Jason and I took our first cruise in November 2013 which can be read about here – First Cruise Review. We just returned on Sat. from our second cruise which I think it’s safe to say we enjoyed even more due to the itinerary as well as friends from Chicago joining us. We sailed from New York City to Boston MA, Portland ME, Saint John New Brunswick Canada and Halifax Nova Scotia Canada. Similar to the blog I wrote about our first cruise I will break it down into topics to make it easier to read.
PreCruise – Once again we chose to book the cruise through AAA. Carnival’s website seems simple enough but I like the travel agent’s ability to click through the various levels on the ship to look for the room we want as well as the security of knowing we’ll get the best price possible. Deb was very helpful and gave us information on taking a train to NYC as we were stressing about the possibility of having to drive there. She also gave us plenty of booklets on the areas we were visiting.
Train/NYC – I think I woke up almost every hour on the hour the night before we left for the cruise. Despite being super organized and always preparing for the worst I get pre-travel anxiety something terrible. It’s a little backwards as most people get anxious about the actual vacation or mode of transportation, but I freak out continuously until I am on the actual vacation. We drove to my parents’ house who in turn drove us to the train station in Lancaster. It’s a nice and quiet station which helped calm my nerves though I knew Penn Station would be chaotic in comparison. One of the oddest and slightly unnerving things I found was the lack of security – no metal detectors, bag checks, etc. TSA won’t let me take a bottle of water on a plane yet I could’ve taken my handgun along on the train with no one knowing.
The train itself was very comfortable with plenty of leg room, free WiFi and outlets built into the sides. The ride was going smoothly until we were 5-10 minutes from the Philadelphia station. We came to a stop and waited in wonder for several minutes before an announcement finally came on notifying us there was a switch problem and that we may have to go back to the previous station. Slight panic arose and I worked to keep myself calm knowing that we had until almost 4pm to board the ship and were due to arrive around 12p. Still the fear of being late kept me on edge and I was relived when we finally started moving again, forward and not backward. We were just nearing the tunnel to go into NYC when again the train was forced to stop due to a switch problem. We had to wait for 4 trains coming in the opposite direction to pass us before we were able to move again. I was grateful I had changed our arrival time at the cruise terminal to be between 1pm and 1:30pm as we finally reached Penn Station around 12:30p.
I hadn’t been to NYC since a bus trip in 2007. I was looking forward to seeing it once more but that excitement quickly dissipated when upon reaching the street level a gentleman came up to Jason asking if he could spare change. We quickly began moving down 8th Ave pulling our luggage behind us. I wore a backpack containing our travel documents as well as other important items and Jason followed behind me to keep an eye on it. I know caution and awareness are needed in any city but compared to other cities I’ve visited I just feel as though NYC is the worst for needing to be on one’s toes. Maybe it’s due to the insane masses of people or the number of sketchy people, but I just don’t feel that I can enjoy myself there anymore. Most people would’ve likely taken a taxi but we didn’t feel that the 1.7 mile walk would be all that difficult other than the crowds of people. When we turned off 8th Ave it was a lot less crowded and we were able to pick up speed. We reached the cruise terminal before 1:30pm. After a little stress of having to fill out a customs form while we were moving with the line of other travelers we were getting our photos taken and boarding the ship!
Carnival Sunshine – The Ship – We booked an interior cabin this time as opposed to a balcony one. The first reason being we would only be at sea 2 total days instead of 3, the second reason figuring we would be spending time with our friends and not holed up in our room as much and the third reason because it was cheaper. The cabin was still a nice size including the bathroom. I wish the closets would’ve had shelves like the ones did on the Pride but I just chose to live out of my suitcase for the week instead of fulling unpacking. The TV had a few channels to watch other than the movie channels and Carnival’s info channels which was nice. Jason liked the decor of the Pride more but agreed it was nice to have a bigger Serenity area to enjoy this time as all the lounge chairs were always taken on the last cruise. We actually enjoyed some time in the whirlpool as there were 3 on the ship. I’m not sure if it was the ship itself or just the seas but it was also a smoother sailing. We both were slightly nauseous the first morning at sea like we were on the first cruise but were able to walk it off after breakfast and did not have to take the Dramamine I packed. The rest of the week we were fine and only felt the ship moving a handful of times, none of which made us sick again.
Carnival Sunshine – The Entertainment – Over the course of the week we went to 2 comedy shows, a magic show, a movie, a 70s/80s show and 2 trivia sessions. All were very good. My only grievance would be that the music trivia in the piano bar that we so dearly loved on the Pride wasn’t available. We actually didn’t even go into the piano bar the entire trip as every night was just sing-alongs. The other issue I had was sometimes the timing of the entertainment was challenging – a comedian would start at 7pm but we didn’t go to dinner until 6pm some nights which meant we weren’t finished in time to go to that event. Also sometimes there were shows at 7pm and 9pm but we had to kill time in between. Two nights they did special midnight shows which given we were in port early each day we didn’t have the energy to stay up that late. Overall the variety was nice and movies were shown every evening on the big screen above the pool which was something we didn’t have on the Pride.
Carnival Sunshine – The Food and Drink – If you ever go hungry while on a cruise there is something seriously wrong with you. There are so many food options that even the pickiest of eaters can find something good to eat. Jason and I ate in the dining room every evening for dinner except the 2nd elegant night (we only dressed up for the first one) and we tried out several new foods. I seemed to be on a soup kick as over the course of the week I tried strawberry bisque, pumpkin soup and lobster bisque. He made me try a piece of his escargot the one night which I promptly spit back out into my napkin. It tasted exactly like what I expected a snail to taste like. He also had braised rabbit and ox tongue neither of which I chose to sample. One night I made a dinner out of 3 appetizers; the ability to order any and everything you want off the menu is fabulous. We went to the seaday brunch both days at sea where he enjoyed huevos rancheros and I had chocolate chip pancakes drizzled in chocolate sauce. We also ate burgers from Guy Fieri’s Burger Joint and burritos from the Blue Iguana Cantina. Those are just a few highlights of the ship foods we enjoyed. As far as drinks it seems the ship has an endless liquor supply for its multiple bars. We enjoyed the RedFrog Rum Bar which featured a lot of drinks containing Barcadi but did actually have Captain this time! My favorite though was the Rum Chocolate Shake from the Shake Spot. Coconut rum mixed with real chocolate ice cream (none of that cheating by using vanilla ice cream and chocolate syrup) was utterly delightful and I indulged in two during the week.
I was hoping to make this all one blog entry but alas as usual I am too wordy and think it will be best if I write up a second entry to detail all the fun we had in our ports of call… check out part 2 – New England and Canada Cruise – Part 2.