Skip to Content

New England and Canada Cruises: What To Expect On Your Sailing

New England and Canada Cruises: What To Expect On Your Sailing

Sailing through the serene waters on New England and Canada cruises aboard Holland America’s Zaandam was like living a decade-long dream. The spellbinding landscapes, historical touchstones, and every seafood connoisseur’s delight across eight memorable days truly symbolized the essence of cruising for my friend Angie and me.

Revel in our tale where modern comforts aboard our magnificent vessel met the allure of discovery at each port.


Here’s what our itinerary looked like:

  • Day 1: Embark in Montreal, Quebec
  • Day 2: Quebec City, Quebec (9 hours in port)
  • At Sea Day 3
  • Day 4: Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island  (9 hours in port and tender required)
  • Day 5: Sydney, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia (8 hours in port)
  • Day 6: Halifax, Nova Scotia (8 hours in port)
  • Day 7: Bar Harbor, Maine (10 hours in port and tender required)

Note: A tender is when the cruise ship has to dock away from the pier (primarily due to shallow water), and smaller boats (lifeboats) take passengers to the shore from the cruise ship.


Thanks to Holland America for hosting on this awesome itinerary. As always, opinions and reviews are 100% mine and unbiased. 

A Magnificent Embarkation in Montreal

The vacation was simple: leave our suitcases at the door of Le Centre Sheraton Montreal Hotel, a hotel offered by Holland America at a discounted rate, and they’d magically find their way onto the Holland America Zaandam ship. 


Our first stop was Aloha Espresso Bar for our caffeine fix, and later, we went to Crêperie Chez Suzette for a mushroom/asparagus crepe so tasty that I nearly teared up. Seriously, this may have been the best crepe I ever ate. Montreal has cool shops with fun trinkets, clothing, accessories, and Canadian merchandise, so consider buying souvenirs here.


Our eyes feasted on Montreal’s grandeur, from Rue de la Commune’s majesty to Basilique Notre-Dame’s grace. However, time fenced us from Château Ramezay‘s historic whispers; the reenactors against a backdrop of 18th-century gardens painted enough of a picture for our imaginations. 


Navigating Montreal’s roads and streets required patience. Take heed, fellow travelers, for phone GPS glitches can ply your path with unintended adventures, mainly if French is as foreign to you as it was to me. When in doubt, tradition triumphs; hailing a tried-and-true taxi cab was our golden ticket back to the hotel from Old Port.


Sashing Through Romantic Quebec City

Quebec City unveiled itself through “Stroll Through Quebec City & Tea at Chateau Frontenac,” a tour worth its weight in gold at $79.95 (these are old prices; be sure to verify current ones before booking). Our tour lasted three hours.


The cobblestone narrative unfurled tales of New France’s roots, while the fun (no pun intended) Old Quebec City Funicular spirited us between Lower and Upper Towns (Haute-Ville to the Basse-Ville) in a whimsical style. In Lower Town, we visited Place Royale and le Quartier Petit-Champlain, the first shopping street in North America.


Tea at Chateau Frontenac was an indulgence we wished lasted an eternity, with sweet treats beckoning for more time in Quebec City’s charming arms. A tip for fellow explorers: carve out time before your tour for that extra shopping.

Quebec City is gorgeous. I would love to come back here on a land trip. 


Relaxing At-Sea Day

Our single day at sea allowed Angie and me some onboard fun and relaxation in spades. Sleeping in, playing trivia, and an occasional outing to the casino balanced perfectly with rejuvenating spells in the Thermal Suite, featuring the hypnotic hydrotherapy pool and aromatic saunas.

The highlight of the Thermal Suite is the heated mosaic lounges where you can relax and watch the ship navigate through the ocean waves.


Then came Afternoon Tea, a traditional delight on Holland America that transformed scones into experience and my favorite thing to do on the cruise ship. Sea days usually offer more sweets and finger sandwiches than in-port days, so try both.


Our at-sea day transcended beyond the vessel’s offerings. It was an opportunity to steep ourselves in calm through reading, the gentle buzz of the onboard shops, and chatting with fellow cruise passengers’ friendships.

