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Cruise destination spotlight: New England and Canada

New England and Canada cruises are not for total beach bums. Instead, they satisfy travelers looking for history, scenery, and culture who don’t mind the occasional chill in the air.

Most itineraries do combine stops in the Northeast U.S. with calls in Maritime Canada. You can find New England and Canada cruises from May through October, though many lines concentrate their sailings during fall’s peak foliage season. Time your trip right, and you’ll get stunning views of arboreal colors. However, the best dates for leaf-peeping aren’t always the best dates for sun worshipping. If you’re not looking for a cool-weather cruise, check the average temperatures for your intended vacation week before paying that deposit. You’ll have more luck finding beach weather in the summer months, but only Carnival, Holland America, and Royal Caribbean offer New England and Canada cruises during the summer.

For the best foliage viewing, you’ll probably want to book an October cruise. Leaves start changing colors in the north, where it turns colder first, and the colors spread southward as the autumn progresses. Coastal Maine and Massachusetts usually offer prime leaf-peeping in late October, while eastern Canada may show fall colors as early as September. Just remember that weather patterns affects the start of foliage season, so leaves may change early or late in any given year.

Where you’ll go and what you’ll do

Most New England and Canada cruises depart from Boston, New York (including Bayonne, NJ), Montreal, and Quebec City. You can choose from round-trip or one-way cruises, depending on how far up the coast you wish to go. Whichever itinerary you book, don’t forget to order some fresh lobster while in port.

The U.S. ports-of-call offer a combination of historical cities and quaint seaside towns. Newport, Rhode Island, is known for its mansions and its beaches. Visitors can snap photos of scenic lighthouses or take a bike tour of the island while on Martha’s Vineyard. Boston is a walker’s haven; history buffs can follow in revolutionary footsteps by walking the Freedom Trail and culture lovers can spend time in the city’s many world-class museums. Portland, Maine, is the place to view Victorian homes and purchase goods from local artisans or the L.L. Bean factory in nearby Freeport. Bar Harbor, Maine, is a gateway city for trips into Acadia National Park or whale-watching excursions off the coast.

The Canadian ports are equally charming. Almost every itinerary includes a stop in Halifax, the capital of Nova Scotia and the world’s second-largest natural harbor. You can tour the town or head out to the rocky coastline of Peggy’s Cove. As Canada’s oldest settlement, Saint John, New Brunswick, offers historic charm as well as some natural excitement—twice a day the river waters of the Bay of Fundy reverse direction and head upstream. Quebec City offers a quintessentially French experience, and its old city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In addition, you may find that your cruise calls in Sydney, Nova Scotia; Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island; or Corner Brook, Newfoundland.

Which cruise lines sail to New England and Canada?

Here’s what the cruise lines are offering:

Carnival: Carnival sails four-, five-, and seven-night itineraries from New York aboard the Carnival Victory.

Celebrity: Celebrity sails 11- and 13-night itineraries from Bayonne aboard the Constellation.

Crystal: Crystal sails seven- and 11-night itineraries from Montreal and New York aboard the Crystal Symphony.

Cunard: Cunard sails four-, nine-, and 12-night itineraries from New York aboard the Queen Mary 2.

Holland America: Holland America sails seven- and 10-night itineraries from Boston, Montreal, and New York aboard the ms Amsterdam, ms Maasdam, and ms Veendam. The cruise line also offers 12- to 15-night Atlantic Coast cruises between Canada and Florida.

Norwegian: Norwegian sails six- to 12-night itineraries from New York aboard the Norwegian Dawn and Norwegian Spirit.

Princess: Princess sails seven- to 16-night itineraries from New York and Quebec City aboard the Crown Princess, Grand Princess, Sea Princess, and Star Princess.

Royal Caribbean: Royal Caribbean sails five-, seven-, and nine-night itineraries from Baltimore, Bayonne, and Boston aboard the Explorer of the Seas, Grandeur of the Seas, and Jewel of the Seas.

Seabourn Seabourn sails eight- to 16-night itineraries from Gloucester/Boston, Montreal, and Quebec City aboard the Seabourn Pride.

For more information about New England and Canada cruises, contact the cruise line or a travel agent.

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