This was our 13th cruise. Usually we do one cruise in February and another in July or August, but we decided to book this four-day to Canada as a Labor Day weekend getaway. We did the same cruise four years ago, and we've done three of the 5-day Canada cruises as well. Sailing were DH and me and our two younger sons, 14 and 10. Oldest son is on his own cruise, on a tanker in the South China Sea. This is the second cruise we've sailed on Glory - the first was an Eastern Caribbean cruise out of Port Canaveral in 2009.
The week of our cruise was the week that Hurricane Earl decided to visit the East Coast. We kept watching the predicted path of the storm - right up the Bay of Fundy - and compared it to our itinerary - right up the Bay of Fundy, just about at the same time. I truly figured we would end up with the four-day cruise to nowhere. However, as we approached our sailing date, and as we saw other ships' itineraries changing, Carnival was insisting that no changes to the itinerary were planned.
Day 1: New York and Embarkation
We live about two hours north of the cruise terminal, so we headed out the door a little after 8, made a stop at the kennel to drop the dog off for his vacation, and were at the terminal by 10:30. A bit too early, but we were worried about parking after reading several posts about the parking being more crowded with 5 ships regularly using the terminal (2 Carnival, 2 NCL, and 1 HAL). As it turned out, the parking areas were emptier than I had ever seen them - they weren't even using the parking area on Pier 92.
Inside the Pier 88 terminal, we went to the right side for VIP boarding. Regular boarding was to the left, and security had not yet begun screening passengers. Over in the VIP area, those of us who are Platinum and/or had suites were joined by a wedding party and guests.
This ended up being our worst VIP boarding yet (5 cruises including one non-Platinum suite). When screening began, we went through a separate security line, then stood in a VIP line for processing in the main boarding area. No separate VIP room as we've seen on other cruises, including one on Miracle out of Pier 90 in NYC. At first there were three agents waiting on VIPs - but two of them very quickly switched to processing the wedding party and guests, leaving one agent for all the VIPs. And then the bride appeared, and our agent disappeared with her. We waited - and waited - and waited some more. Watched the VIPs who already went through the line board the ship. Watched people in the regular processing lines whiz through and board the ship. Tried to get the attention of one of the other agents, but she dismissed us with "the other guy will be right back." Finally we caught the attention of a supervisor and she came over to wait on us. She looked a bit embarrassed when she saw our Platinum Sail and Sign cards. It would have been faster to have stood in line with the non-VIPs.
Ah, well. My goal had been to be on the Lido Deck for lunch and a Funship Special by noon, and we just made that goal. And that was the worst experience of the cruise, so everything got better from that point.
We had Cabin 1112, one of the new Spa Deck balcony cabins. The Spa Deck cabins used to be outside view cabins with floor-to-ceiling windows and four berths, perfect for families that didn't want a balcony. They retrofitted these cabins with balconies during Glory's last drydock, as they've done on most of the Conquest-class ships. These balconies, however, do not have a roof above and have sliding doors instead of pull/push doors. The sliding doors are nice but, as we found out, they - well - slide when the ship is moving. DH had to wedge the metal table into the track to keep it from sliding when he was sitting out there. Our cabin steward, Marco, kept our cabin immaculate. However, we've been spoiled by suites on our last three cruises - we missed the full shower with sliding door.
At 3:00 we had our Cruise Critic get-together at the aft pool. The only problem with this location was that the bar wasn't open, so if you're planning to order drinks you will need to find one of the bar servers (not hard to do). What a nice group of people - I enjoyed meeting you!
The muster drill was probably one of the most casual drills I've seen yet - and that's on a ship with a lot of first-time cruisers. A lot of folks just talked right through the drill, paying no attention. I've done the drill lots of times and it just seemed that people were way too dismissive of the drill. Having a son who has passed Coast Guard qualifications for both lifeboat operation and firefighting, we have an appreciation for the ship's safety guidelines.
