Thursday, September 30, 2010

Cornerbrook, Labrador Newfoundland

Cornerbrook, Labrador Newfoundland is the port on Thursday of our first week. There was a little ceremony in the Starlight lounge as city and port officials presented a plaque to the captain, and he reciprocated with the ship’s plaque. It must be that Cornerbrook is beginning to see itself as a regular cruise destination.

We sampled the offerings of the city by riding the shuttle bus from the dock. It took us to an antique store that featured flotsam and jetsam – as Lynne says, a less than auspicious beginning. And things improved a little with the second stop at a little park on the river. The third stop was to a shopping mall. The research said that we might easily find some art galleries, but no one told that to the shuttle planner.

As a result, we have some photos of the paper mill and a few trees that are starting to assume their autumn hues. Other than that, we say farewell to fair Cornerbrook. May all your future cruise passengers be more enthralled than we.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Sydney, Nova Scotia

Wednesday we celebrate the anniversary in Sydney, Nova Scotia. We dock somewhat unceremoniously in an active coal port, from which we are tendered to the town dock.

One of the big Sydney facts for cruisers: you can find lots of WiFi all over town, but the welcome center has about five flavors most of which seem to be free, along with lots of good tables and chairs for workspace. A five star port for the likes of us!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Halifax, Nova Scotia

Tuesday, we are in Halifax, Nova Scotia with a huge waterfront board walk that leads to the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. There we see many of the artifacts from the Titanic, including the only remaining deck chair. Halifax was the closest major port at 700 miles from the site of the sinking, and many of its citizens served on ships that went out to retrieve the bodies of the victims. On this day, the weather was heavily overcast except for a brief sunny period in the late afternoon while we returned to the ship. Low ceilings, or heavy fog also marked the ocean legs in and out of Halifax. This stop is to be revisited on our return leg next week, so it is good to learn the lay of the land now with the prospect for some better weather the next time through.

Monday, September 27, 2010

St John's Newfoundland.

On Monday we stop in St John’s Newfoundland. We are welcomed ashore with just a nod from the customs and immigration folks but they do check for separate picture ID on our return. Here we hike up the steep hill through the center of town to find a park with some of the most vibrant and colorful flowers imaginable. An interesting little town where the main highway has large overhead signs to help the tourists get in the right lane for the road out to the main attraction – the Reversing Falls on a river that result from the huge tidal action in the Bay of Fundy.

Bar Harbor, Maine

Sunday, we make our first port of call in Bar Harbor, Maine. My daily routine is to work out in the fitness center a little after breakfast. This is followed by a swim in the water jet swim-master. It isn’t really called that but it is directly analogous to a Step Master. This is the first time I have ever seen one in person. My total prior experience had been their regular little ads in the New Yorker. My first concern was that since I swim a slow modified breast stroke the machine would be too fast for me unless there were some way to slow it down. That fear proved groundless in that the further away you get from the one central jet, the slower the apparent speed of the current against you. The second fear was that since it was placarded as being a comfortable 82.4 F degrees that it might be too warm for serious swimming. I seriously doubt that temperature posting to be accurate in that the water was so cool that it took me quite a while to get used to it. But it did prove to be fine for swimming.

We take our lunches in the main dining room known as Windows. It probably holds 500 diners comfortably, but the typical lunch crowd is less than 50. Yet, these can be some of the finest experiences in both food and service. It is funny to us how so many of the 2,000 passengers stream ashore to ride, but mostly wait for, the motor coaches and pay yet again for their meals of far lesser quality. Surely, the cruise-line marketers are doing yeoman work in their convincing so many to overspend so much.

In the afternoon we explore the town on foot, searching for free wireless so as not to use too many of the expensive ship-board satellite-fed WiFi. We had prior experience in Bar Harbor. It was a destination for several days on our first trip with little trailer the Casita back in 2000. The town is touristy to the nth degree, but that was okay – it was still nice to stroll around and see the sights. We did find a little art fair set up in the town park that was delightful. We also shopped for some t-shirts for our house sitters. In this port the ships must anchor in the harbor and we are tendered ashore except that on the return leg we draw a whale watch vessel that is much more comfortable and speedy.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Boston Harbor

Boston was our embarkation point. We flew into Boston from Columbus with the plan of taking a water-taxi to the cruise ship dock. On checking with the NCL coordinators we got a lot of conflicting information about how to do that and even how it was impossible. Our research had said the Port Authority published the water taxi companies and their rates to the ship docks. It’s not the job of these gals to take care of us, since we didn’t buy the NCL connecting bus rides. But they did have our heads spinning with a lot of contradictory advice both with respect to the Port Authority and to themselves. To be safe, we ended up with the land taxi, which was about the same cost, and much more direct.

