CANADA: “Unpack once for several days and enjoy the trip” is often said of cruising whether at sea or on magnificent rivers. An ocean cruise to New England and Canada aboard Holland America deserves to be at the top of your travel list. It’s a relaxing way to see some of the most scenic spots in North America. Port excursions allow you to discover the land with well-organized, knowledgeable, local tour guides.
There’s no need for maps or guide books. You have a choice of dining options, and your stateroom is cleaned daily. Enjoy the evening entertainment or on-board activities such as bingo and trivia contests. Relax on a deck chair with that novel you’ve wanted to read.
Explore Canada and New England ports on Holland AMerica
Holland America offers nine itineraries to explore in Canadian and New England. The ocean liner, Zaandam, sails on a seven-day route along the St. Lawrence River. It begins in Montreal and ends in Boston, with stops in Canada and the U.S. Passengers can choose from a variety of excursions that include charming villages as well as historical and nature tours.
The Zaandam is one of the smaller ships in the Holland America fleet. It carries up to 1,450 passengers and caters to an adult crowd. As on most ships, you can choose among several classes of accommodations, from interior rooms to balcony suites with ocean views.
The beds are surprisingly comfortable. You may find yourself choosing to sleep in instead of having breakfast at one of the various dining venues. Not to worry. Room service is just a phone call away. Service comes at the appointed time (room card filled out the previous evening) still hot from the kitchen.
You can take a tour of the galley, which reveals the intense quality control and attention to detail that has made Holland one of the top lines for gastronomy.
Among the dining venues is the Lido Deck, with a large selection of buffet items. These include a full salad and sushi bar, hand-carved meats, freshly made rolls, and pastries and a dessert station with a dedicated ice cream server.
To give you an idea just how much work is involved in preparing meals aboard the ship, the baker and staff prepare more than 20 different kinds of bread each day. The numbers are staggering: 100 loaves of French bread, 4000 dinner rolls, 800 croissants, and 800 Danish sweet rolls. During a week, the galley will go through 8,500 pounds of meat, 18,000 packs of eggs, 4,000 quarts of dairy and 20,000 sugar packets.
The main dining room offers two levels of culinary splendor serving international cuisine. It is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
You can select from open seating or a reserved table. The waitstaff is well trained and seems to genuinely enjoy serving their passengers. Holland America has one of the highest crew retention rates in the industry, and it isn’t uncommon to see members proudly displaying their 25 or 30-year pins.
Specialty on-board dining
There are a number of specialty restaurants onboard that offer upscale gastronomic adventures. Pinnacle is where you will find Washington State’s Double R Ranch beef with all the trimmings. Rudi’s Sel De Mer serves French classics and seafood such as a whole salt-encrusted fish or bouillabaisse. Canaletto is their Italian inspiration with tasty, sharable plates.
You may just decide to hang out by the Sea View Pool and enjoy hand-made burgers, fries, and a libation or two.
You won’t be bored on the Zaandam; they provide top-notch entertainment on The Mainstage. This may include variety shows, musicals, comedy acts, as well as presentations where you can learn all about your upcoming destination.
Holland America has incorporated a variety of adult learning and enrichment programs into their itineraries. America’s Test Kitchen has cooking demonstrations and “foolproof” recipes that you can recreate at home. You can view some of the world’s most beautiful destinations with their BBC Earth movies, one of which was scored by the legendary Hollywood film composer Hans Zimmer. And Oprah has partnered as well with O Magazine onboard programming.
Montreal is the embarkation point for Holland’s 7-Day Canada and New England itinerary. You will sail through various waterways, including the St. Lawrence River, Gulf of Saint Lawrence and the Gulf of Maine. Here are the highlights along the way:
Fly in a couple of days before your trip and explore Montreal, the second most visited tourist destination in Canada. Montreal is a very “French” city, although English is widely spoken. It offers distinctive shopping and dining options from every culture. The tour, “Montreal: Old and New”, includes historic information regarding numerous churches, beginning with the Notre Dame Basilica, constructed in 1642. For the “new”, visit the Sun Life Stadium that was built for the 1976 Olympics. The tour continues through Westmount, a residential neighborhood of fabulous mansions. Old Montreal has brick lanes and is adorned with Victorian lampposts.
One of the most popular restaurants here is Jardin Nelson, located in the historic neighborhood of Place Jacques-Cartier. You can enjoy a delicious crepe or authentic French onion soup in a lush and beautiful atmosphere.
