CRUIS­ING IN CANADA: BON VOY­AGE

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

In­sta­gram­able scenery? Check. In­trigu­ing ports of call that prom­ise unique sites and ex­cur­sions? Check. How about a wide va­ri­ety of ves­sels and up-to-date fa­cil­i­ties? Cruise ship pas­sen­gers in Canada can tick those boxes, too. Fac­tor in the end­less on-the-water op­tions avail­able in a coun­try that boasts Great Lakes, mighty rivers, plus three oceans and it’s easy to see why this place adds up to one in­cred­i­ble cruis­ing des­ti­na­tion.

PA­CIFIC PLEA­SURES

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 al­most 843,000 pas­sen­gers in 2017 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 oh-so-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 Galá­pa­gos of the North.”

ATLANTIC IDYLLS

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 292,722 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 One Ocean Ex­pe­di­tions’ “Fid­dles and Sticks” trip—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. Lux­ury lovers, for ex­am­ple, can live large on Cu­nard’s renowned Queen Mary 2, or opt for in­ti­macy on Vic­tory Cruise Line’s bou­tiquey M/V Vic­tory I and II. The mere ar­rival of the lat­ter—a pair of 202-pas­sen­ger sis­ter ships which be­gan ply­ing the St. Lawrence River and Great Lake routes in 2016 and 2018, re­spec­tively—fur­ther il­lus­trates the way that new en­tries on the Cana­dian cruise scene are max­i­miz­ing the po­ten­tial of the 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 the past few years; tellingly, the first of these also re­fur­bished one of its po­lar ex­pe­di­tion ships in 2017 (the Ocean Ad­ven­turer, for­merly Sea Ad­ven­turer) in or­der to pro­vide in­trepid pas­sen­gers with a greater de­gree of com­fort.

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?

Wind­star Cruises’ Star Pride—a yacht-style, all-suites ship—comes to East­ern Canada this sum­mer (www.wind­star­cruises.com). Vic­tory Cruise Line’s new M/V Vic­tory II makes her in­au­gu­ral voy­age in May, sail­ing from Bos­ton to Hal­i­fax (www.vic­tory cruise­lines.com).

Fol­low­ing a $78-mil­lion make-over, Mon­tréal wel­comed cruis­ers to its reimag­ined Alexan­dra Pier fa­cil­ity in 2017 (www.cruis­esala­m­on­treal.com).

Fam­ily-owned Croisières M/S Jac­quesCartier puts its newly-over­hauled ves­sel into ser­vice on the St. Lawrence (www. ms­jacquescartier.com).

At­ten­tion Mouseke­teers! Dis­ney Magic adds Québec City, Sague­nay and Baie-Comeau to its port-of-call list with Septem­ber itin­er­ar­ies (dis­n­ey­cruise.dis­ney.go.com).

The 50-cabin Na­tional Geo­graphic Quest, which will ply the In­side Pas­sage, was launched by Lind­blad Ex­pe­di­tions last year (www.ex­pe­di­tions.com).

New trips from Po­nant in­clude an art­themed one be­tween Van­cou­ver and San Diego of­fered in con­junc­tion with Christie’s auc­tion house (us.po­nant.com).

VAN­COU­VER, BC • SHUT­TER­STOCK/SONGQUAN DENG

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