Canada and USA Fall 2019
Although we have cruised with Princess before, at 24 nights this would be our longest cruise with them and anyone else for that matter. The itinerary covered Canada and New England in the Fall, the only drawbacks was that there were going to be a lot of sea days, and difficult to predict weather. We booked this cruise in May 2018 and had got a good deal, with the 321 offer, Future Cruise Credit and we ended up with $1400 on-board credit. This would also be our first cruise in the Elite loyalty tier.
The ship was using the Ocean Terminal in Southampton. We had priority boarding and so did a lot of others, from arriving at the terminal to getting to the cabin took 25mins. Check in took a bit longer as they had to confirm that we had valid US visas (ESTA).
Disembarkation was straightforward, a few days before a form was left in our cabin for us to complete with our preferences. We selected Independent 09:00, we got 09:15 but this was not a problem. After breakfast on disembarkation morning we went to Club Fusion (the Elite waiting lounge) but it was far too crowded, so we moved on to the Savoy Dining Room, where there was seating. We were called 15mins early, walked off, collected our luggage from the Reclaim which was grouped by the coloured and numbered luggage tags provided by the ship.
Cruise Critic Roll Call Meet and Greet
We did have a M&G on the first sea day, a nice chat with quite a varied bunch.
We had chosen Freedom dinning and this gave us a choice of three MDRs for dinner, breakfast and lunch could be taken in the International Dining Room. At times we struggled with the menus, and we are not picky eaters. They seem to operate a two week menu rotation which meant that by the end of the cruise the choices were becoming very familiar. In general the food was well prepared and presented, but seemed to lack flavour.
For Dinner we tended to eat in the Vivaldi, where the hostess Danielle did a great job of getting us a table of 6, 4 or 2 we find that with the noise in the dining room tables of 8 or 10 can be difficult. If there was a queue we would try one of the other MDRs. Wine prices are high, part of our 321 offer included a free bottle of wine each up to the value of $32, in the extensive list we could only find three bottles that met this price.
Breakfast in the MDR can be a slow affair; we tended to use the Horizon Court (buffet) where there was a better selection of food, particularly fruit. The buffet can become congested at peak times and you had to be prepared to walk to the indoor swimming pool to find a table.
We had lunch in Alfredo’s Pizzeria; this offers a reasonable choice of pizza and quick service. We also ate on the Lido Deck pizzeria Prego, I thought that the quality of pizza here was better, very thin, crispy and piping hot, but there are only three choices. The Trident Grill offers good burgers, hot dogs and fries. Bowls of fries were very popular.
We also ate in the speciality restaurants Sabatini’s and the Sterling Steak House. Sabatini’s is great for a special occasion, you get a lot of food for the $29 uplift, the menu is interesting and the service is very good. Sterling again has a $29 uplift, if you like steak this is very good, on the occasion we used it for some reason service was slow.
We also treated ourselves to the Chef’s Table, we booked it as soon as we got onboard, and the cover charge is $95. This was an exceptional experience; we were expecting a tasting menu we got a six course banquet with wine. This event only happened twice with 10 people at each sitting. It commences with a tour of the galley, with canapés and Champagne, before going on to a private area in the Pacific Moon MDR. Very memorable.
We decided to purchase the Premium Drinks Package, this may seem expensive at £49 per person per day but we calculated that due to the 18% applied to all drinks we would break even at six drinks each per day. Specially teas, coffees and bottled water were also included in this package.
Our main watering hole in the evening was in Vines wine bar where Christian and Maria kept our glasses topped up. It’s a small area off the Piazza, it also got used as a waiting room for the Vivaldi MDR. We also tried most of the other bars, in general we found that if you sat at a bar the service was prompt, sitting at a table the service could be patchier. Drinks prices are quite high.
Our cabin was on D deck starboard side just aft of midships (D523), this gave a smooth ride and convenient access to the rest of the ship. The cabin is classed as a Mini-Suit, starting with the bathroom, a clothes hanging area, the bedroom, a sitting area, and a good sized balcony. The bathroom has a full size bath with over bath shower; towels were changed every time they were used. Another nice touch was that a rubber bath mat was provided, particularly good when the ship is rolling. The bed and pillows are extremely comfortable. There are two large LED TVs, the selection of material to watch was very big, with a particularly good selection of movies. Our cabin steward Ramon Blanco, was friendly, efficient and eager to please.
The entertainment was disappointing; only four theatre production shows, relying mainly on cabaret type shows. The limited capacity of the theatre, and it’s not small, meant that if you wanted a seat you needed to be in there 30mins before curtain up. To try to relieve the capacity issues, matinee performances of the productions shows were staged on sea days. We did go to one production show which relied heavily on bright lighting and a loud sound track.
Highlights were the encounter shows with Linda Gray and Valerie Singleton. The Enrichment lecturer Jevan Morris with his nautical themed lectures was also very good.
The photography was disappointing, where they used flash it did not give a good result, we did not buy any prints.
