It is so nice to be on a cruise ship again, particularly one that feels like home.
Our transfer to the ship from our downtown Montreal hotel went seamlessly, as did
check-in and boarding. We found our cabin and then stopped by the Neptune Lounge
to meet the concierge and have a light snack. From there, we left the ship to explore
some of Old Montreal, or Vieux-Montréal. Given the time (it was nearing 1:00 and
we aimed to be back onboard by 3:00) and that we were walked out from our day-and-a-half
in Montreal, we opted to just get a flavor of the oldest part of the city. We walked
from our dock, Alexandra Pier, to the beautiful and famous Basilique Notre-Dame via
the waterfront and a few side streets. There were many buildings of various ages
and styles. One interesting building was Edifice Aldred (1931) that resembled a good
part of New York City’s Empire State Building, completed in the same year.
We had an early dinner, 6:00 pm, in the main dining room. We had open seating and
our family of three shared a 10-top with couples from Arizona, Wisconsin, and Alabama.
The company was delightful. The food was superb. I started with a watermelon appetizer
and a cold coconut soup. Main course was outstanding—bourbon-seared sea bass. It
was so delectable that I took smaller bites than usual to savor this wonderful course.
Sunday, July 3, 2011
Now, this is the way to start the day. A view of Le Château Frontenac from our cabin
windows, and a breakfast of muesli, smoked salmon, smoked turkey, and Earl Grey tea
in the Neptune Lounge. The reason we are eating here is because we have a shore excursion
that meets off-ship at 8:05 am. Nonetheless, this was a lovely breakfast and certainly
We also made reservations for the new Italian restaurant, Canaletto, on Charlottetown
evening at 6:00 pm. I love how, on ships, the calendar is not described by day, but
We are not the only notable people in Quebec City today. The Duke and Duchess of
Cambridge (aka William and Kate) are on their first overseas visit as a married couple,
and made Canada their first stop. They spent Canada day in Ottawa, yesterday in Montreal
(likely after we left), and today will be Quebec City.
It was another wonderful day! We took a fabulous tour called Montmorency Falls and
Island of Orleans, followed by a light lunch in the Neptune Lounge. I read a book
I had borrowed from the ship’s library until falling asleep in one of the deck chairs
on our balcony. My son and I later went to a basketball shootout (he came in second
place). At 4:00, I attended a lecture called Totally Tea, where we learned the different
types of tea (white, green, oolong, black), how to prepare them, and the health benefits
The tour was amazing, and packed a lot into its three-and-a-half hours. We started
by crossing the bridge to the Island of Orleans, roughly 5 km (3 miles) from Quebec
City. It is largely agricultural and home to roughly 7,000 people. It consists of
six parishes, and we either drove through or visited many of them.
Our first stop was Mauvide-Genest Manor in Saint-Jean province on the east side of
the island. I was surprised to see it was on a main road—I thought it would be more
private. The house was stunning—wide slab wood floors, large kitchen, chapel, office,
and a number of bedrooms. It was built between 1734 and 1752, and has recently been
restored. The last people who lived there sold it to a non-profit organization in
After about 40 minutes there, we went to a sugar shack, or maple factory. It was
small and family-owned, like nearly all on the Island. We were told that close to
80% of the maple syrup produced in the world comes from Quebec. We learned how the
sap is tapped in the spring (when it thaws), and how it was mixed with water and
heated to produce syrup, taffy, and candy—the ratio of ingredients plus boiling time
determines the final product. We were given popsicle sticks onto which to roll a
line of taffy-like syrup that was atop some snow. So sweet and tasty!
The drive through the island was very pretty. There was lots of green—trees, meadows,
etc. A good amount of the land is protected—that is, there can be no construction.
This would be a beautiful place to see the bursts of fall color.
Our last stop was the impressive Montmorency Falls, located on the mainland just
outside of Quebec City. At 83 meters (272 feet), it is one-and-a-half times the height
of Niagara Falls. We climbed many stairs to viewing platforms and a suspension bridge—yes,
even I made it to the bridge. The water was powerful as it crashed down the mountain
into a misty froth that eventually flows into the St. Lawrence River.
This was a superb excursion, and gave us a taste of the rural part of Quebec province.
Of course, there is much more of Quebec to the north that I imagine is vastly different.
I do enjoy the city of Quebec immensely and hope to revisit soon, yet this diversion
was nice and I highly recommend it.
