Day 7 - Sea Day
The final day of this cruise was a sea day. We had a relaxing start to the day with room service coffee then had breakfast in O’Sheehan’s later. At eleven, we went with my mom to the complimentary wine tasting for platinum members and above. There were so many on this cruise they broke it into two sessions. It was a very informal tasting with four stations set up each with a white and red to taste. Each station represented a country; France, Italy, Argentina and United States. My mom really enjoyed the Pinot noir from France and plans to purchase a bottle or two for Thanksgiving.
We met up with my dad and decided to try the Ocean Blue window for lunch. It is an up charge but the menu looked great. It had crab toast which we had for dinner and I raved about them so we each ordered one to share. We also tried the lobster roll as well. It took awhile to get our food but we enjoyed our wine in the fresh sea air. The guys noticed how the table had the same markings as a football field and thought it would be perfect for paper football. So Chris folded up a napkin into a football and set up the wine glasses as goal posts for a finger flicking fun time! The lobster rolls were really good and the homemade chips delicious. The crab toast was not as good as the raw bar. It actually came with one less piece but is the same price at the take out window. The bread was not toasted at all but the crab was still good. I would definitely advise to order it at the raw bar only since not only was it better, you also get one more piece for the same price. It wasn’t quite enough for the four of us for lunch so we headed for a little more at O’Sheehan’s. My dad and I shared some nachos while Chris ordered some wings.
We returned to our cabin to find another friend on our bed. It reminded us of our rabbit at home. It was time to pack up some of our stuff before getting ready for dinner.
Our evening started with a cocktail at Shaker’s. We wanted to say goodbye to Allan and thank him for his excellent service. He is definitely a superstar at his job and I hope I will see him on another cruise.
For dinner, we wanted to eat in the Manhattan Room since they have dancing and live music. Unfortunately, they were booked at six so we went to Taste instead. Most of us ordered the scallop appetizer which was ok but not great. I had the shrimp Louie which was better but very small. For dinner, I had the seafood orzo which I did not really like. The calamari was very chewy and the red snapper very dry. Chris had the veal Oscar which he really enjoyed. My mom and dad did not really like their choices of chicken and flounder either. My mom tried the no sugar added butterscotch brownie and Chris had the Opera cake. The menus of the main dining on NCL can be hit or miss and this one was a miss for me. I look forward to the new menus coming soon fleet wide that have started on the Prima.
We walked about the ship after dinner hoping to find some music to dance to but that was not the case tonight. We settled on hanging at Shaker’s to listen to some standards while enjoying an espresso martini. Later, we enjoyed the company of some other ballroom dancers we met. A guitarist, Jumari started playing and he was very good. I am sorry we missed him all week. We did end up dancing some swing and even a tango in the small area. At least we provided Allan some entertainment our last night! We went for a last last night stroll around the ship to see the late night partiers in Bliss. There were a few dancing away but we decided to return to our cabin to call it a night.
Day 6 - Halifax, Nova Scotia
Our arrival into Halifax was at 11:00 AM so after our room service coffee and danish we went for a walk around the decks. We played trivia in the atrium and did even worse than our previous score. When we returned to our cabin, a friend was waiting on the bed for us. I wrote for a bit while Chris worked on his crossword puzzle until we met up with my parents to explore Halifax.
Halifax was another stop we visited on a previous cruise. Last time, we went to the maritime museum to see the Titanic exhibit. I recalled learning about the devastating explosion that killed 1,782 people in 1917. We also went to Fairview Lawn Cemetery where over one hundred victims of the Titanic are buried. This time, we decided to have lunch with my parents and tour the Alexander Keith Brewery.
The weather was splendid once again and we commented on how different it was to the rainy day we spent here in 2008. We strolled along the boardwalk and found a place near the brewery called Waterfront Warehouse to have lunch. We started with a round a beers and a dozen oysters to share. The oysters were so fresh and delicious. My dad had a smoked salmon club salad and my mom and I both had a lobster roll. Chris decided to go big on our last port day and ordered the steamed Atlantic lobster. No one made a bad choice as everything was perfect. Chris let me taste his lobster and it was pretty amazing. My parents walked back to the ship along the water while Chris and I headed over to our brewery tour.
