Farewell to Regatta, Fun Day in Miami, Highlights and Lowlights

We disembarked Regatta on Tuesday, after a busy evening saying good-bye to folks, playing our final trivia game, and cashing in our Big O Points. Destination Services offered a $69/person tour after disembarkation for people with flights after 1:00 pm. We boarded a Big Bus (HoHo type), our luggage was stored, and we started off with a 90-minute tour of downtown, Coconut Grove, Coral Gables and Little Havana. After a brief potty stop at Bayside Market, the second 90-minute tour included South Beach art deco hotels and the big hotels on Miami Beach, as well as downtown South Beach. We took lots of photos and enjoyed the mild day seeing all the sights. The tour guide was terrific, very knowledgable about everything “Miami”.

Our flight left right on time to Houston, after running the gauntlet through very slow counter service at United and extremely slow lines through security (we barely made it to the gate prior to boarding). Miami International is among our least favorite airports, but at least we left on time. In Houston, we had a long walk from our gate to our connecting flight, which was a little late leaving, but made it to Denver almost on time. At home, the kittens were glad to see us and we went to bed early.

Now, on to the highlights and the lowlights:

Highlights:

1) Montreal: We loved this city and our small hotel in Vieux Montreal. It was very chilly, but that didn’t stop us from exploring and we found excellent bistros right near our hotel with delicious food and great service. Our carriage ride was also fun!
2) Quebec City: Another beautiful place! The tour was challenging for me with all of the walking and standing, but in the end, I was glad we saw so much of Quebec City and the environs (Montmorency Falls, Ile de Orleans, St. Anne du Beaupre). It would be wonderful to start a cruise here or have an overnight stop.
3) Halifax: Our private tour was shortened and it was rainy, but this city seemed dynamic and we loved the dramatic coastline near Peggy’s Cove. Some folks consider Peggy’s Cove to be too “touristy”, but it seemed authentic to us and we were there with very few other visitors. The private tour was excellent and our driver, Stewart, was knowledgable, a smooth driver, and fun to talk with.
4) Bar Harbor, Maine: This locale was spectacularly scenic and we enjoyed our tour, even with the superfluous stops at a historic B&B and the lobster oceanarium. Lunch was fun by the harbor in the fall sunlight.
4) Peacefield (Adams Home), Boston: The tour through this historic property required lots of standing and going up and down steep staircases, but it was worth every minute. The Park Ranger who led our group was superb, obviously deeply knowledgable and compassionate about John Adams, Abigail Adams, John Quincy Adams and the rest of the family.
5) New York: What can you say about this city? Cruising in and out during daylight hours was fantastic, we loved the High Line experience, enjoyed lunch at the Empire Diner and had fun exploring the Intrepid Museum.
6) Bermuda: This island is lovely, full of prosperous and nice people and tidy homes painted with lovely colors. Even after two recent hurricanes, Bermuda looked neater and tidier than many Caribbean islands.
7) Airboat ride, Florida: Although we were sorry we didn’t get to visit Charleston, our “Plan B” in Port Canaveral turned out well and the airboat ride on the St. John River was a lot of fun on a lovely day.
8) Regatta: We enjoyed our cruise very much and had excellent service (for the most part), superb food everywhere and liked the folks on our trivia team. Martini’s Bar is like a second living room for us! Captain Hansen is a delight and we had some fun conversations with other crew members.
9) Trump Tower, Toronto: The only highlight in this sprawling city was our stay at this magnificent hotel and dinner at “America”.
10) Niagara Falls: We finally saw Niagara Falls and enjoyed the experience, especially on the Canadian side.
11) Oh, and who can forget the Bingo win? We found out from Thomas, the assistant cruise director, that they miscalculated the snowball amount because they played two games on the last day at sea (Sunday), so we got more than we “should have” because of this error. They did the right thing and awarded us the amount that was advertised. This wiped out our shipboard account and we got some cash back, too!

