19 August 2019 ~~Day Twenty-One

Dublin is the capital of, and largest city in, Ireland.  Located on the east coast of Ireland, in the province of Leinster, at the mouth of the River Liffey, it’s bordered on the south by the Wicklow mountains. Dublin celebrated its ‘official’ millennium’ in 1988, meaning the Irish government recognized 988 as the year in which the city was settled.  It was established as a Viking settlement in the 10th century and, despite a number of attacks by the native Irish, it remained largely under Viking control until the Norman invasion of Ireland was launched from Wales in 1169.

Did you know there are more Irish in America than in Ireland? Thirty-four and a half million Americans list their heritage as either primarily or partially Irish. That number is, incidentally, seven times larger than the population of Ireland itself (4.68 million). Irish is the second-most common ancestry among Americans, falling just behind German.

The greater Dublin area has a population of nearly two million. If dozens of building cranes are an indicator, an economic boom is going on.  Though some traditional industries have declined, tech companies, such as Microsoft, Google, Amazon, eBay, PayPal, Yahoo!, Facebook, Twitter, Accenture and Pfizer have European headquarters here. 

Guinness has been brewed at the St. James’s Gate Brewery since 1759.    Jamesons Whiskey was distilled in Dublin from 1780, until it moved to County Cork in 1976. The original distillery is now Jameson Experience Visitor Centre and the Irish Whiskey Academy.

Our ship docked at seven a.m.  Since we were in a working port, a shuttle was necessary to get into town.  I was glad we’d gone to the port talk, so we knew we had to buy twenty-dollar roundtrip shuttle tickets.   Although the ship wasn’t leaving until eleven p.m., the last shuttle was at seven p.m.  So, those who didn’t make that one had to take a taxi back. 

I checked on the Hop On, Hop Off tours and the green bus had the best customer reviews.  The ship’s shuttle took us to Merrion Square, where we were able to purchase day tickets from the driver for twenty Euros each, senior price.  And, we could use a credit card that doesn’t incur international fees.  With thirty-two stops on their route, we covered a good portion of what we were interested in seeing. 

Number one on my list was the Book of Kells at Trinity College.  This illuminated text of the four gospels was created in 800 AD by early Christian monks.  It was painstakingly hand lettered and illustrated on velum, which is calf skin prepared for writing.  The skin of over one hundred fifty calves was used to create Ireland’s finest treasure. 

This is not just a text . . . it is an intricate work of calligraphy and art.  The carefully preserved displays are rotated every few months.  No photography is allowed of the actual books. The Library usually displays two of the current four volumes at a time, one showing a major illustration and the other showing typical text pages.   If you can’t get to Dublin, you can view it here: Book of Kells, Digital Collection.  Just the medieval inks they used for coloring their art was amazing. 

It’s hard to imagine how long it must have taken to detail the letter designs.

There were other items to see as well. Seeing “The Long Room” was like going to heaven! This main chamber of the Old Library was built between 1712 and 1732.  Not only is it filled with over 200,000 of the library’s oldest books, it is one of the most impressive libraries in the world. 

I could easily have spent hours here!

We returned to the Hop On/Hop Off bus and went around the route again.  Along the way we went through Phoenix Park, formed as a royal hunting park in the 1660’s.  The English name comes from the Irish fionn uisce meaning “clear water.” It’s touted as the largest enclosed recreational park in any European capital city. Within it’s 1,750 acres is the President’s Official Residence, the Dublin Zoo, the Wellington Testimonial (the largest oblisk in Europe), and a herd of wild deer. The Wellington Testimonial was built to commemorate the victories of Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington.

We passed by the Ha’Penny Bridge (built in 1816) AKA the Liffey Bridge (since 1922), as swans swam underneath. 

All this sightseeing left us a bit parched . . . so we attempted to wet our whistles at The Temple Bar.  It was pretty packed, so we continued on and stopped at Trinity Pub. We had great service and our new favorite beverage, Smithwicks. I have it on good authority, that it’s pronounced “Smitticks.” However you say it, it’s a delicious ale.

