Cruising Canada and New England
Discover the scenic shores, charming seaside towns and captivating history of these regions
By Justin Boyd
A cruise offers one of the best ways to experience these two scenic regions. Because of their proximity, it is possible to explore both on a single itinerary. These sailings usually begin in a major metropolitan city like Montreal, New York or Boston. They call at a variety of interesting ports, such as Halifax and Charlottetown in Canada's Maritime Provinces, and quintessential New England destinations such as Portland, ME, and Martha's Vineyard, MA.
The cruising season for eastern Canada and New England is relatively short, beginning mid-May when the weather turns warm and extending through October. Fall is the most popular time to visit, when the region's fiery fall foliage is in full effect and red and gold hues adorn much of the countryside.
"These itineraries appeal to people who want to see the turning of the leaves and the historic ports," says Bruce Godwin, a travel counselor who specializes in cruises for national travel discounter Vacations To Go.
Godwin says eastern Canada and New England are desirable destinations for summer family vacations because of their intriguing histories and comfortable climates.
"People try to beat the heat where they live and go where it's cooler," he says. "It's often cooler in these areas than in a place like the Caribbean."
Itineraries typically range from four to 14 days; however, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean International and Norwegian Cruise Line mostly offer trips that are seven days or more. Below are three types of sailings that offer broad appeal.
Short, round-trip getaways of four or five days are popular for families that live on the East Coast and have limited vacation time. Carnival Cruise Lines offers a five-day trip from New York City to the Canadian provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia aboard its 3,427-passenger Carnival Victory. It was priced from as low as $439 per person at press time at www.VacationsToGo.com -- a 58 percent savings off the brochure price. Departures take place from June 14 through Sept. 1.
Those who want to see as much of this cruising region as they can in a week's worth of vacation time can opt for a one-way sailing aboard Holland America's 1,266-passenger Maasdam from Boston to Montreal. These seven-day voyages head north to Bar Harbor in Maine and Halifax and Sydney in Nova Scotia before entering the Gulf of St. Lawrence to call at Charlottetown on bucolic Prince Edward Island. Then, the ship traverses the St. Lawrence River, sailing west to French-flavored Quebec City before wrapping up the cruise at Montreal. The itinerary also is available in the reverse direction. At press time, Vacations To Go discounted this cruise by as much as 65 percent, with starting rates at $699 per person. The itinerary is available from May 17 through September 27, with departures alternating between Boston and Montreal.
Retirees and others with ample time to travel can look for voyages that span eight to 14 days. Royal Caribbean's 3,835-passenger Explorer of the Seas offers a nine-day round-trip cruise from Bayonne, NJ, that includes a sailing of the Saguenay River, a major tributary in Quebec. It also calls at four eastern Canadian ports. These itineraries are offered from Aug. 28 through Oct. 9, and Vacations To Go's prices started at $909 per person at press time.
Because there is a limited number of ships cruising this region as well as a short sailing season, Godwin advises booking a trip at least nine months in advance, especially if you want to reserve a specific ship or cabin category.
Here's a look at some of the ports that you can explore while cruising eastern Canada and New England.
Canada's second largest city behind Toronto, Montreal is a cosmopolitan metropolis chock-full of culture, beauty and history. The French-influenced city boasts some of the world's most stunning architecture, including the Marie-Reine-du-Monde Cathedral, Notre-Dame Basilica and the Old Sulpician Seminary, the oldest standing building in Montreal.
Olympic Park, site of the 1976 Summer Olympic Games, and the Botanical Gardens, which contains 22,000 plant species, are among the city's other attractions. For a panoramic view of Montreal and the neighboring St. Lawrence River, venture to the summit of Mount Royal, just north of downtown.
For a list of cruises that visit or depart from Montreal, click here.
Founded in 1608, Quebec City is one of the oldest cities in North America. Cobblestone streets, stone houses and quaint cafes and boutiques give this provincial capital a distinct French feel. Grab your camera and point it toward the Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac -- the famed hotel dominates the city's skyline and is one of the most photographed attractions in Quebec. Next to the grand hotel rests Dufferin Terrace, a grand promenade that offers breathtaking views of the St. Lawrence River. Other must-see attractions include Petit Champlain, the oldest street in North America, and Montmorency Falls.
Click here to see a list of cruises that visit or depart from Quebec City.
