This was my 13th cruise and 2nd on Royal Caribbean. To give you a little background, besides my 2 RCCL cruises, I have been on 6 Princess, 2 Carnival, 2 Celebrity and one Premier cruise. With the exception of my very first cruise (Carnival Fantasy) I have enjoyed all my cruises - some better than others - but I have always had a good time.
The itinerary for this cruise was a bit differnt than most Canada/New England cruises. It was a repositioning cruise from Quebec City, Canada to Fort Lauderdale. Stops included scenic cruising on the Saguenay River; Corner Brook, Newfoundland; and Boston. An interesting fact to note here is that about 2/3rds of the passengers on board were French-speaking Canadians. They were thrilled with having a cruise that departed from Quebec!
Pre-cruise: Flew from Milwaukee to Quebec via Toronto on Air Canada. No complaints whatsoever, except that Pearson Internation is a mess right now with all the construction! But I made my connection with 35 minutes to spare so they must know what they are doing.
Arrived in Quebec at the smallest Internation Airport I have ever seen (7 gates total at Jean Lesage International) but it was a very pretty and efficient small airport. No problems finding anything! Took a taxi to my hotel - the Loews Le Concorde on Grande Allee just outside of Old Town Quebec. Check in was efficient and there were a lot of cruisers staying there. I booked through Priceline and got the hotel for $75 for the night - those booking through the cruise lines payed much more than I did. The hotel is nice, clean and pretty much your standard 3 - 4 star hotel. I had a room on the 5th floor overlooking the old city and I could see the port of Quebec. After settling in, I strolled around the area - including the Plains of Abraham (a large park area) and down Grande Alle a bit. Lots of restaurants there. While I had supper at the hotel, the next morning I went next door to Cosmos (upon the recommendation of someone on the CC board) and had a FABULOUS breakfast! Checking out of the hotel was a piece of cake, and I took a taxi down to the docks. I was in my room about sunset when I heard a loud ship's horn......looked out my window and say the QM2 pulling away! I tried to get some pics of her, but the flash kept interfering. She was a sight to behold as she pulled away from Quebec.
Embarkation: I went online at www.rccl.com and filled in the Set Sail pass and printed it out. I had to go back and print a new one less than a week before I left because I decided to splurge and upgrade myself from my inside stateroom on deck 2 to a balcony cabin on deck 7 (more on that later.) Supposedly, if you print the Set Sail pass, you go through embarkation much more quickly than if you did not. Well, I think that works well at ports where RCCL sails out of at least weekly. Here, since it was the first time RCCL embarked anyone in Quebec, the agents were extra careful and thus slower, plus there were some computer problems that held things up too. All in all, it took about an hour for me to get on the ship from the time I dropped off the luggage til the time I could go to my cabin. Spent the time before I could get to my cabin wandering around the ship and stopped at the Pool Bar to have my first drink of the cruise................a Bahama Mama (OK - it was very warm - near 80 - and I wanted something refreshing!) Made friends with the bartender and talked with a gentleman from Quebec who was wanting to try an American Beer. I told him to try an MGD (Miller Genuine Draft) and he loved it! Ran into him later in the cruise and he told me he was ordering "MGD's" all week! Love it!
Finally just before 1:00 they announced that the staterooms were ready - went down and found my cabin. Upgraded myself to a D1 balcony - that turned out to be in the new section of the ship - very clean, everything was pristine! Mattress was firm but with what felt like a pillow top on it. Pillows were bigger than what I am used to on Princess and firmer. Bathroom was small, but shiny. Shower had the sliding doors on them instead of the shower curtain. Lots of storage in the cabin - I didn't even use half of it! TV was small, and reception was not that great on this cruise (satellite kept going out or range, or whatever....). Minifridge was stocked but not stuffed. Did not have to remove anything to put my stuff in it. Met up with Armando who took care of me for the week. He did everything I asked. No complaints there.
We had the muster drill at 4:45pm - outside on the promenade deck. Totally useless as everyone talked through the whole thing and no one could hear any of the instructions. Also had to wait for the stragglers. And they did call out room numbers! Those that did not show I hear had to go to a make up session the next day and the crew were NOT happy about it, from what I heard! Even though I have been on 13 cruises now, I wish people would just be quiet and listen to the instructions - yes, I could probably recite them in my sleep, but every ship is a bit different and you need to know where to go and what to do.
At 5:30 I met up with some of the people I had corresponded with on CC on the roll call thread. Finally go t to put faces to Sue and Ray, Cat and Dave, David and Janet, Milt and Arlene, PCO and his lovely wife. Had to leave early as I had my pedicure scheduled for 6:00pm. Pulled away from the dock about 6:30pm and watching the sailaway from the newly remodeled spa area was wonderful - my pedicure chair overlooked the aft of the ship and the sunset was pretty spectaular. Got back to my cabin in time to take a couple of pics of it. (If I forgot anyone who was at the sailaway gathering, I apologize!)
Dining Room and Food: Let me first say that food and service are subjective. We all have our different tastes and standards. I want to thank Sue for making sure that we (Cat, Dave, myself and Sue and her husband) were sitting at the same table. We were at talbe 135 on the second level of the My Fair Lady dining room. Our waiter was Nilesh from India and his assistant was Yocanda from Costa Rica. When Yocanda came to our table the first time, she immediately recognized Sue and Ray from the year before! Also, Ajay, one of the assistant maitre'd's came to our table a few times during the cruise as Sue and Ray knew him as well. Our service this cruise was excellent!!! Nilesh and Yocanda - along with the head waiter (I can't remember her name, but she was at our table almost every night helping out when she could - she was just recently promoted to head waiter and was doing well, imho.) Our bar server was Suzanna - who also remembered Sue and Ray from the cruise last year.
