I have been to … the United States of America and Canada

Sue and I cruised to North America and back in 2012, and this year we decided to repeat the experience. For once we booked a long time in advance (it was a cruise that is always fully booked) in order to get the sort of cabin that we like. (It was called a superior deluxe cabin … which meant that it was slightly larger than a standard cabin, and has a balcony.)

Thursday 17th September, 2015: Southampton
We awoke just after 6.00am, and after getting dressed and having a very frugal breakfast, the luggage was packed into the car and we were ready to leave for Southampton just after 8.00am.

As neither of us could remember travelling to Southampton on a Thursday – a day of the week when the levels of road traffic are supposed to be at their highest – we allowed plenty of time for the journey. This was probably a good idea, because we had hardly gone a mile or so before the satnav began to make a number of announcements to the effect that ‘a traffic incident has been reported‘ and our route was ‘being re-calculated‘. In the end we drove around the M25 at a steady 50mph, and other than a bit of a traffic jam near the junction with the M20, the hold-ups in front of us seemed to disappear as we did so.

Roadworks on the M3 meant that we kept at this rather sedate pace until we reached Basingstoke, by which time we were in desperate need of a break. As usual we stopped at Winchester Services, where we had a somewhat more substantial breakfast and some coffee. (I don’t usually drink coffee, but a large café latte does wonders for me when I need a caffeine ‘boost’ … and by then I was in serious need of one!)

After this much needed break we continue our drive towards Southampton Docks. Because the Southampton Boat Show was taking place we expected to experience some delays driving through the city, but this had hardly any impact on the time it took use to reach the Mayflower Cruise Terminal, where our ship – MV Aurora – was moored alongside. By 11.15am our luggage had been unloaded, the car consigned to the valet parking service, and we were entering the terminal building.

Because we have travelled so often with P&O, we were given priority boarding, and by just after midday we were sitting at a table in the Alexandria Restaurant, drinking a complimentary glass of champagne and eating food from the hot buffet that had been provided. We stayed their chatting to other passengers until 1.30pm, at which point we were told that our cabin was ready for us to occupy.

Our cabin was on B Deck Aft, and it only took as a matter of minutes to get there from the restaurant … and when we did, we found that all our luggage was lined up outside the cabin, waiting to be unpacked. This took took us until just before 3.45pm, at which point we made our way down to Carmen’s – the ship’s show lounge – where we attended the statutory safety briefing and life-jacket test. Once that was over we returned to our cabin to drop off the life-jackets, pick up our coats, and go out on deck to watch Southampton disappear as Aurora set sail towards the Isle of Wight.

By the time Aurora had reached Calshot is was already beginning to get cold on deck, and we decided to return to our cabin to rest before getting ready for dinner at 8.30pm. We had a pre-dinner drink in Anderson’s Bar, and by 8.35pm we were seated at a table for six in the Alexandria Restaurant. We were soon joined by two other couples, and we all got to know each other over dinner. One of the couples had already requested a move to first sitting, and during dinner they were told that their request had been granted. As a result, they would not be joining us again for dinner for the rest of the cruise.

By the time that dinner was over we were both feeling very tired, and by 11.00pm we were back in our cabin getting ready for bed. Before going to sleep I began reading William Dalrymple’s RETURN OF THE KING: THE BATTLE FOR AFGHANISTAN (published in 2013 by Bloomsbury Publishing Plc [eISBN 978 1 4088 2843 4]).

Friday 18th September, 2015: At sea
After a very good night’s sleep we were woken by our alarm clock at 8.00am. After washing and dressing ourselves we paid a very swift visit to the Future Cruise and Loyalty Desk on our way to the Medina Restaurant for breakfast. (Whilst we had been at dinner a letter from the staff of the Future Cruise and Loyalty Desk had been delivered to our cabin. It was an invitation to attend the Peninsular Club lunch later in the cruise, but the reply had to be returned to them by 9.00am that morning.)

There was a queue to get into the restaurant, but eventually we were allocated a table, and by 9.45am we had ordered breakfast. The service was quite swift, and within thirty minutes we had eaten and were on our way back to our cabin. Sue was feeling rather tired, and had a short nap until it was time to go to Carmen’s to hear a talk by guest speaker Howard Nichols about the mystery of the Mary Celeste.

The start of the talk was delayed by some technical difficulties. (The laptop computer and the projector would not interface, and even when a second laptop was produced it took nearly fifteen minutes to get the presentation ready.) The talk was – however – very interesting, and told the history of the ship from when it was built in Nova Scotia as the Amazon until its deliberate wrecking on a reef outside Port á Prince, Haiti. Mr Nichols explained how – as a result of a story written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – most people though that the ship’s name was Marie Celeste and not Mary Celeste.

(As I was listening to this talk I was struck by the fact that the captain of the Mary Celeste when the crew disappeared was called Briggs … and that a ship called the Matilda Briggs was featured in one of Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories. Was this an example of Conan Doyle subconsciously revisiting the story of the Mary Celeste? I wonder?)

Sue was still feeling tired, and was suffering from pains in her stomach, so after the talk we returned to our cabin so that she could rest. We stayed there until just after 4.00pm, when we went up to the Horizon Self Service Restaurant for afternoon tea.

After a short spell on the open deck, we went back to our cabin and watched the port presentation about New York on the in-cabin TV system. Although we had already booked a three-stop tour in New York, we had been notified that the Pope was making a visit to the city whilst Aurora was there, and that this would affect where our tour was going to stop. It transpired that the first two tour stops (Madison Avenue/Central Park/Museum Mile and the area around the Rockefeller Centre) were largely unaffected, but the stop in the Financial District (the area around Wall Street) would have to be changed to a stop in Soho. On reflection we decided that this change was unimportant to us, and did not cancel our tour booking.

We went for a pre-dinner drink in Anderson’s Bar, and then down to the Alexandria Restaurant for dinner. A new couple joined our table of six to replace the two people who had changed to the earlier dinner sitting, and we spent a very pleasant meal introducing ourselves to each other and exchanging cruise-related stories.

After dinner we were both feeling rather tired, and so we returned to our cabin to do some reading before going to sleep.

Saturday 19th September, 2015: At sea
Overnight the weather became more like the conditions one might expect in the North Atlantic in early autumn. The Force 4 (Moderate wind) wind had become Force 8 (Gale), the sea state had changed to moderate, the sky was completely overcast, and there were very frequent rain squalls.

After breakfast in the Medina Restaurant, we went up to the area near the Riviera Bar and Pool, but it was too cold and windy to stay there for very long. After returning to our cabin to get warm, we then made our way to the Curzon Theatre to listen to guest speaker Howard Nichols’s second talk. The subject of the talk was the race to reach the South Pole, and covered the exploits – and fates – of Amundsen, Shackleton, and Scott.

By the time that the talk ended at midday, the weather had improved somewhat (the sky was cloudless and the wind speed had dropped), and we were able to go back to the deck area near the Riviera Bar and Pool for a drink … and just managed to miss seeing a pod of whales that Aurora sailed past. We stayed on deck for nearly thirty minutes, and then took a walk through the Horizon Self Service Restaurant to see what was on offer for lunch. As neither of us was feeling very hungry, we decided to return to our cabin to read for a while before eating lunch.

In the end we decided to see if we could eat lunch in The Glass House Wine Bar … and were very pleased that we did. The food was excellent and the service impeccable, although it was not fast as every dish was prepared and cooked to order. It took about an hour from start to finish to eat in The Glass House, but it was so relaxing that it did not seem that long.

After lunch we went out on deck for a breath of fresh air … and discovered that the weather had changed for the worse. The sky was overcast and the wind speed had increased to Force 6 (Strong wind). We only stayed outside for about ten minutes before going back to our cabin to read and rest until it was time to get ready for the Captain’s Welcome Aboard Party … the first formal event of the cruise.

The party was held in Carmen’s – the ship’s show lounge – and the doors opened at 8.00pm.

After the party ended we made our way down to the Alexandria Restaurant for dinner. There were only five of us at dinner as one of our number was feeling unwell. This did not – however – diminish the atmosphere around the table, and we all chatted away whilst we ate.

Once dinner was over some of us went up to the open deck area on Deck 10 Aft to continue talking, and we stayed there until members of the ship’s crew arrived to clean that area of deck. We then parted company and went back to our cabins to sleep.

Sunday 20th September, 2015: At sea
Although the wind speed had dropped back to Force 4 (Moderate wind) and the sea state was moderate, Aurora was experiencing a significant roll when we woke up. The horizon was very clear, and the cloud cover seemed to be quite light, and it showed all signs of it being quite a pleasant day at sea.

After breakfast in the Medina Restaurant we took a stroll on the Promenade Deck, but we didn’t get very far as we met some people we had travelled with on previous cruises and spent quite some time talking to them.

