This was our 14th cruise, all on Carnival, and our sixth cruise to Canada from New York. Why Canada? It's an easy cruise for us, and we really enjoy visiting Saint John and Halifax - two of the friendliest ports you'll ever visit. It does have a different feel than a Caribbean cruise - you're not going to find swimming beaches and rum drinks - but it has beautiful coasts and activities like whale watching and visiting fishing villages. Great seafood. And in Saint John you can get Moosehead on tap and in Halifax you can get Alexander Keith's on tap. It makes up for the lack of rum drinks. And if you really want a rum drink, Carnival is more than happy to provide. We really enjoy Canada cruises.
Pre-cruise: Baseball Fever
Normally we drive to New York the morning we sail, since we live a little over two hours north of the city. However, we promised our 15 YO diehard Mets fan a game this summer - and when we realized that a Mets-Yankees Subway Series was scheduled the weekend of our sailing, we decided to go down a night early and take in a game. So, Friday morning 7/1 we dropped the dog off at the kennel, packed the car, and drove down to Queens. I had found a Hampton Inn near LaGuardia Airport, less than two miles from Citi Field, and it worked fine for the four of us. The hotel listed the Buccaneer Diner on Astoria Boulevard as a choice for meals, so we walked a few blocks and had a late lunch/early dinner.
The game was a lot of fun. I would say there were more Mets fans than Yankees fans, but of course there were a lot of Yankees fans in attendance. And they didn't go home disappointed, much to sons' dismay. However, Citi Field is a great place to watch a ball game. And they got to see a future Hall of Famer (Mariano Rivera) in action. They had a good time.
We left the hotel around ten and were at Pier 90 by 10:45. There were porters in the parking area, so no need to drag our bags down to the street level, which was nice. Then through security (they have a priority line for VIP cruisers, which moves you ahead of people in the regular line) and over to the VIP check-in. It wasn't the fastest check-in we've done (they had two agents, but one was occupied with a large family that appeared to have issues - I gathered that their full party was not present), but we were still among the first to board the ship. It was practically empty. We made our way to Lido deck for lunch and to wait for the cabins to open. All rather painless.
We had cabin 8455, the aft wrap, with adjoining cabin 8449. What amazing cabins. Since it's angled aft, 8455 is odd-sized, although I'd swear it's bigger than a regular balcony cabin. The only missing item is a sofa - instead, we had a table and chair. And the balcony is the biggest on the ship (aside from 8448 on the port side). Then we coupled it with 8449, which is an extra-large balcony cabin - with a balcony about the size of a balcony of a grand suite. DH and 15 YO had to go to the purser's desk to do so, but that night we had the balcony opened between the cabins. The entire deck 8 aft starboard corner was ours. What an unbelievable balcony. I know there's some debate about the value of a balcony on this itinerary (let alone a premium balcony) - but for us, we used it enough that it was well worth it.
Sailaway - New York Harbor
Despite professing to be somewhat of a hick (see my screen name), I have to say that New York provides the best sailaway of any port we've sailed from. And since we had the giant balcony, we decided we were going to do sailaway right from our balcony. DH brought a tripod for his camera so he could shoot photos from our balcony. We didn't sail until about 5:25, which seems to be fairly typical for Glory after watching her sail on past cruises on webcams and marinetraffic.com. In the meantime, I went to the Camp Carnival orientation (5:15) to pick up schedules and fill out the forms for our sons so they'd be all ready to go after dinner - if they wanted. (At this stage of our cruise history, we really don't need to stay for the whole orientation program). By the time I returned, we were just leaving the pier.
There's a lot to see on the way out of New York, no matter whether you are port or starboard. Port gives you the wonderful views of Manhattan - the Empire State Building, Chelsea Piers, the World Financial Center (you can see the new Freedom Tower being built behind), and the Battery. Starboard gives you the New Jersey waterfront (don't laugh - aside from the new buildings you get the old Erie Lackawanna and Jersey Central rail terminals and the Colgate clock), Ellis Island, and the Statue of Liberty. Don't forget that if you're on the "wrong" side of the ship sailing out, you can make up for it on the return to New York - that is, if you're willing to get up early.
We took a lot of nice photos and stayed on deck until we sailed under the Verrazano Narrows Bridge (about an hour after sailing). I took youngest son up forward to deck 10 to sail under the bridge. He loved it.
