THE CROWN PRINCESS CRUISE
Saturday, 9/16/17 Red-eye and Boarding the Crown Princess
Barry and I are boarding a red-eye flight at 11:36PM from Sacramento to JFK. The seats are cheap and we are too. It really wasn’t a bad flight, but when we get into NYC, we are ready to settle into a nice stateroom. The problem that we have encountered before and face again with this trip is that we arrive at 8:01AM and we are not scheduled to board the Crown Princess until 1:30PM.
I have researched things that we may do with our time, (store luggage at JFK and go for a tour, check into a local hotel for a few hours, go to a gym…) but have that nagging understanding that we will be grouchy by late morning and no sight or activity will seem “ok”, except a quiet place to rest our sexagenarian bones in our cabin. Therefore we sit in the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal with other pretty grouchy sexagenarians, septuagenarians, some octogenarians and a sprinkling of youngins. We wait until we can board, and they let us onboard at about noon.
Crown Princess carries over 3,000 passengers and 1,200 crew. If there is a line, one of us cues up and the other checks to see for what we are waiting. Though we officially earn elite status in the Princess loyalty program at the end of this cruise, I can’t say it’s my favorite way to travel, but as Dad says, “It’s better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick”.
Monday, 9/18/17 Newport, Rhode Island
I find Newport’s history is rich and filled with drama. There are stories about Baptists, Jews and Quakers settling here to gain religious freedom. (I pick up the book, American Jezebel in a shop to read more about Anne Hutchinson, a colonial founding mother. I find it fascinating and inspiring). Sadly, the whaling trade is also part of Newport history. Pirates? Yes, they had those too. Most detestable of all, I learned that sixty percent of slave-trading voyages launched from North America originated from tiny Rhode Island during colonial times. They were part of the abhorrent “triangle trade”, which I remembered well from teaching fifth grade. Caribbean sugar and molasses was grown with slave labor and shipped to Newport for rum production. In 1764, Rhode Island had about 30 rum distilleries and 22 were in Newport. The rum was then traded in West Africa for more slaves. We are told during our tour later that the slave trade was ended first here.
We are in port for just the day until we return on our own later on our trip. We focus on the harbor, Narragansett Bay and Rose Island. Barry and I walk in the Thames St. area to see oh so cute nautical themed shops and enjoy the ocean air and sunshine. I text my BFF, to let her know that she would love Newport and could easily decorate her whole house with just a stop or two here. When it’s time for lunch, we find a fairly touristy but fun place, The Gas Lamp Grille and have our first lobster roll of the trip. Paired with a seasonal ale, it was glorious.
In the early afternoon, we meet for our tour. We boat around the harbor a little and learn about the America’s cup history. Newport was the location for the America’s cup race from 1930-1983. Our guide then made many disparaging comments about the Australians, who took (or stole, as he said) the cup in 1987. I’m proud to say that we were living in San Diego from 1988-1995 and remember well Dennis Conner’s sunburned face all over town as he and his crew celebrated the San Diego Yacht Club wins, until the Kiwis took it.
We went by the site of the Newport Jazz Festival, where over 10,000 people gather for jazz and folk music. We also hear about Goat Island, where 26 pirates were buried in 1723 after they were tried and hung. There are homes that we see from the water that were built for the rich and famous. We see parts of Fort Adams and think we may go back to tour it another time. So much history! The best part of the tour is going ashore to explore Rose Island. It has a wonderful light house in which you can stay over night and be a lighthouse keeper, it also has spooky stone barracks that were built in the late 1790s. These barracks were also used to store explosives during WWII. Of course, the guide said the barracks were haunted. (goosebumps) Today the island is a wildlife refuge and home to migrating birds including little blue herons, black crowned night herons, great and snowy egrets, and glossy ibises. It was a really interesting place, and I would like to consider staying in that lighthouse one day. https://www.roseisland.org
As we return to our cruise ship, the guide tells us that the coast guide has been issuing a tropical storm warning. Boats are returning to harbor and their flags are coming down. Though the devastating hurricanes in the south of the US aren’t expected to be anywhere near us in New England, the effects from them are definitely felt up here. It is unseasonably warm and humid.
Tuesday, 9/19/17 Boston
Being in port for just the one day, we decided to see two places where we haven’t visited yet, Peacefield, known as Old House, an historic home formerly owned by President John Adams and his family and is now part of the Adams National Historical Park and The Museum at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library. We are on an old geezer tour through the cruise ship, which is fine today because the cruise terminal is out in a new seaport area, not especially close to Boston downtown. This area is full of new modern buildings and is a new desirable neighborhood. To reach the Adams house, we travel through the “Big Dig” Tunnel. This is part of a project that was planned in 1982, expected to be completed in 1998, but it wasn’t finished until 2007 and was estimated to have cost 22 billion dollars, 190% over the estimated cost. Cost and delays were attributed to design flaws, substandard materials, archaeological findings, criminal arrests and even the death of a worker. I remember trying to drive through the construction years ago, and remember the controversy at that time. What a mess! It goes underwater part of the route and a blue strip in the tunnel lets you know when you are underwater. That isn’t especially comforting to me. They are still experiencing massive leaks of salt water that need to be pumped out.
