“You’re cruising where? The Caribbean?”“No mom,” I reply again in the phone. “Quebec, Canada. You know, that huge French-speaking province in the north?”“I didn’t know you could cruise in Quebec,” she replies. “What a great way to see Montreal!”A good way indeed. Due to the deep, wide waters of the St. Lawrence River, cruise ships can reach far into eastern North America to Montreal and other ports in Quebec, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.Cruise ships offer an easy way to see a lot of Canada with a little effort.We’ve chosen a 7-day Holland America Linecruise, and the comfortable fall weather is the perfect backdrop for such a journey. Our cruise starts in Montreal, and my family and I have spent the day exploring the capital of French-speaking Canada.Though it’s my first visit to the city, already I’m smitten.Montreal is clean, hip and stunningly beautiful. (See it for yourself in video.) This city of 1.6 million is ultra-modern, yet it’s obvious that they cherish their historic roots. That European heritage is still alive and well in Old Montreal.
With its cobblestone streets, historic architecture and patio-lined alleyways, Old Montreal has the feel of Paris. Only this is much, much better, for I’m surrounded by Canadians. True to the Canadian stereotypes, everyone we meet is friendly and welcoming. French speaking or not, the majority of Montrealers are bi-lingual, and language is no problem.
The early fall weather is beautiful, so we head over to the Quays of the Old Port for a picnic lunch. The harbor front is filled with bikers, pedestrians and people out soaking up the sun.
Further out, we can see our ship, the ms Maasdam, waiting patiently for our embarkation. The Port of Montreal on the St. Lawrence River welcomes hundreds of cruise ships each year, but we’ve chosen the Maasdam, part of the Holland America Line fleet, for our adventure.
Though we’ve cruised with many cruise lines over the years, Holland America Line is a family favorite. Holland America offers a good blend of activities for every age, so it’s a good bet for extended families. We can spend as much time together—or apart—as we want. I like the mid-sized ship aspect, too. Carrying 1,258 passengers, the ship doesn’t feel too crowded or too small. Best of all, we like the staff—most of whom come from Indonesia and the Philippines—and the excellent onboard dining. We’re sure to gain a few pounds on this trip.
Our cruise will take us to some of the top port towns in Eastern Canada. We’ll stop in Quebec City, at Prince Edward Island, in Sydney and Halifax, Nova Scotia, and then end our journey in Bar Harbor, Maine. Canada is a LARGE country, and driving to these places would take days, while flying to these cities would cost a fortune. But cruising makes it easy. We see the best of each destination, and then hop onboard to be wined and dined while we sail to the next location. Travel doesn’t get much easier than that.
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