Storm Erin Spoils Our Day in St. John’s

  • Day 32, Voyage of the Vikings 2019
  • Friday, Aug. 30, At Sea

Dorian isn’t the only storm in the Atlantic. Post tropical storm Erin is sweeping up the Canadian Maritimes, and today it caused our second missed port of this 35-day cruise.

The entrance to St. John’s, Newfoundland, is a narrow channel, and with winds of 35 knots and worsening during the day, Capt. Vaartjes decided to just move on. We already had boarded our pilot, and headed for the break when he made the final decision to abort.

So instead of exploring this harbor town, we are cruising down the coast toward Halifax, Nova Scotia, outside the wind and rain effects of the storm. Our original schedule was a sea day tomorrow and our final port day in Halifax on Sunday. Now we will arrive in Halifax tomorrow afternoon and stay overnight. The shore excursion staff is busy adding more Halifax tours while canceling those in St. Johns.

When you cruise a lot you learn to take these schedule changes in stride, particularly when the weather doesn’t cooperate. Of course it’s disappointing when it’s a port you really wanted to see. I hear St. John’s has distinctive “Jellybean Row Houses” that I would have liked to sketch. But the extra time at sea and in Halifax are nice, too.

What have I spent my bonus sea day doing? Organizing my personal finances in Quicken. I downloaded all my bank and credit card transactions before I left, but many are either unclassified or classified incorrectly. Bringing it all up to date is a chore, but at least I have had a beautiful view of the ocean as I work.

Yesterday we anchored at St Anthony, another port on the northeast coast of Newfoundland. Many people went to L’Anse aux Meadows, a UNESCO World Heritage Site of an early Viking landing. My sisters and I decided to just walk around town, and walk we did – about a half-mile down the main street to the mall. It turned out to be a strip mall with a grocery store and a few others, and a Tim Horton’s. Of course we stopped for coffee. It’s what you do when in Canada.

A mysterious sign had pointed the way to an information center, and eager local volunteers told us about the town’s history. Again, gift shops offered local crafts and woolens, but I have little use for those clothes in Texas. The day was sunny and cool, so I did appreciate the small cup of hot chocolate the crew served as I waited in line for the tenders.

About the tenders: I have been impressed generally with the speed at which the ship’s crew has taken the passengers from ship to dock and back. First thing in the mornings the ship excursions leave as a group. Other passengers can get a tender ticket when their group is ready to go ashore. They wait in the various lounges for the announcement of their tender number, thus avoiding long lines in the staircases. Four- and 5-star passengers (200+ days of cruising on Holland America) get priority status, but as we haven’t been in a hurry to go ashore, we haven’t taken advantage of the perk.

The biggest bottleneck can come on the return. A lot of people want to come back for lunch, so the lines can be long then. The Zuiderdam uses two platforms to speed the process at the ship, but many times there is room for only one tender on the town dock. Still, for a itinerary with so many tender ports, the process is organized and relatively painless.

Two days ago while at sea, the senior officers led a demonstration of the life raft use and survival skills. The junior officers who did the actual work got a laugh when they appeared in bathrobes with their stripes stapled to the shoulders. They didn’t have an easy time of getting into the survival suits, but they did a great job of inflating the small raft in the pool.