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Since we were nearing the end of the time the HO/HO (Hop On/Hop Off) bus continued, we stopped where we had started.  We saw the Oscar Wilde statue, and his home which is now part of American College Dublin.  This flamboyant Irish poet and playwright led a controversial life and died at the young age of 46.

We returned to the ship and enjoyed a fabulous performance by Celtic Storm.  This talented group featured three dancers and the musicians who provide the perfect accompaniment.  The older sister of the dancers is the lead dancer for River Dance. At the end of the show they were rushed off the ship, to return to Belfast, before we could buy their CD. 

We retreated to our cabin ready for rest and time in Belfast tomorrow.

18 August 2019~~ Day Twenty-two

We arrived in Cobh at eight a.m.  Since we had to meet up with others for a tour at eight-thirty, I was up early.  And, I’m so glad!  Entering the harbor, as the sun rose, was exquisite! 

 On a high point in the town stands the cathedral of the diocese of Cloyne, St Colman’s, which is one of the tallest buildings in Ireland.

Legend tells us that one of the first colonists of Ireland was Neimheidh, who landed in Cork Harbour over 1,000 years BC.  He and his followers were said to have been wiped out in a plague, but the Great Island was known in Irish as Oilean Ard Neimheadh because of its association with him. Later it became known as Crich Liathain because of the powerful Uí Liatháin kingdom, who ruled in the area from Late Antiquity into the early 13th century. The island subsequently became known as Oilean Mor An Barra (the Great Island of Barry & Barrymore), after the Barry family who inherited it.

The port city Cobh is pronounced like “cove,” and that’s what it means in the Irish language. The Irish “bh” combination sounds like our “v.” Thus Siobhan in Irish is “Shavon.  From 1849-1920, it was known as Queenstown.   Cobh is home to Ireland’s only dedicated cruise terminal.

The city’s naturally protected harbor made it important as a tactical center for naval military base purposes, especially during the Napoleonic Wars.

We met our tour guide, Michael, and set off through Cobh to the scenic Ring of Kerry.  The lush green countryside reminded us of home in Oregon.  We stopped at various points along the way for photos as Michael provided a running narrative about the area.   

Since we are on the Voyage of the Vikings, a little history seems appropriate. In pre-Christian Ireland, independent kingdoms were presided over by lords in the 300’s- early 400’s CE. In 432 CE, the first missions of St. Patrick were established.  By the late 400’s hundreds of churches had been established.

Viking raids began in 795 CE and continued for two hundred years.  During the ninth and tenth centuries Norse warriors ransacked the countryside, especially the monasteries with their silver relics. As pagans, they had no respect for Christian symbols. The Vikings eventually settled down in the lands they had conquered. By 950, the Vikings had stopped raiding in Ireland and developed instead as traders and settled in the lands around their towns.

We were thankful life is peaceful now and just enjoyed the sights.

We passed by Belvilly Castle, a recently restored medieval fortified tower house. It was used by Sir Walter Raleigh in the early 1580s who described it as “broken down” and had it restored. Its last occupant was Sir Peter Courthorpe, from 1624 to 1650, and by the middle of the 19th century it was being described as a ruin.   The 24 karat gold tree was an addition by the new owners, who reportedly spent two million Euros on the renovation.

Torc Waterfall is just one attraction along the Ring of Kerry. There was an abundance of rhododendrons, just like the ones we have at home.  Sadly, we didn’t seen any leprechauns.  We did however see the Muckross House. Built in 1843, it was presented by William Bowers Bourn and Arthur Rose Vincent to the Irish nation in 1932 and became the first National Park in the Irish Free State. It formed the basis of the present-day Killarney National Park.

We stopped in Killarney for a little tourist shopping and lunch at Murphy’s.  

In Cork we saw the Singer Sewing Machine building with its great mural design.  The upper floors of the building were wrapped in the striking design as part of a city council-commissioned pilot public art project. 

The inspiration for the design was from the old black sewing machines which were once sold from Singer’s Sewing Shop below.  Some of the old machines are still on display in the window of what is today the Singer’s Corner Sewing Centre.