Lowlights:

1) My prescription scare: I really didn’t need this panic at the start of the trip, but fortunately we were mere minutes from the United States and I was able to get sufficient quantities of prednisone from a Walgreen’s in a bad neighborhood in rundown Niagara, New York to cover the trip and a few days beyond.
2) Greater Toronto: This city is one giant traffic headache and full of construction on the streets. We were glad to get “out of town” and do not have a single photo from here and are not sure we would go back.
3) The drive from Toronto to Montreal: This was pretty boring, full of trucks and took almost 8 hours. I wish we had more time to explore the side roads in the area.
4) Sydney, Nova Scotia: Although the countryside is scenic, we had a pretty boring tour to the Alexander Graham Bell museum and the small town of Baddeck nearby. The museum could be covered in less than an hour (we had more time) and the town was completely unremarkable and mostly closed for the season.
5) Boston cruise terminal and the JFK library: The Boston cruise terminal is very unattractive, although they claim to be renovating it soon. After the Adams house tour, the JFK presidential library was not nearly as interesting, although some of the exhibits were worth seeing.
6) Night tour in New York: Standing in line for more than an hour to see the view from the Empire State Building was not my idea of fun (Steve agreed). We bailed out early and were glad we didn’t complete the tour.
7) Bad weather at sea, missing Charleston: We had rough seas before reaching Halifax, shortening our time there, but the “mother” of storms awaited us when we left Bermuda. This monster along the eastern seaboard from mid-Florida to Virginia had force 10 seas and made moving around the ship difficult for almost two days, plus at least one passenger was injured. We were really looking forward to seeing Charleston, but will definitely put it on the planning radar for a trip in the future.
8) Bad news from places we had been and were going: It was a bit disconcerting to read about Ebola concerns in New York, terrorist attacks in Canada, and hurricanes in Bermuda, but we had no issues and hopefully no health problems will crop up.
9) Opinionated Roll Call members: We are glad we didn’t pursue the argument with the opinionated Canadians at our small meet and greet. They did try to make amends toward the end of the cruise, which was good. We ran into a few other grumpy Canadians (surprising), but most of the passengers on this cruise were pretty nice.

All in all, this was one of our favorite cruises. Number 25 is in the books, we now have 219 days at sea, and we look forward to the next adventure! Check back soon!

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Cognitive dissonance in Port Canaveral, Fun airboat excursion, We’re all packed, cashing in our Big O points

The seas became completely calm after dinner Sunday and we docked late that night in Port Canaveral to offload the injured passenger. This morning, we freaked out while eating a leisurely breakfast in a port where we have embarked/debarked on four Disney cruises. We thought about those early and rushed debarkation mornings (ours is unfortunately tomorrow) and relaxed on the Terrace having coffee with a nice view of Disney Dream (one of the ships we cruised on in 2011, a fun but ridiculously short 3-day cruise).

At 10:15 am, we got on the bus for our tour to Midway airboats, located near Christmas, Florida (northwest of Titusville). This airboat company is on the St. John river, which is a big flood plain for much of the year. It was cool today, in the low 70’s, so we definitely needed the jackets we brought. Each airboat seats 16 people and our group was large enough to require three boats. Passengers put on noise-dampening headsets with microphones to ask questions and we were advised to not bring anything with us that we didn’t want to lose, so I left the cane on the bus and we didn’t wear hats. And we were off!! The boat pulled away from the dock and our Captain hit the gas almost immediately. These airboats can reach a top speed of 60 mph and it really feels like you are flying across the water and grasses.

Although it was a cool and windy, but sunny, day, we were fortunate to see several alligators trying to warm themselves in the sun, along with many different types of birds (anhinga, cormorants, herons, ibises, roseate spoonbills) and the strange phenomenon of seeing cattle that graze and swim in the shallow flood plain. Our boat also entered a beautiful Bald Cypress grove on protected land that is flooded now, but will be dry land in a few weeks. The trip was over too soon and it was a lot of fun. Before we boarded the bus, we could pose for pictures holding a young alligator. The shop attached to the boat dock also had a huge resident Vietnamese pot-bellied pig named Pork Chop, who was adorable.

We packed when we got back to the ship. Tomorrow in Miami we are doing a HoHo bus trip to kill time before heading to the ship for our flight through Houston to home. They will store our bags while we gawk at the art deco hotels in South Beach.

This afternoon we played our last trivia game for points; our team, the Quebec Nordiques, came in second overall and we cashed in for “terrific prizes”. With our 101 points, we got a visor, an umbrella and Steve got a long-sleeve white t-shirt. Wheeee!!!

Finally,we’re keeping an eye on our shipboard account. We have a nice little credit from the Bingo win, but it hasn’t hit our credit card yet (might take a little time).

My final post about our trip home and the highlights and lowlights, will be added soon.

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Heading to Port Canaveral (how ironical), Steve hits the Bingo jackpot!