Alexander Keith’s Brewery was founded in 1820 and offers tours of their working brewery. A visit here is like stepping back in time as the tour guides are dressed in period clothing. Very soon into the tour, you are offered a small sample of the Coffe and Cacoa Stout. After you see the various rooms, you are taken to a cellar room for a ceilidh or kitchen party. There we were given bigger samples to try. They started everyone off with their award winning IPA. For my next sample I chose the Citrus Wheat Ale and Chris opted for the Red Ale. We both thought the beer was very good. While sipping our beers, the guides started playing music and singing. They sang songs from Nova Scotia for us so we could learn what a kitchen party was like. It was a very unique brewery tour that I would recommend.
We had a nice walk back to the ship and enjoyed more of the weather on the waterfront. The only negative was that in Canada the number of bars per deck is restricted to one. This meant no outside bars were open and sadly no sustainable drinks of the day. We met my parents later for our pre dinner drink at the Prime Meridian bar because Shaker’s was closed. This worked out though since our dinner was at Cagney’s right across from the bar.
Chris and I have not dined in Cagney’s for years. We had some subpar meals there and thought the quality was poor in the past. However, we decided to give it another try since it had been so long. Everyone started with the Oysters Rockefeller, which was not a big hit. It was mainly a custard like sauce with a very tiny oyster. My parents both chose the wedge salad while I had the lobster bisque and Chris had the Beefsteak Tomato. This course had better reviews although my mom would have preferred more dressing on her salad. For our mains everyone except Chris ordered the 8 ounce filet mignon. Chris decided to try the bone-in veal chop. Everyone was very pleased with their choices. The sides we shared included, garlic mushrooms, grilled zucchini, truffle fries and onion rings. For dessert, I ordered the OMG Butterscotch Cheesecake which although was tasty I could not finish it. Chris and my mom had the blueberry oatmeal crisp which was nice. I convinced my dad to order the raspberry creme brûlée for research purposes since he was going to skip dessert. It was another solid choice. After this meal, I would again recommend Cagney’s as a choice and would likely revisit on another cruise.
After dinner, we walked around the ship a little but soon headed to the theater since we had reservations at 9:30pm for SIX The Musical. I was so excited to see this show as I have read lots of glowing reviews. The show is presented in its entirety and since tickets for this show on Broadway are pretty pricey, this made the cruise even more of a value. The show tells the story of the six wives of Henry the Eighth in song. The cast was extremely talented and although I am not a fan of musical theater in general, I really liked it. This show really sent the level of entertainment for the cruise through the roof. Tonight, was also the Glow Party but after a short walk, we returned to our cabin for the night.
Day 5 - Saint John, New Brunswick
Our day started with our usual room service coffee and croissants. We met my parents to try out the buffet for breakfast today. It is a very good option for a quick breakfast with lots of variety. We did not have any plans for Saint John as we had visited here on our last cruise and saw most of the sights. Our agenda was to walk to the marketplace and get some lunch. To kill some time, we played trivia in the atrium but did not win.
The port area looked much different than in 2008 as they have created a shopping area made from shipping containers. It is very cute with shops and some food trucks selling poutine and beaver tails. We explored the area before starting our walk to the market.
The Saint John City Market was built in 1876 and is the oldest continuously operated farmer’s market in Canada. It is a very unique building and has lots of food stalls and craft stands. We did a little shopping while my dad waited outside. It was still a bit early for lunch so we walked up the hill to visit the old church we could see in the distance. We learned it is called Stone Church and we went inside and thought the stained glass was beautiful.
For lunch we chose Billy’s Seafood Company. It was a very cozy restaurant with a great menu. Chris started with a cup of seafood chowder he really enjoyed. My dad ordered Billy’s Burger, a five ounce patty with house made whiskey bbq sauce, crispy onion frites, Billy’s crab cake, lettuce and tomato on a brioche bun. It looked incredible and my dad thought it was delicious. Chris ordered the whole bellt fried clams which of course he let me sample, and they were great. My mom and I both ordered the lobster roll which was the most mayonnaise heavy so far but we both thought it was excellent. It is pretty hard to mess up lobster in this part of the world!
A nice leisurely stroll back to the ship was perfect after this meal and we stopped for a bit at the stores near port. We bought some goodies in the maple syrup store. My parents went back to the ship while Chris and I had a cup of coffee from Epoch Chemistry. I was craving a good coffee and this hit the spot. We shopped a little more while we drank our coffees.
