Tag Archives: Canadian Cruise

Carnival Cruise Review – Boston to Canada, July 7-12, 2012

23 Feb

Although this is a Boston to Bermuda Cruise Blog, I think it’s relevant to post this review of a cruise from Boston to Canada. A lot of readers are from the New England area, and I’d like to promote Cruiseport Boston as much as I can because it is so wonderful to have the opportunity to cruise so close to home. One of the other cruises you can take out of Boston (during 2012 and 2013)  is a Carnival Cruise to Canada. It is my hope that Carnival and NCL will continue to make Boston a home port, but only time will tell. Here is my review:

PREFACE:
What a pleasant surprise! I had low expectations for this cruise. This was a last minute getaway for me, and since I live less than an hour from Boston, I figured it was worth a chance. Over the years, I’ve heard about Carnival’s party ship atmosphere and was prepared to be surrounded by unruly 20-somethings and disinterested staff. I am happy to report my first Carnival Cruise was fun, relaxing, elegant, and unassuming all at the same time.  It will be my first of many more Carnival cruises.

ABOUT ME:
I’m a woman in my 30’s and this is my 7th cruise, but my first on Carnival. For this cruise I travelled with my dad, but we each had our own interior cabin. I’ve been on 4 NCL cruises, 1 Celebrity, and 1 Renaissance (now Oceania) cruise.

EMBARKATION:  5 out of 5 Stars
Cruiseport Boston is very organized and hassle-free. We arrived at 10:05AM and were on the ship having lunch an hour later. For more details please read the “DAY 1” section below. Noteworthy – we received an email warning us not to arrive until 1:30PM, but I went early anyway.

STATEROOM: 5 out of 5 Stars
I had room 7247 an interior room that was in the forward section of the ship. The rooms were ready promptly at 1:30PM. Impeccably clean, and everything looks brand new. Nicest standard interior room I’ve seen yet (not including the Studio Rooms on the Epic). My Steward, Rodel, cheerfully introduced himself and would have a warm smile and sincere greeting every time I saw him throughout the cruise. At 3PM, I noticed that the luggage had arrived. It may have gotten there even earlier, but I was not in the room at the time. The bed was firm, but comfortable and the shower had an endless supply of hot water with good water pressure. There were even samples of shampoo, conditioner, and toothpaste in a bowl on the sink.

FOOD: 5 out of 5 Stars
Outstanding! The best food out of all my past cruises. I ate dinner strictly in the main dining room. The service, the quality, and the presentation were excellent. There was a small snafu with my seating arrangement that I felt could have been handled better by one member of the crew, Andrea. My father and I signed up for the “Your Time Dining.” However, only he got it, and somehow I was assigned to the late seating. I went to speak to the dining staff to ask if I could be switched to “Your Time” so my father and I could dine together. The answer was no. So I asked, “Well perhaps I can be my father’s guest and sit with him because he will be alone at a table for two?” The woman, Andrea, said very abruptly and sternly, “No, the ship is sold out.  He will have to sit alone and you have to eat when and where you are told.” But two hours later, when dinner time came, I showed up with my father at his “Your Time Dining” and no one stopped me from sitting with him.

OVERALL SHIP APPEARANCE: 4 out of 5 Stars
The lobby area feels closed in. It is dark and small. Although, it still is enjoyable. It is distinctly different than any other ship I’ve been on, and that adds to its charm. Getting to the Platinum main dining room and to the Internet Cafe can be challenging as there is only limited Aft access on the mid/lower levels. Ask the crew or bring a map and within a day you’ll be all set. The Serenity Adults Only deck is worth its weight in gold. The hammocks are Heaven on Earth. There are only 4 so try to get there very early or during dinner hours if you want to enjoy them without fighting over them.

ENTERTAINMENT: 3 out of 5 Stars
Carnival fell short in the entertainment area. Of course, this is subjective.  The theatre was beautiful, but the Broadway-type shows were ordinary. The costuming was PG13 – a bit risque for a family show. The only show that was better than average was the Illusionist. He was very good. The poolside enterainment was disappointing. There was a Caribbean duo (signer and keyboarist) that played occasionally. They seemed rather disinterested and did not engage the crowd. There was no poolside DJ.

DETAILED DAY-BY-DAY REVIEW:

DAY 1 – July 7, 2012 – Embarkation Day
We arrived to Cruiseport Boston at 10:05 arrived at pier, and there were several porters standing by to take luggage. I noticed that there were other passengers getting off the ship. It appeared to be an equal number of people arriving as there were passengers departing from the previous cruise.