The capital of the province of Nova Scotia, Halifax is a lively seafaring town replete with museums and historic sites. Most sightseeing excursions visit the 150-year-old Citadel National Historic Park and the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, which houses an impressive Titanic exhibit. Tourists often venture to the nearby rural community of Peggy's Cove to see the classic Peggy's Point Lighthouse. Halifax also is a haven for recreational activities such as kayaking, fishing, rock climbing and golf.
To see a list of cruises that visit Halifax, click here.
Known as the Steel City, Sydney is a rare urban community in Nova Scotia. Located on Cape Breton Island, it is close to numerous area attractions, including the Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Park and the Cabot Trail, a beautiful scenic drive that winds along Cape Breton's rocky northern shore. Fiddle music is a significant part of the island's heritage, and you'll find the world's largest fiddle on Sydney's waterfront.
For a list of cruises that visit Sydney, click here.
Saint John is set in the southern portion of the province of New Brunswick, where the St. John River meets the Bay of Fundy. Visitors come here to witness the reversing falls, a natural phenomenon caused by the rise and fall of the tides in the Bay of Fundy. The port also has commercial attractions like Old City Market and Market Square, and historical sites like the New Brunswick Museum, the oldest continuously operating museum in Canada. Outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy Rockwood Park, which has a zoo, golf course, freshwater lakes and hiking trails.
Click here to view a list of cruises that visit Saint John.
Another popular port is artsy Prince Edward Island, the smallest province in Canada. P.E.I. served as the setting for Lucy Maud Montgomery's famous novel, "Anne of Green Gables." Tourists can explore the Green Gables home that the author visited as a child and served as inspiration for her book. The art gallery at the Confederation Centre of the Arts in the provincial capital city of Charlottetown is also worth checking out.
Click here to see a list of cruises that visit Prince Edward Island.
The largest city in Maine, Portland is the cultural, social and economic hub of the state. The city boasts an active arts district filled with galleries and museums, a historic area that features cobblestone streets and 19th-century brick buildings, and a working waterfront that is the second largest oil port on the East Coast and the second largest fishing port in New England.
For a list of cruises that visit Portland, click here.
The gateway to Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor is situated along Maine's rugged coast on Mount Desert Island. The park's sand and stone beaches, evergreen forests and granite cliffs create some of the country's most stunning scenery. Visitors often cruise Frenchman Bay or enjoy activities such as whale-watching, hiking, biking and kayaking. The town also boasts a variety of shops, museums and art galleries.
Click here to see a list of cruises that visit Bar Harbor.
Founded in 1630, Boston is the pinnacle of American history. The best way to explore Beantown is on foot, following the three-mile Freedom Trail. The Old North Church, the Paul Revere House, Faneuil Hall Marketplace and the USS Constitution, the oldest commissioned warship in the U.S. Navy, are among the 16 historic sites located along the pedestrian route.
Boston and neighboring Cambridge are home to some of the nation's premier educational institutions, such as Harvard University, whose leafy campus makes for a pleasant stroll. The city has some of the country's most prominent museums, too, including the Museum of Fine Arts.
Click here for a list of cruises that visit or depart from Boston.
A haven for boating and yachting, Newport, RI, is perhaps best known as the summer resort of some of the Industrial Revolution's most famous tycoons. Wealthy families such as the Vanderbilts and Astors built palatial summer cottages here. Many of the mansions are open to the public for touring, including The Breakers, a 70-room Northern Italian palazzo, and The Elms, which was modeled after an 18th-century French chateau.
To see a list of cruises that visit Newport, click here.
Sandy beaches and picturesque lighthouses dot the landscape of Martha's Vineyard, an island located just south of Cape Cod in Massachusetts. It's not a common port of call for cruise ships, but the 1,966-passenger Norwegian Spirit will stop at Martha's Vineyard on six-day itineraries this fall.
Long favored by Northeasterners as a summer vacation spot, Martha's Vineyard has six enchanting towns that offer a variety of attractions. Edgartown, the largest of the beachfront communities, is home to stately, white Greek Revival homes built by whaling captains in the 1800s. Brightly painted Victorian gingerbread cottages adorn Oak Bluffs, just north of Edgartown.
Click here to see a list of cruises that visit Martha's Vineyard.
Information: For more information on summer and fall cruises in eastern Canada and New England, visit Vacations To Go, or call (800) 338-4962.
The information in this story was accurate at the time it was published in March/April 2008. Please visit Vacations To Go or call (800) 338-4962 for current rates and details.