Dinner tonight—duck paté brioche (outstanding), Caesar salad (OK), striped bass sauté
(superb) and cheese platter (very good). We arrived at the main dining room a little
after 7:00 pm without reservations and were given a beeper as there were no available
tables. We were told it would be 20 to 30 minutes, so we went up a deck to listen
to the wonderful Rosario Strings in the Explorer’s Lounge. By 7:30, we had been called
to the dining room, seated at an 8-top, and joined by tablemates. There was a party
of three and a party of two beside us—all from Australia and all meeting for the
first time. It was quite pleasant.
We made the 9:00 pm showing of Bob Mackie’s Broadway. It was a typical cruise ship
musical revue with two, notable, positive exceptions. The first was that the costumes
were designed by Bob Mackie. All were tasteful; none were over the top. The second
was that the singers introduced each other, rather than moving from song to song.
All of the singers said they had worked on Broadway.
We wandered along Deck 8 (Upper Promenade) later in the evening. People were enjoying
themselves, whether shopping, listening to music (Rosario Strings, the Neptunes,
or the act that would become our favorite, Buddy in the Piano Bar), or just hanging
Tomorrow is a day of scenic cruising along the St. Lawrence. Our clocks will be moved
to Atlantic Daylight Time overnight.
Monday, July 4, 2011
8:50 am (Atlantic Daylight Time)
We are cruising along the St. Lawrence River and will enter the Gulf of St. Lawrence
later today. Out my starboard window, the water is dark and calm, and we can see
layers of mountains in the background, obscured somewhat by the cloud cover that
pervades the sky.
Our cruise director is currently making his morning announcement of the day’s activities.
I may attend session on Charlottetown, Sydney, Halifax, Bar Harbor, and Boston, just
out of curiosity. I also note that a lecture we had on our 2004 cruise is still offered—New
England, New France, New World. I won’t see it again, yet it was excellent then and
I am glad that passengers new to this region have the opportunity to attend this
This is an exceptional lecture on our remaining ports of call. The speaker is highly
knowledgeable with excellent presentation skills. The focus is on each area—tours
were not mentioned except in passing, along with taxi options.
She will be giving another in a couple of days on the Halifax Explosion. I will do
my best to attend. Her details in just this short multi-port overview are so incredible
that I imagine I will learn a great deal on a topic with which I am already quite
Despite my best intentions to attend the lecture, I missed it. I ended up taking
a nap at 12:30, and awoke two hours later, one-half hour after the program had begun.
Thankfully, these lectures are looped on Channel 27 throughout the cruise.
Another disappointment was that it was too foggy to see Percé Rock, where we entered
the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Yet, we did see several species of birds, who flew alongside
our ship for a long while. Whenever the Master sounded the foghorn, the birds would
scatter, then regroup and return. Some birds were large, some tiny, some white, some
dark. It was a beautiful sight, so I suppose this wasn’t a disappointment after all.
Dinner tonight—citrus delight with amaretto, Caesar salad, oven-roasted quail, and
crepes with caramelized pears. Again, it was fabulous. We went to the dining room
at 6:40 (no reservation) and were seated immediately, after confirming that it was
OK with us to share a table. We were escorted to an 8-top, yet no one else was ever
We had an announcement from the Captain prior to dinner in which he told us that
fog would cause us to change our course to Prince Edward Island. Rather than approach
in a manner that would take us under the Confederation Bridge, we will instead approach
PEI from the north. That way, in case the forecasted fog comes to be, our island
visit may be salvaged. Going toward the bridge and then being told to turn back would
not leave time to make our call.
It will be sad to miss the bridge—we enjoyed cruising under it in 2004. Yet, as the
Captain said in the same announcement, we can all get some extra sleep as we would
have traveled under the bridge at 4:45 am!
Tuesday, July 5, 2011
Our approach to Charlottetown, PEI was beautiful. It was wonderful to be greeted
by the rolling green hills and the red sands. We have just docked in Charlottetown
and will meet our tour group in the terminal at 8:20. I much prefer this to meeting
in a show lounge onboard, where everyone scrambled to get off the ship. This system
worked well in Quebec City, and I suspect it will here, as well.
Two tough milestones today—the halfway point of the cruise just passed, and we also
had our final organized shore excursion of the cruise.