Dinner - Night 1
After sailing under the bridge, we went to dinner. Since we knew that we wanted to be on deck until after we sailed under the Verrazano and that this ship usually sails late, we booked Your Time Dining so we could go to the dining room when we were ready. We went to the dining room around 7 p.m. and were seated immediately - table for 4, number 237, with team waiters Joven, Miguel, and Cesar. No complaints about any of them. Thanks to a Cruise Critic review I decided to try the lasagna, as did DH - it was really good. Younger son went for tilapia, while older son went for ... a cheese pizza. He has a few variations to his diet, but not many. As much as his diet bugs me, his doctor says he's healthy. I just wish he'd start to expand his tastes a bit....
After dinner, older son went off with Club O2, while DH went to bed. Younger son and I decided to take in the Welcome Aboard Show. It was pretty typical fare, with some singing numbers, an introduction by Josh Waitzman the CD, and a sample of the comedians' performances. Then off to bed - it had been a long day.
Day 2 - A Fun Day at Sea
We awoke to beautiful blue skies and a pleasant, if cool, atmosphere. We did something we always have promised we'd do on a cruise, but hadn't up to now: breakfast in the dining room. DH and I had eggs Benedict, while youngest son opted for a ham and cheese omelet. It was very good, and it was nice not having to brave the buffet. (The 15 YO decided to do the buffet and head for the sports deck.)
After breakfast youngest son went to Camp Carnival, while DH and I sat on the Promenade deck and played gin rummy. We only do this when we're on a cruise, so I was a little bothered when I couldn't remember how many cards to deal - that just showed us it had been almost a year since we last cruised! At 1:00 there was a cooking demonstration in the Emerald Room; the chef d'cuisine demonstrated a mushroom cappuccino (essentially a mushroom puree soup), a spinach salad with sautEed mushrooms, broiled chicken with a port wine reduction, and tiramisu. Samples were provided for everyone, so I certainly didn't need much in the way of lunch now! I did settle for a bowl of bouillabaisse from the fish and chips restaurant on deck 10.
After lunch DH decided to spend the afternoon out on the balcony reading, while I decided to visit one of my favorite spots on Glory: the Jacuzzi and pool in the spa area. It certainly helped my sore knee. The rest of the afternoon was spent lazing on the balcony.
We had a slight conflict when getting ready for dinner: the last of the Subway Series games had gone into extra innings, and the 15 YO wasn't about to go to dinner until the game was over. So there we were, all dressed up, standing around the TV watching the end of the game. It ended well for son (Mets avoided getting swept), and then we were off to dinner. We took the same table as the night before with the same great wait team. DH, youngest son and I all opted for lobster, while the 15 YO - opted for pizza. Go figure. Judging by the number of people who entered the dining room after us, it looked like a lot of folks were watching the game before dinner. It got crowded - from what I can figure, most people still go to dinner at the same time, but just don't want to be tied down to a dining time.
Dinner over, kids went off to their groups while DH and I decided to sample the karaoke entertainment in the Ivory Club. One word - ugh. Just not our thing. We headed upstairs to the Ebony Lounge for Jim McCue's comedy routine. We saw him on a previous cruise and liked his routine, and he didn't disappoint this time either. He's a funny guy.
From there, we headed to Bar Burgundy where they were serving a flight of mini martinis. DH didn't want to try any (he's a purist who insists that a Martini is gin with a whisper of vermouth and a garnish of onions and olives), but I went for the Mangotini, the Spicy Chipotle, the Pomegranate Breeze, and the Jack Julep. They give you a menu with the recipes, too. Really liked the last one - essentially a mint julep with pineapple juice added. After that, we headed to bed - we knew we'd have an early morning in Saint John.
Day 3 - Saint John in the Fog
We awoke to wet decks and a lot of fog. Glory docked around 7 a.m., much earlier than scheduled. The weather in Saint John was cool, foggy and cloudy with showers. However, considering that the last time we visited (last Labor Day weekend) we had Hurricane Earl to contend with, this was relatively good weather. At least this time we could get off the ship without a monsoon bearing down on us.