Barry is a big John Adams fan, and we have to see the Adams home! It is in Quincy, pronounced Kwin-zee, no c sound. We are both surprised to find that Quincy is a manufacturing area. In fact, Fore River Shipyard is in Quincy and it is possible that the “Kilroy was here” cartoon originated here. During WWII, James J. Kilroy, a shipyard inspector, marked the rivets that he had checked on ships as they were being built. His markings were in areas that were unreachable after the ship was completed. Therefore the Kilroy markings fed the myth that Kilroy could go where others could not, and it also leant a measure of assurance that the ships were well inspected and safe.
Our first stop on this rainy day is to the Adams house in Quincy. Sadly, we are not permitted to take photos inside. It looks like a prosperous home of the late 1700s, but nothing extraordinarily grand, as you might describe Jefferson’s Monticello or Washington’s Mount Vernon. It is humble and very human. I was impressed by its simplicity and Adam’s life of service to American ideals.
Adams is very much a vague historical figure, so to be able to see the Kennedy Library was a stark contrast. Kennedy was assassinated when I was a kid, but I do remember him as a living human being. The museum is an elegant I.M. Pei-designed building on many acres along the Boston waterfront. The exhibits feature television footage and a theater with a film about JFK. We happen to be there during a temporary exhibit of 100 items that haven’t been displayed before to commemorate what would have been Kennedy’s 100th birthday. Though rushed, I enjoy learning more about him and about Jackie Kennedy. I know that he was a womanizer, but I do appreciate his support of space exploration and science, as well as his efforts toward equal civil rights.
After we are near our cruise ship, we consider going to Boston Fish Pier on our own. However, it’s rainy and there’s lots of construction in the area. So, we save it for another time when we visit Boston.
Wednesday, 9/20/2017 Bah Ha-Ba (Bar Harbor), not to Be!
Well, crap! The weather prevents us from making a call into Bar Harbor. We are stuck onboard today and our tour of historic lighthouses and Acadia National Park via a 90-foot jet-powered catamaran. Then we were going to take an historic and scenic walk on our own along the Shore Path and into Acadia National Park. Crap, crap!
Thursday, 9/2/17 St.John, New Brunswick (not to be confused with St. John’s Newfoundland)
We are at our northern most point of this trip, and there is just a kiss of autumn here. I fear that we will not be seeing much autumnal color on this trip. However, I do just adore it here. I am especially enamored with our tour guide, Fay. She is as folksy and cute as they come. Quintessential Canadian in my mind. She says “sorwy” for the smallest thing and has the greatest little stories that entertain us as we bus through areas of St. John.
Fay wants to be sure that we see the reversing rapids, a noteworthy phenomenon on the Bay of Fundy, during high and low tides. Therefore our first stop is to Fallsview Park to take a measure with cameras of the collision of the ocean tide from the Bay of Fundy where it meets the Saint John River. At low tide the river empties into the bay causing a series rapids and whirlpools, when the tide rises it slows the river current and there is a slack tide, reversing the direction of the river. The differences in the water level is approximately 50 feet from low tide to high tide, reached over a six hour interval. It is safe to to pass through the area by boat during slack tide. The Bay of Fundy is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
We head toward the downtown area and see “Marigolds on Main”. School children throughout the city plant marigold seeds in small paper cups and at an appointed time in June, the streets are closed down and all the kids come out to plan their marigolds. It’s such a sweet idea. In a small city with a population of 72,000, this seems like a wonderful idea. I think that they especially enjoy the bright summer colored flowers since they have long, cold winters in which they average 9 feet of snow. They recently had 15 feet in one year! There are historic homes and modern buildings and McDonalds. Ugk
On the way to the next destination Fay continues to entertain us with stories about life in New Brunswick. She beautifully describes tamarack trees that are covered with frost, and how they make homemade moose calls from tomato cans and skate laces then go try to find moose. They have a tradition of kitchen parties which are potlucks where everyone plays musical instruments and they all sing to keep cosy on cold nights. East Coast Canada has lots of musicians who credit their skills to these kitchen parties. The small tight knit community in St. Martin, near where she lives, there are already two other women named Fay. One Fay was born there, so she is called Fay. One Fay comes only during the summers so she is Summer Fay and our Fay is called Fay from Far Away because she was born in another Canadian province, though she’s lived in New Brunswick since college and has grown kids. She talks about collecting dulse seaweed and how they use it for seasoning . She talks about the retreat that she and her husband have started (He was a marriage and family counselor. I found their website https://www.inthestillness.net ) I am absolutely charmed by her stories.
Driving for about an hour in lovely countryside, we reach St. Martins. It’s a 200-year-old village with twin covered bridges (Covered bridge make a wish or steal a kiss) , a small harbor and a lighthouse, and a total population of 283. We are one of the tour busses that has overrun this adorable little town, I am enjoying the ambiance, but am embarrassed to be part of the invading hoard. We drive to St. Martins Sea Caves and Beach. Over time, waves have carved caves out of the cliffs. We have a tourist lunch of seafood chowder, rolls and homemade cookies. The food is good, but we have a view of the parking lot, not the water and the meal is served in disposable paper. We walk along the beach to gather “wish rocks”. They tell us “wish rocks” have a full ring of an opposite color marked into the stone. (Upon our return, our grandkids aren’t too enchanted by this story, but I still have a few on my kitchen ledge.)
