The pages of history and stunning natural beauty blend seamlessly as you cruise the colour-drenched shores of Canada & New England. Visit the iconic lighthouse at Peggy’s Cove in Halifax, return to the Gilded Age in Newport and stroll down Boston’s historic Freedom Trail. Or ascend Cadillac Mountain in picturesque Acadia National Park for one of the “Best National Park Experiences,” according to Lonely Planet. On board, you’ll dine like a New Englander on succulent crab cakes and lobster as the allure of the northern seaboard embraces you — and leaves you changed forever. Canada & New England cruises are truly spectacular, and we decided that seeing as the Autumn or shall we say “Fall” is not too far away, what better time than to consider a cruise to this stunning part of the world? With that in mind, here’s our guide to exploring the beautiful destination that is Quebec, often the starting or finishing point for a wide range of Canada & new England sailings.
Destination Guide: Quebec
Cruising to Quebec is a very unique experience, and while you’ll find yourself sailing through the classic Canadian landscape and enjoying the North American lifestyle, you’ll also find an atmosphere that’s not quite as far separated from our own as you may think. Quebec is the only region in the North American continent to claim French as its sole official language, and more than 80 percent of Québécois speak French as their first language.
Having been a French colony for more than 200 years, the province maintains close links to Europe, and in many ways the sights, especially of Quebec City’s old town district, are very Mediterranean in style. What makes it fascinating, however, is that the province’s proximity to the United States (Quebec borders Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and upstate New York), means that it has also drawn more modern influences from these states, creating one of the most diverse and unpredictable destinations in North America.
Where You’ll Dock
Most major cruise lines dock into Quebec City, the capital of the Province. The city holds a prime location overlooking the picturesque St Lawrence River, and offers views across to Maine’s northern wilderness. Many travellers enjoy arriving into Quebec City as it offers the best of both worlds – there’s easy access to some of the region’s most breathtaking natural sights, such as Montmorency Falls, yet there’s also plenty of fun to be had in the city itself, such as shopping malls, restaurants, and sightseeing cruises along the river.
A small number of cruise lines also offer itineraries that dock into Saguenay, located inland along the River Saguenay that runs between the St Lawrence River and St Jean Lake. As the river is relatively narrow, only smaller ships can navigate the waters, so if you’re keen to make a stop in Saguenay, check out ships such as Holland America’s MS Maasdam, Seabourn’s Seabourn Quest, and Fred Olsen’s Balmoral which have all offered Saguenay cruises in the past.
Things to See and Do
If you’re visiting Quebec City, you really are presented with the best of both worlds – stay in the city itself and marvel at the two very distinct districts of the old town and new town, or take an excursion a little further afield to see some of Quebec’s most rugged and rural sights.
Quebec City’s Old & New Towns
Old town Quebec is stereotypical of the old towns of the Mediterranean, with narrow, cobbled streets, winding alleys, and awe inspiring architecture. It’s here you’ll see Quebec’s Palace Royale, Chateau Frontenac, and have the chance to stroll along riverside boardwalks. However, just a short distance away you’ll find Quebec City’s Grande Allee – the city’s shopping and nightlife district. Cozy restaurants offer outdoor seating for a true continental feel, you can pop in to a bar for a quiet drink or make a night of it at one of the many upscale clubs, or shop ‘til you drop in the rows of designer stores which give the Champs-Elysee a run for its money!
Located approximately 10 miles from the heart of Quebec City, many cruise lines offer bike tours to see the falls in all their glory, helping you to keep fit on your shore days. Starting 83 metres up the cliff face (which, interestingly, is 30 metres higher than Niagara Falls), the gushing and crashing of the waters is truly mesmerising. There are two cycling paths here, one that runs alongside the river and another that raises high above the falls or, if you’d rather just relax, there are many places to bust out a picnic, or simply unwind, gazing out across a beautiful backdrop.
If you’re visiting Saguenay, you won’t find any of the big city exhilaration you’ll find in Quebec City, but what you will find is beautiful destination that seems to be so incredibly different to its neighbours. Saguenay holds the record for having the smallest percentage of English speakers in all of Canada, so walking the streets really can seem like you’re strolling in Paris or Nice. Saguenay is a very down-to-earth, back-to-basics destination whose economy relies heavily upon tourism. Travellers from all over the world visit for the beaches, the fishing, the camping, and the numerous parks and gardens.
Saguenay National Park
There are more than 60 miles of hiking trails within the Saguenay National Park but, fortunately, many cruise excursions opt for a 1.5 mile trek along the Point de Vue du Soupir trail which reaches an elevation of 450 feet for some of the most spectacular views across the park. This is a great way to explore more of Canada’s natural side, and there are plenty of opportunities within the park to see some of the more fascinating wildlife species including wolves and falcons. Make sure to stop by the information centre – it’s a great place to learn more about Saguenay, and the area’s rich and vibrant history.
What to Eat
Quebec’s local cuisine can typically be divided into two categories: home-style comfort foods, full of carbohydrates and protein that provide warmth and energy during the cold winters, and delicious, sweet treats smothered in authentic Quebec maple syrup. For a filling lunch to keep you going until the main dining room opens in the evening, pop into a cafe for a tourtière – a hearty Canadian meat pie – or a big plate of poutine, which is chips covered in gravy and cheese curds.
Alternatively, for those with a sweet tooth, head on over to a ‘sugar shack’, where you’re served a seemingly regular-looking meal of beans, bacon, and ham, and then encouraged to drown it all in sticky maple syrup. It might sound strange, but it’s to die for! Some cruise lines, such as Celebrity Cruises, offer excursions to an authentic Canadian sugar shack which also includes traditional French Canadian folk dancing.
When to Visit
As with most destinations located on North America’s east coast, Quebec is a place of extremes, with red hot, sunny summers, and chilly winters that bring abundant snowfall. Some travellers love visiting Quebec in the spring, just before the temperatures peak, or in autumn, when the leaves begin to turn from green to a crisp orange. If you are keen to see the beautiful autumn scenery, Quebec’s ‘fall foliage’ season tends to run from September to November.
Can’t decide when to visit Quebec? Consider the types of activities you want to participate in once you’re there. Quebec offers a very mountainous and rugged terrain, so outdoor activities are rife, so if you’re keen on trying out the area’s hiking trails, plan to cruise during the summer, or if you want to whizz down the slopes, you’re more likely to experience heavy snowfall during December and January. If, however, you simply want to soak up the unique atmosphere, the almost Mediterranean charms, and delve into the region’s diverse history, then there’s never a bad time to visit Quebec.
Exploring More of Quebec
If you’re visiting Quebec just for a day as part of a Canada or New England cruise itinerary, you’ll want to focus on the main attractions in or nearby the port. If, however, your cruise embarks or disembarks in Quebec, and you find yourself with a little extra time to explore, it’s well worth venturing slightly further afield to see some of the other local sights and scenery.
If you love the outdoor life, Outaouais, which is just west of Montreal, offers skiing, hiking, camping, golf, and boating along the Rideau Canal. Alternatively, if you want to experience the busy and bustling nature of city life in Canada, Montreal is a cosmopolitan paradise. It’s got shops, it’s got casinos, music festivals, a Six Flags theme park, and you can even take in a Montreal Canadiens ice hockey game.