This evening (Sunday), the seas are calming nicely, at last. We sat outside this afternoon at Waves Grill in fairly pleasant temperatures for a few hours, then played trivia at 4:30. We’re doing ok as a team, but are not the winning group.

Apparently last night, during the bad night at sea, an elderly guest in a suite in the forward area of deck 7 fell getting out of the tub and broke his leg; he was doing this stupidity while we were in force 9 or 10 seas. Our alternate port was then declared: Port Canaveral. We have sailed out of this port four times on Disney and, of course, I am very familiar with the area from previous work assignments. We will dock later tonight to transfer this patient off the ship, then we get to do our passport inspections at 0800 am (thank you, Feds). We signed up for an airboat tour on the St. John river that leaves at 10:30. There is also a tour to KSC, but we plan to visit in December.

Now, on to stunning news: Last night, on a lark, we played Bingo for the first time in years on a cruise ship and failed miserably, as is our pattern. Tonight after trivia, they held the last snowball bingo tournament so we signed up again for six cards each for four games ($60 total for two). The final game was a blackout, with the winner receiving over $2700. To my astonishment, Steve had two more numbers to go on one of the six cards; they called I22, which he needed, then a couple of useless numbers. Then, the very crucial B8 came up – winner, winner chicken dinner!!! Another person called Bingo at the same time and her card was wrong. So, we won more than enough to pay our shipboard credit, cover our deposit on the 2016 cruise and take a dent out of our night at the Trump Tower in Toronto! What a lovely thing! We’re so blessed!

Oh, and the wonderful Palmetto Carriage Works refunded our carriage ride in Charleston.

More after our day at Port Canaveral tomorrow.

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Alas, no stop at Charleston, thanks to cranky Mama Nature

Well, we are now 0-2 in our attempts to visit the lovely city of Charleston, South Carolina. In 2011 (our Southern Comfort trip), we spent four nights in Hilton Head and had every intention of doing a day trip there, but decided the four-hour round trip was not worth it. Driving north from Hilton Head to the Outer Banks on that same trip, we journeyed through through the outskirts of the city but did not have time to go into the historic area.

Now, on this cruise, we are foiled once again. Starting yesterday afternoon, Regatta entered a massive storm cell in this region of the Atlantic stretching from northern Florida to Virginia, with some areas getting winds above 50 knots and waves greater than 30 feet. Our mildly bouncing Saturday turned into a very rough night. The evening show was canceled and most people retreated to their cabins, us included. My balance is not good and I don’t want to risk a fall, so we had a room service dinner. Although we both felt fine, we knew that sleeping would be difficult with all of the motion, so Steve ran to the boutique and bought some Dramamine for its other effect (a mild sleep aid). Regatta bounced and pitched and rolled all night, but we did sleep. Our muscles got a workout making sure we stayed in the bed :-).

Early this morning, the Captain informed everyone that our scheduled stop today in Charleston was no longer possible because he had to deviate course and go very slowly to avoid possible injuries and damage to the ship. This is quite understandable given the conditions, so I guess we’ll have to make an effort to go to Charleston directly someday and spend time there. We may eat the $135 we spent booking a carriage ride, but at least the restaurant reservation (Slightly North of Broad) was canceled easily. As I’m writing this, we somehow made it to the Baristas on Deck five, where we are watching 20-25 foot seas under a lovely partly cloudy sky as we head south away from the storm; some waves reach as high as the windows on this deck.

We disembark Tuesday in Miami, so we may have two more days at sea or they might opt for a stop in Nassau (one of our least favorite ports) or possibly Port Canaveral.

Oh, one other interesting thing that happened – we were sitting outside at Waves grill yesterday afternoon before we hit the main storm area. The ship cruised through a few isolated rain showers and the temperature was nice, although the winds were pretty high. Suddenly, the wind started howling and rapidly increased in frequency until our ears popped! It was a microburst, right above the pool deck! And I also need to add a funny story – the bad seas began in earnest while we were playing trivia in the Regatta lounge, forward on Deck 5. We decided to stay afterwards and participate in that eternal cruise ship tradition, Bingo. Tom, the assistant cruise director and one of the entertainers, was calling the numbers. He kept fanning his face with bingo cards and finally asked Hailey, another entertainer who was assisting during the game, to take over for him. Tom ran behind the curtains of the stage and emerged a little while later, looking a bit like Kermit the Frog. Many of the staff are not immune to bad seas and their effects.

