Posts Tagged ‘Cruises’

Cool Cruise – Part 7: Rocking and Rolling at Sea

December 13, 2009

As I woke on the morning of our last full day at sea,  I felt the ship rolling. Curious as to why, I pushed back the drapes of the cabin’s window and gasped an unprintable word – this is a G- rated blog – at what a I saw. 

   

Then it occurred to me that the noise I was hearing through the double-pained glass was the wind howling. I turned on the cabin TV to the ship’s channel where I learned that we were in a force 8 gale.  That means the wind was blowing from 39 to 46 miles per  hour.  

I have been in rough seas before.  I made two North Atlantic crossings back in the 50’s when I was in the Army. We had a pretty good storm on one of them.  The ride on the troop ship was more exciting because there is a big difference in a relatively small troop ship without stabilizers and a 105,500 ton, 12-deck tall cruise ship that has state of the art stabilizers.  

A lot of soldiers on that troop ship got demonstrably seasick.  Fortunately, I wasn’t one of  them. In fact,  I actually enjoyed going on deck for some fresh  air and feeling the sea spray on my face.    One sight I’ll never forget was when I went to the head on the fantail of the ship.  As the fantail went up and down like one end of a seesaw, the water in the toilets – there must have been at least 20 of them in a row – shot up like fountains. 

 On the Carnival Triumph we had expected the day at sea steaming from Halifax, Nova Scotia to New York City,  would be fun, with ballroom dance lessons,  delicious food, an afternoon tea,  the chance to lose some more money in the casino,  and the passenger talent show in the big lounge.  

 You should have seen the ballroom dance class  trying to do cha-cha steps with the ship rolling that way.  I tried it for a little while, but decided that at my age I wouldn’t want to fall on a hard dance floor.     

Carnival Triumph back in the calm waters at Pier 88 in Manhattan following the 7-day cruise. That barge on the side is refueling her for her trip to Norfolk, Virginia, then a cruise to Miami, and finally back to her home port of New Orleans.

 As the ship pulled into New York Harbor the next morning, all was calm again.  Getting off the ship was a lot easier than getting on with not as many security hoops to jump through which made lines to the customs stations short.   

Wending our way through downtown Manhattan via 42nd Street and Broadway on the way to La Guardia and the flight back to Atlanta.

  We got to enjoy the bus ride down Broadway and 42nd Street and Time Square back to La Guardia Airport.  I reflected that was a good way to experience downtown Manhattan.  You got the ambience without having to get involved with the throngs on the sidewalks or the pushing and shoving of what must have been a million people in Times Square.    

Greystone at Inverness Apartments, Columbus, GA.

Now that I am back home I am seeing more beautiful fall leaves than I saw anywhere in New England and Canada, and the main reason for going in mid-October was to see those leaves.  The rest of the adventure made up for it. 

 

Autumn leaves on the Riverwalk, on the overflowing Chattahoochee River, Columbus, GA

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Cool Cruise – Part 5: Facts about Halifax

November 23, 2009

Little did I know what an interesting and charming place Halifax, Nova Scotia would be.  Besides knowing the name, I was ignorant about the place, which made it all the more entertaining when the Carnival Triumph slid into Halifax Harbor.

Georges Island, Halifax Harbor, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

As we passed an island that had a lighthouse and lighthouse keepers house, it appeared to have no people.  I had to look it up on Wikipedia after I got back to Columbus, Georgia, my home town, to learn about it. Indeed, there is no one on Georges island.  The lighthouse has been automated since the 1970’s. The Canadian government is working on turning it into a tourist attraction. After all, it has a historical fort, from which a shot was never fired in anger.

Noon cannon firing for tourists at Fort George, Halifax, NS

Only having a few hours to explore Halifax, we took a tour of the city on a London double-decker bus.  We saw a beautiful, clean town.  We stopped at a fort that is open to the puiblic, Fort George, which dates back to the 1700’s. A cannon is fired at noon every day for the tourists.  Halifax has never been attacked. But it had the two forts in case France, or, later, the United States decided to do it.  The Fort is now a park.  

We got off the bus at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic.   If  you ever get to Halifax, don’t miss it.  you’ll learn a lot about the area’s history. Not only does it have a Titanic exhibit – survivors of the sinking were taken to Halifax, and a lot of those whose drowned bodies were recovered are buried in a Halifax cemetary – but it has have exhibits that explain that Halifax was a very important port in both World War I and II. Because it is a protected harbor that was safe from German submarines, it was the staging area for the convoys that took supplies to the United Kingdom in both wars.

