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turism&travel : Fun, sea and glory in the shadow of the Queen

Monday 28 June 2010

(eTN) Our first Carnival seminar at sea was held on the Glory, charting a course for adventure on the New England and Atlantic Canada itinerary.
It sailed just days before British Queen Elizabeth II's June 28 arrival in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where she begins her 22nd royal tour of North America.

For six days, we enjoyed a spectacular week in New York City, enjoying Broadway performances and exploring world-class fine arts museums. Our first three nights were at the Millennium Hotel at 1 United Nations Plaza, located in the very heart of the United Nations complex. Security around the United Nations was heavy, including men in black using high-tech binoculars and K-9 units inspecting arriving taxis. Here on July 6, the queen is expected to address the 192 members of the United Nations General Assembly for the second time during her reign; her first speech was in 1957.

The Millennium Hotel at UN Plaza has giant rooms; large, flat-screen televisions; and killer views. From room 3167, we had a perfect view of the Chrysler Building and the Empire State Building. At night, the bright light from the Chrysler Building totally lit our room. Free WiFi in the lobby allowed us to check bus schedules and routes to popular attractions; MetroCards for unlimited bus and subway use for 7 days cost US$27.

The Glory sailed away from Pier 92 in New York City, heading south, which offered perfect views of the Manhattan skyline. We passed exactly in front of Ground Zero, the former site of the World Trade Center towers. On July 6, the Queen is scheduled to be here to meet with relatives of the victims of 9-11, and lay a wreath to their memory.

On the Lido Deck of Glory, passengers celebrated with a sail-away party. Alongside the ship, a Formula V speed boat zipped by, showcasing a muscular young man desperately seeking attention by mooning us. With camera in tow, we snapped a photo, and posted it at Meanwhile, the passengers on Lido were laughing and pointing at the spectacle, which started a party atmosphere, which was to last the entire cruise.

Carnival's motto is “One for fun. Fun for all.” There was no shortage of fun during this five-day escapade. We received a letter in our cabin inviting us to a cocktail party on the first night of the cruise, where we were warmly welcomed by Carnival's Connecticut/Jersey Shore BDD Katie Gerhard. This spritely Irish lass is as beautiful as she is charismatic, teaching two informative and fast-paced seminars jam-packed with the latest news from Carnival.

“This is the first time we've had a Conquest-class ship in the Atlantic Provinces of Canada,” said Gerhard, “and the Canadians are excited to have such a large ship call in their ports.”

Gerhard presented little-known information about the new Carnival Magic, which will home port in Galveston Texas after a summer run in the Mediterranean beginning May 2011. In the spring of 2012, Carnival will introduce Carnival Breeze, third in a series of its most recently-designed ocean liners.

It's a small, small world. As luck would have it, we ran into Carnival Glory's captain, Agostino Fazio, who just happens to live just a few minutes up the road from our home in Varazze on the Italian Riviera. From our kitchen window, we can see his house on the hill near the Casa Nova church.

Fazio said: “I like the Carnival Glory because the ship functions very well and has a beautiful itinerary, not only now, but also in the Caribbean, where she alternates between the east and west. I enjoy the New England and Canada itinerary, because 90 percent of my life I spend in the Caribbean, and here is a nice change of scenery.”

In September, the Glory sails fall foliage cruises to New England and Atlantic Canada. Ablaze in color, autumn landscapes are breathtakingly spectacular and a must on every traveler's bucket list. After all, life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but rather the number of times our experiences take our breath away.

Our first port of call was in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where the city is in festive preparation for the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, who begin her North American Royal Tour here on June 28. The warehouses are loaded with flowers ready to be set out in public places to celebrate the sovereign's return.

Our ship docked at Pier 21, where we took the very convenient “Hop On Hop Off” English double-decker bus offered by Ambassatours Grayline. Alex McDonald, our knowledgeable tour guide, pointed out interesting landmarks on the history tour, route C in a series of three routes, all of which are included in a single ticket purchase.

Highlights of our trip included seeing the home of Anna Leonowens, who worked in Thailand from 1862–1868, where she taught the wives and children of Mongkut, King of Siam. Her diaries constitute the basis for the novel, film, and Broadway musical versions of “The King and I.”

Another interesting point was the charming stone house at 1361 Spring Garden Road. Here lived Lucy Maud Montgomery, the novelist who penned the children's classic, “Anne of Green Gables,” a series about the adventures of a little red-haired orphan.

