Day 3 – Halifax
Cruising into Nova Scotia, on Holland America‘s Maasdam, we had no clue as to the history of the place. So we chose that rainy Day 2 to spend some time in the Explorations Café Library learning about our destination. A big piece of Halifax’s history lies in a horrific event in 1917 when a munitions ship experienced a collision in the Narrows strait of Halifax Harbour. The mishap caused a mighty fire before the explosion which brought townspeople out into the streets to witness. What they didn’t realize was that the ship would blow up causing the largest man-made explosion prior to nuclear weaponry, killing or injuring thousands with property damage happening miles away. It created a tsunami which killed even more, as if the disaster didn’t do enough damage.
With that knowledge in tow we hopped off the ship and caught up, at 10 am, with a free walking tour at The Citadel which sits high atop the city. Our guide was a young guy, new on the job, but knowledgeable enough to keep us interested. Others in the group also had stories to add (as did we!). The city is beautiful and the jacket weather matched it…cool and dry! Patrick took us up and down the streets of Halifax, eventually leading down to the harbor where we headed back to the ship for lunch.
Since we had a few more hours before departure, we went back into the terminal and entered Pier 21 which is the Canadian equivalent of our Ellis Island. My family name was originally D’Aoust, which is as common in Canada as Young is in the US. Hoping to find some history we took advantage of the Canadian Museum of Immigration’s research capabilities and found the family was based in the U.S. longer than we thought; along with a little tidbit about my grandfather…apparently he was married once before he married my grandmother, a fact that never was passed down.
We did our own exploring and had a thoroughly enjoyable day, however, Holland America excursions were available to Peggy’s Cove, a picturesque site with lighthouse, restaurants and shops. There is also a Titanic Cemetery in the region where many of the dead were brought after that seafaring disaster so many years ago. Back on the ship we had a meeting with Francois Birarda, Hotel Director, who answered a lot of questions about long term cruisers. We learned there was a traveler who was scheduled to be on the Maasdam for 6 months. How better to spend your senior years than on a cruise, rather than an assisted living facility. For the same cost (or less) you’ll get fabulous food, entertainment, social activities, medical assistance and fresh, sea air.
Francois managed to get us a table at The Pinnacle Grill that night where HAL treated us to an exquisite meal. This restaurant gets fully booked early on so it’s important to get your reservation scheduled as soon as you can. The price fixe is $29 per person for a superb multi-course meal. Once a week the restaurant offers “An Evening at Le Cirque” for a unique taste of Sirio Maccioni’s legendary New York restaurant. The price to dine on that evening is $49.00 per person. We were treated to a wonderfully creative menu we’ll not soon forget.
Unfortunately, it was a late meal and we missed the night’s entertainment, the Cape Breton Fiddle & Bagpipe Concert. We did, however, catch some of this unique music at breakfast the next morning by the pool.
Day 4 – Sydney
Pulling into Sydney around 11 the next morning, we couldn’t help but notice the humongous ten ton fiddle and bow standing in the courtyard of the terminal area. Traditional Scottish folk music is the norm for this area of Nova Scotia and could be heard on the ship pool deck at breakfast. A delightful Celtic trio performed soothing tunes, complete with bagpipe, which doesn’t usually bring to mind the term “soothing”.
Again, we chose to do our own self-guided walking tour of this town but probably would have enjoyed an excursion to Cape Breton Island. This region of Sydney includes hiking, scenic lookouts and possible whale sightings.
Our meandering walk led us to ancient churches in beautiful residential neighborhoods. We wound up at the Governor’s Pub & Eatery for (what we thought was) a light lunch of Carrot Ginger Soup, served with a tea biscuit. Don’t let the delicate name fool you…the biscuit was huge, fluffy and went well with the craft beer Kitchen Party from the Big Spruce Brewing Company. Of course, we then needed a nap so back to the ship we headed.
After a casual meal at the Lido Deck buffet, we headed to the show at 8, anxious to catch Comedian Eddie Capone. This talented guy kept us in stitches and later we had a chat about his hometown, Lyndhurst, NJ, where some of my extended family lived. One of the cool things about cruising is running into the entertainment around the ship. All were very approachable and seemed to enjoy the interaction and attention.
Susan also writes Forever Young but Growing Old on hypeorlando.com, the Orlando Sentinel’s blog platform.