2010 CANADIAN MARITIMES COASTAL ADVENTURE

COSMOS


I I took a similar trip in 2003 with disadVANTAGE disasTOURS. I hope this one is much better organized. Special note: Cosmos not only includes NO meals, but also charges extra for the arrival transfer. I did go ahead and "splurge" for the over-priced, very over-rated ¢heapmo$t Breakfast package. Very bad decision!

Day 1, Wednesday, August 4 Halifax
Even though I have a nice departure time, I'll have to use the StuporShuttle about 6:45 to the airport for my flights since the 2nd flight is international. The layover in Newark isn't too bad; it's just the final arrival time that's poor, but Cosmos doesn't give us anything that first day, anyway. I used frequent-complainer miles for the airfare.The first flight is delayed a bit - when it was time to push back from the gate, the push cart wouldn't start and it took a while to find another cart.

Continental CO 106IAH - Newark11:00 - 3:323:322:43
Continental CO 3472Newark - Halifax6:15 - 10:002:309:00

The second flight is NOT on a jet - it's an older, hot, very noisy putt-putt. Even with the fairly short lay-over, I had time to grab some junk-food food junk for supper.

Due to an extremely long line of aircraft waiting to take off, we have a longer flight than scheduled. Fortunately I get through Customs / Immigration quickly, and by some miracle my luggage is already on the carousel. Otherwise I would have missed the "Airporter Shuttle" next departure and had to wait over an hour for the next one. The propaganda says there's time at leisure to relax or to explore Halifax - oops, NO time, not with an 11:15 PM arrival (9:15PM Houston) at the hotel. It's also still quite warm (warmer than expected but at least I'm getting out of what turns out to be Houston's hottest month on record!) and rainy. There's not even enough time for a full night sleep. Our Tour Director isn't on hand to answer questions since she's probably already asleep. Hotel: Citadel Halifax Hotel (F)


Day 2, Thursday, August 5 Halifax
I'm two time-zones east of Houston, so it's a 'get up early' morning. The ¢heapmo$t breakfast deal is a miserable deal - very set menu and I don't care for any of what they are peddling so have to buy my own breakfast. And we're at this hotel for 4 of the 12 mornings!!! NEVER AGAIN will I buy a ¢heapmo$t breakfasts deal.Our tour director said that Cosmos probably won't be offering it next year anyway - too many complaints.

Our tour director is Claudette Fullerton and driver is Brad Trenholm. They turn out to be a couple of the best that I've had on all my tours. There are 25 people on this tour but one had to leave due to illness - a nice small number so there's lots of room on the bus. The weather forecast: morning showers. Temps: 62-84. Our tour with a local "expert" focuses on the major sights: CITADEL HILL with its early 19th-century star-shaped fort (which was supposed to be on the 2003 tour but wasn't even mentioned); the tree-shaded walks; beautiful residential neighborhoods; and the harbor area, which shows the port's military heritage. See the Fairlawn Cemetery, the final resting place for more than 100 people who perished on the ill-fated voyage of the Titanic. The afternoon is free, so (don't) head to the Halifax waterfront, to visit the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic (since rain is forecast). At least I had lots of time to look around here on the 2003 trip. Be sure to sample some traditional dishes, like Lunenburg pudding or Acadian rappie pie but since I'm stuck in the hotel, I miss that.

Lunenburg pudding is actually a pork sausage, and every part of the pig goes in except the squeal. Rappie pie is a traditional acadian dish made from grated potatoes or patates râpées, hence the name "rappie" pie. Since the return of the Acadians after the Great Deportation of 1755-62 it has continued to be a favorite meal among the Acadians of Southwest Nova Scotia. Once the potatoes are grated and the water removed, hot broth is added along with meat, onions and pork fat to make a delicious all-in-one meal.

I had planned to take the Dinner Cruise but since the weather is gloomy / rainy I wouldn't be able to see or photograph anything and it's not worth $61 for just a dinner.

HALIFAX OPTIONS: Harbour Queen I Dinner Cruise Dine on board the Harbour Queen I, a Mississippi style sternwheeler that takes you on a tour of the waters of Halifax Harbour while you enjoy a delicious buffet dinner. The lower deck of the Harbour Queen is fully enclosed and heated (shouldn't that be "air conditioned"?) for your comfort. CAD$61 - "RAINED OUT"

Day 3, Friday, August 6 Halifax - Baddeck
Heavy rain last night. After buying another breakfast, we have an early morning departure for a long drive (its mostly just a driving day) along to rugged Cape Breton Island. Forecast is for scattered thundershowers, temps: 57-79 but its just heavy fog all morning. Arrive in Baddeck, the summer home of Alexander Graham Bell. Visit the ALEXANDER GRAHAM BELL MUSEUM. Trace the achievements of the great inventor, who spent his last years on Cape Breton. Finally I get to see what I missed seeing 7 years ago. Hotel (2 nights): Inverary Resort. We're allocated rooms in the annex across the road and way up the hill (upper Siberia); limited or no views of the lakes. (ST)

