This past summer we took a loop vacation from Southern Nova Scotia to Grand Manan, NB with our last stop in Cavendish, PEI before heading back. Part of the excitement of planning this trip was knowing how excited my kids were going to be to sail on all of the different ferries. They’ve not yet been on a real cruise ship but some of these ships felt like a Carnival Cruise for them. Here’s a rundown of the ships we traveled aboard.
“MV Fundy Rose”
Digby, NS – St. John, NB
Upon arrival in Digby for our first ferry ride of the day we checked in, explored the terminal and then headed back to the car to wait. Thankfully, it was a sunny day so we could walk around outside to burn off some energy. Our time had arrived to board and now that they’d seen the ferry, the kids were about to pop up out of their seats from the excitement.
This ship was so much better than I could have imagined. There were a couple different cafeterias. The one out on deck was our favourite. Their “Foghorn” coffee hit the spot. On this deck they had a table set up with all sorts of bits from the Bay of Fundy area. I believe the super well-informed woman at the table was a Marine Biology student. Just some of the items she had on display were a piece of baleen from a Minke whale that we could feel, an intricately designed basket made of porcupine quills – the way first nations from the area would have crafted it, and even a 500 million year old fossil of the Trilobyte – an ancient ancestor of the lobster. They had thought of everything for families including a basket of binoculars that we could borrow from and colouring sheets and crayons. Isaac zeroed in on the binoculars and was immediately on the lookout for whales and sharks. Though there are often whale sightings on this crossing, we didn’t see any that day. There is live music on each summer crossing. Here we were introduced to the musical talents of Hayley Ryerson. She had people up and dancing and sang a song just for Maddie. We were so impressed with her music we purchased the CD of her band “Kitchen Orkestra” and kept it on as the soundtrack throughout the rest of our trip to Grand Manan, NB and P.E.I. We were able to arrange a tour of the bridge which thrilled these kids! The Captain and crew patiently explained how all of the technology works and let them jump up into the Captain’s seat and “steer” the ship. Their day was made right then and there. We’re hoping to be able to sail aboard the M.V. Fundy Rose again next summer as it was pure entertainment from Port to Port.
IMPORTANT: Take note of where your car is and what staircase you take to go up. I thought I’d remember. I didn’t. We were the last to find our car, mere minutes before disembarking. Not at all embarrassing. Nope. Nope. Nope.
“MV Grand Manan V”
Black’s Harbour, NB to Grand Manan, NB
We had just over an hour to get from Saint John to Black’s Harbour to check in for the ferry to Grand Manan. According to Google Maps, the drive was 46 minutes. That meant that as long as traffic cooperated and after stopping for gas, we’d slide into the lot just in the nick of time. We checked in with 15 minutes to spare. On board we found a sweet little snack bar with home-style cooking, plus they had Froot Loops. Win/Win for this family! I enjoyed the fish chowder while the kids inhaled their 100% sugar cereal. I’d certainly become more lax on the nutritional value of their food during this trip. The decks gave plenty of opportunity for them to burn it off while keeping a keen eye for whales, sharks and seals. The scenery was breathtaking from beginning to end. There was a children’s play room as well which would be a great benefit during rainy crossings. While exploring, a crew member saw the kids excited faces and asked if they wanted to see the bridge. They absolutely jumped at the opportunity. Again they were able to sit up in the Captain’s chair and “steer” the ship as well as checking out the radar. The crew were very friendly and also gave us some tips for Grand Manan. As we pulled into the harbour we were greeted by some whales! Everyone was so distracted by the whales that we were all racing to our vehicles at the last minute. But hey! At least I remembered where I left the car this time.
“MV Manan Adventure”
Grand Manan, NB to Black’s Harbour, NB
We took the M.V. Manan Adventure on our return. If you are given the choice between ferries to and from Grand Manan, choose this one. The other ship was great but this one is much newer, felt more spacious and had more modern amenities. We found a large children’s playroom with a climber and a TV with “Treehouse” playing. There were several, comfortable lounge areas. One section held a collection of theatre style seats and a television. The cafeteria was large with a wide variety of snacks. Being the creatures of habit we are, we opted for the Froot Loops and Fish Chowder again. Yum!! The booths were comfortable and had beautiful views. There was ample space for the kids to safely burn off their energy on the upper deck, along with plenty of seating to enjoy the views. I was thoroughly impressed with the cleanliness of the ship. We could’ve stayed on this ferry for a couple more hours.
“M.V. Holiday Island”
Woods Island, PEI – Caribou, Nova Scotia
We took the Confederation Bridge to Prince Edward Island and opted to take the ferry from the Island back to Nova Scotia. Regardless of whether the bridge or ferry is taken, payment is only made upon leaving PEI. The ferry was about $30 more than the bridge, but the experience on board certainly made it worth it. Nearby the ferry terminal there is a large climber, picnic area and restaurant. We’d bought some fresh strawberries from a roadside stand to snack on during the crossing. As soon as we boarded we headed straight to the top deck, snagged some seats and ate every strawberry before the ship moved a foot. PEI Strawberries for the win! We were able to sneak in for a tour of the bridge of this ship, too. The crew were very welcoming and let both kids “steer” this one as well. Isaac was so proud that he knew the answers to the questions they asked about the radar. After the tour, we hit the cafeteria. An order of chicken fingers, a hot dog with delicious fries and fish chowder came to just $20. After being on the road for over a week, that price made my wallet very happy. There was a sampling available from Nova Scotia’s Hardy Wares Preserves. I love that each crossing has a sampling from a local company. We purchased 3 jars of yummy Carrot Cake Jam to take home. We heard some music, searched it out and found Lester MacPherson, “PEI’s Country Gentleman” entertaining the crowd. Maddie danced and danced to “Sonny’s Dream” and “Me and Bobby McGee” until he strummed his last chord of the day. She took her own money that she’d been saving and with her most serious face, bought one of his CD’s. When we return to PEI, we’ll be sure to take the ferry again.
Note: You can save 40% by taking the ferry to PEI and driving the bridge to leave instead of the other way around.
That’s the roundup of the ferries we were able to travel on this past summer. Each ship has kept families in mind as they all offer kid-friendly foods and play areas. While they were all educational and very entertaining, the MV Fundy Rose was an adventure wrapped inside of an adventure for our little family. Maybe this summer we can manage a Newfoundland getaway and escape aboard the MV Atlantic Vison for the 178 km, 7 hour long ferry from North Sydney, NS to Port aux Basques, NL!