My latest “Road Trip With Bradley” celebrates Canadian Ice Cream – the “Perfect Scoop of Deliciousness”. I traveled throughout Southern Ontario over 2 days, visiting some of the most popular Ice Cream Dairy Bars.
Canadians are Ice Cream FANATICS – 90% of us savour this tasty, frozen treat during summer months.
Whether scooped into a bowl or piled into a cone, Ice Cream is THE awesome Canadian summer delicacy.
Canadians have many quirky ice cream habits.
Our preferred flavour – VANILLA – yes, its the best seller!
The most popular time for Canadians to reach for an ice cream cone – between the hours of 2 and 4pm.
A Canadian Ice Cream themed postage stamp was released in 2019. The stamp featured “Blue Ice Cream” topped of a cone.
The ice cream dairy bars I am featuring, all serve the good stuff. Most of these community icons have been tantalizing our tastebuds for decades.
During the hot and humid days of summer – why don’t you Cool Down – Ditch the Diet and Reward Yourself with a Scoop of Deliciousness!
There are a number of Ice Cream Dairy Bars located throughout Southern Ontario so you won’t have to travel far to get your Canadian ice cream fix.
Shaws Ice Cream
6598 Sunset Drive
Shaws Ice Cream Dairy Bar has been in operation since 1948. The location of this iconic Dairy Bar is the best – just a short drive from touristy, Port Stanley beach. Shaws produces 45 flavours of HARD ice cream in their St. Thomas facility. The good news is you don’t have to drive to St. Thomas in order to taste Shaws Irresistable Ice Cream. It’s available in select speciality shops and grocery stores throughout Ontario. A few months ago I was browsing in the Parion Animal Nutrition store in the farming community of Hickson. A young farmer saw me eying the tubs of Shows Ice Cream. He came over and told me Shaws Ice Cream is his favourite – his go to flavour is “Grammy’s Cupboard”. Shaws produces a quality ice cream – fresh 100% Canadian Dairy Cream is the main ingredient. Your biggest challenge will be deciding which flavour to choose – Betty’s Blueberry Cheesecake, Saturday Morning Cartoons, Double Stuffed Cookie…. Yummy!
Bartley’s Dairy Bar
853 Dundas Street
Bartley’s is the favourite ice cream bar in Woodstock. This Dundas Street landmark has been in operation since 1971. Bartley’s sells quality, vanilla soft-serve ice cream along with frozen yogurt. I highly recommend their seasonal toppings – local maple syrup, strawberries, peaches…. Delectable!
Erie Drive In
634 Erie Street
Erie Drive In has been in operation since the 50’s. You can’t miss its distinctive, nostalgic sign. This popular, Drive In has a dedicated, soft serve ice cream order window. Its also possible to pre-order ice cream tubs and ice cream sandwiches. Tasty!
10 King George Road
Dairee Delight has thrilled ice cream lovers for over 60 years. Originally known as Koster’s Cream-EEE-Freeze, the name changed to Dairee Delight in 1965. When I was a kid it was the ultimate treat when my parents bought me an ice cream cone from Dairee Delite. This festive looking, Dairy Bar specializes in Delites such as – Hot Fudge Brownie, Supreme, Peanut Butter Triple Threat. Mmmm!
Paris Twisted Treats
79 King Edward Street
Paris Twisted Treats is owned by a Mother and Son team. On hot summer days join the line to purchase their seasonal offerings such as fresh strawberry and butter tart sundaes (very Canadian). For hard ice cream lovers they have opened a NEW location in the downtown core of Paris. They named it, “What’s The Scoop”. Mouthwatering!
Four All Ice Cream Scoop Shop
75 King Street South
Four All Ice Cream was established in 2016. In order to handcraft the highest quality, all natural product, they operate the smallest dairy plant in Ontario. Four All Ice Cream will appease the pickiest ice cream connoisseur. Small batch flavours rotate so snap them up while you can – Queen of Roses, Honey Chamomile, Chocolate Lavender, Tiger Tail, Beer and Brownies. The name Four All was inspired by the owners family’s ice cream preferences – Classic, Vegan, Childhood and Foodie. Succulent!
Bradley’s Ice Cream Storing Tip
In order to keep a tub of ice cream fresher longer, once opened place a sheet of wax paper directly on the ice cream before you put the lid back on and place it in the freezer. This will help prevent crystallization. Another way to prevent crystallization – store the ice cream tub upside down in your freezer. Keeping a tub of ice cream fresh is not a typical problem because true Canadians will “devour” it long before crystallization forms!
During these crazy COVID times we all need ways to unwind. Relax by heading out on the open road in order to take in some stunning Ontario countryside views.
Tucked up 90 minutes west of Toronto is Ontario’s largest Old Order Mennonite/Amish region. You need to plan on a “minimum” of a half day in order to explore this wonderful destination.
