This was our first cruise and we were both looking forward to it. We had booked through Virgin and only received our tickets 3 days prior to sailing. Virgin recommened and booked us a one night stay in Madison Avenue, New York. The hotel was lovely, no problem there. The taxi fare to Cape Liberty was $85 dollars which seemed expensive. The drive took about an hour in moderate traffic. On arrival at the port of Cape Liberty we stepped out of the taxi and one of our cases was taken by a porter there and put next to a cage for transfering to the ship.He kept repeating that he was looking after the cases over and over again. We ignored him as he had only taken one of the four cases three foot and did not think this deserved a tip. Eventually he threw the case into the cage and on delivery to our cabin later found it had the handle broken on it. What a good start to the holiday having some random porter shouting to you.
We then entered a tented area and was asked for our sea passes, of course Virgin Cruises had not sent us anything. We had rockstar service so bypassed the other guests and after photographs we went straight onto the ship. The Windjammer restaurant was open for food and drinks straight away. Boarding seemed quite quick and easy and passengers could go to their rooms straight away. Our cabin was alot better than expected and our stateroom attendant over the holiday looked after us brilliantly.
The ports of call
1: Portland, Not much to see, pretty boring really.We booked a trip through RC which cost around $40 each for 2 hours. Nothing special. Weather raining and cold.
2: Bar Harbour, Absolutley Lovely and picturesque. Lots to see and do. The ship tenders out of the port and transfered in by smaller boats free. Lots of trips and i trolleys to go on once in the harbour, all cheaper than buying on board ship. Went to Acadia national park, thunder whole and tried to go up Cadillac mountain but the fog came down and we had to divert and return to the harbour.
3: Halifax- Boring. If you dont book a trip through the RC then there is nothing at the port.
4:Saint John, Boring. Same as above.
5: Boston, Fantastic. All transport from the port is through Rc again so costs a fortune. We walked it into Boston which took about 45 minutes and thats fast walking. Lots to see and do. We booked a trip to Salem through RC. Salem beautiful, would loved to have spent more time there. Top trip
Entertainment was not up to much. Comedian on last night very funny and Tribute act really good. But other nights let down by content of shows. Expected more musicals etc. To have an olympic gymnast perform was scraping the barrel really and he looked as if he was struggling at times.
Food was mediocre, expected five star, only really three star food. Breakfast best meal of the day, then lunch and unfortunatley three course dinner last. There were some fruit,cookies and a few sandwiches at the cafe on deck 5 but nothing great. You could get drinks here too, coffee, tea and hot chocolate and also water and iced tea which were free.
All in all this trip has put me off cruising again. I had high expectations for this trip and felt let down by the content of the ports and also the food, drinks and entertainment onboard. Speaking to others they felt the same about the cruise.
As for tip or gratuities, well towards the last few days it was played on the tv channel how to pay for them. All in all there are four people your expected to tip, stateroom attendant-$5 each per person per night. head waiter, waiter and assistant waiter. For all four of them Royal Caribbean expected you to pay around $200 or about 120. Why are we expected to make up their pay. Surely RC should up their rates of pay. Most people did not leave tips for the recommended amounts on talking to various couples, it was less.
Disembarkation was quick and easy. We hadnt booked a transfer to the airport JFK but there were shuttle services at the port for 27 dollars each which was reasonable.