CANADA was always on our “must do” list but I was finally persuaded after my wife showed me Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines brochure, featuring their ‘Rugged and Rural Canada’ cruise including a touch of the blarney.

The itinerary on the good ship Boudicca included Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, and Ireland’s Donegal and Belfast, also appealing was the smaller scale ship.

First port of call, Killybegs in County Donegal, Ireland; our first tour took us along the Wild Atlantic Way, narrow country lanes, hedgerows ablaze with fuchsia, fields of wild flowers, and purple heather.

Passing numerous small bays, pristine sandy beaches, emerald fields dotted with white cottages, introduced us to charming Glencolmcille Folk Village where you relive old Ireland, comprising of cottages from 1700s to the 1900s.

Crossing the Atlantic we soon became aware that Boudicca’s amenities catered for all and that the crew’s enthusiasm was infectious, with smiles as big as the ocean we sailed. During the crossing, we watched the magnificent sights of whales and dolphins.

Setting foot in St John’s, Newfoundland, our visit took us to Signal Hill, a historical site, where Marconi received the first wireless transatlantic message in 1901. In the bay was a pod of Orca and Humpback whales, the latter entertaining us by leaping, twisting, and diving - a sight to behold.

Then on to Cape Spear, the most eastern point of North America; here you witness the dramatic coastline, more whales, then back to the city’s individual coloured wooden houses. Located downtown is O’Reilly’s traditional Irish bar, where I embraced a ceremony called “Screeching” entailing a recital, kissing the cod and drinking screech (rum) encouraged by locals calling out, “Tis the rum me son” - great fun. I am now an adopted Newfoundlander, with a certificate to prove it.

After my close intimacy with the cod, I had reservations about eating again, but after sampling a local beer my appetite returned, and I was served a huge plate of cod and chips. Was it the one I kissed?

Down the coast is St. Pierre, a labyrinth of quaint streets with typical French patisseries, coffee shops and bars, and accordion playing musicians, before we sailed for Sydney, Nova Scotia, Latin for “New Scotland” berthing next to old sailing ships. Our excursion took us through forests, with numerous species including Spruce, Larch and Maple giving off their own aromas.

Arriving at the picturesque village of Baddeck, at the edge of the stunning Bras d’Or Lakes, we boarded Amoeba a traditional schooner. Two bald eagles appeared and hovered above our masts, retrieving cod literally three metres from me - a magnificent sight!

We also sailed close by the great inventor Alexander Graham Bell’s 600 acre estate en route back to Newfoundland; Corner Brook situated at the Gulf of St. Lawrence, tracing famous explorer Captain Cook’s trail, past Cape Bretton’s mountains, fjords, jaggered headlands and forests. Stopping at tranquil villages and tiny fishing ports, with unusual names such as “Blow me down”, we enjoyed watching waterfalls, cascading down from the rugged landscapes into tributaries, weaving their way through woodlands into the lakes.

In contrast L’Anse aux Meadows, Norstead, is a remote community of 35 people, the Unesco World Heritage site allowing us to experience Viking life as it was 1000 years ago, when a Norse expedition from Greenland landed.

On our return journey we encountered icebergs, brilliantly white, glistening against blue sky - a truly phenomenal sight. The Captain manoeuvred to get the best viewing points, it seemed like we were up close and personal, another benefit of a smaller ship.

Our last port was Belfast and a panoramic tour was a great way to see the city.

This cruise had it all; spectacular scenery, the wonders of wild life, and nature at its best and most natural. Life on board Boudicca was fun and entertaining, leaving us with indelible memories.

My claim to fame – I kissed the cod in Canada!

A similar Fred Olsen cruise in 2018 will be a 26 night ‘Canada in the Fall’ cruise (W1821) on board Black Watch, departing from Liverpool on September 22 2018. Prices currently start from £3,999 pp, including food and entertainment on board, and port taxes. In 2018/19 Fred.Olsen’s ships will be visiting 228 destinations in 73 countries.