I spent a few days driving throughout the area in order to research and compile this blog post. My post should provide you with all the details you need – you aren’t going to find much additional information on-line.
A good place to start your adventure is at the Tim Hortons in St. Jacobs, Ontario. It’s exterior isn’t typical – it nicely fits in with the look of this touristy town. Grab a coffee before you hit the road.
1229 King Street N
Set your GPS to direct you to the Kissing Bridge in West Montrose (15 minutes). On the way you may wish to stop at Picard Peanuts (3011 Sawmill Road, St Jacobs). You will pass through the community of Conestogo.
Built in 1881, the West Montrose Covered Bridge is also known as the Kissing Bridge. This historic treasure which spans the Grand River is an area landmark. Its a “back in time moment” when you drive over it. This is the last “wooden” covered bridge in Ontario and the oldest such bridge in Canada. Last year it was featured on a Canadian Postage stamp. Once you drive over it you will see a parking lot to the left where you can park and then walk back to the bridge in order to get your selfie pictures. You will admire the community of West Montrose – its filled with charming homes.
West Montrose Covered Bridge –
1 Covered Bridge Drive West Montrose
Next I suggest you continue to the small town of Floradale (20 minutes). Here in the heart of Mennonite Country you will find Hillcrest Home Baking and General Store. The bake shop is in the rear of the general store – its pretty tiny so during these times, only 1 person is allowed in at a time. The shelves are typically packed with reasonably priced, freshly baked goods. You can see the bakers at work in a small kitchen. I recommend you purchase their home made donuts and delicious bread. Gentleman, if you’d like a Mennonite felt hat they sell a variety of them. They only accept cash.
Hillcrest Bakery and General Store
2192 Floradale Road
In the small town of Floradale you’ll also find Bonnie Lou’s Cafe – 2238 Floradale Road and Earlidale Meats – 2065 Floradale Road.
Next, travel to the hamlet of Yatton – along the way you will by-pass the community of Elmira. Don’t be surprised when your GPS directs you down a gravel road or two. Chances are good that you will encounter some horse and buggy traffic. Yatton is a VERY small place – one of those “if you wink you’ll miss it” communities. Yatton Bakery is very unique spot – its located in the back of quaint home. On Fridays they bake tarts.
The Wallenstein General Store is also close by. Its a fun place to visit so make it your next stop. The town post office is located in this Old Order Mennonite shop. Men are bound to find something to purchase (hardware/farm supplies) while the ladies search through fabrics and bulk foods. Grab an ice cream cone and take in the action as you take a seat on the front porch.
Wallenstein General Store Inc
7278 Line 86
About 30 minutes away is your next stop – picturesque Millbank, Ontario.
Here you find Millbank Cheese and Butter (great tasting aged cheddar) – been in operation since 1908 – owned by a number of local families.
Millbank Cheese and Butter
6974 Church Street
Its worth visiting Millbank Family Furniture – handcrafted by local craftsman. This impressive, new location just opened.
Millbank Family Furniture
4044 Perth County Line 72
Most travel to Millbank in order to visit Anna Maes Bakery and Restaurant. Their speciality is Broasted Chicken (marinated and deep fried in a pressure cooker) and this time of year, their Strawberry Pie is available and I highly recommend it. To keep the public safe with distancing measures they creatively offer “Scooter Service – Contactless Pickup” – their parking lot is typically filled with customers waiting in their cars for their order to be delivered by a staff member riding a scooter!
Anna Maes Bakery and Restaurant
4060 72, Millbank, Ontario
Scooter Service Orders – 519-595-4407 or 519-616-0466
Continue onwards to Milverton but along the way consider making a stop in Newton at Creekville Bulk Foods. I don’t think your GPS is going to be able to direct you this this stop, which is located on a secondary country road. You may need to look at a map in order to figure out how to get there. There isn’t even a store sign at the end of the farms long driveway. They cater to the areas Old Old Amish and Mennonites but the owners were more than happy to see us. In their small shop (no electricity), I purchased pure peanut butter, instant yeast, popcorn kernels and an excellent health book called, “Be Your Own Doctor”. They carry both Canadian and American popcorn varieties. When I asked the owner he told me his favourite popcorn variety is from “Weaver Popcorn” (World’s Largest Popcorn Supplier). Congratulate yourself if you find this “out-of-the-way”, unique stop.
4497 Line 67
Canada’s largest Amish settlement is found within the communities of Milverton and Millbank.
You should plan to take this scenic drive on a Friday so you can purchase melt-in-your-mouth, Fry Pies from the “Lil Fry Pie Shoppe” in Milverton. Its not unusual to see a sold-out sign on their door by noon, so you are best to call in advance to pre-reserve. Everyone has their favourite fry pie filling but I think the best ones, are cherry and blueberry. They are priced at $3. each or $27. a dozen. These freeze well so don’t hesitate – buy a dozen! You’ll be pleased that contactless service is offered – you stand on the sidewalk and their staff opens a small storefront window in order to pass you your order. I believe this is another cash only shop. They also sell well-regarded, Baden Coffee if you’d like a cup to go along with your fry-pie.
