My cruise to New England and Canada with Holland America was the perfect choice to make my dream of cruising this region for nearly a decade a reality. Check out how my adventures (with my longtime friend Angie) panned out our cruise on Holland America’s Zaandam ship. Our 8 days of fun were packed with jaw-dropping scenery, natural attractions, delicious seafood, and historic sites. We also had a gorgeous cruise ship to take us from cruise port to cruise port and care of our every need.
- Embark in Montreal, Quebec Day 1
- Quebec City, Quebec (9 hours in port) Day 2
- At Sea Day 3
- Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island (9 hours in port and tender required) Day 4
- Sydney, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia (8 hours in port) Day 5
- Halifax, Nova Scotia (8 hours in port) Day 6
- Bar Harbor, Maine (10 hours in port and tender required) Day 7
Note: A tender is when the cruise ship has to dock away from the pier (mostly due to shallow water) and smaller boats (life boats) are used to take passengers to the shore from the cruise ship.
Montreal (Day 1)
Angie and I were staying at Le Centre Sheraton Montreal Hotel, a hotel offered by Holland America at a discounted rate, where the company can pick you up or drop you off for/from the ship. The reason for staying at a cruise line host hotel is to make sure you’re there in time incase of flight delays.
We placed our luggage outside our door on the morning of our embarkation to be picked up and transported to the Zaandam ship. We took an Uber to the Old Port, where we walked around, shopped, and took amazing pictures.
Our first stop of the day was Aloha Espresso Bar for our caffeine fix, and later to Crêperie Chez Suzette for a mushroom/asparagus crepe that was so tasty that I nearly teared up. Seriously, this is how crepes should be done. Montreal has oodles of amazing shops with fun trinkets, clothing, accessories, and Canadian merchandise so consider buying your souvenirs here.
We especially enjoyed seeing Montreal’s amazing architecture. A few of our favorite finds were Rue de la Commune, Basilique Notre-Dame, Place d’Armes, and Bonsecours Market. We wanted to go in the Château Ramezay and learn more about the history but we were pressed for time. Instead, we enjoyed watching the costumed interpreters practicing outback of the Chateau, above the beautiful 18th-century gardens.
The traffic is a hinderance in Montreal, so leave plenty of time to get back to your hotel for your shuttle to the ship. Remember, if you have a US phone, the GPS may have issues. Between phone/map issues and me not speaking French (ALL of the street signs are in French), it was best for us to hail a taxi rather than rely on a ride-sharing program. It is quite a drive to the cruise port from the host hotel, so you won’t want to miss your shuttle bus.
Quebec City (Day 2)
Angie and I chose the “Stroll Through Quebec City & Tea at Chateau Frontenac” tour with Holland America. It cost $79.95 and lasted 3 hours. We followed our guide around the cobblestone streets of beautiful Quebec City, learning about the first settlement of New France. In Lower Town, we visited Place Royale and the first shopping street in North America, le Quartier Petit-Champlain. Quebec City is gorgeous and I would love to come back here on a land trip.
Our group rode the Old Quebec City Funicular (which was really fun!) from the Haute-Ville to the Basse-Ville, which to me means lower town to upper town. In Upper Town, we were introduced to Dufferin Terrace and Place d’Armes, then had treats waiting for us at the legendary Chateau Frontenac. While there, we had tea service and a fabulous plate of sweets. The day was over way too soon as we didn’t want to leave Quebec City.
Tip: The excursion did not allow any time for shopping, so be sure to get off of the boat before your tour if you want to do some.
At Sea (Day 3)
Angie and I are both avid cruisers and love at-sea days. This is when you get to sleep in, play trivia, enjoy afternoon tea, nap, gamble in the casino, and take advantage of all that Holland America has to offer. Angie and I bought Thermal Suite passes to use the hydrotherapy pool, aromatherapy room, infrared sauna, and relaxation center. We found the Thermal Suite’s heated lounges relaxing for overlooking the water. There was also a wonderful hot tub.
One of my favorite things to do on Holland America ships is to attend Afternoon Tea. We went a few times, but the at-sea day offered a more impressive option for tea sandwiches, sweets, and scones with clotted cream and jam. This is a free cruise offering and one I recommend everyone try at some point.
During our at-sea day, Angie and I also took some time to read, watch TV, visit the shops on the Zaandam, and mingle with newly made friends. If you are like us, you don’t ever need to get off of the ship to have a wonderful experience and day!
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Charlottetown, PEI (Day 4)
Angie and I took another tour with Holland America at Prince Edward Island. It was called “Island Drive & Anne of Green Gables”, cost $79.95, and lasted 3 1/2 hours. The bus tour drove us to Cavendish Beach and Confederation Bridge for photo-ops, and then to the highly anticipated Anne of Green Gables Museum. It seemed that all of the cruise ship passengers were extremely excited about seeing the sights from Lucy Maud Montgomery’s classic novel. We heard chatter about it since our first day onboard.
Our group had a rushed tour of the museum (they seriously herd you in like cattle) and a tasty lunch (which was included). We then got back on the bus and stopped for photo ops of French River, with lovely white beaches and rolling farmland.
