We took a cab (uphill) to breakfast at Gracie’s and then a cab (horizontal, but we were in a hurry to go see something before Anne left for her plane) to the Catholic Basilica and the Presentation Convent, where we had been told by several people that we should go and see the Veiled Virgin Statue. We were given a tour of the public rooms of the convent by a very sweet young woman, and reports were absolutely on the mark: the statue was incredible. Carved out of a single piece of marble it looks like Mary is wearing a translucent veil. You can see her profile through the veil. It was just amazing.
Back at the hotel Ali and I said farewell to Anne, then went and organized our own luggage before checking in with the Adventure Canada. There are about 200 people on the trip and they were filling the small lobby. After dropping off our luggage we got a quick sandwich and then got on the busses with everyone else for the city tour.
The tour guide talked about the city as we went through, but didn’t stop so I am glad we got there a few days early to see the local sites. We did get to two places I hadn’t been yet. First was Cape Spear, which is the northernmost point in North America (the guide said when you stand there, everyone else in North America is behind you.) Also at Cape Spear was a WWII observation post to spot enemy U-boats. I think that must have been a very cold and lonely posting. Next stop was Signal Point and Cabot Tower. There were some soldiers dressed in period costumes, I thought perhaps for some sort of takeover, but it turns out it is some British group that does a yearly reenactment event. Signal Point was where the signal was received for the first transatlantic telegram.
Back down the hill and to the ship! We had our passports checked and then went aboard. Ali says this ship used to be a car carrier that was rehabbed into an Adventure Canada expedition ship. On top of the ship are the black rubber Zodiac boats that will take us ashore each day. There is a sun deck, a pool, a sauna, and also plenty of places to walk around and look out. It’s very nice, but functional, not glamourous. Inside there are various lounges, a library, a dining room and a spa where one can get a massage. Sadly, not a free massage. Massages and drinks are extra.
In addition to a fancy nametag, I have been given a badge with a bar code that serves as a room key and also a means that they check us off and on the ship. Additionally, there is a colored dot with a number that is my travel group (green) and my mud room locker number (63). Our cabin is for three and we met our roommate Suzanne, who is from Toronto. There are two beds, a couch that makes into a bed, lots of cubbies for our stuff and two bathrooms.
First order of business was an abandon ship drill. We report to our muster station, where they call roll, then we move in groups of 50 to the life boats and put on the life vests. Very exciting, but a slow process. I hope we don’t need to do abandon ship of course, but if we do the group I am in better shake a tail feather.
Second step was to get our boots that we will use on the zodiacs. Some landings are “wet landings,” where you definitely will step in the water, and others are “dry landings” where you step onto a gangway, but they recommend you wear the boots either way, since water can splash into the zodiac at any time.
Once the various safety and informative tasks were done, we were encouraged to go out on deck as we headed out of the harbor through “The Narrows” the neck of the harbor. It was really cool, sailing out of the harbor, people on the walking paths and by houses on shore waving, passing Signal Hill at the mouth of the harbor, all of this while the sun was setting.
We have now had dinner and are well on our way. Wake up is at 6:00 tomorrow for the first day of adventuring!