We spend the weekend of April 21/22 packing and getting ready for our trip. Both Kayla and Melssa are lucky enough to have Auntie Shirley take them for dinner and a sleep over on Saturday night, which gives mom and dad more time to focus on packing. We were up until 11:00 on Saturday night packing, and then packing again early on Sunday morning. A few times we went out shopping getting last minute stuff that we felt we would need.

On Monday, we were all back at work and day care. On Tuesday, Glen worked from home which avoids considerable time taken in transit, and Susan had the day off to finish the packing. On Wednesday, Glen's brother Jim picked us up at about 7:30am to drive us to the airport. We were there by about 8:30. The flight, a Westjet flight scheduled to depart at 10:15, was about half an hour late due to some mechanical problems on the plane we were supposed to get on. They finally got things fixed and we got away a only a little bit late. The flight was uneventful to Toronto, where we landed and had dinner at T.G.I.Friday's in the airport terminal.

We left Toronto, again on Westjet, on a flight at 7:30pm to Orlando Florida where we touched down at about 10:15. Once we collected our luggage we got on a Disney bus and were taken to our Disney hotel, All Star Music, in Disneyworld. It was about midnight when we checked in and we got a nice room facing away from the pool (quieter) in the Jazz building.

On Thursday, April 26, we went to the Magic Kingdom in Disneyworld to start our 2.5 weeks of memories and had a wonderful day. We started by riding the It's a Small World ride, and rode many fun rides and saw many fun shows and interesting characters throughout the day. Glen went on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride by himself, since Susan was concerned the ride would be too scary for everyone else. We stayed right through to the Main Street Electrical parade and the fireworks with tinkerbell after.

Friday, April 27 both Kayla and dad got up early and went swimming in the All Star Music pool (the guitar shaped one, not the piano shaped one). After swimming we all had breakfast, and then Glen was picked up by the Alamo shuttle to go get a rental car. The car rental depot was in Disneyworld, and was about a 10 minute drive away from our hotel. We got a Nissan Quest that after packing our stuff, we used to head off towards Fort Lauderdale. The drive was a pleasant one, and after a few hours we reached Fort Lauderdale. We called the Fort Lauderdale depot where we were returning the car and confirmed they had a shuttle that would take us down to the cruise ship, so to simplify things we drove directly to the airport and returned our car, then took the shuttle from the airport down to the cruise ship terminal.

The shore staff and baggage handlers were very pleasant, and we soon enough had filled in our paperwork, had had our pictures taken, and were getting on the ship. We dropped off our carry on bags in our stateroom, met our cabin steward Johann, confirmed we would need the bunk bed pulled down and the couch converted to a bed to give us 4 beds, then went directly up the Lido deck to have lunch. I enjoyed my sandwhich made by the very friendly cook Patricia. Immediately upon finishing lunch we were all called to go down and take part in life boat drill. While going through this I chatted to the couple next to me, who amazingly were from Campbell River. I'm not sure what was happening on the other side of the ship, but the side of our lifeboat was very interesting. While partaking in the lifeboat drill there was a formation of vintage fighter planes flying by. On returning to our room, we unpacked and made the room ours for the next few weeks.

The next day was an at-sea-day, and due to our timezone change a few days before, and our long day at DisneyWorld, the girls slept in late. It was almost 10:00am by the time we got upstairs. We had a dilemna, whether to go to breakfast or to a mix and mingle we had signed up to go to. Cruise Critic is a (mostly) community ran website that web savvy cruisers belong to. Over the last 4 months we had been chatting online with a hundred other people who were on the cruise, and we had agreed to meet at 10:00am on this first day at sea. Due to our bodies mostly still being on the Pacific Time zone, we decided to go right up to the meet and mingle. We were a few minutes late, and a few officers from the ship who had agreed to come were talking and introducing themselves. Since the girls weren't keen on listening to a talk, we decided to sneak out and get some breakfast. Sadly the ship had mostly stopped serving hot breakfasts at 10:00, and thus we only got a cold breakfast. If I had one complaint, this would be it. For those arriving from a distinctly different timezone like us, and who hadn't yet fully adjusted, this was too early to stop hot breakfast service. One can get room service 24 hours a day, but it would be nice, at least for the first few days of the cruise, if the dining room served breakfasts for a longer period. After our breakfast we again went up to the meet and greet. The Officer introductions were over and it had turned in to small one on one conversations. Kayla and Melissa (mostly Kayla talking) had great fun going and introducing themselves to as many people as they could and giving out small Burnaby tourism pins we had brought along, and explaining that they were from there (near Vancouver). We got to know a good number of people that we kept connected to throughout the cruise.