10:15 returned from parking car in lot. Shuttled by bus. Unloaded a bus full of departing passengers. However was the only one on the bus going by go pier.

10:30 Completed security scan and check in. Very friendly and cheerful employees stationed along the way. Check in was very quick. Issued key card then were ushered over to sit down and wait. We were assigned to Zone 2. We were told that VIP, special needs, and Zone 1 would go first. There were about 50 people in the waiting area. Peggy was overseeing things and kept reminding us all to have card ready for boarding. She was very cheerful and kept us up to date.

11AM – Boarding begins. VIP and special needs were first. Then zone 1 and 2 followed a minute or so afterward

11:05AM – On board and running around the ship, and had lunch from the buffet on Deck 9.

Muster drill – Hot and crowded. This was the least pleasant of all the muster drills I’ve been on. It was out on the deck and everyone was squished together. It also took a lot longer than the musters I’m used to. Thankfully no life jackets were required..

Dinner – Chicken a la grecque, cream of tomato soup, and warm chocolate melting cake. By far THE best dinner on a cruise that I have ever had. The service, the presentation, the taste – all were impeccable.

Second Impression – This has the potential to be one of the best cruises I’ve ever been on. With the exception of that one woman.

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Day 2 – Sea Day
7AM – Shower was great. Good water pressure, nice and hot. Went up to Serenity Deck relaxed in hammock. It was a wonderful meditative experience.

Breakfast 8AM – It was open seating in the Platinum Dining Room, and we were seated with 4 other people. At first I was annoyed. I’ve never liked the idea of sitting with strangers, but they turned out to be nice company. Carnival may turn me into a traditional cruiser after all. We’ll see. If all of a sudden I start enjoying formal night then they have succeeded. Food review – cheese omelet and corn beef hash. Delicious. Service was slow. Took 15 minutes for food to arrive.

Chair Hogs – Carnival is not immune. At 7AM chairs were already reserved. However, there were still plenty of unoccupied chairs at 9:30.

Day 2 Lunch – Open seating Platinum. Fair bordering on poor. Steak cooked rare and waiter never came back to check on us. Mixed field greens salad was iceberg lettuce and pale tomatoes. One of our soups arrived 5 minutes after the other’s.

Food and Wine Pairing Event – At the Emerald Restaurant. Nice to spend an hour there. Sample steak and salmon – DELISH! Very informative. $15.

Day 2 – High Tea. Not bad. Not great. Bigelow bagged tea. Vanilla scones, chocolate torte, chocolate fruit with glaze, lemon cake, and chocolate scone. The High Tea I went on during my last Celebrity cruise put this one on Carnival to shame. However, there was a cover charge for the one on Celebrity, so it should be better.

Cruise Critic Meet and Greet – informal no officers came and no refreshments were served. It lasted 30 minutes. We didn’t really hit it off, and I never ended up seeing those people again.

Elegant Night – not as strict as I thought. Some people were in tuxedos and evening gowns, but most were country club casual – sundress and heels for the ladies, and for the men a nice shirt and tie. Dinner was Maine lobster tail, shrimp, and mashed potatoes. Delicious. Service was very good but not as outstanding as the night before.

Show 8:15 – Rated PG13 due to thongs. Should say g-string. Don’t understand why the dancers had to have bare bottoms. Why not bikini bottoms? Also very loud. It was a patriotic, American-themed show.

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Day 3 – Saint Johns
Breakfast – omelet and corn beef. Delicious. Excellent service – quick and waiter was cheerful and funny

Reminds me of Duluth, MN – hills, old shipping city, delightfully friendly residents, proud of their city although it is a bit dilapidated and depressed. However, it has a charm of its own.

Excursion Top 10 – Exceeded expectation. Disembarkation was quick and we received the warmest and most sincere welcome out of any port I’ve ever been to. Roses and lapel pins with NO expectation to tip – jars or baskets were not present. Tradition goes back to 1989 when first cruise ship arrived because Boston-Bermuda was diverted at the last minute, and mayor wanted a grand welcoming. Now the port welcomes 77 ships this year. Guide – Doreen (retired elementary teacher) and the Driver was John. We stopped at:

  1. Reversing Falls – Beautiful to look at and fascinating how they change direction everyday with the tide.
  2. Saint Johns City Market – A fun, indoor market. It’s like a small Quincy Market in Boston.
  3. Dome-Fortress-Lookout tower
  4. Garden with wooden sculptures
  5. St. Martin Sea Caves
  6. St. Martin Covered Bridges and fishing village
  7. Watched the tide changes
  8. Learned how to do a Moose Call
  9. Museum
  10. Reversing rapids again