Back on the ship, Chris and I went for a walk around the Waterfront area on deck eight. Saint John is located on the Bay of Fundy which is famous for its tides. The difference between high and low is approximately 26 feet. You can even tell this by the gangway ashore as it must adjust throughout the day. We also watched the swirling current that was so mesmerizing to look at. As we walked, we also saw a spot that was set up for a vow renewal. The flowers and remnants of cake had yet to be cleaned up. After the walk, we found a relaxing spot in the sun to enjoy the weather while I wrote and Chris finished his NYT crossword. We chatted with the admin of the Facebook group when she walked by to see how her day was in Saint John. Before too long though, it was back to the cabin to get ready for dinner.
We met my parents at our usual spot, Shaker’s, for Negronis and a martini for my mom. Tonight, my parents would be going to Ocean Blue since they had one extra meal included with their cruise fare. Chris and I decided to try the Raw Bar located just in front of Ocean Blue. We figured it would be a good choice for a lighter meal. After ordering, Chris ran down to the internet desk because he could not log off the internet and they just reopened. They credited him back the time but he missed the most amazing sunset. I went over to my parent’s table to snap a quick photo because it was just that perfect. I learned to that you can order from the full menu of the restaurant at the bar as well which is a nice option if you cannot get a reservation. For dinner, we had the crab toast, tuna crudo, yellowtail crudo, and oysters. The crab toast was one of the best things I had on board all week. The bread was nice and toasty and topped generously with sweet crab. Both crudo were excellent as well. The oysters were from Canada and super fresh. It was the perfect light meal we wanted. I think the raw bar will be a new tradition for us.
The show in the theater was a vocalist and we decided to skip it tonight. We started the night in the Atrium to dance with the Manhattan Band. They didn’t have much room for dancing but we managed to do some rumbas before they took a break. I suggested we head to Malting’s so Chris could try some Macallan Quest. He could see why I enjoyed this scotch. As we sat sipping our drinks, I had the hopeful idea to see if we could find seats in Syd Norman’s since it was about thirty minutes before the show. The place was pretty packed but luck was on our side as a woman sitting on the corner of a booth got up to go to another seat. We sat right down and scored some great last minute seats with great view of the stage. I also had the fun of watching all the people go up to the stool next to me that read “do not even think of sitting here” and slinking away. So many came up to it thinking they scored a seat. We learned very quickly why Syd Norman’s is such a popular venue. The singers and musicians are very talented and the show is so much fun. It is disappointing how hard it is to get a seat though and I think they should do a night in the main theater so more could enjoy. Unfortunately, it seems NCL has made the venue even smaller on the new ship, the Prima. The music made us want to do some more dancing so we headed to Bliss to try the ABBA and 70s party.
The party in Bliss had a decent crowd when we hit the dance floor. Chris quickly noticed that the Eagles game was on so we knew my mother would be very happy. We had so much fun dancing while watching the game. The music started to change to more 50s and 60s though and we started to do some jitterbug and swing. A woman approached us and asked if she could take our picture. She said she really enjoyed watching us and we gladly obliged. It was such a fun night! We headed back to the cabin, sweaty from dancing and celebrating the Eagles win. Tomorrow, we have another port day in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Day 4 - Bar Harbor, Maine
We started our day with our coffee and pastry delivery again. The balcony provided a view of a spectacular sunrise and a stunning Ponant ship. Ponant is a French luxury line. It looked like we would have another sunny day for our tour.
The tour was originally supposed to be at eight but the new meeting time was 10:45 which gave us time for a breakfast in the main dining room. We all ordered the Eggs Benedict which NCL has always done a great job. The eggs were cooked perfectly and the hollandaise was as I remembered. We went back to our cabins and I wrote for a bit before heading to our meeting spot for the tour.
We chose a tour through NCL since Bar Harbor is a tender port and tours are escorted directly to the tender. I had read bad reports that tendering was taking hours on the first cruise of the season to Bar Harbor so I wanted to avoid that. Also, seeing Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park was on my dad’s must-do list. The tender was a ferry style ship and not a lifeboat like in Newport. It was much more comfortable for sure.
The bus was a few steps away from the dock and after a short wait we were off on the tour. Our guide was very entertaining and not only provided information but jokes as well. It was a very scenic, winding ride to the summit of Cadillac Mountain. We were given 25 minutes to take photos and just take in the majestic view. After that, it was a short ride back to town. It wasn’t the longest tour but it was worth it.