Later in the day we went swimming in the indoor pool, something we did every day we could throughout the rest of the cruise. Everyone including Melissa thoroughly enjoyed swimming in the pool. Melissa liked to jump in and when she came up from under the water, she would say she was just like Ariel. This first day at sea was also a formal night, so we all got dressed up in our suits and fine dresses and went to the Rotterdam fine dining room. Dinner was excellent full lobster (for those who chose it). Service (just like for the rest of the cruise) was superb!

The next day was in Charleston South Carolina. We had in preparation (just like in many cities to come) arranged in advance using Air Miles to have a car available from a car rental company. Glen walked over to get the car while the girls got themselves ready and got off the ship. We drove out of town and went to the Magnolia Planation. While there we went through a petting zoo, then took a train through the swamps where we saw many interesting creatures such as alligators, turtles, and other swamp life. On completing the train tour, we took a tour through the plantation house, a “mansion” build many years before that has had over the years had presidents and other power individuals in house. Taking us by surprise was the car rental in Charleston downtown was only open in the morning, so Glen dropped everyone else off at a park near the ship, and then had to drive the car back to a rental return location at the Charleston airport, and then had to take a taxi back down to the port to get on the ship.

I saw on the taxi ride that there was a location showing the C.S.S. Hunley. The Hunley was a submarine used in the American Civil War, it was the first submarine ever to sink a warship. It sank soon after sinking the warship, and was a mystery as to why it sank for the next 130 years after that. The reason the sub was of interest to me was that it was found in 1995 by an organization called NUMA (the National Underwater and Marine Agency), a real world organization ran by author Clive Cussler, who also writes fiction about the organization (sort of like MI6 is a real world organization and also a big part of the totally fictional James Bond). Clive Cussler's fiction involving the fictional NUMA are some of my favourite books. Clive Cussler has also written various non-fiction where he tells the stories of some real world findings by the real world NUMA, and it was through this that I knew about the Hunley. But I didn't have time to stop and see the Hunley, so it gives a reason to one day return to Charleston. I made it back to the ship with maybe 45 minutes to spare before it cast off and we set sail for Newport Rhode Island.

Getting to Newport we actually spent a full day at sea, and so Kayla enjoyed time with her friends at Club HAL, I got to the gym, and we of course went swimming.

Newport was an overcast rainy day. We anchored and tendered ashore. We walked a block to the tourist information centre, and while there bought a ticket to tour a mansion called The Breakers. The Breakers is a recognized National Historic Landmark, a Vanderbilt mansion in Newport that is ran by the Preservation Society of Newport County. This preservation society has several mansions in the city and surrounding areas that are available for tour. Having only the one day in town we chose what is supposedly the biggest and best mansion, The Breakers. It was amazing! We got to it by taking the city bus. It was built in 1893, and has approximately 65000 square feet of living space. There is a small waterfall under the main stair case. The bathrooms all have huge bathtubs made out of solid granite, and three faucets: one hot, one cold, and one salt water. Almost every room is made from something interesting, from solid granite to platinum plated wallpaper. The tour tells you that it was a mystery why the wallpaper in the “silver” room never tarnished, and only after some chemical analysis did they realize the wallpaper wasn't made from silver but actually from platinum. We all, including Kayla and Melissa, enjoyed the tour. We each got a headset and tape player (lookalike, more like a MP3 player), and the girls loved listening to the story (which comes in two versions, one the more staid (and boring) presentation, and one presented more like a Disney movie). The stove in the “primary” kitchen (there are various rooms for making various types of foods – one whole room for making cakes for example) is 21 feet wide.

After The Breakers we went out to the ocean and took the famous Cliff Walk, which took us along the ocean in front of many of the mansions in Newport.

We walked a good portion of the Cliff Walk, and then a good portion of the way back to the ship, before we finally hopped on a city bus. One tidbit we picked up on (and saw) was that J.F.K. had got married in Newport, and we saw the church he was married in.

