We sailed into Nanaimo arriving about 9:30 AM - were given customs clearance and if you wanted to you could go ashore - either walking the short distance from the industrial part of the port into town or waiting and taking the free shuttle.
As I have a ship's tour to the Horne Lake Caves that doesn't leave until noon I am in no hurry to get off ship but when i report to my meeting place at the Theater we are told once we have our tour sticker we can go ashore and meet our tour there and that is what I did.
There are twelve of us on this tour and we are in a small rental van for the approx one hour trip to the caves.
Our driver/tour guide is a native of Nanaimo and as we head out of town she is full of history - we take the slower Oceanside route to Qualicum where we head inland to the caves - we do make a pit stop at the McDonald's in Parksville.
Arriving at the Caves around two we are given some instructions, get our helmet and light and meet our cave guide Miles.
Horne Lake has a number of caves - some are self-guided, others are tour guided only.
We climb up the trail for about a mile - we are stopping a number of times to get information from Miles about the complex system of caves believed to be underground.
We finally reach the entrance and it is quite the entrance - we go down a steep metal stairwell into the cave - we will only follow it about 1/4 of its way but it is not an easy walk - unlike some previous caves that I have visited this one is quite rustic - there is no lighted path - it is slippery and rocky and you are crouched low for the most of the tour.
When we reach the end of the tour my camera battery dies on me - it was fully charged when we left the ship but the cool temps in the cave - a constant 8 C or 47 F and having to use the flash drained it - I did bring a spare but it is in my day pack back on the tour bus.
After we return to the bus we drive a short distance to Horne Lake Regional Park - next door to the provincial Park and have a picnic lunch - we are given water to re-hydrate and have smoked salmon on crackers and a Nanaimo bar for dessert.
Then it is back on the bus and the hour drive back to town - we have the option to get off in town and that is what I do.
The weather has for the most part been fine - there were a few raindrops as we left the cave area but that was all.
I got off the bus at the Bastion and started to walk along the seawall promenade - originally I toyed with the idea of going over to Newcastle Island but I wanted to have supper and with the last ferry back at 8:45PM it wasn't worth the $8.00 round trip cost for only and hour or so of hiking the island.
Looking for a place to eat I came across the Troller - a fish and chip place on the waterfront - reflecting back I ate there the last time I was in Nanaimo on a cruise ship.
The meal did not disappoint. After dinner I walked through the redeveloped Port Place mall and then back to the ship - opting to walk rather than take the shuttle.
Back on board I enjoyed the free beer that the captain gave us Platinum cruisers.
If I have one recommendation about this tour it would be nice to have more time at the caves and perhaps a little less time seeing the favorite hideaway beach of the tour guide who lives close by in the community of French Creek.
I go to the Passenger's service desk and pay most to my bill with my remaining $US dollars.
Tomorrow the cruise will be over - if a stroke of luck my cruise critic friends who will share a taxi with me are also disembarking at the same time.
More tomorrow and some final thoughts.