For many cruise passengers, a Canada cruise is a pleasant alternative to crowded Caribbean itineraries during the summer months. These quaint voyages won't feature snorkeling or sunbathing, but they do offer a rare glimpse into unique cultures and historical ports of call that educate as well as entertain travelers.
When to Take a Canada Cruise
Because of early winters in northerly climates, Canadian itineraries are only available during the summer travel season, typically from early June through October. Because of the spectacular fall foliage that draws visitors from around the world, early to mid-September is the most popular time to sail to Canada, and passengers planning such a voyage should make their reservations well in advance.
A typical Canada cruise is seven nights long, usually on a one-way route either northbound or southbound (similar to Alaskan cruises). Shorter itineraries, as brief as four nights, are also offered from a United States embarkation port, but they do not travel as far into Canada. The longest Canadian itineraries are two weeks and involve several ports as well as scenic cruising. Most Canada cruise options are coupled with New England cruises for similar sightseeing and exploration opportunities.
- Carnival Cruise Line: These fun ships offer a variety of week-long voyages into Canadian waters with plenty of activities for cruisers of all ages.
- Royal Caribbean Cruises: Passengers on these active ships cannot only view cliffs in Canada, but will enjoy the ships' signature rock-climbing walls.
- Princess Cruises: With sophisticated flair, passengers aboard these elegant vessels will discover only the best Canadian ports.
- Norwegian Cruise Line: Though this line offers few Canadian voyages, travelers are sure to enjoy the relaxed atmosphere while visiting northern waters.
- Cunard Cruise Line: This revered luxury line offers a small sample of short Canadian itineraries, including mini-voyages aboard the world famous Queen Mary II.
- Holland America Cruise Line: These upscale ships offer a wide range of itineraries, including many longer voyages to suit returning passengers.
- Celebrity Cruises: Though few Canadian sailings are offered through this line, passengers lucky enough to secure one will be treated like stars.
- Seabourn Cruises: This elegant line offers a minimal selection of Canada voyages but each one is guaranteed to offer exquisite signature service.
- Crystal Cruises: With noted flair and excellence, passengers can experience a limited number of northern voyages with this cruise line each fall.
Because of the limited nature of Canadian itineraries, prospective passengers should consult a travel agent when making plans to insure that the voyage will meet their travel expectations.
Embarkation Ports for Canada Sailings
Because the goal is to visit ports in Canada rather than spend time sailing north, most embarkation ports are on the northern Atlantic coast, including New York, Boston, and Montreal (for southbound sailings). Norfolk, Virginia also offers several Canada and New England cruises each year, as does Fort Lauderdale, Florida (for longer sailings).
Ports of Call on a Canada Cruise
The first ports cruisers may visit on a Canadian itinerary may actually be in Massachusetts and Maine as part of New England itineraries. After crossing into Canadian waters, however, principle ports of call include:
- Halifax, Nova Scotia: The capital of Nova Scotia, this port offers visitors the second largest natural harbor in the world, and featured attractions include its picturesque landscape and a substantial collection of Titanic relics that explain the city's connection to that ill-fated liner.
- Quebec City, Quebec: This isolated walled city is a microcosm of French culture, cuisine, and architecture, giving passengers a taste of a cruise to France without crossing the Atlantic.
- Saint John, New Brunswick: As Canada's oldest settlement, this quaint city offers many historic sites, museums, and cultural tours to orient cruise passengers to the nation they are visiting.
- Sydney, Nova Scotia: Located on Cape Breton Island, this coal-exporting city features a living museum in Fortress Louisbourg as well as numerous other cultural and historic attractions.
- Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island: Though not visited by many cruise ships (just a couple of dozen in 2006), this charming city with its historic waterfront has the country's lowest crime rate, making it a shopper's paradise.
- Scenic Cruising along the St. Lawrence River: Though not precisely a port, this opportunity allows passengers to view spectacular foliage and scenery as their ship traverses this significant waterway.
At every Canadian port, cruise passengers can experience a wide variety of shore excursions, including historic walking or trolley tours, museum visits, pub crawls and beer tastings, trail hikes, ghost tours, and river rapids adventures. Through these activities as well as simple exploration of the ports, travelers will uncover the majesty and mystery of the United States' neighbor to the north.
A Canada cruise is a pleasant alternative to hot, crowded Caribbean itineraries and offers some of the best scenic destinations in the world. Whether it's a quick weekend getaway or a luxurious two-week voyage, passengers traveling to Canada are sure to revel in the delightful journey as well as the unique destinations.