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ADVENTURE CANADA NEWFOUNDLAND CIRCUMNAVIGATION CRUISE EXPEDITION

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There are two ways to travel in Newfoundland. You can do a driving tour by car, bus or RV. Alternatively, you can circle the province on a cruise ship, stopping to explore national parks, towns and villages.

Cruising past Fort Amherst in St. John's Harbour
Cruising past Fort Amherst in St. John's Harbour
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

After completing a circumnavigation of Newfoundland trip with Adventure Canada, we concluded that there are several advantages to seeing Canada's easternmost province by sea. Cruising allowed us to visit remote outports and islands that are inaccessible by road. The ship was also a mobile platform for viewing icebergs, whales and seabirds.

Embarkation in St. John's

Our 10-day cruise began and ended in St. John's NL. Anticipation was high as passengers gathered on the decks.

Staff served champagne while the ship glided past colorful buildings lining The Narrows. Gerry Strong played lively flute music as we cruised past Fort Amherst and the lighthouse that guarded the bluff where St. John's Harbour meets the Atlantic Ocean.

What to expect

An Adventure Canada cruise is not for people who want to dress up for formal dinners, lounge around the pool or enjoy Broadway-style shows.

The Canadian, American and European passengers on our expedition thrived on adventure, activity, discovering new places and sharing the fun with like-minded travelers.

Eager to sightsee

At 7 am, Tony Oxford gently woke us up through the cabin speakers by singing a sea chantey about the day's destination. Many passengers were already on the decks with cameras and binoculars.

After Tony's song, expedition leader, Stefan Kindberg, announced the GPS location of the ship, its cruising speed, the local Newfoundland weather and the time for breakfast.

Daily itinerary

Staff posted the itinerary for each day in common areas. We could also view it on the TVs in our cabins.

Adventure Canada ship moors by Newfoundland coast
Adventure Canada ship moors by Newfoundland coast
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

"This is an expedition cruise and anything can happen," said Stefan as we began our Newfoundland trip. His predictions were correct.

It's not difficult to have a wonderful cruise when everything goes right, but when fog, high winds or other problems occur, we quickly learned that Adventure Canada is a well-oiled machine that can come up with amazing alternatives.

Pack ice

"Adventure Canada always has a backup plan," said one passenger. The impact of the tour operator's flexibility impressed us on the first day (and a few times afterward as well).

Ice chart in hand, Stefan Kindberg explained that pack ice in the Strait of Belle Isle would not allow our ship to cruise around Newfoundland's Great Northern Peninsula. We wondered if we would miss our visit to the L'Anse aux Meadows UNESCO World Heritage Site at the tip of the peninsula.

Revised expedition

What did Adventure Canada do? Even though staff had to reschedule our shore excursions, we cruised as far north as we could on the east coast, then back around the south coast and up the west coast to Bird Cove, where they arranged buses to bring us to L'Anse aux Meadows.

We saw everything that we were supposed to see on the Newfoundland circumnavigation, as well as some bonus sights. From the ship deck, we experienced awesome panoramas of pack ice. From the bus, we viewed a dozen moose (one with a calf) on the roadside.

Passengers ride Zodiac
Passengers ride Zodiac
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Zodiac travel

Safety is critical on any expedition cruise. Life jacket and Zodiac briefings were mandatory.

We received detailed instructions on how to board Zodiacs from the gangplank and how to get off the inflatable rubber boats, always gripping the crew members' extended forearms as a safeguard.

Some of the landings were wet, which meant that we waded onto the shore, again with assistance from the crew. (Adventure Canada's packing list included rubber boots.)

Shore excursions

For each landing, passengers were divided into three groups — Caribou, Puffins and Humpbacks. All of our Newfoundland tours, local transportation and admission fees were included in the cruise price.

Each shore excursion offered options to satisfy passengers' interests and abilities. For example, at Fogo Island, we could hike the Brimstone Head Trail, walk through town, or take a bus tour of several museums.

On the opposite coast, we could choose the long Green Gardens hike or a shorter Tablelands walk in Gros Morne National Park. Both were guided by geology and ecology experts from Parks Canada and Adventure Canada.

Sushi served on the back deck
Sushi served on the back deck
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Lots to eat

The fresh air and exercise invigorated appetites for the bountiful meals and culinary treats on the cruise. In addition to an early-bird continental breakfast, passengers enjoyed a full hot-and-cold buffet breakfast with a cooked-to-order specialty to begin each day.

Served lunches and dinners included meat, fish and vegetarian choices (e.g., shrimp scampi, roast prime rib of beef or spinach ravioli). Desserts ranged from pastries to ice cream.

Culinary surprises

Twice we enjoyed desserts made by Newfoundland cooks. The first taste of homemade baked goods was during our tour of Fogo.

The second time was during a dance organized by the community of Francois. It was especially memorable because we learned that the residents of this remote outport would soon be having a referendum that might lead to the abandonment of their picturesque homes.

Throughout the cruise, there were tasty surprises, including sushi on the back deck, a barbecue featuring local lobster and ice cream with bananas flambéed in orange sauce. A tableful of chocolate desserts was so luscious that passengers took pictures before indulging.

