Note: The room I stayed in, 9201, is a 6K Scenic Grand Ocean View stateroom, but that category was not an option when I submitted this review. There is a world of difference between the 6J and 6K rooms. Well, actually only about 90 square feet, but I imagine that a 6J room would have felt much different.
The bed/s in the 6K rooms face/s the windows, there was a lot more room for the rest of my family to sit comfortably, and there are two huge floor-to-ceiling windows in the 6K rooms instead of one.
Now, on to the actual review. Last December (2012), my family suggested that five of us vacation together in mid-July. I live in the Middle East, and they live in South Florida. Their suggestion was to meet in Greece for an eight-day land/cruise package. That would have been fine with me, but it would have cost them a lot in airfare, and because my sister insisted on doing this in mid-July, that cost would have been even higher. So, I figured that if I met them somewhere in the US instead, it would cost a lot less.
I did a quick search for cruises departing from somewhere in the US, preferable the east coast of the US, that did not sail to the Bahamas or the Caribbean. They have all cruised there enough times, so they wanted to go someplace else. I actually didn't care that much about where we went; I simply wanted to spend time with them when they were also on vacation. My search resulted in Carnival and Holland America sailings from Boston and Quebec City, and I suggested we sail on the Carnival Glory.
There were five of us: myself, my sister, her son, and my parents. We discussed different room arrangements, but in the end we decided on three separate rooms: two Lido deck balconies for my sister, nephew, and my parents, and the 6K Scenic Grand Ocean View 9201 for me. I had done some poking around on the internet, and figured a 6K room would be something special. In fact, the Carnival website at the time did not show any 6Ks available for this sailing. However, another website showed that 9201 was available, and when I called Carnival, the representative confirmed it was.
Until final payment in April, I debated whether to downgrade to an interior and save money. I was already essentially paying for two people because I decided to get a room to myself, and there was no single-supplement discount for this sailing. So, if I had decided to downgrade, I'd still have my own room, and access to the balconies in my family's nearby rooms. But, I stuck with the 6K, even as the prices for the balconies dropped below what I eventually paid, even though balconies are a higher category than 6K. A great decision, as it turned out.
As the sailing date approached, we discussed shore excursions, rental cars, pre-/post-cruise transportation, and so on. We all stayed at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Boston the night before we sailed. It's a little expensive, but convenient, and a great hotel in its own right. My sister booked the zipline in Saint John for herself and my nephew. My mom booked a rental car for Saint John. And, that was it. I had no desire to reserve any organized shore excursion beforehand, and was more than happy to play things by ear. Again, I was simply happy to spend time with my family. For example, if the weather was cold, windy, or rainy, I would have been more than happy to spend port days on the ship, even before I got on the Glory and saw it for myself.
My biggest concern before we sailed was how crowded the ship would be in the middle of the summer. I realized it might not be a "booze cruise" or overwhelmed by children, because of the itinerary, which was fine by me. My father and I had sailed on a half-full Norwegian Epic across the Atlantic the previous year, so standing in lines would have been an unwelcome change for us.
I decided to fly British Airways for the first time ever. I've lived in the Middle East for more than 16 years, but I'd never flown BA. I was looking forward to it, actually. The day before I flew, I checked in online, and for the first time, used seat-picking websites to help me choose. If you don't mind turbulence, the window seats in the last two rows of the BA 747-400s are wonderful. Because the fuselage tapers at the back, there isn't room for ten seats (3-4-3) in the last three rows. They are 2-4-2, and the window seats have a lot more room to stretch out. A normal row of seats is immediately in front of the first 2-4-2 row, so there's a normal amount of space in front that row. I was a little concerned about being right next to the bathrooms and crew area, but that wasn't an issue on either transatlantic flight. And, the service on BA is top-notch. For example, I don't normally drink alcohol, but I had some (no-added-charge) scotch, and slept a lot.
I took the Silver Line from the airport to South Station, and a taxi from there to the Hyatt Regency. As I mentioned, the hotel was quite nice. Due to jet lag, I woke up at around 3 AM, so I went to the gym, which was open, and used the hotel's no-added-charge Wi-Fi until my family woke up.
We didn't do much that day, but a drama had been unfolding with my parents' passports, so they were more anxious than they otherwise would have been. In the end, it all got straightened out, and we arrived at Cruiseport Boston at 3-3:30 PM, at which time there were no lines. So we basically walked right onto the ship. Pretty nice.
After the safety drill, we watched sailaway from my room, and it was quite amazing. As soon as I opened the door to 9201, I knew I had made the correct decision not to change my room. It's a suite-sized room at a bargain price, and it had more than enough room for the five of us to sit and watch us back out of the harbor, turn around, and head out to sea. It felt more like a nice room in a five-star hotel than a stateroom on a cruise ship. Kudos to Carnival.
