By WALLACE IMMEN
The fall is a time when the hills of eastern Canada come alive as leaves turn brilliant shades of gold, copper and flaming red. It’s a season when a flotilla of cruise ships explore the Gulf of St. Lawrence and its historic cities.
In an innovative twist, Crystal Cruises is returning to a cruise format that hasn’t been available for two decades. Crystal Symphony is doing a round-trip cruise from Montreal starting September 30, 2012. Three of the four ports of call on the week-long cruise are first-time ports of call for Crystal: Sept Îles and the Magdalen Islands in La Belle Province of Quebec and the Atlantic islands of St. Pierre et Miquelon which are part of France. The fourth port, Quebec City, consistently ranks among the most popular cruise ports in North America for its heritage buildings as well as great cuisine. See the Avid Cruiser’s Quintessential Quebec.
Sept Îles is an intriguing new destination that opened a cruise terminal in 2010 after Holland America’s Maasdam became the first modern cruise ship to call there in May, 2009. There had been cruises to the port in bygone eras, but a North Shore highway that was extended from Baie Comeau made it less important as a port. Now, a new wharf extension enables cruise passengers to take a train to visit a summer camp of the native Innu people on the Moisie River, historically famous for its salmon runs. The Innu are descended from the Montagnais tribes that used to spend their winters in the bush trapping and come down the rivers in their canoes to trade with the three century old Hudson’s Bay Company on the St Lawrence River. See the Avid Cruiser video, Train To The Tribe.
Canada to New England cruises date to the 1890s, when the Quebec Steamship Company started offering cruises on the ship Orinoco. In recent years, Canada cruising has generally been trips that start either in New York or Boston to Canada or in Montreal or Quebec to the States. Round-trip cruises were offered out of Montreal for several decades and were done on small cruise ships as recently as the 1990s. Now Crystal is bringing back the tradition. And beginning in the spring of 2012, both Crystal Cruises ships will be all-inclusive, with wines, bar drinks and on-board beverages and gratuities, included in the fare.
Crystal’s 2012 cruises in Canada include:
- New York to Montréal, September 19 – 30 (11 nights). Ports: New York, Newport, Boston, Bar Harbor, Saint John, Halifax, Québec City, and Montreal.
- Round-trip Montréal, September 30 – October 7 (7 nights). Ports: Montreal, Sept-Iles, Magdalen Islands, St-Pierre et Miquelon, Québec City.
- Montréal to Boston, October 7 – 14 (7 nights). Ports: Montreal, Québec City, Halifax, Bar Harbor and Boston. Boston to Montréal, October 14 – 21 (7 nights). Ports: Boston, Bar Harbor, Halifax, Québec City and Montreal.
- Montréal to New York, October 21 – 31 (10 nights). Ports: Montreal, Québec City, Halifax, Bar Harbor, Boston, Newport and New York.