We had visited Saint John four times previously, but we never made it out of the downtown area on any of those cruises. Last year we booked a coastal tour but Hurricane Earl put an end to that. So this time, we booked the "Fundy's Hidden Coast" tour through Carnival. This is a bus tour that takes you out of Saint John to several stops. We had a tour guide dressed as one of Saint John's Loyalists (perfect for the US' s Independence Day) who narrated our tour and led us to the stops. Of course, along the way he had to explain what we would be seeing if the fog wasn't so heavy. ("Fundy's Hidden Coast" certainly was well hidden!) The first stop was Lepreau Falls, a very pretty nature area. There were some nice walking trails. From there, we went to Dipper Harbour, a small fishing village where we were shown the fishing boats and lobster traps, most of which had been pulled in for the season. Then we went to a third area along the coast, where we could see more fishing boats and walk the beach at low tide. On the way back to Saint John, our guide entertained us by showing us various utensils (mostly old) and asking us what they were used for. We also drove by the Reversing Rapids, since we had a little extra time. We were back at the ship at noon.
From there, we walked over to Grannan's at Market Square, where we knew we could find good food that both we and the boys would enjoy and Moose on tap for us. The 15 YO outdid himself with his plate of clams and fries - he's a picky eater, but clams certainly seem to constitute a food group with him. After that it was up the hill to City Market, where we picked up bags of Canada mints for our oldest (he loves them), then over to Kings Square for a rest and then back down the hill to the ship. It wasn't the most pleasant day weather-wise, but we had a good time and I enjoyed finally having a chance to see some of the area outside downtown Saint John. Plus, the people of Saint John have to be among the friendliest folks I've had the chance to meet on a cruise. All in all, a good day.
This afternoon was the past guest party. The main lounge was filled with past guests, although it turned out that our family, along with two other families, tied for the most cruises. No Milestone guests on this cruise. The ship's orchestra was good, as was their vocalist, and the party was fun. Captain Fazio did not attend - I figure he was probably too busy working on navigating the ship out of Saint John in the fog. And there was a lot of fog, all night. The ship's foghorn started sounding every few minutes after sailing and didn't stop again until we arrived the next day in Halifax.
We had previously made reservations for the Emerald Room, Glory's steakhouse, for this evening. There was a good crowd in the steakhouse. DH ordered tuna tartare, Caesar salad, and surf and turf; I noticed that unlike past visits to the steakhouse, they did not make his Caesar salad at the table but instead brought an already-made salad. It was still good, just different from past experience. I opted for beef carpacchio, tomato with Gorgonzola, and filet mignon, all very good. And both of us opted for the chocolate sampler for dessert. This time I almost finished it. The steakhouse is well worth a visit.
A funny story from the steakhouse, though: Some of you may have read some of my reviews and posts about our Glory 2009 cruise, which was our first cruise after Carnival discontinued the live music in the supper club. We spent our evening in the supper club that time being serenaded by George Michael and Air Supply. It was...different, to say the least. After that cruise, we visited the steakhouses on Miracle, Conquest, and Pride. They all had varying music, but it was generally classical or swing music. Now, here we were back on Glory. The music started out with Frank Sinatra and similar performers, but it was not too long before we found ourselves listening to...George Michael. They must have known that we were coming.
Today also was July 4. This was the fourth cruise we've taken over July 4, and in the past there have been some minor Independence Day observances, but not too much. Josh, however, was very much into celebrating the holiday. He had the atrium decorated with a large American flag and banners around decks 3, 4 and 5 (in fact, when we were disembarking in Saint John that morning he was putting up some of the decorations) and scheduled a series of July 4-themed activities: deck games, the movie "Independence Day" on the big screen, July 4 trivia challenge, balloon bingo, the main show "Livin' in America" (which I think would normally be scheduled the following evening), and a late night deck party. I tried to stay awake for the deck party, but I just couldn't make it. Older son went and said it was a lot of fun. All in all, it certainly was more than I've even seen in the way of July 4 activities.
Day 4: Halifax
We awoke to more fog, but there was a promise of sunshine behind the fog and it was relatively warm. We took a chance and decided to forego the layered clothes that are so often recommended on this cruise (and which Josh recommended that morning). We lucked out and had an absolutely gorgeous day in Halifax. I hadn't booked any excursions, so we decided to pay it by ear. We walked down to the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, which is a great museum for ship geeks like us. They have a wonderful collection of antique boats and displays on the age of sail, the age of steam, shipwrecks, and the Halifax Explosion of 1917. And then there's the Titanic exhibit. Halifax was the base for recovery operations after the Titanic sank, and a number of bodies recovered are buried in Halifax cemeteries. The museum has several pieces of the wreck that were found by the crew of the recovery ships, including paneling and a deck chair.
