Fall Cruise Adventure

A friend and I just got back from a fabulous cruise vacation! We took Royal Caribbean’s Brilliance of the Sea out of Boston harbor up through New England and Canada! It was a wonderful week! I took 425 photos, so there is no way I can do a comprehensive photo tour here on this blog! What I’ve decided to do is pick a couple favorite photos from each port and add in some photos that have a cute or interesting story behind them and that will be that! I’ll have the photos on file, so you might see some pop up from time to time in other posts that they might make sense in!

Our itinerary is as follows:

Day 1 – Depart from Boston, MA

Day 2 – Portland, Maine

Day 3 – Bar Harbor, Maine

Day 4 – Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada

Day 5 – At Sea

Day 6 – Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

Day 7 – At Sea

Day 8 – Arrive back in Boston, MA

We flew to Boston on Sunday, Nov 11th. I was pleasantly surprised at how smoothly the transfer from the airport through check in and onto the ship went! This was my fourth cruise and the previous ones seemed much more cumbersome through this process. But, we used the Royal Caribbean transportation from the airport – there were RC staff waiting for us in baggage claim and our bags were first on the carousel, so it was a very short wait until they had everyone gathered to bus us to the ship. Then, the line to check in was VERY long and snaked through the building we were in, but the people at the desk kept the line moving right along and it wasn’t too long before we were on the gangway boarding the ship! Of course, our rooms were not ready, yet, so we found the buffet lunch and wandered around some to check out the ship. Once we made it to our rooms we, unpacked and were ready to sail! The worst part of that first day (in fact, the worst part about the entire cruise) was the required muster training! We had to stand in one place for an extremely long time waiting for everyone to gather and for them to do the training (which was only a matter of minutes – after all that standing)…..so, it flared up my bad knee and I was in horrendous pain….the next day, it was still difficult to walk on it for as long as I usually can, but what I finally figured out was that it riled up the cyst that forms on the back of my knee when it is stressed too much – as soon as that went back down, I was fine for the rest of the cruise!!! WHEW…..I was glad that it straightened itself out and I didn’t have to be concerned with a bad knee beyond the first day or two!!!

Kim and Cathy on ship

This wasn’t taken that first day, but I wanted to put it here in the story, anyway……

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This was taken from the port in Portland, but it is of the ship, so it fits here……

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Deck 11 – the open pool deck – we were cruising in OCTOBER on the upper East Coast…..not sure why there was always someone in the hot tub and pool (especially when there were warmer ones in the Solarium)!

Day Two: Our first port was Portland, Maine and, as it turns out, was my favorite of the ports we visited! We didn’t purchase an excursion package for this port. We just wanted to wander around and eat lobster! Hahaha! So, we took our time getting a good breakfast and then went ashore. As we were standing at the end of the cruise ship pier trying to decide which way to go, one of the guys on a Pedicab (a bicycle pulling a two seat cart) asked if we wanted a ride somewhere – his name was Ivan and he was a cutie – wish I had taken a photo of him! We thought, what the heck, and he took us up the steep hill through the main streets where we’d find most of the good stuff and told us all about the area! He dropped us off and we strolled back down towards the pier, looking around and snapping photos as we walked. We ate at the restaurant he recommended – he said it was his favorite place for lobster and it had a nice outdoor seating area – The Portland Lobster Company! GOOD CHOICE!!! We both got the whole lobster dinner and a shrimp cocktail and it was fantastic!!! We also wandered around the docks and piers to see if we might be lucky enough to catch a fishing boat come in with a load of lobster traps and fish……but, no such luck! The weather on the day we were in Portland was PERFECT! A light sweater or jacket was needed, but it was very sunny and perfect temperature for walking – we couldn’t have asked for a more incredible day….we thoroughly enjoyed every bit of it and had a lot of fun!!!

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I do love lobster!!!

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One of my favorite photos in Portland – the back of a fish market where the fishing boats unload their daily catch!

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Down this street, we went into a working fish market and a shop called “Sea Bags” that hand makes tote bags and other items out of recycled sails right there on site!

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Just one of the main streets in Portland…..it was a bustling city, but didn’t seem at all crowded!

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I was standing on a corner and looked down to see this — got a chuckle out of it, so took a pic!

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This was very sobering…..an actual piece of the Berlin Wall!