We end our tour at Old City Market, in the heart of Saint John, it’s the oldest working farmer’s market in Canada. The market first opened in 1876 and withstood The Great Fire of 1877. Shipwrights built the market with a roof in the shape of a ship’s hull. We buy some dulse seaweed and hope to get it through customs. Then we head back shortly before we pull up anchor and head to Halifax.
Friday, 9/22/17 Halifax, Nova Scotia
It’s great to be in Halifax, the weather is a little chilly and the air is so fresh. It is just the cusp of autumn. We are docked near the Lord Nelson Hotel, built in 1927 which is one of those iconic Canadian Railroad hotels. Our tour guide tells us that it takes six days to go across Canada by train, to arrive in Vancouver. That gives me a better sense of how large this country is. I have read a little bit about the beautiful hotels which were built to encourage train travel during the late 1800s and have stayed in the Empress in Victoria, British Columbia, seen from afar the Chateau Frontenac in Quebec. I spent a little time trying to work out a rail trip to see more of these and enjoy the scenery along the way. The packaged tours would really smash our travel budget, but maybe I can do a work around for a future trip. It would be great to stay in a few of these hotels and enjoy some kayaking or hiking as well. Mmmm
Halifax is nicknamed the “City of Trees”, as is Sacramento. This is especially interesting because there is only 5 feet of topsoil here, most of the city is built on solid rock. It seems that this is also the city of colleges, there are seven universities. On our last trip here many years ago, we enjoyed heaps of seafood and saw lots of young folks.
Our guide is a former high school history teacher, God help us, and is so of information I think that my brain will explode. After an hour, I have to turn him off, but awake for just long enough for some of the quirkiest stories. For instance, there are tons of McDonald’s here, they look just like McDonald’s in USA, but they all have jaunty maple leaves on the arches. The menu is different, as in some other foreign McDonald’s. Until this year, they used to sell lobster rolls that were a real bargain. However, lobster became just a little too expensive this year to keep it on the menu. They have harsher penalties for drunk driving and driving while texting, and smoking isn’t allowed in the car is a child under 16 is also a passenger, smart.
We are driving to Lunenburg, billed as “The Prettiest Town in Canada”. There is a very sweet town on the way that makes scarecrows every fall that look like the royal family and some other celebrities. The guide tells us that last year there was one with orange funny hair that resembled our president. There was a collective moan in the tour bus. I am comforted.
We make a photo stop at Mahone Bay. Upon approaching it, I can see three pristine churches, very close to each other, in the most picturesque location. It looks like a movie set . There are Trinity United Church, St. John’s Lutheran and St. James Anglican. The guide tells us that they are very well maintained because they have ties to Boxing Rock Brewers. Ah, Divine grace. They each have musical concerts as well and have their concert schedule posted online. http://www.threechurches.com/venues.html
Lunenburg is a small town with a population of only 2,263. The village was built by the British government for German settlers, whom they needed to colonize North America. Those pesky French were the larger presence in that part of Canada at the time. The English couldn’t find enough of their own so, the sponsored Germans who would be loyal to the English. However, today, it is overrun with cruise ship tourists. To spite this, it is a storybook town with impossibly green hillsides surrounding it. The sailboats and historic homes make it a wonderful place to spend the day. Barry and I enjoy walking around the town and duck into a crowded pub for a lobster roll and a pint. An older, bejeweled and well dressed lady allows us to share her table. She shares that she is from British Columbia and we come to find that she is well traveled too. She’s been traveling on her own for quite awhile and we discover that we have some favorite destinations in common. For our upcoming trip to Whitehorse, she insists that we go to a town called Dawson in Canada in or near Yukon. I will have to check out her recommendation.
After short lull in conversation, she erupts, “Geez, your president!”
Here we go again! As happened so often in Australia earlier this year, we reassure her that we didn’t vote for him and we hope he is somehow outta here soon.
We will have a day at sea before we disembark in NYC. We’ve been seated at a table for eight this week, but have only been joined by two other people each night that we were dining there. This was disappointing because we have met some interesting and lovely dinner companions on past cruises. In fact, the dining room was very sparsely inhabited each night that we were there. I would guess that with a port nearly every day, lots of people go for a quicker meal elsewhere and don’t go in for the longer formal dinner. Our companions are Wei and Bill. They are Chinese, but have been in the USA for 30 years in St. Louis. They are still big fans of their native land and we spend more that one meal getting tips on what to see there – go to Shanghai, being their most adamant suggestion. Wei was also very interested in Chinese cooking and gave us recipes, which I would like to try. Generally, they were not impressed with New England, which was too bad and weren’t really interested in travel in Europe or the rest of the world. They were nice, but we didn’t exchange contact information with them.