We then went to Carmen’s to listen to Howard Nichols’s third talk of the cruise. This one was about the life of Walter Henry, one of the survivor’s of the sinking of RMS Titanic in 1912. From a genealogical point-of-view this was extremely interesting as Sue had a relative who was a member of the Titanic’s crew (he was a chef) and who did not survive. It transpired that Walter Henry was – in fact – Howard Nichols’s grandfather, and served as a steward. Because he was also a trained lifeboatman he was allocated to Lifeboat 15, as a result of which he survived the sinking. The talk told the story of Walter Henry’s life before and after the Titanic‘s fateful voyage, and included details of the difficulties he had after the sinking in getting back to the UK and the subsequent problems he suffered trying to get further employment aboard ships.

Once the talk was over we went up to the Pennant Bar on Deck 12 Aft for a drink before returning to our cabin to read. We stayed there until 2.00pm, when we went to the Horizon Self Service Restaurant for lunch. After lunch we spent some time on Deck 10 Aft before returning to our cabin, where we stayed reading and resting until it was time to get ready for dinner.

As usual we went to Anderson’s Bar for a pre-dinner drink, and managed a quick walk outside along the Promenade Deck before going down to the Alexandria Restaurant for dinner. All six of us were at the table, and the conversation over dinner range across a number of different topics, including fast cars, books that we were reading, and places we planned to visit whilst we were in the US and Canada. In fact we were all enjoying ourselves so much that we were almost the last group to leave the restaurant.

We then went up to Deck 11 Aft with one of the couples we sat with at dinner, and began having a very interesting conversation in the open air area. Unfortunately this was cut short when we realised that we were sitting next to a cabin window, and that we were keeping the cabin’s occupants awake! (It was only 10.30pm, but some of the older passengers do like to go to bed early … and the cabin was occupied by one such couple.)

We therefore parted company, and returned to our respective cabins to get ready for yet another night’s sleep.

Monday 21st September, 2015: At sea
The weather improved overnight, and by 7.30am – when we woke up – the wind speed was Force 3 (Gentle breeze), the sea state was slight, and the cloud cover was light. The navigation map on the in-cabin TV system showed Aurora‘s position as being to the south east of easternmost tip of Newfoundland.

We had a leisurely breakfast in the Medina Restaurant, followed by a short walk on deck for a breath of fresh air. Then it was off to Carmen’s again to listen to Howard Nichols’s fourth talk of the cruise, which was about his service with the Royal National Lifeboat Institution as a trainer. Having been a paramedic for many years, he was recruited by the RNLI to train its lifeboat crews how to deal with major life-threatening injuries that were more serious than those that could be dealt with using standard first-aid techniques.

Once that was over we had to make a quick visit to our cabin to get ready for the Peninsular Club Lunch, which was held in the Alexandria Restaurant at midday. This was hosted by senior officers, and we had Christian, one of the ship’s two Future Cruise and Loyalty Managers as our table host. It was an excellent lunch, and our table companions – who were also all regular cruisers – all proved to be interesting and entertaining people to share a meal with.

When the lunch had ended, Sue and I went up to the Promenade Deck for some fresh air. After staying there for over thirty minutes we returned to our cabin to rest and recover. (Too much good food and wine at lunchtime can make one feel very ‘tired’ if one isn’t used to it!)

We remained there until it was time to begin the leisurely process of getting ready for dinner. In fact we were ready nearly an hour before we needed to be, and this meant that Anderson’s Bar was emptier than usual when we went there for our pre-dinner drink there. We also had time to go out onto the Promenade Deck for some fresh air before going down toe the Alexandria Restaurant on Deck 6 Aft.

We both ate slightly less for dinner than normal (we were both still feeling quite full from our lunch), and as usual the food, service, and company were excellent. Afterwards Sue and I and the couple who had sat with us on Deck 11 Aft after yesterday’s dinner, went up to Deck 10 Aft for a chat. Although it was quite windy, it was not very cold, and were were able to talk for nearly half an hour before we parted company and went back to our respective cabins.

Neither Sue nor I was feeling very tired, and after getting ready for bed we spent some time reading before we switched our lights out and went to sleep.

Tuesday 22nd September, 2015: At sea
During the night Aurora sailed into a storm. At 4.30am our cabin’s balcony door slide open about ha quarter of an inch due to the violence of the ship’s movement, and the wind noise was so loud that it woke me up. Although it was still dark, I could see white water on the tops of the waves. Once I had managed to shut and lock the door in place, I found it difficult to get back to sleep. Aurora was rolling quite violently from side to side and this – coupled with the pitching motion – made it almost impossible to lay down in bed.

Eventually Sue and I gave up trying to sleep, and at 7.30am we began the slow and careful process of getting washed and dressed on board a ship where even walking across the cabin was difficult. The information channel on Aurora‘s in-cabin TV system informed us that the ship had reduced speed and that the wind speed was Force 8 (Gale). The sea state was described as being rough and the fact that it was overcast did little to make things outside look anything other than bleak and unpleasant.

By the time we were ready to go to the Medina Restaurant for breakfast, the wind speed was Force 10 (Storm) and the sea state very rough. We felt that the ship’s movement was so erratic that for the first time we used the lift to go down to Deck 6 where the restaurant was located.

We finished eating breakfast by 9.45am, and during the time we had been in the restaurant the weather had improved slightly. The wind speed had returned to Force 8 (Gale), and the ship’s movement was somewhat less violent. We decided to see what it was like out on the open deck … but the only area that was accessible was on Deck 12 near the Riviera Pool. We went up and sat there for about fifteen minutes discussing what we wanted to do next.

(Access to the Promenade Deck was closed to passengers. Notices and barriers were placed across all the doors leading out onto the Promenade Deck, but this did not stop some passengers from ignoring them and going out there. It was only the intervention of members of the ship’s security staff who put their own safety at risk by going out onto the open deck area that eventually cleared the Promenade Deck of passengers.)

As we wanted to attend Howard Nichols’s fifth talk of the cruise, we decided to go back to our cabin to collect our Kindles before making our way to the Curzon Theatre over thirty minutes before the talk was due to start. As a result Sue and I were able to select some good seats in the theatre, and to sit there and read our Kindles until the talk started at 11.00am.

The subject of the talk was the Bermuda Triangle, and during his presentation Howard Nichols explained how the idea of the so-called Bermuda Triangle had come about before debunking the numerous theories as to its alleged causes. He presented detailed explanations as to what had happened to many of the ships and aircraft that had ‘disappeared’ in the Triangle, and by the end of forty five minutes he had convince the majority of those present that it was all a load of bunkum.

We returned to the open deck area near the Riviera Pool after the talk had ended, and had a chat with one of the couples we sit with at dinner. By the time we parted company with them, Sue and I were feeling thirsty, and we went up to the Crow’s Nest Bar on Deck 13 Forward. We stayed there drinking and reading our Kindles until 1.00pm, and then went back to our cabin until it was time to go to lunch.

At 2.00pm we went up to the Horizon Self Service Restaurant for lunch. It was emptier than we had expected, and as a result we had no trouble finding somewhere to sit and eat. Once lunch was over, we went down to Deck 11 Aft, where we were able to sit in the open air whilst being sheltered from the wind. Eventually the wind direction shifted, and it became too cold to remain on deck, so we went back to our cabin for the rest of the afternoon.

That evening it was the second formal dinner of the cruise, and as the weather had not significantly improved (the wind speed was Force 7 (Very strong wind) and the sea sate was rough) we decided to start getting ready slightly earlier than usual. Once we were both appropriately ‘suited and booted’ in our formal finery, we went down to Anderson’s Bar for a pre-dinner drink.

As we were leaving Anderson’s Bar we were able to have a quick chat with Howard Nichols and his wife, who provides all his technical assistance. We thanked them both for the excellent talks and they told us about the cruises that had done as lecturers. It transpired that he not only gives talks about a variety of sea-related subjects, but has also done port presentations on some of the Fred Olsen Line cruises.

We then joined the queue of passenger waiting to go into the Alexandria Restaurant for dinner, and whilst we were there we met one of the couples with whom we share a table. Once seated, the other couple soon joined us, and the conversation flowed back and forth as we ate our meal.

We had all just finished eating when the head waiter appeared at the table and asked which of us was celebrating an anniversary. The couple that had been last to sit down then rather sheepishly admitted that they were not celebrating an anniversary … they were celebrating their wedding, which had taken place that afternoon! As if by magic, a cake and a group of waiters appeared, and whilst the cake was presented to the bride and groom, the waiters sang to them.

After we had all congratulated the newly-wed couple and eaten a slice of wedding cake, it was time to leave the restaurant. We all parted company outside the restaurant, and Sue and I went up to Deck 10 Aft from a last breath of fresh air before going back to our cabin to sleep.

Wednesday 23rdSeptember, 2015: At sea
Overnight Aurora reached the point where she was sailing in the deep water almost parallel with the coast of Nova Scotia, and by the time we woke up at 7.00am we were south of the southern tip of the. The weather had also improved. The wind speed was Force 4 (Moderate wind) and the sea state was moderate.

