The Cat: The Fastest Way To A Two Nation Vacation
For 42 years, traveling and taking
your car between Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, and Bar Harbor, ME, was
handled by the Canadian government vessel, MV Bluenose.
Taking six hours, the voyage was still a great alternative to
driving 630 miles on land. Times have changed. In 1998, a
revolutionary vessel replaced the Bluenose: Bay Ferries' Cat. The
Cat is the fastest car ferry in North America and can zip 900
passengers and 240 vehicles across the ocean at highway speedsó55
mph to be exact.
Gliding smoothly over
the Bay of Fundy, the 300-foot Cat has cut the trip down to three
hours. During the summer and fall seasons (May through October),
over half a million people travel on the vessel. During the winter
months, the Cat migrates south to New Zealand. This sea monster-like
craft is so distinctive that she becomes a major tourist attraction
in every port-of-call she visits.
Unlike traditional ships,
the Cat's, with its unique catamaran design, doesn't ride on top of
the waves but cuts through them. The vessel funnels the power of
four 9,500 horsepower engines through four water jets, each pumping
the equivalent of an Olympic-size swimming pool of water per second.
There are two areas onboard where one can step outside and witness
this amazing power. At the back of the ship, jets shoot out a tail
of water that's over 20 feet high and 50 feet long. The spray will
get you quite wet, but on a hot day, it's refreshing. The viewing
deck at the front of the ship provides a great vantage point as well
but also a good place for whale, porpoise, and sea bird
You can travel as a passenger or with your
automobile. Cars, trucks, campers, and motorcycles are loaded into a
unique tiered level system. Once you drive onboard, you will have to
leave your vehicle and proceed to the passenger lounges, where most
of the amenities one would expect of a cruise ship are available.
Cafe 91 serves snacks and meals all day. There is also a bar and a
duty free gift shop, and those wanting to try their hand at gambling
will find over 120 slot and poker machines. The seats are
airplane-like and plentiful, and allow you to relax and watch the
ocean scenery. There's even film entertainment for the kids that is
shown on large screen TVs.
Reader Jack Hanover of Detroit wonders if the
Cat is worth taking. It depends. If you are planning on exploring
both Nova Scotia and Bar Harbor/Acadia National Park for several
days, it's a great timesaver and well worth the fare. For those
who'd like to explore both areas, there are also reasonably priced
package trips that offer accommodations and rental cars. On the
other hand, day trips between the two areas that don't allow ample
time to explore may seem too costly, unless you're just into the
novelty of traveling on a high-speed craft.
I found the trip
quite fun, especially since I had taken the slower Bluenose
some twenty years prior. If you don't want to make the long drive
and plan to stay for a while in either destination, I'd say that the
Cat is the best alternative to making the most of your valuable
If You Go
For the peak summer
season in July and August, I highly recommend reservations, which
can be made online or by phone. Costs vary, with one-way passenger
fares ranging from $40 to $55 (children five and under are free, and
fares for children five to 12 cost between $20 and $25). One-way
vehicle fares range from $85 to $500, depending upon size of the
vehicle. Round-trip day cruises range from $40 to $55 (children five
and under are free, and fares for children five to 12 cost between
$20 and $25).
For more information or to book a voyage, visit
The Cat website.
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