If there’s one thing you should probably do whenever you go on a cruise, it’s take advantage of the shore excursions.
Because otherwise, you’ll hit the ports, stand awkwardly on the pier, look around, scratch your head and say, “Now what?”
We did that on our very first cruise. We didn’t want so spend the extra money on excursions and just thought we’d do something on our own. Though we still had fun, we wasted a lot of time trying to figure out what to do and I’m sure we missed a ton of things we might have seen if we had just shelled out the dough and did an excursion or two.
True. You could Google the location and have a plan before you arrived at your destination, but if you bought an excursion from the cruise line, you’re guaranteed to be back to the boat before it leaves AND you have the added security of knowing that you’ll get what you paid for. If you take a chance and do something that is not cruise sponsored, then you run the risk of being taken for a “ride,” so to speak.
Anyway, it’s something to consider if you ever think about taking a cruise.
We’ve taken excursions the last two times we’ve cruised and we haven’t regretted a moment. The excursions are lumped into categories: easy, moderate (some walking involved), active (be prepared to sweat). So you can determine whether you can handle the excursion from the get go. Considering Kevin’s condition, we had to stick to some easy ones.
(Side note: excursions usually only last two or three hours, which means you have several more hours to do your own thing, if you wish, before the boat takes off. If you book an excursion, it’s not like you CAN’T do anything else while you’re in port).
We decided to book the “Trolley Round Saint John” excursion.
We picked that one because it sounded like something Kevin could enjoy without killing himself.
We arrived at Saint John, walked on to the pier and we waited for our trolley to show up. (Your ticket specifies a certain time and when you walk onto the pier, there are people holding signs for various excursions. It’s all very organized).
We all loved Saint John right away. It was a quaint, friendly place – not too many people, beautiful countryside, fresh air … quite wonderful.
We found out from our guide, that about 210 days of the year Saint John has overcast, foggy, misty/rainy weather. We happened to land on a perfect weather day – there was hardly a cloud in the sky and it was in the low 80’s – considered hot for Saint John.
I confessed, I worried about the weather. I had Googled their average temperatures so I knew that their summer highs were only in the low 70’s and they got a lot of rain. But I was prepared, I had packed rain ponchos, just in case.
I’m happy to report, we didn’t need them, not once (neither in Saint John nor in Halifax).
We learned a lot of interesting things about Saint John, for instance, one long stretch of road had colorful marigolds planted in the medium.
They called it the “Marigold Mile.”
Elementary school children plant and nurture the marigolds into seedlings. Then in the summer months, they close off Main street and the children plant them in the medium. This teaches them about the importance of growing things as well as giving back to their community and making their town more colorful and beautiful.
In addition, the city council has been allowing art students in high schools to paint their artistic visions on the columns of their bridges.
I was very impressed with how the city encourages their children to give back and help beautify their community.
As we were driving, we rounded a corner and our guide said, “And this is our American Embassy.”
We all had a good laugh at that one. (I never would have noticed the Canadian leaf on the golden “M” if Jazz hadn’t taken a picture of it).
One woman jokingly apologized for our lame contribution to their country and the guide said, “Hey! My daughter works there so no apologizes needed!”
The highlight of our tour, though, was when we reached Reversing Falls.
It was beautiful and sort of mesmerizing to watch the rapids, that could, at times, become so strong they were considered a level 5. (Which, according to our guide, is quite impressive as far as rapids go).
The phenomenon of the Reversing Falls is caused by the tremendous rise and fall of the tides of the Bay of Fundy, which are the highest in the world. The natural southward-facing opening of the Bay of Fundy receives the on rushing ocean tides directly like a funnel. The tidewater is normal when it enters the bay at its widest point. But the farther up the bay it travels the more it changes. It is, in effect, squeezed by the ever-narrowing sides and the constant shallowing of the bottom forcing the water higher up the shores
As the bay tides begin to rise, they slow the course of the river and finally stop the river’s flow completely. This short period of complete calm is called slack tide. It is only at this time that boats are able to navigate the Falls. Shortly after this slack tide the bay tides become higher than the river level and slowly, at first, the river begins to flow upstream.
After high tide the bay tides begin to fall and the upstream flow of the river gradually lowers until the bay tides fall to the level of the river – once again resulting in another slack tide. The river then resumes its normal course and begins to flow back out of the bay.
This daily reversal constantly combines salt water with fresh water and confuses fish and wildlife.
Unfortunately, we weren’t there at the time this happened, but it was still interesting to think that a river reverses it’s course.
The trolley then took us back to town and gave us the option of getting off at the town square. From there, we could walk the rest of the way back to our boat. The walk was downhill and quite easy, so we opted to get off and walk the rest of the way.
We didn’t really do anything spectacular. We just walked down the street and took in the sights.
And then we rested.
I mentioned Saint John was quaint, didn’t I?
We strolled down the street and took in the sights. There was something so … relaxing and carefree about the place. It had a small-town feel to it, I think, and we all felt very comfortable with the place. The weather was just perfect and we really enjoyed being out and about stretching our legs.
It didn’t feel “busy” or overcrowded and though Saint John is quite old, it didn’t feel old. It felt tidy and well-cared for.
I could definitely see myself living someplace like that.
If I were looking to move any time soon. Which I’m not, just sayin’. Actually, I’m not sure I could live in Canada – their taxes are crazy high.
And we all know how I feel about taxes. 😀
The guys went back to the pier to wait for me while I walked another half mile up a hill to take this picture:
This is what bored teenaged boys do when they are forced to sit still and wait for their mother to satisfy her photographer’s instinct.
(I apologize. Giving a camera to a bored teenage boy is risky, I know. Hey, at least Dude doesn’t have any cavities. HA!)
The clouds started rolling in about the time we were supposed to leave Saint John.
Kevin and I stuck around on deck to relax and made the mistake of sitting right under the boat’s horn, which they blew in succession to let everyone know we were preparing to sail. It scared the bejeebees out of me.