We stopped for a better view of the magnificent cathedral.  A huge event of some sort was being held by the waterfront and people were parked up the hills. 

Once we returned to the pier, we had time to appreciate the waterfront statue commemorating Annie Moore and her brothers. Annie was the first person to be admitted to the United States of America through the new immigration center at Ellis Island, New York on 1 January 1892. Two and half million of the six million Irish people who emigrated to North America between 1848 and 1950 left from this port. This was also the final port of call of the Titanic before she sailed on her maiden . . . and final voyage.

This turned out to be one of my very favorite ports.  Larry and I both have ancestors from this area, so I hope we can return!  We enjoyed a lovely sail away through the harbor and settled in for the evening with visions of Dublin.

Cruising Prince Christian Sund ~ Day Ten

We were already in Prince Christian Sund (called Sound in the U.S.) when we awoke.  The sun was shining on our verandah making it warm enough to comfortably view the magnificent scenery as we glided through calm water. This sixty-two-mile-long seaway connects the Denmark Strait with the Davis Strait.

Prince Christian Sund (Sound in the U.S.)
Stunning scenery
Like a mirror

Passengers waved from small boats, that came alongside our ship, as we neared a remote village.  This village is only accessible by boat from late July through September. The rest of the year their snowmobiles and the heliport are essential. Their lone road ends after 1.2 miles.

Friendly natives

Hunters go after marine mammals by kayak.  Minke whales, the smallest of the “great whales” can weigh up to twenty-thousand pounds! Though they’re not on the endangered list, the limit here is one-hundred-fifteen per year.  They also hunt Fin whales, which are the second largest species of whale, and can weigh forty to eighty tons. Yikes! Though they are on the endangered list they are hunted and consumed in Greenland and Iceland.  The Inuit (natives) have an exception to hunting the whales and also making seal products.

As we proceeded southeast, we came upon a large iceberg.  Two weeks earlier it was so big a ship had to find another passage.  Thankfully it’s melted some and is now only two-hundred twenty meters by one-hundred twenty meters. That’s about half the size of Windsor Castle.  On the daily reports from the bridge, our captain always mentions our distance from the final resting place of the Titanic.  We’re glad he’s ever watchful for icebergs!

The hole in the bottom of this one is larger than it appears!

Greenland has ten percent of the world’s reserves of fresh water. Eighty percent of Greenland is covered by an ice sheet that extends coast-to-coast. Historically, the ice cap was rather deserted as Greenlanders opted instead to stay on sea ice with access to fertile waters below. With easier access, the Ice Sheet has become a tourist destination for those in search of an ultimate Arctic adventure.

The island is a Danish dependent territory, with limited self-government and its own parliament.  Denmark contributes two-thirds of the island’s budget revenue.  The rest comes primarily from fishing.

The language is Kalaallisut and belongs to the Inuit-Aleut family of languages that is spoken by some fifty-six thousand here.  With unusually pronounced “q’s” it seems difficult to master.  A Greenlandic word can be very long and mean what corresponds to a whole sentence in other languages.  The language is roughly divided into four dialects: South Greenlandic, West Greenlandic, East Greenlandic and the Thule dialect. West Greenlandic is the official language which all children learn in addition to Danish and English.  Locals are always delighted when visitors try to speak at least a few words of their language. To make it easy, you can start by learning the words “hello”, which is called “aluu”, or “goodbye”, which is simply “baaj” – and thus are reminiscent of English.

Our shipboard tour director shared some of these tidbits as we continued sailing past small icebergs and neared three separate glaciers. One was very large and we got pretty close.  We were surrounded by small icebergs that make “chink, chink” sounds as the bow went through.  So that everyone could have a good view, the captain rotated the ship a full three-hundred sixty degrees.

Did you know that small icebergs (that stick up less than one meter above the water) are called “growlers?”  Ha . . . it’s not just a term for a container used to transport draft beer!

Near the exit of the “Sund” a weather station clung to the hillside.  It was hard to imagine how they got all the building materials in place.  A short distance away the hill was dotted with antennae’s, evidently keeping Greenland connected to the world.  