Day 4, Saturday, August 7 Baddeck. The Cabot Trail
Today is a nice scenic day. It even starts off with a very good breakfast! This morning we drive along the famous Cabot Trail, an area first explored by John Cabot just five years after Columbus landed in the New World. We make a couple of quick photo stops then for our early, early lunch, we stop at the Acadian fishing village of Cheticamp. We get there so early that even with our 11AM reservation, we have to wait a while. Excellent lunch! Then in the afternoon, travel through CAPE BRETON HIGHLANDS NATIONAL PARK, climb 1,500-foot capes, skirt rugged coastal headlands, and get caught late in the afternoon for an hour and a half (+) delay due to utility problems - some utiity poles fell this morning and although there is a temporary bypass for cars, our bus can't get through so we have to wait and wait before finally leaving the Cabot Trail,. Thus it's a much later than planned arrival back at the hotel.

Day 5, Sunday, August 8 Baddeck - Charlottetown
It's another fairly early start due the ferry schedule. Head back to the peninsula and make a midmorning stop at some fast-food places (McDonalds, Subway, Tim Hortons) to get something for lunch on the ferry. Then continue north to Caribou where a ferry takes us on a 1 ¼ hour ride across the NORTHUMBERLAND STRAIT to Prince Edward Island.

Another OOPS! The putt-putt for the ferry stopped putt-putting so no ferry. So its either wait about 3 hours extra, or backtrack and drive around - which is what we have to do. Actually we get in only about an hour later than if we had taken the ferry. For the next two nights, we are in Charlottetown, the provincial capital. Even though we have a late-afternoon arrival, the long summer day allows us to see more of this colonial town and its restored waterfront. Hotel (2 nights): Best Western Charlottetown (MF)

Day 6, Monday, August 9 Charlottetown
¢heapmo$t double dip! I bought the breakfasts option ticket for 12 breakfasts. Now it turns out that the breakfasts ARE INCLUDED here and at a couple of other places so I'm actually paying twice for 4 breakfasts and many of those that aren't now included are WAY OVERPRICED.

At least our Continental Breakfast is a nice one - for a "continental." It was better than what they wanted to unload on us in Halifax. Begin the gloomy weather day with guided sightseeing that includes the coastal route through PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND NATIONAL PARK . View sand dunes, salt marshes, and freshwater ponds. Visit the ANNE OF GREEN GABLES FARMHOUSE, setting of Lucy Maude Montgomery's famous novel. This evening, (don't) consider an optional outing to the Charlottetown Festival and the stage performance of Anne of Green Gables since I've seen it before. Unfortunately the show I really wanted to see is not offered as an option even though it's listed on their web site. Grumble, grumble!! It was a nice day otherwise even though it was all a repeat of the first trip.

CHARLOTTETOWN OPTIONS:
The Last Resort Music, mirth, mayhem and murder are rampant at a remote lodge in rural Saskatchewan in this uproarious romp. The Last Resort is where you want to be, especially if you have a secret. Everyone has something to hide in this madcap mystery, a restaurateur on the run from the mob, a carpet salesman killing more than time, a poet seeking inspiration (and a shallow affair) and twins battling over daddy's will.CAD$35 - -yes but OPTION DELETED!

Anne Of Green Gables - The Musical Canada's longest running musical returns for its 46th season! Anne¿ will touch your heart and your funny bone through drama, song and dance. Loved by millions around the world, this family classic relives the poignant and funny story of Anne Shirley, the spunky, red-headed orphan who comes to Prince Edward Island hoping to find a happy home. AD$70 - NO

Day 7, Tuesday, August 10 Charlottetown - Moncton
After another ¢heapmo$t double dip this morning, enjoy a private performance at THE COLLEGE OF PIPING. Enjoy a sampling of four core disciplines: Highland bag-piping, Scottish-style snare drumming, Highland dancing, and Prince Edward Island step-dancing. Afterward, visit the interpretive display and learn more about Prince Edward Island's Celtic culture. Later cross the 8-mile-long Confederation Bridge to New Brunswick. We make a stop at the information area on the PEI side of the bridge, and again what will probably be the highlight of the trip - another young step-dance dancer doing (fund raising) dances for us to watch. Probably this is the 10-minute real highlight of the trip. This afternoon it's the ultimately awful lobster experience on an optional lobster cruise, where you haul in a lobster trap, learn cooking techniques, observe a cracking demonstration, and savor a complete lobster dinner on board your sailing vessel. Fortunately this IS optional so I don't have to pay for another disaster like last time. Hotel: Rodd Park House Inn (ST)

MONCTON OPTION: Lobster Dinner Cruise Let experienced fishermen put you in the action; haul in lobster traps, learn about the lobster and the proper way to cook them. Savour a freshly cooked, mouth-watering lobster dinner on board, sit back relax and enjoy the seascape in the calm waters of the Shediac Bay with our down-home Acadian hospitality. CAD$65 - NO!!!

