My husband and I wanted to see the East Coast of Canada and this cruise was actually cheaper than driving from Ontario to N.B. & N.S. what with gas prices, meals, accommodation, etc. We had to drive to Boston but it's a pretty straight drive from where we live in Ontario. Turned out to be a great decision.
We arrived in Boston two days ahead. Stayed just outside Boston but it was an easy drive into Boston and to the pier. First day in Boston we did the Old Town Trolley Tour which I highly recommend. The tickets are good for two days so the morning of the cruise we went on the trolley again to the Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum which had just opened the week before. (Our cruise was July 7th.) The museum is very worthwhile to see. I'm sure between both tours we now know more about Boston than people who live there. Only difficulty we had in Boston was trying to find a parking garage that was near one of the trolley stops. A lot of internet research ahead of time was a help. We also bought our tickets online which worked out well.
We were told not to be at the pier before 1:30. We were there around 1 p.m. and found embarkation to be really smooth and our cabins were ready. We had settled on the interior walkway cabins which are a little more money than the other interior but it was well worth it to have a window. There is a small deck outside these cabins but I am not very tall and it was difficult for me to see over the solid railing. Still, having light in the cabin is a bonus and the price was great!
We had reservations for the Steakhouse the first night because I had read on Cruisecritic that you get a free bottle of wine. Friends were in the cabin next to us and we both had reservations so we had a table for 4. That's when we found out that the free bottle of wine is per table, not per cabin. Empty table for two right next to us...we were tempted to say we wanted to move to it until we got our bottle of wine and then move back together. After talking to a few servers about how unclear it was (bottle per table? bottle per cabin?) we were finally given another bottle by the manager. I was thinking though that on our last cruise we were a party of 10...one bottle of wine per table? Not fair. Fortunately we didn't go to the steakhouse first night last time.
I've read the other remarks about the steakhouse and everyone praises the food and rightly so. It was very good. I cannot give it excellent because when I ordered the Lobster Bisque I was very specific in telling the server that I want my soup to be HOT, not warm, not semi-hot, HOT. When the time came (no one else had soup)I was served last, the soup was poured into a cold bowl, and because I wasn't served right away it was warm, but not hot. I had them take it away and bring me hot soup which they did. But the server offered no apology or even acknowledged that I had been specific about it being hot. All the other food was excellent except for the wasabi mashed potatoes which had no taste of wasabi. The chef came to our table when we were eating our entree and my husband mentioned that, although good, we couldn't taste the wasabi. He said they were no longer putting in as much wasabi as they used to because Americans (he did specify it was Americans, not others) were complaining there was too much. He came back out a few minutes later with another dish with more wasabi...excellent! I guess I should have mentioned that my husband and I have worked in food service/hospitality for many years and worked both front & back of house so maybe we are too picky. But although the food was good the service was not. A fine dining place does not consistently serve the gentlemen first and that happened to us with every course. As well, sometimes one person had their food 3-4 minutes before the rest of us. Should not happen. Next time you are in the steakhouse take note of things like that. The service has to match the food!
Sorry for the long comment on the Steakhouse. When I got home I emailed the Steakhouse with similar comments. No reply of course.
We found the fish and chips (and other seafood) upstairs in the Red Sail and it was a much quieter spot to enjoy lunch and the food was great. We also enjoyed the sushi bar. We had late dinner seating and the sushi around 5 p.m. hit the spot.
We ate in the dining room each night after the first night. Maybe it was because we weren't there the first night but it seemed strange that our waiter and his assistant never even introduced themselves. We had booked a wine package through Bon Voyage and there was no problem with it but our friends had done the same and their package was nowhere to be found even though they had a confirmation number. The rep from Bon Voyage came to the table and told us it was not her problem! We couldn't believe she would say that. Who does she work for? Carnival. Then as their rep it IS her problem! It was never sorted out and our friends ended up ordering another package and working with VISA and Carnival after the cruise to get their money refunded. Food: We found it great. The prime rib, which was offered twice, was marvellous, very tender. Horseradish-lots of flavour. Loved it. It was the first cruise for our friends and when he found out he could order the lobster and the prime rib he was in heaven!
The shows in the Amber Palace were good with the illusionist being great. The cruise director, Josh, was a pain. He came off as being completely filled with how great he was and took so long introducing things that you could go to sleep. We went to the session about the ship and the ports and came out learning virtually nothing we hadn't known before. It was all about Josh and how we could watch him on TV (if we hadn't had enough of him in person).
I loved the fact that there were not many ship-wide announcements. We've been on cruises where they are constantly interupting with announcements in every language you can imagine. This was great!
Saint John (It is NOT St. John!) we went on the trolley tour. The best part was seeing the Reversing Falls and having a lobster roll in the market. For $11 we got the jumbo lobster roll with fries, slaw and drink. Can't beat that! We also toured the vendors who had set up by the pier.
Halifax: one of our friends had a cousin who lived there and they met us and took us to Peggy's Cove. We had been there before but it was worthwhile seeing again. I had researched warm lobster rolls on the internet and really wanted to try one at Evans Fresh Seafood which is situated at the Dartmouth ferry terminal. The Halifax side of the ferry is close to where the ship docked so we could have gotten there ourselves but they drove us to it. Of all the luck, they were out of warm lobster rolls that day...maybe it was the roll they were out of because they did have lobster poutine which my husband ordered and really enjoyed. I had the fresh clams with salad and that was excellent too. Everyone else really enjoyed the fish and chips. Evan's is like a take out counter. Just a small place in the terminal but very busy.
Bingo..well I am a fanatic. I play bingo several nights a week at home. So I tried my luck at every session with no luck. I decided I would not do that again. $25 for one game is way too much money when all they are giving away is a few hundred dollars as the prize. They are making a killing on all of us chumps! The last games were better. One game was for a full card for $750 or a cruise. Not bad. Another game was for $3000 if you had a full card in 40 numbers and called bingo on this special number that had been drawn out ahead of time. As a regular bingo player I knew that your chances of that are millions, maybe billions, to one, so I am quite sure they have never had to give that money away. The consolation price was $2000 if you either bingoed on the number or had a full card in 40 numbers. Chances of that are pretty well nil as well. Next was $1000 for the first full card and that is probably what they pay out every time. Those were the only two games where the prizes were worthwhile.
I have done most of my cruising on Royal Caribbean and many of the negative comments I have made applied to that cruiseline as well so I'm not picking on Carnival. I particularly liked Carnival's policy of letting you take some water and pop onboard as well as one bottle of wine or champagne. Royal Car. won't let you do that.
Embarkation was very smooth although getting up for non-U.S. citizens immigration check for 6:45!! I couldn't see where Americans had any immigration check at all which is the first time I've noticed that. Most Canadians had nothing to declare because anything we bought, we bought in Canada.