Remote weather stations

This was another gala night, and Larry didn’t feel like getting suited up, so we ate in the Lido.  We finished in time to get great seats for the evening entertainment by “The Knights.”  They sang mostly familiar tunes by Andrew Lloyd Weber, Tom Jones, Rod Stewart, Bono, and Mick Jager.

We retreated to the comfort of our cabin where we lost another hour.  Or, shall I say set our clocks forward again.  Now we’ll wake up six hours ahead of Pacific Daylight Savings time.

Red Bay, Labrador ~ Day Six

Red Bay, Labrador~ Day Six

This fishing village is either named because of its history as a Basque whaling port that was established as early as 1530, and the water running red from whale’s blood, or due to the red granite cliffs.  It’s known as one of the most precious underwater archaeological sites in the Americas because several whaling ships sunk there.  This led to its designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2013.  The sheltered harbor was used during World War II as a mooring site for naval vessels.

The Beothuk, the original inhabitants, are believed to have arrived as early as AD 1, from Newfoundland. The last known full-blooded indigenous woman was Shanawdithit.  After seeking food and medical help from a British trapper, along with her mother and sister, she worked as a servant for several years for John Peyton, Jr.   Explorer, William Cormack, who founded the Beothuk Institute in 1827, brought her to his center to learn from her. She taught him vocabulary and tribal notions and myths, as well as sharing drawings that illustrated their implements, dwellings, and parts of the island.  She died from tuberculosis in 1829, when she was in her twenties.

An amazing amount of research was done here by Dr. Selma nee Huxley Barkham (cousin of Aldous Huxley).  Widowed at the age of thirty-seven with four children under the age of ten to raise, she eventually conducted remarkable research and documented Basque whaling stations.  I hope there will be a biography of her amazing life.  You can read a bit more here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Selma_Barkham.

It was foggy and wet when our ship anchored at eight a.m. and the tenders shuttled people to shore a short time later.  The main attraction was the Visitor Center, with its sixteenth century chalupa-style whaling vessel.

Red Bay, Labrador

Due to the fog our captain soon suspended tendering ashore and the main goal was getting people back on board.

We enjoyed dinner in the dining room and met Marlis and Wayne from the University City area of San Diego by way of Chicago.  We are pretty familiar with the area where they live now, so we enjoyed a lively conversation about San Diego.   This was followed by a fantastic performance by Nestor Santurio.  He was one we’d enjoy seeing again!  Nestor Santurio

We were ready for a sea day and a chance to sleep in!

Corner Brook, Newfoundland~ Day Five

Located on the west coast of Newfoundland, at the mouth of the Humber River, it’s the most northern city in Atlantic Canada. First inhabited by Algonquin hunter-gatherers three-thousand-five hundred years ago, it was “officially” discovered by Jacques Cartier, who was sent by King Francis IV, of France, to find a route to the wealthy markets of Asia in 1534. The area was surveyed by Captain James Cook in 1767, and a statue was erected in his honor on Crow Hill, overlooking the city.  

Having set our clocks forward a half an hour, we were now on Newfoundland time.  We were off the ship as soon as possible so we could meet up with Bay of Islands Search and Rescue Team members.  Back in February, I received the nicest message from one of their members, Alvina (who prefers to be called Al.) “You do not know me but you and your family have been in my heart for nearly 15 years. That’s how long I have been a member of search and rescue. I am one of many very proud presenters of Hug a Tree. It has held a special place in my heart and I really enjoy passing the message. I hope you don’t mind a small town SAR girl living in Corner Brook, Newfoundland Canada dropping in to say hello. I just had to let you know how powerful your quote “so others may live” is. You could not have said it better.  First responding is not what we do, it’s who we are. It’s in our blood. I wouldn’t have it any other way. May this message find you well. Have a fantastic day and know you are thought about and your special little Jimmy will never be forgotten.

