We have just returned from our trip to Newfoundland. Our visit was truly spectacular — great scenery, great weather, and the people we met were really terrific. The only cloud was Marine Atlantic. They have got to be the most useless, poorly managed organization in creation.
We knew one of the ferries was damaged before we left Sudbury. It took two days to make contact with Marine Atlantic to find out if our ferry booking was on schedule. Fortunately it was, but it did cause some consternation.
Luckily for us, our daughter in Sudbury checked our phone messages to discover that Marine Atlantic had changed our return ferry trip from Argentia to Port aux Basques and that we would not have a cabin as we had previously booked. I needed a cabin because sometimes I suffer from motion sickness and I have a minor health issue. I managed to call them and arranged for a cabin for the day following. I was offered a total of $400 for inconvenience in the form of vouchers that could only be redeemed on Marine Atlantic. A little stupid when you consider that I would have to drive around 1,600 miles to cash them in.
We had planned our vacation focused on the Avalon Peninsula, returning via the ferry from Argentia. The change in scheduling meant an extra 500 miles to Port aux Basques with the expense of overnight stays.
It seems amazing that with all the technology available — GPS, radar, depth-sounders — that the Blue Puttees managed to hit a dock even though it was foggy. If it was that problematic surely the captain could have hired a harbour pilot (a local fisherman who really knows the harbour). If it was a mechanical problem, maybe Marine Atlantic should do a better job of maintenance. If it was a people problem, then hire someone who can do the job.
One would think that a ferry system that is so vital to the good people of Newfoundland would have some kind of backup. Although it might prove costly, just think of the millions of dollars lost when a ferry is out of action, especially at the height of the travelling season. Think of the lives and well-being of the people who could lose their livelihoods due to a very uncertain ferry service.
I noted during my travels that none of the private tours we booked ever had a problem — a lesson to be learned.
The issue is, how can tourists and commerce do any kind of business in Newfoundland with the total lack of confidence in Marine Atlantic’s poor service? There really needs to be a shakeup somewhere.