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Montréal to Boston: A Canada/New England cruise aboard Holland America’s Maasdam

Holland America's Maasdam, Prince Edward Island
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Holland America’s Maasdam, Prince Edward Island

Our flight from Boston to to Montréal took about an hour, but for our return trip we took the leisurely route– a seven-day cruise aboard  Holland America’s Maasdam.

Before the cruise we stayed in Le St. Sulpice, in Vieux Montréal, the Old Town. It’s just behind Notre Dame Basilica and up the street from the cruise terminal. We were onboard the next day in plenty of time to enjoy a leisurely lunch in the dining room then unpack and tour the ship before sailing.

Montréal is the cultural capital and largest city in Québec, second largest city in Canada, and the second largest French-speaking city in the world. It’s either the first or last port, depending on the sailing, which creates a great opportunity for an extended stay. We’ll devote next month’s issue to this dynamic city.

Holland America’s Maasdam departing Montreal
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Holland America’s Maasdam departing Montreal

Here are some of our top tips for making the most of this cruise.

Book early if you want to enjoy this scenic route during the internationally popular foliage season.

Begin your cruise rested and without distress over delayed flights by arriving at least one day in advance of departure. Consider extending your stay in both the embarkation and final ports to get the most from your visit.

Check in as early as possible on embarkation day.  Look for the daily program in your stateroom and stop by for open houses in places like the spa, the Culinary Arts Center, or the Digital Workshop. Enter the raffles. I won a free massage! This is also a good time to explore the ship and get photographs.

If you would like to experience some of the more intimate dining experiences available for a surcharge and haven’t already made reservations,  it’s good to do so as soon as possible.

Le Cirque aboard Holland America's Pinnacle Grill
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Le Cirque aboard Holland America’s Pinnacle Grill

This is especially important for the evening when the upscale Pinnacle Grill (usually a $25 surcharge) offers “An Evening at Le Cirque” ($39 surcharge), with a special decor, menu, and fanciful china from the renowned New York restaurant. It’s also worth the $10 surcharge for dinner in Canaletto, the intimate Italian restaurant, where the attentive staff creates a fun and inviting atmosphere.

Staying connected

The most convenient way to check email and access the Internet is to use the onboard satellite internet service, and ship’s computer center if you don’t bring your own device along.  Service at sea, however, is expensive and can be slow.

You can minimize the usage and cost by setting up an email account like Outlook Express (for Macs) or similar email account for PCs before leaving home that downloads emails to your hard drive .  Once onboard, log on to satellite internet long enough to download messages  on your device, log off, and read and write reply at leisure. Send your replies  the next time you log in.

The least expensive option for email and internet connections is to pick up wifi at cruise terminals or in port.

Shore excursions

Do a little online and guidebook research and reserve or arrange shore excursions in advance. Decide whether you would prefer the convenience of one of the ship’s excursions, a customized itinerary with a private guide, or to explore the port on your own.

When venturing far from the ship, we often opt for the convenience of the ship’s tours and the assurance that the ship will not sail until we have returned. When we would like to maximize a day customized it to our interests, we check with the port’s tourism department for a recommended local guide and plan to arrive back onboard at least an hour before departure. In some cases, the ship docks within walking distance of places we would like to explore on our own.

When you return to the ship from a day in port, check the pool deck for festive displays and regional treats– like tortiére or poutine in Québec Province and mussels in Prince Edward Island. In Bar Harbor, Maine, there was an Indonesian Afternoon Tea in honor of the homeland of many crew members.

Recommendations for each port

Montreal

Depending on the direction of the cruise, Montreal is the embarkation or disembarkation port. There is so much to see and do here that we recommend extending your stay here. Many places in Montréal and Québec City offer special discounts if you show your cruise card: http://cruises.alamontreal.com/privileges/

Québec City

Holland America’s Maasdam in Quebec City
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Holland America’s Maasdam in Quebec City

The ship docks by the Lower Town of Québec City, North America’s first French city.  The turrets of the castle-like Château Frontenac Hotel dominate the skyline of the Upper Town that looms high above. Roosevelt, Churchill and MacKenzie King met at the Château Frontenac to discuss strategy during World War II.

Top shore excursion: Best of Quebec & Countryside with Lunch, a comprehensive tour along the beautiful the beautiful Beaupré Coast that stops at Ste-Anne-de-Beaupre Shrine, the Island of Orléans, a sugar shack, Montmorency Falls  and tours the cobblestone streets of Old Québec.

Custom tour: The tourism department recommends several companies, including Maple Leaf Guide Services, 1 877 622-3677, http://www.stfe.ca for an individualized tour.

In port on your own: The ship docks by the Lower Town. Head for Place Royale, site of North America’s oldest standing Catholic Church and once home to wealthy merchants. Enjoy the Old World ambience and shops and cafés of the pedestrian-only Petit Champlain.

Then take the funicular ($2.25), electric Écolobus, ($2), or stairs up the steep escarpment to the Upper Town.

View of Lower Town and Holland America’s Maasdam in Quebec City
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View of Lower Town and Holland America’s Maasdam in Quebec City

Walk the boardwalk of Dufferin Terrace, which runs by the Château Frontenac, and enjoy the views of the St. Lawrence River, Ile d’Orléans, and the Laurentian Mountains. Climb St. John’s Gate and walk the wall of North America’s only fortified city. Antique hunt along Rue St. Paul, browse for art along Rue du Trésor, or sip a café au lait  along Grande Allée, the city’s Champs Elyssées.

Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island

Anne of Green Gables house, Prince Edward Island
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Anne of Green Gables house, Prince Edward Island

The ship docks in Charlottetown, the island’s capital, largest city, and site of the meeting where Canada was founded. The Gentle Island is best known as the setting of the 1908 novel Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery. You won’t want to miss a visit to the house that inspired the story and a stop at the red rocky shoreline of Prince Edward Island National Park.

Prince Edward Island, Canada’s smallest province, is connected to New Brunswick by the 8-mile-long Confederation Bridge. This agricultural region is best known for its potatoes, and extra long ones are grown for Wendy’s fries.

Top shore excursion: Island Drive & Anne of Green Gables:

Custom tours: See the PEI Tourism website and book tours and authentic experiences in advance. http://www.tourismpei.com/index.php3

In port on your own: The city known as the Birthplace of Confederation is a good place for a stroll rich in history. Get a walking map at the Tourist Information office in historic Founder’s Hall and enjoy the Victorian architecture and parks. If you decide to venture farther, taxis on the pier charge $50 an hour per car.

Sydney, Nova Scotia

Céildh fiddle, Sydney, Nova Scotia cruise terminal
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Céildh fiddle, Sydney, Nova Scotia cruise terminal

The world’s largest Céildh fiddle stands by the cruise terminal in Sydney, an industrial center in the very-Gaelic Nova Scotia, Latin for “New Scotland.” The museum on the terminal’s second floor is worth a look, and the craft show at street level is a good place to shop.

The top shore excursions head out to the beautiful countryside:

A Taste of the Cabot Trail:  To experience the beauty of the island and its rugged coastline, take this excursion along one of North America’s most scenic drives. It includes Cape Breton Highlands National Park and the fishing village of Ingonish.

Bras d’Or Lakes: Heart of the Island: Visit the Nova Scotia Highland Village, a 50-acre living history museum overlooking the lakes, and the village of Baddeck, former home of Alexander Graham Bell. Make a quick stop at the Alexander Graham Bell Museum.

Relive History at the Fortress of Louisbourg–Step back to 1744 and relive French, British, American, and Canadian history with the costumed reenactors. It’s the largest historical reconstructed town outside of Europe.

Halifax, Nova Scotia

Halifax’s location jutting out into the Atlantic made it an attractive entry point for empires expanding into North America. With one of the deepest natural harbors in the world — a protected one that doesn’t freeze in winter — it grew to be a center of commerce. Halifax was Canada’s link to Europe during both World Wars.

Top shore excursions:

History: A Walk through Historic Halifax: From high atop Citadel Hill and the Victorian Public Gardens  to the portside Historic Properties, this is a highlights and history-laden tour with a kilted guide and London-style double-decker bus.

Scenery: Choose one of the tours that includes Peggy’s Cove or Lunenburg:

Seafaring: Lunenburg & Mahone Bay travels the Lighthouse Route past seaside villages and working waterfronts to Mahone Bay and the fishing port said to be the prettiest town in Canada—Lunenburg. It was once the busiest shipbuilding town in the world, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site..

Custom tour: Halifax Tour Guys. Check the website for their suggested tours then have it tailored to your liking. Highly recommended. $50 CAD per hour per vehicle. http://www.halifaxcruiseshiptaxitours.com

You can opt to meet a local wood carver at work.

For a unique experience ask to visit with Ivan Fraser, exuberant and multitalented author of a series of books on Peggy of the Cove based on legends and his own family history. The family home is authentically furnished and its exterior is colorfully painted by the author himself to reflect the story.

Ivan Fraser inside his family home
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Ivan Fraser inside his family home

In port on your own: The ship docks by Pier 21, Canada’s Immigration Museum,  and the nearly two-mile-long Harbourwalk, the longest boardwalk in Canada. The Maritime Museum of the Atlantic has an exhibit of salvaged Titanic items. At the Citadel, a British fort built in 1856 to protect against a US land attack, the 78th Highlanders conduct military reenactments.

Bar Harbor, Maine

This former summer resort area of America’s rich and famous is best known for Acadia National Park.  The view from Cadillac Mountain, the highest point on the east coast of the United States, is spectacular.

Top ship excursions:

Lulu's lobster boat, Bar Harbor, Maine
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Lulu’s lobster boat, Bar Harbor, Maine

Lulu Lobster Boat an entertaining and educational two-hour cruise on Frenchman Bay aboard the lobster boat Lulu with a lobster fishing demonstration,  seal watching, possible bald eagle sightings, sightseeing and local history and folklore. Highly recommended.

Take the Panoramic Bar Harbor & Acadia National Park tour for an overview of the city and Acadia National Park.

In port on your own: walk the century-old Shore Path along the ocean’s edge, and visit Bar Harbor’s shops and galleries.

 

 

 

 

 

2 Comments

  1. I am thinking of going on the Boston tomorrow I will cruise in on August 1. I need a listing of each excursion and a price and a time in hours spent. Do the buses have bathrooms on them?

    • Contact Hollandamerica.com or call 1-877-932-4259 for the latest information on this.

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