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Getting there is half the fun. Especially if you’re “getting there” by cruise ship.
I don’t fly. So when I was invited to attend the Canada New England Cruise Symposium in Quebec this June, it occurred to me that there might be a ship heading to Montreal. What better way to arrive at a Canada New England Cruise Symposium than by a Canada New England cruise!
However, “getting there” wouldn’t be that easy. My ‘surface’ trip to Montreal required one rent-a-car, two trains, one hotel night and then finally, Holland America Line‘s Maasdam for a seven night cruise from Boston to Montreal. It was lengthy but definitely do-able.
I drove my rental car from the east coast of Florida to Orlando, dropped it off at the local rental office and got a lift to the small but very busy nearby Amtrak station. The Silver Star was on-time for its 7:21pm arrival. Since meals are included with the purchase of a sleeping accommodation, I looked forward to a hot, tasty dinner in the dining car as soon as we were underway.
As the train pulled out of the station, I settled into my small but efficient roomette. I walked to the dining car and was seated at a table with two other people. As we chatted, salads were served, entrees were eaten and dessert was Hagen Daaz ice cream. Dinner over, I bade a quick goodbye to my tablemates and retired to my roomette to find my bed turned down and the pillows fluffed.
The next evening and three more train meals later, we arrived in New York City Penn Station right on time. A Red Cap helped me to a taxi and within ten minutes I checked into my hotel, Starwood’s new Element hotel, about as “green” of a hotel as you can find.
Tomorrow I’d catch an early 9am train to Boston, taxi from Boston South Station to the Black Falcon Cruise Terminal by 1:15pm and with any luck, be on board the Maasdam in time for the Lido buffet lunch. And I did.
The Maasdam was the only ship at ‘Cruiseport Boston’, quite a difference from the dreaded weekend traffic jams at the Port of Miami or Ft. Lauderdale’s Port Everglades.
The steady, cold rain had eased up a bit as I slid out of the taxi and, dodging raindrops, wheeled my luggage underneath the awning of the cruise terminal. An attendant affixed a label to my only suitcase and off it went onto the cart to be delivered to my cabin. A nice tip to the baggage handler helped insure my suitcase’s prompt and undamaged arrival.
Up the escalator, several of us followed the arrows to the cruise check-in area and within minutes we were documented, scanned, photographed and on the ship.
The twenty year old Maasdam, the second oldest ship in the fleet, showed no visible signs of age. Recently refurbished with many of the features found on the newer ships, the much-loved Maasdam was a warm and welcome retreat.
As I hoped, the Lido buffet was still open, soup was steaming behind the counter and the lines were minimal. Outside, the cold drizzle had turned to a heavy, wind-blown rain and a thin veil of fog obscured the shoreline. Onboard, the warmth of the ship felt good.
Embarkation days don’t always go as smooth as today’s did for me. Sometimes there are those awful traffic jams or tired and hungry people who just want to get onboard and suddenly forget their manners. Other times there are long, long lines at check-in, especially on the larger ships. Though we were sailing with a full ship, with only 1,281 passengers on our cruise, it seemed more like a small cruise ship experience.
With the 5pm departure, we cruised past Boston’s fog-shrouded Logan airport and out into the North Atlantic headed for Bar Harbor, Maine. Not to miss the traditional sailaway experience (minus the live Caribbean music!) a few hearty souls braved the gale-force winds on deck. I was among them. Another cruise had begun.