Day Three: Our next port was Bar Harbor, Maine! This was the port I was looking forward to the most! The excursion package we purchased was a harbor cruise to look at all the lighthouses and other attractions that can be seen from the water! I was so excited……and, then, we got there! When we got up, it was so very foggy out the window in our room! Like, pea soup foggy!!! We got ready and went to get breakfast and the announcements began! You see, Bar Harbor is a tendering port – the cruise ships can’t get close enough to dock, so tender boats (actually the life boats on the ship) carry those who wish to go ashore from the ship to the docks……tender boats can’t operate in thick fog! And it WAS thick…..zero visibility and no evidence of it lifting any time soon! So, the captain said they would monitor the situation and make a decision by 9:00……that decision came just after 9:00 and it wasn’t what we wanted to hear! The fog was getting worse and expected to continue for some time longer – no chance we could tender ashore before it was too late to have any time for excursions or any other options ashore! So, they raised the anchors and we moved on with an unplanned day at sea!!! BOO HOO!!!! But…..you can’t control the weather, so we said good bye to Bar Harbor and made the best of the day at sea! I can honestly say I was in Bar Harbor – I have no idea what it looks like cause I couldn’t see through the fog, but I was there!!! LOL In hindsight, I wish I had taken a tour in Portland that included lighthouses, because missing out on the one in Bar Harbor resulted in my not seeing a single lighthouse up close the entire trip — how can you go to the coast of New England and not see a single lighthouse??? I didn’t let it ruin the rest of the trip, but it was a disappointment and if we had done an excursion in Portland, we would have missed some of the cool things we saw just wandering around……everything is a trade-off and I’m happy with the trip over all, so no harm done! I did get a couple good photos in Bar Harbor, though….so, all was not totally lost! 🙂

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This was taken from the window in our room – it is the lighthouse tour boat we were scheduled to go on anchored near our ship in the fog!

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I think this was taken looking out toward the coast of Bar Harbor…..but, I don’t have any evidence of that…..in fact, you could tell me that the Loch Ness Monster was out there and I wouldn’t be able to argue the point with you!!! LOL

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As we were pulling away from Bar Harbor, we stood and watched the tender boats being put back in place – they were out and lowered deck level and ready to take us ashore, so had to be raised back in place – that was cool to watch!

Day Four: We had much better luck in Saint John, New Brunswick after a day at sea! It was another perfect weather day – they had predicted mostly cloudy with a chance of rain showers, but it was very similar to the day we had in Portland, only not quite as sunny. I really liked Saint John – rich in history and wonderful architecture!

We chose to do the “hop on, hop off” bus tour – I usually really like to do these tours when I visit a city I’ve never been to (and even in cities I’ve visited before and just want to ride around and hop off for special attractions)! These buses were special……Gray Line operated the traditional English double docker tour buses, but most were painted bright, “Pepto-Bismol Pink” in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness – a portion of every ticket is donated to the breast cancer research, regardless of the color of the bus (a few weren’t painted pink). The way I (and my friend) like to do these tours is to ride the full route around once, making note of the stops with points of interest worth spending more time to see, and then stay on to go around again to hop off at the spots identified the first time around. Unfortunately, that didn’t really work to our advantage this time – first of all, we weren’t thinking about the time constraint when doing it as a shore excursion on a cruise (we had to be back on the ship by 5:00) and the map that the was given out only mentioned the one main attraction at each stop, so we ended up wasting time waiting for the bus when we could have seen things within walking distance that we didn’t realize were right there! So…..we decided to just stay on the bus and get our photos and info from the bus and it turned out just fine! If we had realized that in the beginning, we wouldn’t have wasted so much time, but that’s OK – it still gave us a good overview of the area and we learned a lot about the history……and, although it was sometimes challenging to get good photos from a moving bus, I actually got some great shots!!!

The big news about Saint John was there there were (I think they said) FOUR cruise ships in port at the same time, which meant there were something like 10,000 tourists in the little city all doing the tours and trying to get into the stores and restaurants at the same time! Even so, I did not think it was all that crowded – it didn’t seem like that many people! But, I’m sure it lead to the longer than usual wait times for the next bus and the traffic that slowed things down somewhat!

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I got a kick out of this sculpture – it was called “People Waiting”! It is a cool place for a photo op for tourists and fun to look at!

