[Part 4 of our Canada/New England cruise aboard Caribbean Princess.]
I’ve talked about the ship, the food and the entertainment; now it’s time to focus on the ports we visited. A few ports we either call home (Boston) or have visited previously (Halifax and Portland), but Quebec, Saguenay/Fjord National Park, Charlottetown and Sydney were all new to us, as was the St. Lawrence River.
Quebec City: 2-Hour Walking Tour
Wanting to see a little of the Old City during our 2-day pre-cruise stay in Quebec City, we pre-booked this through Tours Voir Quebec. Our friends, Andi and Ed joined us, and we met at the Visitor’s Center directly across the park from our hotel, the Chateau Frontenac, so it was real easy to find. Our local guide gave us a wonderful tour, starting from the Frontenac and leading us downhill to the Old City. She expertly introduced us to the history, culture and people of this beautiful city with its narrow, cobblestone streets and quaint shops and bistros. I only wish the day had been nicer, because it rained the entire time down the hill. The uphill climb back up is a long one, so we opted to ride the Funiculaire, the City’s cable railway back to the hotel on the hilltop. The sun finally came out, and we got this great shot of the ship awaiting our arrival in port.
Montmorency Falls and Ile d’Orleans: This was a cruise-sponsored tour which I wouldn’t do again and would only recommend to those who would be satisfied with a very brief glimpse of Montmorency Falls. The first stop was Lac-Beauport, a small lake beach resort where we got off the bus, looked at the lake, and got back on the bus. It seemed to be a lake like any other, and was nothing special. I don’t even have any photos of the lake, and the most memorable image I have was that of these young girls doing handstands on the beach.
Another interesting feature was the display of interesting art posters by local artists, one of which could possibly be a distant relative of mine, as the signature in this photo hints at. My dad came from Quebec, and, who knows, maybe Pierre is a distant cousin. I definitely will want to explore this further at another time.
The next stop was the L’En-Tailleur Sugar Shack, a place popular with the tourists and everyone should visit at least once, as Quebec prides itself on their maple sugar products. It was an interesting display of how maple syrup is made, complete with really good warm complimentary apple pie and coffee. Be sure to douse it with with the provided maple syrup – it’s delicious!
The last stop on the tour was Montmorency Falls, and for those who wanted to snap a photo or two from the rear of the gift shop, I’m sure it was fine. But I am a photo nut and like to be up close and personal with my subject and make the moment last. By the time the bus unloaded, I had barely enough time to race to the falls, snap a few photos, and race back. There are other fun things to do at the falls – trails, cable car ride, zip lining, and probably more. If you’re in Quebec City on a cruise and want to spend quality time at the Falls, just take an Uber or taxi from the ship.
Saguenay/Fjord National Park: We pre-booked an independent tour of the Saguenay Fjord National Park and surroundings through Tours aventure Fjord et Monde INC., an excellent tour which got off to a rather rocky start. My husband was a bit under the weather, so I ventured out alone on this 24-passenger minibus tour. Even though I prepaid, I still had to stop at the office shack on the pier, wait in line, and get a ticket which is assigned a bus number. I went to my assigned bus, which strangely had no seat for me, so back to the shack I trekked. After some confusion, I finally had a seat on another mini-bus. We finally drove off, and I happily had the seat all to myself. I am happy to say that the tour got much better after this, and I would highly recommend it. Our guide, Louise, was a real sweet French lady who spoke enough English to get her stories across with knowledge, humor and enthusiasm. Stops included a site with an assortment of interesting Nativity carvings, a stroll across a beautiful covered bridge and an hour-long visit to the lovely town of L’Anse St. Jean to have a bite to eat or just take in the scenery. But the highlight was the nature trail in Saguenay Fjord National Park, where we hiked to three separate overlooks to see the magnificent Saguenay fjord that our ship traversed to reach the port of Quebec City. The views were stunning and one of the top 10 best views in all of Canada, we were told.
Charlottetown: Lighthouses of Prince Edward Island Scenic Drive. This was a ship tour, and it was very good. We saw three of the 50 lighthouses on the island. Our guide was a friendly local man who told us all about the history and culture of P.E.I. and its lighthouses. The first lighthouse, Brighton Beach, was viewed from the shore road sidewalk, but the other two, Prim Point and Wood Islands we were able to view and access from the grounds. In fact, for the third and final lighthouse (Wood Islands) my husband and I succeeded in climbing the narrow steep stairway to the top, a very proud accomplishment for us.
On the ride back to the ship, our music-appreciative guide entertained us with his harmonicas. It was a very beautiful and relaxing tour. Having never been here before, we were pleasantly surprised by the lush and beautiful landscapes of Prince Edward Island.
Sydney: I organized a private 6-hour mini-Cabot Trail tour for my husband and me, plus 6 of our friends, pre-booked with Cabot Discovery Tours, which was a great decision. Since Sydney turned out to be a tender port, we weren’t certain about the logistics of meeting the tour on time, but the tour office was very communicative from the get-go, arranging to meet as soon as we were able to leave the ship. We all met onboard at the Island Dining Room to collect our tender tickets and were on the first tender over to meet our tour. Our driver/guide was Caroline, who was happily waiting for us with her roomy 12-passenger van right at the dock when we stepped off the tender, and we were on our way by 7:30 a.m, well before the ship’s excursion. I have nothing but praise for Caroline and her tour. She showed us around a portion of the 185-mike trail loop, covering as much ground as possible, stopping for snacks and the best scenic photo ops along the way. Caroline was a wealth of information, expertly covering the geography, nature and people of Cape Breton. She was able to calm our fears when we ran into some construction traffic on the way back to the ship and even promised to drive us to the next port of Halifax if needed. Fortunately, it didn’t come to that, as we made it back in time to tender back to the ship. We all loved this tour and highly recommend Cabot Discovery Tours. We were able to be on the road well before the cruise ship busses, cover more ground (specifically the prettier west side of the trail, as recommended by Caroline), and experience more of beautiful Cape Breton, all at a significantly lower price than the cruise line tour.
Portland: My husband has a couple of friends/colleagues in Maine, Sam and Nancy, and we used this day in port to meet them for lunch. They suggested DiMillo’s on the Water, a floating restaurant just a short walk from the ship. Our friends recommended I try their famous lobster stew, and it was delicious. After lunch, Nancy – who grew up in Portland – was kind enough to drive us around town and show us the sights.
HALIFAX: I had been here before, having seen the Maritime Museum, and once again with David last October when we did a tour of Peggy Cove and other attractions. We had no plans on this visit, but needed to find a pharmacy, so took a walk up the hill to check out the city streets and the historic cemetery. On the way back, we walked along the Boardwalk and grabbed a lobster roll for lunch, and headed back to the ship.
BOSTON: We live an hour away, have been there a million times, so we used this port as an extra sea day, enjoying the pool and deck without the crowds and watching the planes take off and land at Logan Airport.
Brooklyn, New York: The cruise ended in New York, and even though I have plenty of previous photos of Lady Liberty and the New York skyline, I never get tired of the view. It was particularly beautiful watching the sun rise over the city, and I got some great shots from our balcony, the upper decks and that awesome view spot way forward on Deck 15, a limited access deck open from sunrise to sunset (and that not everyone knows about.
Disembarkation: The cruise was over and it was time to take our leave, which is always a little bittersweet, especially when it’s been a particularly good cruise. Disembarkation was disorganized and took unusually long because they were late getting the luggage off the ship. For the first time I can remember, some passengers disembarked before their luggage did.
That’s it – our cruise in 4 parts. I hope you enjoyed it, and if you have any questions about the ship, the itinerary or any cruise in general, send me a message.