A Cruise to Nova Scotia
A week or so ago I wrote an email…tongue in cheek…that
Lila and I were taking a freighter trip up to Canada with the boys.
I was really teasing, because Lila and I had booked our trip on a
large cruise ship with all the trimmings.
We anticipated a very special trip with great food and a large
stateroom with a balcony. The ship was the Carnival Destiny leaving from New York
City …a rather large ship with about 2,500 passengers plus maybe 1,100
crew…. certainly a lot of people. Our
travels would take us to St John, New Brunswick and Halifax, Nova
We did spend just a few days in New York City with the boys
to show them the Big Apple and play tourist in the city where I grew up.
Unfortunately, with so little time and having the boys, it
prevented us from spending any quality time with family and/or friends
that live in or around the city.
Our mode of transportation from Washington to New York was via
Amtrak and we were blessed with great weather for the time we were
visiting the tourist sites. The
boys were thrilled from the start…the first evening in town we went
the Empire State Building to watch the late afternoon sun depart and
dusk descend over the city. And
the boys wanted to know when we are going back to the hotel.
Kevin, Jan and I hiked back from The Empire State Building to our
hotel (39th Street to 63rd Street) that night
right through Times Square…it was a great walk.
Early the next day we headed off to the NBC Studio tour where
we had an opportunity to learn about the history of NBC and visited some
of the sets for various talk shows, like Saturday Night Live and
Dateline. And the
boys were thrilled again, they wanted to know when we are going back to
the hotel. After lunch we headed into Central Park for a while and that
evening went to Astoria in Queens for dinner at an authentic Greek
restaurant with my niece, Shari. Great
time and lovely evening, with an opportunity to use the local subway
trains in the city…it has been a long time …many years ago I used
the trains to commute to school.
Early the next day we headed off to Statute of
Liberty…train down to Battery Park…boat to the island and then
walked around the statue, really getting a true sense of its size and
magnificence. Need I
tell you that we were not alone? It
seems that there were many people that wanted to be with us when we
visited the Statute of Liberty, so while we did not have to wait very
long for the boat, there were many “friends” on board with us.
And the boys were thrilled again; they wanted to know when we are
going back to the hotel. Could
never understand their infatuation with the hotel…maybe it was
something in the water.
After returning to Battery Park (the southern tip of
Manhattan Island, where the Hudson River meets the East River), we took
a bus to Seaport Village. It
was crowded there, but the place was jumping.
Performers in the central area and all the shops around were
packed with people trying to spend money.
Since we had little money to spend, we stayed for a while and
then headed off into the small streets in lower Manhattan.
An interesting phenomenon was the ever-present sidewalk vendor
selling T-shirts (with “I love New York” imprinted in bright red
colors) among other items of little interest.
We started seeing T-shirts selling for as much as $7.00 each near
Central Park where we were staying, but then passed some vendors where
they were priced at $5.00 each.
Even latter we passed a vendor selling T-shirts with a three for
$10.00 sign. At the Statue
of Liberty it was back up to $5.00 each.
Why am I telling you this bit of inconsequential information
…I am not sure? Oh
yes; now I remember…it brought out the bargaining instinct that is
bred in us New Yorkers. Since
I had been away for so long it took about ninety minutes to resurface. So, when we left the Statue of Liberty, I tried to get three
T-shirts for ten dollars…I was certainly not going to pay $5.00 each.
But then there we were walking away from the Seaport Village along
Fulton Street and my eye struck this sign offering four T-shirts for
$10.00. Now this was a real
find…of major proportion. This
was a real bargain…imagine $2.50 a T-shirt.
I hasten to add that a New Yorker would not get caught dead
wearing such a T-shirt…these were for the tourists, but what the hell,
that was what I was just then. Anyway,
we consummated our purchase, happy in the realization that we purchased
a bargain. Now that I have
the shirts home…well, does anyone want to purchase some T-shirts real
And the boys were thrilled yet once again; they wanted
to know when we are going back to the hotel.
So we headed back to the hotel to get ready for dinner, a good
night’s rest and the anticipation that tomorrow we will board our ship
for the journey north to Canada. On
Monday we headed to the passenger terminal just about a mile from the
hotel and there was this big beautiful ship waiting to take us to some
faraway places. And
was it ever big, for inside the terminal we caught the first glimpse of
the thousands of people that we would be alone with for the next five
days. Imagine going
away with all the people from a small town in Iowa, except there you
would probably know most of the people or you would want to know most of
So we finally make it onto the ship…now we can relax,
enjoy our large cabin, and walk out onto the balcony and look at the New
York skyline. Oops,
Lila is calling me -- we need to unpack...get more hangers, where are we
going to put the empty suitcases, need to have the bed set up as a queen
double, who will use the lower draws…oh well, these are easy problems
to take care of. Lets
go for lunch on the Lido deck…well, there are just a few hundred
people in line ahead of me. No
problem, we’ll wait, but the people are coming faster than the line is
shrinking. And can these
people eat…it was like horses at a trough.
