The whole experience was enriched by the wealth of knowledge and passion for Nova Scotia tour guide Rick Rivers possesses. A Hamilton, Ont. native, he moved to Halifax in 1969 to attend Dalhousie University. He went on to work in Halifax area high schools for 32 years and has been a tour guide for five years.
"I stayed because I love it here," said Rivers.
His love was obvious from the moment the bus got rolling. Before we even left the cruise pavilion at the Halifax Seaport, he gushed about the historical significance of the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21, where thousands of immigrants first touched land in Canada; discussed Samuel Cunard, the great shipping mogul who founded the Cunard Line; and detailed the assets of the Port of Halifax, noting that it's the second-largest harbour in the world.
The breadth of information didn't stop once the tour bus left the Seaport. Acting as a tourist for the morning, I was completely captivated by what Rivers knew about Halifax and Nova Scotia in general in terms of history and other significant facts and figures. He explained the importance of Edward Cornwallis, John Cabot, Joseph Howe, the Citadel, the role Exhibition Park played in 9-11, the shipwrecks at Sable Island, the Swissair Flight 111 Memorial at Peggy's Cove, the provincial tartan and all kinds of other tidbits about early settlers and the history of how Nova Scotia came to be.
This barrage of information made me realize how much I don't know about Nova Scotia. It made me want to take the time to go on other Nova Scotia-related tours for my own personal knowledge and also made me want to get out and travel more. Rivers shed Nova Scotia in a different light than what I'm used to experiencing. As a resident, to get out and see our province from a visitor's perspective was wonderful. The experience was authentic and made me appreciate all we have to offer.
Part of that understanding for me was talking to tourists about their experiences and why they wanted to come to Halifax. The tourists in town on Thursday came in on the MS Maasdam, a Holland America cruise ship that also had Maritime stops in Charlottetown and Sydney as it made its way from Quebec to Boston.
Tess Petrache from Los Angeles, Calif., was in Nova Scotia for the first time.
"It's beautiful," she said after posing for a photo op holding a live lobster. "I came to see the history, the sights."
"It's charming," said Jackie Scanlon of Indianapolis, Ind., in reference to Peggy's Cove. She and her friend, Carol Mayer of Seattle, Wash., were on this particular cruise because they wanted to see Anne of Green Gables in Prince Edward Island, but were happy Nova Scotia was part of the package.
Ed and Vikki Black, from Oak Island, N.C., were on this cruise as part of an extended trip to Canada, as they also wanted to see Niagara Falls before heading home. Vikki had been anticipating a trip to Nova Scotia for quite some time.
"I did a report on (Nova Scotia) in the third grade," Vikki said. "Something about it fascinated me back then."
That kind of passion for our region is what had been lost on me...until last Thursday. I've since been set straight.
Justin Dickie is a public affairs co-ordinator at the Halifax Port Authority. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.