Breakfast in the Medina Restaurant was followed by a spell in the open area near the Riviera Bar and Pool. Whilst we were there we had a chat with a couple that we had met on a previous cruise and some of their friends. Because we wanted to get good seats in the Curzon Theatre to hear Howard Nichols’s final talk of the cruise – which was about the Northern Lights and where best to see them – we made sure that we were seated by just after 10.30am. The talk was excellent, and it was a great pity that Howard Nichols was leaving Aurora once she reached Boston.

We returned to the open area near the Riviera Bar and Pool to have a drink and to read our Kindles, and we stayed there until it was 2.00pm. Sue and I then decided to go to lunch, which we got from the Horizon Self Service Restaurant and Lido Grill and ate by the Lido Pool.

After lunch we went to Deck 11 Aft to carry on reading our Kindles, and we stayed there until the just after 3.00pm, by which time where we were sitting was in shadow and getting cold. We went back to our cabin to warm up, read some more, and to rest … and we stayed there until it was time to go for a pre-dinner drink.

Sue and I went up to the Pennant Bar for a pre-dinner drink, but as it was deserted we decided to go to Anderson’s Bar as usual. We had a brief chat with Howard Nichols and his wife whilst we were in Anderson’s Bar, and at 8.20pm we left for a short walk along the Promenade Deck. We stayed out on deck until 8.30pm, when we returned inside and went down to Deck 6 Aft, where the Alexandria Restaurant was located.

After dinner we went up to the open deck area near the Riviera Bar and Pool on Deck 12 Forward, where we were joined by one of the couples with whom we share a table for dinner. We stayed chatting with them for about thirty minutes, by which time the wind had picked up and it was beginning to get too cold to be comfortable to sit in the open. We parted company and Sue and I returned to our cabin on Deck 10 Aft to get ready for bed and to get our stuff ready ahead of our arrival in New York.

Thursday 24th September, 2015: New York City, USA
Sue and I were both awake just after 7.00am, and it was already light enough to see the shore of Long Island on the horizon.

Aurora had slowed down – which is probably what woke us up – and was entering the traffic separation scheme that operates on the approaches to New York.

In order to enter Upper New York Bay, Aurora had to pass under the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.

At the Staten Island end of the bridge was Fort Wadsworth.

As Aurora sailed past the docks on the New Jersey side of the bay, we could see the MV Liberty of the Seas moored alongside.

In hardly seemed any time at all before Aurora was sailing past the Statue of Liberty …

… and Ellis Island.

As the Pope was due to arrive in New York that day, there was evidence of higher than normal levels of security, including the presence of US Coast Guard vessels partolling the harbour.

As we approached the New Jersey side of the bay …

… a Staten Island Ferry sped past the stern of Aurora.

By 10.30am the ship had almost reached the southernmost tip of Manhattan Island …

The most impressive building was – of course – the new Freedom Tower building, which dominates the skyline.

We had another reminder of the heightened levels of security when a US AEW aircraft overflew the city.

As Aurora sailed towards her berth at Pier 90, she passed the USS Intrepid, …

… a retired US Coast Guard vessel, …

… and a former US Navy missile-carrying submarine, USS Growler (SSG-577).

The Holland-America Line’s cruise liner Eurodam was already alongside the next-door pier.

Aurora finally berthed at Pier 90 just after 11.15am … but the face-to-face immigration interviews that had to be carried out on all the passengers and crew aboard Aurora took a long time. At 11.10am – ten minutes after the group immigration tickets became available – we collected a ticket … and were allocated to Group 15. Group 1 was called to go ashore to be checked at 11.45am … and our group was not called until 2.00pm! As a result it was nearly 2.30pm before we actually stepped out of the Cruise Terminal.

Our first task was to cross the West Side Highway …

… but we were slightly delayed by a New York City Fire Department rescue tender that was moving at high speed along the highway.

Once across the highway, we walked inland along 50th Street West, and crossed some almost empty streets.

It was our day for seeing New York City Fire Department vehicles, as another one turned in front of us as we walked up West 50th Street.

We stopped for a coffee in a branch of Starbucks in the Worldwide Plaza, and then turned left into 8th Avenue.

We walked from West 50th Street along 8th Avenue to the Columbus Circle.

We sat down to rest there, and saw one of New York’s ‘finest’ dealing with a number of street people.

He was firm and patient with them, and they eventually moved on.

Sue and I then walked past Trump Towers …

… towards Broadway.

We then turned back towards the Hudson River down West 59th Street. When we reached 11th Avenue we turned south towards Pier 90. Along the way we saw a car being towed away by the New York Police Department …

… much to its owner’s disgust!

Sue and I reached Pier 90 at 4.45pm, and by 5.00pm were were back aboard. We had a much-needed cold drink in the Pennant Bar on Deck 12 Aft, and then went back to our cabin to begin getting ready for dinner.

Because the weather was so nice, we had our pre-dinner drink in the Pennant Bar … and returned there after dinner as well. (The two other couples on our table had not joined us for dinner, and the service had been much swifter than usual. In fact the Alexandria Restaurant was only about a third full as many passengers had decided to stay ashore during the evening.) We were able to go to bed relatively early … which was good thing as we were going on a trip the next morning.

Friday 25th September, 2015: New York City, New York, USA
Because we were going on a trip to three places in New York that was starting at 9.00am onshore, we had decided to set our alarm for 7.00am in order for us not to need to rush to get ready. As it was, Sue and I both woke up earlier than that, and by 6.45am were were both getting ready.

The sun had already risen, but the sky was overcast. Because the Eurodam had left her berth late on the previous evening, we had a good view of USS Intrepid from our cabin balcony …

… as well as the traffic on the nearby highway.

Sue and I managed to be ready in time to have breakfast in the Medina Restaurant, and by 8.30am we were going ashore to rendezvous with our coach and tour guide.

The first stop of our tour was outside the Metropolitan Museum of Art on 5th Avenue.

Sue and I particularly wanted to wanted to have a walk through Central Park, and as it is behind the museum, we tried to enter by a pathway next to the 79th Street Traverse Road … but were stopped from doing so by two New York Police Department police officers.

Undaunted, we walked back past the museum, and entered by an unguarded pathway next to the 86h Street Traverse Road.

When we reached the area known as The Great Lawn, we found that it was being set up as a venue for a rock concert …

… and we had to keep to the pathways around it.

As we walked through the park we reached the Turtle Pond …

… although the only evidence of wildlife was a number of ducks swimming in the pond.

Nearby was a statue of Wladyslaw Iagiello, the King of Poland and Duke of Lithuania who defeated the Teutonic Knights in 1410.

The statue was erected by Polish New Yorkers to commemorator the man who unified the people’s of ‘Eastern Central Europe‘.

From there we walked towards the Belvedere Castle.

This ‘folly’ was built in 1869, and houses the New York Meteorological Observatory. This was created Dr. Daniel Draper, and a memorial plaque about him is fixed to the wall of the tower.

From the Belvedere Castle we made our way down to the area known as Shakespeare’s Garden …

… which is near to the Delacorte Open-air Theatre. Outside the theatre are two statures, one of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ …

… and one depicting ‘The Tempest’.

At this point we only had about twenty minutes left before our coach was to take us to our next stop. On our way back to the 79th Street Traverse Road exit (the one we had been forbidden to enter the park by) we passed an ancient Egyptian obelisk …

… before walking under an ornate stone bridge.

Just before we reached the exit, we stopped to look at a sculpture of three bears.

It was only a short walk back to our coach, and along the way we passed a New York Fire Department rescue tender.

The tour then went to the Rockefeller Centre in Midtown.

We spent nearly two hours exploring the area in and around the Centre, and were very impressed by some of the statuary.

The latter formed part of the decoration along one wall of the partially underground Rockefeller Centre Café/Restaurant.

The final stop was in the SoHo (South of Houston) district. The coach dropped us off not far from the junction of Broadway and West Houston Street, and we spent ninety minutes walking to and from the direction of Canal Street. Along the way we did some shopping the the Pandora Shop on Broadway as well as eating a snack in the small café in Bloomingdales. We got back to the coach on the deadline we had been set by the tour guide, and we were the last people aboard.

The coach drove back through China Town and Tribeca, where we joined the West Side Highway. This took us back to Pier 90, and we were back aboard Aurora by 3.30pm … an hour early. We had a snack in the Horizon Self Service Restaurant before going out to the Pennant Bar for a cold drink. We took this down to the open deck area on Deck 10 Aft, where we sat until it was time to go back to our cabin.

Aurora unmoored and left her berth at 5.45pm, and by 6.00pm she was sailing down the Hudson River towards the Upper New York Bay.

At 6.30pm Aurora sailed past The Statue of Liberty …

… and our visit to New York was finally over.

Because the weather was still warm, Sue and I had our pre-dinner drink in the Pennant Bar before going down to the Alexandria Restaurant. All six of us were there for dinner, and we spent the meal exchanging stories about our time in New York. In fact we had so much to talk about that once the meal was over, we carried on talking to one of the couples out on Deck 10 Aft until nearly midnight.

