We're On A Boat!

We finally hit the road for real and headed straight for Canada on the Little-Not-So-Little Ferry That Could

I know that title is among the world’s most played out phrases, but really, we were on a boat!

Because our departure delays pushed us up against our only deadline of this entire trip — a mid-September flight from Cape Breton to Toronto for my best friend’s wedding — we had two options to embark on our real-deal departure.

While we don’t have any exact plans (we don’t plan more than one week out to keep things flexible), we do have a good idea of our first loop. We’re heading around the east coast of Canada— up through Nova Scotia and Cape Breton’s Cabot Trail, into Quebec, through Quebec City and Montreal — and then we will duck down into Vermont, spending some time where I lived for six years in Burlington, before heading west to chase the sun.

In order for me to make my flight, we could've either driven every day for five days (sleep-pack up-drive-repeat style, which is harsh) to make it through Maine and Nova Scotia without enjoying either place, or we could've boarded the overnight Nova Star Ferry from Portland, Maine — skipping most of Maine entirely for now — to arrive at the southern tip of Yarmouth, Nova Scotia the next morning. We opted for the latter and it was an excellent choice.

As we pulled into Portland (a cute city I’d love to later spend some more time visiting), we began to get some real attention for our vehicular set up. One man hung out of his car window at a red light, shouting, “Are you taking that thing off road?” My Love gave him the ten second story and he gave us the thumbs up, yelling well wishes as the light turned green and we pulled away, cracking up. At every stop light, people cranked their heads around to check us out; we seemed to have found our people.

But the stay and roadside appreciation was short-lived, as we arrived in Portland’s Old Port and saw just how big a boat we were boarding. It was a small cruise ship! Chirps of “Go on big boat, mama? I go on big boat?” started to be ceaselessly sung from the back seat, no matter how many times I confirmed that we were, indeed, going on the big boat.

We lined up (and nearly took off the side of the trailer on a tight corner, but that’s its own story) and drove our caravan right into the belly of the boat, alongside tractor trailer trucks, motorcycles and many cars.

We rose up in an escorted elevator and arrived into what really was a small cruise ship. If you’ve ever taken a cruise, it felt exactly the same on a slightly smaller scale. We dropped off our bags in our bunk and took off to explore.

There were five restaurants onboard, but after watching the ship push back from the docks and waving goodbye to Portland from the deck, we headed inside for a simple buffet line (that way, when Little Miss Choosy doesn’t want this, I could go back and get a little bit of that to try). Although we arrived just past our normal dinner time, so all three of us were starving and ate more than just a little bit of this and a bit of that.

We passed a children’s play area on the way into the restaurant, a fact that was not forgotten by the youngest member of our party, who announced mid-way through dinner that she was “going to whee on slide -- bye bye!” We distracted her long enough to finish things off with a bite of carrot cake (that’s both the beauty and the horror of a buffet; you can indulge in just a bite or two of anything and it doesn’t matter) then headed toward some play time indulgence.

The only thing I fear about this trip is that my daughter will not get enough interaction with other young kids. She is extremely social and sweet and adored her time at the Lil’ Brick Schoolhouse. I worry that she'll miss the structure and the friends that she enjoyed with Miss Renee’s crew.

So far, my fear has been assuaged, as we seem to find endless options to play and plenty of buddies to engage with, like this play area on the ferry.

An innocent little boy her age involuntarily became her b!tch, as she bossed him to go up the slide, down the slide, sit in the chair, draw, build blocks, stick his head through a porthole and endless other commands until his family moved on. Despite the power dynamic, he seemed to have just as much fun as her, giggling and running around. We thought we’d tired her out and used up the final reserves of her energy, but we soon learned we were wrong.

Just as we rounded the corner hopefully toward the stairs and our bunks, we heard music pumping down a hallway.

“Go dance?” she said. She knows I can’t resist dancing with her, and as she boogied down the hallway, we followed. The hallway opened up into a ballroom, where a lone DJ stand was playing karaoke tunes to a room full of no one. We took the matter of setting the mood into our own hands, as The World’s Cutest Human made a beeline for the stage, beckoning me to join her. She proceeded to rock out and infected by her energy, I couldn’t help myself as I mimicked her adorably spastic dance moves.

We partied and shimmied to Katy Perry and "Let It Go" — attracting plenty of older guests into the room to watch her show — until she announced, “No more dance, mama,” and her Papa and I gratefully took her downstairs to pass out in our bunks (one small bunk for each of us, though she transferred from hers to mine and back no less than eight times, then flipped around hundreds of times like a noisy rotisserie hot dog before actually passing out).

The booming inter-ship loudspeaker system woke us up promptly at 5:30 AM, warning us that we were heading into port and must be out of our rooms at 6 AM to prepare to get off the ship by 7 AM. Seeing as we thought that disembarkation time was 9 AM, it was a bit of a shocker and left no time for leisurely taking photos as we pulled into the beautiful port.

The bags under my eyes gave me the middle finger as we scrambled into the showers and then carried all of our belongings with us to breakfast (yes, back to the buffet). I felt super cool as I placed our shower caddy on the table to hold our place, displaying all of our most personal items.

Mini-monster begged for more slide and play time in the nearby kids’ zone, but I distracted her with bacon, cantaloupe and croissants and silently chugged my little cup of coffee. Before we knew it, we were beckoned back to the belly of the ship into our cars and ushered back out into daylight as if the past twelve hours had been a dream. It kind of was.

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