Yet, what a wonderful day it was! Our tour, Island Drive and Anne of Green Gables,
was another winner. We made a quick drive through Charlottetown, where the Canadian
Confederation held a meeting in 1864 that led to the formation of Canada three years
later. (PEI did not join the new Confederation for another six years, however.) Our
guide pointed out Province House, where this historic meeting was held. It was still
dressed in banners from yesterday’s visit of Will and Kate, which drew 30,000 people
to the location.
From there, it was a drive to the north shore area of Cavendish to see the home that
inspired L.M. Montgomery’s most famous and beloved novel, Anne of Green Gables. The
homestead was exactly how I had pictured it, largely due to the wonderful descriptions
in the book. We learned that Ms. Montgomery did not actually live in the house, yet
distant relatives did, so she visited often from the nearby home she shared with
her grandparents. While the book is fictional, it was easy to see the inspiration
for some of the settings. There really is a Haunted Wood (at the end of a long path
from the front door) and a Lover’s Lane (Balsam Hollow Trail, starting from the back
of the house). The house was decorated to appear as it did in the book, with bedrooms
clearly marked for each major character.
A stop at the National Park beaches followed. There were many red sand dunes and
red rock. Erosion is an issue—losing about a foot a year, according to our guide.
So, boardwalks have been constructed to keep people off the grass that protects the
dunes. This was an incredible coastline along the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
Finally, we drove to New Glasgow, south of Cavendish, to the Prince Edward Island
Preserve Company. What was nice—and unusual—was that the owner boarded our bus before
we exited to tell us the history of his company. This was really nice—a personal
touch means so much. Once inside, I sampled a green tea and raspberry/champagne preserves—both
After the tour ended, my family and I went to a restaurant near the pier—Peakes Quay—where
we had a lunch of mussels, lobster roll (me), haddock (my husband) and fried clams
(our son). We dined on the back porch overlooking Charlottetown Harbor. PEI is such
a great location, and I wish cruise ships would call here more often. It is simply
glorious in the summer!
Another lovely afternoon and evening. At 4:00, the three of us participated in a
ring toss tournament. My husband won! This cruise is featuring a number of Cruise
Classics activities—in addition to the ring toss, there have also been bocce ball
and ping pong tournaments, and tomorrow’s schedule includes golf-putting. The participation
in games for –dam dollars to be redeemed for merchandise is no more. Instead, a prize
is awarded to the winner of each game. Not sure how I feel about this.
I also miss the afternoon teas in the Explorer’s Lounge. All of them, so far, have
been held in the main dining room. Sorry—it’s not the same atmosphere as a comfortable
lounge, and atmosphere is important to me when partaking in afternoon tea.
Yet, there is so much to enjoy. Dinner at Canaletto was superb. I liked how the antipasto
was served—the waiter came around with a large platter from which we each made our
selections (served by the waiter). The seafood soup was flavorful, and the chicken
marsala was flawless. I tried a limoncello custard for dessert that was very good.
We are also enjoying the piano bar a great deal. The pianist, Buddy, has a wonderful
rapport with the crowd, which seems to be increasing in number with each evening.
He does requests, mostly. Tonight’s included The Monkees’ Daydream Believer, Don
McLean’s American Pie, and some from John Denver and Van Morrison. There was even
one I hadn’t heard in years—I Believe in Music. It was great how passengers spanning
multiple generations sang together, with most knowing all of the lyrics.
It’s hard to believe, and sad, that we have just three more full days remaining—Sydney,
Halifax, and Bar Harbor. I won’t dwell on this too much.
Wednesday, July 6, 2011
After awakening to eye-level fog on our stateroom balcony, the veil has lifted to
uncover the beautiful, lush Cape Breton coast. I see craggy shores in the foreground,
green hills in the background, and—in between—a village dotted with houses, a church,
and beautiful green fields. This is truly a sight to behold.
Lido lunch! This is a rarity for us (especially me), yet with many passengers off-ship
on extended tours today, we figured the buffet would not be terribly crowded. And,
that was indeed the case. I just enjoyed a lovely bowl of cream of chicken soup and
a plate of rotisserie chicken and mixed vegetables. It was quite good—the soup, especially.
There are no trays—a positive, in my opinion, although I believe I am in the minority.
The first 48 hours of the cruise, all items were served by the crew. Now, approximately
half are served by the crew while desserts, cheeses, and some other light items are
The Lido restaurant isn’t that bad. Upon entering, there are breads, then starters
(mainly salads), then Asian, Italian (including pasta), entrées (covering everything
else, I suppose), and sandwiches. Along the back wall are the desserts, including
several sugar-free varieties. The two lido lines are identical whether on port or
starboard. Seating is mainly 4- or 6-tops. Silverware, wrapped in a cloth napkin,
awaits on the cleared and clean tables.