We wanted to grab some lunch and I noticed the places on the drive back to port had some lines outside. We made our way to the Thirsty Whale which looked great on Yelp. Unfortunately, the wait was 30 minutes. My parents decided to walk back and see if any other restaurants looked good. They texted that all had people waiting outside as our ship definitely made this little area busy. Chris and I waited it out and my parents returned to ship and had lunch on board. The wait ended up being thirty minutes but I did go back to say it was for two and we would sit at the bar. After a little more waiting, we were called and seated at the bar. Chris ordered some clam chowder and we shared more fried whole belly clams. These clams might have been the best but it was hard to judge as all have been delicious. We each ordered a lobster roll and crowned this the winner so far. It was loaded with sweet lobster and had the best roll as well. We had a nice leisurely walk back to the tender spot and did not wait long at all for a ride back to the Breakaway.
We met up with my parents at the Sail and Sustain bar to have the sustainable drink of the day. We both started with Pulp Art which is made with pepper top cordial. I would not recommend this one if you do not enjoy a bell pepper flavor. My mom tasted mine and did not care for it so I suggested a Pineapple Surplus which was a hit. I drank mine as I enjoy the pepper with the juices and Campari but I did switch to Pineapple Surplus for my second drink. We sat outside enjoying this warm day we did not expect until it was time to get ready for the evening.
Our usual routine of a pre-dinner drink as Shaker’s was the start of the night. We were treated to an amazing sunset while we enjoyed our drinks. Tonight, my parents had dinner in the main dining room and Chris and I went to the buffet. We both wanted a big salad as we were missing greens. It was steak and shrimp night so I added some shrimp to my salad as did Chris. Shrimp Po Boys were available tonight in O’Sheehan’s and also on the buffet. I tried one but it was really just fried shrimp and tartar sauce. It needs remoulade as well as lettuce and tomato to be better. My salad was decent although the Joy salad bar had a much bigger selection. I did supplement my salad with some warm beets as well as humus from other stations.
Tonight, we watched two different shows in the theater. The first was a new show by the magicians, Brent and Sarah. We both enjoyed this show as well. I think they have a very cute act and do some decent standard tricks. It is refreshing to see a woman do magic and not just be props in big illusions. I liked that they did not use "big box" illusions in their act as well. We walked around the ship and visited the casino until it was time for the late night comedy show. The two comedians were JF Harris and Mike Burton. The theater had a great crowd for this show. Both were so very funny and Chris and I laughed a bunch.
We ended our night at O’Sheehan since we had not had a late night wing stop. I wasn’t too keen on the wings the first day but I figured it was worth another shot. This time my wings were crazy spicy. My mouth was on fire after two bites. I was really confused as I ate all six the first day and thought the spice was a great level. Chris, who can eat fire, thought they were way spicer than most people could handle. I spoke to a waiter and asked if the sauce had been changed recently. He confirmed it is an different sauce from summer and also the wings are baked instead of fried. He also shared they used to dust with flour and now they are plain. So sad as these were a classic NCL treat. At least the fries are still awesome but with my luck, NCL will decide to use the coated ones and mess that up next. We headed up to the cabin since we lose one hour of sleep tonight in order to be on St. John time.
Day 3 - Portland, Maine
We were smart last night and placed our breakfast order outside the cabin. It arrived promptly at 6:30 as we requested. Chris and I exchanged “Happy Birthdays” since we share our birthday. We had cards for each other and had our coffee and croissants before meeting my parents for breakfast at O’Sheehans.
We were not arriving for a few more hours so we enjoyed the views from our balconies. The ship passed Portland Head Light located in Fort Williams Park. It was a very beautiful approach to Portland. We sat for a bit on the balcony before meeting my parents back at O’Sheehan’s for a drink before venturing out. Chris and I both tried the Buena Vista Style Irish Coffee. We have had the original one in San Francisco and this is a good attempt at recreating it but the coffee needs to be hotter to balance out the cold cream.