After visiting the museum, we walked farther down the boardwalk. I had thought about booking a harbor tour, but most of the available times were sold out. Instead, we went to Stayner's Wharf - a good restaurant where we knew we could find food the kids liked and Keith's Ale on tap. It did not disappoint. Two pints of Keith's for DH and I and several plates of fish and clams later, we headed back down the boardwalk. We stopped off at the Acadia, a 100 year-old hydrographic ship available for tours for museum visitors - she's a beautiful ship. Then we headed back to the ship, taking a fair number of harbor pictures along the way.
We opted to stay on deck to sail away from Halifax, rather than go to dinner early. DH wanted to take photos on the way out of the harbor. The result was that we ended up having dinner in one of the overflow dining rooms. The table was fine, but there were too many tables in this room for the assigned staff - they were hustling. DH and I opted for the chateaubriand, which was excellent. The boys were still pretty full from lunch - they didn't even stay for dessert.
After dinner, DH and I went to see Justin Illusion. I don't profess to have any knowledge of how an illusionist does these acts, but he certainly was a lot of fun to watch. It's an excellent show.
I then went to check to see whether the Camp Carnival late night party would be taking place. I had signed up on our 11 YO on Monday, but the counselor advised me to check to see whether the party would actually happen - they didn't have many takers for the party. Between what the counselor told me and what my son heard from other kids, it really sounds as if Carnival has overestimated the level of interest versus price for this party, and the end result was that the party was canceled for lack of registrants. And on a cruise with a lot of kids! When we did this cruise last year (and times previously), the late night party for this group was $26. With the new "Night Owls" program, it's now $33 plus a 15% gratuity - over $37 per child. It's too bad - son always loved this party. He was disappointed, but he certainly understood when his friends told him their parents thought it was just too expensive.
Day 5 - Last Day at Sea
During the night the fog rolled back in - and stayed. We awoke the next morning to sun shining - through the fog. It never rained, but it was pretty cool all day. And it was foggy. Aside from sitting on our balcony, I didn't spend much time outside. After breakfast, we went to trivia (DH took second), then coffee and cards on the Promenade deck. Lunch on deck 10, followed by some shopping and down time on the balcony. We went to tea at 3:30 (very nice - but no scones!), and then the "fun farewell" party was at 5. We spent some time chatting with our cruise director Josh - just a really nice guy.
We made sure we went to dinner around 6 so we could ask for the table we had the first two nights - Table 237 with Joven, Miguel and Cesar. They seemed happy to see us - apparently the night before a group took their service area and we were a bit easier to serve. I opted for mushroom soup and short ribs, and they were good. Dessert for me was the Grand Marnier soufflE - very good, but very rich. After dinner, we finished packing and then went down to the Burgundy Bar so DH could try the Jack Mojito I had sampled a few nights before. He had been waiting to try a mojito all week...and it was good. However, it did give both of us some crazy dreams during the night....
Back to New York, and Debarkation
I awoke around 6:00 and we were already under the Verrazano. DH had planned to get up early to take pictures, but he just couldn't find enough energy to get out of bed at the appointed hour. I was out on our balcony from the time we passed the Battery until we docked.
New York is just such a unique port. Early in the morning, you see a city barely awake - New York really doesn't waken completely until around 10. We sailed by Ground Zero and the new Freedom Tower, past the tunnel entrances, Chelsea Piers, and the Intrepid. All the while, you watch the city wake up. You see more people, more cars. Down below, there's a tugboat helping to push Glory into her pier. And then there's the longshoremen working the lines to tie off the ship.
We left our cabin around 7:45 and went to the Lido restaurant for some breakfast. I wasn't very hungry, and neither were our sons, but we managed enough sustenance for the drive home. VIP debarkation for non-self assist met in the Golden Dining Room at 8:30, and we were off the ship by 9:00. We had returned to Pier 88 instead of Pier 90, which was our pier of departure. It did require a bit of juggling to get our car and load up, since our porter could not take our luggage up to the parking deck on Pier 90. DH had to go get the car, exit out onto 12th Avenue, and drive around to enter the port area again to pick us up. However, wewere in our car on the way home by 9:20. We were home before lunchtime.
