About Us: Sailing were me (52), DH (51), and two of our three sons, 16 and 12. This was our seventeenth cruise and our seventh Canada cruise. It's our "go to" cruise -- we live a little over two hours north of NYC, so it's an easy getaway for us. And we love Saint John and Halifax -- two of the friendliest ports you'll ever visit. This was our fourth cruise on Glory, with one Eastern Caribbean cruise and three Canada cruises.
Monday -- Embarkation
We drive to the port in NYC. Parking is expensive - $35 per day. We paid twice as much to park in NYC for a five-day cruise than we did for a seven-day cruise last month out of Baltimore. However, with four of us in the car it's still cheaper than public transportation. Knowing that there is a lane closure on the Cross Bronx and the possibility of jams on the George Washington Bridge, we took a new route to the port: Taconic State Parkway to the Saw Mill Parkway to the Henry Hudson Parkway, then down the West Side Highway to the port. The Taconic through Putnam County is an adventure -- it's narrow with lots of curves and hills. However, it worked for us. We left the house a little after 9, dropped the dog off at the kennel, and were parked at the pier by 11:40. Boarding was fairly easy; we had VIP check-in and were on the ship a little after 12. Up to Lido for lunch; it was already crowded.
We had Ocean Suite 7243, while the boys had inside 7245 across the hall. Nice location, just forward of the forward stairs and elevator. We had no noise problems, aside from some balcony door slamming. Our cabin stewards were terrific.
The muster drill was the most interminable drill we've done yet -- about a half hour long. The crew really took the drill seriously -- some of the passengers, not so much. We try to wait until the signal sounds for the drill, but our cabin stewards had other ideas -- they went around knocking on every door to make sure no one skipped the drill and then put the "evacuated" tag in each door lock. Down on the boat deck, the crew counted the people at each station -- twice. The drill was further delayed because of the people who refused to quit talking -- some people just don't think that "Quiet" is directed at them. Finally, though, we were through it and on to sailaway.
This was also our first introduction to our cruise director, Pete De Vill. I was expecting Josh Waitzman, who was listed as the CD on this cruise; I gather he needed some time off and they filled in with an ACD. Pete seemed like a nice guy, but he definitely needed some practice with the microphone.
NYC sailaway is always great. We decided to stay on our starboard balcony so we could get a good view of the Statue of Liberty (although there are other neat things to see on that side of the ship. The only problem with a starboard balcony at this time of the year was that the sun shone directly on our balcony. It doesn't make for great photos and it was horribly warm. So warm, in fact, that once we were past the statue I started feeling dizzy and had to go into the cabin. Missed sailing under the bridge, and only briefly caught the show being put on by one of the FDNY fireboats, complete with water cannon and horn salute.
We booked Your Time Dining for this cruise so that we wouldn't miss sailaway, as normally we book 6:00 seating and that would be just about the time we would reach the bridge. This night we decided to book the steakhouse and take advantage of their offer of a free bottle of wine for booking the first night. We were there at 7:00 and had a great dinner. (Boys opted for Lido deck pizza instead.) After dinner, we went to the welcome aboard show; we've seen it lots of times, but wanted to see the comedians and find out a little more about Pete the cruise director.
Tuesday -- A "Fun day at Sea"
We did keep ourselves busy! We spent the morning with breakfast on Lido, followed by cards and coffee (and people watching) on the Promenade deck. At noon there was a cooking demo in the steakhouse. Appetizer, salad, entree and dessert, samples provided. After that there was a wine and food pairing ($15), also in the steakhouse. After all that, we didn't need much in the way of lunch! Oh, and then there was tea in the aft dining room at 3:30.... And it was elegant night, which meant lobster. After dinner, we went to the family friendly comedy of Tim Young. (We didn't do any of the main shows, since we've seen them all before.)
Wednesday -- Welcome to Saint John!
Saint John is a wonderful city. Absolutely one of the friendliest places I've been. These folks will trip over each other to help you with questions about the port area, what to do, etc. Today was no exception. Disney Magic was in port with us; she's a really nice looking ship.
We didn't have any real plans other than doing a walking tour, so we set out along the Harbour Passage to get some nice views of the ships and the harbor area. Then we headed back to Market Square, where the 16 YO wanted to get a pair of sunglasses. Then up to City Market, where I purchased Canada mints for our oldest who was not on the cruise with us. (When we first visited Saint John in 2004, our tour guide introduced that son to Canada mints. He usually makes do with the US-produced version we can buy in our local supermarket, but when we go to Saint John I like to buy him the real thing.) Over to Kings Square and the Loyalists' Burial Ground, then down the hill on Princess Street to the Big Tide Brewing Company for lunch. DH and I sampled their "Celtic Mist Irish Red Ale," and it was very good. Older son and I had clams and chips for lunch, younger son had fish and chips, and DH had onion soup. The clams were nice -- the breading was very light. So that makes three places I can recommend in Saint John: Steamers, across the street from the pier; Grannan's, at Market Square; and Big Tide.
