SAILING OFF INTO THE SUNSET
A final farewell for Ports + Bows
Ten years ago, I created the name Ports and Bows and was lucky enough to be invited to write a weekly newspaper column about cruising. In that decade, never did a week pass without a Ports and Bows column and more than 3,600 blogs at portsandbows.com. Now it’s time to move on. This is my final column, so it’s also time for me to thank the most important people of all: you, the readers … many of whom I have met online and in person on ships. You have been generous with your comments and questions, occasionally taking me to task — usually for good reason.
My thanks also goes to the cruise line people: the creators, builders, designers, captains, hotel managers, marketing and PR staffs and the media … all of whom made me a more knowledgeable cruise writer, some of whom have become lasting friends. And today I will answer the one question I’ve been asked many times: “What was your favourite cruise?”
It’s a tough question I have always avoided answering because cruising is so subjective, but for this farewell column I have narrowed my list to four … New York to Quebec City: Great ports, including Boston, Bar Harbor (Maine), Charlottetown, Halifax, then cruising the St. Lawrence, Gaspé and overnight in Quebec City before returning to New York Budapest to Amsterdam: River cruising the Main, Danube and Rhine rivers for 15 days Valparaiso to Buenos Aires: enjoying South America for a couple of weeks Northern Europe to St. Petersburg, Russia
WHY THESE FOUR?
1. As I left New York from the Cape Liberty side, there was something exciting about cruising by the Statue of Liberty and barely squeaking under the Verrazano Bridge. I loved Boston and Bar Harbor, and staring into the ocean from Peggy’s Cove, N.S., as the waves pounded on the rocks ... watching Japanese tourists swarm Cavendish, P.E.I., because they’re huge Anne of Green Gables fans. In Quebec City, I was in awe of our country’s heritage with the statue of Champlain, and visiting Orleans Island was well worth the drive.
2. Cruising from Budapest to Amsterdam offered many surprises. Budapest was my favourite city on the cruise, which was 15 days of history coming alive around every bend in the rivers. Cologne at night meant the Kolsch beer tour — the name is allowed only if it’s made in the city limits, and the beer comes in small glasses. Picking a winning pub was easy.
3. South America is always an eye-opener. I was lucky. The oceans were relatively calm when navigating Cape Horn (we circled for an hour, a reminder of what the great explorers faced in rounding — or failing to round — the Cape). Buenos Aires is called “Paris of the South” — and it is. I advocate staying for several days before or after a cruise. When I was in Ushuaia (Argentina), instead of touring I discovered the most southern golf course in the world and its only golfer that day loaned me some clubs so I could play three holes with him.
4. My northern Europe cruise from England led to one favourite city after another. Helsinki, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Tallinn ... populated by wonderful, friendly people who if you’re lost will happily and at a drop of hat steer you in the right direction or even walk you to your destination. Ahh, St Petersburg, the Hermitage ... you may never see anything like it again.
I’ve cruised to the Canary Islands, North Africa, many times to the Caribbean and Australia, and I wanted to pick cruises that — if they’re of interest to you — feature a variety of ships. But in the end, I picked them because they’re my favourites.
PHIL’S PICK OF THE WEEK
Wherever possible, walk. Use public transport. Do your home- work before you go.
Ask the same question, repeatedly and especially in Rome, to ensure you don’t get lost. Put it this way: Take the ship to your experience; don’t let the ship take you.
While this is my farewell, if you have questions, I’ll continue to be reachable at portsandbows@ gmail.com, and I’ll be happy to help.
And finally, I’m dedicating this column to Bob and Nancy Dunn, my cruising comrades who have been so helpful over the years.
Visit portsandbows.com, sponsored by Expedia CruiseShipCenters, 1-800-707-7327, www.cruiseshipcenters.com, for daily updates on the latest cruise news, best deals and behind-the-scenes stories from the industry. Phil Reimer may be contacted directly at portsandbows@ gmail.com.