October 10, 2017

Day 10 Arrival in Quebec City

The captain is keeping his reputation for early arrivals. Despite being diverted far off his intended course, and holding steady in the water for an hour for a medical transfer, we arrive in Quebec City an hour early.

We are docked behind a very large grain elevator. The ship is quickly cleared for passengers to enjoy tours or just wander the city on their own. It is pretty foggy, the temperatures are rather cool, but the forecast for rain is less than 20%. Checking the weather forecast, temperatures are expected to rise to the upper 50's at best. A quick walk outside confirms that warm clothing is definitely in order.

Leaving the ship is painless, no security checks, no customs, just have your sea pass card scanned as I leave the ship. There is a large tent which serves as a waiting area for embarking passengers, tomorrow it will be busy. There are a number of stools and oak barrels for tables that serve as work space for those that want to avail themselves of the free Wi Fi, a service enjoyed the most by crew members. A little kiosk serves as an information booth where maps, only in French, are available. It is the street names that are important and the "X" the gal writes on the map to indicate where to catch the returning shuttle bus. A few steps away is the waiting line for the free shuttle.

The shuttles depart as fast as each bus can load, and takes passengers from the ship into the center of town. It will be running until 10 PM tonight. After arrival in town I decide that a hop on hop off bus tour is my best bet. It is a couple of blocks walk to the tourist information center where I begin my wait in line for tickets. There are at least a half dozen tours and combinations of tours. Most of the passengers don't speak or read French and have a hard time deciding which tour they want. There are English descriptions, but they are rather abbreviated compared to the longer French descriptions. The line moves very slowly.

Once I have my ticket there is another long line across the street waiting for the "red bus", the one I have been instructed to board. A bus is trying to arrive, but traffic is very congested. Some passengers try to get on the bus before it even gets to its designated stop. The bus driver refuses to board them, and directs them to the back of the queue. There is an applause from the dozens of tourists that have been patiently waiting for over half an hour.

The bus driver blames all the traffic on people going to the two ships in port, ours and Holland America's Zuiderdam, I don't buy that as there is no traffic in the port, just on many of the city streets. Many times people walking on the sidewalk are making better progress than we are. It doesn't matter we are on vacation.

Quebec city is a combination of old and new. When I say old, it is by North American standards not European standards.

I take the bus around its entire loop without getting off. We progress slowly, at one point the driver suggesting that it would be faster if we got off the bus and waited for the next bus. I don't understand the logic and I think no one else does either. Maybe something was lost in his English explanation. Everyone remains seated. The normal hour and a half trip takes over 3 hours. Occasionally the sun pops out to warm us. By the end of the tour, it has become quite cloudy and looks like it is going to rain.

I find a local place to eat a very late lunch. A simple expensive burger and a delicious dark chocolate milk shake. In the area around where the shuttle drops us off there are hundreds of boutique shops selling everything from original art to Christmas decorations. I stick my head in a few shops, but you should know by now that I am not a shopper. I wander back to the pick up point for the shuttle bus, also a stop for many bus tours from both cruise ships.

The wait for the shuttle bus is no more than two minutes, a short ride back to the port, and just as I walk up the gangway it begins a light rain.

I can only assume the water level has changed significantly since this morning as we disembarked from deck 2, and returned to deck 4. It will be interesting how many passengers stay in the city for dinner tonight, I imagine quite a few, as the free shuttle runs until 10pm, and the ship is open all night for boarding.

Passengers are also allowed to disembark the ship whenever they want, any time today, or at the prescribed time tomorrow morning. If they disembark early, they just have to take all their luggage with them, similar to self assist disembarkation except the the passemgers can leave anytime.

Several passengers were talking about Uber. A few cars were available to pick up passengers at the ship today, but the local government is stopping all Uber operations effective October 15th. Just too much competition for the well connected taxi companies, just like in many other cities.

With such a late lunch, it will serve as my dinner tonight, especially since I will augment it with a few appetizers from the Diamond lounge.

I head to the theater early to catch the final farewell show. There is only one at 7:15. Our CD, Chris Hopkins, is leaving the ship to return to England. At the moment he has no offer from Royal to return. The comedian, Don Gavin will be on the ship for a few more days. The singers and dancers will be here for a long time as they just started their contracts when we left Bayonne 10 days ago. The other headliners and entertainers I don't know about yet.

As the tide goes in and out, the gangway is moved between deck 2 and deck 4. No motion of the ship tonight, we are tied to the dock in Quebec City.

Day 9 – At Sea

When I arise this morning and look at the navigation channel I see that during the night we have suddenly changed our course from nearly westerly to almost due south. We are also still running at just under 20 knots, when the impression I got from the captain was that we would be running at less than 10 knots after about 4 am.

The seas are minimal, the sky mostly overcast, and temperatures in the mid 60's. Much better than last night.

As I'm leaving the cabin, the captain makes an announcement confirming that we have deviated from our course and will be meeting a Canadian Coast Guard vessel within an hour to transport a passenger to a land based medical facility.

