CRUISING IN CANADA:

FROM SEA TO SHIN­ING SEA

2017 Travel Guide to Canada - - Table Of Contents - BY SU­SAN MACCAL­LUM-WHIT­COMB

Taken to­gether, the three oceans that lap this coun­try’s borders—the At­lantic, Pa­cific and Arc­tic—cre­ate the longest con­tin­u­ous coast­line in the world: one that stretches a whop­ping 243,042 km (151,019 mi). As if that wasn’t enough to sat­isfy cruis­ers’ crav­ings, Canada is also laced with mighty rivers and punc­tu­ated by lakes that can rightly be called “great,” so it is no sur­prise that this place holds lots of prom­ise for pas­sen­gers.

WEST­ERN WON­DERS

Canada’s sig­na­ture cruise is un­doubt­edly the west coast one that traces the Bri­tish Columbian shore­line from mid-April through mid-Oc­to­ber. Since it cov­ers a hefty por­tion of the so-called Alaska Route, stun­ning vis­tas are guar­an­teed—in­deed few sea-go­ing ex­pe­ri­ences can com­pare with thread­ing the is­land-stud­ded In­side Pas­sage, where snow-crowned moun­tains, glacier-carved fjords and abun­dant marine life vie for at­ten­tion. Luck­ily, the ports you visit en route are as ap­peal­ing as the sights you see from your deck chair.

Take Van­cou­ver. The na­tion’s busiest home port drew 830,000-odd pas­sen­gers in 2016 alone, most of them trav­el­ling north on big-name boats; how­ever, this vi­brant city isn’t just a con­ve­nient em­barka­tion point. It de­liv­ers a full slate of ur­ban en­tice­ments —top-rated restau­rants, the­atres and ohso-trendy shops among them—along with easy ac­cess to the area’s parks and peaks. Vic­to­ria, mean­while, mixes a “high tea” tra­di­tion with high ad­ven­ture op­por­tu­ni­ties. If you re­ally want to go wild, eco-ori­ented out­fits like Maple Leaf Ad­ven­tures, Blue­wa­ter Ad­ven­tures, and Outer Shores Ex­pe­di­tions all have sail­ings that in­clude Haida Gwaii, “The Gala­pa­gos of the North.”

THE AT­LANTIC

On the op­po­site side of the coun­try, his­toric com­mu­ni­ties, tow­er­ing tides and leg­endary Mar­itime hos­pi­tal­ity make the Canada/New Eng­land Route an­other clas­sic choice from late April to Novem­ber. The scenery does not dis­ap­point, es­pe­cially in au­tumn when forests blaze with bril­liant fo­liage; nor do the dis­tinc­tive ports.

Lead­ing the list in pas­sen­ger traf­fic is Hal­i­fax (coin­ci­den­tally, the birth­place of cruise pioneer Sa­muel Cu­nard). Notable for its deep har­bour and charm­ing wa­ter­front at­trac­tions, Nova Sco­tia’s cap­i­tal re­ceived over 238,000 cruis­ers last year. Char­lot­te­town (home to Anne of Green Gables and world-class golf ), Saint John and Syd­ney (gate­ways to the Bay of Fundy and Cabot Trail, re­spec­tively) are other top calls.

Spe­cialty so­journs that fo­cus ex­clu­sively

on this area—like Ad­ven­ture Canada’s trip to Sable Is­land—are in­creas­ingly avail­able; how­ever, most cruises be­gin or end in New York or Bos­ton, mean­ing you can see key ports in as lit­tle as four nights. Ex­tended itin­er­ar­ies are of­fered, too. So boats may veer across open seas to New­found­land, where ports like St. John’s (a cen­turies-old city that also fea­tures on transat­lantic trips) and Cor­ner Brook (the launch pad for Gros Morne Na­tional Park) ex­tend a warm wel­come; or they may head through the Gulf of St. Lawrence and fol­low the epony­mous river.

IN­LAND AD­VEN­TURES

This sec­ond al­ter­na­tive is rapidly grow­ing in pop­u­lar­ity, and rightly so be­cause the fa­bled St. Lawrence has much to rec­om­mend it. Woods, whales, fjords and pho­to­genic head­lands make it an east­ern an­swer to B.C.’s In­side Pas­sage—one in­fused with Québé­cois charm. Con­se­quently, pocket-sized ports that show­case its nat­u­ral beauty are emerg­ing as des­ti­na­tions in their own right, while two mar­quee stops rou­tinely win rave re­views.

