A break in the daily cruise travelogue to praise our fellow writers and photojournalists. Check it out on hypeorlando…8 Global Journalists who take you to foreign lands without leaving home.
An incredible opportunity opened up for Charlie and I to join a press group, cruising Alaska’s waterways with Holland America Lines on the ms Nieuw Amsterdam. The offer was last minute, as in 2 ½ weeks, but the calendar was clear and, luckily, we brought our passports to NC, so we were in. The key to a happy retirement is flexibility and spontaneity. No moss growing on our rolling stone!
The plan was to fly from Asheville to Vancouver and back via Chicago. It takes an hour to get to the airport from the mountain house and the flight was on time when we left. Arriving at the airport, however, we discovered our flights, in both Asheville and Chicago were delayed. We started sweating bullets when our originating flight wound up 3 hours late but managed to find our terminal and gate in Chicago in time.
The rest of the trip was seamless as we were picked up in Vancouver, driven through the streets of the city and dropped off at the Pan Pacific Vancouver Hotel, atop Canada Place’s cruise ship terminals. Arriving around 6 pm we had time to walk a few blocks to dinner at Original Joe’s on Robson Street. Of course, our brains were telling us it was 3 hours later so we were disinclined to imbibe in the local beer offerings as we were afraid we wouldn’t make it back to the hotel.
The Pan Pacific is gorgeous and next morning our ship was in dock waiting for us to board. We met our fellow journalists for breakfast and were amazed at how far some of them traveled…Australia, Holland, London, Austria, Belgium and a few more from the states…all lovely people who were a joy to accompany on this trip of a lifetime.
The ms Nieuw Amsterdam is one of HAL’s larger ships, much bigger than the ms Maasdam, on which we cruised through New England and Nova Scotia last year. The comfort level and beauty were the same, however, this time with a touch of Manhattan and NYC art deco touches. Our Verandah was roomy, located at the back of the ship, which proved to be a perfect place to view all that Alaska had to offer.
We met our group again at the Crow’s Nest on the Observation Deck, for a welcome cocktail and then dinner in the Manhattan Dining Room. The food on these cruises is just phenomenal and the champagne was flowing that night, along with perfect wine pairings. We were reminded that we needed to take it easy and not eat our way through the trip…not an easy task!
Next morning, we met for a private Galley tour. What we saw was a well-organized effort to feed over 2,000 guests and more than 900 crew members. The kitchens were spotless and we saw smiling faces and beautiful culinary creations. Here are some stats…a typical 7-day cruise goes through 23,000 eggs, 1,675 pounds of butter and 137,500 pounds of fresh vegetables. It’s mind-boggling the amount of work that goes into storing, preparing and serving this much food. And they do it cheerfully and meticulously.
That night we met at The Pinnacle Grill, one of three fine dining choices, which will cost extra but are well worth the price. The menu highlights Pacific Northwest steak and seafood along with an ample choice of wines. Looking out the window we spotted the backs of a few whales cruising alongside the ship. I should mention that the other dining choices, which are included in the price of the cruise, are top of the line. You can choose the Lido buffet which changes offerings every day, along with the Manhattan Dining Room, which is a 2-level, formal dining experience.
Here are a couple of links to my blog posts on hypeorlando about this trip… Sushi virgins no longer and What the rest of the world thinks of Americans – Next up, Days 3 and 4, sailing through Tracy Arm, arriving in Juneau and Skagway.
Day 5 – Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island
The next day, Wednesday, we would be in Charlottetown from 9 am to 5:30 pm. This city is quite a bit larger than Sydney, so we laced up our walking shoes and stepped off the ship into a cloudy, 68 degree morning.
The gorgeous architecture of cathedrals and homes was amazing. If you want to be more adventurous and get out of the city, Holland America provides excursions to more picturesque areas of Prince Edward Island. If you’re an Anne of Green Gables fan, you will find the family home where author L. M. Montgomery wrote many of her novels.
It was suggested, by an experienced cruiser, to try Cow’s Creamery which was worth the stop for ice cream. We were later told by the crew that their favorite Lobster Roll provider is Dave’s Lobster – wish we’d known beforehand – note to self: quiz the crew before a port of call about their favorite restaurants! Continue reading
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. Continue reading
Having only been on a cruise once, and not being very impressed, we decided to give it a second chance with the opportunity to get out of the Florida heat and head up to New England and Nova Scotia. Holland America Lines was recommended by friends and, upon research, we found this cruise line to be highly rated. Waiting until the last minute gave us the opportunity to take advantage of much lower rates so we decided to go for it.
