Good Friends in Mount Dora Make for the Best Port Call

Days 12-13, 2023 East Coast Voyage

Thursday and Friday, Oct. 5-6, 2023, Port Canaveral, Fla., USA

As much as I have enjoyed all the fantastic ports on this 13-day journey from Montreal to Fort Lauderdale, my favorite stop isn’t because of its location, but the friends I visited here.

I became friends with Laurie and Ed on the world cruise earlier this year, and when they heard we would dock in Port Canaveral – and stay two days – they insisted on fetching me for an overnight visit with them in Mount Dora. This charming town is a bit north of Orlando, about 90 minutes from the cruise port.

No, it is not on a “mountain,” even by Florida standards, but it does have a gentle rise to the town from the shore of Lake Dora. Moss drapes off stately oak trees.

Laurie recently served on the town council and is a big fan of all things Mount Dora. They gave me the grand tour. It’s a nice combination of tourist town – with charming shops on several blocks of the downtown – and community.

They thought I hadn’t had enough of being on the water, so we spent the afternoon on a barge trip across the lake, lined with beautiful homes. We even caught site of a bald eagle watching as we passed by.

The scenery changed as we entered the Dora Canal. Some of these canals are natural waterways and other sections have been dug, but you could eventually journey up to the St. Johns River, Jacksonville and the Atlantic Ocean.

More homes – these mostly smaller lake cabins – lined the first part of the canal. Then development fell away and we were traveled through natural habitats, only interrupted when we passed under a road or by the occasional fishermen.

The sunny fall day brought out other boaters, some on personal watercraft powered by seemingly large outboard motors. Most were in pontoon boats like ours, although much nicer than the “party barge” my dad built when we lived on a lake in Hot Springs, Ark.

We moved slowly as Capt. Jonathan identified the various birds and plants along the way. He knew where the alligators like to hang out and even spotted a rare spider lily bloom. I wished I had brought my better camera with a great zoom, as the iPhone didn’t produce sharp pictures of anything very far away.

After dinner at the Lakeside Inn (the oldest continuously operating hotel in Florida) and a fun evening catching up on what we’ve done since the end of the world cruise, on Friday we drove to New Smyrna Beach on the Atlantic Coast. This is where Laurie and Ed “retreat” in the summer. The temperatures aren’t much different than in Mount Dora, but the ocean breezes make life bearable.

I had failed to double check our all-aboard time on Friday afternoon before I left the ship, but Facebook came to the rescue, as I posted my query and had an answer from someone on the ship in minutes, confirming my assumption.

What we hadn’t realized was that a rocket launch at the Kennedy Space Center was scheduled for early Friday afternoon. We surely could have seen it as we drove down the coast, but didn’t know to look. Those on the ship had a good view.

Our reason for the overnight stop in Port Canaveral was for the replacement of one of the stern thrusters (propellers that push the ship sideways for maneuvering in ports). The job reportedly takes about 30 hours, and the underwater repair crew was just packing up as I returned to the ship.

A couple of days ago I scheduled a photo shoot with one of the ship’s photographers. I was long overdue for a new photo for my blog. We visited several locations around the aft deck.

Tomorrow morning almost everyone will leave the ship in Fort Lauderdale, and a new contingent will board for the 73-day Grand South America and Antarctica cruise. I am changing staterooms, so finished packing my loose items before bed. My stewards will move the suitcases and the hanging clothes to the new cabin, just down the hall.