I join many other passengers on deck 5 to watch the transfer. I will try and be polite, so I will just say no one was impressed with the boat handling skills of the CCG. It took them about 30 minutes to get their boat secured to the boarding platform extended from the side of our ship. Several times the lines slipped loose from the coast guard vessel because they were not properly secured. In the process they lost a large portable fender, managed to rip a five foot section of gunwale from the side of their vessel, not once but twice, and nearly wrapped a dropped mooring line around the propellers. After numerous attempts the vessel was sort of secured to the boarding platform.

Everyone held their breath as the patient was passed between the vessels. A feat performed mostly by Vision crew members. Eventually the transfer was completed which resulted in a loud outburst of applause from the watching passengers. The Coast Guard vessel was quickly on its way to shore, and we would soon be underway again.

Shortly the captain tells us that we are still in the speed restricted area for several more hours and he does not expect the time lost for the medical emergency to delay our arrival in Quebec City. What he does not say, but I can only speculate, is that the needs of the medical emergency had priority over the speed restrictions, or the captain just ignored them. Continuously prior to the transfer we had been doing almost 20 knots, and now we have only several hours of restricted speed while yesterday the captain said we would have 10 hours of restricted speed.

The pool has been refilled. The life guard is standing at his post on the edge of the pool, and no one is in the water, understandable as the temperature is probably about 60 today. The sun peaks in and out through the clouds.

Just after noon we pass a cruise ship heading the other way. She is too far away to identify, but she is definitely a small ship, smaller than any royal ships. I don't know the name of the land area we are cruising by, but hundreds of wind generators can be seen on the horizon, extending as far as the eye can see to both the East and West.

At 2:30 there is a meeting to tell us the procedures for the 121 back to back cruisers. I have done this a number of time in US ports, and each time it is different. Here in Canada I have no idea what to expect. My past experience with Canadian customs in general is that it will be very smooth and easy.

We have passed a number of dolphins today and some whales. Of course when I didn't have a camera.

In another unusual change, it has been pretty predictable that on formal nights RC would offer lobster and prime rib on the menu. Well last night was formal night, but tonight has the lobster and prime rib. I have no guess as to why, except this is a 10 day cruise, and the ship usually does 7 day turns.

We turn our clocks back 30 minutes tonight so we are on the correct time when we arrive in Quebec tomorrow for an overnight stay and a new manifest of passengers. Well new except for the 121 of us that are not disembarking there.

Day 8 - Corner Brook, Newfoundland

As the captain seems to do every day, we arrive a little early, and the ship is quickly cleared. It was bound to happen, and today is the day. It it pouring rain, foggy and dreary. Few passengers, others than those taking tours, bother to get off the ship.

The dock is primarily an industrial dock without even a tent for cruise ships. Hundreds of sections of pipe cover much of the dock. I would guess they are 8 to 10 feet in diameter and of several varying lengths. I am unable to determine what they might be for. The walls are too thin to be concrete, and too smooth to be cast iron. They might be either plastic or carbon fiber with a protective coating on both the interior and exterior.

Corner Brook is a relatively small community. The major, and maybe only, employer of significance is a paper mill. Until a few years ago it was the largest mill in the world. Water vapor pours from dozens of stacks across the plant, adding to the moisture in the air. How much pollution being dumped into the harbor is unknown.

At one point an ambulance arrives to disembark a passenger. There have been several "Alpha" calls since we left Bayonne, the call for the entire crew to a medical emergency.

Later in the day, the temperature rises into the mid sixties and the rain lets up to an occasional drizzle. I remain on the ship.

I continue to dine in the main dining room, the veal shank is excellent. Michael and Jackie, my table mates were two of the passengers that took a tour today, a hike on several trails. The trails were well maintained, the rain was minimal and the scenery was beautiful and they finally even got to see some trees that have begun to change color. The evening before they were seriously considering canceling the tour, now they are glad they didn't.

Our headliner entertainment tonight is a comedian. I get to the theater about 30 minutes early to find every seat occupied. I stand at the back of the balcony. About half way thru his show there is another alpha call to the casino. He stops mid sentence, and after a few minutes the show continues. His show was good, and he did it without resorting to foul language as many comedians do.

Our next port is Quebec City. For about 200 miles of the transit, we are restricted to a maximum speed of 10 knots because we will be in an area where whales migrate. The speed limit is strictly enforced by the Canadian Coast Guard, enforced to the extent that last week they even fined one of their own ships for speeding at 10.1 knots. Soon after we depart we are cruising at 20 knots, the wind is on our bow in excess of 40 mph, and it raining very hard.

I listen to the pub entertainer in the piano bar for about an hour and then head to the cabin for the evening. I think his accent might be English, but I'm not sure. His music is good and varied, but I have a little difficulty understanding him when he is talking. Of course that is made more difficult by a group of 15 guests next to me that are carrying on a rather loud conversation, oblivious to the fact most people in the room are there to listen to the entertainer.

Tonight we turn our clock back 1 hour. I am relatively confident this is not in conjunction with any time zone, but an arbitrary decision on the part of the captain to leave the additional 30 minute adjustment for the last night before arriving in Quebec City.

Despite running at near top speed there is no vibration in my cabin, but the entire ship creaks and moans. There is no information to tell us the sea conditions, but given the wind speed and ship motion I would expect the seas are probably 10 to 12 feet.

Tomorrow is a sea day, I'm ready for one. Six ports in six days is unusual, not what I usually encounter. No alarm tonight!