The slow “fast ferry”

PROVINCETOWN, Ma – The brochure for Boston Harbor Cruise’s Provincetown Fast Ferry claims that they can get you from Boston to Provincetown in “less than 90 minutes.”

Unfortunately, 90 minutes into my voyage on the “Fast Ship Salencia” the on-board “concierge” came on and said “as you have noticed, we are not in Provincetown yet. We are having engine trouble and we will be arriving at Provincetown at 11:10am.”

Around the two hour mark, I went inside to get out of the wind. When I did, I saw a man in his mid-thirties who looked just like the hero of Pilgrim Song with his scraggly bright red hair and mountain man beard. He was excitable and innately curious about everything around him. His speech was lilting and slightly effeminate with a lisp almost as strong as his New England accent (with a noticeable drawl) making for a bizarre combination with his smooth radio quality voice.

I could here and make all sorts of judgments about his appearance, intelligence, maturity or even sexuality. That’s when I realized that’s what I do when I’m not on vacation, besides I’m still under orders to “drop the fucking attitude” with the presumed penalty of death looming above me for any infractions.

So 11:10 comes along and our concierge comes back on the PA to announce a new, improved final and most importantly “confirmed” arrival time of 11:45am as well as a “free return trip” for one-way passengers.

I had round trip tickets. L

I asked the concierge and he said they would offer a partial refund for this end of the trip. That’s good, I guess*, but I still only had 3 ½ hours to explore the city before having to board the ferry back.

My first stop (after waiting in line for the “partial refund”) was the trolley stop so I could get a decent overview of the city. The tour lasted about 45 minutes and dropped me off back in front of city hall. Then I walked to the Pilgrim Tower & Museum just across from the city high school.

When I entered the museum, I was told it was “FREE Friday” meaning that I could enter both the tower and the accompanying museum free of charge. It also made both more crowded, but the view from the top of the tower was awesome (even if I was too exhausted to enjoy it without thinking about having to go back down it again).

I left the museum’s parking lot with just under an hour before the return ferry to Boston arrived. I wandered through downtown, occasionally I’d hear someone barking about a show that didn’t start until a half hour after the last ferry left (8:30pm on Friday\Saturday). This left only shopping and quick service restaurants, neither of which appealed to me.

Finally, I simply made my way back to McMillan Wharf, and found a long line of passengers waiting for the same 4pm ferry. Also making their way through the pier was a pair of “hot” muscle guys in short shorts, tight t-shirts and exaggerated lisps giving away “free” “goodie bags” to anyone willing to sign up for some worthless credit card. I was somewhat embarrassed for them, but outraged at the kind of insulting pandering their employers called “marketing” – especially since I studied marketing in college.

I boarded the new ferry (“Gloria Vastera”) just a few minutes after 4pm. We pulled out of the harbor just a few seconds after I sat down, and just under 90 minutes later we landed in Long Wharf across from the Aquarium. The brochure was right…or at least on the return trip.


* Though as of 7/26/12, I have yet to receive the promised e-mail confirmation of said “refund” from either Boston Harbor Cruises or my credit card company.

Categories: Boston, ferry, Provincetown | 1 Comment

Adventures in Salem

SALEM, Ma – The Nathaniel Bowditch pulled into Blaney Street Wharf just after noon. I make the approximately 10 minute walk into town. At least I think it was ten minutes, the band on my replacement watch broke and the battery on the cell phone was freshly drained so I can’t write my usual lazy time stamp story.

One rather helpful feature of this town is that they have a thick red line painted down the center of the sidewalks leading from the ferry landing to various places around the center city (I assumed it simply lead to the visitors’ center so I passed much the south\west sides of downtown before realizing my mistake (…and making my next stop almost irrelevant).

I bought my ticket for the Salem Trolley at 1:30pm, boarded approximately ten minutes later. The trip lasted approximately 40 minutes, and passengers could “hop on, hop off” at any of various spots around downtown. Even better, the narrator for this trip barely mentioned a certain set of sensationalized trials from 1692 (ending circa 1712) that have since become the city’s ubiquitous mascot.

According to the receipt, I bought my ticket for the New England Pirate Museum at 2:26pm. Said museum was a guided tour through various scenes of involving famous pirates with some connection to the Bay State (with particular emphasis on Salem based buccaneers) and ended in what our guide called the “pirate cave” (whose “treasure cove” was conveniently enough also their gift shop).