Lunch – while on excursion. A bit of a fiasco. There were 100’s of people there. 3 bus loads plus 2 dozen cars and unknown number of taxis.  Stood in line for 10 minutes. Ordered 2 fish and chips for $11 – great price. Waited 20 minutes for it to arrive. We only had 40 minutes and that included seeing the caves. Luckily we were the 1st in line. This stop was extended by 10 minutes. However the next stop was shortened and we were late for the bus, lol. Food was the best fish and chips I’ve ever had. Been to England twice and I live in New England with Legal Seafood less than an hour away as well as the Cape and the Coast of Maine, so I am a bit snobby about my fish and chips. So, yeah, it means a LOT when I say it’s the best I’ve ever had.

Dinner – Delicious. 5 out of 5 stars. Penne with scallops, mussels, shrimp, and calamari with tomato cream sauce.

Show – Justin Illusion – excellent. Goth-type illusion and dance show.

Late Night Room Service – 45 min wait but was really only 20. Grilled cheese 4 out of 5 stars.

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Day 4 – Halifax, Nova Scotia
Excursion – 10 Best
Overall – It was excellent and the sites were wonderful.

  1. Public Gardens – pretty
  2. Drive around city – Cunard House, Universities, hospitals, churches
  3. Citadel – Witnessed the cannon fire at noon. Boy was it LOUD!!
  4. Waterfront – Charming. Typical Northern Atlantic seaport. Shops inside historic buildings filled with all the lobster-themed, salt water taffy, and maple sugar souvenirs.
  5. Bridge
  6. Site of the Halifax Explosion – a deadly maritime explosion
  7. Fairview Cemetery – One of the Titanic burial grounds. Nicely maintained memorial to the dead. The Nova Scotians are very dedicated to preserving the victims’ memories.
  8. Peggy’s Cove – Absolutely stunning. Words cannot adequately describe the beautiful of the tiny seaside village. Lighthouse, expansive rocks to climb on, cute shops, friendly locals.
  9. Plane crash site – Swissair Flight 111
  10. Acadia Shop – Maple syrup gifts. Nice is you’re not from the North East. If you are from MA, NH, VT, ME then save your money for something else. Nice, clean bathrooms, though.

Dinner – very good as I’ve come to expect. Seafood again and Warm Chocolate Melting Cake.

Movie by the Pool – every night they play a movie on the giant screen by the pool. They have plenty of warm blankets and freshly popped popcorn. There is a movie at 8 and another at 10. What a great way to end the night.

Helicopter – Tonight something unusual happened. At about 7:55PM ship time, right as the sun began to set, a helicopter began circling the starboard side of the ship then went around aft and back up the portside of the ship. We had left port about 2 hours earlier and the shoreline was just barely visible in the horizon. There was another ship off in the distance, but other than that we were alone in the water. I also noticed that the ship slowed down signifantly and two security guards were patrolling the outisde decks. This continued on for 45 minutes until it was pitch black darkness. The other passengers didn’t seem to notice. A few kids ran over to the railing to wave, a few adults stopped to take a photo, but only about 2 of us stayed to watch what was going on. During this 45 minute period where the sun was setting the helicopter would come down low and hover above a spot for a minute then go back up and begin circling again.

During this time to cruise director, Josh, came over the intercom to make his usual cheerful evening announcements, and the crew and passengers carried on as if the helicopter and its search-grid flying pattern did not exist.

I worry that they were looking for someone in the water. I did not notice any rescue boats in the water, but then again I did not explore the stern or the port side very thoroughly. I spent most of the time observing from the starboard side.

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Day 5 – Sea Day
Weather was cold in the morning, and the chair hogs present anyway. I took a chair that was empty. A woman nearby said it was for someone else that is coming so I said, “Fine I’ll use it until then.”  She was angry about it, but oh well. Guess what? No one ever arrived and about 15 minutes later, she left. We enjoyed a relaxing day at sea and prepared to go home the next day.

Final Dinner – It was wonderful, but an alarming thing happened right in the middle of dessert. All of a sudden the lights went out and the crew took out flashlights from their pockets. A bunch of us gasped, one woman burst into tears, and I was ready to grab a life vest. Keep in mind this was not too long after the Costa Concordia accident. However… The waiters and waitresses began to dance and sing and use their flashlights as spotlights. It was their farewell to us, only most of us had never been on a Carnival cruise so we didn’t know that was going to happen.

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Disembarkation
We had an early breakfast then got ready to go. Was easy and quick. We walked off with our luggage when our floor was called.

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