The mission today was to find a lobster lunch for our birthday. I was proud of my dad for making the walk of .75 miles to the Portland Lobster Company as he has trouble walking far distances. The place was perfect as we ate outside in the unseasonably nice weather enjoying live music. We had lobster rolls with the exception of my dad who ordered a peekytoe crab sandwich. I also shared whole belly fried clams with Chris. My mom and Chris also sampled the clam chowder. We shared a pitcher of Allagash White beer which was so refreshing. It was an amazing birthday lunch that my parents treated us to. The music was great and when they played Maxwell’s Silver Hammer we all thought of the one missing person, Veronica. This song has special meaning for my dad and Veronica. Of course, we sent her a video of the music right away! I noticed walking out that this was the last day of the season for the restaurant so I am sure we were lucky with this gorgeous weather.
Across the street was Holy Donut which is a popular local bakery that specializes in potato donuts. There was a line outside of about eight so we decided to have one for dessert. We were only going to order two but they were giving away extra since they had made too many. We tried lemon, pumpkin, sea salt chocolate and cinnamon sugar. The donuts were slightly greasy on the outside yet super dry on the inside. None of us were fans of this style at all. I prefer a chain donut like Tim Horton’s to these for sure.
My mom and dad walked back to the ship and Chris and I explored a little bit of the town. We found a cute store that sold clothes made from alpaca. Since that is the name of our blog and our travel advisor website, we had to stop in. Chris bought me a cute pair of socks and a stuffed alpaca for my birthday. We didn’t stop in any other stores but went down towards one of the piers to see the smaller boats. We stayed there for a bit because his parents called to wish us a happy birthday. Chris saw the small train next the ship and asked if I wanted to ride but I took a pass on that. Instead, we went back on the ship and met up with my parents for a cocktail.
Syd Norman’s outside bar was the spot we chose to meet so we could enjoy the weather. I did some writing at the bar and enjoyed an Aperol spritz. When the sustainable bar opened, we traveled across the hall to sample the drink of the day that happened to be the Croissant Mai Tai. This one is probably my favorite. It is made from the almond croissants only available in the Haven. My dad took a chance and tried one as well and liked it. While sitting at the bar, Chris and I both noticed an officer standing off to the side and recognized him. It was Made from our Gem cruise, 11 years ago! He looked the same except he has been promoted. We had a wonderful chat with him and Chris found the photos we had taken of him from a martini tasting he hosted. Before the days of the beverage package, the martini tasting was a very popular event. For twenty dollars, you would get four full size martinis, lots of entertainment, and sometimes the chance to win more! Made ran these expertly and provided knowledge as well as entertainment in the form of bar tricks and balancing glasses on his head sometimes while doing push ups. It was fun reminiscing about the old days of NCL with him. I had to return to the cabin though to get ready for our birthday dinner in Le Bistro.
Before dinner, we met at our usual corner in Shakers. There was a small rainbow visible through the window. We enjoyed all our usual cocktails this evening. Allan told us he had something for our birthday and to stop back after dinner.
For our birthday, Chris and I chose Le Bistro. Each couple used their Latitudes coupons so we were entitled to two bottles of wine this evening. I selected the Chenin Blanc and the Cabernet Sauvignon. I decided to give the escargot another try for my starter and while cooked perfectly, I still felt like there is something missing as they seem blander than in previous years. Chris tried the steak tartare and enjoyed the mustard flavor. We both had the crab salad with smoked salmon and think it is a wonderful dish. For entrees my dad had the Dover sole, Chris had the veal, and my mom and I both had the filet. The entrees were excellent. For dessert we all ordered I’l flotante except my dad, who skipped dessert. They also brought us a cake for our birthdays and Made sent a bottle of Moët for us to celebrate. It was a fantastic bottle and we didn’t leave a drop!
We headed back to Shaker’s to visit Allan. He made us the most adorable and creative gift. It was a diorama made from repurposed bar items on a coaster. It had chairs, umbrella, table, flowers, and a sign. He also made one for my mom. I will pack this very carefully and display it on our bar at home. He is an example of some of the amazing service and connections you can make onboard.
We made reservations for the 9:30 showing of Burn the Floor for tonight. Burn the Floor is a Broadway show that is a tribute to ballroom dance and how it has evolved into a sexier style than the early years. It features live music and singing as well. The dancers are top notch and many of the professionals on Dancing With the Stars have performed as cast members. As students of ballroom dance, Chris and I both enjoyed the show. We were pretty tired after the show so we walked around a little and decided to call it a night.
We love to travel and experience new places and cultures.