After sailaway was the VIFP party in the Ebony Lounge, Deck 5 aft. Nice party -- lots of appetizers, lots of drinks, in fact more than I could manage. There was one Diamond cruiser on board, so he was invited up to the stage. (I gathered he'd done this before, since he seemed to have a prepared speech.)
This evening we wanted to see "Music Connection" in the Ivory Bar. They're very good, but their decibel level was overpowering. My ears actually started to ache. Off we went to the Lido deck and the Olympics. It was a lot of fun on the big screen, and it was fairly busy.
Thursday -- Halifax and Norovirus....
We were awakened at 1:15 a.m. by some rather insistent knocking on our cabin door. It's the 16 YO.
"Steven's sick. He didn't make it to the bathroom." Oh joy. I don't deal well with bodily excretions -- didn't when the kids were little and it's worse now. DH, to my never-ending thankfulness, deals better with it, and he went across the hall to clean up what he could and bring son back to our cabin. At that point, we figured it was a case of far too many different foods, like clams and chips, penne mariscos, etc. That son has always had a wide-ranging appetite and we thought he had just overdone it.
We awoke to learn that a couple of hours after younger son's experience, older son also became ill. At 8:15 in the morning, Pete came on the PA system to advise that during the night, a number of passengers had reported "GI" problems and that passengers should take care to wash hands frequently. (The word "Norovirus" was never used in any announcements.) At this point, we were 45 minutes out of Halifax. Younger son was much better, but older son was not doing well at all.
We had an excursion booked in Halifax -- the tall ship "Silva" harbor sail. Younger son felt that he could go, but older son was really green around the gills -- so DH stayed back with him and younger son and I went on the tour.
We enjoyed the trip around the harbor on Silva, although it's not a vigorous sail. They put the sails up, but still used the engine. It did give us great views of the Halifax waterfront.
As for DH, he spent the morning on the Serenity deck while the 16 YO slept in his cabin. Both DH and I enjoyed the Serenity deck, although DH's "serenity" was broken at one point by a family of four who promptly started arguing loudly about whether the kids were allowed to be there. They finally left when the deck attendant settled their argument by telling them that no, the kids were not allowed to be there.
After our tour, we went back to the ship, met DH for lunch, and headed back out. At this point the 16 YO felt better but was pretty tired, so he stayed put and the rest of us walked down the boardwalk. The Buskers' Festival was underway, so there was a lot of entertainment going on -- and there were large crowds. My mission was a visit to Nova Scotian Crystal; they have a showroom of their products and a workshop where you can watch them make the crystal. A few years ago we started collecting their "Annapolis" pattern, so on this visit we settled on two port wine glasses.
That night it was just DH and I at dinner. The boys definitely were better, but neither was anxious for a big dinner. And it seemed that a number of folks felt likewise -- while on the previous two nights we had to stand in a line for a table at Your Time Dining, this evening we simply walked up to the podium and were immediately seated. After dinner we opted for more Olympics on the big screen. They had nice blankets available at the towel hut. We also went to the Burgundy Bar for the chipotle martinis served there. Really good, but they make for some weird dreams....
Last "Fun Day at Sea"
Another morning with cards and coffee on the Promenade deck. After lunch, I decided to go to the spa, where there is a really nice hot tub/pool. Unfortunately for me, this afternoon both were occupied with a group of late teens/early twenties guys. Around the age of my oldest son. I decided I wouldn't make very good company for them (or vice versa, for that matter) so I headed out to the Serenity deck, where there was plenty of room in the hot tubs -- not to mention people closer to my age. The hot tub was very nice, very relaxing. I met two couples there -- one was a pair of frequent cruisers who were on Carnival for the first time. They were very pleased with their experience (despite the Noro) -- they had avoided Carnival because of the party reputation, but really had a great time. They found it comparable to Royal Caribbean as far as food and fellow passengers went (they thought the decor on RCI was more subdued) and said they'd be back. The second couple was from a family of first-time cruisers. Normally they would do a timeshare in the Caribbean, but this was a family cruise. Up until the Noro reared its ugly head (all three of their kids got it), they had enjoyed the cruise. Sick kids definitely put a damper on their vacation. I hope they'll give it another chance.
Last dinner in the dining room, and it was as crowded as before the bug hit. After dinner, a last visit to the Burgundy Bar and packing (ugh). The captain had announced earlier that the ship would dock around 6 a.m. and self-assist would start at 7. It meant an early morning's start....
