the booking and having to find another hotel at the last minute. It was handy to the public transport, and we used this to go downtown and have the obligatory clam chowder in the sourdough bowl. We were just getting to know how it all worked when it was time to leave.

The flight to Boston was also packed but, again, there was plenty of legroom and it was a comfortable flight, There was no onboard entertainment for the 5 hours, other than movies fed by onboard wifi to your own device – they even had special holders for tablets in the back of the seat in front (where a TV screen should be). I thought I could use my laptop, but found that you had to have adobe flash player to see them – so I did crosswords all the way to Boston.

Our hotel there was simply stunning. The room was the size of a small apartment and it had a full kitchen, including dishwasher, and there was a large supermarket about 5 minutes walk away. So, naturally, we ate in. We intended to use the hotels shuttle to the airport to get to the cruise port for the ship on Sunday, via free public transport, but we did a “dry run” on Saturday and found it was going to be too hard with all our luggage, so we took a cab instead. We got to see a bit of downtown Boston, though and, again, by the time we got to know the transport system (us oldies get to have a “Charlie Card” which gives us real cheap travel – but you can only get them in certain stations), it was time to leave again, aboard our cruise ship.

Holland America have a strict (don’t bring your own) alcohol policy where they will confiscate liquor you try to take aboard and hand it back at the end of the voyage, so you will only drink their horribly expensive stuff on the ship. Knowing that liquor is quite expensive in Canada, and very cheap in USA, I bought a bottle of Vodka ($9.95 for 1.75 litres) in Boston to have for when we arrived in Montreal. At check-in and security for the boat, I told the staff about it and even carried it aboard in a plastic bag in my hand, ready to hand it in – but no-one took it from me and it is now in the drawer in  our stateroom. I still intend to keep it for Canada, as we have a $450 on board account to use up before the end of the cruise.

We are presently sailing up the coast of Nova Scotia and our Port of Call, Sydney (yes, there is one here as well) has been cancelled due to high winds (gusting 60-65 knots), so we are sailing on to Prince Edward Island. Maasdam is only a little ship and is getting a little tired too. Apparently she is due to be retired next  year.  As usual, the food and staff are nice, but the same cannot be said for the weather. As soon as we left Boston, we hit fog, with visibility down to a few hundred metres,  that remained with us all the way to where we are now – it only cleared this morning. So we didn’t get to see much of Bar Harbour, Maine (USA) and Halifax, Nova Scotia (Canada), or the coasts between. Bar Harbour was a cutsie wee town - obviously a resort type area with posh holiday homes, apartments and hotels. There were a lot of tour buses in town, and it seems to be a destination for tours from Boston or New York.

Maasdam in the fog at Bar Harbour, Maine

I went to the Maritime Museum in Halifax where there was a display for the Titanic - Halifax was where all the recovered bodies were taken for identification after the sinking. There was also a display for the 1917 explosion of the cargo ship SS Mont Blanc which was loaded with explosives and blew up after colliding with another ship in the harbour. The blast was the largest man-made explosion prior to the development of nuclear weapons, releasing the equivalent energy of roughly 2.9 kilotons of TNT (The Hiroshima bomb was 15 kilotons).  It flattened the city and killed around 2000 people.
Halifax in the fog
Now, of course, the fog has been blown away by the gale force winds that are preventing us from docking at Sydney. Still, worse things happen at sea  - after all, we are only a few hundred miles from where the Titanic went down (I visited the museum in Halifax). We have been doing Trivia quizzes over the last couple of days. There is one on at 4.30 and another at 9.30 that coincides with happy hour (your second drink for $2) so I go to the 4.30 while Carolyn plays bridge (of course). The last one we did together  was Music Trivia, and we came third which wasn’t bad considering they were all American songs of the 50’s and 60’s (they played bits of the song and you had to know the song title and singer). Tonight it is the Beatles, so we hope to do better.
Here is a map of our current position – you will need to look at a larger map of the US/Canadian East Coast if you don’t know where the area is. 

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