Ed’s Cruise from London to New York on the Silversea Whisper – Part 5

 Sydney, Nova Scotia – Oct 7, 2019

Small, but with plenty of character, Sydney is best known as the gateway to Cape Breton Island, in north-eastern Nova Scotia.  We docked right on the waterfront at the Joan Harriss Cruise Pavilion offering shopping boutiques, art gallery, craft market and a bar.  Right outside quayside is a giant sculpture of a fiddle.

We opted for a lovely walk along their boardwalk before going to the historic part of Sydney.  This was founded by the Loyalists during the American Revolution and still contains six buildings that are still standing built in the late 1700’s and a couple in the turn of the 19th century.

We did go into the Jost House Museum, one of the buildings built in the late 1700’s.  Thomas Jost, a Halifax merchant bought the property in 1836 and his descendants remained there until 1971.  In the early 1900’s the roof was raised, and the second floor extended to include bedrooms and a bath.

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Since we only had a few hours in Sydney (all we really needed), we walked back to the ship, again on the boardwalk in time for lunch and sail away.

Next stop…Halifax, Nova Scotia!

Ed’s Cruise from London to New York on the Silversea Whisper – Part 4

St Pierre et Miquelon – October 5

How many of you knew that just a few miles south of Newfoundland there are a couple of islands owned by France?  The islands of St-Pierre and Miquelon aren’t just French-like with their berets, baguettes and Bordeaux – they are France, governed and financed by the tricolore. Locals kiss their hellos and pay in euros, sweet smells waft from myriad pastry shops, and French cars crowd the tiny one-way streets. It’s a world away from Newfoundland. St-Pierre is the more populated and developed island, with most of its 5500 residents living in the town of St-Pierre.  Miquelon is larger geographically but has only 600 residents overall.

Jacques Cartier claimed the islands for France in 1536, after they were discovered by the Portuguese in 1520. At the end of the Seven Years’ War in 1763, the islands were turned over to Britain, only to be given back to France in 1816. And French they’ve remained ever since.

As we land in St Pierre by tender, we are greeted by the locals dressed in period costumes and are offered coffee and wonderful French pastries.  In heavily accented English, they explain the series of brightly coloured shacks called Les Salines.  Formerly used to store salt, salted fish and fishing gear, these colorful little cabins located on the coast are now used to protect artisanal fishers’ equipment. Primarily a scenic cluster of multihued fishing shacks.

We then headed toward the Saint-Pierre harbor to see the Pointe aux Canons Lighthouse. While the lighthouse itself wasn’t open for the public, there’s a jetty where you can take photos. There’s also the remnants of a cannon here that was used during the Crimean War.

As we walk into the downtown area, we pass Le Square Joffre. You can’t miss the sculpture of a sailor that overlooks this peaceful park. This statue, erected in 1964, was sculpted out of a block of granite and is dedicated to the many sailors who lost their lives at sea. During the Sailors’ Festival, the procession stops there to lay flowers at its base.

The balance of the day is spent wandering around the small town.  Some of the people, again dressed in period costume, danced in a square to a local 3 piece band.  What surprised me is that we found a couple of large wine stores there that carried an impressive amount of French wines for a rather small population of 5,000.

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Finally, we went to the local church.  Once a wooden church, it was ravaged by fire and rebuilt with concrete and stone.

That’s it for now…next stop…Sydney, Nova Scotia!

Ed’s Cruise from London to New York on the Silversea Whisper – Part 3

Land Ho!  St John’s, Newfoundland

After 5 rather turbulent days on the Atlantic avoiding Hurricane Lorenzo, we docked in St John’s, Newfoundland!  Not that we didn’t enjoy our sea days because we did, even though the ship was rocking and rolling.  What’s not to like having all your meals prepared, your room cleaned, beds made and nightly entertainment!  We also enjoyed cooking classes, on board lecturers and a wide variety of premium cocktails and wines!

The above was at The Grill, outdoor dining on Hot Stones.

St. John’s, Newfoundland:  The beauty of arriving at St John’s is that the ship docks right downtown.  For more than 500 years, St. John’s has been visited by European explorers, adventurers, soldiers and pirates.  St John’s, the provincial capital, is the economic and cultural centre for Newfoundland and Labrador.

It was first discovered in 1497 by John Cabot and later claimed as the first permanent settlement in North America for the British Empire by Sir Humphrey Gilbert.  St. John’s has a rich and colourful history.  It offers an enticing combination of old world charm, unique architectural, historic and natural attractions, top notch facilities and services and is located in close proximity to spectacular coastlines, historic villages and a diverse selection of wildlife.

