Yorktown Cruise Review by MrChefDave: Cruising the Saint Lawrence from Montreal to Chicago. Unique!
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Cruising the Saint Lawrence from Montreal to Chicago. Unique!
This is my first review of a cruise via Cruise Critic, so fellow cruisers here is my opinion of what our cruise on the Yorktown was like. I have identified good points, bad points and where I think they could make improvements. The ships generator went off line and took out the second because of an overload. We sat dead in the water for awhile, but I keep forgetting about this. Seemed like a non-issue.
The Yorktown is an American Registered Ship and also contains an all American Crew. It is owned by Travel Dynamics. I do not know if this is a good thing or not, but the ship went to places I wanted to visit and with only 110 other passengers. We booked our cruise through The Museum of Natural History. Other cruisers booked theirs through Our Gang Travel and the Smithsonian. There was a group from France who had their own interpreter and all french lectures were provided. Booking was a little difficult but with E-mail and phones we were able to get through it.
The More ports visited were really great and I felt I could have spent longer in each but the time was adequate. The lectures offered on the boat were really interesting, they were varied and applied to the trip. Temu, the Cruise director, was informative and there were never any questions on what was going to happen next. Getting off and on the boat at each port was handled as expected without difficulty along with changes in time or rain events like the Dune buggy ride in Saugatuck, which was off and on again and rescheduled. On smaller cruise ships schedules are flexible so things just seem to work well.
Some ports visited:
Montreal start of the trip.
We got to Montreal a few days early, since we have not spent any time there before. We stayed at the Embassy Suites which is a short walk to the ship with our luggage. There is plenty to do in Montreal, great restaurants, easy to pick activities and an underground train. Get the AAA or CAA book and pick from the Gems.
We took the tour to the Ford Rouge plant. The guide on the bus was not informative and pretty much showed you things we were passing just because they were there. Like this church or that building. However, what was inappropriate, was the off color jokes he was telling! The plant was not running but it had a nice over view of what happens
Yes Maid of the Mist, Everyone has to do it once, Get the Blue Ponchos and everyone looks like Smurfs! After this event the buss takes you to the ship which has moved to a new location, it is a good opportunity to see more of the area. Here too the guide was
telling off color and in appropriate jokes. Yes I laughed at the jokes but they did not consider that the youngest person on the bus was an 11 year old.
This small town really rolled out the red carpet! They met us att the boat gave us maps water and had a bagpiper playing for us. The Marine Museum is really great too. WE will revisit this town.
Fudge is the first word here! There are more places to buy fudge than I think horses on the island. This island does not allow cars or any motorized vehicles. Taking a carrage tour to Fort Henry and the Grand Hotel were highlights of this stop. This was our third visit to the island and once you get by the fudge and tourists it is enjoyable.
Other stops in Michigan included, Saugatuck, and Charlivoix.
These are small mostly occupied summer towns. Really unique and fun to visit.
Anyway, back to the boat!
All of the ships servers were properly trained in correct table service other than big Tony who seemed to always be rushed and bringing multiple courses to our table at a time. Micha and Kate on the other hand were the best, we just picked our table locations accordingly to get good service. Note, every meal event on the Yorktown is similar to Open Seating on a larger ship.
There were no issues with cabin service and Sherry was very adept of taking care of our cabin on our schedule not hers which is great. Free bottled water was always available in our cabin. Oh and no towel animals! I really like these all inclusive cruises!
Well not everything on the ship was great. The galley was staffed by 9 folks and the food they prepared was really bad, not bad like not good to eat, just from what is expected on a cruise of this type! I later found out that the chef was new, so maybe he is just getting used to the galley (benefit of the doubt) I don't know if he is better or worse than the last. I just know that a number of us passengers did not enjoy the food.
Breakfast and Lunches were buffets and dinners were table service. The food at breakfast was pretty much the same every day, cheese, canned fruit, some fresh, lunch meat that was cut much too thick. Pate (think of spam) of some smoked meat. Cold smoked salmon was served only once followed by creamed herring in a mustard sauce then more herring was added to the dish but it was salted and was not prepared properly to go into the same dish, too salty. It was also served over and over again. These items were followed by cold overdone dried out scrambled eggs, cold potatoes, cold french toast or pancakes, some days both. Bacon and sausage in the same pan again cold. Biscuits that were really small made in a muffin tin?. Very thin sausage gravy. What happen to the leftover sausage? Also one or two days ham was added to the menu.
