Sunday, July 09, 2006

Cruise Trek 2006 - The French Connection

We have been back from this year's Cruise Trek for almost a week, and I am just now getting around to writing about it. Yes, it has been a bit hectic since our return, with going back to work and catching up on that, plus settling back into our normal routines. I suppose I could have posted something sooner, but better late than never.

One reason we chose to go on this cruise is that we had never been to most of the places (northeastern Canada and Maine) on the itinerary, and yet it finished in one of our favorite cities that we have visited before (Boston). We enjoyed all of the stops on the cruise, as well as the Trek activities that we participated in, and had a great time overall. Some highlights:

Friday-Saturday, June 23-24, Montreal, Quebec: We flew into Montreal Friday afternoon, with no problems and the only slowdown being the line at the airport to go through the Customs checkpoint. After a quick cab ride into town, we checked into the McGill University New Residence Hall, our lodging for the night. It seemed much more like a hotel than a university dorm, which presumably is its function during the school year. It was a bit of a walk from there into the main section of downtown, but we don't mind walking as it tends to be our major form of exercise on our trips. The city is very similar to most large cities in the northeast US except for all the signs being in French instead of English. Most people there speak both languages, although we had a little trouble with the taxi driver who took us to the cruise terminal on Saturday. Otherwise, the language was not a barrier for us. We explored Old Montreal on Saturday morning before boarding the ship, and found it to be a pleasant area although it didn't have nearly the feeling of history that the cities we visited on the Baltic cruise last year had. I'm sure there was a lot more that we could have seen in Montreal if we had had more time.

The ship left port at 5:00 PM Saturday, bound for Quebec City. That evening, we met up with our fellow Cruise Trekkers at the Welcome Aboard party, and renewed old acquaintances while starting up new ones. Earlier, I had a chance to sit down with Wil Wheaton, whom I had met on Cruise Trek 2002, so we could discuss the poker tournament that he and I were organizing for the Cruise Trekkers to play in later in the cruise. Wil and his wife Anne are great people, and I enjoyed spending some time with them on this cruise. The other Trek guests on the cruise this year were Vaughn Armstrong, Denise Crosby, Suzie Plakson, Ron B. Moore, Lolita Fatjo, and Richard Arnold. I had met Denise, Ron, and Richard on previous cruises and they were as friendly as ever; Vaughn, Suzie and Lolita were equally nice and I enjoyed making their acquaintances.

Sunday June 25, Quebec City, Quebec: This city has a lot of cool places to see and we saw many of the historic sites as well as tourist-y shopping streets. The Citadelle, a fortress on a hilltop overlooking the St. Lawrence River, was quite interesting, at least from the outside since we decided not to take the paid tour. But the view over the city from up on the outer rim of the complex was very impressive. We wandered through the city and looked at the beautiful old churches and other buildings, and eventually made our way back to the ship before it cast off for our trip up the river. Sunday evening included the first Trek-themed activities of the cruise, and I participated in Trek Pictionary, which was great fun.

Monday June 26, "at sea" (at river?): There was no port stop on Monday, so we were on the ship the entire day and, as a result, a lot of Trek activities were scheduled. I didn't take part in all of them, but I did sit in on Wil's "poker lesson" talk that he gave to prepare those who planned to play in the tournament, and I joined in on Lolita's improv workshop where the Cruise Trekkers who wanted to do so could get up and act out scenes from various Trek episodes, making up the dialog as we went based on Lolita's description of what the original scene was about. That was a lot of fun for me as an actor. I also played "Wheel of Trek" and won the round that I played, even though I bankrupted at one point and could have cost myself the game by being greedy and going for more points after I had figured out the puzzle.

Tuesday June 27, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island: This is a lovely little city, with lots of history and interesting places to see. The day started off a bit rainy but it let up shortly after we went back on the ship to retrieve our umbrellas. I acted as "tour guide" for the small group of us who had decided to walk around together, using a map that we picked up at the visitor center near the port. After checking out some of the older section of town, we found the Cows ice cream store, famous in the area for their delicious flavors and amusing merchandise items of cow-themed parodies of famous stuff, such as Desperate Housecows and Pirates of the Cowibbean. The ice cream was, in fact, very good.

Tuesday evening featured the Trek actors panel, where the stars took questions from the audience about almost anything, and answered them quite candidly and entertainingly. Later, the first session of the poker tournament was held. We got off to a bit of a late start due to last minute preparations, but once the game got under way, everyone seemed to have a good time. I was the most knowledgeable player at my table, so I helped keep things moving along, reminding the players when it was their turn to act, how much the bet amounts were, etc. Wil was seated at another table and did the same there. We started wth five tables, and it took us about 3 1/2 hours to get down to ten players, who would go on to the final table of the tournament the next night. I managed to survive and make it to the final table. I will have more to say about the tournament on my poker blog.

Wednesday June 28, Sydney, Nova Scotia: Sydney had the distinction of being the least interesting of the towns we visited on the cruise. It has a few old buildings worth seeing and a nice park or two, but on the whole was somewhat ordinary. It was pleasant enough for a stroll around in the nice weather, though.