The plates were not big enough and their appetites not small
When we finally got to the buffet, we wondered what the
excitement was, for it seemed that in their haste to feed us the
ship’s kitchen staff left something out of the food…taste. But at dinner we found that this was not the problem,
for there was no taste in that food either.
Well, it was the first day and while our daughter was traveling
with the boys and Lila and I, we were seated at separate tables.
No problem, we could have stopped by each other’s table during
the meal if we had something important to say to each other. But with a little coaxing they did put us together at one
This ship was pretty neat…it had a twenty-four hour
pizza place (Greg and Kevin loved this facet of this big and beautiful
ship). Who gets up and eats
pizza at 3:00am…I guess it must have been all those people that tried
to eat at the buffet during the day and never did make it.
And there was the place that offered up chicken and steak
sandwiches as well as hot dogs most of the day…again there was always
people waiting in line there also.
I guess all those people in the little town of Iowa are always
hungry. I was beginning to
feel like I could just not get away from all these crowds…they were
everywhere. The ship had an
atrium or Centrum that extended up about nine or ten decks and it was
always full of people. There
where shops in this atrium and they would put tables outside in the
walkways “hawking” their goodies…wanted to make the people feel at
This is the first ship that I was on that seemed to
focus on taking photographs of the guests.
There were twelve photographers and they would be
everywhere…even had showgirls ready to take pictures with the
guests…. Greg and Kevin took them up on that offer.
Asked the boys if they wanted the picture…they said no, they
already enjoyed themselves. With
the smile on their faces I could understand why.
It seemed that everything this cruise company does is focused on
making money...not to make you feel good about the trip…just to sell.
By the way, Carnival is in fact doing very well…and buying up
many of the other cruise companies.
So I guess it was working for them…it just was not working for
Meals in the dining room was almost good, except that
the waiter had to make notes when taking the order and then referring
regularly to these notes when bringing the correct dish to the table.
Now, since he was taking care of multiple tables, he would bring
all the meals out to the serving area and then delivering them
correspondingly as he took them from his tray.
It would have been a special day if we at our table received all
our dishes at the same time. But wandering Juan, our waiter was a nice guy.
Sometimes I would see Juan wandering with one of our meals and I
would rein him in so we could all eat.
The most amazing part of this trip was the uniformed
security guards…never experienced that before. They seemed to focus in on the children being in the
Jacuzzi pools…chasing out those that were 13 years of age or younger.
(There was a sign with that policy statement located at each
Jacuzzi.) The problem was that the water in the three pools was quite
cold and children being children readily migrated to the warmer water,
even though this water was not very hot to begin with.
So regularly, these guards would force the kids to get out of the
Jacuzzi, even if the parents were with the children.
When they would come to Greg and Kevin, I told the “Pool
Police” that they were my children and they are staying in the
Jacuzzi. We would go back
and forth many times with the “pool Police” telling me that the boys
would have to leave the Jacuzzi, and then with me telling the Pool
Police that they will stay. Then,
the Security Guards pulled out the big guns…their notepad…the Pool
Police asked me my stateroom number, my name, etc.
At this point I told them to back off and that I do not provide
this type of information and if they do not like my action to put me off
at the next port. Well,
I never heard from them again, but the people around the pool applauded
and one child asked if I could be her father.
Now is Carnival Destiny not a “FUN” ship? …How can
anyone argue with that fact?
While my morbid sense of values seem to belabor the negative, let
me tell you about the positives.
Wait…let me think…hold on, I am thinking…. Oh yes, I
remember now…first of all the port stops in St John, New Brunswick and
Halifax, Nova Scotia were just perfect.
I am rather biased because I think the Canadians are wonderful
people and wherever we travel in Canada we have always had a fantastic
time. With that said, I
believe everyone would enjoy visiting these cities with the historic
sites, picturesque scenery and great food.
In addition the ship had an impressive gym which I used a
number of times. Excellent
machines and the views were great…not the women…the ocean.
Also on the upper deck was a water slide used by all the children
that takes you down two decks into a pool.
After I got up enough nerve to deal with the cool air and the
cool water, I took my first run, had an exciting experience and just
continued to ride the slide. Had
to keep pushing the kids on line out of my way, they just kept slowing
me down. It was really a
kick especially when I hit the bottom pool, and I also made a lot of
friends too. But Lila did
not want me to hang out with the six and seven year olds.
I guess the most fun that we experienced on the Carnival
Destiny was when we were leaving the ship ….all 2,500 of us…. at
once. There was no
organization or order imposed on the process of our disembarking the
ship. Getting an
elevator to take our luggage down, the endless lines to reach the
gangway and the crowds at every turn were just unwarranted and
unnecessary. Where was the
“Pool Police” when you need them?
So what does all this tell you…. do not travel with
Carnival Cruise Lines. The
prices may be attractive, but the reality is not.
The staff is certainly not motivated to provide customer
satisfaction and the quality of service and food should be below almost
anyone’s expectation. Now
with that expressed, we really did have a great time, because we did
look beyond the problems and enjoyed the nice places and our time