CANADA CRUIS­ING

Gi­ant fid­dles, striped light­houses and Dis­ney cas­tles are all on show on this east-coast voy­age.

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Château Fron­tenac re­cedes into the Cana­dian scenery as we pull out of Que­bec City and head down the St Lawrence River, leav­ing the sun set­ting over the sky­line of this pic­turesque city.

While many de­bate whether the grand Dis­ney-like Fair­mont ho­tel that dom­i­nates Que­bec City’s old town is the coun­try’s favourite snap-happy at­trac­tion, it is cer­tainly an im­pres­sive sight and the un­abashed em­blem of this thor­oughly French city. Another con­tender for most­snapped land­mark is the car­toon­ish red-and-white light­house at Peggy’s Cove in Nova Sco­tia. We visit both on Hol­land America Line’s seven-day Canada and New Eng­land Dis­cov­ery cruise, call­ing at Syd­ney and Hal­i­fax in east­ern Canada and Bar Har­bor in Maine as we sail from Que­bec City to Bos­ton, Mas­sachusetts.

Que­bec City, founded in 1608, is one of the old­est in North America with the ram­parts of Old Que­bec the only for­ti­fied city walls re­main­ing in the Amer­i­cas north of Mex­ico. A steep fu­nic­u­lar ride ex­poses views to the St Lawrence River as it lifts you up the cliff face to the streets sur­round­ing the château which over­flow with busy cafés sell­ing strong, per­co­lated cof­fee.

Slow cruis­ing Un­like some cruises that spend two or more con­sec­u­tive days at sea, our ship, ms Veen­dam, docks early each morn­ing at a new port with the whole day to self­ex­plore, join on­board ac­tiv­i­ties or take one of sev­eral shore ex­cur­sions.

In Char­lot­te­town on Prince Ed­ward Is­land, we learn how to cook mus­sels in chilli, white wine and gar­lic then take a short les­son on shuck­ing and eating oys­ters. Hap­pily quaffing mine, a first timer from Illi­nois was ap­pre­hen­sive. “I’ve never tried oys­ters in my life,” he said. From his fa­cial ex­pres­sions it was hard to tell, but we think he liked them.

The ms Veen­dam is medium-sized with a ca­pac­ity of some 1350 pas­sen­gers. In con­sis­tently good weather, a walk past the out­door pool leads to the main din­ing venue, Lido Restau­rant, where break­fast is so de­lec­ta­ble my trusty Vegemite stays in the jar. Other restau­rants are the re­fined Pin­na­cle Grill, Canaletto Restau­rant with Ital­ian fare and the gra­cious Rotterdam Din­ing Room with the op­tion of fixed or open seat­ing. In­deed, you’ll never go hun­gry; fill up on burg­ers, pizza, hot dogs and ice-cream al­most round the clock. Each night at Mix bar, Barry from Bos­ton, pi­ano player and singer ex­traor­di­naire, en­ter­tains like no other with nearly 2000 songs on his re­quest list.

Fid­dles and fish­er­men Con­trast­ing with its name-twin in Aus­tralia, Syd­ney on Cape Bre­ton Is­land is a com­pact town with street af­ter street of cute, colour­ful houses, typ­i­cal in this part of Canada. Loom­ing large on the re­vi­talised wa­ter­front stands the world’s largest fid­dle, weigh­ing more than nine tonnes, built to cel­e­brate Nova Sco­tia’s many folk mu­si­cians and Celtic her­itage. At the pub on the es­planade, lo­cals are amused but not sur­prised by some Aussie pas­sen­gers ask­ing ridicu­lous ques­tions, all in good fun, about the Har­bour Bridge and the Opera House.

But the crème de la crème is the tour in Hal­i­fax, Nova Sco­tia. With its in­ex­tri­ca­ble link­age to the Bri­tish monar­chy, Hal­i­fax is one of the most ur­bane and so­phis­ti­cated cities in East­ern Canada, mix­ing mod­ern sky­scrapers with colo­nial build­ings. At Peggy’s Cove, a par­tic­u­larly quaint

01 Nova Sco­tian icons: Peggy’s Cove Light­house and Celtic piper 02 Wa­ter­front of Lunen­burg 03 Château Fron­tenac dom­i­nates the Que­bec City sky­line

fish­ing vil­lage, some 40 kilo­me­tres from the city, lob­ster traps us­ing old, smelly mack­erel as bait, are still set near the shore­line of St Mar­garets Bay. The dis­tinc­tive red-and-white light­house sits on the edge of glacial rock de­posits and gives Château Fron­tenac a pho­to­graphic run for its money.

As we re­turn to the ship, the UNESCO town of Lunen­burg spoils tourists with lob­ster chow­der, a har­bour full of ex­pen­sive yachts and flam­boy­ant façades. Just as flashy was our witty tour guide Bob, a monar­chist through and through, who re­gales us with more royal sto­ries than I think ac­tu­ally ex­ist.

In pur­suit of (lob­ster) per­fec­tion

Cruis­ing means meet­ing new peo­ple and my new­found trivia team raves about the lo­cal Maine lob­ster so, at Bar Har­bor, the full-on ex­pe­di­tion for our lob­ster hit be­gins in earnest through what used to be a sum­mer play­ground for America’s rich and fa­mous. In­ter­spers­ing our search with a de­cent dose of shop­ping, we find an out­door café where two young guys pre­par­ing lob­ster pots have just what we want. Fresh, whole, boiled lob­ster with melted but­ter – for 20 bucks. Messy and dif­fi­cult to crack the claws but so, so de­li­cious. Fol­low that with a cy­cle through Aca­dia Na­tional Park and it’s a recipe for a per­fect day.

Fi­nally we ar­rive in Bos­ton, a city full of his­toric ar­chi­tec­ture, a lively down­town area and end­less mu­sic venues. As one of the old­est cities in the United States, dat­ing back to 1630, vis­i­tors im­merse them­selves in this city’s story walk­ing the Free­dom Trail, tak­ing in Fa­neuil Hall, the Bos­ton Mas­sacre site and Paul Re­vere House, with maybe a Bos­ton Red Sox base­ball game thrown in.

In the wee small hours, my man Barry from Bos­ton per­forms a fi­nal re­quest as this mem­o­rable cruise, with scene af­ter scenic scene for na­ture lovers and his­tory buffs, nears the end in his beloved home town.

Travel file

Ac­com­mo­da­tion www.hol­lan­damer­ica.com.au Get­ting there

The ms Veen­dam seven-day Canada and New Eng­land Dis­cov­ery cruise de­parts from Que­bec City. Air Canada flies from Syd­ney to Que­bec City via Toronto. www.air­canada.com.au

In­for­ma­tion www.canada.travel

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04 ms Veen­dam cruises the coast 05 The Maine spe­cialty of Bar Har­bor 06 Que­bec’s French style in Canada

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