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Canada and New England cruise: Coastal Gems with the Jewel of the Sea

Royal Caribbean’s Jewel of the Sea in Bar Harbor, Maine
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Royal Caribbean’s Jewel of the Sea in Bar Harbor, Maine

Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.  Albert Camus

The ever-changing kaleidoscope of crimson, amber and gold of autumn is something we don’t like to miss. When Royal Caribbean offered a foliage season cruise along our Atlantic coastline on the Jewel of the Sea with the convenience of sailing roundtrip from Boston, we booked a stateroom right away.

The ship sails to the resort island of Martha’s Vineyard and on to colorful and inviting cities with working waterfronts–Maine’s Portland and Bar Harbor. We would experience the most dramatic tides in the world in Canada’s Bay of Fundy, and a gain heightened sense of history in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The finale would be a relaxing day at sea in this gem of a ship, the Jewel of the Sea.

The stunning sea and shore vistas from the floor to ceiling windows, and even some elevators, set this bright and airy ship apart from the rest. The nearly three acres of exterior glass provide a sense of oneness with nature from the comforts of this floating resort.

You can’t miss the profusion of innovative art as you explore the ship. Over $5 million was spent on paintings, sculpture, textiles, ceramics, and mosaics that are decorative and sometimes functional, as well. The nine-story Centrum’s lighting system, for example, is incorporated into a stainless steel and glass sculpture representing the Northern Lights.

solarium, Jewel of the Sea
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solarium, Jewel of the Sea, Canada New England cruise

This luxurious 2500 passenger megaship with a nautical theme offers a full range of dining options. The Jewel of the Sea has five restaurants and a snack bar. Tides, the two-story main dining room, had a sweeping staircase and romantic moonlight theme highlighted by a striking mural of Byzantine glass mosaic, brass, and copper. The more intimate premium restaurants, Northern Italian style Portofino and the classic Chops Grille Steakhouse, which may be reserved for an additional fee, are ideal for a quiet romantic dinner or gathering with friends. For more casual dining, there are buffets in the Windjammer Café, fish and chips or popcorn shrimp in the Seaview Café, or sandwiches, pizza and snacks in the Solarium Café. Twenty-four hour room service is also available.

Your day can be as active or restful as you please. There’s a fully-equipped fitness center, a basketball court, recreation golf simulator, nine-hole miniature golf course, walking and jogging tracks, and even a rock-climbing wall. The warm and inviting Safari Club was one of our favorite spots for shooting pool on one of the self-leveling tables, card or board games, or just sipping a cocktail and watching the sea. For relaxing with a good book, the adults-only Thailand-themed solarium with a pool, hot tub, and retractable glass-domed roof for climate control is a tropical paradise. Then there are the sensuous possibilities offered in the day spa…

By night, the ship comes alive with activities to suit all tastes. The main shows in the Coral Theater, with comedians, magicians, and Broadway-type extravaganzas by the Royal Caribbean Singers and Dancers, are the most popular choice. You can also sing-along to piano melodies in the Schooner Bar, relax and enjoy solo artists and jazz performances in the Hollywood Odyssey Lounge, take a turn at karaoke in the Safari Club, seek your fortune in the casino, or dance the night away in the Vortex disco with a revolving bar. Movies are shown in the Cinema or on the in-room television.

Internet access in the computer center is more convenient, but pricier than on shore. The ship’s shopping mall makes souvenir shopping or adding to your wardrobe a breeze.

Ports of call

This itinerary is especially well-suited to those who enjoy the convenience and companionship of the ship’s excursions as well as those who prefer to do their own planning or simply explore on their own.

Massachusetts: Boston

Arrive a day or so early to see a show, do some sightseeing, and avoid concerns about delays in getting to the ship. Walk the Freedom Trail, shop at Faneuil Hall, have a drink at (Cheers) Bull and Finch Pub, tour the USS Constitution—Old Ironsides, or visit the newly-renovated Trinity Church, The JFK Library, Harvard Square, or the Museum of Fine Arts.

