This was our second cruise aboard the Explorer of the Seas sailing from Cape Liberty. Our first experience was in late Apr 09 when we did a 13 day cruise to the Caribbean. This meant that the shows that we saw from the ship's singers, dancers and skaters were the same as we had seen in the spring; however, we still enjoyed them.
Arrival at the port from a hotel in Newark was relatively straight forward, given that we had a GPS. The route would otherwise have not been very easy. Processing at the cruise port was very straightforward. I unloaded luggage and my wife, parked the car and soon afterward joined her and the bags for a relatively efficient and speedy check in. A brief wait in the terminal and we were aboard the ship. We arrived about noon but had to wait until about 1:30 before our cabin was available. In the meantime, we took in a good lunch in the Windjammer Cafe.
Our cabin, 6692, was a mini suite on deck 6 at the stern. It was the first time we had been in a balcony cabin, let alone a mini-suite. We loved the cabin which had much more storage room and space than we were accustomed to or needed. The stern cabin on deck 6 had a very generous balcony but unlike other decks and the sides of the ship, our balcony did not overlook the water because it was set back from the stern and actually had a significant deck outside our balcony. That deck was accessed during the morning and afternoon by the ship's crew as a work platform and staging area.
A pleasant discovery during the cruise was the water in the pools was being heated. With the comfortable air temperature, sunshine, and heated pools we actually spent more time using the pools on this cruise than we had during the Caribbean cruise in late April/early May. The only days that the weather was less than very good were the first day at sea - which was very foggy and drizzly, and the day before getting back into Cape Liberty, which was rougher and rainy.
While we checked out excursion options online before the cruise, we did not take advantage of them during the cruise. We chose to play it by ear except that we also checked online for trolley tours for Boston.
Food aboard the Explorer of the Seas was good to very good. We took all of our breakfasts and lunches in the Windjammer Cafe and our suppers in the main dining room except for one night in the Windjammer and a second night in Portofino's. We typically take one or two meals in Portofino's during a cruise. The supper in Portofino's was excellent and the same one we typically go with, an appetizer, the seafood skewer and the dessert sampler.
Our departure from the ship went relatively smoothly except that we were about 30 minutes later getting off than advertised.
Our first port of call was Portland and we chose to just wander the town. It so happened that the Portland city's Metro bus system laid on "Ride all Day Hop-on/Hop-off" buses for $5 that were supposed to do an expanded loop of the city and downtown. Not a bad deal but the bus line had problems keeping up with the demand at the cruise jetty. As well, the bus driver we had did not seem to understand that there was a set route he was supposed to be following in accordance with a map that the passengers had been provided. He did try to tell us about the neighborhoods he took us through; however, between his accent and the poor speaker system on the bus, it was impossible to hear and understand anything. Still, we did get to see Portland by bus and by foot and got some sounvenir shopping in.
We were tendered into Bar Harbor from a relatively long way out. A much smaller Holland America ship was closer in. The tenders were hired locally and did a relatively good job of ferrying people back and forth. Fortunately, the weather was again very pleasant. We ended up spending our time walking up the main street from the pier and just shopping. We had noticed a restaurant on the pier advertising a lobster meal at quite a reasonable price. We had thought to take advantage of it for lunch; however, when we returned in the early afternoon, we learned that there was an hour long wait for seating. The lesson to take away is that if you are interested in this deal, you should plan around your meal if possible. The people in the stores were amazingly friendly and the prices for souvenirs, including clothing, were very reasonable. We would definitely like to visit Bar Harbor again. A classic small New England tourist town.
This was St John, New Brunswick as opposed to St Johns, Newfoundland. Despite our having lived in the Maritimes, i.e., in Halifax, Nova Scotia, we had never visited St John before. The cruise terminal in St John was newly constructed and dedicated in early summer 2009. It was very nice and had a large pavilion tent set up just outside for local craft vendors who provided a good range and selection of souvenirs. The city center and shopping were an easy 15 minute walk from the terminal. Unfortunately, the shopping was restricted because it was a holiday Monday and most businesses were closed.
We had lived in Halifax for about 8 years so we had already seen as recently as the previous summer many of the key tourist attractions. Having said that, there is a lot in the downtown area including the waterfront boardwalk, businesses, parks and museums to amuse cruisers for a day. There are also excursions to Peggy's cove that are well worth considering. Peggy's Cove on a sunny windy day is gorgeous. It also has a memorial to the passengers of a Swiss Air flight that crashed off the coast in the vicinity of Peggy's Cove about 10 years ago.
We had never visited Boston before. Wow! What a historic city. Whether you are an American or foreigner, there is a lot of fascinating history in this city and, as we discovered, taking a "hop-on/hop-off" trolley is an excellent way to see it. As previously indicated, we had researched trolley options prior to arriving in Boston. Despite the research, we chose to go with the Upper Deck Trolley Tours. We started by walking into town to the World Trade Center, about 20 minutes from the ship but a relatively easy walk. From that point, you could actually grab virtually any of the trolley tours because they tend to have common stopping points. The Upper Deck trolley set itself apart from the competition by including a "Super Duck Tour" of the harbor. An added benefit, if you could take advantage of it, is that the tour gives you a second day free. We found that the bus drivers we had were very knowledgeable and made the tour extremely interesting. Finally, another feature that sold us on the Upper Deck Trolley Tours was the fact that the elevated view put us above all of the normal traffic. It made a big difference to our ability to get good views and photos of the city. We found that we had a relatively small amount of time to actually step off the bus; however, we did get a good amount of time in the vicinity of the Old North Church and then downtown at the Trinity Church. My wife had an idea of what she wanted to sea based on the movie, "National Treasure."