We would like to return to Newport one day and see more of the mansions and more of the city. We weighed anchor and started sailing towards Bar Harbour Maine. We did again go to the main stage for the night's entertainment, which was a variety show with a band, a comedian, and again the Xylophonist. Due to the fact the show started with the comedian, who was mostly targetted at the average Holland America cruiser (older than us), it didn't hold too much attraction for them, so we left quite early.

For months leading up to this cruise Kayla had been talking about going for a midnight feast, so this night was that, with both Susan and Kayla going up to the Lido deck restaurant for another meal a bit after 11:00.

The trip to Bar Harbour was a 2 day trip, so we got to again spend a full day at sea. We had a great time, signing out some puzzles from the kids area and doing them in a public area of the ship, and including swimming in the outdoor pool (which was lovely, but the outside air was cold!!!) That evening after dressing up for a formal dinner, while Kayla was at Club HAL, Susan, Glen, and Melissa went to the evening entertainment and saw Ian Finkel, one of the world's best Xylophone players. We thouroughly enjoyed the show! Melissa was clapping along (at least until about 35 minutes into the show where she almost fell off her chair due to falling asleep – long past her bedtime).

In Bar Harbour we anchored and tendered ashore to be greeted by a bagpiper. We had arranged to go on the Lulu Lobster boat and learn about lobsters and lobster fishing. Captain John Nicolai, the captain of the Lulu Lobster boat was great! He was very educational and took us to some great places. Thank goodness that Kayla had her camera along, as soon after going aboard the boat our (rechargable) camera batteries died (from here on out we recharged our camera every day to make sure it wouldn't happen again). So most of our pictures from Bar Harbour are taken with Kayla's camera.

Captain Nicolai took us out to Egg Rock Lighthouse, one of the more picturesque lighthouses in existence, surrounded by many seals. Captain John pulled up a few lobster traps and introduced us to the details of lobsters. Kayla was very proud to have touched a lobster! After the boat ride, we walked around town, and had lunch at Geddes, the restaurant the cruise director had recommended the night before at the show. Just before we got on the boat, I had a Lobster Roll, which is sort of like a subway sandwhich made out of Lobster. I also had seafood chowder. Both were very good!

We then set sail for Halifax Nova Scotia.

On arriving in Halifax we all got off the ship as soon as possible since we knew we had an overfilled day. Feeling like we were in the Amazing Race, we rushed over to the nearby car rental spot, and were the first to arrive from others on the ship also renting a car. We then took a scenic drive out to Peggy's Cove, which is about an hour away. Peggy's Cove is another scenic lighthouse on beautiful rocks facing the ocean. We clambered around on the rocks for an hour or two, then had lunch at the restaurant in Peggy's Cove. I again had a Lobster Roll and Seafood Chowder. Again very good! Impossible to say which so far was better. After lunch we headed back to Halifax on another scenic road. We stopped off at Point Pleasant Park, a lovely park in Halifax, sort of like Burnaby Mountain Park. We had a short walk, as time was running short, and then returned downtown and returned our car and got back aboard.

The next morning we arrived in Sydney, Nova Scotia. We had an excursion booked through Holland America and so had great service getting on a bus and taking an hour drive to the Alexandar Graham Bell Museum. Both on the way we there and on the way back we saw some great scenery. While at the museum we had great fun, and learned all about Bell's life (he had spent the latter part of his life in Baddeck Nova Scotia where the museum now is). In addition to learning about the history of the man, and seeing many of his inventions, one of the highlights was building kites. We built both a standard easy to fly kite, as well as a tetrahedron which is the building block of what Bell put together to make kites big and strong enough to carry a man. On the tour with us was a couple from Hawaii (Naomi and Gunther) who we had been off and on socializing with ever since the first day Cruise Critic meet and greet. Naomi had been talking about getting the girls a “little something” and on this trip gave them both stuffy pink lobsters she had got in Bar Harbour. Naomi had also had fun making tetrahedrons as well.

After the tour we walked around town, and had a late lunch in the Governor's Celtic Pub, where I again had a very good seafood chowder plus lobster roll. There was constant live celtic music, and the place was very fun. I would recommend it as the place to eat for anyone visiting Sydney.

That evening on board the ship was again a formal night. Due to Kayla melting down, both dad and Kayla stayed away from the formal dining and just grabbed a quick hamburger and hotdog from the poolside restaurant while Melissa and Mom went to dinner.

