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Cruise Ship Review
Royal Princess
By
William Sanchez

Royal Princess New England/Canada Cruise
October 1997

Royal Princess

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 there.

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 recommended.

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 meal.

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: wsanchez@pinndec.com.

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