Sydney: Day 5
“Walk Through Old Sydney Town” was our third excursion with Holland America on this trip. It was priced at $39.95 and lasted 2 hours. We met our group and wandered only a few blocks away to the historical part of town. Here, we stopped St. Patrick’s, the oldest Roman Catholic Church in Cape Breton. Next, came a visit to Jost house and listening to historical information about Sydney, settled by loyalists fleeing the American Revolution in 1785.
I wasn’t a fan of this tour. This part of Sydney didn’t offer much, but some friends on our boat really loved their visit to Louisbourg and its historic fortress. Earlier that morning, Angie and I took our own tour through the shopping part of town and saw some interesting murals and stores. We had a killer cinnamon roll from Selkie’s Neighbourhood Diner and Italian soda at Doktor Luke’s, then quickly dashed into The Old Triangle Irish Alehouse for a taste of the local cuisine.
If you aren’t dying to do one of the excursions offered, just get off of the boat and walk through town. It seems to be the best (and free) option. I do love that our cruise to New England included so many Canadian ports.
Halifax: Day 6
Angie and I had back-to-back tours in Halifax. The first was the hop-on/hop-off bus ($59.95 and valid all day), which takes about 90 minutes to make the entire loop. It’s a fascinating way to see Halifax! We hopped off to stroll through the Halifax Public Gardens, admiring the beautiful blooms and perfectly manicured grounds. The guide on the bus was excellent, pointing out many historic attractions and cool things to see. Some of the places you can hop off include Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, Halifax Citadel, and Public Gardens. Keep in mind, this is not exclusive to Holland America guests.
We chose the hop-off option to get off of the bus back at the cruise ship. We strolled around the lovely Halifax Seaport for a bit. It is only steps from the cruise pier and offers several great restaurants, a gourmet marketplace, local shopping, and many interesting photo-ops.
Note: If you are traveling with someone who has some physical limitations, this will be a cruise port they will be able to enjoy every inch of.
The Most Anticipated Tour in Halifax
Our second tour of the day was “Peggy’s Cove & Titanic Combo” excursion, a 3 1/2 hours tour for $64.95. I have mixed feelings on this tour. We were rushed from start to finish, and the drive to get to both places is quite long, but the organized tour took the legwork out of me having to figure it out. The places we visited made up for it.
The excursion started at Fairview Lawn Cemetery. It is the solemn ground where 121 people from the RMS Titanic sinking are buried and remembered. There are others, too, but this is the main reason I chose this excursion. There had been a sinkhole near the cemetery, so our bus parked far away and the group walked very far and up and down daunting hills to get there. As a result, we had less than five minutes to look at the graves.
Next, we headed to Peggy’s Cove, an authentic fishing village on the Eastern shore of St. Margarets Bay that is probably the most photographed setting for Eastern Canada. The rugged granite shores are amazing in person, as fog takes a toll on the photos. Still, I loved everything about Peggy’s Cove, though we only had about 30 minutes to explore it. Be sure to pick up some souvenirs at the gift shop, browse the local artists booths around the village, and grab a bite of sweets from the local eateries. While you cannot go inside of the 1915 Peggy’s Cove Lighthouse, you can still admire and photograph it.
Tip: Take caution as rogue waves are known to hit at any time and the rocks can be incredibly slippery.
Bar Harbor, ME: Day 7
The last stop on our Holland America cruise to New England was to Bar Harbor, Maine. While I am familiar with the state of Maine between Farmington and Portland, this was my first time in the Bar Harbor region. Why did it take me so long to get here? I am sure you will feel the same way. The town sits steps away from the cruise port pier. Adorable shops in a charming setting provide the landscape which is dotted with beautiful blooms, understated photo-ops, and an arsenal of local shops and eateries.
I recommend getting blueberry ice cream from one of the dozen or so shops around town. It is a specialty in the area and unbelievably good.
From the park to the stores, there is plenty to do in Bar Harbor without partaking in an organized tour. For that reason, Angie and I our own sightseeing. She rented us a car from Enterprise to explore Acadia National Park; I mean, we had to get the stamp for our National Parks Passport. An employee of Enterprise picked us up at the dock and drove us 25 minutes to get our car at the airport. Keep in mind, you have to return the car to the same location, so allow for time to get back to the ship.
Designing Our Own Cruise to New England Itinerary
During our self-guided tour of Bar Harbor, we saw Frenchman Bay with eagles and cormorants, and then snaked our way up the mountain at Acadia National Park, stopping several times to take pictures. Cadillac Mountain is great for a 360° panoramic view of the mountains, lakes, and valleys. Jordan Pond is a hotspot for dining and easy hikes.
We also drove around to see the amazing Victorian mansions of the Bar Harbor area and the cute town of Ellsworth, the Gateway to Acadia. Martha Stewart is one of its most notable residents. Besides the incredible nature along the way, our favorite stop was to Trenton Bridge Lobster Pound where we indulged in the best lobster rolls ever!
Cruise New England: A Bucket List Completed
Holland America can make your cruise to Canada and New England a most memorable experience with fun excursions, delicious food, and an affordable price tag. Everything I needed to know was carefully laid out for me with my cruise options. All I had to do each day was to make choices about how I wanted to spend my day, what to eat, and what excursions caught my eye.
Canada and New England was a superb cruise choice! I’m so glad to have checked off a bucket list item that had been at the top of my list for a dozen years. Thanks, Holland America.
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Thanks to Holland America for hosting on this awesome itinerary. As always, opinions and reviews are 100% mine and unbiased.
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