Once again, our on-the-move cruise Voyage Hosts Steve and Wendy Bodenheimer have packed their bags for a grand adventure.
If you’re like us it’s hard to beat the beauty of watching the colors all around you change daily and so we’re taking you along on their tour of New England and Atlantic Canada onboard Norwegian Gem.
PART 1: The Ship
Norwegian Cruise Line (hereafter NCL) is a very different cruise experience than Holland America Line, where we usually sail.
- NCL ships are bigger and glitzier.
- The crowd is younger and less sophisticated.
- There are usually lots of families with young children and a full program of kid activities to go with them.
- There are no set dinner times – eat when and where you want. In addition to the traditional dining rooms, there are specialty restaurants – a French Bistro, a steakhouse, a Japanese teppanyaki bar, a sushi bar, a Brazilian churrascaria, some Asian fusion, and an Irish pub, most requiring an extra surcharge.
- And with the younger crowd, they have things like a rock climbing wall, a big circular slide at the pool, and a 4-lane bowling alley inside a sexy late night club.
So what do we like about NCL?
- The dining alternatives are very good. We are regulars at the Sushi bar (we liked it better when there was a small flat fee to eat there – now it’s priced by the piece like a regular restaurant) and have had great meals in the French Bistro and Asian restaurants.
- The ships are relatively new and are refurbished regularly so there are very few maintenance issues as we see on older ships.
- The entertainment is FABULOUS! The production singers and dancers are exceptional and they put on excellent Broadway/Las Vegas type shows. This particular cast is far superior to any we’ve seen in recent years on Holland America. And the musicians who play in the lounges are all different and wonderful.
What we’re not as fond of?
- There are more frequent announcements over the loudspeaker systems—Bingo, art auctions, shopping seminars, raffles—all things that are listed in the programs that we personally don’t need as much reminding about.
- While prices for cruise fares are reasonable, once you get on the ship, there are more opportunities for onboard purchases. Wine packages, spa treatments, art auctions, photos, baskets of beer, watches are all things we saw being pitched.
- Without regular dinner seatings, you have different servers every day, so may not get to know them as well.
- The number of people can be overwhelming at times, especially if you are used to a smaller ship.
So the two cruise lines are different, but we like them both and always enjoy ourselves on both. As we’ve said before, we have never had a bad cruise! For us, it’s a terrific way to travel.
Part 2: The Ports
Halifax, Nova Scotia
This is one of our very favorite cities.
We like Atlantic Canada very much and if the circumstances were right, we could see ourselves living in Halifax. It’s a beautifully maintained city filled with parks, promenades, historical sites, museums, and a wide variety of neighborhoods. There is a wonderful walkway along the waterfront where you can eat and drink, catch a ferry, rent bikes, or just take in the sights across the harbor to the sister city of Dartmouth. We never get tired of walking this stretch. There are lots of shops and souvenir vendors but they are pretty low key. The double decker hop on/hop off buses are a popular way to get around the city which has its share of hills to walk.
Right in the center is Citadel Hill, a national historic site which allows you 360 degree views of the city. If you want to get out of the city, you can visit the tiny fishing village of Peggy’s Cove – another of our favorite places. The famous lighthouse with beautiful waves crashing on the rocks make for a memorable visit.
Or there is the town of Lunenburg, famous for its tall sailing ships. The ship offers excursions to all these places which takes the guesswork out of how to get there.
Stay tuned for more from Steve and Wendy!!!