Overall Rating: Very Good
|Destination:||Canada / New England|
|Departed From:||Quebec City, Quebec|
|# of Nights:||9-10 Nights|
|Overall Value:||Very Good|
|Overall Rating:||Very Good|
To be completely honest, I had no burning desire to do a Canada/New England cruise. But when this became the Cruise Crazies cruise for 2019, DH and I signed right up because we love cruising with these friends, and we love Princess ships...so how bad could it be, right? And as it turned out....the ship did not blow us away, but the itinerary sure did! The ports on this cruise exceeded our every expectation, and we WILL do it again!
If you read Jan's review of this same sailing, you know quite a bit about our pre-cruise experience in Quebec; and I concur with her entire narrative about that beautiful and very French city. Do stay at the Chateau Frontenac if at all possible - it adds immeasurably to the whole experience. The location, the hotel itself, the wonderful service staff...made it well worth the indulgence.
Embarkation was a breeze due to the Princess Medallion and it was so nice to have our staterooms ready immediately upon embarkation. Our usual routine upon boarding ended up to be a bit different because we were docked overnight, so no safety drill that first day. But luggage came quickly and we could grab a leisurely lunch, unpack, and get settled without rushing off to our muster stations. It made for a very relaxing first day.
The next day we took the same ship excursion as Jan detailed in her review and again, I concur with her assessment. Whereas it was a nice drive with great commentary, and a nice stop at the Sugar Shack for a maple syrup demonstration, we had very little time at Montmorency Falls, which should have been the highlight of the excursion. The Falls are worth seeing, but I recommend joining a tour based in Quebec, or renting a car for the day and going up there yourself.
Our next stop, Saguenay, was a wonderful small village that sits on a fjord...very similar to Norway's fjords. We did a very scenic zodiac cruise through the fjord, which would have been more pleasant if it had not been accompanied by gusting winds and pelting rain. I would do it again! What was so fun about this port is that we were the biggest ship ever to dock there, so there were all these local entertainers on the pier, and many of the local people brought lawn chairs and sat, watching the ship. When we backed away from the pier, they all waved - it was great fun and we appreciated the warm welcome and nice sendoff that we received.
In Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, we joined the same Lighthouse tour that Jan described in her review. Three very nice lighthouses - we like lighthouses - and again, the rugged beauty of this area!
Sydney was next - one of my favorites! The Cabot Trail is a MUST here and no better way to do it than with Cabot Discovery, based in Sydney. And again, Jan described this in her review so I will not repeat everything. Our local guide just knew all the places to stop for the best photo ops and little cafes and restaurants with great baked goods and treats for us to share. The rugged beauty of this area will leave you speechless!
Then came Halifax - another very beautiful port that we added back to our bucket list. We did a ship excursion to the iconic Peggy's Cove, in the dense fog...which made it all the more spooky and mysterious, lol! What a beautiful little fishing town, where about 36 people live year-round. Honestly, I could be #37....except I am allergic to seafood...don't fish...and am not an artist....so maybe not #37. But for sheer beauty alone - I'm in! The lighthouse here is one of the most photographed in the world, and for good reason. It sits on the most rugged of cliffs, surrounded by humongous rocks and boulders dropping down to the sea. People were just sitting on the rocks taking in the view - unimaginable and breathtaking! We only had time to visit a couple of the artist shops, but I picked up some beautiful pewter pieces and simple mementos of our time here.
The next day in Portland, Maine, we took another ship tour to three of the 50 or so lighthouses here (I told you we like lighthouses!) The lighthouses were wonderful - the guide, not so much. We had a slight bus incident which involved suddenly stopping and waiting for the police to come... Our guide tried to carry on with her speech....holding up small maps and pictures...telling us we would get rolling in a minute, but people were having none of it. Everyone was popping up and down, peering out windows, talking to each other...trying to figure out what happened. 40 minutes later we got back underway, but she had lost the whole bus by then. She should have just addressed it so we could all concentrate on the information she was giving us. All was well in the end, but we did lose precious time. So while the lighthouses were very cool, we had to appreciate them very quickly.
