Well, after being prodded by MANY of my neighbors here in Soleil as well as other friends in the Canton-Waleska area, I have finally resolved to finish my post on the Voyage of the Viking Cruise. After departing St. John’s Newfoundland on Wednesday evening, we had our last day at sea before arriving at Bar Harbor, Maine on Friday. The sea day was nice, with the weather mild and definitely becoming warmer. We enjoyed our last gathering with Henk and Lucia, our Travel Specialist hosts, at their farewell cocktail party. It was time to say goodbye to old friends we had met on previous cruises as well as newly made friends on this cruise. Hopefully we will see you all again on one of the seven (or eight or nine, depending on who’s counting) seas.
Bar Harbor was our first port in the United States since departing Boston over a month ago thus we must go through emigration. We were scheduled to debark at 8:00 AM and we had scheduled a HAL shore excursion for 8:15. Thinking since this was a tender port, if we didn’t have a HAL tour scheduled it might be a while before we could reach shore. Unfortunately we are not yet 4-Star Mariners yet. If you have 200 sailing days with Holland America you achieve this “rank”. On this cruise, I believe about 75% of the passengers were 4-Star. One of the privileges is the ability to go directly to the tender, show your ship card and board the next available tender. For the rest of us, we must obtain a ticket form the showroom and wait until our tender number is called. So much for our plans… We arrived in Bar Harbor over an hour late, which I still do not understand. The “official” word was that we left St. Johns late, which we did, about 45 minutes late. By my calculations we had over 38 hours to make up 45 minutes but we were still more that 45 minutes late. I don’t know what the problem was, but I certainly don’t believe it was because we left St. Johns late. But I digress. Anyway, we arrived in Bar Harbor late, then had to wait for US emigration officials to board the ship and examine everyone’s passport. Fortunately, this took less time than I had expected it to. Nevertheless, we were so far behind schedule HAL cancelled our shore excursion, and we were forced to “take a ticket” and wait. We finally were able to reach the pier at about 10:30.
Scenes from Main Street, Bar Harbor
It turned out to not be as bad as we thought. We received our refund for our shore excursion, which was a tour by bus around Acadia National Park. After doing a little sightseeing and shopping (spending the money we saved from the cancelled excursion), we asked about available bus tours. As it turns out, Acadia has a wonderful bus system which leaves from the town square on a regular schedule. There are four separate lines which you can catch and even change lines at various points in the park and it is all for FREE.
We boarded a bus and made our way into Arcadia. It is a beautiful park. We decided to leave the bus and hike a couple of miles along the shore trail. Some photos follow.
After returning to town, the girls left to do more shopping. Carl and I made our way across the square to the Bar Harbor Brewing Company. As many of you may know, I am a beer fan and even brew my own. I never miss an opportunity to seek out local brews which are not widely distributed. Like wine, beer varieties are unlimited. Unlike wine there are many, many more styles of beer than there are styles or types of wine. Currently over a hundred different styles of beer are recognized, with an unlimited variety under each style. With wine there are only 15 generally recognized styles, again with an unlimited number of varieties under each style. Generally with beer as with wine, if you like a particular style you will probably like most varieties under that style. What I like about beer is that there are sooo many more styles to choose from. Most Americans go through life drinking the commercial styles locally available. This limits your selection to only about 10 to 12 styles (and generally only 4 or 5) for most people. I like to tell people who say they don’t like beer, “you just haven’t found the right style”. Anyway, I digress again. See what happens when I write my blog from home instead of hurriedly composing it on the ship?
Bar Harbor Brewing offered us 5 ounce tastings of about 5 different brews they make. One I didn’t care for, two others were very drinkable and two were absolutely excellent! They have a red ale called “Thunder Hole Ale”, named for the cove in Arcadia which I only wish was available here. They also had a wonderful stout called “Cadillac Mountain Stout”. That is the great adventure when trying local beers, you never know what you will find.
After a little more shopping, we all went to Testa’s Fine Foods for a couple of appetizers of Calamari and Onion Rings along with, you guessed it, some of the local beer. The food and the beer were both excellent.
As we made our way back to the tender to return to the ship, Carl and Janet are not clapping their hands because they were glad to be leaving Bar Harbor, but instead were drying them after using the every present Purell hand sanitizer. After a long cruise, you get so into the habit that when you enter your own dining room you hold out your hand for a squirt…
A couple of views as we were leaving the pier.
Having sailed into and out of ports in more than two dozen countries, I can’t ever remember be accompanied by a gun boat except in the United States. They were alongside us both as we came in and as we left. Not really sure of their purpose. I guess this is part of the president’s plan to keep unemployment down….
We got our packing done, and our luggage outside our stateroom before midnight. Since our flight wasn’t until 2:00PM we were not in any hurry to disembark, so we selected a late time. We had a leisurely last breakfast and then spent some time in our cabin reading. Janet was unhappy about the ships internet service. She was unable to print her boarding passes for the flight back. All of the terminals in the library were occupied by people just trying to burn up their internet minutes, ridiculous. I would rather just loose mine than waste the time. The Internet supervisor told her she could come back later when it was not so busy. What he didn’t tell her was that they now charged for printed pages and cut off the printer at 10PM because they could not get the charges on your final statement after that time. Come on Holland America, for what everyone spends you could afford the printing of a few boarding passes.
Disembarkation could not have been easier. Passing thru customs consisted of handing the officer your completed form and allowing him to glance at your passport. The ride to the airport was effortless and the flight to Atlanta uneventful. Our only problem was our luggage. We arrived so early at Logan, our luggage got on an earlier flight to Atlanta so we had to hunt it down before calling our limo service. Once called, Top Hat Limo was there in about 10 minutes for a pleasant ride home.
In conclusion, we had a very nice trip and visited some very interesting ports. The ship’s staff were excellent although at times they seemed to be understaffed. The onboard programs were very good and we had the opportunity to attend many excellent lectures on a wide variety of subjects. There were many places I would enjoy returning to and spending additional time, and others that I am glad I have been but don’t have any overwhelming desire to return.
Regarding the Maasdam and Holland America, I was disappointed. I don’t know whether it was because of spending cut-backs initiated by the company or some other factors, there were many problems which I feel could have been avoided. I detected an inconstancy with the Captain which I have not found on other cruises. Communications from the bridge were poor and often events were not publicized well. Again, perhaps this was beyond his control, but nevertheless it made for some less than ideal times. The layout and organization on the Lido was chaotic. There were times I simply skipped lunch rather than compete with the rudeness exhibited by some in the meal lines. Please don’t misunderstand me, the majority of passengers were pleasant and fun to be with but there seemed to be an inordinate number of those who felt the world revolved around them. I will have to re-evaluate whether to take a Holland American Cruise the next time and it is a shame because they have some of the most interesting port call of any line.
Sorry to end the blog on a negative note, but remember – we did have fun and do not regret making the trip. Carl and Janet were excellent traveling companions whom we hope to do a lot more traveling with. The photo opportunities were great and the beer was good…
Till next time…