I think we ate dinner at the Platinum aft dining room, but I don't remember if it was this night or the following night. In any case, even though I can't remember exactly what I ate, the meal was very good. One thing I do remember tasting during this meal, the Warm Chocolate Melting Cake, lived up to its reputation. Except for a dinner at the for-fee Emerald Steakhouse, which was outstanding, the food was consistently very good.
For most of the cruise, jet lag forced me into and out of bed quite early, so I did not spend a lot of time at shows, lounges, or other night-time activities. On the other hand, I watched breathtaking sunrises almost every morning. I got lucky being in the 6K room on the starboard side of the ship, and I was able to see the sun rise from the comfort of my room's bed. And on mornings we pulled into a port, I watched. We had unusually warm, clear, calm weather for all but one day of the cruise. It was cold, windy, and rocky the second sea day, the day before we returned to Boston.
On the first morning, I realized that you can access, without added charge, information about the ship, the sailing, and the day's activities via the Fun Hub, one of the free links from the onboard Wi-Fi sign-in screen, along with Carnival.com and John Heald's blog.
I should note also that there's a sign in the 6K rooms telling you to keep the blinds for those big, floor-to-ceiling windows closed from sunset to sunrise. I modified that instruction to "Keep the window blinds closed when you have the main room lights on between sunset and sunrise." I had the TV, a reading light, or the bathroom light on at night with the blinds open, and I never got a call from the bridge. But, I was careful about this, and I suggest you be too.
That first full day of the cruise we visited Portland, Maine. I went with my family - via a rather expensive taxi ride - to the Portland Head Light. Again, it was warm and clear, so doing this and walking around the area there was quite enjoyable. After the taxi ride back to the port, we split up: My sister, nephew, and mother went to lunch at a restaurant on the water, and my father and I had chowda at a more casual place nearby, Gilbert's. Think chowda served in styrofoam, not porcelain.
We then got back on ship, and I went up a few decks to Serenity, the adults-only area at the front of decks 12-13, sat in a hot tub, and chatted with people other than my family for a while. Extremely pleasant and relaxing.
I then watched sailaway from my room.
Again, I can't remember specifically what we did for dinner. In fact, this might have been the night I didn't even make it to dinner; one evening, I lied down for a nap at around 6:30 PM, and didn't wake up until the middle of the night.
We visited Saint John, New Brunswick, the second full day of the cruise. My early-morning routine was now set: wake up, walk around the ship, watch sunrise, watch the ship pull in to harbor, and eat fruit and cheese as soon as the breakfast buffet opens. I of course would also eat breakfast with my family a little later.
My sister and nephew went on the zipline near the Reversing Rapids (aka Reversing Falls) in Saint John. They had a blast, but at $100 per person, it just wasn't worth it for me. Plus, I'm afraid of heights. My parents and I watched them. We rented a car from Enterprise, which was not the greatest of experiences. They made us wait a long time for them to pick us up at the port terminal. They also did not have a car for us at the office closest to the terminal, so they drove us to the industrial area of town about 15 minutes away, and then gave us a "free" upgrade from a compact to a large SUV.
When I pointed out that the "free" upgrade would cost us more in gas money, they gave us a discount on the gas. So, we got going a little late, and we wanted to see if we could watch my sister and nephew on the zipline, so all we really had time to do was go to the Reversing Rapids, and eat at Wendy's. There aren't any Wendy's where I live, so I enjoyed having an original Frosty. I only realized after I ordered that they now have different types of Frostys. The weather again was warm and clear, so it was lovely going to the Reversing Rapids observation area and spending a couple of hours at nearby Fallsview Park, where the zipline was.
I think after we got back to the ship, we went to the pool/hot tub area at the front of the Lido deck, which was conveniently very close to our rooms, and I again watched us sail away from my room. And, again, it was an early night for me. I have no recollection of what, if anything, I did after sailaway.
We were at sea the third full day of the cruise, and I actually do not recall much from it. I do know I was enjoying myself. I think this was the day I played mini-golf with my nephew and parents. Somehow, my father and I each got two holes-in-one out of eighteen holes played. Because for me this trip was all about spending time with my family, it was these types of activities that stand out.
I went with my father to see a couple of the comedians at night. They were OK, but not great. The room was packed for both, and they tried to force people into leaving and coming back in if they wanted to see consecutive shows. I understand why, but it sure seemed like a crowded Disney ride as opposed to a pair of comedy shows.
On the third or fourth morning, I remembered that room service was available 24 hours a day, so instead of waiting for the breakfast buffet to open, I ordered a sandwich and juice. It was quite good. At that point, it is likely I also had forgotten that the pizza place aft on the Lido deck is open 24 hours a day.
