• We are a couple in our 40s, middle class and traveling without our children.
• I have medical (cancer) and mobility issues that need to be taken into consideration with everything we did on board.
Notes about the food:
• The Crème brulee was not on the everyday menu and had the Brownie Stack instead.
• Limited dining choices and hours. I don’t understand why they close the burger and pizza places down at 5pm. On other cruise lines these are all open in the evening if not 24/7.
• Soda is very hard to find before 9am. The only option is through room service and you cannot use a soda card to do this. Cans cannot be purchased with the soda card at bars for you to save and use the next morning when they are not open. Because the soda’s are not unlimited you were also limited to small glasses, other lines allow you to use larger cups with insulation (Royal Caribbean even provides you with one).
• Room service does not appear to get orders correct when called in over the phone. Several people and ourselves all noted issues with not getting exactly what we asked for and the temperature being luke warm.
Notes about the Neptune Suite and Lounge:
• The suite was a nice size and gave us space to spread out and to comfortably host a party of about 10. We enjoyed having the separate dressing area and bathroom and there was a ton of storage space (15 drawers, 4 closets and about 6 other shelves behind doors in various places).
• The concierge ordered hot appetizers for us, we had about a dozen of two different items… both of which were delicious.
• We took advantage of the free dry cleaning and pressing. I did not use the laundry services though.
• It was nice having a concierge to handle any and all questions/issues. He was able to order excursions for us, replace my husband’s room key when he lost it, and print up room charges and take payment from us to zero out the balance at the end of the cruise. He was also able to reset our safe when we arrived since the last person to use the room did not leave it unlocked for us to use.
• The mobility accessible suite was a bit of a joke to me. The only grab bar for the toilet was behind it. Not a great place for me to grip to stand up, I ended up using the towel rack and the sink instead. The shower seat was not in a comfortable location for me to use it since it’s bolted to the wall and just folds down, so I ended up standing for quick showers.
• Tendering only works if you can handle stairs (which thankfully I can). The staff had no knowledge of the roll on and roll off tendering lift I was emailed about from special services.
• Staff and cruise tours were all extremely helpful and always willing to assist me with my mobility needs.
Saturday June 7th - Embarkation Day - Quebec City
Our flights to Quebec went well. This was my first time traveling with a scooter and we had no issues with taking it straight through security and to the gate. The airlines quickly valet checked it at the gate and then brought it back to me once we landed.
The transfer to the ship from the airport was a bit hectic as we had enough people at 11am to fill two buses. We had checked with the hospitality desk when we got there and they were made aware that I had a scooter and mobility issues. They kept us waiting in chairs at first and didn't offer me any pre-boarding or assistance onto the bus. This was the only time I experienced this the entire trip. We had to stand in a long line and I almost ended up being the last person onto the first bus… which meant I really would have struggled with getting to a seat. Thankfully we got lucky and they ran out of seats just as we got to the loading point and were then put on the second bus. This was not because of their planning but only dumb luck.
As soon as we boarded we met Yaya our room assistant, he is very energetic and always happy. He is also extremely friendly and amusing, he refused to drop the Mr. and Mrs. parts of our names but did call us (Mrs.) Sherry and (Mr.). John instead of by our last name.
Next we met Dexter our Neptune Lounge concierge. He was also friendly and helpful but at times he felt a little stand offish to me. Overall though we thought he was great.
For lunch we went to the Lido buffet and were impressed with everything they offered. I had a slice of beef strip loin with horseradish and a nice piece of lasagna as well. Everything was tasty and of good quality. The husband and I disagreed on the lasagna as it was a meaty style and not a cheesy style that really appealed to me but not so much to him.
Dinner was at a French restaurant in Quebec across the street from the ship, Laurie Raphael. While the food was great, we ended it on a very sour and bitter not and me in tears I was so frustrated with them. I have posted the review of them at the end of the ship review for those that are interested. After 4 hours at dinner it was 10pm and I was exhausted since we had been up since 3am so we collapsed and went into a sound slumber.