Kathy's editorial comments - your mileage may vary.
I always like to end my reviews with my own thoughts and observations about the cruise. Please understand that I've never had a bad cruise. Some better than others, yes - but no bad cruises. Was this our best cruise ever? No - but then, it was only a 5-day cruise. I think my best cruise ever was an 8-day out of NYC on Carnival Legend in 2006, sailing to San Juan, St. Thomas and Tortola. That cruise was very different from a 5-day Canada cruise. And this one far exceeded last year's Hurricane Earl cruise, if for no other reason than having much better weather.
Carnival Glory: This was our third cruise on Glory. To us, she's a very comfortable ship; for me personally, she's the one ship we've sailed that doesn't have a space where I say, "What was Farcus thinking?" A few nits here and there, such as the door to our balcony. On most cruises, you hear complaints about balcony doors slamming. Well, ours was the other extreme - it didn't want to close. I ended up trying to slam it shut (only slightly successful). Overall, though, Glory is a well-maintained ship with nicely decorated lounges.
Crew and staff: Absolutely no complaints here, either. Our stewards kept our cabin immaculate and our wait staff at dinner was superb. Staff at other times of the day worked hard to clean up after passengers - despite some rather demanding passengers. (What comes to mind for me is the 3 or 4 year-old hellion who grabbed a metal tray from fish and chips, ran over to the stairs, and tossed the tray down the stairs to a (for the child, at least) satisfying resonance. The parents did nothing to discipline the child, but a staff member calmly walked down the stairs, picked up the tray, and brought it to the "to be cleaned" dish collection.)
Other guests: At least based on the past guest party, there were no "milestone" cruisers on this sailing. We, along with two other families, constituted the "most sailings" group with 14 apiece. There were a lot of first-time cruisers on this sailing. This was the cruise that got us hooked on cruising - I hope others are similarly hooked. Most guests seemed to enjoy themselves. There are always a handful of those I will call "entitled" (see the paragraph above about the little hellion), but on a cruise with 3000 people I would say 2800+ didn't fall into that category. Passengers fell into all age groups - young families, older couples, singles, family reunions - you name it.
Entertainment: We sailed with Josh two years ago on Miracle when he was subbing as CD for Malcolm, who had become ill. We thought he was okay at that time, although we thought he doubled up on announcements. Fast forward two years and Josh has really come into his own. Very confident, very personable, and he obviously loves what he's doing. For me, the telling point was when I saw him in the lobby on Saint John morning, putting up July 4 decorations. I just don't expect to see the cruise director hanging up the decorations, but it obviously meant a lot to him to celebrate July 4 in style. And as I said previously, this ship had more July 4 celebrations than any ship we've sailed. We had a chance to talk to Josh during the "Fun Farewell" party and enjoyed getting to meet him.
The only shows we saw were the Welcome Aboard show, Jim McCue in the comedy club, and Justin Illusion. We didn't go to the production shows, "Just Rock" and "Livin' in America," as we've seen both previously. Never made it to the piano bar on this cruise. The ship's orchestra was very good - they did a couple of concerts in the lobby and they were enjoyable.
Food: As I noted previously, this was the first cruise where we opted for Your Time Dining. What we found is that for most people on this cruise, Your Time Dining meant ... 6:30. I don't know if it differs on a cruise with fewer children, though. A friend who sailed NCL with her family told us that NCL's "freestyle" dining was fine, as long as you didn't want to eat at 6:30. On our next cruise we have early dining booked - no real reason to have Your Time Dining on that one. At any rate, the food on this cruise was all good. I did miss crème brulee and tiramisu, though.
The next cruise is next month. We're driving to Charleston for Carnival Fantasy, mostly because we've never been to Charleston. I know Fantasy will be a far cry from the ships we've sailed up to now, but it will be nice to experience a totally different type of ship. After that ... I think we'll wait to see what oldest son's schedule looks like before we book anything. He may or may not want to sail with us, but I'd like to see if we can fit in one more cruise with him before he graduates. He'll be Platinum too....