I have been to Boston and done the typical tourist things there - a trolley tour and the Freedom Trail among them. My husband has not been to Boston, and since we are both history buffs, we took an all-day ship tour to Harvard, Lexington and Concord, and parts of the Freedom Trail. We had a fabulous guide who had a great storytelling style and was chock-full of information. We enjoyed every stop on this tour, except lunch at Quincy Market. We needed much more time to get through the throngs of crowded stalls, order and receive our food, try to find a place to eat it, and then finish up for needing to be back on the bus. The food was great - we ate standing up - and I feel like I literally shoved it in my mouth all at once. This tour was 7.5 hours....just go ahead and make it 8 and give people more time for lunch!
This is a good time to say a few words about the ship. Like Jan, we have sailed on many Princess ships and pretty much know what to expect. I have always felt that Princess delivers a reliable, solid product in both the ship and the itinerary, no matter where you go. But this ship...and this ship experience..fell a bit short of what I've come to expect. This is an older ship but they have added some upgraded features and refreshed some public spaces. We were a bit disappointed at the location of the added water park area for children. It is very close to the aft adult pool area...so this formerly tranquil spot has become quite noisy when there are lots of children onboard. The cabins have a few upgrades - one being a huge flat-screen TV, but the placement was not optimal. It sits where the old small TV unit sat, which is way too small to contain the new TV, which means it juts out into the path of the balcony doors leading out to the balcony. And yep - you guessed it - you forget to duck. The bathroom is old-time, with the very small circular shower and shower curtain instead of a door, and new dry goods are in order. But the bed was very comfortable and plush, with good pillows! Overall the ship itself was okay, and our stateroom steward was great - no complaints there. But the service around the rest of the ship was just "not there". It could be hard to find a server to order a drink...service in the MDR was hit or miss...sometimes fine, but other times lacking; dirty tables in the World Marketplace and no one asking to bring you drinks... The food also was not up to usual standards. The options in the World Marketplace buffet were limited and unvaried; same for the MDR.
I did voice my concerns honestly on the cruise survey - hoping that this was just an aberration, and that there are no broad cutbacks to staff and/or their service model. Having said that, I do plan to continue sailing with Princess, at least for the foreseeable future.
We tried two specialty restaurants on this cruise. Sabatini's Italian was fabulous! Service was top-notch and food was as well. We were pleasantly surprised and will add this to our normal cruise rotation. Plank's BBQ was ok; the food was mostly very good and definitely enough to fill you up. Service was ok, with confusion as to drink service, but quickly resolved and then all went smoothly from there. Not sure I would visit this one again, though, more to personal preference than to any real negatives.
One last day at sea was a nice way to end this wonderful cruise - and a wonderful group dinner capped off the last evening. And then came disembarkation.....in New York City. This was my first introduction to NYC and hence has colored my view a bit - both to the good and to the bad. The port is chaotic. There is no luggage check-through here - meaning the ship transports your bags directly to the airport and you don't see them until you land at your home base - except they don't do it from here...that was strike #1. They had trouble sorting the luggage so we were very late getting off. The pick-up lines are jumbled, so you have the taxi line melding into the Limo line, and people trying to cross to the buses and shuttles, and the taxi line was incredibly long - we waited about 1.5 hours total with very few taxis coming sporadically - Strike #2. Strike #3 was the jumble of detours, lane closures, lack of signs at the airport due to construction What saved the morning was: the incredibly friendly people everywhere! Amidst the chaos of the port operations, the port workers tried to be very helpful; the cab driver was so very friendly and helped with our luggage on both ends. We were working at the airline kiosk to check our luggage and a staff member came over, tagged our bags for us, marked them priority, and directed us to our next station - all while smiling and friendly! It's hard to be grumpy when everyone is smiling at you....so ok, NYC, I will give you another shot!
In case you didn't see my references - I want you to read Jan's review of this cruise if you haven't already. This trip was everything we hoped and more and I know we will do another cruise to this destination area. If anyone has specific questions, please do not hesitate to ask....I LOVE to talk about cruises!