9 Night Canada/New England from Bayonne Explorer Sept 2011
Canada & New England
Explorer isn't new, she's showing her age in places but is being constantly maintained. Really though, it's the staff that draws us in on Explorer. Having come from a cruise on another ship which left us truly disappointed, we were wondering what to expected. We were impressed rather quickly with the level of service and attitude of her staff.
We choose to stay in a Grand Suite because it gives us the larger balcony and concierge service. Explorer just started a new offering for Suite guests where breakfast is served is Portofino's. Wow - a short trip upstairs to have a staff of waiters and cooks standing by to cook your hearts desire for breakfast? It was amazing, I truly hope they continue it. Adrian is in charge of Portofino's and he coordinates with the Concierge (which is currently Francis as Carlos was on vacation) to offer this.
So the captain on rotation was Capt Loy, who is 36. He'll tell you that Excellence has no age. I supposed Captain Nysetter More
mentored him to command Explorer as they are similar. He appeared at many events and had his wife and two children on the ship with him.
On a part of our trip, we hit remnants of a hurricane with 25-30 foot seas. The ship handled this really well, the side to side movement was minimized with the four stabilizers out but she was a rocking back and forth a good bit. Many announcements about holding handrails on stairs and proactively taking sea sickness precautions. Less
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Cabin review: Explorer of the Seas
Loads of storage space, plenty of closet space (three full closet doors, two of which have two tiers of hanging). Room was quiet, no noises from above. Nice balcony. The sofa and chairs are not the most comfortable ones we've had in a Grand Suite...
Port and Shore Excursions
Bar Harbor was beautiful. The weather while we were there was not nice, it was foggy and misting. We were the only ship in port, thankfully, because we were tendered into Bar Harbor.
We did a tour on our own, signing up for a bus tour of Acadia National Park. We emailed and reserved a time long before the cruise which was good because they were sold out. The tour was on a school bus with tour bus seats inside. Tickets are bought from Testa's restaurant. We left at 10am and drove through the park - the drive narrated while she drove. She really knew a lot about the trees and wildlife, we learned a lot on this tour and I'd recommend it. Thunder Hole made for great pics, couldn't see anything from Cadillac Mountain due to fog, but saw some trees changing leaf colors by a beautiful stone bridge and gorge.
The main street of Bar Harbor has many shops, all are small shops not major chain type shops. It was quite different from Portland. There were many restaurants to choose from, of course most serving lobster :-) We even found an artisan vinegar and olive oil shop. I found some unique clothing items in Claire de Loon, things I didn't see anywhere else.
Parts of Bar Harbor looked like they came out of a Thomas Kinkade painting. We could've dropped Portland and spent an extra day here.
We love boston. Grabbed a bus ride to Quincy Market, walked to the commons and then back to Quincy market when more shops were open. Had lunch at Dick's Last Resort which was fun. Walked through the Granary Burial Grounds and decided to walk back to the port. It was a haul but we got to see a lot of boston. We passed Harpoon Brewery so stopped in for a tour and tasting. Wow we tasted 10 different offerings and they were great! then back to the ship and into the hot tubs to soak our tired feet!
Harder to rate this one - almost rated a 3 because outside the boardwalk area there's a lot of Halifax that is not nice, has graffiti and areas which I'm betting you would not want to find yourself in after dark. Our only RCCL tour was here, scheduled at 2:15 so we had time to kill. We walked the boardwalk which was very nice. However, we noticed that more ships were docking, and overall 5 cruise ships were in port this day. Wow. We walked up to the Citadel, saw the noon cannon and guard change and recommend this this to folks. We did not go inside the citadel though. We walked through the Lions gate cemetary, had lunch at the waterfront (lobsta rolls) and bought some craft brews at the Garrison Brewery.
Our tour left late, at 2:50, and went to the Titanic graveyard. Good history but not all that much to see. Then off to Peggy's cove. By then it was pouring rain. When we got to Peggy's cove, we were supposed to have an hour there. because we left late we only had 30 minutes, and there were many buses already there. The bathrooms were crowded, the shops packed, forget getting gingerbread or touring the fishing village. The tour was disappointing. The guide was not the best we've heard, she talked more about Halifax tragedy and lobster mating.
We checked out the narrow gauge railroad while in Portland. It was an easy walk from the port, the people were quite helpful and it was a nice ride. Great way to see Casco Bay and get a good idea of the area.
Walked up into Portland to the Shipyard Brewing Company. Not much of a tour but they did offer tastings. Since we were there in late September we got to try their fall brews including the pumpkin brew which was quite good.
We walked into the shopping district to see the shops and there were protests going on, with children holding signs with vulgar language. This was in the main downtown square. None of the shops downtown were really worth visiting, in our humble opinion. There were a few close to the waterfront, including a paint your own pottery shop which looked interesting.
Other than the railroad which was great, we could have skipped Portland and spent the time elsewhere.
The welcome we received in Saint John was second to none. From the bagpipes playing as we docked to the people in the cruise port welcoming us and offering assistance, we really felt welcome. We didn't have formal plans, and we didn't feel like 'prey' like the folks were trying to get us to do stuff with them, they wanted to answer questions, tell us about their city, the bay of fundy, and you could see in their faces how genuine and proud they were about their city.
So..not having plans, we elected to take a trolley tour around Saint John which would run us by the reversing falls. we signed up in the cruise port and it was billed to our sea pass account - no cash exchanged. Tour guide was quite knowledgeable and dressed in period clothing. The bus was top notch with windows made for great viewing. Almost every seat was perfect. The tour guide gave us a lot of info and tips for things to do in the future. They also let folks get of in the downtown area, giving us maps of the area with highlights of how to get back to the port by walking 15 minutes.
Leaving port, another bagpiper played as we left. The currents in the port are strong to leaving is something to watch. Saint John was clean and easy to navigate.