Never Say Never

We’ve done a lot of cruising since 2006 – Baltics, Mediterranean, British Isles, Bermuda, Bahamas, Caribbean, East and West Coast US, TransAtlantic, TransPacific. And maybe – just maybe – our cruising time is coming to an end.

There are quite a few reasons for this conclusion:

  • Been there done that. Aside from cruising in Asia, we have visited most places we are interested in seeing. The chances of an Asian voyage are low right now, as many of the cruise companies have shut down travel in that area.
  • The direction in shipbuilding is not to our liking. The smaller, older ships in Royal Caribbean at least seem to be disappearing and megaships are the future. We don’t relish the thought of taking the town of Almonte along with us for a seven day voyage to the Caribbean hotspots.
  • Our favorite line – Celebrity – is stratifying its passenger list. Those in suites and special classes like Blu get more perks – but you have to pay for them.
  • Having loyalty points isn’t as big a deal anymore. On our recent RCI cruise they paid scant attention to the Diamond lounge – the coffee machine broke 3 days into the cruise and they never bothered to fix it. At one time the loyalty lounge was a great way to meet other cruisers but now nobody bothers with it, as you can get your “happy hour” drinks anywhere on the ship.
  • Traditional dining with a set table and servers is going the way of the dodo. Now the cruise line forces you into “anytime dining” as a default – even if you request traditional dining. You have to stand in line for an hour to get this changed. If you stick with anytime dining you’ll be waiting in a huge queue to get a table every night.
  • Because of the hassles with the dining room, more and more passengers are just eating in the buffet. As a result the buffet gets more and more crowded. Even breakfast and lunch are a gong show on the larger ships.
  • You will likely get sick. We avoided COVID 19 for 3 years but we got sick with it after our cruise. And this was with masking and social distancing as much as we could. With the current practice of burying their heads in the sand, the cruise lines are probably getting more sickness on board then they did when cruising resumed a year ago. But who knows?
  • Who wants to travel by air right now? We drove to our last cruise, but there’s only so many places you can sail to from Cape Liberty or Baltimore.

I know this all sounds like a whiny first world set of problems, but it has weighed on our decision to just cool it on cruising for the foreseeable future. We have had a great time in the past and we acknowledge the value in a cruise holiday, but it just does not seem like an appropriate time to be sailing right now.. Time will tell.

Chromebooks – Worth a Look?

My grandson has a Chromebook to use for his schoolwork, and both granddaughters use Google Classroom for their remote learning. All the kids have their own Google accounts through the school board.

I have a Google account as well, and I use the Google Chrome browser and Google Drive to store documents online. It made sense to have another Chromebook around for all of us to use. So I watched for an Amazon sale and picked one up. The one I chose one is a Lenovo Flex 5 – 13.3 inch screen.

I’m comfortable with both Windows and Linux, so I haven’t had a big issue adapting to ChromeOS. Most of what I do these days is in the browser anyway – surfing, streaming, YouTube, music, banking. Google Docs is fine for word processing and spreadsheets. And the Chromebook offers pretty good value:

  • The processors used in Chromebooks are usually pretty wimpy, but this one has a zippy Core i3 11th generation chip.
  • The display gives a full HD experience and is nice and bright. A touch screen is available if you want to swipe and tap.
  • The case is solid – aluminum on top and premium ABS plastic below. The hinges are really sturdy and if you want you can fold the whole keyboard back and use it as a chunky tablet.
  • Speaking of the keyboard, it gives a very nice touch and feel, with plenty of key travel. It’s even backlit.
  • Most Chromebooks have only 4 GB of memory but this one features 8 GB – so it’ll never slow down if I have too many tabs open in the browser.
  • Storage is a bit skimpy at 64 GB but since most documents are stored on Google Drive, that isn’t a big issue.
  • The wifi is the latest Generarion 6 and the laptop also has Bluetooth if you need a mouse or a game controller.

There is a bit of a learning curve – especially when it comes to keyboard shortcuts and certain missing keys you would find on a Windows laptop. But I’m getting there.

Battery life is amazing. You can work all day without being plugged in, and then recharge overnight and you are good to go. I’ve never had that experience with a conventional Windows or Linux laptop.

One nice thing is that if you are used to apps on an Android phone, you can download them and use them on the Chromebook. Just bring up the Google Play Store and thousands of apps are available in one place.

