Canada cruise on the Summit 9-22-12
We chose this 14 night cruise after researching fall 2012 options for two reasons: One, we did not need to fly to the ship. Two, we wanted to cruise with my parents who had just celebrated their 55th anniversary and Mom won't fly. This is our fifth cruise on Celebrity and 14th cruise overall. This is our first cruise to "New England and Canada."
One thing we did on this cruise we've never done before is we pre-purchased the "Unlimited photo package" For this cruise it was $239.00 prepaid for every photo taken by the on-board photographers that one or both of us is present in. We ended up leaving the ship with 272 photos!
Portland is a great port, and we found it easy. We had reserved a 9:30 trolley tour followed by an 11:30 Lighthouse cruise. It's about a 10 - 15 minute walk to Long Wharf where both tours leave from. We checked in at 8:50 and they asked if we would like to take a 9:00 trolley. Sure! I believe the entire trolley was from our cruise critic roll call. Our trolley driver/guide "Gramps" was entertaining and informative. We very much enjoyed the stop at Portland Head Lighthouse, no doubt the highlight of the tour. We had an hour between tours and found Dunkin Donuts a block away for some caffeine.
The lighthouse cruise was also very nice and informative. The highlight of this was seeing Portland Head Lighthouse from sea. This gave us great photo opportunities on a picture-perfect day. The combo price for both tours is $39/person. On our walk back to the ship we passed by tables of "Crafters" set up along the way. Let's just say our wallets were $100 lighter by the time we got back to the Summit! We normally don't "Shop" at ports, but this was an exception and the items acquired are unique.
Back on board we enjoyed the sail away. A brief sun shower stopped the party band from playing poolside, although they were set up to play. Sailing out we again passed Portland Head Lighthouse and snapped a few additional photos from the perspective of deck 11 of the Summit before preparing for dinner.
Along with many others we left the ship and found our prearranged driver/tour guide through “Your cab tours.” We had an excellent tour taking in the scenic highlights of Halifax, the anchor that flew over two miles due to an ammunition ship explosion, the tower dedicated to Sir Stamford Fleming, the “Inventor” of standard time zones, Peggy’s Cove, the Swiss Air memorial, a maple syrup manufacturing facility, and the Halifax Citadel.
Saturday morning we woke to see Quebec City on the banks of the St Lawrence come into sight. It is overcast and breezy. Our string of picture-perfect port weather has reached its end. We exited the ship with my parents to have photos taken at the two photo ops. The first was great! A group of local ladies, dressed in period costume, were signing a welcome song and posing for photos. We had prebooked a “Grand walking tour” at 10:00 followed by a Zodiac river tour at 2:30 through Tours Voir Quebec, the highest rated tour company in Quebec City on tripadvisor. We caught the “Ecolobus” for $1.00/person (the cheapest tour in town!) to take us from the port up to near the Fontainebleau hotel, where the tourist information is across the square. Tours Voir Quebec shares a building with the TI office.
The walking tour was very informational and we did see a lot. We went into three churches and walked many narrow streets. As advertised, the tour was 90% plus downhill. The tour ended at the lower end of the funicular in lower town. From there, we headed back to the Summit for lunch. DW isn’t feeling 100% especially after the constant going in and out of the increasingly windy and cool outdoors and the heated churches. She decides to take a nap and forgo the Zodiac tour.
I headed out to the designated meeting place and found one other couple there. I knew eight had signed up for this tour. The others postponed until Sunday, hoping for better weather. We heard Sunday was supposed to be worse, so just the three of us went out with the captain and we head upriver, motoring past the Summit, a Canadian Coast Guard icebreaking ship, several old waterfront neighborhoods, and up to the bridge crossing the river that prevents ships such as the Summit from sailing further up the St. Lawrence. At that point, the river is just 200 feet across but very deep with strong currents. We turned around to find that it had begun raining (we were blissfully unaware of this as the rain had been hitting our backs and we were clothed in wetsuit type of coveralls). Heading back downriver we were now also facing into the wind! The ride back was not “Full of fun,” but we persevered and made it back in one piece. The 90 minute Zodiac tour took over two hours as we needed to move at a reduced speed due to the waves on the river. Our captain did take us very near to right under the bow of the Summit. It was an interesting view, to be sure, but I kept expecting a coast guard vessel or the Canadian version of homeland security to come swooping in to make sure we weren’t up to some mischief!
Sunday morning the wind is still howling, but it’s not raining. We are off the ship by 8:00 and catch the Ecolobus to the farmer’s market (just two stops away). We wander the market and purchase some authentic Quebec Maple Syrup to take home. We want to take the Ecolobus back up the hill to explore some more and see the inside of the Fontainebleau hotel, but the bus just drives right past us as it is full. There are now four ships in port and passengers are awake! We cross the street and wait for an Ecolobus heading the other way. Plenty of space so we get on board and take a grand tour back to the Fontainebleau.
When we get off the bus we are literally blasted by the wind. Being several hundred feet above the river, and with no wind-break, it is obvious the winds are gale force. We quickly take a few photos and find our way inside. The inside of the hotel is magnificent and several photos are taken. Next we head straight to the funicular for the ride down to the lower town. Here, among the buildings, the wind is not as ferocious. DW is kind of looking for a hooded sweatshirt, so we are in and out of the ships, but nothing appealing in the desired price range is discovered.
We walk back to the ship meandering through the narrow streets trying to avoid being in the open along the waterfront. Four ships in port seem to have brought out many of the locals to take in the spectacle, despite the cool temps and wind. We are back on board by noon, and about 1:00 is begins to rain. By mid-afternoon the rain is a deluge.
As this was a U.S. port call after being in Canada, all non-US citizens needed to go through immigration in the theater before the ship was cleared, which did not occur until about 12:40. Due to the generosity of friends, we had priority tender tickets and were on the third tender off, reaching shore at 1:05.
We were booked on the 2:00 Oli’s Trolley tour of Bar Harbor and Arcadia National Park. We greatly enjoyed the tour. Upon return from the tour at 4:30, the first people we met on the street were from Summit and asked about our tour. They had tender ticket # 10 and did not reach shore until after 3:00. We took one look at the tender pier and saw that people were already lined up waiting for tenders back to the ship. While we really wanted to walk the town a bit, when we saw three tour buses pulling up, we decided to get in the tender line. Even at this hour, with over three hours before the stated “Last tender,” it took 40 minutes to get back to Summit. We talked to passengers on board who waited three hours for their tender number and simply gave us, and never made it ashore.