Lil Fry Pie Shoppe
32 Main St, N
Across the road (no sign but its obvious) is Guenther’s Bakery. They have been in business for over 100 years. If you don’t see the baked goods you are hoping to purchase on their shelves, be sure to ask them. You’ll luck out if their cream puffs are available. Cash only.
39 Main Street N
Down the street is Mennomex Mexican Variety and Take Out. This is a fantastic place to purchase salsas, hot sauce, unique candies, tortillas and hard to find Mexican ingredients.
Mennomex Mexican Variety and Take Out
55 Main St S
By now you’ll probably be very hungry. Set your GPS to Wellesley, the home of Schmidtsville Restaurant. Place your order before leaving Milverton and by the time you arrive in Wellesley (20 minutes) it will be ready for you. As you enter you’ll see a desk where you will pay for your order – you’ll then continue into the next room for pick up. They offer regular portion specials for $13.99 – includes meat/potato/hot vegetable/slice of homemade pie (recommend the Hawaiian) and soda. There is a town park across the road with picnic tables.
3685 Nafziger Road
519-656-2430 (extension 3 for ordering)
If fish n chips are more to your liking, continue to Scran and Dram, Scottish Public House in New Hamburg, ON. Take-out is available from 11am.
Scan and Dram Scottish Public House
338 Waterloo Street
While in the beautiful town of New Hamburg be sure to stop by, “The Garden Stand” and tell my friend, Chef Adam Brenner that I sent you. His freshly grown garlic is now available. During this time 2 customers are allowed in his store at a time but to keep distanced you can call, place your order and they will bring it to your car. If Adams Strawberry/Lavender cold soup is available grab it – its more delicious than a milkshake. All his made from scratch soups taste superb but so does his hummus, coleslaw, salad dressings…..
The Garden Stand
90 Wilmot Street, Unit B
Once you depart the Garden Stand you are just a couple minutes from Highway 7/8 – 20 minutes to Kitchener.
You might consider a detour towards the town of Tavistock in order to visit with Brian and Cindy Larson at Quehl’s Restaurant (official caterer at the Walters Theatre). If you are lucky they may be selling fresh Strawberry Cream Puffs and Peach Hand Pies. On Friday’s for $11.99 you can select from local favourites – Pigtails, Rolled Ribs (highly recommend) or Cabbage Rolls. Call in advance to pre-order.
33 Woodstock St S
Of course you can take in these countryside views without making a stop.
At the end of many farm driveways, locals place coolers filled with water/soda – sold for $1.00. Freshly picked flowers from their picture-perfect gardens are available too – only $2.00 for a bouquet of Sweet Williams.
Trust me – once you visit a bakery along this route, you’ll want to stop at all of them. By the time you head home your trunk will be filled with tasty goodies.
I just wanted to send off a quick note to wish all the Fathers a terrific day!
I sincerely hope you and your family are doing as best as you can during these strange times.
Many have asked when I’m going to announce future “Travel With Bradley” Journeys.
I know you are anxious to start traveling again but we have to wait until the “time is right”.
Many of us live to travel. It’s our passion but currently there are too many travel unknowns and a lot of conditions to consider.
The Canadian government hasn’t given us the green light so we must avoid non-essential travel outside of Canada. The Canada/US border remains closed to travelers. Our neighbouring Canadian provinces have many travel restrictions in place. Some European countries are starting to “open”, but that doesn’t mean that Canadians are currently on their guest list.
Until there is a cure or vaccine in place, Travel Insurance that covers COVID-19 illnesses will be a travel necessity.
We all need something to look forward to. This is essential to create personal experiences that give life meaning.
Every great journey starts with a dream. This is the time to simulate your senses and awake your imagination.
As always I love to hear from you so keep in touch.
When we beat COVID how do we want the world to be?
Yesterday was the first time in 9 years that astronauts departed from U.S. soil. Space tourism will eventually become a reality. How exciting especially for todays younger generation. Many of them are now inspired and some will possibly have the opportunity to travel to space.
Isn’t it wonderful hearing a good news story. I think we can all agree that there aren’t enough of them right now.
It’s Sunday morning and I am currently sitting on my front porch soaking in the sun as I write this blog post. I’m thankful for this beautiful day. I’ve lived in my current home for a number of years but today is one of the few times I’ve sat out on that porch. I typically listen to the morning news when I get up and then there is always work to be done but today I decided I needed a break from those unbelievable news headlines.
I was disappointed in myself a few days ago. I was expecting a couple parcels. When they didn’t arrive as scheduled I was frustrated. The day after – still no parcels. The day after that – I wondered if they will ever arrive. I sat on the phone for hours trying to find out the status.