More later as we wind down the cruise.

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Nice day at sea, Oceania Club party, excellent dinner, docked in Bermuda, the resilient people of Bermuda

Wednesday was a relaxing day at sea. The sea and air temperature warmed up and we enjoyed the time outside as we cruised from New York to Bermuda. Wednesday evening was the Oceania Club party; over 400 of the ~650 passengers on board are repeat passengers, including some folks with ten or more cruises. We got our “bronze” pins before the party for having done five cruises. Before we went to the party we turned in the paperwork for a cruise for 2016 to get the shipboard incentives and chose a 16-day journey from Lima, Peru to New York on Marina that goes through the Panama Canal and will give us four new countries.

We heard during the party that our original docking location in Bermuda (St. George) was problematic due to forecasted winds on Friday afternoon, so the Captain said we would dock at Heritage Wharf (also known as the King’s Wharf area). St. George has a very narrow pass into the harbor, so it can be an issue.

After the party, we went to dinner Wednesday evening in the Grand Dining Room. We invited another couple to join us. I had a free-range chicken remoulade done with fontina cheese and prosciutto and Steve had a veal Bolognese pasta and both entrees were superb. Dessert for me was another amazing pistachio and chocolate thingie (love those combinations).

We slept in Thursday morning and Regatta docked around 11:00 am. Steve didn’t get the alarm set, so we were racing through preparations and of course they varied the times for meal setups for the first time in the cruise. We finally found continental breakfast items in the Horizon Lounge.

Heritage Wharf is attached to the more well-known King’s Wharf, across the bay from Hamilton. This area is at the western and northern tip of the strangely shaped series of attached islands that make up Bermuda (Bermuda looks like a big fishhook). The national museum is located here, with the large British fortress on the spit of land nearby. The wharf area was very nicely laid out and immaculate. We found it hard to believe this island was hit by two hurricanes less than a month ago. We walked around one of the square areas and found a nice art shop and bought a few items. Next to the shop was a pub, the Frog and Onion, and we sat outside for a while and had a snack and drinks (Steve loved the beer). Bermuda is overrun by wild chickens and roosters; they are beautiful birds and several came near us while we ate. Afterwards, we went inside (the pub was very large and quaint) and bought great t-shirts in bright orange and black for Halloween.

We walked back towards the ship and visited another establishment near the ship, striking up a nice conversation with a local family and seeing many crew members relaxing, including Captain Hansen, who waved at us as he passed with a pretty girlfriend in tow! He was wearing a Captain America t-shirt (hilarious).

We got back on board, relaxed for a while and had dinner outside at the Terrace. This morning (Friday), we had our last ship excursion of the cruise, a tour to Hamilton and back. We boarded one of the small pink buses and had fun with our driver/guide C.C. Smith. He seemed very concerned that we wouldn’t like Bermuda because of the hurricane damage, but what we saw was a populace working hard to restore order. You can visit some of the Caribbean hellholes years after a hurricane and still see damage and dilapidation (heck, you can still see that in New Jersey), but the people of Bermuda love their home, have a high standard of living and want it to be picture-perfect. Our bus traveled through villages, across the smallest drawbridge in the world (the opening is wide enough for a sailboat mast) and past many churches. The homes, churches and other buildings are painted in a variety of wonderful colors, including blue, pink, orange, yellow, bright green, cream (with contrasting shutters), purple, and other lovely shades.

The tour stopped at a lighthouse near Horseshoe bay for pictures, then continued on into Hamilton. We had one hour of free time, which seemed nice, but we weren’t sure what to do, since the Main Street is filled with shops and banks and it was too early for a sidewalk cafe. I must make a confession: A few months ago Steve and I did the 23andMe genetic testing, which is primarily for ancestry tagging. However, they did inform me that I had a fragment gene that wasn’t working properly, the one that drives most women into a frenzy when they get near a shopping district (just kidding, but it could be true). My Mom was an inveterate shopper, but I find it to be really boring and follow the apparently male instinct of “go in, buy the target item, leave”. I do like art galleries and folk art and the occasional jewelry store, but clothing/purses/shoes and other ladies accoutrements make me almost panicky.

