Cruise to Nova Scotia, Part 2
Aboard the Scotia Prince to Yarmouth
June 11-15, 2004 (Updated July 29, 2004)
By Lewis Nolan
June 11, 2004 - Friday
We had upgraded our Scotia Prince cruise
package to an outside cabin equipped with a porthole, four bunk beds (two beds
Lewis aboard Scotia Prince
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Ours was a tiny cabin – No.508 - and I found that the shower was too small for a big man like me; the cramped shower made petite-sized Betty decide to delay that activity until we checked into our hotel in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. But the cabin will do for the 11-hour sailing. We don’t plan to spend much awake time in it anyway.
We later discovered that the Scotia Prince serves excellent food in its elegantly appointed restaurant. We had decided to pass on the $18 buffet dinner since we had eaten a late lunch of burgers and fries at Freeport, Maine. Once the ship was underway at 8 p.m., I had a light supper of a decent, turkey and cheese sandwich served in the coffee shop for $4.95. Betty settled for potato chips and a Margarita.
The Scotia Prince describes itself as a “cruise ferry.” It is an older, well-maintained ship that offers the Southern-most departure point to Nova Scotia in New England. Its promotional material says it has been Nova Scotia’s leading vacation packager for 34 years. “Almost one-third of all Americans going to Nova Scotia sail with us,” it claims. Those who do sail from Portland save more than six hours driving time to and from Bar Harbor, Maine, where a high-speed ferry is based.
The competitive vessel is a gigantic catamaran, aptly named “The Cat.” It can carry up to 250 cars and 900 passengers at speeds above 45 mph. Depending on the condition of the seas, it usually makes the Bar Harbor-to-Yarmouth crossing in three hours. Amenities include a casino, duty free shopping, TV-movie loungers plus food and beverage service. Details are at the website www.catferry.com.
Prices charged for passengers and vehicles are about the same on both vessels. Peak rates for the 23-hour, over-and-back cruise aboard the Scotia Prince – which allows for a very quick walk in Yarmouth – are $105 per adult. The Cat offers a same-day, round-trip fare at peak summertime for $59; the rate goes to $110 if the passenger elects to spend the night in Bar Harbor. Both vessels charge about $100 per vehicle each way but offer various discounts for sailings on different days and off-season. Both vessels have additional charges to cover port and security fees.
Had we chosen to drive to Yarmouth from Portland we would have had a 1,500-mile trip. No way. To my thinking, if one is traveling to Nova Scotia from the Boston area, the overnight cruise aboard the Scotia Prince is the best way to go because of some great package deals that include hotels, rental cars and some meals. Plus, it’s a pleasant ride – at least in the favorable weather we enjoyed. For a short stay like ours, it is cheaper to rent a car in Yarmouth than to ferry one over. A car is essential unless one takes a tour package; the Bay of Fundy and other points of interest are many miles from Yarmouth. The Cat’s car ferry service may be a better deal for time-pinched visitors to Nova Scotia who are already in Maine and have their own cars. The same goes for Americans who fly into Maine and who rent cars to tour scenic Bar Harbor and vicinity.
Features of the Scotia Prince include the following:
· There is room for more than 200 buses, RVs, cars and motorcycles on a lower deck with special doors that allow drive-on boarding.
· There are more than 400 cabins ranging from economy, inside rooms with no bathroom to spacious suites.
usual cruise ship amenities include a casino, hot tub, massage and beauty spa,
bars, restaurant, duty free shopping, live band for dancing plus entertainment
in the evening and lots of activities. We passed on the casino lessons, bingo,
trivia quiz, scavenger hunt, karaoke and dating game activities. But I couldn’t
Lewis wears cycling helmet at Yarmouth
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· Several dozen packages offering various prices, locations in Nova Scotia, lengths of time, accommodations, tours, activities and rental car arrangements. The company’s website at www.scotiaprince.info has details.
· We went for the “Three Day Getaway,” with the upgraded, outside cabin option. It included the overnight sailing to Yarmouth and two nights at the modern, three-star, Rodd Grand Hotel in Yarmouth for two nights. The deal included two breakfasts and one dinner (with wine) for both of us plus shuttle service from the ship to the hotel. The total cost was $556, an amazingly inexpensive rate available during the shoulder season. We can’t go to Tupelo, Miss., for that price.
The passage from Portland to Yarmouth is about 200 miles and takes about 11 hours. We had smooth sailing on the way over, with the gentle rocking of the ship aiding sleep. The Atlantic Ocean was a little rough on the return crossing (and could have been a wild ride in a cruising sailboat even 50 feet long).
We chatted with a couple from Texas for a while in the Broadway Show Lounge as an Asian quartet played rock standards. The lounge offers comfortable seating and panoramic views of the ocean through huge, picture windows. We made an early exit when a young female singer tried mightily to please but went off key when hitting the high notes. I slept surprisingly well in the bunk bed as the big ship gently rocked and rolled its way across the sea.