This was our first cruise since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020. It was great to be back at sea. Overall, this was one of our best cruises because of the perfect weather. If only the ship had been equal to mother nature.
BACKGROUND: My wife and I are seniors. In 2019 we booked an inside stateroom on the Sky Princess for this New England/Canada voyage for 2020. It was cancelled in 2020 due to the Covid pandemic. Princess offered a 100% match of whatever money we had already paid as future cruise credit, so we immediately rebooked for 2021 and used the FCC to upgrade to an ocean view, bow-facing cabin on the Sky Princess. In December 2020 Princess changed the ship to the Caribbean Princess, which does not have that class of cabin, so gave us a free upgrade to a balcony cabin. In early 2021 Canada announced it was closing all ports to cruise ships until February 2022, so Princess again cancelled all of these cruises. Once more, in 2021 we immediately rebooked for 2022 on the Enchanted Princess. And one more time, Princess upgraded our balcony class for free. So, bottom line, we had been waiting for this cruise for 3 years. Were we that insistent on sailing with Princess? No, but we only sail from the NY market and really wanted to do another Fall New England Cruise as previous voyages to those ports always met with wet weather. Originally this was going to be to celebrate a 35th service anniversary at work, but the 2 year delay turned into a celebration of our 35th wedding anniversary instead. And, with all of the credits and upgrades, the cabin wound up costing us less than half price.
WEATHER: A word to anyone considering a Fall cruise to New England and Canada. The cruise window is very narrow; no more than about 6 to 8 weeks. The weather for those weeks is a total crapshoot. Usually, you need to expect at least a few damp, overcast, rainy days. This is the north Atlantic, after all. At its worst, you may experience essentially a cruise from New York to New York. The cruises before us had to skip as many as 3 of the 5 ports. Tendering in high swells is not possible, so Newport and Bar Harbor are always at risk. Hurricanes and tropical storms moving up the eastern seaboard can and do cancel stops in St. John and Halifax (as was the case this year with Hurricane Fiona). For us, on this cruise, we got extremely lucky. Every port day (with the exception of Boston, which was partly cloudy) was filled with brilliant sunshine. We could not have asked for better weather. And that made all of the difference in the world.
Cabin B250 is a balcony cabin located on Baja Deck (Deck 11), Port Side, about half way between midships and the bow. The view is unobstructed. The cabin was clean. There is ample storage. The bathroom is tiny, even by cruise ship standards. I am not tall, but even I could reach out from the commode and touch all 4 walls. The shower stall has a curtain without magnets, so it is easy to accidentally get a considerable amount of water splashing onto the floor. As the ship is still quite new, there was nothing worn out, though the balcony door became increasingly more difficult to open with each passing day, to the point where I needed to call maintenance to fix it. TV options are limited, though turning on the bridge cam at night functions nicely as a night light.
Bar Harbor, on a sunny day, is a quaint seaside hamlet. There is a path on the left, as you exit the tenders, that winds along the shoreline for over a half mile. Following it at its end brings you to the far end of Main Street, from which you can stroll back to the ship and take in all of the shops. There is a park at this end of Main Street, and a public restroom. Maine is a perfect location to enjoy a lobster roll and a bottle of "blueberry soda" (a local favorite), though market prices are quite steep. Figure about $25/roll for about 4 or 5 ounces of lobster meat. Among our favorite shops in Bar Harbor are the tea shop on Main Street and the Bark Harbor pet store. (Have to bring back treats for our pack of Shelties.)
Newport is one of the quintessential New England seaports. There are many shops and eateries within blocks of where the tenders drop you off. For us, we prefer to take the mile walk down to the head of the Cliff Walk. This is a winding 3.5 mile path that takes one past the mansions on the right and the ocean on the left. The first mile or so of the Cliff Walk is paved, but after that it turns into either a gravel path (at best) or no path at all (requiring one to climb over the rocks and boulders). The Cliff Walk ends at a beach, from which it is another 2.5 miles back to the ship. Figure you will need about 5 hours to complete this loop at a leisurely pace with stops for photographs. There is a public restroom about halfway along the path. One other thing to note about Newport, there is an art gallery in town that sells a number of unique blown-glass creations. And art is not taxed in Rhode Island.
St. John itself can probably be seen in about 1 to 2 hours. It is not very large, but it is not very clean either. There is a lot of new construction going on, so I am sure when they are done things will improve. One recommendation is that as you exit the ship, turn right. There is about a 3 minute walk to the Three Sisters Lamp, a local landmark. Walking "up the hill" to City Market gives one an overview of the city. There is a park across from City Market, as well as a Loyalist Graveyard, in which to rest and people watch. The best experience, on a nice day, is to take The Passage walkway from the cruise ship and walk out to Reversing Falls. The distance is about 2 miles in each direction; so figure maybe 45 minutes to an hour depending how many photo stops you make. There is a public rest room along the path. The city has taken a number of cargo containers and converted them into little shops, all stacked on the dock in what is known as the "Container Village". Some might call it artsy; to me it looks sort of trashy. And, unlike the large tent that used to be on the dock -- with all of the vendors under one roof -- these containers compartmentalize the stores. So if you like to just browse and see what you find, the containers are a definite negative. One other thing, St John no longer gives out Port Pins to disembarking passengers, as they have for several years leading up to Covid. I guess the weak economy impacts everyone, but I found this to be disappointing.
Halifax continues to build along the Harbor Walk and downtown. So expect a lot of construction zones. Still, this is a very clean, friendly city. All of the shops you need can be found right inside Pier 21, where you dock. The Harbor Walk stretches for about 2.5 miles along the waterfront, with numerous benches along the way. A short walk "up the hill" brings you to the Public Gardens, which is lovely in the Fall.
The most interesting thing about Boston is watching the planes take off from Logan Airport while making your docking approach to the Black Falcon Cruise Terminal. They literally take off over the ship. And when then winds change, the landing is equally as interesting as the jets are now descending right over the ship. Other than that, I have nothing good to say about Boston. It is a large, noisy city. (Please understand that this opinion is not just from cruises that have past through Boston. I attended Boston University one summer for a pair of classes; and lived in Boston for 2 months for a series of training courses for my job a number of years later. I just do not like the place.) There is no easy way to walk from the terminal to downtown, so a taxi is required. Some people have said that the Freedom Trail is nice. And if you are into history there are a ton of historical locations in and around the city. But for me, this is a perfect port to sleep late, explore an empty ship, and never bother to get off.
Understand that Princess generally does not depart from Manhattan. It departs from Red Bank, in Brooklyn. So this port review is for New York (Brooklyn). The terminal is in a warehouse district. There is no place to walk around. Do not expect it. This port is truly an arrival and departure point; nothing more. Parking is expensive if you drive yourself, but having car service is even more expensive. Even from the east side of New Jersey, expect to pay about $500 for drop off and pick up. The best option, if you have it, is to find a relative or friend who is willing to drive you. The drive is not a difficult as going through Midtown Manhattan, but for anyone not use to city driving it can be challenging.