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This English Bobby was outside a Police Museum – he posed for me, but cautioned that it might break my camera – it didn’t! 🙂

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I loved this 1965 Volkswagen Beetle police cruiser – still operational and one of just a few still in use for special occasions.

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This theater was breathtaking!!! Fully restored and maintained beautifully! I took several photos, but none do it justice!

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This bandstand commemorating Queen Elizabeth was interesting – there is a fountain under it and the bands have to carry their instruments up to the upper level and play up there!

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This is my favorite statue of the entire trip — it was amazing! It is a memorial to those who have died in the various wars and has a cloaked man with a sword at the base and an spectacular angel reaching up to the heavens at the top! It was massive and very tall – quite humbling!

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Thought I was kidding about the “Pepto-Bismol Pink”? Here’s the proof!

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We didn’t see a TON of autumn colors during the trip – we found that odd, but here is some around Lake Lily that were pretty amazing!

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This park had a big circle with lots of wood carved statues of important people and wild life from the area – it was pretty cool!

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Looking back at Saint John from the deck of the ship

Day Five was an At Sea day, so I’ll fill in this spot with photos I took around the ship. The Brilliance of the Sea was huge and very beautiful! We enjoyed days when we could get out and sit on the deck and the buffets were amazing! We also really enjoyed sitting in the Centrum after dinner listening to music and watching people dance. The entertainment was quite good – we went to evening shows that included a comedian, a singing impersonator, and a performance of songs and dances from a variety of Broadway shows. There were also daily musical performances in the Centrum. We caught three of the daily movies while we were on ship – all were very good! But, mostly, we just relaxed, enjoyed the ride, and did a lot of “people watching”!

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The Centrum (center of the ship) looking up from Deck 4 (bottom) – each deck had seating areas around the Centrum

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The Centrum looking down from Deck 11 (top)

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Just one of the daily musical acts in the Centrum – this one was big band sounds and really got people up and dancing!!! They were very good, as was most of the musical acts we caught before and after dinner almost every evening!

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This little guy put a huge smile on my face – it was the first “formal” night and he was taking a photo of his parents in the Centrum — he looks like a real professional photographer in his suit and crouching down to get the best angle for the shot!

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This is the Solarium – an enclosed pool and hot tub area with a fruit/salad buffet and snack bar – it was always tropical and warm in there!

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The hallway along the specialty restaurants and lounges – very elegant all through this area

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The pool tables were equipped with a device that kept them level regardless of how the ship may be pitching! It was cool, but almost dizzying, to watch them float around on their bases!

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The casino — I love playing slot machines, so I went in there one day with about $25.00 – after the first $2.00, I was up $48.00!!! I printed out that voucher to not lose track of the winnings and kept playing (and losing) the rest of my initial $25.00!!! Then, I just HAD to try to win more (even though I was technically up $23.00) and loaded the voucher in a different slot machine……and left empty handed!!! But……I had fun – I played quite a while on winnings and, in the end, only lost $25 of my own money, so I was happy!

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The theater where the live shows were performed — it took up three decks for the stadium seating!

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Me – enjoying a beautiful, sunny day on deck!

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And, really getting into this “relaxation” thing with the sun on my face!

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My friend enjoying a cup of coffee and some sunshine and fresh air on deck!

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Unfortunately, we missed the sunset most nights because it was either not a pleasant night to be out on deck or it happened while we were having dinner or something……but, I did manage to snap this shot just before the sunset ended one night!

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I love this shot — I ran out one night just as we were leaving port (I think it was in Halifax) to get a shot of the lights in the skyline! It was cloudy and raining and dark, so my shutter stayed open longer than usual and I, obviously, didn’t hold the camera steady enough, so it blurred……but, look how cool it looks!!!!

Day Six – Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada was the last port of call in the trip! The weather, again, was quite pleasant for this time of year, despite the predictions of rain! We chose the Big Pink Bus “hop on, hop off” tour, again for this port. The history in this port was fascinating…..especially the story about the massive explosion that destroyed most of the city and killed thousands! The architecture was less ornate, in most cases, than some of the other places of their era, but it was still an impressive port. Our favorite spot was the Public Garden designed to commemorate Queen Elizabeth – it was absolutely stunning and so very peaceful! They had a Dahlia exhibit that was so beautiful – I was amazed by how many different varieties and colors of Dahlias there are!