Food ranged from very good to excellent. I found it on par with Princess and Celebrity - and just a notch ahead of Carnival. If I ordered something rare or medium rare, it came that way. Seasoning was perfect for my taste. My only complaint was that the first two nights there were no chocolate desserts on the menu. First night we went with the flow, the second night, Sue and I both looked at Nilesh with tears in our eyes and said "Chocolate, PLEASE!!!" He came back with mini lava cakes, brownies and a little cheesecake for us.....I don't know where he got them, but from that point on, he was our hero! I do have to say the Maryland Crab Cake appetizer was EXCELLENT! And the chocolate desserts were too. Ate at Chops one night and that was just downright excellent too. The service there was attentive but not intrusive. The food was cooked to order and though it was a slow paced meal, it was just what was ordered that night.
Ports/Scenic Cruising: We cruised up the St. Lawrence til we reached the Saguenay River on Monday AM. We cruise about 2 hours up the river viewing the cliffs and fall foilage (my guess is the colors were about 25% of peak). We passed the Maasdam coming out as we went in. Got to the area where the Statue of the Virgin Mary is located. The story goes that a man who was a survivor of a shipwreck in that area raised the monument as a thank you for saving his life. As we approached the monument, the Captain turned off the engines and we glided past the statue while Ave Maria played from the loudspeakers. Truly a spine tingling moment. We then cruised back down the river and as we were leaving the Saguenay River, we passed the World of Residensea as she entered the Saguenay. We then headed up the St. Lawrence and were in and out of fog the rest of the day.
Corner Brook, New Foundland: Arrived early at the port - which was 1 1/2 hours ahead of ships time! Sue had arranged a private tour with Vision Atlantic for us in a mini van with driver/guide to Gros Morne National Park. Scott was our driver/guide and he was wonderful. We set out for the 1 1/2 hour ride to Rocky Harbor inside Gros Morne National Park, where we picked up our box lunches and headed up to Lobster Cove Head lighthouse where we had a picnic lunch. Now is probably a good time to mention the weather..........in Quebec it was near 80 and sunny. In western Newfoundland, it was sunny to partly cloudy and in the 70's - a one in a million day for October in Newfoundland! But it was windy.........the flags at Lobster Cove Head Lighthouse spelled out GALE. And when we left the port that night, we did feel the full brunt of the gale force winds. After lunch we traveled about the park - stopping at little villages and fishing towns, had coffee and pie at a small restaurant and then went to the Tablelands part of the park - that is where the earth's mantle pushed up through the crust . It is a geologists dream area. Very stark and barren with little vegetation, but very close to the sea and lushness of that area. We then headed back to Corner Brook and were on board the ship with plenty of time to spare. Thanks, Scott, for a wonderful day!
Next day was a day at sea and after a pretty bumpy ride the night before we were in and out of fog all day and night long.
Next and final stop before debarkation was Boston. Once again we were blessed with sunny and warm weather......upper 70's and nary a cloud in the sky. This time I took a ship's excursion that included a scenic harbor cruise and a bus tour of historic Boston. Well, with 4 ships in port, traffic was HORRIBLE! We were so behind on our excursion, that we could not stop at Faneuil Hall or Quincy Market to do any shopping - had to go straight back to the ship. Should mention that we were in port with the Golden Princess, Crystal Serenit and the QM2. We were the last to dock and we slipped in between the Golden and the QM2. Got some great shots of those ships leaving port that evening before we did.
Next two days were sea days and the weather was lousy. Except for an hour or two on both days it was cloudy and VERY windy. We ended up going through the remnants of TS Tammy......and we all know how rough the seas can be off Cape Hatteras. I was told by an officer we had 12- 20 foot seas and force 7 winds at times. This lasted almost two full days - finally calming down later afternoon on Saturday - of course that was packing day as the cruise ended on Sunday.
Debarkation: After 2 cruises on RCCL, I still don't get why they don't announce the debarkation colors IN THE DINING ROOM!!!!!! I know that since we went through Immigration upon arrival in Boston, we would not have to go through it in FLL..........but when you go to the dining room or stay in your cabin, you went to breakfast and got out about 8:30 - when I got out of the dining room there was a long line waiting to get off the ship. I asked people if "red" had been called yet and nobody knew. So, I waited and waited.....finally decided to ask someone else. This nice gentleman spoke some english and and I spoke very little french, but we were able to determine that "red" had been called, so I just got up and got in line and walked off the ship. There were only about 10 suitcases left in the red area - grabbed mine and a porter and then went through customs and got a taxi.........I was at the airport 10 minutes later and 10 minutes after that I was at the gate for a 90 minute wait for my flight. Not bad at all, but I wish RCCL would make the debarkation announcements in ALL areas of the ship!
Miscellaneous: I really enjoyed this cruise - the Enchantment is a wonderful ship and the stretching and refurbishment really make her look sparkling new. I enjoyed it enough that I booked another RCCL cruise for the Grandeur for Bermuda from Baltimore in the fall of 2006 - knowing full well that I am going to change that to a 2007 cruise.
I just wanted to mention that wherever I went on the ship, everyone, from Captain Per on down had a smile and a can-do attitude! They made everyone feel welcome. This was in marked contrast to my last cruise on the Diamond Princess where no one seemed happy and simple requests were met with outright "No's". I do think that the fact it was the last Mexican Riveria cruise of the season and crew burnout was a factor, but it really impacted that cruise and I felt a little underwhelmed and unsatisfied. This cruise on the Enchantment cured me of that feeling!