That same day I received an email and although I recognized the senders name, it took me a few minutes to place who that person was. I’ve met hundreds of people from all over the world but its impossible to keep in touch with everyone. The young gentleman that wrote me is the Taxi driver I hired many years ago in order to show me around his beautiful country named, Bali. This was the second time he has written. The first time was the day before his wedding. He was so excited and wanted to share the news. This time it was a – “How Are You” – during these times letter. How wonderful that someone who barely speaks English, from a land far away took the time to “share a little kindness”.
I emailed the shipping supervisor who was trying to locate my parcels and apologized. I came to my senses and realized those parcels can wait. There is a pandemic going on and most workers and businesses are just “trying to do their best”.
That young guy from Bali made me realize I can do better. I have started going through travel files in order to find emails/addresses. I now devote some time everyday sending “how are you” messages to tour companies, Coach companies, tour guides, hoteliers, theatre owners/entertainers, restaurant owners and more from all over the world.
I know so many who are struggling. I am most familiar with the entertainment and travel industries because I’m involved in both. Those industries have been brought to their knees because of the pandemic.
Social Media posts are turning brutal. I’d ignore social media if I could but its important for me to spend hours on-line so can keep up to date with the latest industry developments.
Six Flags amusement parks are opening shortly in locations throughout the USA. Opening during a pandemic is not an easy task. The owners want to protect both ticket holders and their staff. You are therefore required to wear a mask when working or visiting the park. Instead of reading encouraging “we wish you the best” or “we are excited you are opening for us”, social media is filled with hurtful messages from season pass holders saying that they “want their money back” and are “never returning” – why? – because they have to wear a mask….
Many of you have visited Pigeon Forge, TN with me and the finest theatre production in town is “Smoky Mountain Opry”. They just announced they will be closed for 2020 as its impossible for them to adhere to social distancing protocols. Theatres throughout the world have closed.
We are fortunate to have a national airline in our country. Air Canada has opened the world to us. Without that airline, travel will be much more difficult and prices will skyrocket. Social media posters are not supporting Air Canada.
A young entrepreneur from Fredericton, NB has diversified his clothing manufacturing business and has produced a line of designer masks. Some started posting on social media platforms he is a hoax and doesn’t exist.
When we eventually beat COVID how do we want to world to be?
I’d like the opportunity to once again visit Six Flags, Smoky Mountain Opry, fly on Air Canada and support a young entrepreneur’s clothing line in Fredericton.
If my favourite family-run restaurant is shut down, businesses are boarded up and the attractions I look forward to visiting every year are gone – its going to be a major letdown.
Let’s face it these aren’t easy times. Many are struggling not just to pay their mortgage but to put a meal on the table. The Canadian government has come out with many helpful programs but they aren’t available to all. Many small businesses do not quality. Many business owners may not see a paycheck for many months but even without an income they are trying to appease customers.
Let’s make a difference – I think we can!
Consider writing positive social media reviews about businesses that aren’t able to open right now – skip writing negative ones.
Share positive news about these businesses with friends and family.
Follow their social media posts and engage some positive online conversation.
Sign up for their newsletters/blogs/updates.
Consider offering to help them during these times by volunteering your time.
Send them a “How Are You” encouraging message. Let them know you anxiously wait for them to re-open.
When I woke this morning I couldn’t stop humming, Glen Campbell’s “Try A Little Kindness”.
Let’s spread more of that kindness and possibly we will can eventually wake up to more “Good News” headlines.
As the world pauses, everyday I hear from one or more of my family of travellers. I so appreciate you keeping in touch.
Many of you have emailed me your favourite travel pictures. Those shots have brought back awesome memories so “thank you”.
I’ve heard some of you are missing my blog posts so I’ll gladly continue to write at times during this “no travel” period.
I was joking with a good friend by telling her that due to COVID-19, I feel like I’ve been forced into early retirement but she quickly corrected me and said I’m on sabbatical!
The last tour group I hosted returned to Toronto from Dubai on March 9th. That was an AWESOME journey but I was relieved when we returned back to Canada because the world was just starting to shut down.
Part way during the journey my passengers and I toured the spectacular city of Abu Dhabi and we noticed nothing unusual. I even nabbed a, “Tim Hortons” grand opening invite for all of us which was great fun.
The next day was a free one. I hired a private driver so I could inspect some ultra-deluxe hotels and attractions. Surprisingly overnight Abu Dhabi had literally turned into a ghost town. I asked my driver what was going on and he explained that Covid-19 news was starting to make the front page headlines and even though it wasn’t mandated, the scary reports frazzled the locals so much they were staying at home. The highways were almost void of cars. In order to detect body temperature, thermal imagining devices suddenly appeared in the posh hotels and attraction entrances. It was eerie walking through the massive Marina Shopping Mall because there was next to no shoppers. I literally had the place to myself.