I would really recommend that any casual Internet user who wants something light and inexpensive consider a Chromebook. For the money you can get equivalent performance to a premium Windows laptop at half the price.

Of course if you want to play high end games, do video rendering or heavy Photoshop processing a Chromebook is not for you. Otherwise you could check one out with the Black Friday sales coming up.

You won’t regret it if your next laptop works through Google.

Fundy Thursday

Sailing from Halifax to St. John took an extra day and the weather continued to be good. It was very smooth on the way.

Looked like another sunny and warm day was in store for us.

When we got off the ship to start our walkabout, we noted another Norwegian heavyweight was in port ahead of us.

Close to the ship was a sort of “container mall.” They used shipping containers for souvenir and clothing stores. Turkish coffee readings were available as well.

Steamers Lobster is a rather well known seafood spot on the harbor walk.

Former Canada Permanent Trust building on St. Patrick St. now a sports bar. From here we started a steep climb up King Street.

After a couple of breaks we finally climbed all the way up to historic King’s Square.

The Square was a lovely green space.

St John’s Cenotaph – memorials from WW1 to Afghanistan. The Mother Canada figure is similar to the one at Vimy Ridge Memorial.

Certainly a lovely place to spend time on a warm October day.

The bandshell and fountain date from 1910 and are dedicated to King Edward VII.

After a tour of the upper town we came back down King Street – much easier going down. We went into Market Square where we saw the Library and shops.

There is a walkway along the water outside Market Square that takes you past the 3rd cruise terminal. Not needed today as there were only two big guys in port.

The pilot boats were tied up near Cruise Terminal 3.

Just in case you forgot where you were today, the sign on the hill makes it clear.

Heading back to the ship now. This would be our last port of call before sailing for New York.

A last look at the St. John skyline before we sail away.

On our way out of the harbor past the industrial port where this bulk carrier was loading scrap metal.

And we’ll end our voyage with a couple of photos of the seascape. Very smooth sailing back to Bayonne.

We arrived back in Bayonne just as the sun was coming up on Saturday. Our disembarcation was very fast and easy and by 8:30 AM we were on our way home in our car. A great end to a really fun cruise.

Haligonian Ramble

We saw a beautiful sunrise and the promise of another nice day as we started our sail in to Halifax harbor. We were looking forward to our visit since we had not been to Halifax since 1995.

A smaller Regent ship was poised to follow us into the cruise terminal.

We could see the Halifax – Dartmouth bridge off in the distance, as we approached our berth.

The Halifax Citadel is at the top of the hill. It is getting much harder to see it from the waterfront as there are a lot more tall buildings nowadays.

The busy ferries scuttle back and forth from one side of the harbor to the other.

Now approaching our berth at the famous Pier 21. Pier 21 was the receiving site for Canadian immigration from 1928 until it closed in 1971. Now redeveloped as a cruise terminal, it houses the Canadian Museum of Immigration. Over a million immigrants passed through the Pier 21 facility in its lifetime.

Big Norwegian ship berthed behind us. Halifax can handle a couple of heavyweights like us, plus the Regent ship following us in. There is plenty of room and the waterfront didn’t seem crowded.

We got off the ship and started along the waterfront boardwalk. The first thing we noticed was the number of interesting statues along the way. This one is of Samuel Cunard – actually born and raised in Halifax. I wonder what he would think having his famous line owned by Carnival.

This statue is called Volunteers and celebrates the war effort by the women of Halifax.

This one is called The Emigrant and highlights the man leaving his family behind to make a place in the New World.

The Acadia was a surveying ship that mapped out most of the Newfoundland coastine in the 1940s. Now a museum ship.

The boardwalk is something we didn’t see back when we were here in the 1990s. Back then there was harbor access from Water Street and numerous gaps along the harborfront itself.

The cable wharf originally serviced ships that were laying communication cable from the port of Halifax. Now it serves as a starting point for harbor tours.

We walked as far as Historic Properties (a harborfront feature since the 1970s.) Then we came back along Water Street passing McKelvie’s – one of our favorite restaurants in the 1990s.

A World War II Royal Canadian Navy memorial that reminded me of my Uncle Rocky – actually he hated Halifax – much preferred cruising in the Caribbean.

Another interesting statue at the Immigration Museum.

Back aboard for a final look at the Halifax skyline. We were ready to sail on to St. John – our last port of call.

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