A good gym with everything you could want, most of the machines looked to be new. As usual it could become congested at peak times. The majority of treadmills are now in the fitness studio and can not be used when a seminar or class is in progress, this could be improved by swapping some of the cross trainers in the gym for treadmills.
Lots of shops to choose from, but prices were high. We thought that the amount of paper being posted to the cabins by Effy and the Art Autions was starting to have an environmental impact.
Ports of Call
Saint John’s, NF, Canada
Our first stop after four days at sea, we were glad to get off! We took a ship walking tour led by local guide Jed Butt ably assisted by Caroline bringing up the rear. The tour was pleasantly paced and informative; fortunately it was a bright though chilly day. One particular highlight was unexpectedly being invited into the Governer’s House, a first for Jed. People were warm and friendly, and wanted to engage in conversation. This was a reasonably accessible tour; one of the party completed it on a mobility scooter.
A nice touch was that two Newfoundland dogs were brought onto the ship for an encounter session before we sailed.
Sydney, NS, Canada
Our first sight was a large terminal and the world’s biggest fiddle! We took a historic walking tour; and our guide Wilfred came dressed in 18th century costume. We covered most of the historic sites in a living history style walk which ended with tea and biscuits at the museum.
We were in luck as there was a vintage car show on in the main street which was worth a look round.
Charlottetown, PEI, Canada
A nice bright sunny morning, and we are off on a food and drink tasting walk. We munched and drank our way round Charlottetown in the company of Becky. Generous tastings included, oysters, craft beer, mussels, fries and a lobster roll.
New York, USA
We did not have anything planned for our first morning and afternoon in NY, and decided to walk down a couple of blocks from our berth on Pier 90 to the Intrepid Air and Space Museum. Most of the exhibits are housed in an aircraft carrier which has a large selection of aircraft including an SR71 spy plane and a space shuttle. On the pier there is a Concorde ($20 extra) and a submarine (included in entrance fee). We were lucky that it was quiet, definitely worth two or three hours of anybody’s time.
In the evening we took a tour of Manhattan by night, this took in Brooklyn with a great view of Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty. Our guide Tony gave an interesting commentary and even threw in a visit to Grand Central Station. We were dropped in Times Square for an hour, 10:00 in the evening and the place in crazy, we didn’t feel threatened, just overwhelmed.
Next day was a full day coach tour of Manhattan, but the UN General Assembly was in session and Donald Trump was in town, things got very congested. Our tour guide Anthony coped admirably. We took in the Lincoln Centre, Top of the Rock and the 9/11 Memorial. How the driver got the coach round the streets needed to be seen!
Newport, RI, USA
This was a tender transfer. We took a short guided walk let by Gail which was very informative had provided orientation. It’s a very pretty town with plenty to see. We took lunch in a local restaurant, lobster roll and fries. We would have stayed and explored a bit longer, but when we got back to the tender berth the queue was already lengthy. The tender operation was very efficient and the queue moved quickly.
Boston, MS, USA
This did not go well, there were problems with the berth and the gangways which caused lengthy delays in getting off and joining our tour, these should have been predicted. These problems resulted in wasting an hour and a half in the theatre waiting for the gangway to be repositioned and a compressed tour. During this time the communication from the ship was not great and they could have kept us better informed.
We took a walking tour led by Patrick who kept the information coming. We did see everything we were meant to see, but at route march pace. The tour was compressed from 3.5 down to 2.5 hours, we decided to miss the Quincey Market and take the shuttle bus back to the ship, because the shuttle bus queue would only get longer as the afternoon progressed.
Rockland, Maine, USA
Our second tender port. Our tour was early afternoon, so we decided to stay on board in the morning rather than having to make additional tender trips to join our tour. Our tour was hosted by Marilee, and took us to a vineyard and winery, followed by time in Camden. It was a bright sunny day and the fall colours were really starting to show.
Saint John, NB, Canada
Today’s tour took in the reversing rapids; we saw them in both directions. It also included a run out to St. Martin’s, to see the beach and sample clam chowder. Our guide Barbara kept us informed and entertained with her commentary, and passing a basket of interesting objects down the bus. The chowder was excellent, the beach was beautiful, and the covered bridges interesting. On our return to Saint John we had some free time in the covered market before returning to the now reversed rapids.
Halifax, NS, Canada
Again we ended up on one of those trips in the middle of the day, and as a (free) shuttle was needed to get out of the docks stayed on board until our trip. The start was delayed due to a traffic accident in town; the ship could have communicated this better. We had driver/guide Bob, who turned up in his kilt. The run to Peggy’s Cove was very scenic and you got a good feeling of how isolated our destination was. Bob kept the information flowing in a very light hearted way. We had an hour at Peggy’s Cove, this was plenty of time to walk up to the light house, see the cove and walk round the shop. The return trip was a different route providing different scenery to look at.
We were under no illusions that there were going to be a lot of sea days on this trip, and Princess could have tried harder but stuck to their 14 night American customer model. Overall it was a successful and enjoyable cruise for us, we were even able to cash in our unused onboard credit, up to $250.