Monday, August 14, 2017

See the World, you ARE Able, Part 4

The cruise began in Montreal and sailed up the St. Lawrence River stopping at Quebec City, Charlottetown (Prince Edward Island), Sydney (New Brunswick), Halifax (Nova Scotia), Bar Harbour (Maine) and ending in Boston (Massachusetts).  We decided that the weather in May did not warrant having a balcony so we booked an Oceanview cabin with a window so that we could lie in bed and see the stars.  Remembering how sick I had been years ago on a ship, I came armed with seasickness patches, Gravol and packages of ginger tea, the latter of which was the only one that I had need to use.  "Look out at the horizon, not down at the waves" warned my brother-in-law Ed.  Good advice as I never felt one moment of seasickness.  Whether it was due to that or to the fact that the Maasdam was large enough that the sea didn't transmit any turbulence, I cannot say, but the handrails on either side of the wide hallways and the decks,  made it easy to get around and meant that I really didn't have to be accompanied by my cane wherever I went on the ship.

 I had ordered a cabin designated for disabled passengers and found that the  doorways and spaces in the cabins were very generous as was the size of the washroom.  The bathtub was easily accessible with bars and safety mats and there definitely was enough room for wheelchair access.  I can't say enough about the comfortable beds, so much so that we purchased one of their mattresses for our own house.  The furnishings, linens and cabin stewards were top notch.  We loved the towel creatures that rested on our beds each night. 
The ship had a casino and nightly Las Vegas-type shows and so many other activities that you could indulge in; however, avid movie goers that we are, we went into their "cinema" each night to view current movies and eat popcorn. 

We began our journey by flying to Montreal where we had booked air to ship transfers -- something that I highly recommend doing when booking your cruise.  It really does save the hassle of finding your way through the airport and getting to the right area to board the ship.  We were met by a very cheery representative who did her utmost to make sure that I had a place to sit while waiting for our bus and that I had a front seat on it when it came.  Boarding buses can be a challenge but she was prepared with a small footstool so that I could easily reach the front step and the bus driver was extremely helpful in guiding me to my seat. 

When we arrived at the terminal, we were shown to a special line for mobility challenged people and were processed and on our way to our cabins in no time at all.  Our luggage was delivered to our cabins within the hour; meanwhile we were invited to a welcome party on the deck.  We had chosen to eat in the dining room at the early sitting -- something you can arrange when you book your cruise.  As first time cruisers, we thought that a table with another couple would be ideal so that was what we chose.  You do have other options such as a later sitting or no dining room booking at all.  Should you choose this option, there are many other restaurants on board in which to dine. If you intend to do "free style dining", don't book the dining room seating as they prepare food for the number of people they expect, so if you don't show up, it wastes food.  Mind you, they are geniuses at transforming unused food for the midnight buffet which my husband truly loved.

Our first port was Quebec City.  I had been there on business several times but had never really seen the city itself.  One of the most magnificent views from the deck was the Chateau Frontenac.
There were many shore excursions from which to choose, ours being the trip to St. Anne de Beaupre.  Now, I must explain how I choose my excursions.  Holland America has a rating system which easily shows a one stick figure for the least amount of walking to four stick figures for a lot of walking and they also show dollar signs for the least to most expensive tours.  Needless to say, my upper limit of walking is two stick figures.  Most buses have the first few rows designated for mobility challenged people and there is storage for walkers as well.  You can also book private tours which many of the guests with scooters did because they could book vehicles which could accommodate them at their own pace.

Our bus took us through the city and the guide pointed out various areas of interest and then we proceeded into the country side, past Montmorency Falls
 to the great cathedral of St. Anne de Beaupre.  It was a Sunday, so while everyone else walked around looking at the grounds and the other sights, I went inside the church as part of the congregation.

See those steps -- I didn't climb them.  A tip about these old buildings is that if you walk around most of them, you will find an accessible entrance.
The next stop on our journey through the Maritimes was Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.  I was so excited to see the home of my childhood hero, Anne of Green Gables.  In my youth, my curly, auburn hair was worn in pigtails and my nickname was Sue Ann of Green Gables.  The picture below is of Lucy Maude Montgomery's great granddaughter who works in the Green Gables house as a hostess. 
Unfortunately, I was limited to seeing only the main floor of the house as there were too many steps but what I did see was so interesting that I didn't mind.  One of the pictures on the wall that peaked my interest to re-read the books, was a portrait of Anne that I'm sure inspired the image we have of her so many years later.

