The ultimate guide to planning a Canada New England cruise
Stunning natural scenery, gorge-worthy local cuisine, fascinating history—the wonder and variety offered by a Canada New England cruise might just be the best kept secret in the industry. Once known primarily for fall cruises, the northern East Coast is becoming increasingly popular in the summer months too with more ships being added to the region each year to meet growing demand.
With iconic cities, awe-inspiring national parks, jaw-dropping mansions and fresh seafood galore, a Canada New England itinerary combines Alaska’s rugged beauty and Europe’s cosmopolitan charm into one unforgettable cruise experience. If you’re thinking of visiting this stunning region by sea for your next vacation, here are the answers to some of the most commonly asked questions.
When is the best time to go on a Canada New England cruise?
Although the region is still most famous for its fall foliage cruises in September and October, there are plenty of reasons to visit in the warmer months. The Canada New England cruise season actually begins as early as April and runs all summer long. You’ll be able to take advantage of your onboard pool and even take a dip in the Atlantic in some of New England’s most iconic beach towns!
In it for the lobster? The region’s local delicacy is more popular during what’s called ‘new shell season’ spanning from July to November. As the lobster shells expand in size to accommodate future growth, the salt water has extra room to marinate the meat. Whale watchers will also want to keep in mind that the best time to spot these creatures in the Bay of Fundy is July through September, and even earlier in the season as you travel further north to Newfoundland and Labrador.
What’s the best itinerary for a Canada New England cruise?
Canada New England cruise itineraries are offered in one-way or round-trip options ranging from five-night jaunts to 30-night epics that include multiple trans-Atlantic crossings. Similar to the Alaska cruise dilemma, a round-trip cruise offers the convenience of starting and ending in the same place, but a one-way itinerary allows for more port calls without the need for backtracking.
Round-trip cruises depart from New York, New Jersey, Baltimore, or Boston. One-way itineraries tend to sail from Boston or New York all the way up through the Saint Lawrence River to either Montreal or Quebec City. No matter which you choose, you can’t go wrong spending an extra night on either side of your cruise in one of these ports:
Which cruise lines offer Canada New England cruises?
Royal Caribbean rules the Canada New England cruise market with four ships in the region and a variety of itineraries to choose from including round-trip cruises from Boston, New Jersey, or Baltimore. Popular round-trip New York cruises are also offered by Princess, Norwegian and Carnival.
Holland America is also specializing in cruises from Boston to Canada, with itineraries beginning or ending in Montreal, Quebec. Norwegian also offers a few options departing from, Boston and ending in Quebec City (or vice versa). You can also choose longer itineraries such as the 10-night sailings with Princess that go from New York to Quebec City (or vice versa).
If your travel style skews to the refined, Cunard offers 7-night itineraries from New York to Quebec City. Other cruise lines like Crystal, Oceania, Regent, Silversea, Seabourn, Viking Ocean Cruises and Windstar offer longer Canada New England cruise itineraries. These smaller, luxury ships are more likely to stop at interesting, off-the-beaten-path ports like Gaspé and Saguenay in Quebec and occasionally even Cape Cod, MA or St. John’s, Newfoundland.
What are the port highlights on a Canada New England cruise?
You won’t find any throwaway ports on a Canada New England cruise so get ready to disembark on every port day! There are so many amazing destinations to see, but here are a few of the highlights.
Newport, Rhode Island
Once the summer playground for the late 19th century elite, the remains of this Gastby-esque era can still be enjoyed while touring Newport’s stunning mansions and gorgeous beaches. Make sure to take a stroll on the easy 3.5-mile Cliff Walk for breathtaking views of the Atlantic on one side and the opulent “cottages” on the other. The most famous mansion, The Breakers, is open for touring year-round.
Bar Harbor, Maine
Nearly every Canada New England cruise calls on Bar Harbor, a seaside town and gateway to breathtaking Acadia National Park. With over 47,633 acres of parkland and an extensive network of trails, it’s considered the jewel of the Northern Atlantic. Explore the park independently with the free Island Explorer Bus, or book the very popular narrated bus tour (minimal walking required) which begins just 300 yards from the pier. Acadia is especially beautiful on a fall foliage cruise.
Halifax, Nova Scotia
One of the most charming cities in Canada, Halifax’s historic downtown core is perfectly positioned for cruise guests to explore. Just off the pier you’ll find exceptional restaurants and the fascinating Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. There you can learn all about the history of the Titanic which sank 750 miles off the city’s shore. Halifax also has more bars and pubs per capita than any other city in North America.
Longer and small-ship itineraries will often include a stop in Saguenay (pronounced Sag-uh-NAY), one of Quebec’s hidden gems. A quick detour off the Saint Lawrence River, the quaint village is perched at the end of a majestic fjord spanning 60 miles long and up to 1,150 feet tall. The village itself is easily walkable and offers opportunities to explore local artisans. You can also sample the region’s wines and cheeses or get a closer look at the glacier carved fjords through additional excursions by air or sea.
What are the best shore excursions on a Canada New England cruise?
As cities built around maritime activity, the ports on a Canada New England cruise are easily accessible from the pier. There’s plenty more to explore further inland and ashore. Here are some of the most worthwhile excursions to consider.
Visit iconic Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts
Even if you’re not a baseball fan, there’s something special about stepping foot inside the oldest ballpark in Major League Baseball. Since 1912, Fenway has been the home of the Boston Red Sox and can been toured through a variety of excursions—by foot, by bike or with a side of craft brews. If your cruise happens to begin or end in Boston, try catching a game between April and September to get the true Fenway experience.
Catch & cook your own lobster in Portland, Maine
Offering several lobstering tours daily, Lucky Catch Cruises is as fresh as seafood gets! After a scenic tour of Casco Bay, you’ll pull up the traps and sample your catch back in port. Advance booking is recommended for this popular excursion.
Experience the world’s highest tides from Saint John, New Brunswick
The spectacular Bay of Fundy stretches 170 miles between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia and is home to the highest tides in the world. Walking along Fundy’s vast ocean floor at low tide—exploring sea caves and sandstone cliffs—truly does feel like an otherworldly experience. Excursions to the bay also include a stop at the famous Reversing Falls to witness the Saint John River change directions. You might even spot a surfer trying to ride the river wave all the way back to the Atlantic!
Visit Canada’s favorite redhead from Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island
Lucy Maud Montgomery’s most famous literary character, Anne of Green Gables, might be the most well-known thing about Prince Edward Island (and a worthy stop on this tour), but the best part of this excursion is the drive across this breathtaking island itself. From Charlottetown to Cavendish, you’ll fall in love with PEI’s rolling hills and lupin-lined roads. With picturesque lighthouses, silky white sand beaches, and an ever-present breeze in the air, you’ll understand why Anne needed so many adjectives to describe PEI’s dreamy landscapes.
Whether you choose a fall foliage cruise, a one-way cruise from Boston to Canada, or a quick introduction to the region sailing round-trip New York, there’s no bad time or way to visit the stunning Atlantic coast by sea. We hope you found this guide to Canada New England cruises helpful in planning your next adventure!