Saturday 26th September, 2015: Newport, Rhode Island, USA
Despite having gone to bed slightly later than we had planned to the night before, Sue and I were awake by 7.00am … and Aurora was already mooring just outside Newport’s small harbour.

As we were getting ready for breakfast, the sounds of the tenders being launched was audible in our cabin. From our balcony we could see Fort Adams …

… and the sun coming up behind the town of Newport.

Because Newport was a tender port, we had to collect numbered disembarkation tickets from Masquerades, the ship’s nightclub, after breakfast. We did so … and got numbers 901 and 902. We were eventually called down to the tender boarding pontoon at 11.00am, and finally landed in Newport at 11.45am. (The journey from the ship to the shore was much slower than usual due to local speed limits in Newport Harbour.)

Sue and I had already decided that we would take the local trolley tour of the area, and by just after midday we had reached the local bus station/information office and bought tickets for the tour.

We boarded the trolley, …

… which in the UK would normally be referred to as a reproduction of an old bus, at 12.20pm, and at 12.30pm the driver closed the doors and set off. He described the history of Newport and showed us examples of the old wooden colonial buildings that are dotted all over the older part of the town.

The tour then went out along Coastal Drive, where we were shown numerous examples of the seaside mansions that were built during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries by New York’s elite to act as summer homes. Once we had turned inland again and begun to drive along Bellevue Avenue, we saw more of these magnificent houses. Our ninety minute tour ended back at the bus station, and we both agreed that it been well worth the cost.

The queue to go back aboard Aurora was nearly two hundred yards long, so Sue and I decided to have lunch ashore before joining the queue. We found the restaurant we had eaten in during our last visit to Newport – the Barking Crab – and ate a very substantial lunch.

When Sue and I finally joined the queue at 2.50pm, it had grown even longer, and we did not board a tender back to Aurora until nearly an hour later … twenty minutes after the final tender was supposed to have left the shore!

Near where we were queuing there was a memorial to the US Marines from the Newport area who died in Lebanon and the operations in Grenada.

The queue was still at least one hundred yards long as our tender left on its journey back to the ship, and the last of those queuing passengers was not back aboard until an hour after the last shuttle was due to have returned.

Aurora eventually left Newport just after 5.00pm, and began to sail out towards the open sea before turning towards the next port-of-call, Boston. By this time we were sitting in our cabin having a refreshing drink and thinking about getting ready for dinner.

By the time we were ready to go for a pre-dinner drink, the wind speed had risen to Force 6 (Strong wind), and when coupled with the speed of Aurora moving through the water at over 21 knots, it was very uncomfortable to be on the open deck. We therefore went to Anderson’s Bar before going to the Alexandria Restaurant for dinner.

The food and company were excellent, and we did not leave the restaurant until after 10.15pm. We tried to go outside for a breath of fresh air, but even in the sheltered area near the Riviera Bar and Pool it was too windy and too cold to be comfortable. We only stayed there a matter of minutes before going down to our cabin on Deck 10 to get ready for bed.

Sunday 27th September, 2015: Boston, Massachusetts, USA
As Sue and I had visited central Boston during our previous cruise to North America, we decided to book places on a day-long tour that would take us to Lexington, Concord, and Cambridge, the latter being the home of Harvard University.

Aurora had just passed the ends of the runways of Logan Airport when she turned towards the Boston waterfront.

Sue and I were in the Medina Restaurant eating breakfast as the ship finally moored alongside the Black Falcon Wharf.

When we disembarked just before 9.00am to join our tour, we discovered that Aurora

… had moored behind The World, the only time-share cruise ship in the world.

Once we had boarded the tour coach, we discovered that the planned itinerary was slightly different from what we had expected. Instead of going to Lexington and Concord and then returning to Boston via Cambridge and Harvard University, we were going to travel around historic Boston first and then have a lunch break before visiting Lexington, Concord, and Harvard.

For the first three hours were travelled around Boston, looking at the major sites. Our first stop was in Copley Square, where we saw Trinity Church …

… the John Hancock Building, …

… the Boston Public Library, …

… as well as other notable buildings.

On the way to our next stop, we passed the Massachusetts State House.

The second stop of the tour was in the North End district of Boston. Because the streets were narrow, we had to leave the coach in Commercial Street and walk up towards Paul Revere Mall. On the way we passed a Boston Fire Department turntable ladder.

At one end of the Mall was a statue of Paul Revere …

… which faced a picturesque church.

We then walked up the Mall, towards Old North Church …

… which had a Dog-Tag Memorial in its yard.

Each dog-tag represented a member of one of the American armed forces who had died in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Inside the church we sat in box pews …

… where a very enthusiastic young woman told us a rather romanticised version of the story of Paul Revere. We then rejoined our coach, which took us to the Union Oyster House in Union Street for lunch.

Once lunch was over, we boarded the coach again and set off for Lexington. We were set down on Lexington Green …

… where we saw the monument that was erect to commemorate the seven colonists who were killed during the fighting.

This monument marked one end of the line of colonial militia who tried to stop the troops General Gage had sent to seize arms and documents belonging to Sam Adams and the other leaders of the disgruntled colonists. The other end of the line was marked by rock that bore a quotation from Captain Parker, the leader of the colonist militia in Lexington.

Captain Parker is also the subject of a statue on the Green.

The tour coach then took us to Concord, where we were able to stand on the Old North Bridge, which was the site of a larger skirmish between the colonial militia and the British troops. The bridge was important because it allowed easy access over the river.

There are several monuments near the Old North Bridge including one that commemorates the battle, …

… the Minutemen who fought there, …

… and the three British soldiers who were killed.

Our tour was by this time running behind schedule, but this did not result in our missing the chance to visit Harvard University. We walked through Old Yard …

… where we had the opportunity to see the statue of the ‘founder’ of the University.

In fact as no known image of Mr Harvard exists, it cannot be an accurate portrayal of him. Furthermore, he didn’t found the University that bears his name; he donated the books that formed the major part of its earliest library.

We then walked into New Yard …

… which is the location of the new library building.

We finally returned to Aurora at 6.45pm (thirty minutes late!), having been on tour for just over eight hours! We had a quick drink in the Pennant Bar before returning to our cabin to get ready for dinner. This took much less time than usual, and by 8.00pm we had returned to the Pennant Bar for a pre-dinner drink.

The other two couples with whom we share a dinner table in the Alexandria Restaurant had very different experiences of Boston, and we had a great meal exchanging stories about what we had done all day.

After dinner Sue and I went up to Deck 10 Aft to watch Boston disappear towards the horizon as Aurora sailed out of the harbour …

… and to watch the rare Lunar eclipse.

By then we were both feeling very tired, and once the eclipse was over we went to our cabin to sleep.

Monday 28th September, 2015: Portland, Maine, USA
Sue and I were both woken up by the sound of Aurora mooring alongside in Portland.

She had not moored alongside the Cruise Terminal as that berth had already been taken by Royal Caribbean Cruise’s Brilliance of the Sea.

When we first boarded Aurora, we had not planned to go on any trips or tours in Portland. The opportunity had then arisen to pay a visit to Freeport, which is sixteen miles from Portland and which is well-known for it selection of shops and sale outlets. We had therefore booked places to go there.

On Sunday evening, when we got back from our tour in Boston, a letter had been delivered to our cabin informing us that the trip had been cancelled. We were disappointed … but not distraught. When we woke up on Monday morning, a voicemail had been left on our cabin telephone telling us to ignore the letter as the trip had been reinstated.

Sue and I discussed what to do … and decided to go on the trip. We went ashore in plenty of time, and at 9.30am the coach left Portland, and by 10.00am we had arrived in Freeport.

We were dropped off outside the flagship store of L L Bean …

… the town’s major employer and the driving force behind making Freeport a retail centre. We wandered around the town – which was very uncrowded – looking and and buying stuff until 11.30am …

… when we went for a couple of café lattes in the coffee shop attached to L L Bean’s store. We then spent time looking around the store … which was a haven for anyone who enjoys outdoor pursuits. We rejoined the coach back to Portland at 1.00pm, and by just after 1.30pm we were dropped off near to where Aurora was moored.

Sue and I decided to have a walk around the Old Port area of Portland …

… but after looking for somewhere for lunch – a quest that proved fruitless as everywhere we looked was full – we returned to the ship and ate lunch in the Horizon Self Service Restaurant. After lunch we had a couple of drinks in the Pennant Bar before going back to our cabin to read and rest.

Aurora left Portland just after 5.00pm, and after negotiating her way out to sea, she turned onto a course towards our next port-of-call, Saint John, New Brunswick. As she did so, Sue noticed that a fast-moving rigid inflatable boat was escorting the Aurora out towards the open sea. She photographed it … and on closer inspection it turned out to be a US Coast Guard boat, armed with what looked like an M60 machine gun!

Because it was quite windy out on deck, Sue and I had our pre-dinner drink in Anderson’s Bar. We then had a short walk along the Promenade Deck before going down to the Alexandria Restaurant for dinner.