The cruise we chose was a 7 day, medium ship, the Maasdam, out of Boston, ending in Montreal. The only problem with choosing a last minute cruise is dealing with the higher costs of last minute flights. The small airport in Worcester, just an hour out of Boston, provided decent fare with JetBlue. The prices flying out of Montreal were really high, however, so we decided to hop on the Amtrak Adirondack to Penn Station in Manhattan. USAir/American Airlines flights out of Newark were way more affordable. Here’s a diary of our adventure…
Day 1 – Embarkation
Mears Taxi picked us up at 6 am for an early flight to Worcester where my childhood friend picked us up. We only spent about 20 minutes with her as she just drove us to the Worcester Bus Station for our rendezvous with a Greyhound bus to Boston. From there we walked about a mile and a half to the cruise terminal, not minding the trek as we had minimal luggage to roll behind us and the weather was breezy and cool…such a relief from 100 degrees in Orlando.
Checking onto the ship was quick and seamless. As a precaution, and having read this many times in cruise blogs, we checked in our suitcases but carried a tote with our toiletries, drugs and clean underwear, just in case our baggage was delayed or delivered to the wrong room (not to worry, though, all 3 bags were sitting outside our door within a couple of hours). Continue reading
BedandBreakfast.com recently named the Black Dolphin Inn, New Smyrna Beach, FL, among their 2013 Top Ten Beach B&B’s. Sharing the list are Inns throughout the United States, Canada, France and Mexico…quite a big deal for our little seaside town.
Having just opened in February of 2013, this award arrives on the heels of The Guardian’s recommendation as their Top Ten B&B’s and Guesthouses in Florida. This is high praise for such a new inn.
The awards are well-deserved as the Innkeepers have paid attention to every detail and consider their guests’ comfort first and foremost. The rooms are to die for, the breakfasts tastefully creative and the classy, beachy ambiance provides a relaxing atmosphere in which to unwind.
Congrats and thanks to the Smiths for providing a fabulous getaway to weary travelers and beachgoers who are looking for a home away from home while being pampered at the same time!
As long as Charlie doesn’t catch the God-awful stomach virus I had this week, we’ll be heading up to Niagara Falls and Toronto on Monday. Let’s hope that sleeping in another bedroom did the trick and the bug didn’t find its way into his tummy. For the first time ever we are flying out of Orlando-Sanford International Airport, which is much closer than MCO. We are reading all the fine print on the Allegiant Airlines website so we’re not stuck wtih a piece of luggage that is an inch or two over their limits, as happened with Ryanair last summer. Allegiant charges $30 for each carryon going into the overhead bins and $50 for a checked piece of luggage, so we decided to go ahead and bite the bullet. No way could we fit everything we need to go to such a cold climate in a bag that would fit under the seat (those are still free to carry on). The cost of the ticket was so inexpensive ($250 total for two roundtrip tickets to Niagara Falls) that we can justify the extra charge for checking on a bag.
Our plan is to travel as cheaply as possible and we’re taking every shortcut we can, so we’ll see how it all pans out. Our daughter can drop us off at the airport but not able to pick us up so we’ve opted to rent a car when we get back and take it back to Sanford the next day…much cheaper than paying the $12 a day in parking fees at the airport for 6 days. We’re flying into the Buffalo/Niagara Falls area at a smaller airport, similar to Sanford, which makes the transportation choices fewer when trying to get to the Canadian side of the Falls. The plan is to catch a bus to the Rainbow Bridge and walk across, then catch another bus which will let us off close to our hotel. Arriving at 6:30 pm means we’ll be in the dark but we hear the area is well lit and very accessible to the walker. Of course, if it’s raining or snowing, or both, we’ll be miserable and may have to opt for a taxi (at a cost of $80 plus) to get us into Canada.
Priceline gave us the best prices on hotels in both Niagara Falls and Toronto at around $75 a night for a four star stay. Once in Toronto we can depend on mass transit either by bus or subway. And we picked up a Groupon for a hop-on, hop-off bus tour that lasts three days which we can use at our leisure.
We certainly cannot complain about our winter in Florida, after hearing about our friends up north suffering through one storm after another, but I’m getting tired of cold weather and ready to put away the winter gear. This will be the last snowy trip for awhile. Of course, by June we’ll be cursing the humidity down here and planning the next trip to the tundra.
Hopefully, the next post will be from two healthy travelers in a toasty room in Niagara Falls!