Cruise to Canada This Fall

060905_PeggyCoveF.jpgIt doesn’t have Alaska’s calving glaciers or the Caribbean’s waving palms, but Eastern Canada hardly skimps on attractions. Encompassing national parks, azure lakes, cosmopolitan cities, and a stunningly beautiful coastline, Eastern Canada makes a rewarding destination for the nature lover who also likes to feel the pulse of city life. An ideal time to visit the region is in autumn, when fall foliage reaches its colorful peak along the Canada-New England Route, a breathtaking stretch of land and sea that extends more than 1,000 nautical miles, from the northeastern United States to Quebec, Canada. Cruising is an ideal way to see the region — not to mention the foliage — and most major cruise lines (including Carnival, Celebrity, Crystal, and Cunard) are willing to sign you up for the ride.

On the Water

Most voyages following the Canada-New England route last seven to 10 days, though longer and shorter cruises can easily be arranged (shorter ones of four days are favored by folks who like to test the waters but prefer being close to home). Typically, sailings originate in either Boston or New York and follow the Eastern Seaboard up the coasts of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, making a stop or two in U.S. ports before heading into Canadian waters. 060905_GaspeF.jpg

Depending on itinerary, ships might continue north through open seas to Newfoundland or veer west into the Gulf of St. Lawrence, rounding the glorious headlands of the Gaspe Peninsula before threading down the island-dotted St. Lawrence River. Whatever the route, the ocean-going portion of the trip offers sublime sea views from one side of the boat and equally arresting vistas of autumn-colored forests from the other. On the St. Lawrence portion of the journey, weathered shanties and salt-bleached jetties gradually give way to pastoral farms that date back to the days of French rule.

Ports of Call

What you see from the deck of your ship is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Most cruises following the New England-Canada route stop at several intriguing ports, including these:

For Americans, the most recognizable port is Québec City. Dramatically perched above the St. Lawrence River, the “Capital of New France” wins rave reviews for its centuries-old ramparts, cafe-lined, cobble-stone streets, and meticulously preserved buildings. 060905_HalifaxHistoricProperties.jpg

One of the most popular ports of call is Halifax, Nova Scotia. A deep harbor drew the British here in 1749, and the city’s commerce and culture have been inextricably bound to it ever since. Proof of this can be found in the attractions lining the waterfront, among them the Historic Properties (a cluster of restored warehouses; photo, right), the Maritime Museum (which showcases Halifax’s connection to the Titanic), and Pier 21 (Canada’s answer to Ellis Island), all of which are linked to the cruise ship terminal by a scenic mile-long boardwalk.

Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, is a uniquely beautiful place best-known for Anne of Green Gables and world-class golf greens. Prefer a walk on the wild side? Aside from being an inviting destination in its own right, Saint John, New Brunswick, sits on the Bay of Fundy, which is home to the planet’s highest tides and more than a dozen species of whales. Sydney, Nova Scotia, and Corner Brook, Newfoundland, offer entree to two of the country’s most impressive national parks: Cape Breton Highlands (part of the fabled Cabot Trail) and Gros Morne.

Sample Sailings

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Every Saturday in September, budget-conscious cruisers can take a seven-day voyage out of New York City aboard the Carnival Victory. Itineraries include Saint John and Halifax as well as Boston and Portland, Maine. Interior cabins go for as little as $549.

Opt for intimacy on the 208-passenger all-suite Seabourn Pride. A one-way, ten-day cruise, originating in Gloucester (Boston) September 29, calls at Saint John, Lunenburg (NS), Baddeck (NS), Summerside (PEI), Port Saguenay (Québec), Québec City (photo, right) and Montréal. The ship returns along a different route October 9. Fares for each start at $6,595.

Celebrity Cruises offers a 13-day voyage out of New Jersey’s Cape Liberty Cruise Port on September 27, October 10 and October 23. Along with Halifax and Québec City, the Constellation visits Boston, Portland and Newport. Inside cabins start at $1,312.

Go for glitz on Cunard’s super-sized Queen Mary 2. A 12-day “Splendors of Fall” cruise, priced from $1,999, departs New York on September 28. Canadian ports of call are Québec City and Halifax.

Susan MacCallum-Whitcomb