Sunday June 8th - Quebec City
When I woke up in the morning my stomach was uneasy (still not used to eating a lot of food yet) so I wanted a ginger ale. We found it almost impossible to find anything at 6am in the morning. We ended up using room service to order a can of it (which meant we could not use our soda card like I would have preferred). There was no where I could get something light to eat as well. Food is looking like it could be a deal breaker in terms of hours of availability.
We decided in the morning to go on an excursion to Montmorency Falls. We talked to Dexter and unfortunately the one we specifically wanted was full. He offered us stand by for it but we wanted to make sure we went to the falls, so we took the other offering that had the falls with it instead. When we got down to the excursion spot I spoke with the women organizing the buses and they also offered us stand by, I explained to them my dilemma and they said they'd let us know if anyone canceled before the one we did book left 15 minutes prior to it. The bus came and had more seats than they expected so they came over to me and let me know we were getting the first choice and refunded us for the second choice and got us on board early to accommodate my scooter and issues with going up steps. We went to the St. Anne de Beaupré Basilica which was absolutely ornate and gorgeous. I could not believe the amount of detail in every single space; the ceilings, stained glass windows, walls and floors were all ornate and each had meaning.
I organized a meet and greet for our group to meet at sail away after the muster. I didn't have a solid head count so I never contacted anyone at corporate to let them know about it or invite them. It's apparent now that they do lurk around here in the forums since they showed up to welcome us. Henry the beverage manager was very nice (as I have found is true of all staff on the ship) and said that someone from corporate had sent him an email telling them our details and to meet up with us. They were generous and offered all of us one complimentary drink on the house (I had the drink of the day, the Crazy Canuck) and then Henry also brought out a tray of yummy appetizers for us to snack on.
Dinner was in the MDR for the first time and the food was tasty. Service was good and although the crème brulee was not on the menus we were allowed to pre-order it for the next night.
Monday June 9th - Sailing the St. Lawrence River
Breakfast was in the Pinnacle Grill. The place was very cold but the atmosphere was quite an calm. John had the English Breakfast and I had the Corned Beef Hash with poached eggs. I tried the chocolate croissant and while it was tasty it was not what I had imagined and I probably will not have another one again.
The Walk for a Cause was held at 9:30am, I went to check it out but we were a few minutes late. I spoke with the organizers and verified and that they donate to about 6 general cancer research groups. About 20-30 people showed up for it. We saw one very angry guest yelling at the coordinators for the show because this was held on the lower promenade and the speaker with loud music was placed outside his window because; it had woke him up after a late night
We went to the culinary demonstration for Pinnacle Lobster Salad and Crème Brulee. While I love cooking shows I was not really impressed with this presentation. They gave us a small sample of the crème brulee but there was no brulee on top of it.
We had lunch from the taco bar, I wasn't impressed with it... but then I really hadn't expected much since it was just meat and cheese with toppings.
We hosted a private meet and greet at 3pm with about 10 people from the forums. We had two appetizers delivered to the room, dumplings and little spring rolls. We greatly enjoyed the company and some friends for the cruise in the process.
Dinner was the first formal night and escargot was served. They brought us our creme brulee for desert and then we decided to just have a standing order for them for the rest of the cruise.
Tuesday June 10th - PEI
We had a light breakfast in the lido and then went out to meet our private tour guide, Terry, with Duncan Tours. It was just my husband and I so Terry drove us around to see the sights we wanted to see, mostly around the northern coast. I was able to get some great pictures and the conversation with Terry was great. The quality of the tour was wonderful and we were able to see the things that we were interested, stopping for photos when I saw something interesting ,and then skipping past things like the Anne of Green Gables house.
Lunch was at The Water Prince Shop. We had lobster rolls and I had a cup of seafood chowder. The place was just filling up when we arrived and they asked another couple if we could all share a table together, they said yes and it turned out to be another couple from here on CC as well. A little bit later in the evening we ran into the couple again and it turned out they were actually our cabin neighbors as well! After we were almost finished with lunch we ran into another couple that we had become friends with and I was able to taste a couple of the restaurants muscles as well. The food was delicious and fresh and not badly priced.
