Top Canada and New England Ports to Discover

The world’s largest violin intrigues passengers of Holland America Line’s Maasdam as they explore Sydney, Nova Scotia.
The world’s largest violin intrigues passengers of Holland America Line’s Maasdam as they explore Sydney, Nova Scotia.

New England-Canada cruises appeal to clients who love scenic beauty, history and North American culture. Many ports of call on these voyages are iconic — New York, Boston and Newport, RI, in the U.S., for example, and Charlottetown, Nova Scotia, St. John’s, Newfoundland, Montreal and Quebec City in Canada. But depending on the voyage selected, cruisers may discover off-the-beaten-path ports with unusual attractions or heritage features to savor.

Cook’s Viewing Point: Long before Captain James Cook met his demise in Hawaii, he sailed the world for the British Royal Navy. In 1767, Cook headed for high ground on Crow Hill, just outside today’s Corner Brook, Newfoundland. From here, he surveyed the entire west coast of Newfoundland. Today, Cook’s perch is designated as the Captain James Cook Historic Site, which has — as its best attribute — superb views of the Bay of Islands, Blomidon Mountains and Corner Brook. Short walking trails lead visitors to interpretive panels. Oceania CruisesMarina sails on a 41-day voyage from New York to Stockholm, departing May 7, with a port call in Corner Brook; veranda staterooms were still available at press time, starting at $16,399 per person double.

Whaling Heritage: Herman Melville, author of “Moby Dick,” once plied the docks of New Bedford, MA, as a whaling worker. Today, clients can stroll the New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park, a 13-block area of historic structures from the whaling era. Visitors might check out five whale skeletons including those of the rare blue and northern right whales at the New Bedford Whaling Museum; it also features the world’s largest whaling ship model, artifacts, historic logbooks and interactive exhibits. New Bedford is among the port calls on “The Islands of New England” itineraries offered by Blount Small Ship Adventures. These Grande Mariner and Grande Caribe cruises sail roundtrip from Warren, RI, on multiple dates this summer with fares from $1,999 per person double.

Lobster, Anyone?: Yes, cruisers can order a fresh seafood lunch ashore at many New England or Canadian Maritime ports, but nothing beats Boothbay Harbor, ME, for the fishing aura, harbor views and succulent steam lobster served with drawn butter at the Boothbay Lobster Wharf (formerly the Lobstermen’s Co-op) dockside. While the seafood is yummy, entertainment is also on tap as visitors watch the lobster boats unload their prized catch.

Balconied staterooms such as this one on Crystal Symphony afford optimum views of coastal and river ports.
Balconied staterooms such as this one on Crystal Symphony afford optimum views of coastal and river ports.

Small-ship operator American Cruise Lines calls at Boothbay Harbor on a week-long “Maine Coast and Harbors” itinerary roundtrip from Portland, ME. Other smaller Maine ports also on the schedule are Bar Harbor, Rockland, Castine/Belfast, Bath and Camden, ME. What’s nice is that this isn’t just a fall foliage choice. The line’s cruises that include Boothbay Harbor depart weekly between May 31 and September 17 on Independence and American Glory. Fares start at $3,440 for a six-night cruise and $3,985 for a seven-night voyage.

Fiddle Dee Dee: No, it’s not out of the mouth of fictional Scarlett O’Hara, but instead a welcome from Sydney, Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. Interestingly, this port proudly displays the world’s largest fiddle, soaring 60 feet into the air at the Joan Harriss Cruise Pavilion. So it’s the first thing travelers will notice going ashore. Many local residents trace their roots to the Highlands of Scotland, so listen up for Celtic music and the Gaelic language. And, of course, fiddling is a big deal here.

On September 21 and October 11, Princess CruisesCaribbean Princess sails a “Classic Canada and New England” cruise from New York City to Quebec City, with fares from $1,399-$1,499 per person double. While enjoying a Sydney port call, Princess’ guests can book a Gaelic shore adventure — a scenic drive through Cape Breton’s Bras d’Or Lakes region to the Iona Peninsula’s Highland Village, a living history museum and cultural center that celebrates the Gaelic experience in Nova Scotia.