After dinner Sue and I paid a short visit to Reception to sort out a minor problem with our on-board account, after which we went up to the open deck area near the Riviera Bar and Pool. We stayed there until nearly midnight talking to other passengers, by which time we were both beginning to feel tired. We went back to our cabin to sleep, although I did have to read for a bit before falling alseep.

Tuesday 29th September, 2015: Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada
On the previous occasion that Sue and I visited Saint John, New Brunswick, it was foggy … and when it wasn’t foggy, it was raining. We were delighted – therefore – when we awoke at 7.30am to find that the sun was shining and there was no sign of fog.

How stupid we were to expect it to stay like that all day. In fact, by the time we went to breakfast in the Medina Restaurant, the fog had descended and we could hardly see more than one hundred yards.

Aurora moored at the Cruise Terminal nearest to the entrance because the Princess Cruise Lines’s MV Regal Princess was moored ahead of her.

Because of the fog, we decided not to rush ashore, and we returned to our cabin after breakfast to read until the fog had lifted. By 11.30am it showed no signs of doing so, so we decided to get ready and go ashore.

Once out of the terminal building we passed through a local tented market that was set up to sell gifts etc. to cruise ship passengers.

We walked along the dockside as far as the Loyalist Square, where another market – this time a craft market – had been set up. The square commemorates the arrival of 2,000 Empire Loyalists in Saint John in 1783.

We then used the elevated walkway that connects the building that houses the New Brunswick Museum and Saint John Library to the town hall, and then on to the Brunswick Square retail area and the Old Market.

Having walked through the market, we arrived at King’s Square.

This open area contains a number of monuments including one to the Canadian dead of the First and Second World Wars, the Korean War, and the war in Afghanistan.

The other monuments commemorated Sir Samuel Leonard Tilley, one of the driving forces behind the creation of the Canadian Federation, …

… Charles I Gorman, the famous world speed-skating champion, …

… the local fire-fighters who have died on duty, …

… the foundation of New Brunswick,

… and King Edward VII.

The latter was present to the city by the local Cornet Band.

We then retraced our steps somewhat, and ended up back in the Brunswick Square retail area …

… where we did some shopping and ate lunch in a branch of Cora’s. (Cora’s in a nation-wide chain of breakfast and lunch restaurants.)

After lunch we walked back to Aurora, and were aboard by 3.15pm. We dropped our bags off in our cabin before going up to the Pennant Bar for a drink. We stayed there until after 4.00pm, and it gave us the opportunity to see the entrance to the harbour.

A lone piper played as Aurora gradually slipped her moorings and began to move away from the dockside.

As the ship turned to leave, we saw the famous Martello Tower that dominated the headland opposite the port of Saint John.

Aurora was escorted out by a local pilot cutter …

… which remained close by until it was time for the pilot to disembark.

Once Aurora reached the open sea, the weather changed for the worse. Wind speed reached Force 6 (Strong wind) and was coming from the direction in which the ship was sailing. As a result it was too cold and windy out on deck to be comfortable. We had planned to have our pre-dinner drink in the Pennant Bar, but when we got there it was deserted, so we went to Anderson’s Bar instead.

We ate dinner with our usual table companions in the Alexandria Restaurant, and one topic of conversation that came up concerned the so-called Reversing Falls in Saint Johns. They are  phenomena that occur when the tide coming in meets the local river flowing down to the sea. If the tide is strong enough, it forces the river water back. Sue and I had seen this during our last trip to Saint John in 2012 … and were not overly impressed. Neither – it would appear – were the other people on our table when they went to see it during Aurora‘s stop this year.

After dinner we did try to go out on deck near the Riviera Pool and Bar with one of the other couples from our dining table, but the wind and the cold was too strong, and we returned to our respective cabins within five minutes of going outside. Sue and I then got ready for bed, although we both read for a while before going to sleep.

Wednesday 30th September, 2015: Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
The sun was shining, the sea was calm, and the wind speed had dropped to Force 2 (Light breeze) when we awoke at 7.30am. We had been told to expect rain, but the forecast did not seem to relate to the good weather that we could see around us.

Aurora docked whilst Sue and I were eating breakfast in the Medina Restaurant, and immediately afterwards we went up to Deck 10 Aft to wait until the passengers who were going on tours had disembarked. Whilst we were there, a Royal Canadian Navy ship – the HMCS Summerside (MM711) – had just left the naval base that is located upstream of the Cruise Terminal, and was making her way towards the open sea.

By 10.00am we had joined the queue of people who were disembarking. We turned right after leaving the Cruise Terminal and spent the next hour or so wandering along the riverside boardwalk.

Just along from the Cruise Terminal was a statue of Samuel Cunard …

… who was born in Halifax and who founded the Cunard Shipping Company.

Close by was a sculpture that commemorated the male emigrants who had left their families in order to go to Canada and to prepare a new life for their families.

(We were told by some locals that they refer to this statue as ‘The travelling salesman running away from his family’.)

The next memorial that we came to was dedicated to the ships and men of the RCN who were lost on active service during World War II. One side of the monument bore an inscription …

… whilst the other side had a plaque that listed the names of the ships as well as illustrations of the different classes of ship that were lost.

There was also a rather poignant memorial about the Great Acadian Upheaval.

The Acadians were settlers of French origin who were in Nova Scotia before the foundation of Halifax. Some moved to other French territories in North America, but those that remained were perceived to be a threat to the British colony. From 1755 onwards they were ‘removed’ to British colonies in modern-day America, to France, or to England.

The next monument that we saw was a carving of the Venetian winged lion, which had been presented to Halifax when it hosted a G7 summit some years ago.

This was followed by a memorial to the Norwegian seamen who lost their lives during the Second World War.

By this time we had reached the preserved covette RCNS Sackville

… which is moored very close to the preserved research vessel CSS Acadia.

Sue and I had been wandering along the boardwalk for the best part of an hour, and decided to have a drink in a nearby branch of the famous Canadian fast-food establishments, Tim Hortons.

Suitably refreshed, we walked slowly back to the Aurora, where – after paying a swift visit to our cabin to freshen up – we waited until it was time to go back ashore to meet Ross Macfarlane and his lovely wife Kathy.

Sue and I had a wonderful lunch with them in a nearby restaurant, and spent the afternoon talking to them as we walked along the boardwalk. It was with great regret that we had to leave them to go back aboard Aurora at 3.45pm so that we did not miss our departure to our next port-of-call.

Whilst we were walking back to the Cruise Terminal, we saw HMCS Summerside (MM711) returning upriver to the RCN naval base.

(HMCS Summerside is a Kingston-class coastal defence vessel.)

Aurora left Halifax soon after 5.00pm, and on her way out to sea she passed the Royal Caribbean Lines Brilliance of the Seas.

The local pilot was picked up from the ship about forty five minutes after Aurora had set sail. The pilot cutter came alongside …

… and moments later the pilot had descended the ladder from Aurora and had jumped onto the deck of the cutter, …

… which set off towards the shore at high speed.

Once Aurora got further out to sea, the weather began to deteriorate, and by the time we went for our pre-dinner drink, it was too wet and windy outside to drink in the Pennant Bar on Deck 12 Aft. Sue and I therefore went to Anderson’s Bar instead, and from there we went to the Alexandria Restaurant for dinner.

We did attempt to go outside after dinner for some fresh air, but although it was not wet by the Riviera Bar and Pool, it was very windy, and we stayed for only a few minutes before going back to our cabin to sleep.

Thursday 1st October, 2015: At sea
After seven continuous days of port visits, we were both looking forward to a restful day at sea … but the weather had other ideas! When Sue and I woke up at 7.45am, Aurora was steaming through the channel that separates the tip of Nova Scotia – Cape Breton – from Newfoundland. It was raining, the sea state was moderate, and the wind speed was Force 7 (Very strong wind) coming from the south-south-east (i.e. astern of the Aurora). Cloud cover seemed to be total and we could not see the horizon. In addition, some of the open deck areas had been closed off for safety reasons.

We managed to make it into breakfast in the Medina Restaurant, after which we paid a quick visit to Reception to get a print-out of our on-board account. Members of the crew were in the process of setting up Aurora Uncovered – a series of exhibits set up by each of the ship’s main departments – in the Atrium. We had to return to our cabin for a few minutes before we were able back to the Atrium to look at the exhibits.

The ship was experiencing rather a lot of movement, and after spending some time in the Atrium we decided to go up to the Crow’s Nest Bar to sit and read. We stayed there until after midday, at which point we went back to our cabin, where we stayed until 1.30pm. Sue and I decided to see how crowded the Horizon Self Service Restaurant was, and were surprised to find that it was quite empty … so we decided to eat lunch there.

After eating our lunch we went out onto the open deck area on Deck 10 Aft, but the wind and rain made it uncomfortable to stay there. We therefore returned to our cabin to read and rest until it was time to get ready for the third formal dinner of the cruise.

During the afternoon I finished reading William Dalrymple’s RETURN OF THE KING: THE BATTLE FOR AFGHANISTAN and began reading THE TITANIC PLAN. This was written by Michael Bockman from a story by Ron Freeman.

