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Trip Report CCL 5 night Canada Cruise Better than Expected

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This is just a quick trip report on my family's recent 5 night CCL Canada Cruise. We were a group of 13 (ranging in age from 80-ish to 9 months old) and were celebrating my grandparent's 60th anniversary. We are not typically 'cruise people' but were looking for a way to all be together without having to fly anywhere or spend too long in a car. Since we are all from the NY area, this cruise seemed like the best option. To be honest, we didn't have high hopes going in. Our one and only other cruise experience was a semi-disastrous Costa cruise over the millenium.
I must say that the cruise exceeded our expectations. My husband, 9 month old baby and I had a grand suite, which was very large with a nice sized bathroom (tub/shower combo- important when traveling with baby!). We all found the ship to be very clean. The outdoor areas were quite nice, especially the new, adults only, serenity deck. We had amazing weather, so were able to make use of the pools and outdoor spaces on the two sailing days. We also had fun in the casino at night.
The food on the boat was also better than expected. Although some dishes looked like spam, we were pleasantly surprised when we tried it (most of the time). We ate all our dinners in the MDR. As some of you know from my previous posts, we originally had the late seating. We booked the cruise so many months ago that at the time it seemed like a good idea but we realized it would be very difficult to have such a late dinner with a baby. We thankfully got off the wait list for the early seating and after a small glitch at our first dinner (being seated at two different tables), the maitre'd managed to find us a table where we could all be seated together for the duration of the cruise. As a side note, we were very happy to have the early seating once we saw how perpetually late it ran into the later seating. In other words, they had to wait for everyone to finish in the early seating before they opened the dining room up for the late seating. There were always throngs of people outside when we were leaving our seating and they always started the late seating later than the 8:15 or 8:30 time it was called for. If you are a big group, dinners take a long time and we would not have left the dining room until 11 pm had we done the late seating, which wouldn't have left time for much evening entertainment if we wanted to be up early in the mornings! We did not eat at the steakhouse (which we heard was very good), but my recommendation for anyone going on this cruise is that if you do make a reservation at the steakhouse, don't do it on the 2nd night (they serve lobster) or 4th night (they serve steak and lamb), all of which were pretty good. We ate our breakfasts and lunches in the Red Sail Restaurant (buffet). The deli station was pretty good, as were the burrito and Mongolian BBQ stations. The lunch buffet on the last day was great (chocolate buffet!).
We made use of the bring one bottle of wine per adult on board policy, but the ship had a very nice and reasonably priced wine list as well.

Ports- we went to 2 ports. Saint John (which I'm just going to abbreviate to St., even though I know it's really Saint!!!), New Brunswick and Halifax, Nova Scotia.
We unfortunately found St. John (the first port) to be very boring. Perhaps we took the wrong tour, and I really try to appreciate the beauty/redeeming qualities in everywhere I go, but I just don't understand where they came up with the idea to make it a stop on the cruise. Perhaps you need to leave the city proper to really experience what St. John has to offer? I felt that we wasted our money on a tour. We did the city tour (2 plus hrs) and our guide was literally pointing out the elementary school, the bank and the gas station (no joke!). The reversing falls was in an industrial area and I found it to be a letdown. There is a market in town that's cute but not more than 20 minute worth of stuff to see in it. There is also a little strip of restaurants on the water to the left (if you are leaving the ship) of the terminal that the boat docks at that has good seafood. We ate at a place called Grannan's that was really good- fabulous oysters and lobster rolls. If I did it again, I'd get off the ship for lunch and then spend the rest of the day on the boat, which is very quiet on port days.
In Halifax we loved Peggy's Cove. If you are taking a ship excursion, I highly recommend the Halifax city and Peggy's Cove tour. It's about 3 hours and takes you through the city and out to Peggy's Cove, which is really beautiful and charming. We ate lunch outside at a place called the Waterfront Warehouse that had great seafood as well (amazing oysters and fish and chips, pretty good lobster rolls). Everyone we spoke to who at at the restaurant in Peggy's Cove was disappointed. Better off waiting till you are back in the city proper.
We did the self disembarkation and were the very first people off the boat. It went very smoothly. If you choose to do it, I suggest getting to the lobby early- it becomes a madhouse by 7:45.
I won't lie and say that everything about the cruise was perfect- there were definitely snags along the way (such as the boat arriving late to the Halifax port and the mayhem that ensued when we tried to get off, which resulted in our group being split up on two different buses for the Peggy's Cove tour). But we really were pleasantly surprised overall.
Also, there were a TON of kids/babies on the boat, most of whom were very well behaved (including our own baby!). Any screaming that fellow fodors cruisers may have heard in the dining room was NOT our baby :) We actually feel that a cruise is a great way to travel with kids/babies if you want to see multiple places without having to keep packing and unpacking. After this pleasant experience, we are even more excited for our Disney Mediterranean cruise next summer!

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