There is so much to write about tonight as I ended up taking a long mid-day nap,
cutting into my usual writing time.
Our time ashore was wonderful. We opted to stay in Sydney rather than go off on an
excursion. Sydney is a jumping off point for tours on Cape Breton, such as Bras d’Or
Lake, part of the Cabot Trail, and the Fortress of Louisbourg. We went to the Fortress
on our last visit (2004) and it was splendid. Recently, the city of Sydney has started
to pay attention to its own history, and it shows. There are signs along the historic
district marking it as such, and a number of buildings from the 1700s and 1800s.
We visited three of the oldest buildings today. The first was St. George’s Church
(1783), which was constructed of stone brought over from the Fortress of Louisbourg
after its fall. The church was lovely—and one of the passengers was invited to play
the organ, enhancing this lovely visit. We then went to the Cossit House (1785),
which was home to St. George’s first Rector, his wife, and their ten children. It
is believed this is the oldest house in Sydney. It was modest—a receiving room, parlor,
kitchen, and a so-called sick room off the kitchen (used to quarantine ill family
members). Upstairs were four bedrooms.
We then went to Jost House (1786), a wood structure occupied by the Jost family from
1836 through 1971. The building today reflects life in all three centuries. The basement
was restored to its original kitchen, the main level reflected the nineteenth century
(including a store counter), and the top floor now serves as a museum of the early
twentieth century (including an apothecary, Marine Room, and a map room).
Back on board, we had a wonderful dinner in the main dining room at 8:00 (reservations
this time), sharing a table with two sisters from Colorado and a couple who now live
in Vermont. I had a fruit cup, Caesar salad, and grilled salmon with tomato broth
(one of the featured items). From there, we went to the Piano Bar, and did better
than we thought we would on Country Music Name that Tune-we got 5 of 15 questions
The ship is rocking gently, the first motion we’ve felt this cruise. Of course, we
are now in the Atlantic, or close to it. Although my book awaits, I would rather
lay in bed and be rocked to sleep.
Thursday, July 7, 2011
When telling friends of Canada/New England cruises, it often happens that my suggestion
to them to consider one is dismissed as—in their words—they will be bored as there
is little to do.
Quite the contrary.
Today was our fifth visit to Halifax, and we did not accomplish all we had set to
do today. And, we have already been to various places in and around the city.
We disembarked around 9:00 am and walked to the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic.
I lingered over as much as I could, given that this was not a first visit (or second,
or third, for that matter). I studied a map of Titanic I had not noticed previously.
I watched a film on the Halifax Explosion. I looked at salvaged items from shipwrecks.
I toured CSS Acadia. And, I read every panel in the new, temporary exhibit—Hello
Sailor—about “gay life on the ocean wave.”
We then had a splendid lunch—as planned—at Salty’s, near the Halifax Historic Properties.
I had a one-pound lobster that was so succulent that the meat came out of the shell
intact with no difficulty. At both the Museum and in Halifax Historic Properties,
we purchased many new books for our home library.
We never made it to our planned third stop, the Halifax Museum of Natural History.
Neil was looking forward to this, yet I may have lingered too long at the Maritime
Museum. So, we will save this for another visit. We are already talking of either
a long weekend (Halifax is a one-hour plane ride from our home) or a quick cruise
on Carnival when the line comes to Boston next year.
So—to get to my initial point—there is no way to be bored in Halifax.
Nice evening tonight. Took formal photographs—hopefully, one will come out well.
We had a dinner reservation in the main dining room at 6:30—got a fabulous table.
I wonder if there is a correlation between reserving in advance versus just showing
up as a walk-in. The two best tables we had were when we pre-reserved.
I was amazed that, when I looked at a card on the table that noted tomorrow night’s
Master Chef dinner, the waiter recalled that we would be going to the Pinnacle Grill
tomorrow night. Wow! So much for the supposed impersonal nature of As You Wish® Dining!
Dinner tonight: escargot Bourguignon, French onion soup (available daily), seared
Cajun tuna steak, and Master Chef Rudi’s Première (white chocolate filled with milk
chocolate mousse and decorated with macerated berries). All was wonderful, especially
the appetizer and soup. The tuna was cooked to perfection, yet a bit spicy. (“Cajun”
should have been a good clue.)
