Une Destination Toute Naturelle
Our first morning aboard Adventure Canada’s Ocean Endeavour began with our wake-up call at 0700 hours. While expedition cruises are relaxed in terms of dress code, they’re highly regimented creatures when it comes to scheduling, and today was no exception. Fortunately, though, these early wake-up calls are all in the interest of making the most of your expedition.
Officially, breakfast was served in the Polaris Restaurant from 0700 until 0830 (the 24-hour clock is utilised onboard Ocean Endeavour). Having said that, I talked to a few guests who claimed to have ate later than this, so your mileage may vary. Still, the vast majority of the ship seemed to already be in the Restaurant when I bumbled down, in desperate need of coffee, at 0720.
On offer this morning were all the standard cruise ship breakfast staples: breads, cheeses, cold cuts, fruits, yogurt, sausage, bacon, eggs, grilled tomatoes…you name it. While there’s nothing revolutionary here, there’s nothing wrong with the classics, either. With an open-seating arrangement, you simply take your breakfast (served buffet-style) to your table, where hot coffee and fruit juices are served by your waiter.
After breakfast, it was aft to the Nautilus Lounge on Deck 6 to hear Expedition Team member Pierre Richard speak on the subject of mammals of the St. Lawrence. It’s an appropriate topic, considering the Ocean Endeavour was tucked comfortably within the Saguenay Fjord for the better part of the morning.
Throughout the morning, we spent some time scenic cruising the Fjord, which reminds me a lot of Alaska’s Tracy Arm Fjord without the glaciers. It’s not as grand as say, Norway’s Geirangerfjord, but it is every bit as beautiful, with tree-lined peaks stretching as far as the eye can see.
Much of this morning was spent in the Nautilus Lounge, with a mandatory Expedition Briefing on proper Zodiac raft procedures. The crowd was definitely getting antsy, as the sun that had graced us for the better part of the morning seemed to be on the verge of fading altogether. And it’s here that we hit one of the contradictions of the first few days of an expedition cruise: everyone wants to be out on deck, but there are important briefings to be done.
To the credit of the Expedition Team, they’re really good. There’s also more members onboard this voyage than on most of my past expedition cruises, which is noteworthy: with nearly 200 guests onboard, this increased expedition staff ensures guests receive rather personalised attention. The one thing that bugs me – and it’s a personal preference – is the number of announcements over the P.A made by the Expedition Staff. There are so many announcements over the public address system that at times it actually cuts off the lecturers mid-presentation.
As a side-note, this is a good time to mention the crew of the Ocean Endeavour. These charter agreements – like Adventure Canada has with this ship – always make me leery; at the end of the day, Adventure Canada doesn’t employ the ship’s staff, nor do they directly control the vessel. It’s something that has caused other operators great grief in the past.
Here, though, that isn’t an issue. Many of the staff onboard the Ocean Endeavour have been specifically requested by Adventure Canada, and all of the staff members I’ve encountered – from my stateroom attendant Miguel to dining room steward Brooks to bar steward Jerald – has been pleasant, helpful and personable. They’re superstars.
Tendering to Tadoussac
After lunch we arrived at our first true expedition stop: Tadoussac, Quebec. This is where Adventure Canada truly shines: scouting out unique locations like this, and making the experience ashore into something really special.
Tadoussac was one of the first fur trading outposts in North America. The First Nations peoples here traded with Jacques Cartier in 1535, and Samuel de Champlain nearly 70 years later, in 1603. Today, it’s a seasonal resort destination, understandably popular during summer months such as this. But five hundred years ago, nearly 50 ships at a time could be crammed into the harbour, all waiting to offload their furs.
At 1400 hours, we began to proceed ashore via the ship’s nimble Zodiac rafts. Guests are divided into groups, indicated by a coloured sticker affixed to the back of their keycard. My colour is white.
On the sticker is a number. This corresponds to your designated locker in the Mud Room on Deck 4, which is the la