So we walked a few blocks in Hamilton, took a few pictures, then sat by the waterside near the bus until we left. We really liked Bermuda and would like to come back. We’re sitting in Waves grill outside right now awaiting our departure (pilot was late). The weather is close to perfection right now. Apparently, we might also get rough seas tomorrow on our way to Charleston. We’re supposed to arrive at noon Sunday and we booked a private carriage tour at 2:20 pm (not cheap, at $135 for an hour). I hope we make it on time!

More to come from our last port on Sunday. Oh, and by the way, this has been a very good cruise overall, ranking up there near the top in terms of the experiences. It still isn’t over yet, but we’re pretty happy at this point.

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Shortened nighttime tour, a visit to the Intrepid museum, heading to Bermuda

At 6:45 pm Monday, we met for the nighttime city lights tour. At first, this seemed like a fun way to see the city. Our bus journeyed south, through Chelsea, SoHo, and Tribeca and crossed the city on Canal street through Chinatown to the Manhattan bridge, crossing over to Brooklyn. We were let off the bus near the River Cafe, and rewarded with amazing views of the Downtown skyline and the Brooklyn Bridge. Our next stop was the Empire State Building. Keep in mind that we were here on a Monday night in late October. We got our group tickets and proceeded to the security checkpoint; at this location, we found out that the wait time for our group to get to the 86th floor observing platform would be at least an hour. My back was not feeling well at all and I knew I would struggle to stand in line for an hour. I told the guide that we did not want to wait that long (Steve agreed). Our guide offered the group an option to continue waiting or we could take the bus back to the pier, skipping Times Square. We were the only folks who left; we have been to the viewing area before (not having to wait that long that time for just two people). We were glad we came back to the ship, because I would guess the tour ended very late and Times Square is, IMHO, quite intimidating, especially with crowds at night. I guess we chalk that one up to experience; probably time to get my back checked again when we get back.

This morning we had breakfast, then walked a fairly short distance to the Intrepid Air, Sea and Space Museum, located a couple of piers south. The USS Intrepid, an aircraft carrier and anti-submarine air support vessel, was commissioned in 1943 and saw significant action during WWII, including battles in the Marshall Islands, Palau, Leyte Gulf and Okinawa. It was damaged by a torpedo and two separate kamikaze attacks and was briefly decommissioned after the war. Intrepid then went went through upgrades to support jet aircraft and participated in NATO and Cold War exercises, as well as being designated as the carrier to pick up Scott Carpenter after the flight of Aurora 7 (Mercury program) and the crew of Gemini 3 (John Young/Gus Grissom). Undergoing more retrofits, Intrepid saw more action during the Vietnam war, setting speed records at the time for consecutive aircraft launches, and was finally decommissioned in 1974. The museum concept was developed in the early 1980’s and the carrier was moved from a scrap yard in Philadelphia to New York. Intrepid is now home to the shuttle drop test vehicle Enterprise, which was moved from the Smithsonian Udvar-Hazy museum near Dulles, Virginia to New York in 2011; it also has a large number of military aircraft and helicopters of various vintages, a companion cold-war submarine (Growler), a Concorde aircraft and many other exhibits. It was quite interesting to visit this facility, although it was overrun today with loud and unruly school groups.

We sailed at 4:00 pm and had incredible views again of midtown and downtown; we thought the light would be flat with the haze and a few high clouds as we left, but it was amazing, especially with all of the water traffic. We saw that the QM2 was docked in Brooklyn, so it was good to see that large ship again after our transatlantic on her in June, 2010. We have a day at sea tomorrow (Wednesday), then we arrive in Bermuda on Friday at noon.

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Photos: Halifax, Bar Harbor, Boston, and New York City

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A contrast between Presidents, Cape Cod Canal and the Big Apple, The High Line Stroll, lunch at the Empire Diner

At noon Sunday, we left the Boston cruise terminal south of the city for our tour of the Old House (Peacefield) at the Adams Historical Park, followed by time at the JFK Presidential Library and exhibits. The trip to Quincy, south of Boston, was pretty quick and soon we pulled up in front of the historical house that John and Abigail Adams bought in 1787 and occupied on and off until their deaths, including during the time while John Adams served as Vice-President and as the second president of the United States. Their son, John Quincy Adams (sixth president of the United States) also lived here with his wife and family. Two more generations of Adams resided in the house (sometimes in the summer only) until 1927. The National Park Service received the home and much smaller property in 1947. The Adams never threw anything away, so the house was full of their belongings and books.

