Cruise: 9/16 to 24, 2005- Montreal to New York
We've gotten spoiled on our last two cruises, first on Windstar, then on Radisson. This was a jazz cruise, and featured the best entertainment we've ever had, on land or on a cruise ship. It also featured great food and service. While the itinerary was not as exciting as our Windstar cruise from Nice to Lisbon, the ports were generally well handled, and we had a great time.
By modern cruise ship standards the Navigator, with 490 passengers, is a small ship. It never felt too small, and it was great never having to wait on line for anything. The Navigator is infamous for vibration in the rear of the ship, particularly the Portofino grill, and we're generally sensitive to movement. Joe never felt any vibration, Joan just a bit (but not enough to bother her). The ship was roomy and comfortable.
For a ship with so few PAX there were a surprising number of public rooms: two restaurants, Compass Rose (main) and Portofino (buffet and alternative), a large showroom (Seven Seas Lounge), a casino, and several lounges, both large and small. We didn't try the casino or the Stars lounge, but people seemed to be having a good time in both places. There were two lounges near the main desk: a cigar and fine liqueurs lounge (Connoisseur Club, too smoky for us!) and a lounge (Navigator) that served good coffee and tea at all times, and usually had cookies or hors d'oeuvres. That was very comfortable, even though there was no entertainment when we were there. We were never in the piano bar, Galileo's.
Most shows were in the Seven Seas Lounge or the largest bar area, the Vista Lounge. Seven Seas was never overcrowded, so we were able to catch all shows we wanted to see. (In contrast, on the Celebrity Horizon, we had two or three times when we couldn't get into a show. The Vista Lounge had friendly bartenders, good hors d'oeuvres, and terrific bar snacks. It was the site of sever of the jazz concerts, trivia contests, afternoon tea, etc. A very pleasant place.
Fellow passengers and family
A good age mix, but mostly between 40 and 60. There were two young girls and one baby boy onboard-no other children. The clientele was probably 75% American, 5 percent Japanese (a group), and 25 percent British, other European, and Australian. The jazz theme probably resulted in a younger than usual mix of passengers.
On this cruise there was no apparent kids' program.
Fitness and recreation
We're walkers, and we walked rather than trying the gym. The gym appeared to be of fairly large size for such a small ship. There were also lots of supervised mild athletics, such as morning walk, putting contest, ring toss, etc. There was a nice looking spa, but we didn't try it. One thing the ship lacks is a covered pool, and it was too cold for outdoor swimming.
Dress Code and tipping
There were no formal nights, three informal nights (jacket, but tie not required), and five casual nights on our eight night cruise.
There is no tipping required or expected on Radisson.
Best part of the trip
A tossup between the food and the entertainment (both described below), with a slight nod to the food. The service and the friendliness of the crew were a close third, and we became very friendly with the assistant cruise director. This was a Jazz cruise, featuring Bucky Pizzarelli and an equally talented ensemble. We loved every minute they played. The jazz elevated this cruise's entertainment to some of the best we've enjoyed. The crew's show consisted of lip-synching, but was fun, anyway. I miss the native dances performed on some other (HAL) cruises, but the jazz made up for that lack. Their regular entertainers were also superb - their duo was perfectly respectable, even compared to the jazz greats.
Worst part of the trip
Disembarkation, both because we were sorry to have to leave the ship, and because things were so overcrowded that we posted a thread entitled "Chaos on the New York piers." There has to be a better way than to have two porters for 6 cruise ships. We were at the far end of the terminal, and there was NOBODY, and NO CARTS, to help with luggage. This is often a nightmare. The cruise lines believe the cruise is over, and they can focus on their arriving passengers - but disembarkation is also part of the cruise for the traveler, There were only three other things messed up on our eight day cruise, luggage delivery on embarkation, the Halifax shuttle back from the Public Garden (which was early, so we were on time and missed it), and the frequency of tenders in Bar Harbor, which caused us to miss lunch. That's pretty good for eight days.
Our ship arranged flight to Montreal went smoothly, we got our bags quickly, and met our transfer bus immediately. We were taken directly to the pier, and arrived at 10:50 a.m., which was too early to board. Our luggage was placed in a secure storage area, which subsequently caused one of the few problems on the trip. The line apparently forgot about the luggage, which didn't get to our room (after we complained) until about 4:30 p.m.
We walked around Montreal, and got back to the pier at around 12:15. Embarkation was quick and friendly. We got our cruise cards, got a glass of champagne, left our carryon in the room (which wasn't supposed to be ready yet, and wasn't), and went to Portofino, where we had the first of many great meals. By the time we were finished, our room was ready.
These were the largest rooms we'd had on our seven cruises (300 square feet), and we enjoyed the roominess, the walk in clothes closet, the down duvets, the separate tub and shower: in short, everything. We didn't have a balcony, and didn't feel we needed one. The stewardess was attentive to our needs. The room was kept clean, and when we asked for something (ice, more shampoo, etc.) it arrived promptly. The towels and bathrobes were good, and the fruit bowl was kept filled.
Wining and Dining
The food in the dining rooms was so good, and so convenient, that we tried room service only twice, for breakfast. We made a special request for "crabs benedict", and got them on the second day (24 hour notice is needed) This demonstrated Radisson's willingness to honor special requests. While the crabmeat eggs benedict sounded better than they tasted, but the rest of the meal was superb. The hot things were hot, the cold things cold and everything in-between was just as it should be. Breakfast and lunch were served in the Compass Rose, but other food was available in a variety of locations.