The next day in Charlottetown PEI was a windy day, but we had a good time arranging a last minute city tour that introduced us to a majority of the things in town. On the recommendation of Dave, a colleague of Glen's who grew up on PEI, we went to the Water Prince Corner Shop and Lobster Pound for lunch. It was a great little restaurant that I again enjoyed a wonderful lobster roll and seafood chowder in. After lunch we walked in to the heart of downtown, and along the way stopped in at a playground where local kids were playing and had some downtime (fun) for about an hour. Once downtown we bought some wonderful chocolate covered potato chips from the Anne of Green Gables chocolate shop. On getting back to the ship we were one of the last people aboard, and we joked we had been detained by the police as there was a dress regalia RCMP officer who took a shine to our girls and encouraged us to get their pictures taken.

As we left Charlottetown about the Maasdam I got close to experiencing one of the things that is on my bucket list. I've always wanted to cross the Confederation Bridge which links PEI to New Brunswick. Although it would have been possible to drive out and cross the bridge on our day in Charlottetown it would have taken most of the day and not allowed us to see the other sights we did see. Knowing that in fact the drive across is somewhat of a boring drive due to the high guardrails on the bridge, I fully agree that it wouldn't be the best way to spend the day and so have left it to some future trip where we are in the area for a longer period of time. But the reason why I say I came close was that on leaving Charlottetown we went and sailed directly underneath the bridge. So although my natural goal is to see the top of the bridge, at least on this trip I saw the bottom.

The next day in Gaspe Quebec was certainly one of the highlights. We tendered ashore on one of the first boats, and were met by far by the friendliest car rental agents we experienced on the trip and we took a car and drove (rode a roller coaster would be another way to describe it) to Perce Rock. Perce Rock is a site that we had seen pictures of from when Glen's parents had driven through this area. Being lucky and having the tide out gave us the opportunity to walk right out and touch the rock, something Glen's parents hadn't been able to do as the rock is fully surrounded by water when the tide is in. We had lunch in a wonderful little restaurant in Perce where few spoke English well. We got along well with the waitress who I believe had as much fun practicing her English with us as we did our French with her. Unlike the past 4 days, she sold me on the idea of having a full blown lobster which I thouroughly enjoyed. After lunch we drove the scenic route back to Gaspe. We had planned to stop at a tourist site called Indian Head (or the French equivalent) that the rental agent had recommended, but due to the girls being asleep in the back seat we consoled ourselves with a picture as we drove by. Since they were still sleeping when we reached Gaspe we kept driving and drove right around Mount Forillion National Park, which gave us some great photo opportunities as we drove along. We again bought some sun glasses for Melissa when we got back to Gaspe itself, and again were on the last tender out to the ship.

The next day was a stop in Sept-Iles Quebec. The cynical side of me says that Sept-Iles is an attempt by Holland America to have their very own cruise ship destination on the East Coast similar to how they have Half Moon Cay, their own private island in the Bahamas. Unlike Half Moon Cay which has won awards for being the “Best Private Island” in various cruise magazines, I think the majority of the cruisers on our ship wondered why we even stopped. The highlight of the excursions offered here is a tour of the aluminum producing smelter. The people who greeted us as we went ashore were certainly friendly, we enjoyed our windy walk down the port to a playground, we enjoyed our stop in at the native exhibition that was barbequing salmon, but admittedly we didn't spend a lot of time in town and were back aboard the ship in time for lunch.

That night was again a formal night and we had a lovely time in the dining room.

The next day we stopped at Saguenay Quebec. We got off early and went ashore. Their were local tour buses available for a good price but they only took cash and we didn't have any. So we walked into town to get some money, toured a church, bought some wonderfully sweet caramel from one of the vendors, but then due to the girls again starting to meltdown we went back to the ship for lunch and an afternoon nap. Since we were in port until quite late, after the nap we did again get off the ship and finally buy a ticket for the tour bus. Sadly we only had about 90 minutes left so we got only one ride to the aquarium where we saw and touched some neat sealife. Besides what you would expect at an aquarium, they had a few other exhibits as well including a very cool earthquake simulator. Taking the very last shuttle back to the port we passed by a strange pyramid that the town had built from yield signs to indicate that man-made items must always yield to nature. The inspiration was that about 10 years previously where the pyramid is built a flood had wiped out many buildings. The yield sign reminds us (mankind) that we must yield to nature. On getting back to the port we spent some time playing on some playground equipment. We just missed two of Kayla's favourite friends from Club HAL. Their family was just leaving the playground as we got there.

