By William Sanchez
Royal Princess New England/Canada Cruise
Bill and Monica took another terrific cruising adventure during the
fall of 1997, this time leaving from their home port of New York City,
and traveling around the coast of New England, up into the southeastern
coast of Canada, and ending in Montreal.
Their trip began with a short, but hair-raising drive across Manhattan
during a Wednesday evening rush hour. Upon boarding, they were escorted to a
very tidy, tiny cabin, where they gazed at the bunk beds. Bill took
matters calmly and arranged for the cabin steward to perform magic and
create the king bed that was expected.
Royal Princess is now 12 years old and is known for her all outside
cabins. The cabins are tiny and empty luggage may be placed in storage
for the duration of the cruise. Interestingly, the bathroom was as spacious
as any found on other cruises and Bill & Monica considered storing the luggage
Our intrepid travelers checked the ship guide and decided to start eating
immediately. They located the Lido Cafe, ordered, ate and enjoyed a very
good pizza, then returned to their cabin to prepare for late sitting
dinner. During dinner, the ship passed the Statue of Liberty, which the
early sitting diners were able to see from the deck, and reported as being
one of the best moments of the cruise. Nevertheless, the food was good
and the dinner companions wonderful.
There were no midnight buffets! This was replaced ay a 24-hour bistro,
the Lido Cafe. They took advantage of this delightful change by enjoying
a 1 AM pizza after a late movie! And the movies at the theater were
first rate and played on schedule.
The next morning, Newport, Rhode Island was outside the window, and the
travelers boarded a launch to reach land. They took an excursion to see
the "Great Mansions" of Newport, which actually was touring just one (the
Vanderbilt Family's Breakers Mansion) and driving by several others. In
any event, the Breakers was magnificent; it is hard to comprehend how
quickly it was built with the exquisite materials imported from Europe.
We recommend this tour.
The next day's port of call was Boston, and was Bill's favorite. The
excursion was walking the Freedom Trail in the city, which passes by most
of the significant landmarks from the Revolutionary period. The guide was
a very erudite and engaging fellow named Larry Lewis. In spite of a heavy
rainstorm which appeared midway through the tour (which drenched
everyone), the entire group completed the forced march. We highly
recommend this tour.
The third port of call was Bar Harbor, Maine. Similarly to Newport, Bar
Harbor in years past was a summer retreat for the wealthy, although most
of the mansions were destroyed many years ago in a massive fire. Nearly
every excursion offered included a visit to the Acadia National Park. In
spite of being the most heavily visited national park, the forest is
pristine due to highly restrictive management rules put in place by the
Rockefeller Family as a condition to their gift of the forest to the
government. While both travelers loved the forest, Monica particularly
enjoyed shopping in the town (which is right on the water's edge) while
Bill enjoyed the clam chowder and ice cream from the local shops.
The next stop was St. John, New Brunswick, Canada. There, the highlight
is the Reversing Falls, a raging river which changes direction every 12
hours. The area is very rural, very dependent on very small industries,
and St. John has not changed much from the time it was settled in the
18th and 19th centuries. There is a unique central market (which did not
have many vendor stalls open, due to it being Sunday), which is still
operating to serve the local residents. Perhaps because it was Sunday and
most shops closed, many passengers complained the tours were a waste of
time and money.
After St. John, the ship sailed onto Halifax, Nova Scotia, where it was
greeted when it pulled into port by two bag pipers and a town crier, all
dressed in historic 19th century costumes, and Scottish kilts, (Scotland
being the ancestral home to many Nova Scotians.) While most of the
passengers opted to visit Peggy's Cove (site of the most photographed
lighthouse in the world), Bill and Monica chose the walking tour of old
Halifax. The highlight was the visit to the government house, the oldest
continuously used government building in Canada, where the tour guide led
the group into the building and through all the rooms. Quite a startling
experience for New Yorkers who are used to the high security procedures in
place at buildings like the World Trade Center! Upon returning to the
ship, nearly everyone piled into the main theater for a wonderful
performance of Scottish music and dancing, performed by a large troop of
young Halifax school girls, who also tour all over the world! Shortly
after the program ended, the ship departed, serenaded again by the
bagpipers of the morning performing "Scotland The Great".
After Halifax, the ship spent the next day "at sea", and the following day
cruised up the Saguenay River, where the highlight was whale-watching,
from this luxury cruise ship! Bill and Monica missed the whale watching,
as it was never announced and simply a surprise for those out at deck at 3
PM. They did greatly enjoy the beautiful fall foliage on the shoreline.
Late in the evening of the eighth day, the ship arrived at Quebec City,
which has renovated the entire port area. This beautiful old city is just
steps from the ship, so at 11 PM, most of the crew runs off to make phone
calls and to have a good time. The next morning, Bill and Monica took a
grand tour of Quebec City and the outskirts. Unfortunately, there was too
much outskirts in the tour, including an extremely long stop at a "sugar
shack" (a small farm that makes syrup from maple trees). The tour group
had only 5 minutes to see the outside of the Chateau Frontenac, and 10
minutes to see the old town of Quebec City. This tour was terribly
lopsided, with the exception of the visit to the Cathedral of St. Ann,
which boasts a reputation of curing the lame.
The last stop was Montreal, one of Monica's all time favorite places in
the world. Bill signed them up for a "medieval banquet", and since
Montreal did not exist during the Middle Ages, it actually was a clownish
song-and-dance review of a few Canadian tunes, and a lot of American ones,
plus some very mediocre food. The tour included the requisite visit to
the extremely beautiful Cathedral of Notre Dame. The banquet tour is not
Bill and Monica stayed on in Montreal an extra day, and thoroughly enjoyed
the Montreal Botanical Gardens which must be one of the best in the world.
From a very friendly cab driver, they also learned of a great Jewish deli
named Schwartz's which has THE BEST corned beef sandwiches they ever had!
Schwartz's is so good and inexpensive that people line up outside to dine
in this cramped deli (sharing tables).
The overall cruise was wonderful, but since Bill has taken so many
cruises, he is a little more critical, giving the trip a score of 8 out of
10. Monica rated it an 8.5. Bill was disappointed in the food, feeling
it lacked flavor and generally arrived cold, in spite of the table being
located near the kitchen. Monica felt the food was flavorful, but she had
digestive problems during the entire trip (Tums was a regular follow-up to
dinner). A tip to anyone who enjoys a glass of wine at dinner. Order a
bottle as the waiter will cork the bottle for you for the next evening's
The cruise was fully booked. In fact, Bill was contacted 1 week before
departure and asked to switch to the end of the month for a savings of
$1,000. That would have been a mistake as the ship's crew were concerned
that that was too late for good foliage. However, the service on the ship
was excellent, and the ship pristine, even though it was only a few weeks
away from dry dock. The on board entertainment was excellent,
particularly the comedian Dick Gold and the Chinese cimbalomnist - who
beautifully played a most unusual string instrument. All the other guests
were very nice. Generally, this cruise is taken by west coasters, but the
New Yorkers had a wonderful, relaxing time.
William (Bill) Sanchez is the New York Regional Partner of Pinnacle Decision Systems, Inc. Pinnacle specializes in writing business applications using productive software for the Fortune 1000 and government agencies. Bill has been cruising for relaxation for the past 16 years. More information about Bill and Pinnacle can be found at http://www.pinndec.com.. You may send your questions or comments to Bill at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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