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This is the Queen Elizabeth bandstand in the Public Garden – so beautiful!

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There were bed after bed after bed of gorgeous flowers!

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One of the more unusual Dahlias in the exhibit

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And one more stunning example!

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One of the rows of Dahlias in the exhibit

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A row of historic buildings

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I couldn’t get the whole building in the shot from the bus window, but still wanted to share this breathtaking church!

Day Seven – Another day At Sea……I’ll take this opportunity to share some of the photos I took of the amazing food we ate…..and ate……and ate……and ate!!! Hahaha

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The desserts were to die for…….this one is a chocolate souffle with Bailey’s espresso sauce 

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We ate at one of the specialty restaurants on ship one night – Chops Grille – and it was amazing!!! My dinner was the braised short ribs – OMG – I’ll never eat another short rib, again, cause there is no way it will compare to this!!! I could have eaten it with a cheap plastic fork and no teeth……and the flavor was incredible!!!

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We both went for the delicious chilled soups every night…..so good!!!

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Other appetizer choices included this amazing jicama and seafood salad loaded with shrimp, crab, and lobster!

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Succulent lobster wasn’t limited to in port eating – it was served up for dinner on ship one night, too!

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Then, there was the buffets……a huge room full of them with everything and anything you could possibly want to eat!!!

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And, the amazing food wasn’t limited to that available to eat – it was also part of the decoration – these were made with pineapples, carrots, squash, and turnips!!! Imagine that!

Day Eight: We pulled into the home port – Boston – on Sunday, Oct 18th! Again, I was so very impressed at how quickly and smoothly we got through the deboarding, claiming our luggage, and clearing customs process! WOW – so much better than I remember on past cruises!

Neither of us had ever been to Boston, so we considered extending our trip to see some of the sights there…..but, then we discovered there was a shore excursion that picked us up at the ship, took us around the city, and dropped us off at the airport! So, we did that! I’m glad we did – I did enjoy seeing some of the places I’ve heard about in history lessons. But, I was very disappointed in Boston as a whole! It has outgrown its space and continues to grow, but not in a good way…….they continue to tear down existing buildings and put up these massive glass skyscrapers full of condos they sell for millions of dollars! These buildings over shadow the historic buildings and, in some cases, take them over! It is so very sad……I like to see growth and progress in a city – you have to have it to keep up with the times and stay alive…….but, this is just too much! But, even though I found the changes they are going through to be sad and I’ll likely never plan a visit to Boston to further explore it, I am glad we did the tour and enjoyed quite a bit of it!

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The World Trade Center of Boston

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One end of the “big dig” that has taken many years to complete (and parts are still not complete) – this is a multi-lane bridge and the cars go underground as they pass under the bridge our bus was driving across – impressive!

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Downtown Boston

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The very first subway station in North America!

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One of many lovely historic churches

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Beautiful old architecture

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A perfect example of what I think is wrong with what they are doing to the city – here is this amazing church – a beautiful piece of history…..and then right behind it, taking all the attention away from it, is a tall sterile glass building! How sad!!!

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And, then, there are buildings like this……

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……and this, thrown into the mix…..it appears to be a city that doesn’t know what style it wants to be when it grows up!!!

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And then, there’s this……they couldn’t tear down the facade because of its historical significance, so they kept the outside and built a glass skyscraper in the middle of it and up through the roof!!! What??? Seriously???

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But, then you see this……the world’s first public library……not just the first in the US or even North America…..the first in the WORLD!!! How incredible is that???

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And this stunning church beside the library!!! Took my breath away!!!

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When we got out to photograph the library and church, I couldn’t help but be fascinated with these two people on the ground with bags and a large number of pigeons gathered around them!

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And another gorgeous church across from the library!

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I have no idea why this sheep sculpture is out in the water – don’t think they said what it was for – but I thought it was cool, so I’m adding it to my blog!!! Hahaha

So, that was our trip……it was incredible and we had so much fun!!! Next cruise I’m hoping to start planning is a land and sea one to Alaska on Holland America…..one I’ve wanted to do for about 40 years and maybe now I’ll get to go….but, not until sometime in the summer!!!

I’ll leave you with one more photo……and example of the towel animals we found on our beds at night – this one was my favorite!!!

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