September 3, 2020
This blog was written by Adam Barrett in partnership with Bay Ferries.
There’s no doubt that this year, travel is a little different. Most of us are staying close to home, choosing not to venture out of the Atlantic Bubble — and it’s easy to understand why. Beyond the Maritimes being beautiful, it’s also one of the safest places in the world to be at this time. Of course, when you live somewhere, it can be hard to shift your perspective from “local” to “tourist”. But if you let yourself embrace full tourist mode, you’ll be in for a treat. That’s what I did in August when I set sail aboard Fundy Rose for the first time ever.
Since the Atlantic Bubble opened, I’ve been exploring more of Atlantic Canada. So when I heard Fundy Rose had a special walk-on rate for same-day return trips, I thought it might be a cool way to spend the day. So, I booked my passage and hit the road to Digby. Along the way, I gassed up at Irving Oil and learned a little bit about the Unforgettable Ocean Road Trip.
This is a really cool partnership between Bay Ferries, Northumberland Ferries and Irving Oil that provides round-trip passengers travelling by vehicle aboard Fundy Rose with a $25 Irving Oil gift card. You can use it to top up your tank, buy snacks (like their delicious banana bread) for the road, or to stop in for a meal at one of the iconic Big Stop restaurants.
My drive to Digby brought me through the Annapolis Valley — one of the most scenic spots in all the Maritimes. I was so taken by the views, I wanted nothing more than to pull over and snap a million photos, but I didn’t want to miss the boat! I’ll definitely be back.
Something I’ve really grown to appreciate these days is order. I like seeing clear directions and easy-to-follow guidelines. And Bay Ferries did not disappoint. The ferry terminal in Digby features clear signage to ensure you know where to go and what to do when you arrive. The staff were incredibly friendly and answered all my questions. In return, I was more than happy to answer their passenger screening questions. It was a simple process, and after, I was ready to board Fundy Rose.
Once aboard, I was once again really impressed with how much care they’re taking to make sure passengers are comfortable. Aisles and seating are clearly marked, and everyone I saw moving throughout the ship was wearing their mask. And it’s at this point that I have to admit on one occasion I got up and left my mask at my seat (we’re all new to this!). Luckily, a staff member quickly let me know, and as I retrieved my mask, they gave me a thumbs up. Again, it’s really nice to see staff taking such care to ensure all passengers are safe and comfortable.
Since this was my first time travelling on Fundy Rose, I wanted to get a sense of the ship, and it was easy for me to explore. I saw the movie theatre, where blockbusters for young and old alike are screened. I also visited the Crow’s Nest, an upper deck with plenty of seating and fantastic views of the Bay of Fundy. While I was out and about, I stopped at the tourist information booth, where I learned about all of the awesome things the Yarmouth & Acadian Shores offer. In addition, I learned about six different ways to make rappie pie, all of which I can’t wait to try out!
The ship also has an interesting display dedicated to its namesake, Rose Fortune.
If you’re not familiar with her, Rose Fortune was quite the character. She was an entrepreneur and businesswoman, the first female police officer in Canada, and an important figure along the shores of the Bay of Fundy. You can learn more about Rose Fortune and her enduring legacy here.
After my drive and time spent exploring the ship, I was certainly ready for a bite to eat. Luckily, Fundy Rose has partnered with Sip Cafe to offer delicious food and drinks on board. If you’ve spent any time in or around Yarmouth, you’re no doubt familiar with Sip Cafe. A town staple, Sip Cafe started behind the City Drugstore on Main Street, and grew to become a favourite of locals and travellers alike. Today, they operate a second location in Meteghan, as well as the brand new Sip Cafe on Fundy Rose.
As you might expect these days, their maiden voyage on Fundy Rose wasn’t quite what they had in mind. Opening on April 1, they spent much of their time during those early days offering free food to essential workers (mostly long haul truck drivers travelling aboard the Ferry). “It was the least we could do,” said Rachelle LeBlanc, the Chief Operations Manager I struck up a conversation with while enjoying a turkey brie panini. Rachelle told me all about the Sip Cafe, its history, and their big plans for their Fundy Rose location. She also told me they offer 75 different tea types and source all their ingredients locally from the Yarmouth area.
I have to say, the turkey brie panini was absolutely delicious. I think the thing that really made it stand out was the dollop of bacon basil mayo that added serious flavour. I wasn’t surprised when Rachelle told me it was made right on board Fundy Rose, along with the oatcakes and energy bars (which I grabbed for a snack — after all, you can never have enough snacks!).
As we chatted, Rachelle also had a question for me, one that I’ve never been asked before. “Have you tried a Dirty Hippy?”
I wasn’t quite sure what she meant, so she repeated, “A Dirty Hippy! You have to try a Dirty Hippy. It’s a Sip specialty!” As someone who doesn’t drink a lot — if any — coffee, I was skeptical. But, I was trying new things. I was on an adventure. So, why not? I ordered a Dirty Hippy, which is a shot of espresso, chai, and steamed milk. I took my first sip, and I have to be honest… it was really tasty! The next time you’re on board, be sure to order one for yourself.
And with that, Dirty Hippy in hand, I made my way back out on deck to snap some photos and take in the beautiful views.
While I was on deck, I overheard a few other passengers talking about how they had seen Minke whales and dolphins earlier in our journey! I admit I was disappointed I missed them. Still, I thought it was really cool to learn that it was possible to see these fantastic creatures during a typical crossing. I’ll have to keep my eyes peeled next time!
I’m old enough to remember what a thrill it was to be invited to the cockpit to meet the captain when flying on a plane. It was a moment I never forgot as a child, and, evidently, it’s something I still think is pretty cool as a full-grown adult. After all, I don’t think I’ve ever smiled so wide as when I was told I could visit Captain David Doucet up on the bridge of Fundy Rose.
Captain Doucet is an interesting and lively man, to say the least. He had a million stories, each funnier than the last. These are the kind of stories that come from simply spending over 40 years aboard ships. He told me about sailing Fundy Rose across the Atlantic from Greece (where it once ferried Greek tourists between Mediterranean islands). He explained why it’s such a smooth-sailing vessel (stabilizer fins). And, he was happy to oblige when I asked the most important question of all — can I sit in the Captain’s chair?
And that’s how, for a brief moment, I felt like I was a sea captain aboard a vessel that has seen parts of the world I can only dream of.
It was an adventure I’ll remember for a long time.
Between the conversations, the views, the food, the exploration, and the Captain’s visit, my trip on Fundy Rose to Saint John and back came and went in a hurry. Before I knew it, we were once again pulling into Digby’s dock, and my adventure had come to an end. I was really impressed by the entire experience, and I felt safe and comfortable the whole ride. I sampled delicious food, had a chance to see two provinces from the water, and met some great people — a perfect summer adventure!
Adam Barrett is a travel writer and recovering homebody. He lives in Halifax with his partner, Sarah, their cat, Margaret, and world-famous dogs, Percy and Dolly Doodle. </em