Dinner was in the MDR and it was the first time we were asked if we wanted to sit with others. We were seated at a table for 8 and had an enjoyable evening. When dessert came around they all asked about the Crème Brule we were served and 2 people joined the cult of the crème brulee.
Wednesday June 11th - Sydney
The day started out rough since something had not agreed with my husband’s stomach from the day before. He was up until 4am until it finally left his system; he was exhausted after that so he slept in. Breakfast was in the lido, I tried the omelets for the first time and was impressed that they were cooked just right.
After some rest we headed out to explore the city. This port really didn't have anything interesting to offer us so we just wandered for a bit and took it easy. We at lunch at a local restaurant and enjoyed a nice cup of seafood chowder and a sandwich.
We returned in time for high tea, this day was the Indonesian tea. I wasn't really impressed with it and would not go again. They wore their batik shirts but the service was very sporadic and nothing special was done. Our large table ended up in a black hole apparently, they’d walk around and serve pastries and small sandwiches and hors d'oeuvres to everyone except us. Someone from our table had to flag them down.
In the afternoon I called the spa to ask about getting a massage package. They scheduled an appointment for me for an hour later. When I called them I made it clear I had a port (used for my cancer) and they talked to their supervisor and even put her on the phone. She told me that it should not be an issue and that my doctors and I knew what was best for me, they told me to go ahead and come on down. When I went down to the spa they had me go through the normal preparation process, I changed into a robe and went for the consultation. This is when it finally hit them that I had cancer apparently. I was then refused treatment as it is corporate policy to work on no one with cancer, even if I’m not undergoing any treatments such as chemotherapy or radiation. I explained to them that I’m in palliative care stage and that I will never be “free” of cancer and they said for that reason that could never get treatments from them. If I had lied and told them I was 3 months clean they wouldn’t have questioned this and worked on me though. I ended in tears and frustration since a large part of this trip was to enjoy what time I have left. The supervisor apologized to me for not asking me enough questions on the phone and putting me through this, but that really didn’t help how I felt while leaving. I was so distraught that when leaving other guests noticed in the hallways and stopped to ask me if I was okay… one couple actually walked with me back to my room to try and comfort me and they were more furious than I was with the spa.
For dinner we ate in the MDR again and had one 2 other people join us. We converted yet another 2 people over to the cult of the crème brulee.
Because we had slept in earlier in the day we finally had the energy to stay up for a show. We went to the 10pm variety show, it was wonderful. The singer (Neil Lockwood) was AMAZING and the juggler (Hilby) was very amusing as well.
Thursday June 12th - Halifax
We started out breakfast in the Pinnacle Grill with BumperII and SF49erfan and then headed off to the port for the day.
We booked the Halifax in Focus tour which focused on photography. The driver was very quick to get my scooter in and out of storage every stop and also help me off the bus. We stopped at the 5 main highlights for the area; the sea port, public gardens, citadel, Peggy's cove and the titanic cemetery. Peggy's cove was very scooter accessible and worth the 45 minute drive out to it.
When we returned to port it was that awkward hour of 3pm where nothing is really available food wise, but we didn't have enough time to go into town to get a bite to eat. So I ordered the steak sandwich from room service, it took 30 minutes to be delivered and the order was not correct and the food was room temperature. This is why I do not like using room service. We're still considering the food a possible breaking point on not returning to HAL.
Dinner was the 2nd formal night for this cruise. We dined with 4 other people that were part of a tour out of Australia. I had the seafood cocktail, mushroom soup and the surf and turf for dinner. My husband tried the sweetbreads for his appetizer and they turned out to be tasty. This night the crème brulee failed on us, they forgot to bring them to us and after an hour of sitting and talking with our tablemates we were about to leave when they suddenly remembered to bring them to us; but it was far to late and we had lost interest in eating them by this point.
