Day 3 of my 7-night cruise aboard the Holland America Maasdam from Boston to Montreal.
When we departed from Bar Harbor, it was still raining and very windy, with rough seas. By the time we docked in Halifax, Nova Scotia the next morning, most of the rain had subsided, but the clouds and wind still prevailed.
Once again, I ordered breakfast room service. Even though the Maasdam is a smaller ship, I still wanted to avoid the buffet breakfast crowd. Here’s one trick I’ve learned regarding breakfast in your cabin…Breakfast in your cabin made easy
Before I retire, I clear off place so that the attendant has a spot to set the tray. Otherwise, you might stumble around while still half asleep, to clear an area for the heavy tray. Also, I set out a couple of dollars to give to the delivery person. It’s probably not necessary to do this, but they’ve filled your breakfast order, schlepped it to your room, and waited for you to answer the door, so why not give them a small tip.
This was my fourth visit to Halifax. All the other visits, I arrived under cloudless blue skies with a gentle sea breeze. Then, I’ve leisurely walked for hours admiring much that Halifax has to offer, all within a few miles of the harbor. Today I decided to break my routine and opted for a bus tour. Despite the weather, I was going to visit one of the most picturesque locations in the Atlantic Provinces, Peggy’s Cove.
Getting to Peggy’s Cove
The rain let up enough so that we could queue up for the motor coach without getting soaked. Most everyone carried an umbrella and wore some sort of rain parka. The smartest folks had parkas with hoods. The distance to Peggy’s Cove was only a forty-five minute bus ride. The tour guide pointed out bits of history and popular landmarks as the bus slowly meandered out of the city.
As our coach turned off the highway and onto the rural routes, the scenery definitely became quite interesting. Towards the end of the Ice Age, as the glaciers made their slow march across the tundra, hundreds of enormous granite boulders were deposited along their paths to the sea. Hundreds of these huge grey boulders that dot the landscape give the area a unique and rugged appearance. But that’s not the main attraction that brings thousands of visitors to Peggy’s Cove each year.
There, standing sentinel, perched atop an uneven network of granite boulders is the nearly one-year old lighthouse, one of the most photographed in North America. Nearly fifty-feet tall and sporting the eight-sided, pyramidal form of typical Victorian-era lighthouses, this building is a huge attraction for not just tourists, but artists and photographs from around the world. It’s easy to see why. Even our bleak weather lent itself to beautiful scenes highlighted by this still-operational lighthouse.
Enough time was included so that whomever wanted to walk the very short distance into the very tiny town, could do so without worry of missing the bus. A seafood restaurant stood at the top of the hill very near to the lighthouse.
The walk downhill towards the town revealed a quaint gift shop, a coffee shop and a working wharf, with stacks of lobster traps and coiled ropes in a multitude of colors.
Back on the bus, people were munching on their leftover oyster crackers that were given to them with their chowder at the hilltop diner. Some folks snoozed while others listened attentively to the tour guide who managed to point out more interesting bits of lore the entire way back to the port.
Many of the tour buses arrived back at the ship about the same time as my bus. I quickly dashed back to my room, set down my camera and coat and went up the couple flights of stairs to the Lido Restaurant buffet for a light sandwich and a cup of hot cocoa.
If you don’t want to take one of the ship’s many shore excursions in Halifax, there is plenty to do within walking distance. Located at the Halifax Seaport is the historic Pier 21, the only remaining immigration shed in Canada. Opened in 1928 and in continual use until 1971, saw the arrival of nearly one million immigrants. The building now houses the Canadian Museum of Immigration and showcases the trials and tribulations faced by the immigrants as they arrived in Canada.
Head west a few blocks to the Halifax Citadel National Historic Site, located high above George Street. Rebuilt in 1856 on the grounds of the original fortress from 1749, the Citadel played a major role in naval defense for the British Empire. Several ship shore excursions include a trip to the Citadel.
If weather permits, take a stroll along the Halifax Harbourwalk which extends nearly two miles into downtown Halifax. Along the way you might see a majestic tall ship moored alongside the walk. You’ll pass lovely cafes and trendy pubs, aromatic chocolate shops and upscale souvenir stores. Take a left turn at Prince Street and continue a short distance to Lower Water Street to the Brewery Market where you can learn the process of beer making.
Continue your walk along Lower Water Street and you’ll end up at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. Nova Scotia’s rich historic maritime past is remembered as well as it houses a permanent Titantic exhibit.
A bit of the macabre awaits those who take the taxi or bus ride to Fairview Cemetery. This is where 12o victims of the RMS Titanic disaster are buried. Staggered rows of square granite headstones all have the same date of death inscribed: April 15, 1912. Of the 120 victims recovered, only tw0-thirds were ever identified. Because Halifax was the nearest port to the sinking, rescue ships were dispatched from the seaport, only to return with the 120 bodies and bits of personal belongings. The cemetery has become a popular tourist attraction in recent years.
Armed only with a map and a city guide that are handed out at the port, you can have a wonderful day simply exploring the city on your own.
That evening onboard the Maasdam, I planned to take advantage of Happy Hour in the Ocean Bar from 4:00 – 5:00pm. It’s a “buy one get the second for only $1.00” nightly event and always gets a good turnout. Tonight would be one of the last nights that I would spend in the Rotterdam main dining room. The other nights would include a dinner in the Pinnacle Grill, another night to experience Le Cirque, one night at Canaletto’s (no fee specialty Italian dining) and one night to test the Lido Restaurant buffet.
I opted for the open dining arrangement and requested a table by myself. It wasn’t long before the couple next to me struck up a conversation and my evening had begun. Later that night, I’d go to the Showroom at Sea to watch the evening’s production number, “Goode Company,” a musical sitcom featuring music from the ’60’s, ’70’s and ’80’s. If I had any energy left, I’d pay a visit to the Crow’s Nest on deck 12 for the late night DJ’s “Dance the Night Away” gathering. As it turned out, I was totally exhausted and passed on the disco. There were still four more nights to go.
Photo credit: Pier 21-Steve Kaiser Photography; Fairview Cemetary-Wikipedia. All other photos by Sherry Laskin
More Sea Daze from my Holland America Canada New England cruise: