A walk to the cruise ship, farewell to Montréal, dinner in The Terrace grill, late room turndown, a long but excellent tour of Québec City and environs
On Monday, we slept in, thinking that breakfast was available until 11:00 at the hotel (we got there about 10:35). Oops – it closed at 10:30, but the great staff was very accommodating and we had coffee, juice and bagels. We grabbed our bags, checked out and walked to the pier, a first in 25 cruises. It was a short ten-minute walk and we were processed quickly and immediately got on the ship. Our stateroom is 7096, a concierge veranda on the port side, a few doors toward the stern from the aft elevators; we’re 99% certain this was our cabin on our first Regatta cruise in 2010. Our bags were already in the hallway, so time for “happy, tidy”; Steve set up his iPhone to do a funny fast-motion video of our bag-emptying. The cabin attendant, Nattalia, also came by and seemed at that time to be very efficient (a loose door handle on the bathroom door was fixed immediately).
Dinner Monday night was in the informal Terrace Grill – grilled lamp chops, pasta with an excellent marinara sauce, and great desserts. It was my birthday on Monday, but I didn’t want a fuss, so this worked out well. We were a bit tired, so we decided to head back to the room, read and retire early because of our full day planned in Québec City Tuesday. We got to the room a little after 8:00 pm and were quite surprised that the evening turndown service in our room had not been done. This was a first, as we have never been on a cruise where the room was still in “daytime mode” this late and never after dinner. The cover was still on the bed for emptying luggage, curtains were open and the bathroom had not been checked for towel usage. We waited and waited and finally about 8:40 I went into the hallway to see if our cabin attendant and her assistant were there. Nope….so I paged Nattalia ….no response. I was not very happy at this point and called guest services. Immediately after this call, Nattalia called back and we asked for the turndown service. She seemed flustered and offered up excuses, but they showed up right away. Apparently, Oceania has a new rule that you should put the “make up my room” card out on the door whenever you want service, in the morning or evening. This is not a good rule and will be a problem when you forget to put the stupid card out. Grrrrr… Oh, well, a first world problem again, but we also did pay a lot for the service, so there’s that consideration.
Ok, so after the late turndown we slept well and got up in plenty of time for our Tuesday excursion at 8:30 am, entitled “Grand Exploration of Québec”. When I booked this tour several months ago, it sounded comprehensive without being exhausting and was, in fact, advertised as appropriate for folks using wheelchairs and scooters. Our bus was not full, with about 25 total, which was quite nice. Right off the bat, however, the accessibility aspect of the trip was completely compromised when we did a forty-minute walking tour of old Quebec City, complete with some small, steep hills and lots of cobblestones and no place to sit while our excellent, but detail-oriented, guide stood for long periods and threw out facts and dates about many of the buildings in this historic area. We finally re-boarded the bus to our next stop, Montmorency Falls, located a short distance outside of town. This cataract is taller than Niagara Falls, although not nearly as wide, but it is impressive. There were two paths at the top of the falls, one that required quite a few stairs and another path that was supposedly easier to get to the falls. I envisioned a short walk behind the historic building, but we walked a fairly long distance before finally arriving at the suspension bridge above the falls. I saw many elderly people from our ship and the Ruby Princess (also in port) trying to hurry along this trail to see the falls. The view from the suspension bridge was not at all impressive, so Steve went down to a nearby lookout (52 steps each way) to grab some photos and we headed back.
So far, I was not a happy camper, believing that the easy-to-moderate rating of the tour was quite misleading. We boarded the bus again and had a short stop at the bottom of the Falls for the best scenic shots. Our nice guide assured me that the worst walking was over for the trip, but my back was starting to get stiff.
From the Falls, we crossed a bridge nearby over to Ile de Orléans, an island in the middle of the St. Lawrence seaway. This large island has been the home to farmers since the 1600s and it was very beautiful; the main crops are strawberries and real maple products and there are fruit orchards. We pulled up at an Inn on the west side of the island, facing Québec City, and had a lovely lunch. Steve and I both had the chicken with a mustard sauce, on a bed of mashed sweet potatoes. Our table mates were a mixed bag, with a nice couple from Georgia and a pair of grumps from California. After lunch we headed further east to St. Anne de Beaupré, a village that was home to an absolutely huge basilica that has been on the site since the 1600’s (the current incarnation was built in the late 1800’s and is still a work in progress). We entered the basilica and were quite impressed with the mosaics and intricate ceiling, but found it to be less spiritually moving than the exquisite Notre-Dame Basilica in Montréal. Again, lots of walking was involved inside and to get to the restrooms outside; we rejoined the group on the bus and headed back to Québec City for our last two stops.
The weather Tuesday varied from nearly pleasant to downright frigid, but at least it wasn’t raining. We had some sun early and during our stops outside of town, but when we returned to Québec City, it was overcast and a nasty, cold wind was blowing. Our next stop (a short one) was at the Plains of Abraham, the site of many battles between the French and British and even the fledging Americans, who invaded Canada during the Revolutionary War. My great-great-great-great-great Grandfather (I think I have enough greats) on my Dad’s mother’s side of the family emigrated from Germany to New York in 1754 and moved his family to Québec when the Revolutionary war started because he wanted to support the British, so he likely fought in some of those battles.
Our final stop of the tour was a 30-minute free time near Chateau Frontenac, in the upper “old town”. This famous landmark is only one of two tall buildings within the city wall of Québec City. We walked around for a while in the bitterly cold wind, but didn’t have enough time to really do anything. We boarded the bus one last tome and arrived back at the dock about 4:00 pm. Although the tour was physically challenging for me, we thought it was quite interesting and certainly gave us a good glimpse of the highlights of this beautiful and prosperous city. We would love to come back in warm weather! The people that live in Québec City (and Montréal for that matter) certainly must be able to enjoy winter, because they have snow on the ground from November to April.
Well, to my surprise (or not) when I checked my Virgin Pulse gizmo, I had over 11,000 steps Tuesday, which is a new record for steps in a day since I started tracking earlier this year. My back was not happy, but seemed to recover fairly quickly last night. We had a couple of glasses of wine at happy hour, ate a light dinner in the Terrace, and played evening trivia, getting the all-important Big O points towards cheesy shirts and hats. When we got back to the room, we had a pleasant surprise: We are invited to have dinner with the Chief Engineer on Friday! We keep thinking we had an officer dinner experience one other time, but we can’t remember which cruise. This will be fun!
Today, Wednesday, is a day at sea cruising the St. Lawrence seaway towards Nova Scotia. We can see land to the south (New Brunswick) but not to the north. It’s partly cloudy and very calm. Stay tuned!