Québec City, af­ter all, is fa­mous for its UNESCO-des­ig­nated for­ti­fi­ca­tions and beau­ti­ful her­itage build­ings; while Mon­tréal (one of the world’s largest French-speak­ing cities) has a sto­ried past that is ac­cented with cos­mopoli­tan élan. The ves­sels that visit these ports, more­over, cover an im­pres­sively broad spec­trum in terms of size and style. Cruis­ers, for ex­am­ple, can live large on Cu­nard’s lux­u­ri­ous Queen Mary 2, opt for an ex­pe­di­tion on Ad­ven­ture Canada’s Ocean En­deav­our, or aim for in­ti­macy on Vic­tory Cruise Line’s bou­tiquey M/V Vic­tory I. The mere ar­rival of the last of these, which de­buted in 2016 and of­fers 10-day itin­er­ar­ies on the gor­geous Great Lakes, fur­ther il­lus­trates the way that new en­tries on the Cana­dian cruise scene are max­i­miz­ing the po­ten­tial of our in­land wa­ter­ways.

NORTH­ERN DE­LIGHTS

The once-frozen Arc­tic is heat­ing up as well, and in sum­mer, when seas are nav­i­ga­ble, there are ever-in­creas­ing pos­si­bil­i­ties for bucket lis­ters and na­ture buffs who feel its mag­netic pull. Quark Ex­pe­di­tions and Ad­ven­ture Canada, for in­stance, both put new ves­sels into ser­vice on the Arc­tic Route in re­cent years. New lines, sim­i­larly, are com­ing in to show­case the area’s aus­tere beauty—most no­tably Crys­tal Cruises; last Au­gust, its Crys­tal Seren­ity made his­tory as the first large, lux­ury liner to tra­verse the North­west Pas­sage.

Ad­mit­tedly, such voy­ages aren’t for ev­ery­one. Spe­cific des­ti­na­tions can be hard to pin­point due to the va­garies of tides or weather; and land­ing places, some­times ac­ces­si­ble only via Zo­diac, aren’t nec­es­sar­ily ports per se since the pop­u­la­tion might con­sist solely of wal­ruses. The up­side is that the “Great White North” has great white wildlife (think po­lar bears, bel­uga whales and snowy owls), un­spoiled scenery, plus a rich Inuit cul­ture; and the ves­sels that sail here can get cruis­ers up close to it all. As an added bonus, the ma­jor­ity have res­i­dent ex­perts well-versed in sub­jects like nat­u­ral his­tory and Na­tive cus­toms who will share their knowl­edge through for­mal lec­tures and guided ex­cur­sions.

With choices like that avail­able, there’s never been a bet­ter time to come aboard in Canada!

WHAT’S NEW?

Vik­ing Ocean Cruises en­tered Cana­dian wa­ters with five new itin­er­ar­ies that carry cruis­ers across the At­lantic (www.vikingcruis­es­canada.com).

The Port of Hal­i­fax made Cruise Critic’s lat­est an­nual list of the top five Amer­i­can and Cana­dian cruise des­ti­na­tions (www. cruise­hal­i­fax.ca).

Trois-Rivières so­lid­i­fied its sta­tus as an up-and-com­ing port of call by open­ing a new port ter­mi­nal in 2016 (www.touris­metrois­riv­ieres.com/en/cruise).

Af­ter a $78-mil­lon makeover, Mon­tréal will cut the rib­bon on its re-imag­ined Alexan­dra Pier fa­cil­ity in May, 2017 (www.cruises.ala mon­treal.com).

The new Vic­tory Cruise Lines brought all-in­clu­sive cruising to the Great Lakes when it launched in 2016 (www.vic­to­rycruise­lines.com)

The re­turn of Crys­tal Cruises last year means that 11 lines cur­rently call Van­cou­ver their home­port (www.port­van­cou­ver.com).

TORONTO HAR­BOUR • SHUTTERSTOCK/JAMES WHEELER

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