The Lower Saint Lawrence & Touring the Ocean Endeavour

The Ocean Endeavour at anchor on a stormy day on the Saint Lawrence River. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

This morning, guests aboard Adventure Canada’s Ocean Endeavour once again awoke in unison at 0700 with our shipboard wakeup call. I snapped open the curtains in my stateroom to discover that the rains that had continued throughout the night had stopped during the early morning hours.  In its place were overcast skies, a light swell coming off our port side, and a temperature of about 14°C.
After another hearty breakfast in the Polaris Restaurant, guests had the option to choose between two lectures at 0830: a history of the sinking of the Empress of Ireland on May 29, 1914, held in the Aurora Lounge on Deck 7; or a study in native grasses in the Nautilus Lounge on Deck 6 aft.

Disembarking the Ocean Endeavour for our tour of the Reford Gardens. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Disembarking the Ocean Endeavour for our tour of the Reford Gardens. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Since the Empress of Ireland sank just over 15 nautical miles astern of our position (we’d passed the channel marker identifying the location of the wreck around 0500), participating in this lecture seemed like the obvious choice. It was an informative talk, particularly for the guests in attendance, many having never heard of the doomed Canadian Pacific liner that went to the bottom with 1,012 lives lost.

Our Expedition Team gives our zodiac driver instructions on how to handle the narrow channel and high winds on our entrance to shore. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Our Expedition Team gives our zodiac driver instructions on how to handle the narrow channel and high winds on our entrance to shore. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Following our morning lectures, disembarkation began at 1030 by coloured groups for our Zodiac transfer to the Reford Gardens – or Jardins de Metis. Located just north of Rimouski, Quebec, the Reford Gardens were created by Elsie Reford between 1926 and 1958, and are now a National Historic Site and a Quebec Heritage Site.
My group was one of the first to be called to disembark. I made my way down to the Mud Room and donned my Zodiac lifejacket, and then headed out to the Deck 3 embarkation point for the rafts when instructed to do so. I’m in love with this Mud Room – it’s the best I’ve seen, and it couldn’t be easier to use. Getting to the Zodiacs isn’t as easy, owing to the odd interior layout of the Ocean Endeavour, but Adventure Canada has put up handy temporary signage along the Deck 4 corridor to help people find their way down to the embarkation points on Deck 3.

Arriving...Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Arriving…Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

...and coming ashore. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

…and coming ashore. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Adventure Canada's complimentary water bottle is a great touch. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Adventure Canada’s complimentary water bottle is a great touch. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Because of the fluctuating tides here, Ocean Endeavour had to anchor a considerable distance offshore to ensure we wouldn’t bottom-out when the tide receded this afternoon. That translated into a 30-minute Zodiac ride through some considerable chop in order to reach our landing point for this morning. We got wet, but no one seemed to care: our Expedition Leader M.J. had warned everyone to don their waterproof pants and jackets; a must on any Expedition voyage.

Exploring the Reford Gardens. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Exploring the Reford Gardens. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

The Reford Gardens aren’t so dissimilar to the Butchart Gardens near Victoria, British Columbia, though they’re nowhere near as elaborate. Still, over 3,000 species of plants can be found in bloom here, the vast majority of which were introduced by Elsie Reford herself.
We spent an hour and a half walking through this tranquil paradise. The rain stayed at bay, though the mosquitoes were out in full-force.

Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Of particular interest were the Garden’s “Lambmowers” – herds of playful lambs that reside in a garden pasture next to the parking lot. This pasture used to be cut weekly using gas-powered mowers until the “Lambmowers” were introduced as an eco (and tourist)-friendly solution. The sheep, the Gardens note, are on-loan from the Ferme Agneaux Mitis in Sainte-Angele-de-Merici.

Lambmowers in action. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Lambmowers in action. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Heading back to the ship around 1300, our Zodiac driver stopped twice for us. Once, when we spotted a playful seal lurking just off our port side, and again when we spotted whales just off our bow. The great thing about Expedition cruises are diversions like these that allow us to view and take advantage of unexpected sightings like this.
With an afternoon of scenic cruising, lectures and enrichment classes ahead, this is a great time to take a deck-by-deck tour of the Ocean Endeavour’s public rooms!

The Ocean Endeavour

Adventure Canada's deck plans don't feature cabin numbers. Instead, guests select a specific category, and the company assigns them to a stateroom. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Adventure Canada’s deck plans don’t feature cabin numbers. Instead, guests select a specific category, and the company assigns them to a stateroom. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

One of the first things you’ll notice about the Adventure Canada brochure is that while the names of public areas have been listed, all of the cabin numbers have been removed. This is because Adventure Canada does not allow you to pick a specific stateroom. When you book, you book a category only, and the company places you within said category.

Different decks feature differently-coloured stateroom doors. It's a neat, unexpected touch. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Different decks feature differently-coloured stateroom doors. It’s a neat, unexpected touch. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Additionally, printed deckplans aren’t available onboard. This creates a lot of confusion among guests, as they’re not sure a) where their staterooms are and b) how their staterooms are related, spatially, to the rest of the ship.
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s start the tour:

DECK 4: The Mud Room

Ocean Endeavour's Mud Room is one of the best I've ever seen. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Ocean Endeavour’s Mud Room is one of the best I’ve ever seen. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Directional signage makes it easy to find your locker...Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Directional signage makes it easy to find your locker…Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

...which is big enough to house your Zodiac lifejacket, rubber boots, and even any wet gear you might want to leave here throughout the voyage. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

…which is big enough to house your Zodiac lifejacket, rubber boots, and even any wet gear you might want to leave here throughout the voyage. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Deck 4 is home to only one public room, and it’s more utilitarian than a socialisation spot. Still, there’s no underestimating the importance of the Mud Room on an expedition cruise ship. This one’s notable for being able to comfortably hold dozens of people at any given time, all of whom are changing in and out of lifejackets, rubber boots, and wet outer clothing. Guests are assigned a “locker” for the duration of the voyage, complete with hangars, hooks

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