When my group arrived back in Dubai I once again met with some hotel sales people and they were concerned as travel groups and convention attendees were cancelling their travels last minute. Hotel occupancies which should have been near 100 percent were all of a sudden looking grim. The yearly Dubai “Pepsi” convention which draws worldwide delegates was abruptly called off that day which was the day before it was to start.
Our Emirates flight from Dubai to Toronto was scheduled to take-off just after 3am so we departed by motor coach for the airport around midnight. After we arrived at the airport I learned that the Dubai cruise port had just been shut down. We were getting out of the UAE in the nick of time. We were mysteriously moved from one check-in line to another. I could tell the airport workers were starting to get anxious about the unsettling Covid-19 news. Extra check-in security measures for foreigners were now in place. I didn’t relax until our plane was in the air. I then knew I was going to get my passengers back to Canada!
Soon after we arrived on Canada soil, Prime Minister Trudeau told travelling Canadians it was time to get home. Some took that request seriously while others ignored him. That was almost 7 weeks ago. When we returned to Canada, it wasn’t mandatory to self-isolate for 14 days but I along with my passengers decided to protect others by staying home.
Like almost everyone I’m not thrilled with the current situation but I’ve accepted that home is the safest place to be right now. I have no problem keeping busy so the weeks fly by.
I continue to “fine tune” my cooking skills! I make a point to eat very healthy. Everyday I enjoy a homemade bowl of soup. I can’t get over how much olive oil I’ve gone through! I typically purchase olive oil from small farm producers when I travel to Greece, Portugal and Italy but my stock-pile of that high quality product, is already running pretty low. Every once in a while for a treat, I devour a bowl of Indiana Amish grown popcorn which I top with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and black pepper – be sure to try that combo but in order to avoid a mess this concoction needs to be eaten with a spoon.
The entire Walters Family has taken the “stay at home” mandate very seriously. None of us are even entering a grocery store, We order on-line only what we really need and then take advantage of curb-side pickup.
None of us could have possibly predicted that life could change so drastically in a matter of a few weeks but we must do whatever it takes to keep everyone healthy and get through this.
My entertainment and travel careers have obviously been hit with a double whammy. It’s very stressful but I realize there is value in every one of life’s situations. I can always find the positive if I look hard enough so I’m not letting this valuable time go to waste. I continue to make great plans for the future.
Everyday while working from home I create memorable travel experiences for the ”Travel With Bradley” family but I won’t be releasing any of these new, exciting itineraries until it’s once again safe to travel.
How are you?
I miss the “Travel With Bradley” family very much.
You may have heard that folks are using ZOOM so they can chat as a “group” on-line. I thought it would be fun for some of us to try this out. I’ll share a few stories plus you can chat with your fellow travelers. In the future I could possibly arrange for special guests to join us. Email me a message if you’d like an invite – email@example.com and I’ll announce a date and time.
Over the years many of you have suggested that I should write a book but there never seems to be the time. I can’t use that excuse now so I’ve started writing it.
Most importantly I want you and your family to be well so take care of yourself and don’t venture out unless absolutely necessary.
It’s not often that I am home for Easter because this is typically travel time.
I very much look forward to daily video chats with my family but I really miss my jaunts with Mom.
As we celebrate “separately” there’s Easter joy in every corner of the world.
I put some of my favourite Easter Eggs on display from Ukraine, Russia, Romania, Croatia and Bulgaria. Every time I look at them they bring back wonderful travel memories.
I laughed after watching a video message from Taras (the finest guide in Ukraine). He was in the Carpathian Mountains on his wife’s Grandmothers farm. He was busy planting potatoes – shovel in hand. The rolling hill scenery was stunning. His Easter message was very down to earth – he basically said in Ukraine during this time of isolation, you just can’t cancel the “planting of the potatoe”.
Some of you have emailed letting me know that while at home, you have been enjoying looking through your travel pictures.
I continue to reach out and am hearing from travel friends near and far. These are difficult times for “everyone”.
It’s hard to grasp how much our world has changed over the past month.
As travellers it is challenging staying at home, distancing and pausing travel plans.
While I might not be seeing you for the time being, I think of you often, I’m therefore doing my best to post daily on Facebook (Bradley Walters and Travel With Bradley) and I’ll continue to write some blogs.
I’m busy as always creating many new, amazing travel itineraries so I look forward to the day that we can start exploring the world once again.
Lovin the Celebrity EDGE – Western Caribbean Cruise
Saturday February 15 – En-route to Miami
My passengers all arrived at Toronto Pearson earlier that I suggested which ended up being a good thing because the lines to clear security and US customs were ridiculously long. I highly suggest that anyone flying to the USA needs to arrive at Toronto Pearson with plenty of extra time – 3 hours ahead might not always be enough.
My passengers have an advantage because once they are through the airport formalities they can relax in a premium lounge – a “Travel With Bradley” perk. Once again the Premium Lounge staff had reserved seats for our group which is a huge plus. This lounge (catering to US bound passengers) is not large. Everyone enjoyed a bountiful hot breakfast and conversation with their fellow passengers.
