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ALEX HARROLD: Our tourism rub

One Ocean Expeditions has added a new ship to it's operations, RCGS Resolute, will start it's service in November 2018. The announcement was made in Sydney, Nova Scotia where the ships for the northern cruises will be refueled and provisioned.
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Newfoundland and Labrador tourism sure has come a long way in the last 35 years.

For starters, we routinely have cruise ships coming in. Cruise ships! You know, those titanic, mostly white, floating palaces of fine dining, balcony-riddled staterooms, casinos and huge tips, mainly associated with sailing the crystal blue waters of the Caribbean or entering the Strait of Gibraltar into the Mediterranean, whose colour I wouldn't know, seeing as I've never been there.

Yep, if you live on the Avalon, you might think you were from Monte Carlo, or the south of France, or northern Italy; anyplace other than an outport in this province. As if we didn't have enough things to distinguish we from dey, now we should add tourism to that list.

Oh, there has been a cruise ship or two come into Corner Brook in recent summers, but it's more like a sympathy stop on their part rather than an opportunity to open up the “wilds” of the island to any tourists ravenous for that kind of experience.

That's not to say there isn't a lot going on out here. There truly is.

We have many choices among the community theatre groups that showcase some of best talent anywhere. There are music festivals and celebrations that run all summer everywhere that are moderately priced compared to the high level of entertainment they provide, which also offer unique and sometimes forgotten stories of our history to a larger audience. No, the problem is not related to what's available. The problem is in getting here conveniently and staying here without spending more time and money than the cost of two cruises.

Take flying. For those of us out this way, that means Deer Lake Airport.

There are more very early or very late flights than there are flights during actual daylight hours. It's a difficult time at 5:30 a.m. to fly out if you have to leave home at 1:30 a.m. to be there in time.

The terminal is beautiful, but flying in and out of there is challenging. There is a specific challenge if you have any kind of mobility issue, because about the only way they can load and unload folks who can't use stairs is by physically carrying you. There is one ramp that fits one size plane, but carrying is the usual method. We now drive all the way to St. John's in order to catch a flight. Flyers needing assistance seem not to bother flying through Deer Lake as far as I can tell, an observation I passed on to airport management.

A more general problem affecting all passengers is flight times. There are more very early or very late flights than there are flights during actual daylight hours. It's a difficult time at 5:30 a.m. to fly out if you have to leave home at 1:30 a.m. to be there in time. Flights that arrive at midnight or later have the same dark-driving issue, putting many people at risk who have to drive when they should be sleeping.

So, why drive? Why not stay at a hotel at either end, you ask? Costs.

The folks who drive those middle-of-the-night hours may not be willing to pay $130-$150 a night for a hotel room in Deer Lake, and there's some justification for that decision. It was after dark when the last flight we were on came into Deer Lake, so we stayed at a chain hotel that night for $139 per night. The curious thing was, before we left Edmonton, we stayed at the same chain hotel the night before for $109 per night. The response I got from the desk clerk when I inquired as to why there was a $30 difference between the same chain hotel 24 hours apart, was, “I don't know, but we're full all of the time.”

The subject of using the ferry never arose in the above narrative. Folks who visit us from afar have given up on that option.

Good for them. Less so for you.

The subject of using the ferry never arose in the above narrative. Folks who visit us from afar have given up on that option.

At over $600 round trip for two people with a car and a cabin, the ferry is not a viable consideration. Friends and family that enjoyed coming to visit every year have opted instead to come every other year, or even less frequently. Some have suggested we should meet up on a yearly cruise, as opposed to them making the trip to our outport.

Wouldn't it be ironic if we cruised into St. John's together, on something we can afford? If we do that, it's not likely our friends will be spending many tourist dollars out this way. Ay, there's the rub!

Alex Harrold is a retired teacher and attorney, living in Westport with his wife, Eileen.

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