Day 8, Wednesday, August 11 Moncton - Miramichi
The segment of the trip from Moncton to St. John is New for me. After the third ¢heapmo$t double dip this morning, the day begins with a stop is at the La Dune de Bouctouche Eco-Centre, developed to preserve one of the few remaining great sand dunes in North America. The white sand dune stretches more than 7 miles across Bouctouche Bay and has remained virtually unchanged since the glaciers melted. It is a haven for wildlife and there is a mile-long boardwalk that winds across the dune where visitors can observe the wildlife without encroaching on this sensitive area. Several birds were to be seen, but that's about all.

After lunch, we stop at OLIVIER SOAPERY for a brief discussion about the art of soap crafting (deferred from yesterday) and an extended hard-sell of their products. This should have been skipped- particularly the sales harangue. Our journey continues to Miramichi, situated along the famous salmon-angling river. We stop at the hotel where some get off - particularly after the sales inquisition at the soapery rather than waste time on our own at Ritchie Wharf Park, and its boardwalk with (tourist trap) shops and restaurants.

Tonight, join the evening optional excursion and experience a true Miramichi tradition-an interactive evening of entertainment in a down-home kitchen atmosphere. Clap our hands and stomp our feet to the lively music. This turns out to be a really great evening - even much better than I had hoped. Hotel: Rodd Miramichi River Lodge - second of 4 "one-night-stands" (F)

MIRAMICHI OPTION: The Miramichi Kitchen Party The Miramichi Kitchen Party is an evening of Miramichi music and culture in a down home kitchen atmosphere. You will hear some of the area's best entertainers as you enjoy great refreshments. You will share the stories and songs of the lumbermen and sailors that are typical of the history of the area and learn about the Miramichi...New Brunswick's best kept secret! CAD$32 - maybe

Day 9, Thursday, August 12 Miramichi - Fredericton
NEW! Today, after what was supposed to be a breakfast, we make our way to Fredericton, New Brunswick's capital city. Take a brief bus tour that includes the Christ Church Cathedral and the Historic Garrison District. Then we're dumped in town for about 3 hours on our own. Ho-hum. It's basically just something to boringly pass the time so we don't get to the hotel TOO soon. Actually, Cosmos gives the tour directors and drivers a very specific time schedule on when to be where, etc.

Continue to the St. John River Valley and KINGS LANDING HISTORICAL SETTLEMENT. Find ourselves back in time at a loyalist village complete with creaking wagons pulled by workhorses, the whooshing of skirts, and melodies from fiddlers, along with views of the St. John River. It's a whole lot like Old Town Sturbridge in Massachusetts. Very nice and an excellent local guide.

Spend the night several miles outside of Fredericton. Hotel: Riverside Resort - another "one night stand.". Minor problem: the resort is under a boil-the-water order. We can't drink anything from any tap, use the ice from the ice machine, etc. They do provide a couple of bottles of bottled water, and ice (bagged) from the restaurant. (F)

Day 10, Friday, August 13 Fredericton - St. Andrews - Saint John
Midnight fun: just after midnight (so it makes an "interesting" start to "Friday - the -13th"), the fire alarm went off and all the people on the first floor (one floor down) bailed out of their rooms wearing whatever was convenient. Those of us (like me) on the second floor didn't hear anything so we slept through all the "fun." The hotel night clerk didn't know how to turn off the alarm so had to wait until the fire department got there to do that for him.

NEW! This morning after a nice breakfast, travel to the resort town of St. Andrews by-the-Sea for an included whale watching cruise. I'll bet there won't be as many as in Frederick Sound in Alaska. We did see a couple of big FinBack whales (2nd largest type in the world). Cruise past rugged seascapes and lighthouses for a true adventure. Explore the unique tourist trap shops and restaurants that line Water Street (or buy a couple of hotdogs from a group raising money for sports equipment for kids) before following the beautiful Fundy Coast to Saint John, the Fundy City. Our time in Saint John is free for independent sightseeing boredom. Hotel: Holiday Inn Express (ST - almost F)

SAINT JOHN OPTION: Reversing Falls Sightseeing Jet Boat Tour OPTION CANCELLED This unique sightseeing tour around the Falls and the port will allow you to witness the phenomenon of the REVERSING FALLS, to view the whirlpools and the falls. During the Tour, hear about the Indian man-god "Glooscap", the guardian of the Falls, see the remnant of the salmon fishing industry, historic sites, Partridge Island, Fort La Tour, and even meet with seals! CAD$??Yes, but - OPTION DELETED!

