Carnival Cruise: Floating with fog and food

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North America » United States
August 2nd 2009
Published: August 26th 2009
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Well, we’re taking our first cruise. It is day two of our trip as I write this, described on our itinerary as a “fun day at sea.” We are far off the coast of Massachusetts. A thick fog has developed on this afternoon, veiling the ocean horizon and bringing chilly winds. The ship, by law, has been regularly sounding the horn to warn any other ships (though their radar and radio are probably of better help). And this is all fine by me. Kristen and I are laying on deck chairs on an upper level deck, which except for a few warmly wrapped passengers is free from the noise of constant music and raucous families. Kristen is reading a book as I type away, smelling the salty breeze and enjoying a vacation from the sun.

I was not entirely comfortable with booking our trip at first. We are not resort people, preferring instead to be immersed in culture and history when we travel. So the idea of traveling on what is essentially a floating resort has never been truly enticing. However, my wife began expressing an interest in trying it, and I can’t deny a curiosity on my part, and so I began looking for an affordable, short cruise to surprise her with on Christmas. I found one in the Carnival Cruise line, whose itinerary for their ship “Triumph” included a departure and return from NYC harbor (a convenient train ride for us) and visits to the Canadian port cities of Saint John, New Brunswick and Halifax, Nova Scotia. The latter is a place I had always wanted to visit, and so my mind was set (had we been able to be more flexible in our dates, I would have gladly booked a cruise that offered Newfoundland and Quebec as well). My wife was certainly happy with the gift, though I know she would have preferred a cruise to more tropical climates, but we thought of this trip as a test run into the world of cruising.

Nine months later our embarkation date finally arrived. We boarded the train to Grand Central, luggage in tow, and from that old terminal took a taxi through the congestion of Saturday at the theater district, to the pier. Unfortunately, our taxi dropped us off one pier too far, misreading the parking signs, and so we trekked the last bit on foot. Fortunately, the skies were blue (for New York City, at least) and the day beautiful.

I had done some research on cruising, including asking the experiences of cruising friends, and of course seeing the never-ending specials that the Travel Channel shows, yet we still did not feel that we knew what to expect once we were on the boat. Indeed, some aspects of the ship itself were impressive, such as the art-deco designs and the general grandness of certain rooms. When in some parts it is easy to forget you are on a ship, with marble floors and high ceilings, until you feel the structure rock slightly one way or the other. Once the ship pulled out from the harbor, passing downtown Manhattan, the Statue of Liberty, and Ellis Island, and entered open waters, the rocking became more prominent. At first this gave a comically drunken feeling, especially when going down stairs, but soon our bodies adjusted and neither of us has gotten motion sickness (of which we were fearful, as my wife is highly susceptible).

Other aspects of cruising were difficult to adjust to as well, though perhaps not for other people. We were overwhelmed by the amount of food that can be found on board, and it took us a while to learn to walk away from our mess and resist the urge take our trays to a garbage can (there aren’t any). The food is, surprisingly, of a good quality. Mainly, as two people who generally feel more like travelers than tourists, some of this constant entertainment and being waited upon has been fun, I’ll admit, but it can grow tiresome after a short while. The entertainment itself sometimes lives up to its name, such as a veteran stand up comic, while others are very much directed at the family crowd (such as trivia with the “Fun Patrol”). This was not entirely unexpected, of course. The Carnival Cruise line is mostly populated by first-time cruisers and families. It is often cheaper than the competition, and labels itself as the “Fun Cruise,” and so can lack some of the sophistication that may characterize other cruises. We have spent much of the time sampling food, exploring the floors of the ship, and taking an afternoon nap. While this has all been fun, I am eager to stretch my legs and explore Saint John tomorrow.

Happily our “stateroom,” as the cruise calls it, was of a good size - smaller than a hotel room, though not much so by some European standards. Last night’s dinner was pleasant, as the food was quality and we were fortunately paired with a young couple from South Carolina, Michael and Kimberly. As dinner partners, we have been properly matched, as we shared lively and interesting travel stories.

However, one disappointment with the ship has been the pools, which are fed by ocean water. Not being a fan of the feel of salt water, we have thus far forgone a swim. Additionally, the pools and many activities are closed after dark, and so night owls are left, essentially, with dance clubs that have disco hours. We’d rather sleep.

Tonight, Kristen and I plan to skip the nightly stage show and instead watch the film “Eagle Eye” on the fog-laden deck. We are hoping for a thin crowd and some unique atmosphere.

Cruising tips thus far:
The cruise will supply you with an adequate amount of shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, and towels, so feel free to lighten your luggage and leave those things at home.


Tot: 2.288s; Tpl: 0.016s; cc: 12; qc: 52; dbt: 0.0121s; 1; m:saturn w:www (; sld: 1; ; mem: 1.4mb