While in the lounge one of my passengers came to me and said “I may be reading the flight screen wrong but I think it says our flight to Miami has been cancelled”……… sadly enough that was the case so I told my passengers to stay put in the lounge and I headed to see the Air Canada staff.
At least 50 people were in line ahead of me at the Air Canada Customer Service Desk so I called my office emergency line and within minutes someone was in their car heading to the office in order to resolve this issue while others were on the phone from their homes with Air Canada and our suppliers in the USA. What an efficient, wonderful team!
I learned that new boarding passes would be printed and we would be allocated a $20.00 lunch voucher from Air Canada due to the delay.
I soon received word that the office staff secured space for all my passengers on a newly added Miami flight departing at 430pm. Our Miami Airport greeter and Coach Line were notified about our new flight details. One advantage when you travel with a group is in a situation like this, group passengers seats are usually secured first followed afterwards by individual travelers.
I gathered my passengers in an area outside of the lounge where there was ample seating and asked them to wait as I wanted to make sure we were first to get the new boarding passes. As soon as AC staff gave me the word it was a quick process picking up the new boarding passes and then we used our lunch vouchers (accepted at all food venues in the terminal).
Time zoomed by and soon we were seated on a 777 aircraft to Miami. It’s very unusual for Air Canada’s newest and largest aircraft to fly this route but two flights were involved in this change of aircraft – 450 passengers – they needed a LARGE plane to hold everyone!
During our flight I enjoyed watching, “Judy” – the award winning movie about Judy Garland. I’ll purchase a DVD copy when I get home. I don’t often find the time to see a movie but I can highly recommend this one.
Our arranged Miami greeter was waiting for us at luggage claim and soon we boarded a comfortable coach for a relatively short drive to our deluxe overnight hotel. We passed the newly opened Hard Rock Guitar shape hotel along the way – very cool.
At our hotel everyone was housed in 2 room suites – we were spoiled with so much room but after a long travel day we deserved it.
Sunday February 16 – Boarding Celebrity EDGE
After a relaxing buffet breakfast in the hotel restaurant we were anxious to get to the cruise port.
The coach driver was a real pro. He could move the motor coach around like it was Mini Cooper size.
Checking in for the Celebrity EDGE cruise was a VERY simple process. I’m surprised Celebrity hasn’t incorporated a similar process system wide but I have to wonder if there is the technology at other ports around the world to make it happen.
The Celebrity terminal that has been built especially for the EDGE is state-of-art and its very beautiful.
As usual the cruise baggage mafia was waiting for our arrival. They expect a large gratuity when handling group luggage so I look after this as soon as we arrive so my passengers are not harassed.
Once we entered the new cruise terminal we rode an escalator to the upper level, we quickly went through security (many lines) and then an agent met us, scanned our express pass and asked us a couple questions. We then walked a few more steps where our express pass was scanned again and that was it – we were on the vessel. What a seamless easy process with no lines – possibly 10 min max from start to finish – marvelous – congrats to Celebrity! I don’t believe you will find an easier cruise ship check-in process anywhere else in the world.
On board we went directly to our stateroom to pick up our room key card (in a slot next to the stateroom door) and we left our carry-on bags in the stateroom – so nice not to have to carry them around. Staterooms were officially allowed for occupancy at 1pm but most of our staterooms were already ready for occupancy when we boarded. I was able to make welcome aboard dinner reservations for my group in a speciality restaurant so I called all my passengers with the details.
The EDGE cost 1.3 billion to build – making it the most expensive ship ever built. If you appreciate design you will really admire this amazing vessel. I had a meeting with a staff member who stressed the vision of the designers and I’m so glad she did because I then noticed many design features that I may of overlooked. There is certainly plenty to admire when sailing on the EDGE.
Captain Kate is in command and she is a marketing machine. She is the first American female with the Captain role on a Mega Cruise Ship. I don’t know where she finds all of her energy. She has become a Celebrity Cruise superstar. Some passengers make a point to sail the EDGE because they want to meet her – she has a huge fan base especially with younger cruisers. My brother, Darren is one of her admirers – he has chatted with her on line and follows all her instagram posts.
I was invited to a welcome aboard reception. I knew Captain Kate would be there so my goal was to get her picture. I then had the opportunity to be in that picture. When I mentioned my brother Darren she knew who I was talking about, so she grabbed my camera and made a video for him. How fun is that!
My passengers were excited about my welcome aboard dinner invitation. We dined in one of the Speciality Restaurants (Le Bistro) – a Le Petit Chef experience. This one-of-a-kind evening was originally exclusively on the EDGE but has now expanded to other ships in the fleet. In fact my recent Antarctica group had the pleasure of enjoying two nights at the Le Petit Chef. I don’t want to tell you about this culinary experience because it more thrilling if you don’t know what to expect. My group loved it!
