Thursday, July 12, 2007

A long weekend's cruise to Atlantic Canada

I recently returned from a voyage aboard the Carnival Victory from New York City to Saint John, New Brunswick, and back.

The 2,750-passenger-capacity ship sailed past the Statue of Liberty on its way out of New York Harbor just after 6 p.m. on a Thursday evening in late June. After spending all day Friday at sea, we docked in Saint John at 8 a.m. Saturday, where we stayed until 6 p.m. that day. We then spent Saturday evening and all day Sunday sailing back to New York City, arriving back in the Big Apple by 8 a.m. Monday. Some area residents were back in their offices that morning (ouch!).

Yet in one long weekend, those of us aboard the Victory had time to spend nearly ten hours in a historic, scenic city and region of Canada, highlighted by Saint John's Bay of Fundy, site of the world's highest tides. Back on board, we could watch whales migrating in the Atlantic from the comfort of our deck chairs, eat a dozen meals and (in perhaps too many cases) copious snacks in between, take in various stage entertainments, swim in pools and soak in hot tubs, stretch out in the sun with a book, and enjoy any number of other ways to amuse ourselves.

The ship was loaded with families and kids from tot to teenage, many taking advantage of the offerings of Camp Carnival, the complimentary supervised children's activity program. Among the passengers were big family reunion groups, a contingent of women in purple T-shirts proclaiming their "Wild Women Cruise", a large number of passengers from various Asian countries, plenty of married couples both young and old -- a real cross-section of travelers. And most of them seemed to be having a great time.

All this for prices starting at $429 per passenger. Of course, you can spend considerably more if you opt for balcony staterooms and lengthy shore excursions, buy a lot of drinks and photos,linger in the casino, purchase art at the shipboard auctions, and splurge on pricey spa treatments.

But those are optional expenses. Except for staff tips, which Carnival automatically adds to your bill, you could go the entire voyage without racking up any additional expenses at all. Carnival is operating four more such cruises through August 2007, and six more in the summer of 2008.

Carnival Cruise Lines is currently setting the pace in the shorter cruising trend, deploying nearly half its fleet on cruises of five days or less during 2007, with 32 different itineraries leaving from a dozen domestic departure points.

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