A port stop in Quebec City offers several different excursions in the city or in the outskirts, where nature provides the magnificent Montmorency Falls. The “Quebec City Culinary Walk Tour” includes historic neighborhoods such as Quartier Petit Champlain, famous for its cobblestone streets and stone buildings. The gourmet journey includes stops to sample local food delicacies.
Especially interesting is the Petite Cabane, a Sucre (little sugar shack). Guests learn how syrup is extracted from maple trees and turned into various sweets. Other foodie restaurants provide fresh samples of salmon, poutine (a regional dish), local beer and iced cider.
You will also visit the March du Vieux, a colorful farmer’s market where vendors present fresh cheeses, sausages, strawberries, flowers and an array of farm-to-market treats.
For relaxing entertainment, guests can attend a professional performance of the Anne & Gilbert musical based on the Green Gable books series by Lucy Maud Montgomery. A guided walking tour on the route to the Guild Theatre begins at the waterfront and continues through quaint historic streets.
The background settings and period costumes are authentic. The beautiful songs had the audience sometimes laughing, sometimes crying. This excursion is a unique way to learn about Anne of Green Gables in her adult life.
In addition to the many shops and restaurants downtown, there are several shops along the waterfront that serve lobster rolls, a local delicacy. Top it off with some Cows Ice Cream, rated the world’s best by the staff of tour operator Tauck World Discovery.
As you descend the gangway to this next port, you won’t be able to miss one of its most iconic points of interest, a 55 foot-tall fiddle known as the Big Ceilidh Fiddle. This huge attraction is a monument to the Island’s rich cultural Gaelic heritage.
Sydney has a wide range of excursions from which to choose—from walking tours of Old Sydney Town to nature hikes and sightseeing on the Bird Islands. Learn about Sydney’s famous son at the Alexander Graham Bell Museum. This 5-hour tour includes panoramic views of Cape Breton Island and ends up at the Museum’s National Historic Site in Baddeck. From the observation deck, view the surrounding manicured grounds of Alexander Graham Bell’s estate.
The museum contains actual artifacts and documents from Bell’s long years of research, many donated by his family. Besides his well-known telephone machines, he also invented a hydrofoil boat, experimented with kites and airplanes, and made advancements in medicine, genetics, and marine engineering.
The well-stocked gift shop sells Celtic CDs, stuffed toys, and books for adults and children.
One of the best ways to get an overview of Halifax is by horse-drawn trolley. Your trolley driver will also be your tour guide, sharing curious facts as he leads the horses past historic neighborhood homes, shops, and restaurants. Halifax is known as the City of Trees. The reason for that will be evident when you visit the city’s many beautiful parks.
The one-hour tour leaves plenty of time afterward to leisurely explore Halifax’s many attractions, such as the Fairview Lawn Cemetery (burial site of Titanic victims) and the Public Gardens. A visit to the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic is worthwhile. It includes an exhibit about the sinking of the Titanic and the devastating Halifax Explosion of 1917, the largest man-made explosion prior to the atomic bomb.
Enlarged photos, actual artifacts, and descriptive wall plaques can easily take up a lazy afternoon.
Another must-see attraction is Peggy’s Cove, situated on the east shore of St. Margaret’s Bay. This is one of the most popular tour excursions; on any given day, busses line up so passengers may explore its iconic landmark, the red-topped lighthouse.
While there, don’t miss another, lesser-known treat: gingerbread topped with a lemon sauce which you can enjoy in their Sou’Wester Restaurant.
You can sit back and relax on the “Victorian Villages of Mount Desert Island” excursion. Your guide will regale you with fascinating stories of the island’s history as you drive by the many Victorian mansions located there. Famous bygone and present-day personalities own these majestic homes, ironically called “cottages”, many of which have been passed down for generations. In Northeast Harbor, passengers will have time to browse quaint shops in postcard-perfect villages.
The “Scenic Boston with Airport” transfer is a panoramic driving tour. Guests enjoy the city’s historical highlights including Copley Square, Trinity Church, and Newbury Street. Public Gardens, Beacon Hill and The Massachusetts State House are all on the route. Included is the Old South Meeting House where the Boston Tea Party began.
After experiencing a week of delicious, onboard meals, informative excursions, and purchasing unique souvenirs, there’s a good chance you’ll be thinking about another cruise soon. Holland America has numerous and scenic itineraries to consider. All are fun and well organized.