Chocolate desserts
Chocolate desserts
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Meeting the locals

The coffee, tea, hot chocolate and cookies in the lounge were especially popular when passengers gathered for presentations. Pre-trip briefings by Stefan Kindberg and host, Bill Evans, provided us with information about weather, what to wear, tour options and hiking terrain.

Post-tour recaps reviewed the day's highlights, ranging from spectacular views to meeting the Newfoundlanders. Thanks to the coordination of cruise staff, we were able to listen to Bernie Felix and his students in Port-au-Port play traditional accordion music. We also had the privilege of meeting a long-time cod fisherman in Little Bay Islands.

Learning vacation

Although not compulsory, onboard lectures were very well attended. Adventure Canada's resource staff were well-qualified and perfectly matched to the attractions that we visited during our Newfoundland tours.

Naturalist David Snow
Naturalist David Snow
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Archeologist, Latonia Hartery, gave us a fascinating overview of Vikings at L'Anse aux Meadows before we visited the national historic site and neighboring Norstead Viking Village.

The Introduction to Marine Mammals and Atlantic Orcas and Seabirds of Newfoundland talks by naturalist, Dave Snow, helped us identify whales and birds that we photographed during the cruise.

Geologist, Paul Dean's lecture about the Geology of Newfoundland and Labrador made our Garia Bay coastal walk far more interesting.

Photographer, Dennis Minty's presentation on From Snap Shots to Great Shots motivated us to look for creative lighting and composition while taking pictures during our tours.

It would have taken us years of research to gather all the historical and cultural information that we absorbed during presentations by historian, Kevin Major, author Michael Crummey and culturalists, Gerry Strong and Tony Oxford. Enlightened by this knowledge, our shore excursions were more meaningful.

Entertainment

Our Newfoundland cruise also provided opportunities for fun as well as education. In the evening, we gathered in the lounge to enjoy singing and music with Tony Oxford strumming his guitar, Gerry Strong playing his flute and Jason Edmunds drumming the bodhran.

Tony Oxford, Jason Edmunds and Gerry Strong entertain passengers
Tony Oxford, Jason Edmunds and Gerry Strong entertain passengers
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

A surprising mumber of passengers showed up in costume one evening for a traditional mummering party. Another fun event was a team contest to correctly guess the meaning of Newfoundland words.

One evening, we watched the movie, Hold Fast, based on Kevin Major's book. Adventure Canada provided the popcorn and Kevin gave us the fascinating background to the story. It was especially meaningful to passengers who had hiked the Green Gardens trail in Gros Morne National Park, one of the settings for the film.

Days at sea

There were plenty of things to do while we cruised between ports of call. Some passengers read books in the well-stocked library, visited the bridge to talk with the captain and socialized at the bar. Others enjoyed massages, worked out in the gym and checked e-mails.

We didn't expect sightseeing opportunities while cruising the Atlantic Ocean. Announcements often took us by surprise: "There are humpbacks breaching at 3 o'clock on the starboard side!" Announcer, Stefan Kindberg was unable to hide his excitement in spite of his years of expedition cruising.

Orca viewed from the ship
Orca viewed from the ship
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Whale-watching

Passengers grabbed their cameras and binoculars and dashed to the deck railings. Humpbacks surrounded us. "Ohs" and "ahs" resounded across the decks as we photographed spouts of blow-hole spray, surfacing backs and black-and-white tails of diving whales.

Later in the day, Stefan announced: "There are orcas 200 meters away from us!" The captain stopped the ship.

A male orca teased us. As we gathered on one side to photograph its two-meter-high dorsal fin, he disappeared. When he resurfaced on the other side, passengers cheered and moved to the opposite railing.

A second orca appeared. Binocular and camera-toting whale-watchers occupied every railing.

Seabirds rest on iceberg
Seabirds rest on iceberg
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Iceberg-viewing

The massive 10,000-year-old mountains of ice that drifted by our ship were equally enchanting. Our Newfoundland circumnavigation cruise was intentionally scheduled in June, the best time to see icebergs (and whales).

We began our cruise on the east coast Iceberg Alley, which boasts a flotilla of hundreds of whimsically shaped pyramids slowly floating south. Calved from massive Greenland glaciers, the floating ice castles were often resting spots for seabirds.

One city block-sized behemoth was so spectacular that the captain thrilled photographers by circumnavigating the iceberg.

We spotted icebergs of all shapes and dimensions, from car-sized bergy bits to house-sized growlers.

Tiny air bubbles inside the ice reflected the white light, making them radiant white. One of the prettiest icebergs that we photographed was bisected by a streak of sky-blue clear ice.

It's one of many pleasurable images that come to mind when we recall our cruise around Newfoundland.

The next Adventure Canada Newfoundland circumnavigation cruise (dates: June 5 to 15, 2017) will be on the Ocean Endeavour.


TRAVEL INFORMATION

Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism

Adventure Canada

More things to see & do on Adventure Canada Newfoundland Circumnavigation cruises:

Lookout Trail Hike - Gros Morne National Park Newfoundland

Newfoundland Beer, Iceberg Vodka, Screech and Berry Wines

Newfoundland Foods, Cuisine and Traditional Dishes