We left Orlando on Jet Blue right on time at 6 a.m after parking our car at Park and Bark. Phil left a message on Toreys and Mikes phone as to the location of the car so they could pick it up for us the next day. Our connection in New York was easy and by noon we were in Portland, ME. The driver from the Eastland Hotel picked us up just 10 minutes after our call and promptly delivered us to the hotel after pointing out interesting parts of the city we passed and showing us a place to get a light dinner. Check in was easy and left us with an afternoon to walk around the city.
The next morning the same hotel driver took us to a liquor store on the way to the ship. As we were unloading our baggage on the sidewalk at the terminal one of the crew members met us at the door and took the luggage, told us we could board at noon and when we did our bags would be in our cabin. This excellent service by the crew was a precursor to our week on board the Blount cruise. We walked and explored the waterfront while waiting for noon.
Just after noon we were welcomed by the captain and invited to enjoy lunch while we departed the harbor. During the afternoon we were delighted to note the adventure had begun as we watched many light houses on shore and Phil (and others) sighted 2 fin back whales and lots of pods of bait fish churning the surface. We docked at the city of Bath and spent a delightful evening enjoying a cocktail party, meeting all the crew, getting to know our fellow passengers and overeating a delicious dinner. It had been a big day and we were grateful to fall into bed early.
After breakfast we joined a group on a trolley tour of the town of Bath to see old houses, historic buildings, and were dropped off for a walking tour of the Bath Shipyard. On the afternoon trip from Bath to Rockland we spotted lots of wildlife in the waters and on the islands. There were swimming and sunning harbor seals, single and pods of dolphin, and many birds, including puffin on a small island.
Phil and I chose to take the tour of the Air/Transport Museum in the morning. It was a treat and one of the best tours on our trip. It was well organized, very informative and just fun to see all the wheels, wings and things. Later we walked around town , visiting the Puffin Foundation for an interesting film and presentation, passed by the site of the lobster festival and back to the ship for dinner.
The next morning was the first day of the lobster festival and was designated “Home Town Day” when the entry fee is waived when the gates opened at noon. We enjoyed seeing the exhibits, arts and crafts and festivities of the court of honor. Our ship sailed before the crowning of the new Queen but we saw last years winner, the entire slate of this years contestants with their escorts, King Neptune, and a wild Pirate who assisted King Neptune in his duties.
By late afternoon we pulled away from the dock and headed for Belfast.
It was late evening by the time we docked at Belfast so after dinner we stayed in the lounge to enjoy the movie “JULIA & JULIA” which I had wanted to see but had not had an opportunity. I really enjoyed it but Phil dubbed it a ‘girlie’ movie and went back to the cabin to read.
We were not destined to spend much time in Belfast and just walked up town on our own.
On our way we passed a lot that had posts standing around with very detailed, smooth faces carved on them. The workmanship was unbelievable, as were the prices per each.
Belfast has lined its streets with decorated ordinary items, such as a lobster trap with a bear statue next to it and several tricycles and bicycles with attachments of interest. The bikes and trikes are mounted so they can be ridden in place and things move when they are peddled. For instance, I got on a big fish bike and as I pumped the tail flipped back and forth. The town residents definitely have artistic talent imagination and a sense of humor. Phil’s only disappointment of the trip was the famous Maine Lobster Roll. He concluded that after adding mayo, lettuce and celery the sandwich doesn’t have much of a lobster flavor. If you leave off the mayo, lettuce sand celery it is pretty dry and bland. He will stick with subs.
Too soon it was time for the ship to move on to Castaine.
The small town of Castaine hugs the shoreline with fishing boats, sea food restaurants, shops, and a nearby town center below an impressive array of old homes. What distinguishes it from other towns is the Maine Maritime Academy which provides onboard training and experience to merchant marine students. We joined the tour, climbing many stairs, walking narrow hallways, peaking into bunks and living quarters and examining the bridge. This is a close as I want to get to being a sailor.
As evening fell, the fog rolled in. We watched boats across the bay fade away and then the boats next to us vanished into the mist. We, however, were safe in the dining room enjoyed a lobster dinner. Later in the evening the captain announced that we would stay here for the night and when he got up at 6 a.m. if he could see the ship behind him we would embark for Bar Harbor. If not, we would stay put until he could see the ship behind him.
The morning presented us with a nice sun rise which burned off the fog and enabled us to look down on smooth glassy water in the bay. So, right on schedule, we headed for out next stop, again enjoying harbor seals and dolphin along the way.
What’s not to love about Bar Harbor? The town is beautiful, friendly and welcoming. We started our day with a walk along the shore and back into town, past the shops, got to the ship in time for lunch and to join the bus tour of Acadia National Park. It is truly beautiful, awe inspiring and certainly a place to spend days instead of hours. The coast is typical Maine rocks and boulders, and the bay is islands and lighthouses. The mountains are an array of trees and wild flowers. From the bus we would easily see the sand bar from the mainland to an adjoining island that gives Bar Harbor its name. The sand bar expands and shrinks and disappears with the 12 foot tides, and thus schedules visiting hours for island visits, hikes and sunbathing along the sand. As you can imagine, far too many people are caught wading back or spending the night because they are late or don‘t really believe it would happen to them.
The number of lobster trap marker bouys is amazing. They are everywhere up and down the coast of Maine. Each commercial lobster fisherman is allowed 600 traps, which must be checked every other day. We talked briefly with one fisherman who was unloading his days take, which was 1,200 lobsters. Due to stringent state enforced lobstering laws Maine feels they have a sustainable industry.
In the late evening we left Bar Harbor in 3-5 foot seas for a rock and roll all night trip back to Portland. We were again right on schedule, docking at the planned 9 a.m.
We had already seen enough of the waterfront Old Town with its fishy smell and tourist shops. We chose to take a bus tour of old homes and the Maine Lighthouse. Thus we were able to see the parts of Portland that were not within our walking distance of our hotel on arrival or of the ship at the end of the trip. Every sight could have been the scene on a postcard of Maine and our biggest problem will be editing the many pictures Phil took on this tour. After our return from the tour we walked up the road to the Shipyard Brewery for their walking, seeing and tasting tour. It was great. We did not exactly stagger back to the boat but…
Would we recommend this cruise to our friends and others. Yes, yes and yes. One note: Other small ship cruises we have been on were almost exclusively elders. This trip had 51 passengers and 8 or those were between the ages of 25 and 50, making it more of a mixed group and much more lively. I hope this is a trend.
-Phil and Grace Hampton
Learn about the COAST OF MAINE aboard the NIAGARA PRINCE
August 2-9, 2010