Lindblad/NG’s Explorer spends two weeks in the autumn twice circumnavigating Newfoundland, touching two other Canadian provinces and a tiny, misplaced part of France. Earlier in the year it explores Greenland and points north. After leaving Canada, it heads far south of the equator. Our cruise featured “Robin” MacNeil (of the MacNeil-Lehrer News Hour) as after-dinner speaker. Stops included St. Pierre (a small island with 7000 residents, but requiring departure and re-entry to Canada, and entry and departure from France); the old fortress town of Louisbourg, Nova Scotia; Baddeck, Nova Scotia, which features an Alexander Graham Bell museum (and there was a schooner ride over close to his mansion); the Magdalen Islands in the Gulf of St. Lawrence; the Gros Morne National Park with its unusual geology; and the site of a proven Viking village from the year 1100. The weather was unusually sunny and mild, except for a single rainy day (the previous week’s cruise was generally rainy and foggy, we were told). A stop at Twillingate was underwhelming, but the ship had to stop somewhere before returning to St. John’s. There were interesting, complementary bus tours of St. John’s (including a geology museum and the easternmost point of North America) before departure and following disembarkation.
Our cabin was fine, relatively large, with functional desk, closet space, and bathroom. The T.V. remote was defective and had to be replaced. Sound of movies and talks from the lounge was also defective. We paid $60 for an hour of internet connection, but it failed miserably, and the $60 was refunded. There were good talks by naturalists, daily debriefings, and two cocktail sessions in the ship’s lounge hosted by the Captain. The ship’s restaurant and housekeeping staff were mostly Filipino; they were exceptionally helpful, competent, and friendly. The “hotel manager” Patrik was friendly and responsive. The exploration leader, Sue, was efficient but strangely uninterested in providing important weather forecasts. The meals had adequate variety and were generally very good.
The pace was go-go-go, with most onshore destinations reached by zodiac. Most of the stops were touristy, but some (e.g. at Louisbourg and L’Anse des Meadows) were very well done. There were options to hike but we needed to ride the bus. We saw lots of lovely scenery and many moose, visited several museums and even more lighthouses, and learned about plants, geology, and anthropology. Whales were sighted several times; it was the wrong season for icebergs. The little towns, whether Canadian or nominally French, featured houses of contrasting, bright, candy-land colors, with fresh painting subsidized by local governments; the bright homes are “direction finders” in dense fog. Local guides were good, whether they were dressed up as Vikings or singing traditional songs.
Our complaints were minor and the expensive cruise was generally fine. If you want to see extreme northeastern Canada, this is the way to do it.