The Park Service divided our bus into small groups. Interestingly, we visited on the weekend celebrating the 250th wedding anniversary of John and Abigail Adams. Our park ranger was absolutely superb, one of the best tour guides we have ever had for a historical site. She brought the history of the house alive, showing us the original rooms in the small, unusual brick structure, as well as the additions overseen by Abigail and the stone library constructed after the passing of Charles Adams, the third-generation member of the family and the ambassador to Britain under Abraham Lincoln. We couldn’t take pictures inside the buildings, due to the narrow confines and the plethora of fragile antiquities. This was a wonderful visit, however, and we walked away with renewed admiration for John and Abigail Adams and their legacy.

Next, we journeyed to the JFK presidential library and archives, situated on a spit of land with a beautiful view of Boston proper. The exhibits begin with a 17-minute film, narrated by JFK himself, talking about his youth, WWII service, book-writing and burgeoning interest in politics, including his congressional and senatorial campaigns. The film ends with him accepting the 1960 Democratic nomination as their candidate for the presidency. The exhibits take off from this point, with the election, the inauguration, and the years of the presidency. The assassination is handled with small TVs in a black wall with the breaking news from Dallas. There was also a special exhibit on the Cuban missile crisis. Although this facility very interesting, we enjoyed the visit to Peacefield much more. Our country has diverged so much from the ideals of the Founding Fathers, with all of their faults. JFK was a classic liberal, in many ways, but he was also an heir to the philosophy of big, paternalistic federal government.

After our time at the library, we returned to the ship just in time to sail (missing trivia). Regatta cruised through the harbor, then turned south to the Cape Cod Canal. We ate in the Grand Dining Room last night (good dinner, very low-key service) and had a table by the window; we were able to watch as we entered this historical canal that cuts off the journey around Cape Cod for smaller ships. Regatta traveled under three bridges (with tight clearances) and often the towns and roads were right by the canal.

This morning (Monday), we slept in and woke to clear blue skies over Long Island Sound. The views were spectacular as we cruised into New York, under the Verrazano Narrows bridge, past the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, and along the west side of Manhattan to the cruise dock at pier 90 (mid town). We disembarked about noon, caught a cab and went to the south end of the High Line trail, an elevated walkway created out of an old abandoned railroad line on the lower west side. The High Line is wonderful, with many plants, works of art, places to sit and interesting views of the city skyline, we walked 12 blocks (from 12th to 24th streets), exiting at 24th to find lunch. We picked the Empire Diner, recently bought by Food Network celebrity chef Amanda Freitag. Lunch was classic grilled cheese with yummy fries (low-calorie of course). We’re back at the ship right now killing time until our evening tour to Fulton’s Landing,across the Brooklyn Bridge, the Empire State Building and Times Square.

More from the city that never sleeps! We sail tomorrow afternoon at 4:00 pm.

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Rough seas, Halifax in the rain and mist, Nor’easter clears, spectacular Bar Harbor

After leaving Sydney, Nova Scotia, Thursday afternoon we headed into some rough seas for several hours. Even many of the veteran cruisers disappeared and we decided to not eat dinner, as we had a late lunch when we got back from our tour. We both felt fine, but sleeping was not easy with all of the rocking and rolling. The 20-foot seas delayed the pilot vessel from Halifax Friday morning and we weren’t sure we would make it into port, but finally at 10:30 am, a brave soul from the pilot station leaped between the heaving small pilot vessel and Regatta.

We had a private tour in Halifax arranged by Halifax Tour Guys scheduled for 8:30 am, but obviously it would have to be shortened. I was in touch with the company via email during our delay and we elected to press on with a four-hour tour starting at noon. The ship’s departure was a little later, at 5:30 pm, so this would work. We met our driver Stewart after we debarked and headed off for a driving tour through Halifax first. The weather was very gloomy and foggy, with intermittent heavy rain showers, but the temperatures were moderate, in the low sixties. Stewart drove through the nice neighborhoods and the business districts and then we visited the Protestant cemetery to see gravestones for 121 of the bodies plucked from the seas after the Titanic went down. Apparently, some poor souls who were working to lay the first transatlantic phone cable (hi there, Alexander Graham Bell) were commissioned to do body recovery in April and May, 1912, as were other ships in the area. If the body was identified or there were some good guesses, the remains were assigned to various cemeteries or the families claimed them. There were 306 victims recovered in total by the CS Mackay-Bennett, half of them buried at sea.

