Travel Guide to Canada



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.


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.”


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.


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.


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!


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

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

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

Attention Mouseketee­rs! Disney Magic adds Québec City, Saguenay and Baie-Comeau to its port-of-call list with September itinerarie­s (disneycrui­

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

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


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