Our ship arrived a day earlier than planned as we had to miss our stop in Ireland.  Once docked we headed out.  Downtown St. John’s is truly one of the most unique destinations you will ever visit.  A place where old world charm mixes with a bustling business core in the oldest commercial district in North America.  Downtown offers historic churches, art galleries and museums, pubs and more pubs!  On George St, just a couple of blocks from the ship, there are more drinking establishments per square foot than anywhere else in North America.  So, off we go in search of some local brew and music.  We found it at Kelly’s Pub where we had to have a beer and listen to the wonderful local music.  The beer we had was called Iceberg Beer brewed by the Quidi Vidi Brewing Company.  They actually use chips from Icebergs to make the beer.  Apparently, the ice is formed tens of thousands of years ago from compacted snow. That means there are no minerals and lots of tiny bubbles trapped inside. They say “it gives the golden beer a special, very light taste.”

St. John’s has been the site of several significant modern events.  Marconi made the first reception of radio signals from across the Atlantic in 1901 on Signal Hill, above the harbor.  Cabot Tower on Signal Hill is the last North American landmark sighted by Charles Lindberg on his famous solo flight across the Atlantic in 1927 as St.John’s is located further east than any other city in North America.

This is where we started our Coastal Hike shore excursion.  While it was cold (5 C) and a bit windy, the hike was exceptional.  A school bus took us up to the top of Signal Hill.  The hike  is an awesome way to return to downtown along the 1.7km North Head Trail, which connects Cabot Tower with the harborfront Battery neighborhood. The walk departs from the tower’s parking lot and traces the cliffs, imparting tremendous sea views.

The Battery is a small neighbourhood that sits on the entrance to the harbour located on the slopes of Signal Hill. It is sometimes described as an outport within the city. The area is noted for its steep slopes, colourful houses, and its importance as a battery for the defense of St. John’s Harbour in both World Wars.

The Battery is home to Chain Rock, a land outcropping to which a large chain and anti-submarine boom were attached connecting to Fort Amherst in order to prevent the entry of German U-boats into the harbour during World War II. Chain Rock is one of two rocks located on opposite sides of the Narrows, Chain Rock on the battery side and Pancake Rock on the opposite. The space between the two rocks is 174 metres. Chain Rock and Pancake Rock were used as early as 1770 where a defensive chain was stretched between both rocks at nightfall to prevent illegal entry of enemy ships. During World War I the chain was replaced with anti-submarine nets.

After returning to the ship for lunch, we wandered out again to explore some of the colourful sites of the city.  One of the main attractions is the Basillica of St. John the Baptist.  It’s located on Military Road, with a fine view over the Narrows and is claimed to be Newfoundland’s architecturally most important    building built between 1842-92. It is built in the form of a Latin cross and graced by slender twin towers 46 meters high and is noted for some fine statues and its beautiful ornate gold leaf ceiling.

The thing that stuck me as being beautiful throughout the city is the lively, colourful way the houses are painted.  Every street is like a painter’s palette of colour.  Not sure how they decide on the colours or how they are mandated to have to paint the houses but it is certainly unique and beautiful

That’s it from St John’s.  Hope you saw how beautiful this city is.  I appreciate you reading along.  Next stop is St Pierre et Miquelon!

Experience the Sandals & Beaches Resorts of Jamaica With Casie – Part 3

 

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Another great reason to stay at a Sandals or Beaches property is to support the Sandals Foundation! It is a non-profit organization launched back in March 2009 to help Sandals Resorts International continue to make a difference in the Caribbean. 100% of every dollar donated goes directly towards funding areas like education, community and environment.

One of the ways you can support Sandals Foundation is by bringing a backpack with school supplies, clothing, toys/games and books. When you check into your resort they will take the backpack from you and distribute the items accordingly. While you are on vacation you can get involved and give back with Reading Road Trip through Island Routes. Visitors can volunteer 2 hours of their time at one of Sandals Foundation’s adopted schools. You get to interact with the children and help them with their literacy skills. There is a nominal fee which includes cost of ground transportation.

Another way to support Sandals Foundation is simply by making a donation. When you are checking into one of their properties you can make a donation at that time or anytime online.

Jamaica is currently supporting the following projects; Great Shape Dental Eye Care Program, Marine Sanctuaries and Construction & upgrades to local schools. Each year volunteers include opticians, optical technicians, nurses and more from the United States and Canada to participate in the weeklong clinic.

Sandals and Beaches Resorts have also made an environmentally friendly decision to use paper straws only. If you do not like paper straws you can purchase a reusable straw at the gift shop on property. All proceeds go to Sandals Foundation.

Sandals and Beaches completely changed my perspective of what an All Inclusive resort can be.  If you’re looking for more than just your standard, cookie cutter hot holiday then give me a shout at 306-934-3400 or casie@uniglobevacation.com and we can start planning your Luxury Included vacation today!