I left the museum and spent the next half hour browsing through various stores on Liberty Street (pedestrian only). I was amazed at how low the prices on merchandise was…until I realized their busy season doesn’t start until September.

I managed to make it back to the Nathaniel Bowditch by 3:56pm, just a few minutes before it pulled out of the wharf. Two hours later, I was back in my hotel room with my phone safely in its charger.

Categories: Boston, ferry, Salem | Leave a comment

Why Boston?

So, as you probably saw in my previous post, I’m spending the week in Boston. I was even planning on doing superficial descriptions of my various treks across “coffee city” (as that is the name of this blog after all), but there’s nothing I can write here that hasn’t been written in any number of better travel blogs (and a fair share of worse ones).

Which brings me back to my headline: Why Boston?

Because I needed a place to go somewhere – ANYWHERE – not named “Baltimore” during the week leading up to and including Artscape. The actual city didn’t matter as long as it had: a) lots of fun things to do, and b) a half decent transit system (two traits Baltimore decidedly lacks). Besides, I reasoned, Amtrak is a LOT less of a hassle than trying to fly somewhere. The fact that there were absolutely zero plays being produced there this week was just icing (though ironically enough, my hotel is located in the “theatre district”).

This doesn’t necessarily mean I got the itinerary I wanted, but it enabled me to be in town long enough to see other areas of interest like Cambridge (I like the thought of telling people “I went to Harvard”), Provincetown and Salem. Since I’ve already done most of the things I’ve wanted to see in the city proper, I’ll probably have a day “left over,” but I’ll figure out what to do with it later this week.

Categories: Boston, ramblings | Leave a comment

A day on the rails

ONBOARD the “Northeast Regional” – Train #86 from Richmond arrived at 9:47am. It was twenty-three minutes behind schedule, but still too quick for me to get a decent arrival photo with my shitty “tourist camera” (because it’s just a cheap digital camera I bought from a gift shop at Disney’s MGM Studios).

This was my first time riding anything beyond a simple “foliage tour” so I was a tad nervous – especially because I tend to get nauseous just riding the Light Rail. If I can’t handle MTA, how was I supposed to handle REAL “High Speed Rail?”

I boarded the smaller than expected car and began my search for an open seat. Finally, after traversing three cars I find a pair of open seats – right at the bulkhead too leaving enough space to put my bags on the floor in front of me. Naturally, a full minute after I sit down, a friendly old couple appears.

“Oh, that was our seat,” she said disappointedly.

I got up, grabbed my bags and traversed another full car before finding a pair of open seats near the back of 2nd car. I asked the young women across from the seat if anyone was sitting there. They said “no” so I threw my duffle bag in the overhead compartment and took my laptop out of its bag, and hunkered down in my seat. This was going to be a long trip.

Amtrak likes to brag about having “free on-board wifi,” but they don’t tell you it that it is slow and barely works for most of the trip. I also come to the conclusion that Amtrak is the perfect way to see America… without actually seeing anything. The whole way from Baltimore to NYC was nothing but an ugly blur of crumbling factories, back of strip malls and plenty of empty parking lots.

11:16am – make way 6 cars back to snack car, I can tell which car is mine on way back since lavatory is flooded. Sandwich is just okay, but cheaper than I expected. Shortly after returning to my seat, there was an announcement that they were closing the café car in preparation for their arrival at Penn Station.

12:17pm – we arrive at NYC’s Penn Station, and the new crew FINALLY lays down newspapers on floor to clean up water. I tried to access the station’s wifi during the 15 minute layover, but it told me there was “no signal.” Interestingly enough, one of the options available to me when I booked my train was a 90 minute layover in NYC, but it was $100 more each way.

2:47pm – 5 hour mark, I am starting to regret not taking that layover in NYC. Fortunately, the scenery drastically improved once we got out of the New York metropolitan area with oceans of asphalt giving way to endless forests and the occasional postcard perfect New England town…but mostly just forest, lots and lots of forest.

4:49pm – Train #86 from Richmond, Virginia FINALLY pulls into Boston’s South Station – 7 hours and 2 minutes after I boarded it at Baltimore’s “Classic” Penn Station…and I’m going to have to repeat it on my way back.

Categories: Amtrak, Boston, transportation | 1 Comment

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