As Aurora began to turn into the entrance to the St Lauwrence River, the weather began to improve slightly. The ship began to move less, and it was possible to walk around without worrying that a sudden lurch would cause you to inadvertently collide with other people. Sue and I had a pre-dinner drink in Anderson’s Bar, but when we went out on deck for a quick breath of fresh air before going to the Alexandria Restaurant, we found that it was still too windy to be comfortable.

Only one other couple joined us for dinner, and as a result the meal seemed to take less time to serve and eat. We were finished well before 10.30pm, and by 10.35pm Sue and I had been out to the open area on Deck 10 Aft and returned to our cabin to get ready for bed.

Friday 2nd October, 2015: Quebec City, Quebec, Canada
Sue and I woke up just after 7.30am, and by 8.45am we were in the Medina Restaurant eating breakfast. When we had finished eating we then went out onto the Promenade Deck, to watch the banks of the St Lawrence River as Aurora sailed towards Quebec City.

It was much colder on deck that we had expected (10°C/50°F), and we decided to find somewhere inside to sit and read. We tried the Crow’s Nest Bar, but that was full to capacity and in the end we sat in the nearby Uganda Room. We remained there until just after midday, when we went down to the Horizon Self Service Restaurant to eat an early lunch.

By the time we had finished eating, Aurora was very close to Quebec …

… and soon after she begin mooring alongside her berth, which was situated some distance from the centre of Quebec City, just underneath the cliffs up to the Plains of Abraham.

Another cruise ship – the Regatta – was already moored alongside the quay that Aurora was going to use.

As we were going on a tour, we went ashore at 1.45pm so that we were in plenty of time to find our coach, which was due to leave at 2.15pm. It was very cold when we went ashore, and everyone going on the tour was ashore by 2.15pm … but there was no sign of the coach. In the end – and nearly thirty minutes after we were supposed to have left – the shore agent redirected another coach to replace the missing coach.

Our first stop was at the Montmorency Falls. The coach parked near the former Kent House, where Queen Victoria’s father lived whilst he was in Canada.

The falls were spectacular … and well worth the climb up the steps to the bridge over the falls.

The second stop was at the Albert Gilles Copper Art Centre and Museum. Albert Gilles began working in copper whilst he was living in the USA, but in the 1930s he moved to Canada. He became known for the quality of his work, some of which was in use at the Basilica of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré.

The Gilles family continue to work copper, and the centre contains examples of worked metal.

The final stop of our tour was Basilica of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré.

Work began on the present building in 1923 after the former basilica was burned down. It is still under construction, although only detail work remains to be done. The inside of the basilica is decorated with an incredible number of mosaics and stained glass windows.

Whilst we were waiting to get back aboard the coach, a small, local train passed along the nearby tracks.

By the time we left it was beginning to get dark, and we reached Aurora at 6.45pm … thirty minutes late again! Sue and I were back in our cabin by just before 7.00pm, and began to get ready for dinner. Because we were so late getting back to the ship, we did not have time for a pre-dinner drink before going to the Alexandria Restaurant.

After dinner we did try going out on deck, but the temperature had dropped to 8°C/46°F and we only stayed there for a matter on minutes before going back to our cabin to sleep.

Saturday 3rd October, 2015: Quebec City, Quebec, Canada
Over night the air temperature remained low, and it had not risen by the time Sue and I went to breakfast in the Medina Restaurant. Once we had eaten we wrapped up in our warmest clothes and went ashore.

The shuttle-bus dropped us off near the Place Royale, and Sue and I decided not to make our way straight into the Old Town. Instead we walked towards the Old Port area via some of the oldest streets in the city.

(There were numerous displays of pumpkins at various locations throughout the city … in this case around the base of a bust of King Louis XIV.)

At the corner of two streets was a very interesting monument and fountain.

Sue and I found a narrow alleyway off one of the crowded main roads that led to a smaller and deserted one. Every building had its own set of gaily painted stairs leading from ground level up to each floor.

Having had a look around the Old Port area, Sue and I began the climb up one of the step roads leading to the upper level of the Old Town. Along the way we passed one of the magnificent murals that adorn some of the buildings in Quebec …

… as well as the steps leading down to Rue du Petit-Champlain.

There were numerous monuments and sculptures in the open square abutting the Le Château Frontenac Hotel.

It was nearly midday, and we decided that we were both in need of a hot drink. As the closest place was the branch of Starbucks on the ground floor of Le Château Frontenac, we went in there.

The café was very crowded, but after queuing for nearly fifteen minutes we managed to get of coffees and had found somewhere to sit.

After finishing our drinks we made our way onto the Dufferin Terrace …

… from where we could see Cunard’s Queen Mary 2

… and Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Dream.

Rather than walk down all the steps, Sue and I opted to take the Funiculaire down to the Rue du Petit-Champlain

… which we walked along until it joined the Boulevard Champlain, where we saw another of Quebec City’s murals.

It was a short walk from there back to shuttle-bus pick-up point, and by 2.00pm we were back aboard Aurora and eating lunch in the Horizon Self Service Restaurant.

We spent the rest of the afternoon in our cabin getting warm again as well as reading and resting. We took a break just after 4.00pm to have a drink and a cake in the Horizon Self Service Restaurant, but when we tried to go outside for a breath of fresh air, the wind made it feel too cold to be comfortable, and we went back to our cabin again.

Because of local licensing restrictions, not all of the ship’s bars were allowed to be open when Aurora was in port, so we went for our pre-dinner drink in the Crow’s Nest Bar on Deck 13 Forward. Surprisingly it was empty, and we spent from 7.45pm until 8.20pm watching the world go by … in the dark!

After dinner we thought about going to a new show that the ship’s theatre company – the Headliners – was putting on, but in the end we decided to go to our cabin to get ready for bed.

Sunday 4th October, 2015: At sea
Sue and I woke up at 7.45am, and when we opened the cabin’s curtains we saw an almost cloudless blue sky. Although the sun made it look as if it was going to be warm, the outside air temperature was cold – 7°C/44°F – and would have felt colder if the wind speed had been any greater than Force 2 (Light air).

After breakfast in the Medina Restaurant we went for a short walk around the ship. We watched some of the passengers doing line dancing in Carmen’s – the ship’s show lounge – before going for a brief walk along the Promenade Deck. Although the sun was shining, it still felt cold and in the end we went back to our cabin to warm up.

At 10.50am we went back to Carmen’s to listen to a talk by guest speaker Vivianne Rowan entitled ‘Alexander the Great and His City’. What we got was a very brief and somewhat disjointed history of the life of Alexander the Great, followed by a lot of slides about the rise of the Ptolemaic Dynasty and the life of Cleopatra. Sue and I came away feeling that the speaker had not stuck to what we thought was going to be the central theme of her talk, and that the title had been misleading.

As it was approaching midday, we decided that it was time for a drink. We managed to find a couple of seats in the Crow’s Nest Bar, and sat there drinking and talking until 12.45pm, when we went back to our cabin to read until it was time to eat lunch.

All morning Aurora had been closing the gap between her and another cruise ship that was sailing ahead of her. By 2.00pm it was apparent that the ship was one belonging to the AIDA Line …

… and by 2.15pm it was possible to read the name AIDA diva painted on her side.

The two ships were sailing alongside not long afterwards …

… but by the time we had eaten lunch in the Lido Grill, Aurora was gradually pulling ahead of her rival.

After lunch we sat in the open deck area near the Riviera Pool and Bar on Deck 12 Forward, and we were joined by one of the couples were sit with at dinner. We chatted until 4.00pm, when we all went to the Horizon Self Service Restaurant for a drink and a cake.

Once we had eaten, Sue and I went back to our cabin to rest until it was time to get ready for the fourth formal dinner of the cruise.

We had a pre-dinner drink in Anderson’s Bar with a couple from the Isle of Mann we had sat next to on the tour to Lexington, Concord, Harvard, and Boston. The were also eating in the Alexandria Restaurant, and we walked with them through the ship to get to dinner.

We had an interesting chat with our dinner companions, and after dinner we thought about going out on deck for a while. In the end we just returned to our cabin to prepare the stuff we would need at our last port-of-call, Sydney, Nova Scotia, and to get ready for bed.

Monday 5th October, 2015: Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada
Sue and I were awake just before 7.30am, and the ship appeared to be shrouded in fog. There was the occasional glimpse of land every so often, and Aurora was moving very slowly through the water.

At 7.45am there was an announcement about the arrangements for going ashore. It appeared that the run in by tender was 2½ miles, the journey was going to take thirty minutes each way, and that passengers should adjust their arrangements accordingly! As Sue and I were going on a tour which was supposed to meet ashore just after midday, it meant that we had to try to get on a tender that was going ashore by 11.00am at the latest.

We tried to get ready for breakfast somewhat faster than usual, and managed to get into the Medina Restaurant by 8.30am. By the time breakfast was over, the fog had begun to clear, but as we did not want to risk missing our tour, we got everything ready, collected a couple of tender tickets, and went ashore at 10.00am.

