This was our second cruise with Carnival, and we wanted to try a more sedate destination (last time was the crazy Caribbean), so my traveling companion and I opted for the 5-night cruise to Saint John, New Brunswick and Halifax, Nova Scotia. I overheard another guest say that the cruise was sold out, so it was a very full ship. We were not disappointed, although we will likely not return to these destinations any time soon, as so many other ports of call await. To start at the beginning...
Embarkation: It took about 40-45 minutes to board the Glory, which was significantly longer than it took with our prior cruise. Nonetheless, the line moved fairly quickly and we were on board without too much delay.
New York Harbor: Make sure to be up on deck when leaving New York -- it's a breathtaking view of NYC, and includes a sail past the Statue of Liberty.
Room: Our Deck 8 balcony room was spacious and the housekeeping staff kept it extremely neat, clean and tidy. Our room steward only introduced herself once, at the beginning of the trip, but the room looked great the entire time. We had a balcony, but will not do that again if we take a trip to a cooler destination: it just didn't get used enough.
One extremely frustrating aspect of our room was the placement directly underneath the Deck 9 Red Sail dining seating area, adjacent to the midship big-screen Jumbotron/pool area. We will never do that again. Although generally a highly desirable location, being situated directly under the dining area and midship, frequently in the evenings (and all afternoons) we could hear chairs scraping across the ceiling of our room (apparently, people sitting down to eat or chat from the Red Sail dining room) while we were trying to get to sleep. One night was extremely frustrating, so I wandered up in my pajamas after midnight to see what was going on; staff were buffing and cleaning the floors and moving the chairs by dragging them across the floor. I spoke (kindly) to one of the cleaning staff, and by the time I got back down to my room one floor below, the scraping noise had completely ceased and did not resume. They take customer complaints seriously -- or perhaps I looked a little threatening in my nightgown.
Dining: We had "Your Time" dining, and only once had a significant wait (the evening of our last day) for dinner in the Golden dining room. We were given a pager and sat in the main atrium lounge with a number of diners waiting for tables. After checking once to see where we were in line, we were seated quickly thereafter. Unfortunately, with "Your Time" dining, we never had the same waitstaff, so it was hard to get to know our waiters. However, Nadel and Ding stood out as particularly excellent. Houston and Slavka were also attentive and personable. The food was tasty and nicely-presented -- I stuck to fish most nights, and my partner to chicken. Both choices were prepared well (often, they can be dry, but surprisingly, these were not), with a choice of tasty side dishes. Don't hestitate to try the snails -- OH, so delicious! The warm chocolate melting cake for dessert is just fantastic, too.
We also opted for the Emerald Room the first night of the cruise. For an extra $30 per person, we were treated like -- and ate like -- royalty. Both my traveling partner and I had steak (I had surf and turf, he had NY strip) and it was perfectly prepared, juicy and absolutely delicious. We received a complimentary bottle of wine (choice of cabernet or chardonnay -- we took the red because of the steaks), the remaining bottle of which we took with us to the main dining room on subsequent nights. We both ordered appetizers (I ordered two!) and they were superb: snails again! Very tender and garlic-y - perfect!
Lunches at the buffet were enjoyable and choices were extremely plentiful. While there was a wait for the buffet, it was not intolerable. We had the Mongolian Wok twice (very good!) and the deli once. The buffet salads were great and whatever you do, DON'T miss the chocolate buffet!! It's a chocoholic's dream: truffles, fudge cake, orange chocolate cake, chocolate pound cake, hot mini doughnuts dipped in chocolate...it's a diet buster.
A separate note about coffee: This has to be fixed. Carnival: PLEASE, please, please do something about your unbelievably awful coffee. It's atrocious -- really. The decaf was horrible (bitter, watery, off-tasting) and the regular was only drinkable with several sugars and copious cream. Cappucino is a better option, but not by much. We tried to go to the specialty coffee shop one morning, just to have a fairly good cup of java, but it wasn't open. Waaaaah!
Breakfasts were always room service: who can complain about lox and bagels every morning, with fresh-squeezed orange juice, brought to your room? Not me. It was fabulous.
Ports of call: Saint John is an industrial town, rather small, but sincere. They certainly love the cruise ship customers, and it shows. Debarking was quick and painless. We arranged a separate excursion through Go Fundy Tours, and kayaked on the Saint John River. It was chilly, damp and windy, but our guides (Walter, Scott and Darren) were all very good-natured and knowledgeable. Dress appropriately! The water is COLD! People did not have gloves or proper attire (be sure to wear Dry-Fit and technical fabrics, e.g., nylon; do not wear cotton t-shirts or jeans!) and seemed a little miserable. Having kayaked in cold water before, I knew what to expect and enjoyed the lovely scenery and paddling, despite the cool weather. We lunched at Billy's Seafood in town (great oysters) and then took a Diamond Taxi-tour of the Reversing Falls and the Irving Nature Park. Our guide was well-meaning, but there was something a bit lost in translation, as he was born in Russia. He took some great photos of us, though, and certainly knew the area very well, so we saw all the vistas Saint John had to offer.
