Cruising in Eastern Canada

The original reasons for creating cruise itineraries in the Eastern Canadian Provinces were a) to take advantage of spectacular, colorful foliage scenery in the early Fall, and b) to keep the ships out of the Caribbean in the heart of hurricane season. Back in the 80’s and 90’s, this “season” was usually about four sailings long. As cruise lines went through their building boom in 1995-2005, there was always a need to find new destinations and itineraries. Of course, right in the middle of that timeframe, the events of 9/11 happened, which caused the American cruise market to focus on North American homeport cruising. As a gamble, some of the lines launched Eastern Canada cruising all summer long. It was well received, and more cruise lines have entered the market.

If you review the Eastern Canada itineraries of most of the mainstream cruise lines, you will see the following choices:

  • Round-trip New York, turning around at Quebec
  • Round-trip Boston, turning around at Quebec
  • New York to Quebec, and vice versa
  • Boston to Montreal, and vice versa

Here’s the scoop. It’s not easy for cruise ships to get all the way to Montreal. There’s a bridge over the St. Lawrence River just east of Montreal. Its clearance, even at low tide is not sufficient to allow today’s bigger ships to pass. You will note that the ships sailing all the way to Montreal are “mid-sized,” which means they can squeeze under the bridge. This sometimes requires putting the radar mast on a big hinge so it can be lowered to ensure safe passage. We’re talking a couple of feet of clearance at some tide levels.

The reason this is important is because the airport most passengers will use is near Montreal. If you are embarking or disembarking in Quebec, you may find yourself in a two-hour motorcoach transfer between the ship and the plane. If this is a consideration for you, either book the cruise to Montreal or pick a round trip itinerary that avoids the issue. Of course, Montrealers would like to have you visit their beautiful city, also. Bottom line: select your itinerary with care.

Quebec

Chateau Frontenac towers over Quebec City

This is a relaxing cruise. Quebec City, particularly the District of Old Quebec which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is gorgeous, fun, clean and interesting. It is one of the highest rated ports in the world for cruise guests and certain to be a highlight of the sailing. It will give you a chance to brush up on your high school French. The balance of the cruise is filled with friendly people and wonderful seascape scenery. It may not be high on your bucket list, but it makes for a very pleasant way to spend a week or ten days for experienced cruisers.

Canadians view Americans with a certain philosophic amusement. This perspective is best summed up with a tee shirt seen in a Canadian gift shop. It reads: “Eh!” It may sound strange. But it’s better than “Duh?”

My favorite Canadian joke explains supposedly how Canada got its name. (For full effect, it is best if read out loud, at least the punch line.) The story goes that a bunch of fur trappers were huddled in a bar on a frosty winter’s evening, somewhere near the banks of the St. Lawrence River. After a few too many Molsons, the decision was made that a name was needed for this beautiful new land they were all exploring. Everyone tossed out their favorite suggestions, but no consensus was reached. Finally, someone had the brilliant idea to put the letters of the alphabet on a dart board and to spell out a name by throwing darts. The board was arranged and hung. The first trapper stepped forward, hurled his dart, squinted at the result, turned to the group and said, (read aloud) “C! Eh?”

If you need this explained send us an e-mail. Enjoy your cruise.