The journey did not take anything like thirty minutes, and by 10.30am we had passed through the Joan Harriss Cruise Pavilion (and its huge fiddle!) …

… and were walking towards the centre of town for a look around. We walked along the Esplanade (from where we had a good view of Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwgian Dream moored alongside the quayside), …

… up Dorchester Street, and then turned right along Charlotte Street, the town’s main shopping area.

After having a walk around – and undertaking a little retail therapy – Sue and I began to walk back towards the quayside. Along the way we passed a very pretty church …

… and a monument to the members of the Canadian Merchant Navy who died during the Second Wolrd War.

We returned to the Joan Harriss Cruise Pavilion in time to have a drink before we had to be at the rendezvous point to meet our tour guide. Inside the Pavilion was a small exhibition dedicated to the Cape Breton Highlanders.

At 12.15pm we were there, along with a lot of other passengers … but there was no sign of our tour guide, the coach, or a member of P&O’s excursions staff.

We waited … and waited … and at 12.30pm a P&O representative arrived, gave out the tour stickers, and told us that the coach and guide had been delayed and would not arrive until 1,05pm. We waited until it was 1.05pm … but the coach and guide had still not arrived. We were told that it was on its way, but had been delayed because it was still brining back a tour that had gone out earlier that day … which had been late starting due to the fog!

By 1.25pm we were on the verge of handing back our tour tickets and cancelling our seats on the tour. Sue and I set a deadline of 1.30pm … and at 1.29pm the missing coach and guide arrived. Everyone quickly boarded the coach, and by 1.45pm – over an hour late – we were on our way.

The journey to Louisburg took forty five minutes, which meant that our tour of the fortress was supposed to be curtailed. Our guide was able to negotiate a slightly longer stay, and in the end our visit lasted just under two hours.

Luckily Louisburg turned out to be an excellent place to visit – we could have easily spent the whole day there – and it made up for the poor shore-side organisation we had experienced. I will write a fuller account of what we saw and did in a later blog entry.

We left Louisburg at 4.20pm, and got back to the quayside in Sydney at 5.05pm. By the time we had boarded the tender back to Aurora, it was 5.15pm … and we were late back yet again!

We had to wait for some time as the tender we were on was the last one due back to the ship … and two passengers were ‘missing’ according to the ship’s electronic registration system. Eventually they were ‘found’ (they had already boarded Aurora, but their passes had not been scanned properly) and the ship’s shore team boarded the tender and we all returned to Aurora.

Sue and I finally got back to our cabin just before 6.00pm, and had just enough time to get up to Deck 12 Aft to buy a much-needed drink and to watch Aurora‘s departure from Sydney.

Whilst we were on deck we saw an unusual phenomenon in the sky. The cloud formation produced the allusion that there were two suns in the sky, the ‘false’ one being less bright that the real one and having a sort of rainbow affect to one side of it.

We then went back to our cabin and got ready for dinner.

Our usual pre-dinner drink in Anderson’s Bar was followed by dinner in the Alexandria Restaurant, where we all shared our experiences of our time on Cape Breton Island. By the time dinner was over Sue and I were both feeling very tired, and went back to our cabin to sleep.

Tuesday 6th October, 2015: At sea
We had a little bit of a lie-in (we had set the alarm clock to go off at 7.45am rather than 7.30am!) and when we did wake up Aurora was passing the southern tip of Newfoundland. The sea was remarkably calm, the sun was shining, the wispy cloud cover was 3/8, and the wind speed was Force 2 (Light air). It was not very warm, however, as the air temperature was 11°C/52°F.

We went down to the Medina Restaurant for breakfast at 9.10am, after which we went for a walk around the ship. We spent a short time out on the Promenade Deck and then went up to our cabin to read for a while.

Just before midday Sue and I went up to the Riviera Bar to have a drink, and although the air temperature had increased during the morning, we found that the bar was closed. Nearby we met one of the couple we share a dinner table with, and spent some time taking to them before making our way to the Crow’s Nest Bar, where we finally managed to get a drink.

We remained there until just after 2.15pm, when we went down to the Horizon Self Service restaurant for lunch. After we had eaten, we went to the back of the ship and spent some time sitting in the open deck area on Deck 10 Aft.

As the sun’s position shifted and the wined began to veer round, it began to get cold, and we returned to our cabin to read and rest for a while. Not long after 4.00pm Sue and I went back to the Horizon Self Service Restaurant for a cup of tea, after which we retuned to our cabin.

By later afternoon it was time to begin getting ready for the fifth formal dinner of the cruise, and we were out of our cabin and in Anderson’s Bar in plenty of time to have a pre-dinner drink.

Over dinner the weather seemed to get somewhat livelier, and the motion in the dinning room was quite noticeable at times. Despite that, we had a very enjoyable, after which we retired to our cabin to read for a while before going to bed. I finished reading THE TITANIC PLAN by Michael Bockman and Ron Freeman and began Richard Hough’s THE FLEET THAT HAD TO DIE. This was originally published in 1958 and I have a hardback copy on my bookshelves at home.

Wednesday 7th October, 2015: At sea
Over night the weather appeared to be quite rough at times, and both Sue and I were woken up on several occasions by the ship’s movement and the noise. By early morning things had quietened down, and by 8.00am the sea state was moderate and the wind speed was Force 2 (Light breeze). The air temperature was – however – low at 11°C/52°F.

After eating breakfast in the Median Restaurant and a short walk along the Promenade Deck, Sue and I visited the Future Cruise and Loyalty Desk … and booked another cruise! It will be aboard P&O’s Ventura next year, and will be visiting various places around the Western Mediterranean.

We then went for a drink in the Crow’s Nest Bar but it was so crowded that we could not find anywhere to sit. After trying the Riviera Bar – which was also closed – we ended up returning to our cabin to sit and read.

At 1.45pm we made our way down to the Median Restaurant for lunch. This was the first time during the cruise that we had eaten in the formal lunch restaurant, but it was quite empty and the experience was very enjoyable.

After lunch we went up to Deck 10 After for some fresh air, but we only stayed there for ten to fifteen minutes before the cold wind made it uncomfortable for us to stay there any longer. We were back in our cabin by 3.30pm, and Sue and I spent some time sorting out some of the stuff that we will need to pack before we disembark.

We made the occasional foray outside for a breath of fresh air, but spent most of the rest of the afternoon in our cabin reading. At 6.00pm we began to get ready for dinner, but this was not made easy by the fact that the water supply to our cabin was erratic due to a problem somewhere in the system. It was eventually sorted out – for the time being – by 7.00pm which gave us just enough time to be washed and dressed by 7.45pm. We had agreed to meet another couple in Anderson’s Bar at that time, and we only just got there on time.

Dinner was made interesting by the amount of movement the ship was experiencing, and we did not finish eating until just before 10.30pm. Sue and I decided that we ought to return to our cabin rather than go to any of the evening’s events, and we were in bed by just after 11.00pm. Sleeping – however – was not easy as the noises made by the ship were quite loud at times.

Thursday 8th October, 2015: At sea
I awoke at 4.20am, and found it very difficult to get back to sleep due to the sound of a metal door banging somewhere nearby. I eventually managed to get to sleep again, but Sue and I were woken up by the alarm clock at 7.45am and decided to get up. At that point we both realised that overnight we had both developed heavy colds!

Aurora was by this time halfway across the Atlantic, and the weather was typical for the time of year. Although the sea state was moderate, the wind was coming from the north east at Force 5 (Fresh wind), and the air temperature was 10°C/50°F. All of this made movement around the ship rather difficult as one tended to up and down as well as from side to side.

We ate breakfast in the Medina Restaurant, after which we spent some time in the Ship’s Photography Gallery, where we bought eight pictures that were taken at the various places we had visited during our cruise.

Although neither of us was feeling particularly well, we decided not to go back to our cabin for the rest of the day. Instead we went up to the Crow’s Nest Bar, where we sat reading and drinking until it was well after midday. We then returned to our cabin to drop our stuff off before going to the Horizon Self Service Restaurant for a light lunch. Sue and I were by then beginning to feel the need for some fresh air, and ventured out to Deck 10 After for five minutes.

The cold drove us back indoors, and we returned to our cabin to read, rest, and to complete our passenger survey form. Sue then took this down to Reception, along with two pages of comments about the shambolic shore-side organisation of the tours we had gone on.

We began getting ready for dinner earlier than usual because neither of us was feeling very well and we were going to the Glass House Wine Bar for dinner. The booking was for 7.00pm, and the menu was a special one that was designed to give diners a chance to try new dishes and specially selected wines.

The meal was set up like a dinner party, with just eleven of us sitting around a long table in the Captain’s Lounge. The latter is actually a room off the back of the Glass House Wine Bar. The meal was excellent, as was the service and the company, and Sue and I would certainly consider booking this experience again in the future.