Her timing couldn’t have been better.  She sent the message the day after the thirty-eighth anniversary of Jimmy’s death.  The Hug-A-Tree program she mentioned is a survival education program that was developed as a direct result.  It’s designed to teach children, between the ages of five and twelve, how not to get lost and how to help themselves be found safe if they should get lost. The program, which has saved countless lives, is still going strong, thanks to many search and rescue teams and law enforcement agencies.  The Adventure Smart Program in Canada has made this vitally important program widely available.  Here’s a link to the American video: Hug-A-Tree and Survive

One of our greatest joys is the opportunity to thank those who make the program possible.  When I saw on our itinerary that we would be going to Corner Brook, I let Al know.  She made plans to pick us up at the dock. 

Being greeted by several of their team members as we disembarked is a memory that will cement fond memories of Corner Brook in our hearts.  First stop was their BOISAR headquarters for a VIP tour and photos. Though there are many more team members, these are the ones who were available.

After this we set off with Al, for her local view of the area.  We passed the papermill, which employs a good part of the community and produces 700 tonnes of newsprint per day.  The hospital is the largest in western Newfoundland and employs a lot of residents, including Al.

Continuing west, we passed an abundance of small orange boats . . . and the seemingly out of place blue one.  In Lark Harbour we saw what is billed as the oldest house, having been built in 1890.  The extensive inlet serves as an important estuary, supports the fishing industry, provides recreational opportunities and gives access to cruise ships visiting the port . . . as well as cargo deliveries and newsprint export. Corner Brook first became a cruise port in 1979 and is hosting nineteen cruise ships this year. This was the Zuiderdam’s first visit.

After soaking up the splendid scenery, we headed back toward town and stopped for lunch at a new place called, “The Salt Box.”  Al enjoyed the fish and chips, and we finally had a chance to try Cod Tongues . . . with mussels on the side. 

We had time to see a few places in town and too soon it was time to return to the ship. 

We hugged, thankful for each other and the tragedy that united us. We were especially grateful that Holland America chose this port for this cruise.

After dinner we enjoyed a performance by Annie Frances and headed to bed prepared to lose another half hour of sleep.

Sydney, Nova Scotia, Day Four

August 2019

Our friend Hilary and her boyfriend, Ray, met us at the cruise terminal.  We’ve stayed in touch with each other since meeting eight years ago in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada when we were invited to speak at an international search and rescue conference.  Hilary just happened to be in St. John’s on vacation then and stayed at the same hostel as us before we moved to a hotel for the conference.  We became instant friends and are happy it finally worked out to meet again!  Ray is from Sydney, so we had a great tour guide today!

Ray expertly drove us toward Cape Breton as he shared stories of his childhood memoires.  We felt we were glimpsing a very local experience! 

Cape Breton, Nova Scotia Scenery

We stopped at several points for magnificent views . . . and an opportunity to dip our feet in the Atlantic Ocean while Ray bravely dove in!  Brrrrrr!

Jacquie and Hilary in the Atlantic
Ray braves the Atlantic!
Larry, Jacquie, Hilary, Ray
The Fortress of Louisbourg

The Fortress at Louisbourg, originally settled in 1713, stands majestically now as a partially reconstructed National Historic Site of Canada. The fort was built to protect  Quebec City from British invasions.  For this reason, it has been given the nicknames ‘Gibraltar of the North’ or the ‘Dunkirk of America.’ The fort was also built to protect France’s hold on one of the richest fishing grounds in the world, the Grand Banks. One hundred and sixteen men, ten women, and twenty-three children originally settled here.

Though it began as a fishing port, it eventually became the spot where two significant turning points in the Anglo-French struggle, for what is now Canada, took place. It was captured by British colonists in 1745 and was a major bargaining chip in the negotiations leading to the 1748 treaty ending the War of the Austrian Succession. It was returned to the French in exchange for border towns in what is today Belgium. It was captured again in 1758 by British forces in the Seven Years’ War (called the French and Indian War in the United States),  This siege ended the French colonial era in Atlantic Canada and led directly to the loss of Quebec in 1759 and the remainder of French North America the following year.  It’s fortifications were systematically destroyed by British engineers, who continued to have a garrison at Louisbourg until 1768.

