by Elizabeth Szekeres, International Traveler, Writer
I didn’t think I would ever be a cruise kind of person, but then this Newfoundland Circumnavigation expedition cruise came up on my radar. I had this idea that cruising is only on ships that are floating cities and where you eat and drink yourself silly. When I learned about Adventure Canada, I simply had to think again…
I spent two weeks at the beginning of October sailing counterclockwise around Newfoundland aboard the Nassau registered ship, Ocean Endeavour, with the expedition team from Adventure Canada.
There were about 180 or so “guests” plus about thirty staff on board the ship. It was big enough to be comfortable, but small enough that you could make good friends. The food was excellent, often local, and the expedition adventures were superbly planned.
Every morning, we’d wake up at a new port of call. We’d dress for the (usually beautiful) weather and get to shore via zodiacs. There were outdoor activities for every fitness level. Hiking was popular, but there was also kayaking, mountain biking, diving, painting and drawing. Expedition experts were along from all the academic fields you could think of. Biology, archaeology, geology, photography, anthropology…
There were also two Newfoundland authors and an authority on Canada’s national parks.
And to top it all off, there were musicians. Singer, songwriter and cultural expert Tony Oxford; Gerry Strong, flute and whistle player; and the amazing Alan Doyle, former lead singer with the internationally renowned Newfoundland band, Great Big Sea. We had no choice but to be happily immersed in the culture of Newfoundland.
By the end of two weeks, most of us wished we had been born and raised on this gorgeous island where humour and unique turns of phrase come off the tongue like the ever-present waterfalls over the rocks above every town.
We visited twelve places during our circumnavigation, many of them off the usual tourist track. There were UNESCO world heritage sites such as Red Bay and L’Anse Aux Meadows, where we learned about Basque whalers and Norse settlers occupying these shores.
We visited famous lighthouses, remote fiords, and an indigenous community. At Gros Morne, we even walked on brown rusting rocks from the uplifted earth’s mantle that provided evidence for Tectonic Plate theory.
We visited ‘outports’ (some of the oldest European settlements in Canada) where whole communities were having to choose whether to stay or to leave, life having been so tenuous and difficult since the cod fishery was banned in 1992.
This was an adventure where you found you’d received more than double what you’d expected. It was travel that was active, engaging and above all, meaningful. Not what you think a cruise would be, not at all.
I came away with a greater understanding of the challenges of living and surviving on a rocky island in the north Atlantic Ocean, the most easterly place in all of North America. It made us all appreciative and thoughtful about this beautiful place, affectionately called The Rock by those who call it home.