Explorer of the Seas Cruise Review by AQHACRUISER: All Canada on the Explorer!
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All Canada on the Explorer!
This was the new 2008 all Canada itinerary and it was very different from all our others and a wonderful relaxing cruise.
We arrived around 1pm and dropped off luggage and boarded shortly afterwards
We had cabin JS 1634 and it was in excellent condition and our steward Earl was outstanding! The ship is in great condition as always and we have a new mini golf course now that was completely redone recently. The kiddie pool area was completely repainted as was the area around the main pools when we were onboard. This was a great cruise to do this on as the weather was cold and very few kids onboard so it did not effect the passengers at all. As always the ship is constantly being maintained and is in excellent condition!
Our first port was in Sydney Nova Scotia. We were greeted by bagpipers and street musicians playing the fiddle. It is a very quaint port with a few historic churches and houses. We wandered around the port area on our own and enjoyed More talking with the residents. There is a craft area inside the terminal and some shops on the other side one which displayed gorgeous examples on Innuit artwork in different mediums. By the time we reboarded the ship the sky had turned cloudy and the temp had dropped and Hurricane Kyle was nipping at our heels.
Our next port was to be PEI but due to the hurricane we headed directly to Quebec City where we were so fortunate to get to spend 2 whole days there!
We did sail up the Saguenay Fjord but did not enter it until about 6pm that evening. Unfortunately the weather did not cooperate and we have very heavy thick fog that part occasionally for a peek at the mountains. I'm sure it must be a beautiful area to view if the weather is nice.
I can't say enough about Quebec City. It is just beautiful. A visit to Chateau Frontenac is a MUST as it's a castle perched on the hilltop of the city and you can easily understand why it is the most photographed hotel in the world. The hotel is full of history, wonderful shops and restaurants, incredible views, and of course the resident dog that enjoys the company of the guests that can reserve time with him to walk him in the adjoining park.
We took a horse and carriage ride around the top of the city which was priceless as we learned about the history and the culture from our driver as well as seeing some areas that we would have missed. The cost of the 45 minute tour is 80.00 and may be split by 4 people but we opted to do it with just the two of us.
Below the Chateau is a maze of winding streets full of beautiful shops, street musicians, parks, art galleries, and fantastic bistros. Everywhere you look is beautiful flowers and vines spilling out from every window box and stone wall. One of the things you will notice is the outstanding quality of everything in the shops and you will find everything from Innuit clothing, furs, alpaca to Paris runway fashions.
We enjoyed lunch both days at a bistro perched high above overlooking the street below on an open terrace. Menus are in French and many also have English translations. Both French and English is spoken and we found the people of Quebec wonderful! Most places accept credit cards and U.S. money and there are several exchange places also but we did not need to use them. Prices are similar to NYC and cabs range from 8.00 to 11.00 from ship to the city which is about a 10 minute ride depending on traffic. We were really blessed to have a chance to see the city lit at night and it is breathtaking especially the Chateau at night. Quebec City was the highlight of this cruise and you could spend a week there and not see or do everything you would want to do and we enjoyed every second of our visit there.
Many pictures of this cruise can be found on the 1/14/2010 roll call thread but Quebec City is something you must experience for yourself to truly appreciate the beauty of this unique port.
Our last port was Halifax and we had booked the Titanic Tour thru the ship months before our cruise. We had terrible weather in Halifax with driving rain and wind and it was cold but it did let up during parts of our tour. The Titanic section in the Maritime museum is small but interesting and we had under an hour to see it. Unfortunately with several other ships in port it was difficult to view the displays and the time flew by too fast. The museum offers many maritime exhibits but we didn't have time to see everything. The boardwalk area located behind the museum offered a few places to eat and several shops and ships to see but again, we did not have time to explore on this trip. We passed a beautiful park that is 17 acres of Victorian Gardens which I would have loved to visit if the weather had been nicer and definitely on the to do list for our next visit to Halifax. As part of the Titanic tour we also visited the cemetery where many victims are buried. The history of the roll Halifax played in the recovery of the Titanic victims is also posted on the 1/14/2010 roll call thread if you'd like to read a bit of history and it is very interesting as well as the history Halifax played in the war and the great explosion that occurred in Halifax during war time.
This cruise was very different from our past Caribbean cruises in that it definitely attracted an older group of passengers. Dining times were moved up to 530pm and 8pm. The ship was very quiet compared to what we are used to especially in the evening after 9pm and many times we felt like we had the ship to ourselves. This was also the first time we witnessed a split cruise as many passengers came off the ship in Quebec and many new passengers boarded. Despite the hurricane we did not experience very rough seas this time as the Captain kept us far from the storm.
We did not have great weather which is never a problem but this time it was COLD at times and as it was rainy also we really appreciated the warmth of the ship and our cabin after returning to the ship from ports! We packed for this possibility and definitely suggest that those planning on sailing north this time of year do the same.
It was a very relaxing cruise and I feel bad that RCCL is canceling this itinerary for next year as I think many would book it to get to Quebec City especially if they could have a couple days in that port. We met other passengers from Crystal and Celebrity onboard that booked specifically to get a couple days in Quebec City so it is very popular with people and I hope RCCL will return there in the future.
As to dining, we dine quite a bit in Portofino's and the Windjammer preferring to keep our own schedule when onboard as opposed to set times in the dining room. We did enjoy the first formal night at the Captain's table and they hosted an outstanding lunch for Diamond Plus passengers one day in the dining room with a special menu. We really enjoyed both occasions.
We had the easiest time yet getting off the ship and we pulled out of port around 9am. I have to say the Express Walk Off program really makes a difference on this ship as it allows all those passengers that sign up for the program an option to get off first that need to catch flights. We were second off the ship after Express Walk off and it was a pleasure to have stairways clear of passengers again thanks to the Express Walk Off program and it was a relaxing experience. We first witnessed the Express Program back in April 08 and it really seems to be working very well for this port.
We would definitely do another cruise to Quebec City in the future but next up is the warm balmy Caribbean on the 12 night southern on 11/30/08. Less
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