The Siege at Louisbourg 1758

Construction for the first lighthouse in Canada, started in 1730.  It was completed in 1734, but the lantern was destroyed by fire in 1736.  It reopened in 1738 with a new lantern. During the 1758 Final Siege at Louisbourg, it provided a commanding gun battery location to bombard the fortress.  It was badly damaged and abandoned by the British after they demolished the fortress.

Cape Breton Lighthouse

The present-day lighthouse was constructed in 1923 and is a twin to the Georges Island Lighthouse in Halifax, Nova Scotia.  The fortress and town were partially reconstructed in the 1960s and 1970s, using some of the original stonework, which provided jobs for unemployed coal miners. It is described as the largest reconstruction project in North America.

Lunch at The Foggy Hermit Café was delicious Haddock Fish and Chips.

We meandered back to the ship and posed with “The World’s Largest Fiddle.” Standing sixty feet tall, it is a ten-ton tribute to the folk music and traditions of the province’s Celtic community.  Made of solid steel, the giant fiddle was dubbed FIDHEAL MHOR A’ CEILIDH or the “Big Fiddle of the Ceilidh”. Ceilidh is a Gaelic word which translates into “visit”.

As we left port, we enjoyed a lighthouse guarding the entrance to the port and the pilot boat pulling alongside our ship for the harbor pilot to disembark.  The temperature on our balcony was very comfortable as we just relaxed and savored the scenery. 

Low Point Lighthouse
Pilot boat alongside the ship

On many cruises we’ve gone to the Lido for meals. This cruise we’re enjoying the main dining room more.  With “As you wish dining,” we’re seated with new companions and enjoy the conversations that develop.  Tonight’s companions were from Boston.  He retired after a career of buying groceries for a co-op, that had taken him all over the United States.  They were both a delight!

It was time to turn in a bit early for a full day tomorrow.

August 1, 2019~~At Sea

We were “At sea” today and the temperature was much more comfortable at 70°.

I’ve mentioned the Cruise Critic Roll Call in previous posts. Through the www.cruisecritic.com website, each cruise has a “roll call.”  It’s a great way to start getting acquainted with others who will be on your cruise.  And, we’ve booked quite a few shore excursions thanks to the research that others do!

One of the customary events organized through this tool is a “Meet & Greet.”  They’re usually scheduled for the first full sea day, so today was the dayl  This one was well organized from the standpoint of having name tags that included the town of residence for everyone.  One person we’d booked a couple of private cruises through had envelopes ready with the tour information, as well as name tags for those excursions.  A man who grew up in a town just forty-five miles south of us, sought us out and we had a nice chat.

Something new was tried on this one . . . a raffle.  Everyone who brought an item was given a raffle ticket.  Unfortunately, several people who did NOT bring an item were also given raffle tickets.  The outcome was not pretty.  Hopefully the next one will be conducted a little more fairly.

The first culinary demonstration was at one p.m. In the past, on board chefs or a guest chef taught the class.  One of the changes Holland America made a couple of years ago was contracting with “America’s Test Kitchen” cooking show.  One of their staff members does the teaching, which is supplemented by short video segments.  On previous cruises we’ve received complimentary copies of “Cook’s Country.”  In the effort to reduce paper, we no longer get those.  We are receiving paper copies of recipes, but those are being phased out as well.  Thankfully we’ll have access to the recipes via their website.

Pad Thai
Scallion Pancake with Dipping Sauce

Today’s class was on preparing your own “Take Out,” and had recipes for Scallion Pancakes and Pad Thai.  I’d seen this one before and have made the Pad Thai recipe a few times.  The chef made the Scallion Pancake and Dipping Sauce look easy enough . . . I’ll have to try it at home.   Larry went to a “class” on the history of diamonds . . . it was pretty much a sales pitch. 

We’d agreed to meet for the three-p.m. lecture on “Basque Whalers and Cod Fishers” by Dr. Tommie Sue.  I was glad I arrived early and also heard the lecture by our Cruise Director, on “Discovering Corner Brook, Newfoundland and Red Bay, Labrador.” 