On the fourth full day, we visited Halifax, Nova Scotia, where the first fog of the cruise, bag pipes and a drummer welcomed us.
In Halifax, we spent time at and near the Harbourwalk, which was right next to where the ship docked, including visiting the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic and its Titanic exhibit. My father and nephew went on the HMS Sackville, docked nearby. Then we split up: my parents went off on their own, and my sister, nephew, and I walked around together. They had seen a place to rent Segways, so they did that for about 10 minutes, and then we had a tasty lunch at Waterfront Warehouse. My sister, who lives in the Florida Keys, had a selection of oysters and was thrilled.
After we got back on board, we went to the EA Sports Bar for sports trivia. Basically, it was my nephew and I playing together. We did this the last three full days of the cruise, and again, it was these types of activities I remember the fondest. My nephew is an incredibly well-behaved and fun-to-be-with pre-teen, and fits in well with adults. He did not go to any of the pre-teen activities. The trivia competition itself was pretty good, although on a number of occasions over the three sessions they experienced technical difficulties with the video screens and competition software.
That evening, we all went to the Hasbro Game Show, and I was shocked - shocked I tell you - to find out that Hasbro now markets poor-cousin mutatations of faves like Monopoly, Operation, and Sorry. In any case, the Hasbro Game Show pulls participants from the crowd, and my nephew got on stage. The last "Scattergories" question to get on stage from our side of the theater was something like "In movies during the 1990s, Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, and George Clooney played this superhero." Well, it's a question not aimed towards kids, so I answered it correctly, and got on stage - although not at the same time as my nephew.
It was fun, but really only for the participants on stage, and their families and friends in the audience. The "team" aspect, one side of the theater against the other side, was kind of weak. Neither my nephew nor I had the lucky Monopoly Electronic Banking Card (?!?!), so each of us got a $20 gift card for the Hasbro website and a "mutant" card game, one of which was a Monopoly-branded concoction. I played it a few times, and I imagine the rest of my family played more than I did as they were awake together while I was sleeping.
I think on the morning of the fifth full day of the cruise, I realized that there was only one place on the ship better than my room to watch the sun rise or the ship pull into harbor or sailaway: the open area at the front of deck 10. Simply spectacular.
This morning, on deck 10, a fellow cruiser pointed out to us how much the ship leans when the thrusters push the ship closer to the dock. If you look at the horizon 90 degrees from the fore-aft centerline of the ship, you can see the ship lean a total of about 30 degrees: 15 degrees up and 15 degrees down. Cool, and just a little scary.
We docked at Sydney, Nova Scotia, and we hadn't made any plans, so I think this is one of the mornings we went to the Platinum aft dining room for a comedy brunch. The comedy wasn't anything spectacular, but I had the Funny French Toast, which takes regular French toast and coats it with cereal. I had the Raisin Bran. Really good.
Some people, including members of my own family and one of the comedians on board, negatively characterize Sydney as boring. That bugs me a little. It is not difficult to find activities to keep you busy for eight or so hours in and around Sydney, if that's what you want. I appreciate when a small town makes an effort to accommodate me, my 3,000 fellow cruisers, and the 110,000-gross ton ship on which we arrive. And while some dismiss walking around town and meeting the locals as "boring", I prefer doing that than doing something that has no connection to the area, its inhabitants, or its history - just to keep busy.
We had dinner that night at the Emerald Steakhouse. Wow. Great food, and lots of it. You might find it impossible, but trust me, leave some room for dessert, specifically the cheesecake. The tallest piece I've ever seen.
The final full day was at sea, and it was cold, windy, and rocky. So, for one thing, Serenity was closed. We had breakfast again at the comedy brunch. Funny French Toast with Frosted Flakes for me. Yummy.
We participated in a scavenger hunt in the late afternoon, and the weather began to clear up as the sun went down on on our final evening at sea.
I went to bed and woke up early again, so I got to see us pull into Boston. The weather had cleared up, so it was just gorgeous. For me, that's cruising's "added value", and that's why I cruise. I can see comedians, eat at nice restaurants, go on ziplines, play mini-golf, and so on, if I want to when I'm not on a cruise ship. There's something special about standing right above the bridge of a 110,000-gross ton ship when it sails into the mouth of a river, turns 180 degrees using its thrusters, and then backs in to the dock, which is what we did in Sydney, for example.
Debarkation was a breeze. We walked off with all our luggage, handed in our customs forms, and that was it. We said our goodbyes and split up: I went to the airport to rent a car to have lunch with a friend outside the city and then returned later in the day for my return flight; my sister and nephew stayed in Boston; and my parents took a train to meet friends in Maine.
It was a wonderful vacation, both because of who I was with, and because of the ship we were on.