When we returned to the room we found that our excursion for the next day (whale watching) had been canceled at the last minute and had to scramble to find something else with no knowledge of what was still available and what was mobility friendly at 9pm in the evening. We tried the front desk for information and they were pretty much clueless on how tendering would even work for me with my scooter. We were told that the supervisor for the area would call us first thing in the morning with more information. We were so frustrated we just went to bed and decided to deal with it in the morning.
Friday June 13th - Bar Harbor - Tendered port
Immigration was the first agenda for the day as we returned to the US. This turned out to be extremely easy and only took about 5 minutes. We went to the shore excursions gathering area immediately after to ask about tours that were open and continued to get mixed stories about tendering and how it would work. I had received an email and a letter stating that the msVeendam had lift capabilities for roll on and roll off tendering... the staff once again seemed to have no clue that this existed. We also never received that phone call we were promised. We were told I'd have to go down the 14 stairs to the tender and then they'd carry my scooter down for me. We finally decided that I could do this after looking at the steps and so we were immediately put on the next tender since we did not require a ticket as guests in a Neptune Suite.
When we reached shore we continued to get mixed answers about one of the excursions (lighthouse tour by boat) so we went to the company running it directly and got answers. We saved $10 ($5/pp) by booking it through them directly. Unfortunately the weather was very cold that day (around 60ºF) and being out on a moving boat was even colder. I was struggling to keep warm.
Back on land we met up with some of our new friends and had lunch at the West Street Café and enjoyed a full lobster dinner with several members from the forums.
For dinner we decided to try the Lido buffet since the casual menu showed the entrée and sides I was interested on it. When we got there the chicken dish was out and the sides they had said would be there did not exist. They did make a fresh batch of the chicken and then brought it to our table for us.
This evening was the first time we encountered any rocking on the boat and rough seas. While it lulled me to sleep my husband didn’t fare as well and barely got any rest.
Saturday June 14th – Boston – Debarkation
We started out the morning with a final breakfast in the Pinnacle Grill. The morning was rather uneventful and debarkation was very smooth. We double checked with Dexter our concierge before leaving to make sure that the 2 unused $50 beverage cards from my HAL rewards card had been refunded, and they had. We left the ship, got on a shuttle to the airport and were on our sad way home.
Captain – Eric van der Wal
Hotel Diretor – Simon de boer
Cruise Director – Mario Vines
Dining Room Manager – Bagus Sugiantha
We sailed with around 950 people from my understanding.
We were very satisfied with the cruise and the quality, however we didn't feel it was exactly the right fit for us. It's much like finding that beautiful dress and then trying on and not liking how it makes your but look. :D
We would recommend it to others with a few cautions, but we will continue to search for the cruise line that fits our specific wants/desires more perfectly. We would consider using them again under the right circumstances, but don't foresee that happening in the near future. We would definitely rank Holland America over Carnival. We will probably try Princess next.
Laurie Raphael – Quebec (Restaurant Review)
The service started out well in the beginning. We ordered the 10 course spring vision menu. I decided to do the wine pairing with my dinner as well, they were fairly generous with most of the pours. The menu was well thought out, creative and tasty but by the end of dinner I just couldn’t enjoy the food any longer due the upset they caused with us.
The courses were initially coming at a reasonable pace, but as the restaurant filled up and became busier we noticed a downward trend in the progression of our meal. By the end of the 7th course we discovered (after an hour had passed) that they had completely forgotten about us and never progressed our meal. The servers never seemed to notice and we had to resolve this on our own by flagging someone over to our table and asking about it. There were no apologies and the staff did not notify management even though it was clear (and expressed to multiple servers) that we were very upset by this point. As we were leaving the manager spoke to us and we explained what had happened, he had never been made aware we had had a problem and since we were not locals it was too late for him to try and do anything to correct the situation or make us feel better.
For the amount of money paid for this meal we were left extremely unsatisfied and would urge others to dine here with great caution. 4 hours to be served 10 small courses is not acceptable to us.