Tonight’s entertainment in the theatre was a piano playing comedian. It’s hard for a comedian to please everyone – some enjoyed his show while others didn’t.
I just love the EDGE infinite balcony staterooms. They are a first. This new concept adds 23 extra sq feet to the typical stateroom size (major bonus) and the views from the floor to ceiling window is beyond spectacular – this mega size window brings the spectacular outside sea views inside. Every time I walked into my stateroom that view took my breath away. When the room steward closed the veranda blind in the evening I opened it again. I often kept that window open even through the night as I enjoyed the fresh air breeze and the sound of the EDGE moving through the ocean was so relaxing.
Monday February 17 – Key West
Our day in Key West started an hour later than scheduled because another vessel hindered our entrance into a small channel that Captain Kate had to get the EDGE through before arriving at the dock but even with the delay by 8am we were able to get ashore.
I met a few interesting people at breakfast in the Cosmopolitan Restaurant – a Jewish man that lives 5 minutes from the Trump compound in West Palm Beach (he teaches Opera) and a couple from Norway who have been sailing on the EDGE for a month and then they board the Oasis of the Seas for 2 more weeks of cruising before heading back to Norway. Sadly while on this ship a family member of theirs passed – Captain Kate conducted a service for them.
Key West is a wonderful port. In fact some of my passengers enjoyed their time so much they asked me to make sure they get on my not-yet-released, Key West tour.
Key West is actually closer to Cuba than Miami.
There are 4 smaller themed dining rooms that are included in the EDGE cruise fare along with some speciality (fee) dining rooms. My passengers scattered amongst all of them this evening.
I have encouraged them to try all the different complimentary venues. Each one of these restaurants features speciality items exclusive to that venue. __
I dined in the Speciality Fine Cut Steakhouse where the cuisine and service was exceptional. Many claim this is the finest fee restaurant on-board. As many of you know I am not a red meat/pork eater so I ordered the lobster that was pouched in lemon butter – so good!
Tonights production show was enjoyed by all. The main theatre onboard the EDGE is state-of-art. The stage is round and huge LED screens fill almost half the theatre so the technology is sometimes more impressive than the entertainers! The downfall is its too small for this size of ship – you need to arrive early to get a seat.
Tuesday February 18 – Day At Sea
It was a perfect weather day to be at sea – the sun was beaming and the seas were as smooth as ice.
Almost all of us gathered for an optional group luncheon in Cosmopolitan – delicious food with attentive service.
Late in the afternoon Captain Kate made an announcement that broadcast throughout the ship (even in the staterooms). She said she would be skipping the port of Costa Maya due to unrest – some protesters are closing roads etc and as Captain Kate stated her goal is to keep passengers and her crew safe. She is now going to head the EDGE directly to Cozumel and when a pier opens tomorrow evening at approx 7pm we will dock for an overnight stay.
Tonight’s dinner was at “Raw on 5” – this is not just a sushi restaurant – they have shrimp cocktail, stir fries, beef tenderloin on the menu….
Tonight’s show in the theatre was a Paul McCartney tribute – was very well done – the crowd loved it.
Wednesday February 19 – Day At Sea with Evening Arrival in Cozumel
It’s another picture perfect day.
Many of us gathered for dinner in the Cosmopolitan and later in the afternoon we enjoyed a Travel With Bradley cocktail reception in EDEN.
Captain Kate docked the EDGE at the newest port in Cozumel. A short distance from us was another pier where 2 Carnival Ships were docked.
EDEN consists of a cafe, lounge and restaurant. I dined at the restaurant this evening and the culinary experience may be one of the very best I have ever experienced. I had a prime seat overlooking the open air kitchen. The chefs here deserve to be named something other than a chef – they are true artists. Many of them work with tweezers and the 6 course meal is truly a masterpiece. I have no idea where else I could find a culinary experience quite like this one. Throughout the evening acrobats and singers performed in the restaurant. This was an added bonus that really wasn’t needed because the meal was so exceptional.
Two Carnival ships departed at 830pm and 9pm. From my balcony I had a beautiful view of their departures. I kept my balcony window open this evening. The air was fresh.
Thursday February 20 – Day In Cozumel
Eight other cruise ships joined us in Cozumel but surprisingly it wasn’t busy when I headed into downtown Cozumel. Celebrity and Royal Caribbean use the new International dock – there are a number of docks in Cozumel.
It was another beautiful day – highs of 86 and not humid.
The taxi ride to the core runs $8.00 and it doesn’t seem to matter how many people you have with you. It’s a flat $8.00. The taxis are more than plentiful and the drivers are friendly.
I meet some of my passengers in Cozumel so we explored together. You need to be willing to barter in the local shops or you are going to pay way too much. For instance I purchased a ring – first price was $250 and I walked away paying $50.00.
Not all the store fronts are occupied in the core but the majority are – name brand jewelry shops, silver shops, pharmacies (no prescription needed for many well known pharmaceuticals), souvenir shops and a few restaurants.
