Port and Shore Excursions
Quite a sweet little place, but difficult to get to. The ship anchored, and people had to go ashore in tenders. There were so many wheelchair users and disabled people, that many of them must have had to miss out. The fog made it uncertain up to the last minute whether we would get off at all. We were lucky, as we disembarked early because we had a tour booked. Chaotic labelling, and the ship's sports director sulking in a hoodie and not holding up the lollipop sign with the tour number meant that we had a German couple who were on the wrong bus and had missed their tour, so had to come along with us. The tour was a walk in the Acadia National Park, which was fine for us, as we could see the trees and plants and wildlife close up, without being affected by fog and rain. The tour guide was inexperienced, and had trouble with stroppy elderly people who complained that they were too far back along the path to hear what she was saying. She confessed that this was her first tour, and she had been a teacher, taking children into the forest. She referred queries about plants to her colleague who was a botanist, but told tales of what the native Americans said about the forest, and at one point asked us to be very still and quiet and count on our fingers how many sounds we could hear. I think children would have been enchanted. They took us to the top of Cadillac mountain, but we could not see more than a few feet through the fog. We considered attending the art show on the village green on arrival back in town, but it was raining, and we took the next tender back. Shortly afterwards the tenders were cancelled for a while because the fog got worse.
Slightly lower rating, because of the distance from port to city.
For Boston, we walked 40 minutes from the port to town, because the shuttle bus arranged by the tour office was expensive, and didn't go where we wanted. We found on our way back that the Silverline trams link South Station with the Design Center, which is where the ship docked. If the tour office had given this advice, we would have used the tram to get into town. It was raining, and the subway trains were packed. We have been to Boston several times, so this didn't affect our opinion of the city, which we love. We bought a man's sports jacket in Filene's basement, and went to the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum, a strange art collection bequeathed by an eccentric woman, situated in the University campus. A long way out, but worth the trip.
Halifax was a great port of call. They held a ceremony to mark the maiden visit of Queen Elizabeth, and to re-dedicate the statue of Samuel Cunard. Descendents of Cunard were there, and speeches were made by local dignitaries. The ship's officers attended in their white uniforms, Captain Wells made a speech, and a piper in full Highland dress played. There was a new cruise terminal, with excellent facilities and a farmer's market. It advertised free wi-fi, but no-one could access it. However, the Gray Line's pink hop-on-hop off Routemaster buses were excellent. We bought the tickets from the ship's tour office, and went everywhere, with different guides telling us different stories. One guide had grandparents who were scarred from the great Halifax explosion in World War I, which had killed and maimed thousands and wiped out a huge area of the city. Another guide told us of her grandmother who had arrived in Halifax from Nazi Germany, and spent the war years helping other Jews who had escaped with money and transport. The Maritime museum was fascinating. We liked the exhibits on Titanic and Cunard, and the temporary exhibition 'Hello Sailor'. Rather alarming that gay cabin stewards used to try on the lady passengers clothes. I am sure our steward would do no such thing! The Citadel was very impressive, as was the brewery.
It was wonderful to sail right into Manhattan and be able to walk out and get the subway.
Disembarking at New York was difficult, as it took a long time to get through immigration, but that is always the case. People moaned because they were told to carry their passports or driving licences on shore. I have never heard such a fuss! I would never walk around a foreign country without my passport - what if there was an emergency and I was stranded there without my documents? Anyway, the moaning carried on as far as Bar Harbor. A lot of people didn't like the excursions, particularly in New York. It seemed to be based on the coaches being held up in traffic, which was due to the UN meeting, and the Hamas leaders being in town, so large parts of the East side were blocked off by police cordons. We took the subway, but used a taxi to get back to the ship on the last day, and were glad we had left 3 hours, as New York was gridlocked. Someone just caught the ship by seconds, they had to extend the gangplank again for them to board. This was a one-off, and if we had taken the trouble to research what was going on, we would have realised traffic would be bad for the UN meeting. The good thing was that when we went to Little Italy to meet a friend for dinner, we found ourselves in the San Gennaro festival and were right in the middle of the parade - straight out of the Godfather movies! So the timing was not too bad after all.
Newport was easy to walk around, no need for a tour. There were a lot of gift shops and clothing stores right by the dock. We followed a walking map to the old church, where a lady volunteer gave us a guidebook, and an explanation of some of the interior. There were notices around the town showing the dates and history of some of the older buildings, with drawings so you were sure which ones they were talking about. We had clam chowder in an Irish pub, and really enjoyed ourselves.
Portland was very good, as the town laid on a hop on hop off bus at very reasonable rates, with tickets available at the tourist information office at the port, so no need for an excursion. A lady gave us a voucher for money off lunch at a pub, so one of our hops off was to this pub. We had lobster rolls, as we had been told to eat lobster in Portland. We also had a guided tour of the house the poet Longfellow grew up in, which was interesting, even though we had not known much about him before (we had just about heard of Hiawatha).
Excellent port of call. Very near the town, with a walkway through to the old town and old port, with a wonderful farmers market. We took the funicular up to the Citadel and the Heights of Abraham, which is now a beautiful park. We had a guided tour of the Citadel which was compulsory because it is a working garrison. It only cost four Canadian dollars. The old town is full of very expensive shops, but we had dinner in a restaurant in Sous le Fort, which was very French and lively. Day 2 we went on an excursion to Montmorency Falls and the Sugar Shack, where we tasted maple syrup poured onto 'snow' and made into toffee. Quebec is like France, but the people are kind and appreciate you speaking French, so it is like France only more welcoming. I would go here again.