The headstones for the bodies in this cemetery were laid out in three rows in curves resembling the forward bow structure of the ship. Some of the more famous headstones include one of the famous musicians, John Law Hume, and the unknown child (who has been identified through forensic DNA testing has been identified as Sidney Leslie Goodwin from England, who perished with his entire family). There is also a marker for an enigmatic J. Dawson, who was actually Joshua Dawson, a coal shoveler in the engine room, and not the fictional Jack Dawson from the potboiler James Cameron cinematic epic.

Stewart also talked about the disaster on December 6, 1917, when a French ship loaded with munitions and other explosive materials collided with a Norwegian ship in the Halifax harbor narrows, destroying many homes and businesses and killing 2,000 people while injuring more than 9,000. The explosion was estimated to be 2.9 kilotons, the largest man made detonation prior to the atomic era.

After visiting this area, Stewart drove us to Peggy’s Cove south of Halifax through lovely country homes by lakes. We stopped on our way at a maple products store and bought some goodies, then headed to the popular Peggy’s Cove fishing village. This cruise is at the end of the season, so this busy tourist attraction was quite empty and very dramatic, with the low clouds and grey light. We took many pictures, then headed back to the city. Our tour was very relaxing and boarded just in time for trivia!

The seas were calmer Friday night. This was the evening that we had had our dinner with Chief Engineer Dujo Mijic, from Croatia. The dinner group had four couples, including us, in addition to the Chief Engineer as well as one of the cruise entertainment staff. It was a nice evening, although I didn’t feel very hungry for some reason, but we did enjoy the conversations. We went to bed and slept well as we cruised to Bar Harbor, Maine.

Saturday in Bar Harbor we had the best weather of the trip so far. A low cloud layer was present when we cruised into Frenchman Bay, off Mt. Desert Island, where Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park are located in northeast Maine. These clouds burned off quickly and we had very cool, but almost cloudless skies as we set out to explore this resort area. We had cell phone service back, too!

We boarded the tender for our tour after going through US Immigration on-board, which was quick. First, the bus took us into Acadia National Park and around the loop road, with views of the bay, interior lakes and ponds, small mountains, and beautiful fall colors. Then the bus ascended the road to the top of Cadillac Mountain, the highest peak on the Atlantic seaboard in the US (at 1500 feet, a mere molehill in Colorado). The views were spectacular and we could see our ship at anchor in the bay. After leaving the park, the tour stopped at the Cleftstone Inn, a historical B&B near Bar Harbor. In 1947, a devastating forest fire on the island destroyed many homes and half of the forested areas, barely sparing the town itself. Bar Harbor was a popular summer playground for many wealthy industrialists and financiers, including the Fords, Rockefellers, Joseph Pulitzer and other famous names, but the fire destroyed many of the palatial mansions. The Cleftstone Inn survived. Our short tour viewed the inside of this beautiful home, built in 1889, with later additions.

After a stop at the Inn, we drove to the Lobster Oceanarium for a short visit. This quaint, but amateurish little facility resembled the backyard experiment of a high school science student. We also had a lecture on lobster trapping and lobster habits by a genuine New England curmudgeon who had a wry sense of humor and a faint resemblance to Quint from “Jaws”. The highlight was when he pulled a gorgeous blue lobster out of a tank to show us. This one-in-a-million genetic variation happens when the lobster cannot manufacture yellow and red pigments for its shell, leaving only blue. When you cook a normal lobster, the combined pigments that make the lobster look brown are affected and the yellow and blue disappear, resulting in the bright red color.

Our final stop after this was at Looking Glass, a restaurant on top of a hill overlooking Frenchman Bay. We had delicious blueberry pie, loaded back up on the buses and returned to the dock area. Since there was ample time before we sailed, Steve and I walked to a nearby restaurant to have a lobster roll. I must admit to having a growing love/hate relationship with most seafood, but particularly lobster. I thought the sandwich was merely ok, but Steve devoured his and we sat in the autumn sunlight and enjoyed cell service and a couple of beverages. We boarded the tenders again, did rather poorly at trivia (ridiculous questions yesterday), coming in third. We were supposed to eat in Toscana Saturday night but canceled and had a small plate of pasta for dinner in the Terrace.

Today, Sunday, we are docked in Boston. We have a tour that leaves shortly that visits the Adams house in Quincy (home to John and Abigail, John Quincy and other members of the Adams family) and the JFK library. Weather seems pretty nice and tonight we transit the Cape Cod Canal!

