Chris Hutchinson discovers rugged and rural Canada and becomes an adopted Newfoundlander…

Canada was always on our ‘must do’ list but a difference of opinion prevailed in the Hutchinson household, in fact we were 3,000 miles apart!

I fancied west my wife east. I was persuaded, after she showed me Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines brochure, featuring their ‘Rugged and Rural Canada’ cruise including a touch of the blarney.

The itinerary on the good ship Boudicca included Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, and Ireland’s Donegal and Belfast, also appealing was the smaller scale ship.

Consulting the shore tours staff was a wise move, their first-hand knowledge from a comprehensive range, helped us to select an exciting tailor- made program of excursions, at a cost kind to my wallet.

Leaving from a UK port has advantages, including additional luggage allowance, duly claimed, not by me!

First port of call, Killybegs in County Donegal, Ireland; our first tour took us along the Wild Atlantic Way, narrow country lanes, hedgerows ablaze with fuchsia, fields of wild flowers, and purple heather.

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Passing numerous small bays, pristine sandy beaches, emerald fields dotted with white cottages, introduced us to charming Glencolmcille Folk Village. This is where you relive old Ireland, comprising of cottages from 1700s to the 1900s. In the tea house we were entertained by local musicians playing rousing folk songs, creating a joyful atmosphere.

Thatched roof cottages told tales of bygone times including the school house, a pub shared with a grocers, and cottages reflecting family life, an authentic insight into old Ireland.

Crossing the Atlantic we soon became aware that Boudicca’s amenities catered for all, the crew’s enthusiasm was infectious with smiles as big as the ocean we sailed. During the crossing, we watched the magnificent sights of whales and dolphins.

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Setting foot in St John’s, Newfoundland, our visit took us to Signal Hill, a historical site, where Marconi received the first wireless transatlantic message in 1901. In the bay was a pod of Orca and Humpback whales, the latter entertaining us by leaping, twisting, and diving - a sight to behold.

Then on to Cape Spear, the most eastern point of North America; here you witness the dramatic coastline. Again we enjoyed the company of whales; then back to the city, characterised by individual coloured wooden houses. Located downtown in the vibrant George Street, is O’Reilly’s traditional Irish bar, where I embraced a ceremony called “Screeching” entailing a recital, kissing the cod and drinking screech (rum) encouraged by locals calling out, “Tis the rum me son” - great fun. I am now an adopted Newfoundlander, with a certificate to prove it.

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After my close intimacy with the cod, I had reservations about eating it again, but after sampling a beer, locally brewed by Yellow Belly’s brewery my appetite returned, I was served a huge plate of cod and chips, the best I’ve tasted, only £5 pp. was it the one I kissed?

Down the coast is St. Pierre, which still remains part of France, you meander through a labyrinth of quaint streets with typical French patisseries, coffee shops and bars, in an atmosphere created by accordion playing musicians. A little piece of France in North America.

We sailed for Sydney, Nova Scotia, Latin for “New Scotland” berthing next to old sailing ships and the world’s largest fiddle. Our excursion took us through forests, with numerous species including Spruce, Larch and Maple giving off their own aromas.

Arriving at the picturesque village of Baddeck, at the edge of the stunning Bras d’Or Lakes, we boarded Amoeba a traditional schooner. We had just cast off when skipper John signalled by blowing through a large shell, then two bald eagles appeared and hovered above our masts. John threw cod into the lake, and the eagles responded by swooping into the lake and retrieving the cod literally three metres from me - a magnificent sight!

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We sailed close by the great inventor Alexander Graham Bell’s 600 acre estate boasting fine houses and mansions, still retained by the Bell family. With a fair breeze, sailing on the lake was a thrilling experience. A memorable tour.

Now half way through our cruise, we are enjoying traditional and international fine cuisine, and great evening shows featuring cabaret, music and comedy.

Sailing back to Newfoundland, destination Corner Brook situated at the Gulf of St. Lawrence, our guide took us through the famous explorer Captain Cook’s trail, who, at that time was a young map maker. He chartered these waters from 1763 to 1767, and his trail took us past Cape Bretton’s mountains, fjords, jaggered headlands and forests. Stopping at tranquil villages and tiny fishing ports, with unusual names such as “Blow me down”, where we enjoyed watching waterfalls, cascading down from the rugged landscapes into tributaries, weaving their way through woodlands into the lakes. Captain Cook’s maps were still in use until recently.

In contrast we arrived at L’Anse aux Meadows, Norstead, a remote community of 35 people. Here we travelled back in time to around 1000 years ago, when a Norse expedition from Greenland landed on this peninsula. Visiting the authenticated (1960) Unesco World Heritage site, now a reconstructed Viking village, we experienced Viking life as it was. Highlights included sampling Viking bread cooked over an open fire, the Chieftains Hall, workshops, longboats and family houses. I tried the art of axe throwing, managing to hit the target once. We immersed ourselves in the sights, sounds and scents of a Norse village.

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We had now circumnavigated Newfoundland, now I want to see more of Canada, including its cities.

We started our return journey; enroute we encountered icebergs, brilliantly white, glistening against blue sky - a truly phenomenal sight. The Captain manoeuvred to get the best viewing points, it seemed like we were up close and personal, another benefit of a smaller ship.

Our last port was Belfast and a panoramic tour was a great way to see the city, highlights including Stormont Parliament Building and estate, City Hall with its magnificent marble interior and the imposing Belfast Castle.

This cruise had it all, spectacular scenery, the wonders of wild life, and nature at its best and at its most natural. Life on board Boudicca was fun, entertaining, leaving us with indelible memories.

My claim to fame - I kissed the cod in Canada!

Travel file A similar Fred. Olsen cruise in 2018 will be a 26night ‘Canada in the Fall’ cruise (W1821) on board Black Watch, departing from Liverpool on 22nd September 2018. Prices currently start from £3,999 pp, including food and entertainment on board, and port taxes.

In 2018/19, Fred.Olsen’s ships will be visiting 228 destinations in 73 countries around the globe. For further information visit