After a very funny game of Trek Match Game, in which the celebrities gave some hilarious answers, the Trek pajama party was the big event of the evening. The final table of the poker tournament was held during the PJ party and drew most of the attention, although there were other things going on for those not watching the game, such as fingernail painting and playing other games. I finished sixth in the tournament and won an autographed book, "The Professor, The Banker, and the Suicide King," by Michael Craig. I had heard of the book but not read it, so I was glad to have won it.

Thursday June 29, Halifax, Nova Scotia: We really liked Halifax, which had a lot going for it in things to do and places to see. We visited the Maritime Museum, where they have an extensive exhibit on the Titanic since Halifax was the nearest large port to where the Titanic sank and was where the people recovered from the ship, alive or not, were brought. We also took the Harbour Hopper tour, which was on an amphibious vehicle that drove us around the city and out into the harbor. After picking up a few souvenirs at the Cool as a Moose store, we headed back to the ship. The finale of the Amazing Trek Race, which had been going on all week, was held Thursday evening, and that was fun to watch.

Friday June 30, Bar Harbor, Maine: We were worried that this would turn out to be our one bad weather day of the trip, as it was very rainy and foggy when the day started. But, we went ashore with our umbrellas and hoped for the best. As it turned out, the rain was minimal and the sun peeked through several times during the day, although the view from the top of Cadillac Mountain was mostly obscured by the fog. We took a guided trolley tour of the town and Acadia National Park, which surrounds Bar Harbor. It was an informative tour and gave us a chance to see a lot that we would have missed if we had only gone on foot.

Friday evening featured the Trek actors' entertainment hour, where the guests did some kind of performance as their farewell to the Trekkers. Lolita read a poem that she wrote during the cruise; Suzie sang a couple of beautiful songs, and she has a lovely voice; Vaughn played ukelele and harmonica and sang a few songs from the Enterprise Blues Band CD that he and several others recorded, including Ron Moore who accompanied Vaughn on electric guitar; Denise did some magic tricks and had us all in stitches by the end of the "cork out of the wine bottle" trick; and Wil read two of his stories from his book, "Just a Geek." It was a wonderful finale to the Trek activities of this cruise.

Saturday, July 1, Boston, Massachusetts: We disembarked Saturday morning and got a cab to our hotel. We had made plans to stay in Boston until Monday, to take advantage of the opportunity to visit a city that we have loved since we first went there some years ago. We met up with some other Cruise Trekkers who were of a like mind, and made arrangements to meet on Sunday to take a Boston Duck Tour, on another amphibious trek around the city and waterways. For the rest of Saturday, we just walked around the historic area of downtown, following the Freedom Trail for a good part of its path, from Boston Common up to Paul Revere's house. By the time we got there, we decided that it was getting a bit late to try to finish the trail, so we stopped for dinner at an Italian "fast food" place called Express - not a chain, but a sandwich and pasta cafe where the service is fast, the food good and the prices very reasonable.

Sunday July 2, Boston: We met with our friends in the morning and made our way to the Duck tour ticket booth, where we found that the only tour that had seats for all of us was at 4:30 PM. We bought our tickets, ate some breakfast, and went our separate ways, some of us heading back to the Freedom Trail where we started back at the Boston Common end since it was closest to where we were. We made it as far as the USS Constitution tall ship, but Pat and Ben and I decided not to try to get to Bunker Hill for fear we wouldn't make it back in time for the Duck tour. We took the subway back to where the tour would depart from, and met back up with our group. The Duck tour was a blast, thanks in large part to our driver and guide, who was dressed as, and acted like, a cheerleader (and in her other life is a sixth grade teacher). She made the whole tour a lot of fun with her enthusiasm and funny commentary, and some of us even got to drive the duck while we were in the river, including me. Afterwards, most of us went to the Hard Rock Cafe just a few blocks away for dinner. Before long, it was time for Pat and Ben and me to head back to the hotel so we could pack for the trip home on Monday.

This was a fabulous trip, and while the port stops can't rival the ones on the Baltic trip last year, the experience was wonderful and I would do it again tomorrow if I could. My thanks go out to everyone who was on the cruise, especially Charlie Datin, who organizes Cruise Trek and does an amazing job in making everything work so smoothly and ensuring that all of us have the best time possible. If you ever get a chance to take a Cruise Trek, don't hesitate. You will have the time of your life.

4 comments:

  1. Thanks Dave for a very interesting read ! So glad you are part of "OUR FAMILY " Sorry you can't make it next year but ...see you in 2008 ???

    Ted and Lee

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  2. It sounds like y'all had a wonderful time. I am so glad that it turned out well. Hopefully one of these years I'll get to go.

    Lou Ann

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  3. Hey Dave... I just checked out your blogs, and I just wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed reading some of the stuff you wrote there. I didn't have the time to read everything, but I will catch up slowly, I promise.

    And thanks for your comment in my blog... that really made my day!!! :-)

    Carsten

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