An Extraordinary Circumnavigation of Newfoundland

 

Instead of the mainstream mega cruise liners, I have always preferred to sail on small casual ships, especially those that are physically active expedition cruises.

In October 2018, Adventure Canada’s unique “Circumnavigation of Newfoundland” became my all-time favorite.

For over 30 years, Adventure Canada, a family owned and operated business, has earned numerous awards for their expedition cruises. Yet most Americans have never heard of the company and are unaware of why Adventure Canada’s pristine voyages are extraordinary.

Let’s explore some of the unique reasons that made my Newfoundland cruise such a cherished experience.

  1. JOHN’S, PORT OF EMBARKATION

Our voyage began in the colorful capital of St. John’s, the oldest and most easterly city of North America. Acting on the advice of several Newfoundland friends, I arrived several days before boarding the ship to be “screeched in” with other merry-makers at one of St. John’s pubs. During the boisterous ceremony we each downed a strong shot of “screech” (rum), and then kissed a codfish to become certified honorary Newfies.

DAILY LIFE ABOARD SHIP

Adventure Canada chartered the 198-passenger Ocean Endeavor ship because it was ideally designed for exploring the majestic scenery and anchoring in ten remote ports and fishing villages. In addition to experiencing the villagers’ everyday life, there were hiking options for various ability levels and opportunities to explore three awe-inspiring UNESCO World Heritage sites.

On the first morning (and every one to follow) we awoke to music, Tony Oxford’s humorous ditty of the previous day and what the new day had in store. Our efficient disembarkations began in a large, well-equipped mudroom where we each had a locker of waterproof gear to keep the sea salt at bay during the 10-passenger Zodiac boat rides ashore.

The expert staff of 28 included musicians, historians, photographers, culturists, research scientists, naturalists, archeologist, geologist and filmmaker who offered many stimulating lectures as well as rousing entertainment. Frequently, there were spontaneous late-night jam sessions with much loved Canadian musician, Alan Doyle.

A wonderful sense of community spirit continuously permeated the relationships among passengers and crew, young and old alike.

The well-maintained cabins and public spaces were comfortable and clean.

While meals and service were always well above average, the ship’s plain decor was not something you’d brag about back home.

There was a swimming pool, hot tub and saunas, which are often not found on expedition ships. Because the elevator did not serve all decks, the passengers needed to be relatively fit.

THE PORTS

In Bonavista, once a thriving fishing outport with now less than 50 permanent residents, we visited a well-preserved lighthouse dating from 1893. In Elliston that afternoon, there was the deeply moving Sealers Interpretive Center that commemorated two of Newfoundland’s worst sealing disasters.

One blustery day we explored the excavated site of a UNESCO World Heritage Site at L’Anse Aux Meadows, the first authenticated Norse/Viking site in North America. Our guided walk ended with a warming time around welcome fires in reconstructed sod huts where a couple of rough-looking Norsemen had intriguing tales to tell.

That evening, everyone fired up their inner warrior to have a rip-roaring good time at a Viking Theme Party aboard ship.

There were two other fascinating archeological UNESCO sites, one at Red Bay, Labrador, which celebrated the annual arrival of hundreds of Basque whalers. This formidable operation is sometimes referred to as “the first industrial complex in the new world.”

Then, Gros Morne National Park revealed the geological features of one of the very few places on earth where the earth’s mantle has risen above its crust, leaving evidence on the landscape that seemed to be more suited to Mars.

In La Poile Bay, a wilderness stop along a sandy beach, our three options included a hike into the hills, a leisurely walk centered around botany and birds, or a relaxing, oft humorous story telling circle on the beach.

At the charming port of Francois, a small town of 50 in a fiord only accessible by boat, the genial people invited us to their community hall for a high-spirited “kitchen party”, one of a kind that the Newfies know best. To everyone’s delight, the lively music and dancing continued late into the night.

The last two days of our diverse adventures included a welcome celebration at the Pow Wow Grounds of the rejuvenated First Nation community of Miawpukek (Conne River).

Then, some from the community joined us for a delicious BBQ lunch on deck, which included fresh oysters harvested by the ship’s team of divers the day before.

Finally, we visited the unique island of Saint-Pierre, the only piece of French territory in North America. Here, many of the passengers walked through the streets of the town’s brightly colored houses in search of restaurants to savor the French cuisine.

At last our cherished journey had to end with a lifetime of fond memories and, hopefully, yet another Adventure Canada on the horizon. I’m already looking forward to the “Scotland Slowly” voyage this coming summer, while others may choose from ten other 2019 cruises in various parts of the world.

Story and photos by Judy Zimmerman, Special to AllThingsCruise

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