It’s amazing to think of the intestinal fortitude of explorers in the sixteenth century who ventured across the “Great Pond” in search of a route to Asia.  Jacques Cartier was sent by King Francis I of France to seek gold, spices and the elusive passage.  Instead he discovered Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island, and the Gulf of St. Lawrence.  His efforts pleased the King, who sent him back the following year to discover Quebec.  This expedition led the French to later lay claim to North America. 

Jacques Cartier Expeditions

John Cabot was an early explorer who persuaded King Henry VII to allow him to explore westward. In 1497 he reached Newfoundland, Labrador, and possibly Cape Breton. He returned in 1498 with five ships and two hundred men. His crew reported that, “The sea there is full of fish that can be taken not only with nets, but with fishing baskets.”

John Cabot’s First Voyage

More fishermen arrived. The Spanish, Portuguese, and French salted their catch on board their ships to return to their countries and sell them. The English didn’t have as much salt, so they lightly salted them for a short period, thoroughly washed them, and air dried them. This resulted in a lightly salted product for which Newfoundland became famous.

Wars in the late sixteenth century pretty well eliminated the Basque and Spanish fisheries and the English and French dominated the Grand Banks, Gulf of St. Lawrence, and Newfoundland’s south coast. In the early eighteenth century, As a result of wars in the eighteenth century, France gave up it’s right to fish on the south coast, and received the rights to fish on the west coast and northern peninsula until 1904.

It’s so interesting to attend these lectures, especially since they’re about the places we’re going.  If only it could have been as interesting in school!

Tonight was the first of six gala nights.  So, we gussied up and headed to the dining room, by way of the photographer.  Hopefully there will be at least one good photo!  We were seated with five other people and enjoyed a lively conversation.  I tried something new . . . when they got around to asking what our employment had been, I asked them to guess. Of course, no one suspected I’d been in law enforcement.  That was fun!

Escargots is generally available only on gala nights.  We enjoy it so much, we each had one order and shared an order. Now, we’re looking forward to next time . . . it was so yummy!  Larry’s lamb chops were perfectly tender, as was my tenderloin.  Thankfully the portions have been scaled down over the years, which we hope leads to less waste.

The captain hosted a champagne toast on the Mainstage and was followed by an outstanding performance by “The Knights.” They played music of “knight’s” of the British Empire, such as Sir Elton John, Sir Paul McCartney, Sir Rod Stewart, Sir Andrew Lloyd Weber, etc.  Their vocal harmony was excellent!  Two of the members are from the U.K. and the other is from Australia. 

We set our clocks forward an hour at two a.m., so it was time to head to bed and be ready to get up early to meet friends in Sydney, Nova Scotia.

Let the voyage begin!

July 30, 2019

Thankfully we didn’t have to rush away from our AirBnB.  Emily was a great landlord!  She didn’t have tenants arriving today, so she let us check out two hours late.  Our Uber arrived and we enjoyed chatting with the driver on the way to the cruiseport.  He was a Marine veteran and played arena football for 10 years in Maine, and easily lifted our big suitcases in and out of his SUV. Since I didn’t inherit the packing gene, suffice it to say that we did have suitcases.

Cruiseport Boston

Check in and boarding was the smoothest we’ve had!  Our cabin was ready and within an hour our luggage was delivered.  We did some unpacking and then headed to the Lido for a small bite and some iced tea.  As we finished unpacking, our delightful steward, Deden, (from Indonesia) arrived.  He took care of the necessary extension cord for the C Pap and ordered the distilled water.  He’s a charmer!

The mandatory passenger safety drill was at 4:30 pm.  It was still much too warm for my comfort level, so I was thankful for my Frogg Toggs Chilly Pad to help keep me a little bit cooler.

Initially, I couldn’t get the HAL Navigator app to work on my phone.  I’d previously downloaded it from the Google Play Store and successfully used it on other cruises. So we stopped by the front office and of course it worked then to get logged on without assistance.  The app, that works when you’re onboard, provides daily program information, deck plans, internet information, spa and salon services, dinner menus for the dining room and Lido (buffet), the ability to reserve specialty dining, check your onboard account balance, your itinerary of daily activities that you add, and even a way to message other passengers. And, it’s free! All you need is a smart phone and a twelve year-old to help you. If you want to connect to the internet it’s pricey, but as you move up in Mariner status, there is a discount.

