This was my third cruise with Royal Caribbean (my 4th total) and the first time in New England & eastern Canada. My primary reason for choosing this cruise was to see fall colors and lighthouses.
As usual with Royal, the embarkment was super fast...took maybe 15 minutes. Disembarkment at each port was also surprisingly fast compared to other cruises I have taken. I don't know if if was my timing or what, but it only took about 5 minutes to get off the ship at each port. Plus, there were no long lines getting back on later in the day. Even the final disembarkment was fast...I was in the first group (after unassisted) to get off the ship and clear customs and the total time was 10 minutes until I had my bag and was outside the terminal!
I'm never a big fan of the Windjammer Cafe. I admit to being a food snob, coming from Seattle where we have fantastic restaurants. I would rate the food there on the scale of a Denny's. So, I only ate there when I absolutely had to (getting on ship for first time and the last morning).
I had My Time seating for the dining room in the evening, a first for me and I loved it! While I had made a reservation for each night (just in case I needed it), they were very accommodating and I only had to wait once (10 mins.) to get seated with our favorite waiters. The first evening, our waiters were horrible...they were very inattentive and not personable at all. The next night, we hit the jackpot when seated in Gabriel's and Yuriko's section! They were so friendly and attentive that we requested them every night after that. I have a dairy allergy and Gabriel was very good at accommodating me by asking the chef to tweak my food choice and bringing me special deserts. The maitre d was also very good (though I can't recall his name) - he could remember our stateroom number and our seating preference within two nights!
Which reminds me...two years ago, when my husband and I were on Majesty of the Seas, we found that food allergies were not accommodated very well. Since then (not sure if my suggestion influenced it or not), but their menus are now coded so you can see what menu items are available as dairy-free or gluten-free, making it easier to choose. They also have gluten-free breads for those with that allergy. Good job, Royal Caribbean!
Entertainment - The shows were good, but not quite as spectacular as the ones on Freedom of the Seas, in my opinion. What did make the entertainment outstanding was the cruise director, Ricky Matthews. He has to be the best one out of all the cruises I have taken. He's so good of engaging everyone and has endless energy. He, and his team, are such a good fit together. My favorite part was the 70s Disco Night (with the Activity Director dressed in a loin cloth and war bonnet for YMCA and looking so cute)! Other favorites are Desmond (new bingo host) and Mandy (who will be joining Freedom of the Seas).
Casino - very tiny smoke-free section and poor ventilation, so cigarette smoke was always present..sometimes creeping out into the Centrium.
One thing I'd like to see implemented is a no-scent policy in public places (theater, dining rooms, etc.). There are a lot of ladies (many smokers) that don't know how to use it sparingly, causing my eyes to constantly burn and making me sneeze.
Overall, I recommend this cruise - just keep in mind that since this is a fall cruise (when school is in), so the majority of the passengers are over 60 and move a lot slower.
Since the government was shut down, Acadia National Park was closed. So, all those excursions were cancelled and they booked people on other ones. Our cruise was doubled in size with a different boat that was not conducive to taking photographs of the lighthouses. Plus, a third of the people had to sit outside on the top deck, where it was extremely cold and windy when the boat was moving and higher speeds.
We had lunch at the Fish House Grill. I ordered the combination of lobster tail, snow crab, stone crab claws, lobster claws, clams, mussels & shrimp. One of the clams was filled with black, sticky mud and it really grossed me out. They took everything and just washed it off instead of giving me a new order. They didn't even take some money off the order as an apology (the cook should have caught this is they scrubbed the shells before cooking them). The siphons of the clams had a dark, gritty skin on them that should have been removed (I had never eaten a clam that required this before...they looks and tasted gross). They steamed the shrimp in salt water and butter, making them very oily and weird tasting. The only good thing I ate was the cornbread, which was excellent.
After reading the disappointing reviews by other cruise critic members, I was starting to regret that I signed up for the Peggy's Cove excursion. I'm glad I did, though...it was my favorite place of the whole cruise to take photos!
Unlike some of the other reviewers, we spent 75 minutes at Peggy's Cove - plenty of time to walk through the town, take photos, get a bite to eat, and do a little shopping.
Hints: Take your passport with you and go upstairs of the main gift shop/restaurant - they will stamp it with a passport stamp that has the lighthouse in it. Also, everything upstairs is locally made (instead of China) and there was NO line at the checkout! Skip the crowd at the restaurant and head over to the hotdog cart ($5 for a dog and a soda) - she even makes her own relish and mustard.
My only negative comments are that there are so many people walking around the lighthouse that it's near impossible to get a complete photo of it without people in it. Too bad they don't make everyone clear out every 30 minutes (for 15 minutes) so people can take photos. Also, too many buses there at one time...I think 3 buses at a time is plenty (not the 20 that seemed to be there). The place is just too small for that many people.
I wish I would have taken one of the excursions - my feet hurt to much to do any exploring. Instead, I walked along the promenade for a bit and ate lunch at the Old Seaport Seafood Grill. I'm sure I could have found lobster much cheaper if I went further into the city. Market Price means "we see a tourist and will charge a higher rate," I'm sure. The restaurant has great food with friendly staff. After receiving a deformed lobster (it was missing meat in the tail and claws, so the fisherman surely saved it from a life of misery), I was comped my beer and a shrimp cocktail while waiting for a new lobster.
If you walk around the wharf in the old port, you will probably see fisherman unloading their lobster catch.
Small group size of 20 was a big plus for this excursion. Matt, the tour guide, is a professional photographer who shared his knowledge of photo composition (rule of thirds, leading lines, etc.) and camera settings (aperture, speed), while showing examples from his own work. I had taken a photography class, so I knew this information already, but it was very informative for my cousin and most of the other people on the trip. He took us to some great spots for shooting photos - I only wish there would have been more places to stop with more time overall.
This is an excellent excursion if you love to take photos and wish to get away from the crowds of other tourists.