The next day we arrived in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Unfortunately, since this was the first time Glory had docked in Halifax this year, there was apparently a problem with customs. There was a lengthy delay debarking, and we missed the bagpiper that greets the cruise ships at the port. I was very disappointed, although for those that detest bagpipes, this may have been a plus. People were crowded into stairwells, and there was no one around to advise us as to the status of docking. It would have been much more helpful if Carnival sent staff to the packed stairwells and halls to let cruisers know where they were in the process. My partner commented that the delay would have been a real problem for anyone who booked a morning excursion. Fortunately, ours was scheduled for after lunch.
Once we were finally off the ship, we entered a port building containing plenty of Canadian and Scottish shops. The prices were not outrageous and some of the shops offered unique items. Once outdoors, we followed the port boardwalk to the Halifax Maritime Museum. The museum is interesting, and Titanic fans will love all of the memorabilia collected at the museum, including one of the deck chairs from the ship.
After getting a scoop of gelato at one of the several tempting shops on the way back to the port, we boarded a bus for an afternoon tour of Peggy's Cove and Halifax. Peggy's Cove is just beautiful, although the numerous tour buses that go there have the place crawling with tourists (including us). The lighthouse, the rocks, and ocean, the fishing village, were all very scenic, calming and lovely. There were several trinket shops and artisan boutiques, for those needing a little more shopping. Abassatours (Gray Line) provides a guide for the bus ride back and forth (about an hour trip), and our guide gave a non-stop narration of facts about Peggy's Cove and Halifax. It was a nice excursion and worth the money.
Ship activities: On the first sea day, we paid $15 for the wine tasting, which was fun and informative. The Romanian sommelier, Angela, was knowledgeable and witty, and we learned some new things about wine. Five wines (three whites and two reds) were included, along with some small tasting snacks, and the pours were generous. For evening activities, the comedian, Steve White, was absolutely hilarious. HILARIOUS. I am somewhat picky about my comedy, but this guy was someone I'd pay money to see again. We saw the "R-rated" show, but heard from our seat-mates that the "family friendly" show was equally as funny. Highly recommended! Late-night dancing was very fun -- because this was a somewhat older crowd (30s, 40s, 50s, some older, a few younger), everyone had a great time on the dance floor without feeling self-conscious. DJ Bernard was also good about taking requests, which was nice. On the last sea day, there was a Hairy Chest Competition -- it was hysterical. The emcee (the assistant cruise ship director) was quite funny, and had the judges, and certainly the audience, cheering on the hirsute competitors. Finally, on the last night we went to the Love and Marriage Quiz, hosted by the gregarious Cruise Director, Josh. The Quiz was extremely amusing, and featured 3 couples: newlyweds, a couple married more than 50 years, and a couple married 23 years. The questions were not terribly offensive, and several people had kids there (including the grandkids of the couple married 50 years). We all enjoyed laughing with the couples as they tried to figure out their partners' answers.
Fitness: My partner and I are both fitness fanatics (we have to offset those trips to the chocolate buffet!), so I have to mention this aspect of Glory. The fitness facility is fairly spacious and located at the front of the ship. There are quite a few older, but well-maintained treadmills and elliptical machines, free weights, and several classes offered throughout the day. My recommendation is to get to the facility early (I arrived around 6 am) and you'll have no problem getting a machine of your choice. My traveling companion and I took both spin classes offered (an extra charge of $12 per class), I took a yoga class (another $12), and a "fit ball" core class (free, as was the morning stretching class). All classes were quite ably-led by Sammie, the fitness instructor from Essex, England. Despite being solo in the facility for the entire day (from 7 am until closing at 10 pm), Sammie remained chipper, enthusiastic and friendly.
Ocean/Sea-sickness: The Atlantic is much rougher than the Caribbean, which I learned the hard way. There were a couple of choppy evenings, and my Sea-Bands were not staving off the seasickness as I'd hoped. The last night at sea was particularly bad, and I was fairly nauseous for most of the evening. If you are prone to motion sickness, bring along ginger gum, and/or ginger pills, which seemed to help. I saw quite a few people with patches behind their ears, too.
Debarkation: This was one of the few issues I had with this cruise. The debarkation process took more than two hours. The people who kept their luggage with them are processed first, so if you're in a hurry to get out, don't check your luggage the night before. We checked out luggage, and waited, and waited, and waited...fortunately, we had nowhere to be, but I was anxious to get my day in New York City underway. We were able to sit on the Azure Lido while waiting, though, reading a book in a deck chair, so it wasn't torture. As mentioned at the beginning, however, this was a very full ship, so the time to debark may have been a function of the number of passengers.
Overall: We were very happy with our cruise and it was a good value for the money. We enjoyed the Canadian ports of call, the ship activities, and would be happy to take another cruise on the Carnival Glory again someday.