Day 1 Continued: Sailaway and Dinner
New York has the absolute best sailaway of any city from which we've cruised. There is just so much to see - on one side you have Manhattan from Midtown to Battery Park, and on the other side you have Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. Glory passes the Statue about ½ hour after sailing. Then you sail under the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, about an hour after sailing, and into Lower New York Harbor. Absolutely spectacular. Unfortunately, Glory's sailing time is 5 pm on the 4 and 5-day runs, so if you have early dining you are likely to miss a lot of it. (We sailed at 5:15.) Plan to skip the dining room the first night, or book late seating or "your time dining." You should be okay on the 7-day runs, since sailing time is scheduled for 4 pm. Tina, the Assistant Cruise Director, provided some very good commentary about sights to see during sailaway.
They also scheduled Camp Carnival/Circle C registration just in time to conflict with sailaway. I wasn't able to complete the online registration for some reason, so I had to fill out the forms on board. We went down right at the scheduled time, got a form, filled it out, and headed back topsides just as we backed out of Pier 88.
We had early dining in the Golden (midships) Dining Room. We were seated toward the middle of the lower level, but we still had a nice view out the windows. Wait staff was headwaiter Rana, with assistants Dana and Edwin, and they were terrific. And Olga, our bar server, was great - she had the kids' sodas waiting for them after the first night. The food was great; my only disappointment was no crème brulee for dessert!
We were surprised to see that Camp Carnival changed its schedule from what we've experienced in the past. On our other cruises, there were no 9-11 activities on the first night, other than the family party and after-hours babysitting. On this cruise, they scheduled activities starting at 8:00. Unfortunately, they didn't have their act together that first night; son stood in line for 20 minutes waiting for them to sign kids in, and he got tired of waiting and gave up. Fortunately, that was the worst Camp Carnival experience for him.
I went to the main lounge for "Big Screen Trivia." The twist on this game was that the actors were invisible; they showed you scenes from movies with only clothing and background, no faces. Of course, when they put the faces into the answers, the scenes all made sense.
Our last activity for the evening was the "Welcome Aboard Show." It was pretty typical, with the usual performances by the singers and dancers and a welcome from our CD, Jorge Solano. The comedians were Jim McCue and Percy Crews - they were both pretty good.
Day 2: First Day at Sea
This morning we opted for "TV Theme Song Trivia" in the main lounge. As you might imagine, it involves clips for different TV shows - there were 40 of them in this game. Again, we scored a respectable 31 correct, but nowhere near the 37-correct winner. Afterwards, youngest son went off to Camp Carnival activities and DH and I opted for coffee and gin rummy on the Promenade Deck. We also decided to try the "Food and Wine Pairing" in the Supper Club at 11:30 - met Lynn and Ed there and I think we closed down the place around 1:00! It's a lot of fun - they give you five wines to sample (3 whites, 2 reds) and a couple of proteins, grains and fruits to pair with the wines and see how the food can affect the taste of the wine.
Now, when we embarked in New York we received a letter stating that Carnival was keeping a close watch on Hurricane Earl and the Captain would change the itinerary if needed - but they weren't planning changes. At noon the Captain made his noontime presentation on the loudspeaker about ship's position and the weather, and noted that the plan was to sail faster than normal, arrive in Saint John around 11 pm that evening, and stay in Saint John through the storm, sailing late back to New York the following evening at 8 p.m. So that answered our questions about how we would avoid the storm - we would be in port for the worst of it.
After the wine pairing and a (very small) lunch, DH went back to the cabin to read and I went to the spa to get my pool/hot tub fix. Glory still has a pool and hot tub in the gym area (it has been removed from some of the other ships), and it was so nice being able to use an adult-only area. At this point it was raining outside, and I could watch the rain bead up on the skylight over the pool.
This was elegant evening. DH and I decided to forego the usual formal wear we pack and opted for a suit/tie and skirt/blouse. We also didn't do the Captain's Celebration or photos - been there, done that at this point. After dinner, we went to the Punchliners comedy club and the piano bar - both fun.
Sometime after 10, DH learned that our excursion in Saint John would not be taking place due to the weather. That just meant we could sleep later the following day....
