Cruise to Nova Scotia, Part 5

Aboard the Scotia Prince from Yarmouth to Portland

June 11-15, 2004  (Updated July 29, 2004)

 

1. Boston to Portland, Maine and Scotia Prince

4. A Whale of a Time in the Bay of Fundy

2. Aboard the Scotia Prince to Yarmouth

5. Aboard the Scotia Prince to Portland, Maine

3. Bicycling and Lobsters in Yarmouth

6. Maine to Memphis

 

Index to 22 Photos

 

By Lewis Nolan

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June 14, 2004 – Monday

 

We had a 5 a.m. wakeup call from the staff of the Yarmouth Grand Rodd Hotel to give us plenty of time to pack and return the
Lewis by little-used deck chairs at Yarmouth
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rental car to the Avis counter at the cruise ship terminal by 7 a.m. That seemed way early since the boat doesn’t board until 8:30 a.m. I guess that the Avis manager wants the car back soon enough to prep it for rental to incoming passengers.

 

A pleasant security guard checked our luggage in the terminal’s screening area at the entrance to a waiting area that was far more attractive and comfortable than that at the shipping/warehouse serving that function at Portland, Maine. (I read that Portland is planning to build a new terminal to serve the Scotia Prince and other ships in the near future.)

 

The weather gods continued to smile at us. We had a cool, clear and sunny morning. As the morning wore on, the winds kicked up. Once aboard, we discovered that our upgraded, outside cabin (No. 308) for the return voyage was quite a bit nicer than the merely adequate one we had on the way out. I don’t know if it was any bigger, but it seemed to be more spacious. After we stored our bags in the cabin, we climbed up several flights of stairs (called “ladders” in the Navy) to the topmost deck to take photographs with Betty’s digital camera.

 

We got some great shots of hundreds of seagulls swarming a seine boat that was unloading a big catch of herring at a nearby dock. The fish were sucked up out of the boat through a pipe perhaps 18 inches wide and funneled into plastic crates on waiting, 18-wheeler truck trailers. A few fish were spilled during the high-speed loading process and the more aggressive gulls got underfoot. Meanwhile, a harbor seal patrolled the area.

 

Once the Scotia Prince got underway with a huge blast from its steam horn, Betty and I repaired to the Broadway Show Lounge. We sat down on comfortable seats at a table next to a large, picture window to watch the ship’s debouchment from the harbor. I had a turkey-cheese sandwich for breakfast and Betty contented herself with coffee. We visited with a 40-ish couple from New Hampshire who were returning home after spending a week in a rental cottage on a lonely beach to the north of Yarmouth. They were traveling on a Harley Davidson motorcycle and had some good stories to tell.

 

We enjoyed a tasty, reasonably priced lunch in the ship’s elegant dining room. I went for the Nova Scotia Fish n’ Chips and Betty for the Vegetable-Basil soup with a BLT. The glass of chilled Chardonnay (only $3.75) we each had helped me forget that the low-carb, Atkins diet is calling me home.

 

Two expert waiters with Hispanic looks and names, Julio and Pedro, served us. Julio (pronounced who-lee-oh) allowed that he is from Peru, where our son is on an adventure hike for two weeks to celebrate his graduation. Julio told us that he has worked on several cruise ships and that the Scotia Prince has the most demanding hours for the crew. That comes as no surprise since the boat goes back and forth between Yarmouth and Portland during the warm months with not much more than an hour’s turnaround time. Consequently, the crew only has roughly an hour of “shore time” twice daily even though U.S. and Canadian Customs allows them to pass through ahead of the passengers.

 

The ship’s crew is almost entirely comprised of Third Worlders willing to work long hours for pay that is low by U.S. standards but enviable in the lesser-developed nations. I try to overlook the cruise industry’s dirty little secret of exploitation and tend to over-tip when aboard ships to help compensate for my guilt (curse or blessing of my Irish heritage?) in taking advantage of these desperate workers. Most of the crew are men in their twenties and thirties who support families back home they don’t often see.

 

This ship’s crew obviously works a lot of
Betty scopes out Yarmouth harbor scenery
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hours and does a good job of making travel on this aged boat with its cramped cabins into a pleasant experience at a terrific value.

 

After lunch, we quickly tired of the commotion from Bingo, putting contests and other time-filling activities in the Broadway Show Lounge. We returned to our cabin to read, nap and watch the ever-fascinating beauty of the sea being stirred up by the wake of a large ship.

 

There were a lot more passengers on the return trip to Portland than there were on the way out three days ago. The reason is that there are about 400 new high school graduates aboard. Many were grunge-scruffy in appearance but they all seemed to be well mannered and demographically homogeneous. We learned that three schools in and around Farmington, Maine, offered a cheap, over-and-back package to seniors along with the chaperone services of several teachers and coaches.

 

The celebrating kids had some bad luck. The crossing to Yarmouth from Portland was quite rough due to a storm at sea. Many of the youngsters got violently ill after dinner. Some spent the night on the floor of the Broadway Lounge near the restrooms rather than in the storm-tossed, tiny cabins (without toilets) that were included in the package. They had only an hour in Yarmouth so few even left the ship. Notwithstanding the unlucky weather, a graduation cruise seems like a good idea since the environment is confined and the itinerary controlled by adults.

 

The sea was still a little rough during the 11-hour cruise back to Portland. But I enjoyed the feel and sight of the big ship crashing through the eight-foot swells to repeated explosions of white foam.

 

Getting through U.S. Customs at Portland took about 40 minutes despite the quick work done by six agents. One agent about my
Seagulls swarm fishing boat at Yarmouth
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age laughed when I told him we had purchased less than $100 worth of  “junk” during our stay in Canada. He said others (obviously coached by the ship’s cruise director) declared they bought only “miscellaneous souvenirs.” We got driving directions from local policemen to Marriot’s Townhome Suites in nearby Scarborough, Maine. The property that caters to travelers on extended business had accepted my Priceline offer of $55 for a large, well-appointed room with separate kitchenette. That was about half the rack rate.

 

After taking a wrong turn, we finally checked in at 8:30 p.m., and then drove a short distance to a Chili’s restaurant. We had a surprisingly good dinner of Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad for me and Margarita-marinated Chicken Breast for Betty. Her dish – served with black beans, rice, salsa and tortilla chips – was so tasty that we got the basic recipe from the helpful waitress for use at home.

 

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