The 96 nautical mile trip between North Sydney, NS and Port aux Basques, NL, is crossed by Marine Atlantic's Cabot Strait ferry service. The 7-hour winter crossing is made by the nearly identical MV Caribou and MV Clara and Joseph Smallwood, both top ice class ferries, and the longest ferries in the Americas, at 179m (587ft) in length. The ferries sport two vehicle decks and dual ramps at both bow and stern for loading and unloading both levels at the same time. The 1200-passenger ferries boast 28,000 hp, or about 250 MINI Coopers. For more ferry specs, see MV Smallwood details.

Reservations and Accommodations

Reservations are required, and should be made a couple weeks in advance. Reservations require a C$25 deposit.

Apparently, we can do a single group booking if we know our head count and room count, but pay separately as we arrive, which is great. This approach does require being organized ahead of time, but it may pay off if we organize ourselves into needing fewer cabins, saving us all some funds. As a small bonus, if we have 25 or more people in a group booking, we'll save $2 a head each way.

A group booking also allows us to have someone in the group already checked-in help someone else who is running behind and struggling to make it to the terminal before reservation cancellation by paying for the straggler's cabin. Alternatively, we can also just plan for the people likely to arrive first to be distributed around all the cabins. Anyway, we'll figure it out.

There are 3 choices for overnight accommodation while onboard:
- daynighter reclining chair. See Details. Only available on MV Smallwood, on the Friday night trip to NL.
- dorm sleeper, one single berth in common area. See Details.
- 'deluxe' cabin, 4 single berths with linen and private bath, including shower. See Details.

Sleeping on the floor is not permitted, for 'safety reasons'.

Departures and Arrivals

Departure on Friday, February 17 from North Sydney, NS bound for NL is at 11:30pm Atlantic Time (UTC-4) . Departure from Newfoundland on Monday, February 20 is at 11:45pm Newfoundland Time (UTC-3.5). Night crossings in winter are scheduled for approximately 7 hours in length, designed to arrive at 07:00 local time.

Reservations are only honoured up to 60 minutes before departure, when the ferry begins loading. So if you want to go to Newfoundland, you must arrive at the ferry terminal at least one hour before departure, preferably more. This is especially important if the ferry loads quickly and leaves early. If you are arriving near the reservation deadline, add a few minutes to get through the small toll queue.

The ferry forms part of the Trans-Canada Highway, and is literally at the end of the road at both locations. Simply drive to the end of the highway (NS-105 in NS, NL-1 in NL), and enter the toll booth queue to pay your fees. Bring your reservation number. You will be directed to park your car in a particular lane in the marshalling compound. After parking in the mashalling area, you do not need to wait in your car, and can enter the ferry terminal building until boarding is announced.

When boarding is announced, return to your car. Vehicles will be loaded by lane, as directed by the marshals. As soon as you are parked in the ferry, turn off your vehicle to reduce exhaust fumes. Remove everything from your car that you will need overnight, as the vehicles cannot be accessed while at sea without a scheduled escort. Proceed from the vehicle deck (Decks 1 and 2) to Deck 5, where all passenger amenities are located.

When the ferry approaches its destination, a first announcement ( followed later by a second and final announcement) will be made, asking passengers to return to their cars. To reduce exhaust fumes, do not start your car until directed, or your lane starts moving.

Group Meeting

We are having a group meeting in the Placentia bar lounge abouard the MV Smallwood on the Friday at 10:45pm AT, or 11:15pm NT. This is after the 10:30 AT reservation deadline, and about an hour after boarding starts, so everyone should be on board by then.

Fees (each way, C$)

Vehicle: $76.50
Passenger: $27.00
Overnight Cabin: $99.00 (per cabin)
Dorm Sleeper: $16.00
Daynighter chair: $9.00

Total round trip per person cost, for quad occupancy cabin, double occupancy in MINI: $180 (US$155).

Motion Sickness

Motion sickness medication is not available on board. Please bring your own Gravol and/or SeaBands.

Onboard Meal Times

For anyone who wants to eat after boarding, the ferry cafeteria will be open for dinner until about 30 minutes after departure, or around midnight. The cafeteria re-opens for breakfast at 5 am NT until disembarkation. Between meal times, hot food isn't served, but 'light meals' are still available.

Because we want to use the most of daylight driving hours, we will be eating breakfast onboard before disembarking on both crossings. It should also offer a good view as twilight gains strength.

Onboard Services

Note that your cell phone will not work while on board (and possibly not anywhere in Newfoundland, outside of St. John's, depending upon your carrier). However, wifi is apparently available in some locations, and net-connected computers are also available.

Also onboard is a bar, a movie lounge, and an arcade.

Terminal Services

Facilities available while we wait include washrooms, a TV lounge, a cafeteria, conference rooms and a bar. See Details.

Misc Info

Drinking age onboard is the same is 19, as in all Canadian provinces, except Alberta (18) and Quebec (18).
The ferry operates on Newfoundland Time (UTC-3.5).
Soil and plants cannot be transported off of Newfoundland to other parts of Canada, and are not allowed on the ferry.