Day 3: Saint John and Hurricane Earl
Our sail to Saint John was pretty smooth. We felt some motion during the night from the pitching of the ship, but we've experienced far worse in our cruise history. Tropical Storm Eduardo comes to mind on this same itinerary in 2006, and we could never forget Hurricane Dennis in the Gulf of Mexico in 2005. It's a risk of sailing in hurricane season. This time, we never saw any barf bags out by the elevators or lots of "do not disturb" signs on cabin doors. At the same time, I think lots of folks stocked up on meds ahead of time in anticipation of a rough ride. I don't care for motion remedies - they make me feel far worse.
As promised, when we awakened we found ourselves docked alongside Pugsley Wharf. They did station two tugboats on our port side - I figure just in case the winds picked up and the lines holding the ship to the pier parted. (I've seen photos of that happening on other ships.) One of the tugs was moored right beneath our cabin, but we never saw anyone on deck.
Since our excursion was canceled, we decided to make a leisurely morning of it - it was very rainy outside. And apparently most other folks stayed on the ship as well - the Lido restaurant was mobbed. We found seating up on Deck 10, near fish and chips. (I love the Lido restaurant on Conquest-class ships - no matter how crowded it gets, you can always find a seat. Not the case with Spirit-class ships, on which I've found myself getting food and bringing it back to my cabin because there's no seating on the Lido deck.) Jorge worked with the entertainment staff to come up with some additional daytime activities, realizing that there would probably be a fair number of people on board all day, and the entertainment staff was out and about either leading activities or mixing with passengers. Just as we do on sea days, we found a table on the Promenade deck and enjoyed coffee and gin rummy. At noon we had lunch; some of the buffet lines were long, but we could always find some option with shorter lines. I didn't have to wait long at fish and chips, and the bouillabaisse is wonderful.
We finally ventured out around 1:00, when it appeared that the rain had slowed. We were wrong. We made it over to the shopping tent without getting too wet, but then the back end of Earl apparently decided to make an appearance. The skies opened up and the wind picked up. We watched the vendors work quickly to batten down the tent, trying to keep the worst of the rain out. We did manage to buy two tee shirts, a shot glass, a set of "Looney Bands" (the wrist bands that are in style with the middle school set right now), two bags of Canada mints (oldest son developed a taste for them the first time we went to Saint John, and now we have to hold them until he's back from his sea tour in November), and a baseball with a Canadian flag. Such was our shopping at port - but then, we've never done cruises for the shopping.
We've been to Saint John three times before, so spending most of the day on the ship was fine for us. Still, I was sorry to miss lunch in port. I love fried clams, and before we sailed our debate was between Steamer's and Grannan's for lunch. Neither happened. However, I would happily recommend either restaurant to future cruisers!
Around 2-3:00 the rain stopped and the sun came out. I noticed folks ventured off the ship at that point - Steamer's looked like it had a pretty good crowd, which was nice to see.
As noted, we stayed in port late to avoid sailing into Earl's remnants. After dinner, we walked out on deck where the local bagpiper piped us away from the pier. It was different, sailing at night from Saint John. Afterward, we went to the Ivory Bar to listen to Music Connection.
This night youngest son had the Camp Carnival late night party, which meant we wouldn't see him until 3:30 a.m. when one of the counselors escorts him to the cabin. They do lots of activities like hide and seek and capture the flag, and he really enjoys this party.
Day 4: Last Day at Sea
We had trouble getting up this morning, even though we didn't make the late "fun hop" the night before. (We don't last much past 11 or 12.) And since youngest son had returned to our cabin at 3:30, he wasn't particularly interested in moving either. However, we did make it to "TV Theme Song Trivia Part 2" at 9:30 - except that the social host didn't show. After waiting about 10 minutes, we went off to get some coffee and play cards - and later found out from Pat that Simon showed up right after we left. Wouldn't have mattered - apparently someone managed to correctly name all of the themes.
The weather today was very clear, if a bit windy. We had some movement - again, pitching but not rolling. We sailed about 6 miles off Cape Cod - that's the closest I've ever seen one of these cruises sail to land, I assume to keep us in the lee of the land and out of the rougher seas. You could see things like water towers and some buildings very distinctly.