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Colleen’s Holland America Holiday To Alaska – Part 6

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We are on the last leg of our trip back through the Inside Passage.  It is a beautiful day meant to sit on the verandah and watch the scenery.  We have seen so much wildlife throughout the cruise and have been able to visit Juneau, Skagway and Ketchikan.  My favorite of course was Ketchikan.  It had the beautiful walking trail, totem poles and I think the best shopping and probably the only place that we seen Haida art.

The cruise has been great and we have loved the staff on the Westerdam.  I think it is one of the things that set Holland America apart from other cruises.  If you ever get the opportunity to cruise on the Westerdam, look out for Randy in the billboard lounge and I hope that you are lucky enough to have Zam and Moe as your room stewards.   As always there is the endless food and much time spent in the gym trying to work it off.  We really enjoyed the dueling pianos in the billboard lounge with 3 shows every night and BB Kings.  We will dock tomorrow in Vancouver and we are already thinking about coming back to Alaska.  Thank You Holland America for an awesome holiday. 

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Colleen’s Holland America Holiday To Alaska – Part 5

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We were already docked in Ketchikan when we woke up this morning and like every other port; we had the best place on the pier, right across from the main street.  The weather is great as we walk across to the Tourist Information and picked up a map with a really great walking tour and away we go.  Ketchikan is by far my favorite port.  Everywhere you look there are totem poles.  We make our way to Creek Street with its old buildings on stilts that look over the water.  This area used to be the red light district back in 1902.   All the buildings are now converted into small stores with all the usual tourist items but what draws us to the area is all the seals that are swimming in the water. They are there because of the salmon.  There are so many salmon swimming around that they don’t have to work for their lunch; it’s more like a buffet.  We leave here and walked up to the Totem Heritage Center which is the highlight for me.  This houses a collection of 19th century totem poles retrieved in 1970 from the Tlingit and Haida villages that were abandoned when the inhabitants moved into Ketchikan and other towns.  There is a small charge to get in but worth it.  We spend quite a bit of time here and decide to walk back to town.

There was a free shuttle if you did not want to walk.  I am so glad that we walked as we were able to see all the salmon as they were coming up the falls.  There is so many of them it looks like pit of snakes.  As we continue to walk down into town, we are following the water fall.  There is a great path that takes us back into Creek Street.  It has been a great day and we walk to the Sourdough Bar for an Alaskan beer before we head back to the ship.

 

Ed’s Cruise from London to New York on the Silversea Whisper – Part 2

Silversea Whisper

We are now on board this beautiful ship.  Although quite a small ship by today’s standards (only a max of 382 passengers), it is beautifully appointed and has all the amenities such as casino, shops, show lounge, bars, optional restaurants, etc.

Our stateroom (410) is the entry level of rooms.  Located on deck 4, we do not have a balcony but quite a large window and the stateroom is exceptionally roomy and well appointed.  We are not disappointed!  While our butler is available to unpack our suitcases, we prefer to unpack and store all our items ourselves.  A bottle of champagne is cooling off in the ice bucket for when we finish.

The beauty of a luxury line such as Silversea is that all beverages are included and tipping is not necessary, so our in room fridge has or can have whatever we want stocked.

The following are some pictures of our lovely stateroom.

Falmouth:

The city enjoys a supremely scenic setting on Cornwall’s southern coast, just inside the entrance of the deep and indented Carrick Roads estuary.

As well as being a historic port and a holiday resort, thanks to the presence of its arts-focused university it’s a lively and cultural place. The town is often selected as one of the best places to live in the UK.  For our day in port, we opted to go on a coastal walk by the Lizard Peninsula, Britain’s most southerly point.

Although the weather was a bit windy and a little chilly, we were very lucky that it did not rain on us.  However, because the weather was forecast to get worse, we were advised to be back on ship an hour earlier than planned in order to get out to sea before the weather got really bad.  So, while it may look like we were quite bundled up in the pictures below, it really was a very enjoyable 2 hour walk, followed by a wonderful fish and chips pub lunch, complete with a pint of the local ale.  I should mention that this coastal trail runs some 300 miles, so clearly, we only sampled a small part of it.

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Upon return to the ship, we were sadly advised that due to the inclement weather blowing in, we would have to skip our stop in Cork, Ireland.  This was a real disappointment as it was going to be a highlight for us.  However, for the safety of the ship and passengers, it was felt that we needed to set sail for Canada, crossing the Atlantic and avoiding the remnants of a hurricane moving through the Atlantic.   I think we are in store for a bit of a wild ride the next few days…I’ll let you know!!