In the Fall splendor department, Boston was a little lacking in that it was still 99.24% green – at least that was preferable to Columbus’s drought-stricken brown.

We arrived at the airport at 9 AM. Arrived at the ship a little after 10. Had to wait an hour and a half to board. Had a buffet lunch, and then had to wait another hour to enter our stateroom. The room was fairly well cleaned, but there was a towel deficiency, soon to be followed by a tissue shortage. A few words with the room steward soon had us swimming in towels, many rolled into animal shapes. On all our prior cruises, we were reminded daily of our cabin attendant’s name rank and serial number. Now, we never learn our roomie’s true identity. I’m guessing computer magic will match up our service charge/tip emolument with the right cabin person.

From Boston Harbor

Our friends had arrived the day before, but we did not make any special rendezvous plans. We walked out onto the deck to survey the Boston Harbor and there they are doing the same. The initial impression of the ship is that it is very little changed from its earlier incarnation as a cruiser for the Asian market. The décor is strongly oriental, with highly polished veneers and bright, bright colors. Most importantly, the cabins are quite a bit smaller than those on ships built for the Americas, except for the bathrooms, which are perhaps just a little larger. But compared to Morty, the spaciousness is compelling, and we really have no complaints.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

NCL Norwegian spirit

The role of Morty on this trip will be played by the NCL Norwegian Spirit. Some friends booked a cruise to celebrate their anniversary, and we tagged along for a chance to see Canada in its fall splendor. As they quipped, we hope Morty will not be able to smell the salt water on us and the effects of showers in our cabin as opposed to in our campground when we return.

Veterans of at least 15 prior cruises, the last was over 15 years ago if memory serves. We prepared ourselves to be updated into the world of business-casual open-seating dining, and pre-determined daily service charges replacing or supplementing the prior practice of tipping the crew who were directly responsible for our experience. We anticipated that service and food in this more anonymous environment would become anonymously mediocre. We also girded ourselves for the rigors of flying with the Transportation Safety Administration since our last commercial flight was also that long ago.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Rite of Passage

Our niece Julia was confirmed this weekend. Some memories of the occasion:

On a tech note, the first series of pictures in mostly portrait format were taken with the new iPod Touch, and the remainder in the yard and church were taken with the Canon S90 mostly on the low-light setting.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Chautauqua NY

Morty is again headed to New Hampshire for a family gathering. This time we knew where the good stops were to be found and made it to one of the better rest stops we have ever seen. We are right on Lake Chautauqua in an idyllic setting, even if it was dark before we arrived. We have free WiFi and that alone is pretty remarkable. Hope to get some pictures in the morning.

We drove through the most awful swarm of tiny bugs we have ever seen  midges. Morty's white front-end was turned a pretty solid shade of brown. Scrubbing the windshield at the gas station couldn't rid him of all the remains there, not to mention the cab-over bunk and the bumper and headlights. Hopefully we will encounter some good Thursday rains to do the job scrubbing could not.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Fourth Generation Ipod Touch -- Disappointments

We felt the need for speed and decided to upgrade to the new Ipod Touch on the announcement day a couple of weeks ago. The clincher was the fact that it would do Text to Speech [TTS] on the Kindle app and would take High Dynamic Range [HDR] photos in the camera without post-processing.

Needless to say, both promises remain undelivered in my opinion. The TTS will not read the page content on the kindle for ipod app, only the page control buttons, and even if it did read the contents there is no way to turn the page with TTS active. The HDR seems to need a third party app which just turns up the contrast producing a thoroughly awful photo from one that was jsut mediocre -- even their propaganda shows horrible results.

So, let this be fair warning. Apple's promises and those of its fan-boys should be taken with healthy doses of salt grains. If it didn't have redeeming value in the screen resolution, music and multitasking arenas, it would be going back.