Day 11, Saturday, August 14 Saint John - Hopewell Rocks - Halifax
After another ¢heapmo$t double dip this morning, and after NOT doing the Fundy Trail which was one of my faves in 2003 but not scheduled this time, make a stop at THE HOPEWELL ROCKS and learn about the highest and wildest tides in the world, which rise and fall up to 52 feet. Time and tide have carved from the cliffs and coves distinctive sandstone formations topped with trees. Many of the formations have nicknames inspired by their appearance. Climb the 100 steps down (and back up) and look for Lover's Arch, Dinosaur Rock, Mother-in-Law, and ET, just to name a few. This is also our lunch stop - which is where I had one of the best lunches on the 2003 trip. It is almost as good this year. We don't arrive back into Halifax until this evening. Hotel (2 nights): Citadel Halifax again with its awful breakfast set menu. (F)

Day 12, Sunday, August 15 Halifax - Peggy's Cove Excursion
Since we're back at that Halifax hotel, I have to buy another breakfast today (and tomorrow). Today we make an early start to go to one of the most photographed locations in Canada - PEGGY'S COVE. Explore the cove and allow this picturesque area to view its beauty, mystery, and charm. It's pretty but has become so commercialized that I consider it as over-rated. We stay here then stop in Lunenburg, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which is the home port for Nova Scotia's largest fishing fleet, extraordinary architecture, nice shops, and more. While there, take a self-guided walking tour of the town and visit the Fisheries Museum. There is a brief photo stop in Mahone Bay (3 churches). It's been a nice day. The evening is back in Halifax for time to re-re-repack for the trip home.

Since Cosmos doesn't include any meals, it's no surprise that the equivalent to a farewell dinner is an expensive option. And since it's at a Brewery/Tavern and emphasizes the various products that I don't drink … no thanks.

HALIFAX OPTION: Alexander Keith's Brewery And Pub Evening Start your evening off with an hour long tour of the Keith's Brewery. Actors in period costume will provide you with a look at Keith's Brewery in the year 1863 before you visit the Stag's Head Inn to listen to some toe-tapping music while enjoying samples of Mr. Keith's finest ales. Located in the heart of Alexander Keith's Brewery, you will settle down to enjoy the hearty food and historic atmosphere of the Red Stag Tavern. CAD$61 - NO

Day 13, Monday, August 16 Halifax - Departure
The trip ends today with transfers to Halifax International Airport are included. Mine is at 8:50. At least there is time for me to buy another breakfast in lieu of the miserable ¢heapmo$t cheapie-breakfast. We can go through US Customs/Immigration here. The Continental schedule says the first flight is 1:14 long - but they forgot about the time zone. The flight actually turns out much longer due to a long 53 minute session on the tarmac waiting for takeoff permission. The flight attendant never told us what it was, but probably due to weather in Newark. With over 3 hours (oops, make that a bit over 2 hours) in the Newark airport - time for more junk food, particularly since I don't have to clear Immigration and Customs procedures. Then the thunderstorms hit again. We have just barely pushed back from the gate and the storms hit. We spend another 2:05 just sitting on the tarmac (again).

Continental CO 2893Halifax - Newark12:37 - 2:573:202:47
Continental CO 63Newark - IAH5:44 - 10:055:1911:26

With an 8:30 arrival time, which got delayed until after 10 and with the usual long wait for the StuporShuttle, I had hoped to be home by 10PM but it was actually about 12:15 AM.


Selected pictures
Click to enlarge



Hotels:
Day 1-2HalifaxCitadel Halifax Hotel (F)
Day 3-4BaddeckCeilidh Country Lodge (ST)
Day 5-6CharlottetownBest Western Charlottetown (MF)
Day 7MonctonRodd Park House Inn (ST)
Day 8MiramichiRodd Miramichi River Lodge (F)
Day 9FrederictonRiverside Resort (F)
Day 10Saint JohnHoliday Inn Express Hotel (ST)
Day 11-12HalifaxCitadel Halifax Hotel (F)

BREAKFASTS, ETC.
BREAKFASTS: HOTEL RANK
Halifax"full" breakfast - barely continental - buy my own6
Baddeck"full" - anything on the menu - NICE1
Charlottetown included - nice enough continental2
Monctonincluded - very minimal continental 7
Miramichiso-so breakfast3
Fredericktonvery nice - anything from the menu4
Saint Johnincluded - typical Holiday Inn5
Halifaxthat rip-off again 6

¢heapMo$t BREAKFASTS RIP-OFF
Purchased (supposedly) 12 breakfasts for $115
Received:4 double-dips that were actually included
4 so poor that I bought my own (Halifax)
1 so-so breakfast (Miramichi)
3 nice anything from the menu (Baddeck & Frederickton)
So….. total received - 4 for $115. VERY BAD DEAL