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Informal Meet and Greet, Superb Polo Grill, Alexander Graham Bell and Cape Breton, On to Halifax

On Wednesday we went to our informal Meet and Greet for anyone on-board who posted on the sparsely-populated Cruise Critic roll call. Two other couples showed up initially, including one couple we met last year on Nautica. We all had a very pleasant conversation for a while about cruising and Oceania, then we were joined by a woman from British Columbia, who assured us her husband would be there soon (I didn’t recall her nickname from CC). She also seemed pleasant, but she did like to inject little “digs” at other people’s habits and Americans in particular. We ignored this and continued the conversation and then her hubby showed up – this guy was a supreme jerk right off the bat, one of those precious academics who knows more than everyone else, especially those idiot rubes from the hellhole located south of the “greatest land on earth”. Steve and I tolerated his sneering grin and diatribes for a while and then he finally hit a sore spot with us on a particular political subject near and dear to us (details are not necessary) and I had had enough. I abruptly stood up, said that we did not want further discussion on topics that are inappropriate for casual conversation and we left. He looked a bit stunned, but we didn’t care. Argumentative discussions about why America and Americans “suck” are not our cup of tea. Our country has many problems, but we have also been close allies with Canada over the years and we are so sad about the latest terrorist attacks in Quebec and Ottawa. I’m sure this alliance between our countries is something this buffoon would change if he had a chance. Since I am a natural-born fighter, I am finding the approach we took to be more appropriate these days – just walk away.

Yesterday, we also formed a trivia team and came in first! We have more plastic cards now towards our wonderful cheesy gifts! The people on our team are fun and many are starting to contribute.

Wednesday night we attended the Captain’s welcome party and re-introduced ourselves to Captain Meinhardt Hansen, who was the master on Nautica last year on our Midnight Sun voyage. He remembered us! He is a delightful Captain, very personable and always looking for something interesting to do with the ship. Last year, we did a unique route out of Harstad, Norway, that required putting down the front mast to go under a low bridge, but this route allowed us to cruise past the Lofoten Islands for hours. For our current cruise, Captain Hansen hopes to guide Regatta through the Cape Cod Canal when we leave Boston, a short-cut to Long Island Sound that has three low bridges that will require putting down the front mast. This unique canal transit will be on Sunday night around 9:00 pm.

We had our first specialty restaurant reservation for dinner last night at Polo Club, the steakhouse. We’ve had mixed reviews of this place in the past but last night’s dinner was superb. I had a Caesar’s salad and Steve had a shrimp cocktail and beefsteak tomato salad and we both had 10-oz New York Strip steaks (cooked perfectly). We shared a small side dish of lobster mac and cheese. I had cheesecake for dessert and Steve had a very clever chocolate mousse burger with a sesame seed pastry bun that looked just a small hamburger. Stuffed but happy!

This morning, Regatta anchored off Sydney, Nova Scotia, on the northwest coast of the province in an area known as Cape Breton, which is actually an island separated by a causeway from lower Nova Scotia and the rest of the mainland. The landscape is dominated by forest-covered hills around the Bras D’Or lakes, which are actually saltwater lakes formed from several ocean inlets. We tendered into the small dock area and boarded a bus for our tour (Alexander Graham Bell Museum and Village of Baddeck). The famous inventor and his family lived in this area for many years, although he was a naturalized American citizen; his descendants still come to the family estate. The museum was small, but quite interesting, filled with artifacts and inventions, including the telegraph phone (precursor to the first telephone), a fast hydrofoil vehicle, and a replica of an early bi-plane design that was built and piloted by a Canadian astronaut in 2009. After the visit to the museum, we had a little free time in the village of Baddeck. This tiny tourist town on the lake was singularly unmemorable, with a few crapola emporiums with Gaelic gifts and a couple of restaurants that appeared to be closed. At least the weather was decent, with overcast skies, and temperatures in the upper 50’s and no rain. Our tour guide was usually pretty interesting and wore a kilt; many of the residents of Nova Scotia trace their ancestry to loyalists who moved from the colonies before or during the Revolutionary War.

After our tour, we returned to the dock, took the tender back to the ship and split a burger at Waves Grill. We came in second at afternoon trivia and we decided not to go to dinner tonight, sitting in one of the lounges writing. The sea conditions are quite rough due to a Nor’Easter due south of us hitting New England. More after our stop in Halifax tomorrow.

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