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Home > Virtual Cruises > Serenade of the Seas: New York to Saint John
Serenade of the Seas: New York to Saint John
Day 1: New York
Day 2: At Sea
Day 3: Halifax
Day 4: Saint John
Day 5: At Sea
Day 6: New York
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Day 4: Thursday, Saint John
Saint JohnOne of my favorite things about cruising is the few moments in the morning when you've woken up already in port. There's a wonderful anticipation in the moments before you throw back the drapes -- will there be sun? What will the city look like?

Yesterday in Halifax I could see the tops of buildings and the Canadian flag. When I pulled open the curtains this morning and stepped onto the balcony in Saint John, the weather was beautiful -- yet another sunny, cloudless day -- but the view from the ship was less than picturesque.

Saint John is touted as one of Canada's oldest incorporated cities, so I expected a Boston-like old-world charm, with impressive architecture and a history-is-still-alive atmosphere. What I saw from my balcony were bulldozers -- for two separate construction sites -- parking lots, and rundown buildings. Not exactly the romantic city I'd hoped to find. Nevertheless, I eagerly envisioned a cute shopping district or waterfront area tucked away from visibility, and began my day hopeful about the port.

This morning, I decided to try out room service, which you can order right on your television. I punched in my order (omelet, yogurt, coffee, juice) and hit "confirm order" -- which then thanked me for my order and said my food would arrive between 7 and 7:30 a.m. Great...except that it was already 9:25 a.m.

Obviously confused (me and the television's room service ordering technology), I called down to room service, and tried explaining my situation to a crew member there. Eventually it became clear that not only did they have no record of my order, it was also too late to re-order as they'd stopped serving hot breakfast during the five minutes it took to submit my request. He offered to take my order anyway.

I chose to pass on the shore excursions in Saint John, as I'd taken one in Halifax and (though I had a blast) wanted to see the city on my own schedule. I headed into port around noon, after grabbing a turkey-and-swiss-wrap to-go in Windjammer. I was surprised to see congestion on the gangplank of folks already coming back into the ship -- it was, after all, only noon on our last day in port. This should have been an indication of what was to come, but still I stayed optimistic and eager to explore the city.

The terminal in Saint John is part garage, part craft fair (though the city is in the process of developing a new cruise terminal). I could not find any maps, rental car booths, or tourism information, but there's a bevy of knit sweaters and Canada T-shirts and (strangely enough) rows full of merchants peddling hand-painted rocks. Bypass the terminal, as it's largely useless, and head all the way to the left exit, following signs for "City Center." One distraction, in the immediate disembarkation area, was a group of people dressed in period costumes, offering rides on horse-drawn trolleys.

Once outside there's a lively restaurant directly across from the port called Steamers. A band outside blasted "Rockin' Robin" and "Hard Day's Night," taking breaks between stanzas to shout hello to the disembarking cruise passengers.

Tempted to stop in? Yes, but I was adamant about exploring the city, about a ten minute walk from the ship. My first impression of Saint John was that it was a working-class town that is absolutely over-run with teenagers. On several occasions, I was nearly trampled by kids. The waterfront area is pretty but lacks attractions. I headed into a building called "Market Square" -- which ended up being a block-long farmer's market of sorts, -- but (eureka!) inside there was a tourism area. Not sure why this isn't advertised more, but I was finally able to obtain a map and speak with some local representatives, who were friendly but offered few suggestions about what to do in the city.

I missed an opportunity in Saint John -- and learn from my mistake! This port of call is all about the Bay of Fundy, known for its extreme high and low tides, and, ahem, you can find good advice on possible activities in Cruise Critic's "Fall Foliage" guide. Most of the water-related activities require advance reservations, so book them from home or from the ship.

"All aboard" was at 3:30 p.m. Since the day was gorgeous, I hung out the pool deck for a few minutes. People always seem to be drinking pina coladas and Coronas -- and having fun. It may feel festive but you can also relax (one couple even fell asleep cuddling in the same chair!).

Ultimately, I found myself drawn back to the Solarium -- my favorite place on the ship -- and enjoyed the sail-away from the warmth of a hot tub. I love the tropical atmosphere -- it's sultry and almost a bit steamy, which compliments the exotic decor. You really feel as if you're in paradise. Also, there's a bar here -- and it's almost never crowded -- not to mention a snack counter where you can get pizza and brownies.

Tonight's big event: dinner at Portofino's, Serenade of the Seas alternate Italian restaurant. Portofino's is just lovely. The decor is elegant, with lots of golds and creams, and a violinist/guitar player moves from table to table, serenading couples with "The Way You Look Tonight" and "Memories." It's extremely romantic. This is not the kind of restaurant where you're forced to sit with others and, though there was some conversation between tables, it's probably a good idea to bring company to Portofino's, unless you're looking for a little solace! The food was amazing -- tiger prawns in saffron rice for an appetizer, a seafood /tomato soup, shrimp/lobster ravioli, lobster tail (was not slighted by missing the dining room on lobster night!), and, finally, white chocolate mousse.

After Portofino's, I rolled myself out into the Schooner Bar, which was hopping! The bartender does impromptu caricatures of the passengers and also knows some great bar tricks. He's such a character and sets the tone for a great atmosphere. Some people even sing along to the piano player's tunes. It's a fun-loving, casual bar where everyone is outgoing and you're sure to meet new friends. As I did tonight; had a great time talking with folks about our respective days in Saint John. Fortunately, most had really enjoyed their time there -- they'd either opted for a visit to the Bay of Fundy or a tour of the Moosehead Brewery.

Later, I popped into that night's show, "Vibeology," which featured elaborately costumed dancers who sang to popular songs through the decades; the big Cher finale was pretty fabulous. Another funky feature was dancers who dangled upside-down from wires (think Cirque du Soleil meets local talent show).

I visited the casino for a night-ending attempt to win some cash but wound up losing $10 in about five minutes playing the Wheel of Fortune slots. So I called it quits.

Tomorrow we spend the day at sea, en route to New York.
Day 3: Halifax red arrow Day 5: At Sea

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