ABOARD THE VIKING SKY – We are here. That seems like a simple statement but making it happen took a lot of trouble. So here is a recap of the past few days. Note in black italic some lessons learned during these misadventures.
Our travel travails began Friday when we arrived at Traverse City airport in Michigan in the morning for our short flight to Chicago where we were to connect to a flight to Montreal. We were to arrive in Canada about 4 p.m. We would overnight, have dinner, and board the Viking Sky the next day.
But American Airlines had other plans. The four of us had been unable to check in online the day before because of the international leg. But when we arrived at the counter and hour and a half early we were informed that we would probably miss the flight because the airline had sold 50 seats but the plane could only carry 33 because of runway construction … and that 33 had checked in already.
The alternatives the offered weren’t good and the best case was that we would now reach Montreal about midnight. They had us wait until they offered big bucks for people to give up their seats but not enough did so, so we had to be rebooked. By this time, all decent alternatives for that day were already full.
So, unbelievably, we had to stay overnight in TVC. Of course, they paid for it but we ended up losing at least $400 for cancelling our hotel in Montreal and had to get up at 4 am. to catch a 6:20 a.m. flight. We did make it to Montreal around 1 p.m., took a cruise transfer and embarked around 2:30 p.m. My bag made it to our cabin by about 4 p.m. but Chet’s was not there until after dinner. Another aggravation.
The only good thing about this entire experience is that AA gave us each $2,500 worth of travel vouchers (equal to what they were offering folks to give up seats).
Once again, our practice of always flying to a cruise one or two days early paid off but we were whipped once we made it onboard so did nothing but have dinner that evening and crashed early.
This is not the way we like to begin a cruise.
Viking makes a point of staying overnight in key destinations, so the ship was still there Sunday morning. We were signed up for “A Taste of Montreal” tour that cost us each $149. It ran four hours and made several stops. It began with a walking tour and some samplings in Old Montreal … all very quiet until we encountered 15,000 running enthusiasts competing in a half-marathon!
Then we traveled by bus to the Marché Jean-Talon, the largest market in the city which encompasses a full city block. This was definitely a highlight for me and I could have spent hours there poking through the food stalls and the boutiques surrounding them. First we stopped at Le Marché des Saveurs du Quebec, a store featuring more than 6,000 food and beverage products produced in the province. We sampled ice cider, pate, cheeses, crackers and more and I admit to buying a tempting vinaigrette dressing.
Our last stop was the Andrea Jourdan La Boutique where Andrea herself, a chef and cookbook author, introduced us to several of her products and I admit to filling my shopping bag with a few more delicious finds. (I admit it is fun shopping with Canadian dollars, worth about $1.23 to the US dollar.)
I took away two key thoughts from this tour: Although I found it enjoyable, I am not sure it was worth $300 for the two of us…especially when I found many similar tours being sold online for $60. I should have done more research online before committing to these somewhat expensive optional tours. The other is that the Jean-Talon market is so worthwhile that I would recommend foodies who like to shop just book a taxi or Uber off the ship and go to the market directly. I would have loved another hour or two there…although not sure Chet would have been up to that. Sometimes it is more worthwhile to just pick one activity for your day.
However, that evening we were peppy enough to attend the captain’s staff introductions and the variety show after. But it is going to take another day or so to settle in. Good thing this cruise is 12 days!
Tomorrow: More explorations in Quebec