I realized just a couple of days ago that the Featured Chef rotates nightly. There
are six of these chefs onboard, all of whom are certified Culinary Council by HAL,
and we have had all featured so far.
I still have 100 pages to go in my library book, so I will turn my focus to that
now. It must be returned by 4:00 pm tomorrow. I am glad we are getting an extra hour
tonight—we return to Eastern Daylight Time overnight.
Friday, July 8, 2011
12:50 pm (Eastern Daylight Time)
We just boarded ms Maasdam for the last time this cruise. Tendering was a quick and
simple process both ways—no waits or lines. We spent roughly three hours ashore in
Bar Harbor, as we have been here at least a couple of times previously. The weather
was glorious—I was so thrilled for those who went to Cadillac Mountain today, as
the view must have been spectacular, as it was for us on our first visit (October
It was a nice day ashore. As planned, our first stop was the Abbe Museum, which focuses
on the Wabanaki Nations, native to this region. It’s a small museum and a nice way
to spend an hour or so—which is pretty much what we had allotted as we wanted to
make it an early day.
We stopped at Testa’s for a quick lunch—chowder and crab-stuffed mushrooms. The food
was very good. After lunch, we went to a bookstore (of course!) and walked further
into town so that my husband could see the exterior of the Freemason Lodge.
In skimming through my journal, I realized that I didn’t write much about the ship
on which we are cruising—Holland America Line’s ms Maasdam. This is the fifth HAL
ship to bear the name. Paintings of all five Maasdams are in the forward stairtower,
between decks 7 and 10, inclusive. (Maasdam III and IV share the wall on the landing
between decks 8 and 9.)
We had 5:30 reservations for dinner in the Pinnacle Grill, an alternative dining
venue. At one time, it was mainly a steak restaurant, yet the menu has been expanded
considerably. Neil had New York strip steak, I had a lobster tail, and our son had
lobster macaroni and cheese (the cheese sauce was flavored with lobster). The food
was wonderful and worth the $20 per person cover charge.
One change—they no longer wheel out the huge cart of the various cuts of meats. That’s
What was not OK was the service. Sure, the tableside preparation of the Caesar salad
was nice, as was the presentation of each course. Yet, when I ordered the vanilla
soufflé for dessert, I was told it would be a 20-minute wait. I then recalled that
on earlier HAL cruises, we were asked to order our dessert at the beginning of the
meal to avoid this situation. I included this on my comment card, as it is most definitely
an area that needs improvement, particularly in a fee restaurant.
My back-up choice, crème brûlée, was excellent, as always.
Packing went well, and the guys have been asleep for a little while. I should get
some sleep, too. Although we plan to remain on board as long as possible, we want
to be assured of having breakfast, which we plan to partake in the Neptune Lounge.
I shall put my head down on this pillow for the last time this cruise. Goodnight,
Maasdam. I will miss you.
Saturday, July 9, 2011
This was one of those sleeps that seemed to go by in a flash. I put my head on the
pillow, closed my eyes, opened them, and saw the sunlight coming through the window.
I will be sad to leave this ship. There’s still so much to do. I was thinking yesterday
that I never got a chance to do some of the activities I typically enjoy on a cruise—walk
a circuit on the outdoor promenade, go to the gym (the workout clothing I packed
last week remains untouched), and have lunch in the main dining room (other than
the Mariner’s Brunch, which doesn’t quite qualify).
Yet, there is so much I did do. I loved talking with people. The 90-year-old couple
who have been married six months. Several couples who will be staying in Boston a
few days. (I hope we gave them good advice.) A wonderful family from the western
U.S.—three generations, I believe—whose patriarch is a PhD and a football coach.
And, of course, I got to see a beautiful ship and her wonderful ports of call. In
some ways, it went by quickly. In others, it seems much longer ago than the past
week. Has it really been only eight days since we saw the beautiful Cathédrale Marie-Reine-du-Monde
from our hotel room window in Montreal?
Our disembarkation number was called several minutes ago, and we will soon make our
way to the gangway. We let some time pass by taking photos of Cruiseport Boston and
by lingering in the Neptune Lounge. I write this from our cabin. This has been an
easy disembarkation—in fact, everything on this cruise has gone relatively smoothly.
I am sad to be leaving, yet look forward to our return to Holland America next summer.
This is home.