The next day we arrived in Quebec City, where we were to spend two whole days. A few days earlier I had started taking Tai Chi lessons in the morning. It was a small group who met once or twice a day (I only once ever made it to the afternoon session). This first day in Quebec City was a rainy one. We went ashore and walked up to Montmorency National Historic Park and saw some Canadian history (cannons and statues etc). We had lunch in a cute little french restaurant. We walked through the Chateau Frontenac. We went on an hour long horse drawn carriage tour of old Quebec City where we learned many interesting bits of history and knowledge about the city. It was a good opportunity to sit and get out of the rain for a bit, and both girls had a nap. Although we of course had the opportunity to stay in town late, we still went back onboard the ship for dinner and Kayla of course did the standard and visited Club HAL. The morning of Friday, May 11 we woke up still in Quebec City. I went to Tai Chi (at the standard 8:00), and the instructor wasn't there. After we started the class without him and had somebody call him he showed up about 15 minutes late. He admitted he had gone into Quebec City the night before at about midnight and had partied and only made it back aboard ship to bed at about 4 in the morning, so he was a bit bleary eyed for teaching. After breakfast we again went into Quebec City, and this time took the Funiculaire which was an elevator put in for the rich people to get up to the Chateau Frontenanc. It was fun. Not exactly worth the value from a purely economic point of view, but I'm glad we took it. Then we took 310 stairs up the Governor's Promenade. At least that's what the sign said, but I personally counted not exactly 310 (I think it might have been 311 is what I remember). Both Kayla and Melissa did a wonderful job walking all the way. At the top we entered into Battlefield Park. We then walked over and took a tour of the Citadel where we learned much about the history of the area and also the Canadian Military (especially the Royal 22nd Regiment who have been housed there for the last 92 years). We stopped in at McDonalds on the way back to the ship and had fun ordering some hot chocolate using French (even though the cashier did speak English).

We went swimming on our last afternoon aboard, and were swimming as we sailed from Quebec City. Supposedly, the ship only fits under the bridge when the tide is low, and I think we were closer to hitting the bridge that we had been to hitting the Confederation bridge a few days earlier.

After dinner we again checked Kayla into Club HAL and we worked hard to pack everything up. The ship required us to put bags out by 11 at night in order to have them carried off the ship by the porters, and we just barely made it.

The next morning we had breakfast in our room, said farewell to our lovely home for the past two weeks, and then disembarked without much trouble. We took a cab from the port to where we had a car rented for the day. The Budget agent give us a little trouble because we wanted to take the vehicle from his location and return it to the airport, but he finally handed us the keys to a van and we were off. We went for the day to Olympic Village in Montreal. When buying tickets, we were given the opportunity to buy any combination of seeing the Observatory, the Biodome, and the Stadium. We chose the Observatory and the Biodome. We first took an elevator up to the top of the Montreal Observatory. The Olympics happened in Montreal in 1976 and I remember when they were there. I guess the infrastructure went unused after the Olympics in '76 until they were opened as a tourist attraction in 1986. I'm guessing Montreal was inspired by Vancouver with Expo '86 to open their infrastructure as a tourist attraction. The Observatory gave a good view of various angles over Montreal. After we rode down, we then went next door to the Biodome, which is basically an indoor zoo. We had a great time going through four distinct environments, and seeing the birds native to each environment. Creatures we saw ranged from alligators to penguins. We had a great few hours at the Biodome, and when it came time to leave, it was outrageously busy on the streets (this was a Saturday keep in mind). What was going on was that there was a soccer game between Montreal and L.A. happening in the stadium, so there was tens of thousands of people going to the stadium while we were trying to get out of the area. Later that night Jim told us it was the second biggest attended soccer game in Canada (only missing first place by a couple of hundred of attendees).

We finally got away and to the airport. We had dinner at a TGIFriday's, and then got on our Westjet flight and arrived back in Vancouver at about 9:00 that night (feeling like midnight for us). My brother Jim picked us up and took us back to our weed infested/overgrown house (being away while both rainy and sunny can do that).

We had a lovely time and all look forward to doing something similar again.

2012 home