Cruising

In my last post, I said that we would soon be leaving on a 4-generation cruise in honor of my Dad’s 80th birthday.  That grand adventure begins today!  Mom and Dad should be headed to Boston as I write, and Gary, Heather, Sean and I will be off this afternoon to Kansas City, for an early morning departure via Philadelphia, and then it’s on board the Holland America ship Veendam and ocean bound!Screen Shot 2014-06-13 at 9.25.48 AM

If all goes according to plan, fun times ahead include:

First stop, Bar Harbor, Maine and Acadia National Park.  Our itinerary says that on Sunday morning we will journey along the 27-mile Park Loop Road, which will take us along the ocean’s edge past Sand Beach, Schooner Head Overlook, and the High Seas mansion built by a wealthy gentleman whose wife perished on the Titanic.  We’ll keep an eye out for moose, black bear, and white-tail deer as we travel through pine forests and past the Jordan Pond House, which is said to have a beautiful view of the Penobscot Mountains and Bubbles Hill. Then we’ll continue past Otter Cliffs and the Gulf of Maine with beautiful views of the offshore islands, and – weather permitting (it might be a bit cool in the a.m., but no rain predicted!) – stop atop the 1,530-foot Cadillac Mountain, which offer a 360-degree panoramic view of granite cliffs, coastal mountains, forests, lakes, and valleys.  Finally, we’ll pass through the quaint town of Bar Harbor to view some of the charming Victorian mansions built by America’s rich and famous at the turn of the 20th century.  Sounds like a perfect beginning!

Sunday afternoon promises a Whale Watching excursion – Gary is really excited about that!  We’ll travel aboard a whale-watch catamaran, which is said to be stable, fun, and propelled by water jets, so safe for whales and the environment as well as the adventurers.  We’re told there is a great abundance of marine life in the Gulf of Maine and our destination is the feeding ground for the larger whales, 20 miles south of Bar Harbor. We’ll watch for harbor porpoise, seals, and a great variety of pelagic seabirds.  Offshore we’ll search for pods of pilot whales and Atlantic white-sided dolphin, sharks such as basking, blue and mako, and schools of Bluefin tuna.  We hear that humpbacks, finbacks and minke whales are commonly encountered, and occasionally, northern right whales.

On Monday we’ll be Halifax, Nova Scotia (Hello, Heather Doyle!), where we’ll see the busiest street east of Montreal – Spring Garden Road – voted “best place to people watch” with it’s many restaurants and boutiques.  We’ll pass Nova Scotia Crystal, where skilled artisans craft mouth-blown, hand-cut crystal, and we’ll watch for the Historic Properties complex on the waterfront while hearing tales of privateers and pirates and the founding fathers of the banking industry of Canada whose roots started here.  Then we’ll head out of town to Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia’s most authentic fishing village, to see the well-known lighthouse – which Carol Pollard has predicted will be a highlight of our trip! We’ll have some time to visit and explore the rugged, sea-sculpted granite shores.  Then it’s back to Halifax for a visit the Fairview Lawn Cemetery, where 121 victims of the Titanic disaster are buried.  We’ll visit the “lush oasis” of the Public Gardens—an authentic Victorian garden nestled in the city’s busy downtown—and explore Citadel Hill, one of Canada’s most visited National Historic Sites, from which we’re told we’ll have an amazing view of the city.  We’ll see the cannons and watch the 78th Highlanders on site. Finally, we’ll drive along the Halifax Waterfront to see the longest oceanfront boardwalk in Canada and the unique stone buildings of the first business in Halifax.

Tuesday we’ll be in Sydney.  Mom and Dad have decided they’ll lounge on deck that day, while Gary, Heather, Sean and I go sailing on the Brad d’Or Lakes.  (Why did the theme song from Gilligan’s Island just pop into my head?????)   We’ll begin with a brief introduction to Sydney, hearing about the city’s founders and the industries that developed in the area, and relax on a panoramic drive through the historic North End.  Then we’ll follow the Trans-Canada Highway to the picturesque resort village of Baddeck, situated on the shores of the Bras d’Or Lakes in the heart of Cape Breton Island. Along the way, we’ll enjoy panoramic views of Boulanderie Island, the Seal Island Bridge, and the Great Bras d’Or Channel, as well as Kelly’s Mountain and St Ann’s Bay. Then we’ll join the captain and crew of the 67-foot staysail schooner Amoeba for a sailing experience said to be “as unique and unforgettable as the lakes themselves.”  We’ll view Cape Breton from the deck of the Amoeba and see Alexander Graham Bell’s stately summer mansion.  If Mother Nature smiles on us, we’ll watch bald eagles wheeling in the sky above as we take in the beauty of the natural surroundings.  After our sailing experience, we’ll enjoy some free time for exploring the village of Baddeck.

Wednesday, it’s Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.  Mom and Dad have planned a separate full-day excursion that features a grand lobster dinner, but Gary, Heather, Sean and I will begin our day with a panoramic drive designed to show off Prince Edward Island’s most impressive landmarks.  We’ll travel west to view Confederation Bridge, which links Prince Edward Island to mainland Canada and the province of New Brunswick and is the longest crossing over icy waters in the world. Then we’ll head out along the South Shore, stopping at Victoria-by-the Sea, a haven for artists with its picturesque harbor and lighthouse.

After a quick lunch, it will be boys and girls time, with Gary and Sean off for “fun with falcons” while Heather and I go for the Anne-with-an-E adventure!  Anne Shirley was Heather’s very favorite story character when she was a young girl, and she ranks high on my list as well, so I am delighted that we will have this mother-daughter experience of visiting Avonlea and Green Gables together.

On Thursday, our 4-generations will be back together as we cruise through the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, and then Friday will find us in our final port, Quebec City.  In the Old Town, we’ll view ancient battlegrounds and treasured national historic sites.  We’ll see Dufferin Terrace and the Château Frontenac Hotel—Québec’s most famous landmark with panoramic views over the Old City, the Lower Town, the St Lawrence River and the surrounding countryside. Then, we’ll visit an authentic cabane à sucre  (sugar shack) to see how maple products are made, and taste sweet maple taffy.  We’ll travel eastward along the St Lawrence River to one of the most picturesque areas of the Province of Québec known as the Beaupré Coast, where we will see the powerful forces of nature as the Montmorency Falls cascade down a 272-foot cliff to eventually meet the St Lawrence River. We’ll visit the Ste-Anne-de-Beaupré Shrine and Basilica, where popular belief says that Saint Anne (not to be confused with Anne Shirley!) saved numerous shipwreck victims off nearby Cap Tourmente. The mosaics in the Central Vault and stained-glass windows are often described as the best examples produced since the Middle Ages, so I am looking forward to that! On the Ile d’Orléans, a scenic drive will take us through pastoral landscapes and, if time permits, we will stop at the family-run Albert Gilles Copper Museum to view the amazing works of the artisan who created the copper doors of the Basilica.  Sounds like a fabulous way to end up an idyllic week!

I’m not sure how often I’ll be able to connect to wi-fi, but if we are Facebook friends, watch for photos!

And, now, off to finish packing!  Adventure awaits!

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