There are a few stores as you walk down the side streets but I noticed they offer lower quality merchandise.
There were a few armed army trucks roaming around. Of course keeping passengers safe is very important here because the cruise ships bring in much needed income.
The International port also features a number of shops along with a few chain restaurants – Margaritaville, Bubba Gumps Shrimp so its not necessary to head into the downtown core if you wish to shop.
I believe we were the first ship to depart – its quite the jaunt to Grand Cayman our next port of call, and as Captain Kate said she needs to move full speed ahead if we are going to arrive on time.
I heard wonderful things about the female entertainer who took the main stage this evening.
The light and martini show in the main atrium was entertaining – takes place twice an evening.
Friday February 21 – Grand Cayman
Grand Cayman is a tender port. I was hoping that we were going to have the opportunity to use the ship life boats to get ashore because I wanted everyone to see how beautiful they are inside and out (bucket seats/televisions) but the island tender service was used probably because they offer much larger boats to get people ashore.
I was on the first tender and spent 3 hours ashore. It was a steamy day but none of us were complaining because in a couple days we are heading back to Canada’s winter temperatures.
There are a number of stores that line the Main Street – most of them carry known jewelry brands. I guess there must be enough people spending 20G on watches to keep these stores operational. Cozumel offered a wider variety of things to buy and you could find deals. Grand Cayman has always had a “very expensive island” reputation.
Some of my passengers had a blast swimming with the dolphins and many took island tours that were purchased off the ship for $25 or $20 (depending who you were dealing with).
Saturday February 22 – Day At Sea
Another beautiful day. Last night was overcast and the seas were a little choppy but by 8am the sun was beaming and the clears cleared for us.
The balcony blind in my stateroom stays open all the time and I leave the window open some but the weather must have been blustery through the night as I noticed that Captain Kate must have hit the button to close all the balcony windows because it was closed when I awoke.
I start my day at Cafe al Bacio, where the staff member named, Princess brings me a Chai Latte made with Almond Milk. I notice the same passengers early every morning at this cafe. Every once in a while one of my group members spots me in the cafe and we enjoy a great chat.
I then head to the eatery at EDEN for a very light breakfast – fruit bowl. The EDEN eatery is never busy – its a hidden gem with a very limited but high quality menu.
Finally I visit the Tuscan Grille which is reserved for those who have sailed many times with Celebrity. I stay just long enough to enjoy a smoothie and then I am on my way.
At 1030am my passengers gathered for my disembarkation briefing.
That was followed by a private galley tour “just for us”.
Finally we gathered for a Farewell Cocktail Party in EDEN. It wasn’t busy so we had choice of seating.
The weather turned this evening – stormy, rainy and very windy. The EDGE due to its latest technology design easily handles miserable weather.
I had a reservation at the Rooftop Garden Grill. It’s the only speciality restaurant that I hadn’t dined in. I called to make sure they were still accommodating guests in this weather and they said yes. I ended up being the only one brave enough to eat outside (covered overhead) so I had two executive chefs and two wait staff looking after me. They brought me a blanket to wrap around me – the outside temperature was more than comfortable – it was the wind that was a challenge. The meal was exceptional. They have a special smoker that they use when cooking so the meats/fish are full of flavor. I didn’t order a dessert but they surprised me with one. A freshly baked cookie prepared in a cast iron pan, topped with ice cream. I was videotaping the dessert and the weather when a huge gust of wind came up and literally blew everything off the table. Luckily it just missed me. This is the best form of calorie control – the dessert looked so good!
Tonight’s production show in the theatre is the highest rated in the Celebrity fleet. The impressive thing about the EDGE theatre is the massive LED Screen that circles much of the theatre. The cast of singers and dancers are young and full of talent. I miss not having a live band behind them.
Sunday, February 23 – Homeward Bound
Remember I told you how easy it was boarding the EDGE. Getting off the ship was just as quick. I had my passengers gather in the theatre – we were the first group to disembark at 8:45am. When we walked into the arrival terminal we walked up to a terminal with face recognition capability. We all received the green light meaning we did not require any screening from a customs official. We then collected our luggage – only a handful with our #11 tags so quick to find. We then walked through the nothing to declare line and we were done. I called Adrian our coach driver and within 5 minutes he arrived at the terminal – we loaded luggage and were on our way. There were massive traffic jams due to traffic merging to one lane due to highway construction but we were in a special lane and avoided all the mess.
Dealing with Air Canada in Miami was a treat. They gave me 2 exclusive agents to check our group in so once again the process was very quick. They even offered to pre-board us on the flight ahead of the other passengers.
I couldn’t have asked for anything better.
Space on the Air Canada Rogue airbus was tight so I’m glad that the flight was just 3 hours. The young crew was friendly.
We arrived back to 4C temps and sunny skies but after such a wonderful cruise we are relaxed and tanned! Thanks to my wonderful passengers.