Aside from the wonderful furniture and mind-boggling clothes on display within the house, were the many antiques (horse and carriages, water pumps) that were on the property itself.  We even went on a hayride (a very, very strong farmhand managed to lift me onto the wagon).
Sadly, we had to leave this beautiful island where the scenery and food were plentiful and so memorable.  I have to admit that I didn't leave without first stopping at COWS, the famous ice-cream store and, it is worth the however many miles trip to taste such glorious craft made products.

Continuing on, on our journey, the next port was Sydney, Nova Scotia.  As I mentioned before, we had travelled through Nova Scotia on the Celtic Colours tour a few years before this cruise, so I wasn't too disappointed in not being physically able to descend into the mines.  While my husband waiting in the lobby with my husband who was going on the tour, I met a few other women who had the same mobility challenge, and, together, we hailed a taxi to take us to the craft show that was on in the city.  One thing I have realized is that I am not the only person who has challenges and I am getting pretty good at reaching out to others to find things that w have in common and discover things to do. 

Our next port was Halifax and there is not enough time to recount all the wonderful sights to see in Halifax.  You can take shore excursions that will take on historic sightseeing tours as my husband did or you can sightsee retail, as I do, on Spring Street or along the harbour.  Since we had previously visited Peggy's Cover, home of the famous lighthouse, we opted for a tour to Lunenberg, home of the famous ship and to various towns around that area.  There was a wonderful nautical museum there which occupied my time while others climbed aboard the schooner.
It was that night, as we entered the Atlantic Ocean that I experienced my first encounter with rough seas.  Luckily for us, there were railings on both sides of the hallways so our regular nighttime dinner plans and visit to the cinema were not hampered.  It actually felt like being rocked to sleep in bed rather than anything unpleasant.  When we awoke the following morning, we discovered the reason for the turbulence was the storm that we were going through.  We were about to dock at our next port, |Bar Harbour, Maine and were told that it was raining and it was up to us if we wanted to continue with our shore excursion and regardless if we went or not, we would receive refunds for the tour.  My husband decided that he would go on the tour while I spent a delightful afternoon under a tent talking to local residents about the town.  Darryl brought back a few pictures of the colourful houses and some useful information.  I learned that the town is located on Mount Desert Island and is surrounded by Acadia National Park, rocky cliffs and blue waters and that had the weather been better, we could have gone lobster fishing or on a Schooner ride. 
We were very surprised when, upon re-boarding the Maasdam, we were greeted with a champagne reception, courtesy of the ship's captain who was feeling guilty about the weather mishap.
Our next and final port was Boston.  Darryl decided to take the shore excursion entitled USS Constitution and Harbour Cruise.  By this time, I had had quite enough of climbing on and off boats, so I decided to get on a city bus and knit the rest of my prayer shawl while I saw a bit of the town.  I happened to position myself right behind the driver who took an interest in the what I was knitting and, while I gave him a lesson in the theory behind the prayer shawl ministry, he gave me a guided tour of Boston.  What a treat!  And here I must draw your attention to bringing something you can do like knitting or crocheting or reading a good book.  It not only gives you something to do while you wait while other tour companions go where you are hesitant to tread (cobblestones, steps, etc.), it gives you a chance to talk to local passers-by and to interested tourists as well. 
We disembarked from our cruise with fond memories of our journey and proceeded to stay for a few days in this wonderful historic town. We loved Boston, especially our hotel.  We stayed at the historic Parker House Hotel, famous for, you guessed it, Parker House rolls.  What we didn't expect was the beautiful room with the antique furniture.  When choosing a hotel, I would suggest doing a bit of research about it first.  I had no idea that we would have an antique bed that was so high that I couldn't get in unless Darryl gave me a boost.  I got into the bed but when I had to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, I had to wake him up to help me.  That being said, the food made up for the difficulty.  Not only were the Parker House rolls everything we expected, but the Boston Cream Pie was unbelievable.  So this ends my tale of our first cruise.  We have gone on many more and I will continue the next installment detailing our trips to Europe. 

No comments:

Post a Comment