We had two lunches off the ship, on excursions in Prince Edward Island (Lobster) and Louisbourg, Nova Scotia (soldiers' fare). The remainder were at Portofino or, in one case, at the pool grill. In all cases, lunch was well presented, hot or cold as it was supposed to be, and delicious. There was always something exotic, and we like exotic. As for the service, the waiters practically fought over which one would carry our food to the table. .
Dinners were even better than breakfasts and lunches: good choices, and steak, chicken, healthy and vegetable choices, and grilled fish were always available. We're not steak fans, but enjoyed "Italian steak house" nigh at Portofino. We had a second night at Portofino, for "A taste of Italy." The food wasn't as good as on other nights in Portofino and the main dining room, but who cared: we were having so much fun with the singing waiters and the hokey Italian songs. Don Vito's staff from the Diamond have arrived on the Navigator!
The wine was abundant, freely poured, and delicious - and was, of course, complimentary. We had so much wine and port at dinner that our bar tab was zero.
Open sitting was generally good, although we do see some benefit to fixed seating with the same waiter every night. We ate by ourselves, with people we met, and (once) at a randomly assigned table. If there was a down side, it was that meals started at seven, which is later than we like to eat on vacation. That, in turn, mean that the shows started very late for us: 9:30 or 9:45. We missed several shows, including some great jazz (see below) because we simply were too tired to go to such late (for us) shows.
Ports and Itinerary
Unlike our two weeks in the Western Med. Last year, this was not a "killer itinerary"; but it had some very pleasant ports. Montreal and Quebec were rainy, but we did enjoy a private (non-ship) tour of Quebec, and the Quebec Museum of Civilization was terrific. We took ship's excursions in Charlottetown and Sydney , but would have enjoyed either city without any excursion. Halifax is always fun, especially when you are greeted by Theodore the Tugboat as you enter the big harbor. We took a ferry across the harbor and back, saw the Maritime museum, visited the public garden (but, as noted above, missed the shuttle back to the ship because it left early), and walked along the waterfront.
Bar Harbor was disappointing. We had reserved an independent tour, but ended up with a ship's tour because of the timing of our visit. The park was beautiful and we had a nice walking tour; but the tour guide and driver refused to let us off at a museum we wanted to go to. (WHY? ) We ended up walking up and down a typical New England resort town: every window a place to take your money. Typical tourist stuff, prices too high (and too similar - all the shops sold t-shirts for a price within $1.00 of each other, all the ice cream cost the same, all the sandwiches cost within $1.00 of each other) nothing special. We just missed a tender, had a 25 minute wait, then just missed lunch. (That's when we ate a good lunch poolside). All in all, Bar Harbor was the low point of the trip.
Boston was a surprising high point. After living in Boston for three years, what could we do that would be interesting during a very short time in port? The answer was: plenty. We walked the Freedom Trail to Old Ironsides, had a great (free) tour of the ship, walked through the (free) museum saw a ($3.00) multimedia re-enactment of the Battle of Bunker Hill, then took an inexpensive ferry back to our shuttle pickup point. Great fun, and something we'd never done. Obviously, the Tourist Office of Boston AND the National Parks Service AND the U.S. Navy AND the MBTA have advised people working with tourists how to treat them
We used ship's excursions in three ports. In Bar Harbor, we took a "Walking Tour with Cadillac Mountain". The tour was interesting and the view from the mountain gorgeous; but, as noted, it ended on a sour note when we couldn't get off the bus where we wanted to get off. We would have done just as well with lunch on board ship and "Oli"s. In Louisbourg, we planned on taking a cab from the ship to the fortress. The ship, however, docked at Sydney, so we had to take a ship's tour to get to the fortress. Our six person kitchen and garden tour was expensive but good, and we enjoyed the fortress very much. Sydney, itself, had some history and I'm sure we could have walked their historic district happily.
We've saved the best for last: Anne of Green gables and Dalvay-by-the-Sea. We're big Anne fans, so we took the deluxe tour, which included a lovely tour of PEI National Park, lobster and mussel lunch at an old seaside "cottage" that is now a landmark hotel, and Green Gables. Joan dressed up as Anne, complete with red wig (with pigtails), calico dress, and basket of goodies. Wonderful.
Entertainment was the best we've ever had. The show room and Vista lounge were comfortable, the cast shows (six talented young people) and entertainers were fine, and the lounge players were excellent. This was all overshadowed by the special signature events of the cruise: this was a jazz cruise. And what jazz! Eleven jazz men and women, many of them famous: Bucky Pizzarelli, John Allred, Randy Sandke, Nikki Parrott, Calolyn Leonhart, and several others. There was jazz once or twice a day: in the showroom, the Vista lounge, and by the pool. Hot jazz, cool jazz, old and new, New Orleans, Chicago, and Memphis style. Soloists, big combos, small combos. Total saturation, after we hadn't been to a jazz concert in years. We loved every minute. What was best, the jazz performers were treated as passengers when they weren't performing, and we kept running into them: at dinner, around the ship, in ports. We saw them as people, not just performers.
There was only one down side to the entertainment, as noted above. Because of the single sitting, the evening shows were uncomfortably late for us.
Level of service
Even better than the generally excellent service last November on Windstar. We can't wait for our next Radisson cruise, which (due to tight vacation schedules in 2006) will probably be in 2007.
None is required or accepted.
There were seven ships in the port of New York, so disembarkation was awful. See our post on "Chaos on the New York piers". We were comfortable, if bored, during the long, long wait to get off the ship.
Radisson has a reputation as a deluxe cruise line, and it fully lived up to the reputation.