At lunch today, they had a taco stand in addition to the other lines - hadn't seen that before, and no one was in line for tacos. They were really good.
I went to the "Game of Love" in the afternoon - the one that used to be the "Newlywed/Not So Newlywed" show. Three couples, one married a month, one married 7 years, and one married 41 years. Pretty funny, even though some of it is staged. The newlywed couple admitted to making whoopee in their cabin shower - we're still trying to figure out how that happened.
Last dinner, last Camp Carnival, and last visit to the Ivory Bar with Music Connection. We enjoyed listening to them - one of the band members said their contract is 8-10 months.
We picked up the harbor pilot around 5 in the morning. I awoke around 6, but we were already under the bridge. Went back to sleep and awoke to our sailing past the entrance to the Holland Tunnel - oh well, no Statue of Liberty photos on this cruise. We docked again at Pier 88, joined by Eurodam at Pier 90. She would be setting sail that afternoon for a one-way cruise to Quebec City. That sounds like a great cruise.
We don't do self-assist - with four of us, it's too difficult to manage. However, we had Zone 1 debarkation tags thanks to our Platinum status. Went up to the Lido deck for breakfast and Zone 1 was called around 8:40. We were in our car on the West Side Highway by 9:05 - absolutely painless.
We had a good time. DH thought we started out on a fairly sour note, with the VIP line and Camp Carnival being messed up the first night, and he wasn't crazy about some of the buffet lines. However, the VIP and Camp Carnival issues appeared to be isolated, and a lot of the problems with the buffet lines were due to passengers. They either had no idea how the buffet worked or they cut in line. I had one gal who cut in front of me in the breakfast line on the last sea day - "I only want scrambled eggs." Well, that's all well and good but all I wanted was corned beef hash, and I didn't cut in line for it. By the end of the cruise DH thought it was well worth the weekend trip. Best cruise? No way. In my view, that honor goes to our cruise on Legend out of NYC in 2006 (even though I really don't care for Legend's layout or dEcor). But that was an 8-day cruise - no comparison to this one. This was a weekend getaway, and it filled that purpose.
Cabin: I don't think we will book another cabin on Spa Deck. For a four-day cruise with all of us stuffed in a cabin, it was fine - but I found more movement, too much noise from the spa area, and I didn't like the lack of an overhang on the balcony. On Freedom next February we have an aft wrap booked, with the boys in an adjoining balcony cabin with a balcony divider that opens. We're going to have a HUGE balcony....
Food: No complaints from me about the food on this cruise, other than that I missed the crème brulee at dinner. We had a great wait staff, timely service, and good food. The Lido deck options were very good - I went to fish and chips twice, as well as Taste of Nations, the grill, and the taco bar. Next cruise I *promise* I will try the dining room for breakfast. We swore we'd go on this cruise, but we just slept too late.
Kids' activities: Aside from the first night when Camp Carnival didn't have its act together, Camp Carnival/Circle C worked well for our kids. They enjoyed a lot of the activities and met friends. I think our 10 YO would have liked a separate area for his group - the 9-11s are the only group that does not have a dedicated space on this ship and they use the lounges that are not open for activities. The counselors all seemed very good and they had a good schedule of activities available.
Entertainment: We really like the "Punchliners" comedy club. We saw two shows on Pride in July and one on this cruise, and it's a great idea. On this cruise it was held in the Ebony Lounge, deck 5 aft - nice location for a comedy club. On Pride in July it was in the Butterflies Lounge, deck 1 forward. Both had the "feel" of a comedy club. And they were crowded - get there early. Bruce in the piano bar was fun - I missed him on Saint John night since the Fun Times didn't list him. He has a really good variety of songs. Music Connection in the Ivory Bar was very good as well - nice variety of 70s and 80s rock.
For the future...
We love the Canada cruise as a getaway vacation. However, I wish they'd do one or two 7-day Canada itineraries during the summer - we'd book it in a heartbeat. We can't cruise in September since our kids are back in school and our work schedules don't permit a full week vacation at that time. We have a six-day booked on Freedom for President's Week next year, but I'm not sure what we'll book after that.