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A VIKING\'S PASSAGE - 16 DAYS IN THE LAP OF LUXURY
 
(2014 - Spring Issue)

Writer: SHIRLEY EDWARDS



Plan on taking a cruise?

If you are looking for a luxurious, destination-oriented itinerary complete with endless gourmet food served in eight dining rooms at no additional cost, a bathtub in every outside cabin, and comfortable beds, the Oceania MSMarinais for you.

Founded in 2002, this mid-size ship features an excellent fitness centre and an amazing Canyon Ranch SpaClub. If you need to keep in touch with the outside world, a computer room is available, and if you require assistance, Hugo is on board to help you.

Farewell, New York

Departing from the Port of New York City, we waved goodbye as we sailed past the Statue of Liberty.

Our first port was beautiful Bar Harbor, Maine. Surrounded by mountains, forest, lakes and ocean, Bar Harbor serves as a gateway to Acadia National Park, the second most-visited park in the U.S. Here, you will find granite cliffs side by side with sandy beaches and glacier-carved mountains. The park’s main attraction is Park Loop Road, a 43.5-kilometre two-lane thoroughfare, which winds through the eastern half of Mount Desert Island. Featuring splendid views from Thunder Hole and Sand Beach, the route culminates with a stop at the summit of 466-metre Cadillac Mountain, the highest point on North America’s East Coast.

Exploring Eastern Canada

The next day we sailed into Halifax, Nova Scotia, which boasts the second-largest natural harbour in the world.

One of the city’s most attractive areas is the Historic Properties Development along the waterfront where early 19th-century wood and stone buildings have been fully restored. Cobblestone streets and a long boardwalk are lined with boutiques, cafés and pubs. Not many cities have a McDonald’s that serves lobster rolls, but Halifax does. The tranquil Public Gardens is a rare example of a formal Victorian public garden still intact in the heart of a modern city. A popular scenic drive from downtown Halifax is the Lighthouse Route to Peggy’s Cove, one of the most-photographed sites in the province and a symbol of the spirit of Nova Scotia.

Sydney, Nova Scotia, our next port, offered many interesting highlights. Although the weather did not co-operate for sightseeing, the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site and the Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site are nearby. The latter is a reconstruction of the 18th-century fortress where visitors can imagine life in the toughest of conditions almost 300 years ago.

Our next stop was at the heart and centre of French Canada, Québec City, where the city’s past is well preserved in its Old Town. Divided into the Upper Town and Lower Town, it is the only walled city north of Mexico and was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985. A visit to the Plains of Abraham, the scene of the famous 1759 battle between the French and the British, is a must. It is now home to one of the world’s largest urban parks.

Québec City has more gourmet restaurants per capita than any other city on the continent. Afternoon tea at the magnificent Fairmont Le Château Frontenac was delightful. In fact, just walking through Québec City was a treat. For those interested in culture, the Musée de la Civilisation is definitely worth a visit.

We arrived in charming Corner Brook, Newfoundland, where a guided tour of Captain Cook’s Trail showed us how it looked centuries ago. The British cartographer and explorer was the first to survey and record the geography of the Bay of Islands. In the summer of 1767 he surveyed most of Newfoundland’s west coast including both sides of the Bay of Islands, the present location of Corner Brook. Newfoundland, with its mountains, water and foliage, will leave you breathless.  

The National Historic Site known as L’Anse aux Meadows was to be our next visit. We were disappointed when the ship could not conquer the icebergs. “Safety first,” said the captain.

At Sea

Upon leaving Newfoundland, we experienced four days at sea with immense fog. Luckily, the Marinaprovides ample comfort and interesting projects to work on.

One is the culinary centre with chef instructor David Shalleck. It is the only cooking school at sea to offer hands-on instruction by expert master chefs in a professional kitchen atmosphere. We had plenty of time to read, enjoy a massage, learn the cha-cha, listen to the Orpheus String Quartet, attend lectures, walk around the deck and breathe in the sea air.

And, of course, there was always food. The specialty restaurants on board—Red Ginger, Polo Grill, Toscana and Jacques—require reservations. I dined in all of them including the Grand Dining Room and was impressed by the quality and selection of food and the service.

One specialty restaurant in which you pay to dine is La Reserve by Wine Spectator. It’s a private room with two tables of eight and features a seven-course dinner with extravagant entrées such as bay scallops, duck foie gras, risotto, wild salmon, Châteaubriand, poached pears and melted gorgonzola, raspberry caramelized mille feuille, each course paired with a selected wine. Of course, a flute of Champagne is served before dinner.

Irish Delights

Crossing the North Atlantic, our first stop was the quaint and charming port of Cobh in County Cork, Ireland.

If you’re interested, the Cobh Heritage Centre can help you trace your ancestors. A train takes you into historic Cork, a city of steeples and bridges. A church you mustn’t miss is Saint Fin Barre’s Cathedral, an ornate building designed by William Burges and constructed in 1870. Although the pulpit was completed in 1874, it was not painted until 1935. It shows the four evangelists with their symbols, together with St. Paul sitting on an upturned “pagan” altar. The winged dragon beneath the reading stand symbolizes evil taking flight at the sound of the spoken Word of God. After that visit you might wish to kiss the Blarney Stone at Blarney Castle for the gift of eloquence.

The next day we arrived in Dublin. A wealth of tourist sites includes Trinity College to view The Book of Kells and St. Stephen’s Green with numerous statues and memorials paying tribute to Yeats, Joyce and Robert Emmet, among others. Adjacent to the park is Grafton Street, perfect for shopping and an Irish beer at the Temple Bar.

Upon reaching Southampton, our point of disembarkation, our amazing 16-day journey sadly came to an end, albeit with plenty of memories to cherish for a lifetime.

Travel Planner

For more information on Oceania Cruises and their itineraries, visit oceaniacruises.comor call 1-800-531-5658.

 
 
 
 
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