Getting cold toast or english muffins was not a problem since you could pick one and a server would toast it and bring it to your table. After the week progressed I figured out a method! Request an omelet (It may or may not come out with the requested ingredients) but it was hot. Also you can request poached eggs they needed to be cooked by request, but again they were hot.
Lunch had pretty much similar issues. Cheese, canned fruit. Cracker plate which was usually empty (they were just Keebler crackers anyway) and pate from breakfast. Lunch meat again cut too thick, green leafed lettuce and several toppings for a salad bar. Following was a hot pasta with various leftovers (we had flank steak a previous night now we had pasta and flank steak. Reheated breakfast potatoes and peppers and onions for a vegetable.
Usually the last two half pans were of a food that had been left from a previous cruise or dinner. Such as some BBQ ribs or airline chicken breast (the way a chicken breast is cut) or fish. I believe the Chef thought not enough for a dinner service but for lunch maybe and if I run out I could plug in another leftover. Oh and that night for appetizers before dinner in the lounge we had left over bbq ( w/bbg sauce this time) on crackers. Or ground up pate sandwiches with the crusts cut off, fancy? Another example was the chicken. It was called airline breast and was served at our table as a lunch choice (a lot of passengers took a train trip), so no buffet this day. It appeared the 2nd time as a lunch item in one of the half pans with some gravy and a 3rd time as Coq au vin for dinner! We had the legs and thighs another time at lunch. Another example of reused, leftover food preparation was pork roast. Served as a roast entree and then as another entree with a different name later in the cruise that still looked like and tasted like a leftover. Soups are offered for lunch and some dinners as appetizer courses most were too thin, with no body, and no flavor. Appeared to me to make more soup , water was added.
The best thing were the salads served as the salad course during dinner. Same lettuce but different ingredients added and dressing, very enjoyable. I usually tried to pick fish but one night my wife ordered Blackened Drum, hers was much to much blackened and a fellow table mate had hardly any spice or blackening on his. What I am saying is there is no consistency between the plates. Most of the time, the main item on the plate was a least warm, but the vegetables were usually cold and the potatoes gaggy. Another time I ordered a vegetable cannelloni (stuffed pasta noodle with tomato sauce) because the other items appeared to be created with other leftovers. It did not appear fresh. Just reheated from frozen, maybe from another trip. I was fooled here too.
All in all, the food quantity and preparation was horrible! Having a galley staff of 9 is not an excuse for poor food. Basic culinary practices, food preparation, temperatures are not being followed or adhered too. I am sure that proper food safety temperatures on the buffet were also not correct. I never saw anyone checking to make sure it was being kept at a serve safe temperature. I am surprised no one got sick.
I would believe that the chef can buy and use products that he wants to as long as that he stays within a budget. I feel that the cruisers on this trip got the short end of the stick on food and I feel that most meals were created with some sort of leftover from something else, not that leftovers should not utilized, I just don't want to have it be so apparent and in my face that they are. I did not see new food come aboard other than when we got to Chicago at the end of the trip, however I saw plenty of other opportunities for new food at other ports we visited.
THE ABOVE ISSUES SHOULD NOT BE ISSUES ON A CRUISE OF THIS CALIBER, THE MEALS SHOULD BE UPSCALE AND SIMILAR TO OR BETTER THAN A HOLLAND AMERICA TYPE CRUISE LINE!
One other point on food. Not nearly enough vegetables. Broccoli was served once I think with a Fillet Mignon early in the cruise and only one small floret with the the gaggy potatoes.
Where I think the Yorktown can improve:
They could consider some theme meals such as a Taco bar or Hamburger, Hot dog Cookout or a stir fry oriental night or lunch. Have more upscale menu items including for example Veal Chop, Whole lobster, Fillet Mignon. Have a grilled steak available when other menu items do not satisfy the passenger. Create menus before the cruise so that the chef can stock to the menu and not 1 hour before as I was told the chef does.
We have cruised Holland America and being active boaters know how to read charts Rather than have a road map posted with sticky arrows, where we are going to and from, a nautical chart would be more appropriate. Or a small LCD TV with a charting program running showing our real position with distances traveled and distances to go.
Having a tour bus at the end of the trip to take folks and their luggage to the airport would also be real nice so everyone did not have to take their own taxi.
This is also the first cruise we ever received a FREE CD with Photos of Ports visited along with excursions along with a list of fellow cruisers. Really a nice touch! Less
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Cabin review: MM14
The cabin met my expectation. There were no issues. Actually there was just as much closet space as we had on the larger holland America ships. Of course we over packed, usually do. Shower curtains stick to you and we heard the bow thruster. But we new these issues before hand so they were not issues. Room was great.