We originally booked this cruise for the fall of 2017 while on board Silhouette in the British Isles in 2016. This was one of the few cruises offered by our favorite cruise line, Celebrity, that was still on our bucket list. Our plan, when booking it, was to take any cabin, knowing full well that when Celebrity announced the 2018 deployments we would switch on the first day staterooms became available for this cruise and get the stateroom we wanted.
This cruise was on Summit, one of Celebrity's older M-class ships. We had sailed on her sister ship Infinity (exactly the same ship) six different times so we knew exactly what we wanted—an aft cabin. So when this cruise opened for booking we grabbed it on the first day it was available and got a great aft cabin on deck eight. Our original plan was to do this cruise by ourselves, without any of our Martini Mates, Silhouetters or friends. Just us.
So when we booked this cruise we planned some shore excursions with two other couples on the Cruise Critic roll call. This set up a very different dynamic than when we usually sail together. While we usually do shore excursions together, eat dinner together, we wouldn't be able to do that on this cruise as they booked Aqua class (which eats dinner in Blu) while we would be eating in the Main Dining Room (MDR). But we still spent a great deal of time with the four of them but for Kathleen and I, it made it a very different cruise.
As I mentioned earlier, our cabin was 8176, which was an aft cabin that we really wanted to sail in again. We have sailed in aft cabins on M-class ships six times before and they have the most amazing verandahs that are both huge and give you an 180 degree view of everything. That's Kathleen standing on our verandah below. The best part of this stateroom was our stateroom attendant, Eddie (that's him with Kathleen below). In more than 23 cruises, we have never had a stateroom attendant as great as he was to us. He was the hardest working, most congenial guy on the ship and he made our entire cruise better than it would it have been with anyone else taking care of us.
We spent a really nice day touring with Andy Smith, the owner and operator of Tattle Tours. We had prearranged this tour at the same time as the rest of our tours, about 14 months ahead of the cruise. When Andy isn't a tour guide, he is an actor so he can be very interesting to listen to. Andy does a variety of tours including walking tours of downtown Halifax and the tour we took, a drive to Peggy's Cove, Luneberg and Mahone Bay. Peggy's Cove is a postcard in the flesh with an amazing fishing village and lighthouse. Luneberg is a larger fishing village that is the home of the Bluenose (the ship you can see on the Canadian dime). Mahone Bay is a very nice town that just happens to be on the way back to Halifax. We had a very enjoyable day. We saw some great sights, had lunch at an outstanding restaurant in Luneberg named The Grand Banker. Had my first lobster roll there and some great beer. If you are in Luneberg, I highly recommend it. And I would highly recommend seeing these towns.
One thing I can't recommend is Andy's Tattle Tours for this driving tour. Andy is a great tour guide, just not a great driver. While driving with Andy he gets too distracted doing the tour. We felt very unsafe quite a few times while driving. I noticed (being in the front seat) that he ran three stop signs that only by sheer luck we didn't get hit broadside. I truly believe that Andy should stick to the in-town walking tours he does where he can devote his entire time to being the guide and not the driver.
We were ill and stayed in our cabin
After sailing some stormy seas on another sea day we arrived in Charlottetown on Prince Edward Island, Canada's smallest province. Upon leaving the ship we were met by our guide for the day, the wonderful Duncan and we were off to explore parts of Canada's smallest province. Duncan toured us all day long and was a superb guide. We saw Anne of Green Gables house, some incredible light houses, stopped by a place where we tasted and bought some of the best preserves ever and so much more. Duncan has been doing this for a very long time and really took great care of us. We even had a really cool encounter with a PEI fox. We would highly recommend touring with Duncan. He works with Target Tours and if you book with them, ask for Duncan. He's one of the best guides we have had in our travels.
The one good thing about missing Bar Harbor was that, as the captain said he, "put the pedal to the metal" and headed to Québec as fast as he could get there. We were originally schedule to arrive in Québec on Sunday, October 14 at 10:00 am and we ended up arriving on Saturday, October 13 at around 7:00 pm. Not only did we get an extra evening and morning in Québec, we also got the BEST mooring spot you can get in Québec, right at the bottom of the lower city with incredible views. The shot you see here is the view from the ship looking up at the city. Only two ships can dock here and the others have to moor around the corner in a much more industrial area. We were glad we weren't in those spots.
An awesome thing that happened due to us getting in early was that the sail-in on St. Lawrence Seaway was during Saturday afternoon instead of early in the morning on Sunday. I got some of my best photos of fall foliage colors on that sail-in. Like the one at right.
Now that I have told you that we got in early and why that was so great, I just want to say that we LOVED Québec. This was easily the highlight of the cruise. Two full days to enjoy this amazing city. It is the only place we visited that I want to go back to. It was as close to Europe as you can get and still be on the continent of North America. It reminded me more of Marseilles than Paris.