A sampling of other lines calling at Sydney? Seabourn Cruise Line offers a 14-day cruise from Montreal to Fort Lauderdale on October 15, Crystal Cruises’ Crystal Symphony sails from Montreal to New York on October 15 and Silversea Cruises’ Silver Whisper journeys from Montreal to New York City on October 15. From mid-May through early October, Holland America Line offers a series of seven-day Boston-Montreal and Boston-Quebec City cruises on the Maasdam and Veendam, respectively.

Several restaurants and other establishments in New Bedford, MA, are housed in whaling-era buildings.
Several restaurants and other establishments in New Bedford, MA, are housed in whaling-era buildings.

British Colonial Style: In the mid-1700s, the British set up a settlement in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, laying out the town’s design in a rectangular grid pattern, common to the Colonial architecture of the day. Today, this UNESCO World Heritage site is still lovingly maintained, and visitors will “ooh” and “aah” at the colorful wooden buildings from the Colonial era; they have lovely ornamental brackets and towers.

Local guides will explain how many were built using an unusual French coulisse technique — timbers have a groove and another wooden piece glides across that. New cruise line, Pearl Seas Cruises, is offering 10- or 11-night “Canadian Maritimes” cruises between Quebec City, Quebec, and Portland, ME. On 11 departure dates between May 23 and October 4, Pearl Mist calls at Lunenburg and also other smaller ports in the region. Fares start at $6,275 per person double.

Eco-Delights: Although it’s just 10 square miles, Block Island, RI, has one freshwater pond for every day of the year, plus miles of public beaches and 30 miles of “Greenway” trails. So, for eco-lovers, it’s a cornucopia of outdoor adventure — great for biking, hiking, horseback riding, kayaking or wind surfing.

Birders too will flock here, as Block Island is on the Atlantic flyway, a path for migrating birds. In fact, more than 70 species of migratory songbirds arrive on the island each fall. Both American Cruise Lines and Blount Small Ship Adventures sail to Block Island during the summer.

For more information on these destinations featured in this story, visit: Boothbay Harbor, ME: www.boothbay; Block Island, RI:; New Bedford, MA:; Lunenburg, Nova Scotia:; Sydney, Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia:

Northeast Cruise Update

For 2016, Norwegian Cruise Line will offer two summer, six-day Canada & New England roundtrip cruises from New York on Norwegian Gem, with departures May 29 and June 12. Norwegian Dawn will sail one-way, seven-day cruises between Boston and Quebec City from September 9 to September 30, 2016; the two sailings can be combined for a 14-day Canada and New England experience.

Family suite on Royal Caribbean’s Liberty of the Seas.
Family suite on Royal Caribbean’s Liberty of the Seas.

Agents booking a New England/Canadian Maritimes sailing on Royal Caribbean International, such as its September 10 and September 24 sailings on Liberty of the Seas from Cape Liberty, Bayonne, NJ, might do so in a faster, more efficient way with Royal Caribbean’s new Espresso reservations system. It’s more intuitive than CruiseMatch, decreases steps — from seven to five — to make a booking and has a “live chat” Automation Support button.

The Smithsonian Collection by Smithsonian Journeys, a new lecture series, has launched on Regent Seven Seas Cruises. On Seven Seas Navigator’s Canada/New England voyage on October 7 from Montreal, retired Colonel Ralf Vargas, a 30-year U.S. Army veteran, will lecture. He previously served with NATO’s Diplomatic Headquarters in Brussels and as chief of NATO’s Situation Center.

Carnival Cruise Lines, which sails four-, five- and seven-day New England voyages from New York City on Carnival Splendor, updated its Carnival Passport travel agent learning management system. Agents can easily see total credits earned, thus verifying what they’ve received for activities and event attendance. A new “passport stamp” shows credits remaining until the agent reaches the next level.

MSC Cruises, sailing New England waters with MSC Poesia, has launched a new mobile app available on the App Store and Google Play. Features include a 360-degree virtual tour and latest offers.