I awoke around 5:15 and we had just sailed under the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. Often I recommend to people that if they missed a side of New York Harbor for photos on the way out that they get up early to photograph the other side on the way back in. With a port time that early, photos just don't work. I went back to bed for a little while. As Platinum cruisers, we were asked to meet in the Golden Dining Room at 8:00 to leave the ship. No breakfast for us -- no one was that hungry so early in the morning. We left the ship around 8:40 and were through Customs and in our car by 9:00. (Funny Customs story: We had three bottles of alcohol. In fact, the bottles were nicely packaged in a box with "3" prominently displayed on the outside. The Customs limit is one bottle per adult. I very properly declared three bottles to the agent, who said in response "You said two, right?" Okay, twist my arm....) Out onto the West Side Highway and back home the way we came so as to avoid the Ironman competition going on in the area. We were home by lunchtime.
Kathy's "Your Mileage May Vary" Section
Carnival Glory: I love Conquest-class ships. We just don't have a problem navigating the decks. This was our fourth time aboard Glory, and we enjoyed sailing her again. She will be going into drydock in Freeport in November for the Funship 2.0 upgrades, and I'm looking forward to sailing her again.
Crew: I thought the crew went above and beyond when faced with Noro. Our cabin stewards didn't blink an eye when we told them of the less-than-stellar conditions in sons' cabin and they never lost their smile or their sense of humor. In the buffet area, I saw frequent cleaning of the buffet area -- not to mention that they removed the catsup, mustard, salt and pepper from individual tables so that you had to go to a central location to request them. And the deck crew was constantly wiping down railings, elevator areas, etc. Understand as well that the Canada run is not the crew's most popular run. The weather is often iffy and there aren't beaches like you find in the Caribbean.
The dining room staff was good as well. This was only the second time we have had Your Time Dining, and while I missed having the same staff each night, we always had personable waiters who provided as personalized service as you can provide with Your Time Dining.
Entertainment: I missed having Josh as our Cruise Director. We sailed with him twice before, on Miracle in 2009 and on Glory last year. He's a really nice guy and very entertaining. Having said that, Pete shows a lot of promise as a cruise director. We didn't see any of the shows except the Welcome Aboard Show -- we've seen all the shows before. Glory still had a Lido deck duo (the DJ stayed in the dance club except for the VIFP party) and still had one of the rock bands, Music Connection (way too loud for my taste). The big screen entertainment was pretty much limited to the Olympics for this cruise -- not that I minded that, since it was fun to watch on the screen.
Passengers: Large numbers were from NY/NJ/CT/PA, although we met several folks who came from a distance -- one family from Louisiana, another from Kentucky. As with any cruise, I found most people to be really nice (although NYers are more fast-paced than most). There were standouts, however. The one that particularly comes to mind is the guy at the Guest Services desk the morning of the first sea day, complaining that the bottle of alcohol he had packed in his checked bag had been confiscated. The assistant purser tried to explain the (at least to me) clear policy about alcohol in checked bags, even showing him the policy in writing. The passenger crumpled up the paper and threw it at the assistant purser and stalked off. I felt sorry for the poor crew member -- there's no excuse for behavior like that.
Food: No complaints on my part. However, being a five-day cruise there were all sorts of venues I never visited on this cruise, like the deli, the pizza, fish and chips, Mongolian wok, or the burrito bar. The steakhouse was excellent as usual, and I had no complaints about any of the dining room food.
VIFP program: This was our second cruise as VIFP Platinum. Boarding went well, the complimentary laundry worked like a charm (we only sent out two bags among the four of us), and the VIFP party was fun. We received the plate of chocolate strawberries/goodies the last night of the cruise. We used the coupon for the complimentary drink on the last day at lunch in the dining room; DH and I each had a Margarita. And disembarkation worked well.
We had the best weather ever on a Canada cruise. Nice, warm weather in port, very little fog. Once again we loved visiting Saint John and Halifax, and we love the people there. Certainly Norovirus put a damper on the cruise; however, it didn't ruin it. And the boys' experience with Noro was nothing compared to their experience three years ago with swine flu (school was the culprit there, not a cruise). And again, I can't say enough about the crew, especially our cabin stewards who truly rose to the occasion.
The next cruise is already booked. It's going to be the "blowout" cruise, to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary and oldest son's college graduation. Carnival Legend, 12-day Baltic cruise. Ports include Copenhagen, Berlin (Warnemunde), Helsinki, two days in St. Petersburg, Talinn, and Amsterdam. The boys are just disappointed that we have to wait so long to cruise again.