New York City to Newfoundland
Pat Richardson discovered on an Eastern Seaboard cruise, sights to see ranged from whales to witches – and more.
Every port at which we called had its own unique place in North American maritime history. Making this voyage on Hurtigruten’s expedition ship, MS Fram, brought both that and natural history into sharp focus.
Best known for their scenic Norwegian coastal route, Hurtigruten now offer voyages on vessels specially-built to venture into polar waters at each end of the earth, and other locations in between that offer rich, nature-based experiences. These expedition voyages aim to tempt adventurous travellers to ‘discover their inner explorer’. Why not choose, as I did, to do exactly that on this voyage from New York City to Newfoundland?
Crossing classy Fifth Avenue and show-bizz buzzy Broadway on the way to Manhattan’s Cruise Terminal is unlikely to release your ‘inner explorer’, but it should be stirred by Fram’s exhibits commemorating Norwegian explorers Amundsen and Nansen’s voyages on the original Fram – which culminated with Amundsen planting Norway’s flag at the South Pole in December 1911. For me, at least, our Hudson River sailaway past the Statue of Liberty and under Verrazano Narrows Bridge as we left NYC’s vast harbour was excitingly adventurous.
Any cruise itinerary can be disrupted by bad weather, and this one soon was. Heavy rain flooded major roads ashore so severely that we were unable to go to Newport, Rhode Island. Instead our first stop was Boston, where I went to Quincy Market.
Completed in 1826 it’s ‘old’ by American standards! It’s also a hungry shopper’s delight, as most of its 100+ stalls sell ‘eats’. To eat like a local, try Boston Clam Chowder, a luscious lobster roll and Massachusetts’ favourite dessert: Boston Cream Pie.
Given a choice of excursions further afield, I opted for Salem. The USA’s sixth largest city in 1790, it’s better-known for the notorious Witch Trials of 1692, which led to 20 accused individuals being put to death and more being imprisoned.
There’s much more to see here, and it’s easily walkable to do so. When it comes to tourism in Salem, witches are the only game in town. Nevertheless, I found the Witch Trials Memorial a moving place to visit for quiet reflection; and Salem’s excellent Visitor Centre well worth spending some time in. You can visit the celebrated 350-year-old building upon which Nathaniel Hawthorne based his novel The House of the Seven Gables.
Or stroll to Salem Harbour; now a National Historic Site with a replica of tall ship Friendship of Salem serving as a reminder that this port city was once a centre of global trade. From his workplace in the U.S. Custom House, Hawthorne would watch as exotic spices and oriental treasures were unloaded from ships arriving from the Far East. If you’d like to buy souvenirs reflecting such cargoes, go to Waite & Peirce’s nearby shop.
Other Salem sights include the Peabody Essex Museum, which has the finest collection, anywhere, of American, Maritime and Asian art, including a 200-year-old house from China. Several of Salem’s own historic houses (some of which are at least that old) are open to visitors to reveal how ‘the other half’ lived. Of course, there are witch-themed museums and attractions too, plus gift and souvenir shops selling spells and psychic or tarot readings.
The highlight sight at our next port, Rockland, is its Breakwater Lighthouse. I opted to visit the town’s Maine Lighthouse Museum instead and saw the scale models of many famous ones which we would pass on our voyage. For our adventure, we followed a demandingly steep 1.2 mile uphill nature trail in Camden Hills State Park to the summit, from where sea views were superb.
Next, we sailed to Eastport, where I had signed up to go on a kayak excursion – and very much enjoyed it. Later, as the Fram headed into open water, I kept my eyes peeled for whales, and was thrilled to see 8 or 10.
Our next Maine port of call was Camden, which has good shops and galleries, and a picturesque harbour.
And then we arrived in Canada, where we docked in Halifax. That busy port city was shipping magnate Samuel Cunard’s hometown, and is also Canada’s East Coast Naval Base. Halifax sights to see include a Citadel symbolising the city’s role as a major British Empire naval station.
Well worth an extended visit is the excellent Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. Its outstanding permanent displays include one on the loss of the Titanic. Many victims from that disaster were buried in Halifax cemeteries. Another comprehensive display tells the tale of a 1917 disaster, when two ships – one with a cargo of high explosives – collided. The huge explosion caused killed 2,000, injured 9,000 and, because numerous buildings collapsed, left many homeless.
Our final destination was little St John’s in Newfoundland. It’s North America’s oldest and easternmost city, and was a marked contrast to New York City, our departure port. I fact, this entire cruise had been a voyage of contrasts, and was all the more worthwhile and rewarding because of that.