On our first morning I was up early to walk Québec. I did about five miles and traversed the upper and the lower city in the pre-dawn light, to get pictures of the sunrise from the top of the citadel. It was a wonderful experience to be able to leave the ship and come back at any time. Did this both mornings we were in the city and had a wonderful photo experience on both days. I went a little longer on the second day and got even more photos.
We had previously booked a food tour of Québec with Tours Voir Québec and we met our guide Richard (pronounced Rishard) at the port in the early afternoon on Sunday. There were eight of us and we had booked a private tour that actually turned out to be a private tour. Just the eight of us and Richard. Our first stop was Cotes a Cotes, a restaurant that had been opened in the mid-1600s where we finally (after all these years of visiting Canada) actually ate poutine. For those who don't know, poutine is sometimes referred to as the national dish of Canada. It is the ultimate comfort food—french fries covered in gravy and cheese curds. OMG! Why did I wait so long to eat this? Maybe fear of a heart attack? I'm not sure when I will eat it again but it was wonderful. I ate all of mine and about a quarter of Kathleen's. Then it was on to a wonderful chocolate shop (Le Fudgerie), a cafe where we tried a wonderful terrine made of vegetables, the local farmer's market where we sampled hard ciders, syrups, macarons and even emu. (My sister-in-law Jamie LOVED the emu–NOT!). All of them were delicious and you can see many of them in my Québec slide show that's linked here.
Our second day in Québec (we sailed at 3:30) was spent just shopping and looking around. Nothing organized.
We were not able to tender and skipped this port.
The heat wave we had encountered in Boston (the high there on October 9 was 86) got worse in Portland. It only got to 84 in the shade but the sun was blisteringly hot (my guess is about 92). We had scheduled a food tour (Old Port Culinary Walking Tour) with Maine Foodie Tours. That turned out to be a HUGE mistake.
First, we were told that our party (of 8) would be the only people on the tour and SURPRISE there were eight other people on the tour. The tour started at 10:00 AM when we all met at the Old Portland Wine Shop. We were hoping to have wine but the tour never went inside. Instead we moved to the back of the building next door, a spice shop. The shop was supposed to have AC and it might have but we couldn't tell. 16 of us were crushed into a space about 8 feet by 10 feet where we had to stand for about an hour while we first tasted a tiny glass of mead (honey wine) and then some of the worst macaroni and cheese with I have ever had with tiny bits of lobster in it to put some of the spices from the shop on. In the meantime our guide told us some fun Portland and food facts. When we were done eating (by now it is at least 11:00 am) our guide said you can now look at the rest of the store while I do the dishes...DO THE DISHES! On our time?
Most of us went back outside and walked down the street as it was about 90 inside the shop which faced the full sun while our guide cleaned up for about 25 minutes. By now it is almost 11:30 and we have not been offered water (even though some of the spices we tried were pretty spicy) and it is HOT and we were off to our second place. On the way our guide (who somehow had no clue that most of her tour were seniors and perishing in the heat) just took her sweet time getting us to the second place.
And that friends is as much as I can tell you. My wife and I had heat exhaustion and she and I abandoned the tour and took an Uber back to the ship. Our friends went on with the rest of the tour and told us later that the food was mediocre and that even though we had started the tour with very little food, at the end there was a ton. So much that they couldn't even eat it. One of the things everyone was looking forward to was the lobster rolls but by the time they got to where they were served, they were too stuffed to eat them.
Now we have done food tours in more than 10 cities including two here in Seattle, one in NYC, one in Amsterdam, one in Québec and others in Portland, Oregon, Sante Fe, Savannah and Victoria, BC. This was the worst. It was so bad that I refused to take money from the other six people who were touring with us. I had paid for the tickets in advance so I am stuck but I couldn't in good conscience charge them. Never tour with this company!
Our first port was Boston. We had originally planned on meeting with our friends Renda and Jennifer who live in Boston and had visited us in Seattle last year. We sailed with them to the Baltic in 2013. Unfortunately Jennifer had to work and Renda is awaiting surgery so they couldn't make it. We decided to just do the Hop-On, Hop-Off (Ho-Ho) bus with my brother and his wife. The bus stops right at the end of the pier. It is less than a 5 minute walk from the end of the gangplank to where the bus picks you up. But note that the bus that picks you up there is NOT the bus you will tour Boston on. You will be taken into downtown (about a 10 minute drive) and then need to change buses. After doing that, we headed out for what was about a two hour trip around the town.
Our normal practice when doing a Ho-Ho bus is to take the bus all the way around its entire route, hear all the narration and then on the second time around we hop off and on. We did just that, stopping the second time around at Old Ironsides (the USS Constitution) and downtown Boston where we got off and walked through the Faneuil Hall Marketplace. Then it was back to the ship. Later I walked about four miles back into town from the ship to pick up a Massachusetts Starbucks mug. What can I say, we collect them from the places we have been.
If it's Sunday you can get there in less than 30 minutes by car from downtown Manhattan.