Entrance to Halifax explosion of 1917 in Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, Halifax, NS

The French also used the harbor in World War I, which led to a colossal disaster. It was and still is the largest accidental man-made explosion in the world. I learned about it while visiting the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. On December 6, 1917, SS Mont-Blac, a French cargo ship loaded with explosives destined to France, collided with the empty Norwegian SS Imo. The Mont-Blanc caught on fire, drifted close to shore, and exploded, destroying structures , killing 2,000 people and injuring 8,000. The explosion caused a tsunami in the harbor and a pressure air wave that demolished more buildings, grounded ships and carried fragments from the Mont Blanc for miles. I had never heard of it before.

1930 Snipe, a racing sailboat similiar to one I owned and raced, though this one is a lot older

I found the racing sailboat exhibit especially interesting because it sported a 1930 Snipe. I owned and raced a couple of Snipes for a number of years.  One was destroyed by a tornado at Lake Harding, which is north of Columbus,  on a Christmas day in the 1970’s. But that’s another story. Back to Halifax.

Having a 3-year-old friend who loves Thomas the Train, I found the exhibit about Canada’s answer to Thomas interesting.  The television program about Theodore the Tugboat was produced in Halifax and aired on the Canadian Broadcasting Company. Kids love it, and still enjoy the re-runs and DVDs.  The actual real Theodore the Tugboat used for the show was docked nearby.  The model used for the annimated show, which is shown in the inset, is displayed in the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic.

Theodore the Tugboat docked near the Museum of the Atlantic, and (inset) the actual model that was used in making the annimated TV show, which is displayed in the museum, Halifax, Nova Scotia

Halifax is the largest Canadian city east of Montreal and is the capital of Nova Scotia. Like Columbus, the economy gets a boost from the military; however it’s the Canadian Navy not Army, and Halifax is home of Canada’s Atlantic fleet. The Canadian Navy is not very large, only 33 ships. And though there are less than ten-thousand people employed by the naval base, Halifax’s economy is stronger than Columbus‘, with the median household income of more than $55 thousand.  Columbus has a median household income of almost $40 thousand. Halifax is a very busy port, the fourth busiest in Canada, and there are a lot of government service jobs there since it is the province’s capital. 

Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada as seen from the Carnival Triumph cruise ship's dock All in all, we enjoyed Halifax. For one thing, we found a great Irish pub there where we had wonderful seafood chowder for lunch. Being the last stop, that should end this series of posts, but the trip back to New York had a little excitement. That will be the Cool Cruise finale. Don't miss it, and tell your friends to tune in!

Cool Cruise – Part 5: Saint John, New Brunswick, Where the River Flows Both Ways

November 16, 2009

As our ship eased into Saint John Harbor, I thought, that quaint little scene is what I expected to see in coastal Canada in the fall. 

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Saint John Harbor, Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada

There were actually some pretty autumn leaves.  Our cruise was billed as an autumn leaves New England and Canada  affair, but we didn’t see hardly any of those until we got to Saint John.

I was looking forward to getting off the cold cruise ship – the 105, 509  ton Carnival Triumph has no heating system, which I learned after I got on the ship – and getting on a warm bus to tour Saint John.  The bus was warm, but we got out a few times, and the high that day in October was around 42 degrees, and it was drizzling.

The high tides there are the big tourist attraction.  The tides on the Bay of Fundy are among the highest in the world. The power of those tides is graphically demonstrated at the Reversing Rapid Falls.  The flow of the river reverses for a  few miles when the tides change.  It was really cold and wet when our bus stopped there, but shutter bugs like me hopped off to get a few shots. We didn’t  tarry, though.

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Reversal Falls Rapids on the Saint John River which feeds the Bay of Fundy, home of some of the highest tides in the world. That's an Irving family paper mill in the background.

All in all, Saint John is pretty small, a little more than 120,000 people in the metropolitan area.  That’s the second largest in New Brunswick. The city, with a little more than 68,000, is the largest.   It is the 6th largest port in Canada.   And it is the home of the late industrialist K.C. Irving, whose company is the largest single landholder in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Maine.   His company uses a lot of timber for its paper mills. His  three sons now operate the business, valued at between $7 – $9 billion.

As we say farewell to Saint John, we get ready to say hello to Halifax, Nova Scotia, a very different place.

(This website has some interesting pictures of Saint John and the Bay of Fundy)

Cool Cruise – Part 3: You Have to Fly 500 MPH to Get to a Cruise Ship that Goes 25 Miles MPH

November 2, 2009

In my last post on our “Autumn leaves” cruise up the coast of New England and Canada, I said we would go to Portland, Maine next, and we will, in our next post, after a little side trip on the joys of getting to the ship which is about a thousand miles from where I live.

