ABOARD THE VIKING SKY – After a tumultuous first two days, our next two were more normal. Thank goodness.
On Tuesday, we were escorted around historic Quebec City by Caroline Tetu who works with the port promoting cruise tourism. Of the 5 million tourists who visit QC each year, only 200,000 are from cruise ships so this aspect of tourism has great growth potential for the city which will have over 130 cruise calls this season. However, the majority of these are in the fall and they are trying to extend the cruise season through spring and summer and eventually even winter. The port has set a goal of attracting 400,000 cruise guests per year by 2025.
Most recognize the symbol of the city, the Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac. It is regarded as the most photographed hotel in the world and is a beautiful sight to see as the ship approaches on the St. Lawrence River. Just take a look at the gorgeous photo that my sister-in-law Vicki captured at 6 a.m. in the morning.
Our tour encompassed a visit to the Plains of Abraham battlefield where the French and English fought for “New France” in 1759, during the seven-year French and Indian War. It is on a bluff overlooking the river. We then moved into several lovely neighborhoods, each with its own little central streets full of shops, bars, and colorful window boxes of flowers. We made an interesting stop in St. Jean-Baptiste, where we poked our heads into an old church to see that it had been converted to a public library – Biblioteque du Claire Martin. A block away is what is believed to be the longest operating grocery store in North America, J.A. Moisan, founded in 1871. Here we sampled cheese curds and maple cream cookies, both Quebec delicacies.
We then visited the Chateau, which boasts over 600 rooms and three restaurants. It was built by the CP Railroad, which also constructed the majestic Banff Springs Hotel and Chateau Lake Louise in western Canada. The rooms are mostly quite large, reflecting the period during which is was built. Here we sampled the “Jam Le Sam,” a colorful bourbon, maple syrup and fruit jam concoction that is one of the signature drinks in the Le Sam bistro.
Lunch took us to a trendy restaurant, La Buche, where we sampled rabbit wings and poutine. Poutine (poo-teen) is famous amongst Canadians, but virtually unknown in the U.S. The basic recipe is french fries, covered with fresh cheese curds and gravy. Sounds horrible and laden with cholesterol. La Buche takes their version up a notch by adding fresh bacon and something slightly sweet. Bottom line: It was delicious! Who knew? A popular snack amongst teenagers, locals also promote it as a formidable hangover cure.
Dessert with another sugar-laden local delicacy, Poor Man’s Pudding. Basically, it is a cake laden with butter and brown sugar. Definitely needs a scoop of ice cream to cut the sugar!
We returned to the ship after for what I hoped would be a quiet afternoon. However, there was a text message on my phone from Verizon telling me we had a $50 data charge. Oh my…I thought I was all set with TravelPass, which charges us $5 a day when we make calls and/or access cellular data from Canada. And we had not done either, or so I thought…
So I called the toll-free Verizon phone number, and spent the next hour getting it all straightened out. You see, we are traveling with two Iphones (used primarily for photography), three Ipads and a laptop. All were supposed to be using the ship’s complimentary wi-fi. But I learned that my husband’s Ipad had been connecting to the local internet provider and that he had already racked up $50 worth of charges.
But we have TravelPass, I explained….only to learn that TravelPass was installed only on my phone and none of our other devices. The solution was to cancel the $50 charge by putting Chet’s Ipad on a special deal where he buys 100 mb of data for $10 and to put TravelPass on all of the other devices.
Hard lesson learned: When traveling or cruising abroad, be sure to check your cellular plan carefully for your international options. Best advice is to turn off all cellular data (simplest way is to keep the phone or tablet in airplane mode) and use only wi-fi. In most cases you will be charged a minimal amount for texts. (You can also set up your phones to make calls using wi-fi but although I do that in the U.S., I am a bit apprehensive about trying it abroad.)
But what about emergencies, you ask? I advise my family to text and email me ASAP and ask me to call them. I also give them the ship’s phone number and they can contact me that way. Then I can turn my cellular back on and make calls using TravelPass.
Tomorrow: Rural Quebec and Splendid Scenery