We finished eating at 10.30pm, and by then both of us were feeling very tired and suffering from the effects of our colds. We went back to our cabin, and were asleep by 11.00pm.

Friday 9th October, 2015: At sea
After a very restless night’s sleep, Sue and I got up at 7.45am and prepared to go to breakfast in the Medina Restaurant. For once we chose to eat on our own as our colds – and mine in particular – made it difficult to talk without coughing and sneezing all the time. After breakfast we went up to the ship’s shops to see if we could buy any throat lozenges to help us cope with the colds … but they had sold out as quite a few people seemed to have come down with the same cold.

We returned to our cabin, and after sitting on our balcony for some time trying to cool down, I managed to get a couple of hour’s sleep. I felt a bit better as a result, and at 1.30pm Sue and I went up to the Lido Grill for a drink and a snack lunch. After lunch we both went out to the open deck area near the Riviera Pool, but soon after we had the wind changed direction and it became too cold to sit there. We therefore returned to our cabin to read and rest until it was time to get ready for the Peninsular Club Cocktail Party at 8.00pm.

The centrepiece of the display was an ice sculpture.

After the party we went to the Alexandria Restaurant for the last formal dinner of the cruise. As usual this was marked by a parade through the restaurant by the Executive Chef and the galley brigade. It also gave us the opportunity to thank our waiters.

By the end of the meal Sue and I were feeling very tired, and we went back to our cabin to sleep. I just managed to finish Richard Hough’s THE FLEET THAT HAD TO DIE, and plan to start reading his THE HUNTING OF FORCE Z next.

Saturday 10th October, 2015: At sea
It grey and miserable when we got up, and the weather didn’t change much as the day went on. Our colds had also not improved much, even though we had both slept somewhat better than we had on the previous night.

After breakfast in the Medina Restaurant Sue and I went to the Curzon Theatre to listen to the captain of Aurora – Captain Julian Burgess – being interviewed about his life at sea by the ship’s Entertainment Manager. This was most interesting, and was a excellent way to start the day.

After a quick drink in the Pennant Bar, we went back to our cabin to begin packing. We stopped for lunch in the Horizon Self Service Restaurant at 2.00pm, resumed an hour later, and managed to finish by 3.30pm. I then stacked all but our personal hand luggage and one travel bag outside our cabin for collection by members of the ship’s crew.

We were ready for dinner nearly an hour early, so we went for a couple of pre-dinner drink in Anderson’s Bar before going down to the Alexandria Restaurant for the last time. We really enjoyed our final meal with our table companions before we had to bid them and our waiters goodbye. Sue and I then went back to our cabin to pack the last of our travel bags before going to bed.

Sunday 11th October, 2015: Southampton
Our colds did not improve much overnight, and neither us was feeling much like driving back to London … but we did. We woke up at 6.30am, and by 7.45am we had made our way down to the Medina Restaurant for our last breakfast of the cruise. We had finished eating by 8.20am … and by 8.30am Sue and I were making our way ashore. Finding our luggage took nearly twenty minutes, thanks to what seemed like total chaos in the baggage reclamation hall, but in spite of that we were still driving out of the car park just after 9.00am.

We stopped for a rest break – and to do some essential shopping – at Winchester Services, and then resumed our journey. We reached the junction of the M3 with the M25 just before 11.00am, and drove onto the hard-standing outside our house just after midday. We unpacked the car as quickly as we could, carried the bags upstairs … and then we both sat down and had a much-needed drink.

Our cruise to North America was over … but our next one is already on the horizon.

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13 Comments on “I have been to … the United States of America and Canada”

  1. Jim Duncan says:

    Yet another fantastic travelogue Bob. You covered so much ground (or perhaps sea).

    The North Atlantic in autumn has never been a great place to sail going by the stories from WW2 and I'm glad you arrived safely although a little 'stirred'.

    Of all the places you visited I am only familiar with the Big Apple and it was good to see places again that I have been to myself. I hope to visit New York again at some point in the future.

  2. Jim Duncan,

    I hope that you are getting better after your recent operation, and will soon be back to full good health.

    I thought that the weather we had to sail through on our way to and from North America was actually quite good for the time of year. I suspect that doing the same journey in mid winter would be somewhat less comfortable.

    This was the second time that we have visited New York, and we saw parts that we had only driven through or past last time. If we go again, Sue and I would like to spend a whole day exploring Central Park and its environs.

    The visit to Lexington and Concord was interesting, and having 'seen the ground' it was my impression that Captain Parker (who commanded the patriots/rebels at Lexington) chose the wrong place to try to stop the advancing Redcoats. He lined his men up across the town green whereas if he had moved 100 yards further forward he would have been astride the road from Boston and at the top of a long slope. I asked our guide about this … but her reply seemed to imply that Parker was an experienced Indian fighter who only wanted to slow the Redcoats down whilst Sam Adams and the other leaders got away with their 'secret' papers. Actually fighting the Redcoats was not the intention, and the fighting only started when the Redcoats demanded that the colonists hand over their weapons … and the he request was refused. The Redcoats fired a volley and then charged home with the bayonet, killing 7 of the patriots/rebels.

    All the best,

    Bob

  3. Great report, Bob. You visited some terrific places, all favourites of mine. Glad the Canadian weather was kind to you. Lovely to see Ross Mac – glad you could get together.
    Best,
    M

  4. Michael Peterson,

    I am glad that you enjoyed reading my latest travelblog. As it was our second trip to North America we decided to do different things this time … and saw a lot more than we expected.

    As to the Canadian weather … well it was foggy in Saint John (which is NOT unusual!), wonderful in Halifax (and meeting Ross Mac and Kathie made that a very special day for Sue and I), very cold – but not snowing – in Quebec, and Sydney was a revelation (its a nice small town, with very friendly people … and the trip to Louisburg was a real highlight). Originally Sue and I thought that we would not be going back to North America again, but we are already talking about returning in two or three years time … finances permitting.

    All the best,

    Bob

  5. Michael Peterson,

    One thing that I did not mention is the fact that from what we have seen, Sue and I love Canada. We feel that it combines the best aspects of Britain and the US … and who could ask for anything better.

    Ross Mac and I talked about the fact that Canada does not always get the recognition in the UK that other Commonwealth countries such as Australia and New Zealand do. We have all heard about Gallipoli … but very few people have heard about the Dieppe Raid, the fact that one of the five Normandy beaches was where a Canadian Army (not a division or a corps) landed, the part played by the RCN in protecting the North Atlantic convoys, the role of Canadian pilots in the Battle of Britain, or the bombing offensive against Germany. Perhaps the Canadians are just too reticent about what they did … which is one of the things that makes the country such an appealing and wonderful place to visit.

    All the best,

    Bob

  6. Paul O'G says:

    You came all the way to Newport and didn't drop in to say G'day? Shame on you!
    I will have to confer with DC on what sort of punishment is appropriate when I catch up with him in London in December 🙂

    Glad you had a great trip. I love cruises too – so different to my usual life in the Grey Funnel Line!

  7. I really enjoyed the chance to chat with you and Sue again as did Kathy. (but that picture! ) The possibility that you might cross the pond again is good news. Louisburg isn't that far away.

  8. Paul O'G,

    We only had a short time in Newport (I can see why they have a speed limit in the harbour but it certainly slows down the tendering process to and from the ship a lot), and I promised my wife that she could take the trolley tour she missed the last time. In exchange she has promised me a trip to the War College Museum … if it is open. (We were in Newport on a Saturday and I was told by a member of the War College staff who was at Connections UK 2015 that it was shut on Saturdays and Sundays.)

    Perhaps we can meet up next time.

    All the best,

    Bob

  9. Ross Mac,

    Meeting you two was one reason why Sue and I are considering making another trip in the future. As to the photo … well just 'cause it makes you look like a cradle-snatcher with a much younger and attractive wife, don't blame me … blame the technology! :^)

    It was great meeting you both, and thanks yet again for the books … which were poured over a great deal during the voyage back. I just wish that we had a lot more time to spend exploring the Maritime Provinces (but not Saint John!), and I could easily spend a whole day at Louisburg. Going there made me realise why so many people develop a passion for eighteenth century wargaming.

    All the best (and until the next time),

    Bob

  10. Conrad Kinch says:

    What a packed itinerary! Sounds like you both had a wonderful time. You certainly didn't let the grass grow under your feet.

  11. Conrad Kinch,

    We did visit a lot of places in a very short period of time … at one point we visited six different places in seven days!

    Sue and I enjoyed this cruise so much that we are already thinking about when we can go again. Probably not until 2017 or 2018, but hopefully before 2020.

    All the best,

    Bob

  12. Bob: If you and wife want to come to Ontario, Toronto is a lovely city and we live just north. Kay and I would be happy to show you around. Glad you like Canada.

  13. Michael Peterson,

    Thank you very much for your kind offer. If we can get to Canada by ship (my wife doesn't fly) we would love to travel across Canada. We may manage to arrange it one day before we get too old.

    All the best,

    Bob

    PS. My wife has distant relations in Canada … like quite a few other Scottish families.


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