Prominently positioned in the center of Halifax is Government House, the official residence of the Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia and the Queen's official residence during provincial tours. On June 28, the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh rededicate this majestic mansion, which for more than 200 years has held the honor as the oldest official residence in Canada.

The streets of Halifax have been trod by many famous people, including celebrities who live nearby, like Mia Farrow. Denny Doherty of “The Mamas and The Papas” was born and reared in Halifax and began his musical career here in a local rock band, The Hepsters, while working in a pawn shop. He had started singing in public at age 15 on a dare by performing "Love Letters In The Stand" in a skating rink-turned-dance-hall. Famous for street entertainment, Halifax offers a magnificent Busker's Festival where the finest singers and dancers perform to the public's delight.

Outdoor performances frequently occur at the Garrison Grounds, a natural amphitheatre on the slopes of the Citadel Fortress, where up to 30,000 spectators can enjoy summertime entertainment.

The Queen will appear at the grounds on June 28, where colorful ceremonies include military honors, musical performances, and the presence of many Canadian dignitaries. Her Majesty will address her Canadian subjects, sign the government of Canada Golden Book and the Provincial guest book, and conduct a walkabout so she can meet as many visitors as possible.

At the summit of Garrison Grounds stands the impregnable Citadel Fortress. Every hour, actors re-enact a colorful changing of the guards. Guided tours of the barracks and fortifications are offered regularly and there's a small café for lunch that offers simple but delicious meals.

Prince Edward, Duke of Kent (Queen Victoria's father, Queen Elizabeth's great-great grandfather) was Commander in Chief at the Halifax Citadel. Upon his return to England, he ordered a grand clock tower built at the site so everyone would have access to the current time of day.

Our days at sea aboard the Glory passed swiftly; tempus fugit. I took special interest in attending one of the Camp Carnival activities and joined the 2 to 11-year-old guests in building teddy bears. As I arrived on the 12th floor, I saw scores of little ones with bright smiles on their faces. Almost 1:00 pm, one mother was retrieving her four-year-old angel to dine in the Platinum Restaurant for lunch. As she carried the adorable child to the exit, the little girl started to cry and begged, “Mommy, I don't want to leave this place!”

I've always heard outstanding praise for Camp Carnival, but never actually saw the facilities until now. Seeing the way those kids enjoy being there, I'm convinced that if you love your children, you'll sail on Carnival.

Our second port of call was to the beautiful town of Saint John, New Brunswick. We were so impressed by the double-decker bus in Halifax, that we took a similar tour in Saint John . The Saint John Ambassatours' antique busses are painted pink to heighten awareness of breast cancer. There are three routes, all of which are wonderful to ride. One takes passengers to an unusual white-water rapids where the river reverses direction depending on the tidal levels. High above the rapids, adorable cafes serve canapés and English teas to tourists who stand in awe of the natural beauty of the landscape.

At the pier in Saint John was a huge big top tent with amazing shopping. All of the goods were locally produced. My favorite vendor was Eastern Furriers Fredericton Ltd., (506) 454-4512, which offered gorgeous mink teddy bears on display. The teddy bears were made from left-over pelts used in producing mink coats. Most of the fur trade in Canada is done by aboriginal peoples who have a spiritual connection to nature. It is an honorable custom in their culture to wear furs and very important for visitors to respect the traditions and religious beliefs of these first-nation populations.

On the double-decker tour, we saw notable sites associated with Benedict Arnold, an American general who tried to surrender West Point to the British in the American Revolution. Saint John blossomed by the influx of loyalists who remained loyal to the Crown.

We saw the impressive childhood home of Donald Sutherland, a major Canadian film star, and father of television star Kiefer Sutherland. Saint John is also the town where film industry giant Louis B. Mayer, Hollywood producer of MGM fame, spent his childhood.

Saint John is famous for high-quality lobster. Immediately across from the pier is Steamers Lobster Company where dozens of ship passengers sampled seafood delicacies. An open-air beer garden was a happy place to mingle and use the internet WiFi, which is free for all patrons. On Friday nights, Steamers offers all-you-can-eat lobster dinners, making it one of the hottest spots in town .

On the cruise back to New York, the duty-free shops had massive clearance sales on all manner of souvenir items. Colorful t-shirts were reduced to US$5, and many trinkets were 75 percent off.

Disembarkation was unusually fast and easy, although there weren't many people happy to end their vacation. But it's necessary to move on, to make room for the Queen and her entourage.

I just hope that muscular young man desperately seeking attention doesn't venture to moon Her Majesty. She wields a mighty heavy purse.

Visit the author, Anton Anderssen, on the Internet at .

Autor: eTurboNews