An escape from 65 straight days of 90 degree weather in Florida made this cruise to New England and Canada seem like a good idea. And it certainly was in that respect; we had two days of rainy/foggy/cold weather, but both were at-sea ... Read More
An escape from 65 straight days of 90 degree weather in Florida made this cruise to New England and Canada seem like a good idea. And it certainly was in that respect; we had two days of rainy/foggy/cold weather, but both were at-sea days, so that didn't bother us at all. And the rest of the weather was mainly very pleasant, which was a nice surprise, since Tropical Storm Hermine had just been in the area.
General thoughts: We sailed on the Zuiderdam last year, and found some improvements this time around. The food in the Lido has definitely improved in taste, presentation, and variety. Plenty of MDR options were available there every night (we prefer to Lido to the MDR). We also noticed that the films shown in the screening room were much more current and whoever is programming them is providing a "something for everyone" selection. We didn't go to much of the entertainment, but what we did see was excellent, particularly the show with the two sisters from Nova Scotia who were delightful performers and excellent musicians. On one of our at-sea days, the Captain gave a talk (which was basically a resume of his career -impressive- and then he opened it up for questions). Very interesting, and it's great to see someone in his position be so open to guests. This ship was looking a bit run-down; the captain said it was due for drydock in about a year. Our cabin on deck 5 was fine with the exception of several maintenance issues (the phone stopped working, the A/C didn't function correctly) which were quickly fixed. Our cabin stewards were terrific; we had a few special requests which they promptly attended to, and they were always pleasant and helpful.
Embarkation: Fast and easy in the Manhattan cruise terminal. We got there about 1:00 and I think we were on board in less than 15 minutes. It is a thrill sailing past the Statue of Liberty, and I'm very glad that the weather cooperated so that all of us standing on deck could enjoy it.
Gloucester: a very long tender ride to a small town. Interesting working port, a nice downtown area, and very nice locals.
Bar Harbor: Lovely town with a very nice walkway along the shore and plenty of interesting shops and good restaurants. We took an Acadia Park bus tour from the aptly named Acadia Tours (reservations recommended, tickets at Testa Restaurant on Main Street). In 3 hours, we went to Cadillac Mountain, Thunder Hole, and a scenic drive back to Bar Harbor. Our excellent guide was informative and interesting and due to the sunny weather, the views were spectacular. Both Gloucester and Bar Harbor were listed as tender ports, little did we know there were more to come.
Halifax: We docked right in the downtown area and it was an easy walk to many sights. The visitors center had wifi, a farmer's market on the day we were there, and excellent maps. We enjoyed a walk on the harbor boardwalk, a visit to the Maritime Museum (very interesting with exhibits on the Titanic and the Halifax explosion as well as a ship moored at the dock), and a Tim Horton's stop. An enjoyable city with plenty to do.
Sydney: We are supposed to be able to get off the ship at 9:00, but hadn't docked at 9:00. We scrambled to make our 9:30 HAL excursion to the Fortress of Louisbourg. Our bus left about 15 minutes late due to the lateness of the ship's arrival and we drove about 45 minutes to the Fortress. This was a fascinating excursion to a recreation of the fortress which the French built in the 1700s and the British later destroyed. If you're interested in history, this is a great excursion. We got off the bus and were given hot chocolate as they had it in 1744 (lots of chocolate, not much sugar, very tasty) and living history interpreters told us about the fortress. Then it was off the a demonstration of musket-firing, and it was at this point that our guide lost a good portion of the group including us (he was always about 200 feet ahead of the group!). Fortunately, he had told us when and where to meet, so we simply wandered through the huge area of re-created buildings in the Fortress, talking to the interpreters and enjoying the exhibits. The cruise terminal here has wifi, a very nice craft hall where I bought some excellent chocolates - look for Jill's Chocolates and you won't be sorry!), and the world's largest fiddle. :)
Charlottetown: Surprise! Another tender port. There was quite a strong breeze which made for a bumpy ride. This is a great port if you're interested in Anne of Green Gables. There are, of course, many excursions to the farm that inspired the books and where the author lived. And there are many Anne of Green Gables related businesses in town (I counted three, including a musical, on one corner alone). If, like my husband and I, you're not an enormous Anne fan, then it's still a lovely and lively town and a pleasure to walk through. Unfortunately, the town's most interesting historical site, Province House, was closed for renovations.
Saguenay: A lovely cruise through the fjord if you get up early enough. My husband was up at 6:00, but I was not, so I'm taking his word for it. This was another surprise tender port. You'll definitely want to do an excursion here, as the sights of interest are far away from the port. The Captain opened the bow door as we left Saguenay for a very scenic cruise toward the fjord. It was chilly, but lots of passengers enjoyed the scenery and especially the beautiful full moon rising over the hills.
Quebec City: We docked right in the center of everything - it was a very short walk to the historic area. This is a charming area and lends itself to meandering down the streets and lanes. Shopping aficionados, you will find plenty to do here. We took the funicular up to the upper town, and again, wandered the beautiful streets. So many churches! The Basilica and the Citadel were particularly interesting.
Disembarkation: Very smooth. We had pre-arranged a HAL transfer to the Montreal airport - flights from Quebec City to our home involved several stops and Montreal was the better choice for us. We were off the ship at 7:30, got our bags in the terminal, were ushered to the bus and were driving out of the parking lot by 7:50. We got to the airport just after 11:00 and the wonderful people at West Jet were able to get us on an earlier flight back home. That turned out to be a very good things, since we had to change planes in Toronto, and it's one of those airports where you have to switch terminals, which means going back through security and then customs and immigration. A traveler who flies through the airport frequently told me she always allows at least 2 hours on any layover there when going to US.
It was really too early for the advertised colors, but nonetheless it was a very enjoyable cruise. Read Less