HAL Navigator App

The Lido had a line out the door for dinner, so we headed to the main dining room.  We were seated with Warren and Vickie, from Boston. They’re also 5 star cruisers and were a delight to chat with.  Warren is eighty-eight and Vicki almost eighty-one.  As we meandered back toward the front of the ship, we ran into friends, Tm and Julie!  We first met on the 2016 World Cruise, and then again on the 2017 Grand South America. We caught up briefly with them and continued forward.  Bonita, whom we also met on the 2016 World Cruise, spotted us and ran over for a hug.  We chatted and continued on to relax in our cabin. 

Though we were scheduled to depart at eleven pm, the tides must have been favorable and we pulled out about an hour early.  From our balcony, we watched the skyline grow smaller as jets took to the air from Boston Logan International Airport and flew directly overhead! 

We settled in and relished the familiar gentle rocking of the ship.  Ahhhhhhhh . . . time for good night’s sleep!

It won’t be long!

I’ve mentioned before that it took two years to talk dear Hubby’s parents into going on a cruise after our first indulgent experience.  Gifting them with their first Caribbean Cruise for their fiftieth wedding anniversary in 1987, was incentive.  They were bitten by the cruise bug and went on at least ten more cruises, two of which were with us.  One cruise took them to Iceland.  Mom just raved about it, and Hubby has wanted to go there ever since. 

We’re finally going there this summer . . . along with a few other ports.  We booked the “Voyage of the Vikings” and look forward to visiting some new places and a few we’ve been to before.

Prepping for a thirty-five-day cruise has its challenges, even for those who are experienced. A notebook with sections labeled: Pre-cruise; Flight Info; Cruise Documents; Insurance; Calendar; Cruise Critic Info (more on that later); Tours; and Post Cruise; sure helps with keeping track. As soon as something is booked, it’s printed and added. This is one of the most popular cruises for Holland America, so we booked in October 2018.  Since the cruise begins in Boston, Massachusetts, we’ll go a week early to visit family members and friends and see some sights we missed last time.  We also started researching an Air BnB to insure we had a good selection.  Initially I found one that looked good, but when I shared the information with our friend, Amber, (who lives there) she said, “NOOOOOOOOOOOO! Not in that area!”  She kindly checked out several rentals and recommended a few.  When I settled on one and shared it with her, she assured me it was in a good location and conveniently located to public transportation.  We’ve heard that driving there has its challenges, so Uber will also be handy.

It seemed prudent to take a direct flight, so we made a reservation at the Holiday Inn (near the airport) in Portland, Oregon. They have a convention center with plenty of parking and let us leave our car for an extended period. To avoid complications on the other end, we reserved a hotel, near Boston Logan Airport, for the day the cruise returns, just so we don’t have to rush. Since it’s a three- and half-hour drive home from Portland, we’re staying another night to be able to rest well after our return flight.  Thank goodness for frequent flyer miles and hotel points!

With the preliminary details covered, it was time to start planning the fun part!  Yet again, the Cruise Critic website has been a valuable resource.  We joined their online “Roll Call” (for those sailing on this trip) and were soon connected with a LOT of other cruisers.(Every cruise has a “roll call” and we’ve found it to be a valuable resource for learning about private shore excursions and finding people with similar interests before we sail.) Thankfully someone usually takes on the task of organizing at least one “meet and greet”; a cabin crawl (to view different types of cabins); shore excursions; and other fun activities.  An experienced fellow cruiser created a spreadsheet that includes the itinerary; names (cabin number, dining preference, etc. for those who have signed up); port; excursion; currency; temperature; useful websites; member tips; and other helpful information.                                                  

With several tours already booked, our countdown clock is ticking!  Sixty-two days until we board!  My “kister” (cousin who is more like a sister) and I have a twelve-day trip in June to Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.  When I return on July 1st, I’ll have just over two weeks to get ready! Is it too early to start packing?