Live life like the movies in Manhattan, chow down on clam chowder in Nova Scotia, toast the home of coffee in caffeine-fuelled Portland, dance to a Cuban beat in Miami’s Little Havana, leef peep in Vancouver and embrace all the magic that comes with crossing the pond on a cruise to the USA and Canada.
With such a broad range of cultures, climates and landscapes, it can be easy to forget that the 50 states of the USA constitute one single and incredible country. Venture beyond the USA, into Canada, and you’ll encounter scenery that reminds you of just how small we are in the grand scheme of things. If Mother Nature has a playground, this is it.
This sprawling urban metropolis is every bit as impressive as you imagine and its spell is cast the moment you step foot on its famous sidewalks. Get lost in Central Park, stand dumbfounded amidst the neon glow of Times Square, sip coffee on the cobblestones of Greenwich Village and cross the Brooklyn Bridge at sunset to see the iconic Manhattan skyline against orange skies. There’s a restaurant here for every day of the year, an art gallery for all tastes and enough boutiques to satisfy even the most severe shopaholic tendencies. Actress Myrna Loy once said “If you’re bored in New York, it’s your own fault” and it’s a statement that couldn’t be any truer.
It’s around Mardi Gras time that you will hear a Cajun phrase that has become the unofficial motto of New Orleans: “Laissez les bons temps rouler!” or ‘Let the good times roll’. Revel in this mood as you make your way in a haze of colour along the aptly-named Bourbon Street. The French Quarter is equally spirited and is famous for the legendary jazz joints that line its streets, including the Preservation Hall; a cornerstone of traditional New Orleans Jazz since 1961. Embrace old-school charm with a streetcar ride on the St Charles line, home to the oldest continuously operating streetcar in the world, before tucking into a po’boy sandwich with all the ‘fixins’.
There’s an electric undercurrent pulsating through Miami and it isn’t just the afterglow of the neon signs that illuminate its Art Deco architecture. This is a destination that sizzles, attracting travellers of all ages with a heady mix of zesty days and sultry nights. Mornings are spent in all-American diners where pancake stacks are served as standard, afternoons revolve around golden sands and turquoise waters, and lingering evenings are set to a fiery Latino beat. There’s plenty to keep you happy here besides sprawling beaches and pastel facades; whet your appetite with a taste of Cuban life in Little Havana or delve into the lush wetlands of the Everglades National Park for a new take on a favourite destination.
In addition to providing a stunning starting point for jaunts into Whistler and the Canadian Rockies, Vancouver is also the gateway to Alaska. That said, the city is most certainly a destination in its own right too. In a place often voted one of the world’s most liveable, you’ll find every landscape imaginable; snow-topped mountains, beaches, parks, rainforest and oceans are all within easy reach. Head to Grouse Mountain for panoramic views of the city’s vibrant skyline or hire bikes and explore Stanley Park. With 1,000 acres and over five miles of waterfront, it is perfectly possibly to while away a whole day in this expanse of greenery. Those arriving into Vancouver by cruise ship will make their first acquaintance with Stanley Park on the approach into port, having sailed beneath the awesome Lion’s Gate Bridge. Vancouver’s appeal lies in its diversity and it is perfectly possible to spend mornings whale watching, afternoons sipping merlot in British Columbia’s wine regions and evenings tucking into Japanese kobe steak in the city’s hottest eateries.
As you’d expect from a city founded in 1749, Nova Scotia overflows with history which includes a long maritime heritage that is displayed to great effect at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic.
Pay a visit to Lunenburg, a colourful fishing and shipbuilding port that was founded in 1753 and is one of three UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Nova Scotia. The old town’s star attraction is Bluenose II, a symbol of Nova Scotia’s sailing heritage. For a taste of Canada’s past head to Fisherman’s Cove, a 200 year old coastal village where, perhaps unsurprisingly, you’ll eat some of the best seafood of your life. Speaking of seafood, if you haven’t eaten lobster from Nova Scotia, you haven’t eaten lobster at all; don’t leave without tucking into a lobster supper.
Nova Scotia’s coastline spans over 4,700 miles and life thrives in, on and beside the sea. Whale watch on the Atlantic, sea kayak in the shadow of the Three Sisters in the Bay of Fundy and visit the hidden coves and beaches that are carved into the craggy coastline.
With its Bay, iconic Golden Gate Bridge and that unmistakable feel-good Californian vibe, San Francisco is a highlight of any cruise to the USA that is bound to leave you with a spring in your step. The Bay Area is a focal point and an obvious place to start your explorations of the popular cruise port; it’s the access point to the most photographed bridge in the world too. Walk along Golden Gate to the northern side of the city and the vistas of the Marin Headlands, the peak of whose headlands is Hawk Hill, which is the perfect spot for watching the sun set over the bay, cityscape, bridges and Alcatraz. The most notorious prison on the planet has held criminals as notorious as Al Capone and George Kelly, making for a fascinating and chilling trip, especially if you opt for to visit after dark.
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