Martha’s Vineyard

Take an island tour to learn more about this resort island known for its natural beauty, sandy beaches, and lighthouses, or rent a bicycle and enjoy the scenery along the bicycle paths. In Oak Bluffs you’ll find Victorian gingerbread cottages and can ride the oldest working carousel in the country. If you stroll the red brick sidewalks past white clapboard Greek Revival homes in elegant Edgartown you can imagine a ship captain’s wife keeping watch from a widow’s walk. Shop for scrimshaw or a Black Dog t-shirt or cap in the colorful boutiques of Vineyard Haven.

Maine

Portland

Fishing vessels and tour boats dot the busy waterfront of Casco Bay. Pedestrian-friendly Portland also offers art galleries, boutiques, an open air market, museums and historical houses.

Wadsworth-Longfellow House, oldest remaining residence in Portland, was the boyhood home of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, who called Portland his “jewel by the sea”. The Italian villa style Victoria Mansion was one of the most lavish homes of its time. This brownstone treasure is one of the best examples of pre-Civil War residential architecture, and its opulent interior is largely intact. Royal Caribbean also offers a shopping excursion to Freeport ‘s designer outlet stores and the legendary LL Bean.

Bar Harbor

The glaciers that carved the valleys and lakes also left the rocky mountaintops bare of soil. When Champlain arrived in 1604, he named the area Mount Desert Island. Bar Harbor grew to rival Newport as a summer playground of the rich and famous– Rockefellers, Morgans, Vanderbilts, Carnegies, Astors, and Fords– who built extravagant “cottages”.

The philanthropy of the wealthy and the efforts of conservationists created the only national park exclusively from privately donated land. Acadia National Park is now the second most visited park in the United States. An excursion to Cadillac Mountain takes you past breathtaking scenery to the highest point on the east coast of the United States.

Go whale watching, browse the shops of this summer colony, indulge in lobster dripping with melted butter, maple sugar candies, or some wild blueberry pie, or simply take a leisurely stroll on the picturesque pathway along the weathered granite shore.

Canada

Halifax, Nova Scotia

There’s a commanding view of the second largest natural harbor in the world from the 19th century naval station known as the Citadel, built to counter the French stronghold of Louisbourg and guard against a land attack from the United States. The 78th Highlanders still stand guard in tartan kilts, and period-costumed soldiers reenact military life of the 1880s. The skirl of bagpipes accompanies the firing of the Noon Gun, held daily since 1869, with musket drills and spirited pageantry.

Another popular excursion takes you on a scenic drive past lighthouses, beaches, and old fishing villages to Peggy’s Cove, site of the lighthouse that has become a symbol of Nova Scotia and one of most photographed in the world. You can send a postcard from the only post office in a lighthouse in Canada.

deck chair from the RMS Titanic, Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, Halifax, Nova Scotia
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deck chair from the RMS Titanic, Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, Halifax, Nova Scotia

The dockside Port Authority Cruise Pavilion offers advice and city maps for independent explorations. An uphill walk can include the Victorian Public Gardens, the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, historic churches, the Old Burial Grounds, and the Citadel. There’s also a waterfront boardwalk leading to shops, restaurants, and the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. At the museum, you’ll be immersed in stories of Halifax’s rich seafaring history, learn about the explosion that nearly obliterated the city, and see artifacts from the Titanic. The Historic Properties area features restored 19th century wood and stone buildings, warehouses in the late 1700s to early 1800s for the booty of privateers.

Saint John, New Brunswick

 jet boat, Reversing Falls, St. John, New Brunswick
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jet boat, Reversing Falls, St. John, New Brunswick

Twice a day in the Bay of Fundy more than 14 million tons of water ebb and flow to create the most dramatic tides on earth. At the Reversing Falls, where the Saint John River meets the bay, you’ll see how the funnel shape of the Bay of Fundy combines with the moon’s tides and phases to cause the tide to rise above sea level and the current to reverse. You can experience the power of this phenomenon with a jet boat ride in the whirlpools and rapids. The ship runs an excursion, but if you are going on your own, check in advance with the Reversing Falls Visitor Information Center (506) 635-1999 for tide charts and transportation schedules.

The Loyalist City’s tourist information center is in Market Square, adjacent to the New Brunswick Museum. Both are worth visiting. Take the “Inside Connection”, an internal pedway system, to Uptown Saint John and the landmark City Market, in operation since 1876. You may want to sample some local dulse. Uptown, you’ll find the 20-block Trinity Royal Preservation area, with antique shops, galleries, and cafes.

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