Flying to and from New York was mercifully not long.  On the flight to, I sat next to a woman with a baby boy in her arms and her other son, who was about five, in the middle seat. I thought, oh no, little kids are walking germ dispensers. (I did end up with a cold when I got back, but who knows where I got it.) Fortunately the kids were well behaved. The one in her lap was quite content because she hugged and kissed him just about all the way. The other kid was busy coloring most of the time.  I made a point of not talking to them because I figured I had best leave well enough alone. As we were landing, I did strike up a conversation, enough to learn that she was a native New Yorker who lived in Atlanta and was bringing her kids to visit relatives.  Mom and the kids got all excited when New York City, her home town, came into view,  with Mom pointing to the Statue of Liberty and other landmarks. “Look, there’s the Statue of Liberty,” she exclaimed to her two Atlanta boys. “See it?”  The five-year-old had a hard time zeroing in on it so I joined her in pointing it out.  He finally saw it.  They got almost as excited as I did. I’ve been to the Big Apple a few times before, but it had been a while.  NY from Delta lMG_0010_edited-1

Our Delta from Atlanta to New York was about 30 minutes late leaving, which made me anxious that we would literally miss the boat, the cruise ship Carnival Triumph. However, we got a tail wind and the pilot said he would notch up the plane’s speed to make up for lost time.  We arrived at LaGuardia five minutes early.

On the way back, I sat in a row with two ladies, one of whom should have paid for two seats, because she was that large.  Both middle arm rests had to be left down in order for her to slop over into the seat next to her. I was scrunched up for the entire flight. Such is life in the cheap seats.  

The bright side was the ride through downtown Manhattan to get to Pier 88 where the mega-ship Triumph was waiting.  I started singing the George M. Cohan classic show tune “Give My Regards to Broadway” when our bus crept down 42nd Street.  Remember the line ” tell all the gang on 42nd Street that I will be there?”  Everyone, all cruise bound like I, was enjoying the ride and in a good mood so nobody seemed to mind.  We even rode by Times Square where it looked like a million people were milling around. Intreped

Once we got to the docks, we got a brief glimpse of the aircraft carrier Intrepid floating museum, which is docked near the pier where the Triumph waited.  Maybe I’ll go back to see that some time. Meanwhile, I think I’ll go to Warner Robbins to see the Air Force Museum there first.  That’s only a hundred miles away, and I have never been there.

But I digress. I promise to do the Portland thing next.

A Cool Cruise

October 19, 2009

 

Dick McMichael on the Triumph headed out of New York, NY harbor for Boston; Portland, Maine; St. John, New Brunswick, Canada; Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

Me, Dick McMichael, on the Triumph headed out of New York Harbor for Boston; Portland, Maine; St. John, New Brunswick, Canada; Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

I took a vacation from blogging last week,  going on a cool cruise ship.  When I say cool, I mean it literally, as well as the other way.  Carnival Cruise Lines sent the Triumph, which, I am told, has no heater on it, up the  New England and Canadian coast.  Temperatures were in the low thirties and forties.  When I complained to a service desk employee, he told me that I could close the air conditioning vent.  I told him that I did that and the cabin was still cold.  He said he was sorry.  I asked him if the cabins were going to get some heat. He said they would  not. He was right.

Jorge Solano, Cruise Director for the Carnival Lines' Triumph

Jorge Solano, Cruise Director for the Carnival Lines' Triumph

I decided that before I reported on this I would get another source in order to make sure that there was no capacity to heat the cabins for the 2,758 passengers and 1,100 crew members.  After seeing and being thoroughly entertained by the ship’s Cruise Director Jorge Solano, a very funny man, I decided I would ask him.  He granted my request for an interview. 

I told him that I really enjoyed his performances, and that the entertainment on the ship was first rate.  That was not just flattery. I meant it. There were two other hilarious comedians who performed, and big colorful production shows with elaborate costumes, skilled dancers and a great show band.  The ship’s service personnel were helpful and friendly, the food was excellent, and the decor was Las Vegas magical, but I did hear a lot of passengers complaining about their cold cabins.

“Does this ship not have a heater?”

“I don’t think it does, but let me get an official answer, ” he said as he dialed up a Carnival official.   After the conversation, he said that the ship definitely did not have a heater.  When I told him that it was incredible that Carnival would send a ship up the Northeast coast with no heating capacity, he smiled and said, “I’ve been cold, too. I had no idea it was going to be this cold up here.”  He had told me that  being cruise director did not mean he was responsible for the ship, that his job was strictly being in charge of the ship’s entertainment.  He did that very well, and was a likeable guy. 

Cold in our cabins or not, we – I went with a group from the First Baptist Church of Columbus – still had a lot of fun and enjoyed experiencing some places I have never been before.  More on that coming up.   

Carnival Cruise Line's Triumph docked in New York, NY

Carnival Cruise Line's Triumph docked in New York, NY