Cruising with Holland America isn’t just about the destinations; it’s also about weaving a tapestry of moments – tranquil, exciting, and unforgettable. Whether you’re shore-bound or basking in the onboard ambiance, each day is an adventure waiting to unfurl.


An Adventurous Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island Day

We embarked on the “Island Drive & Anne of Green Gables” excursion on our voyage with Holland America. The price was $79.95 for a 3.5-hour tour. Stops included the picturesque Cavendish Beach and Confederation Bridge before reaching the cherished Anne of Green Gables Museum


Surrounded by the buzz of fellow literary enthusiasts, we experienced a vibrant taste of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s classic novel come to life. It was a special visit for me as this has been my mother’s favorite story since she was young.


Though our museum visit was quick, akin to being herded swiftly through an enchanting literary world, it was offset by a tasty box lunch included in the farewell. A stop at the French River followed, boasting pristine white beaches contrasting the lush farmland—a frame-worthy scene deserving of any traveler’s camera roll.


A Stroll Through Old Sydney Town 

Our third Holland America excursion, “Walk Through Old Sydney Town,” led us on a historical promenade for just $39.95. Over two hours, we breathed in the legacy of Cape Breton at St. Patrick’s, Cape Breton’s oldest Roman Catholic Church, and absorbed the echoes of history at Jost House.


While the sights whispered tales of yesteryear settlers, this leg didn’t stir my soul, and it’s not often I don’t love every cruise port. Nevertheless, our cruise companions spurred envy with tales of their Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site adventure.


Earlier that morning, Angie and I took our own tour through the shopping part of town and saw some fun 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 to taste the local cuisine. 

If you aren’t dying to do one of the excursions offered, get off the ship and walk through town. It is the best (and free) option. I love that our New England cruise included so many Canadian ports.


Halifax Highlights

Our Halifax exploration offered back-to-back adventures. The all-day hop-on/hop-off bus tour ($59.95) unfolded the city’s character in 90 minutes per loop. Angie and I soaked in the verdant allure of the Halifax Public Gardens, an ode to horticultural artistry and beautifully manicured grounds. Amid historic sites and maritime lore, the bus tour guide was our knowledgeable beacon.


Ventures off the bus at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, Halifax Citadel, and Public Gardens were open to all explorers, not just those from our cruise. The proximity of the Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market to our dock presented a treasure trove of gourmet bites and local trinkets, a brief stroll revealing the heart of maritime commerce.

Tip for travel companions with mobility considerations: Halifax unrolls a carpet of joy for every visitor.


Peggy’s Cove & Titanic Memories

My emotions regarding the “Peggy’s Cove & Titanic Combo” tour waver. Costing $64.95 for 3.5 hours of clock-watching hurry, it did spare us the ordeal of self-planning. The pilgrimage began at Fairview Lawn Cemetery, a solemn tribute to the lives claimed by the RMS Titanic tragedy. One hundred twenty-one of them are buried here.

Hindered by a current sinkhole near the cemetery, we navigated challenging rolling hills to pay from where the bus parked our swift respects to history’s lost souls. All in all, we only had five minutes at the actual gravesites.


At Peggy’s Cove, rustic fishermen’s dwellings and granite shores on the Eastern coast of St. Margarets Bay welcomed us. Though the mist played coy with our cameras, Peggy’s Cove’s allure remained steadfast. And though you can only photograph it, not go inside, it is the most photographed setting in Eastern Canada. 


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.

Tip: Take caution, as rogue waves are known to hit at any time, and the rocks can be incredibly slippery. 


Beautiful Bar Harbor, Maine

As a seasoned cruiser, I’ve experienced an array of voyages, but our finale at Bar Harbor, Maine, aboard Holland America’s Canada and New England cruise, became an unexpected highlight. Delving into Bar Harbor was like unwrapping an unassuming gift only to find a priceless treasure inside – why did I wait so long to explore this corner of Maine?


Nestled just a stone’s throw from the pier, Bar Harbor exudes enchantment with its quaint storefronts set amidst a landscape dotted with vibrant floral displays and picturesque spots, which quietly beckon to pause and capture a moment. Local boutiques and restaurants add to the allure.


Indulge in the local delight of blueberry ice cream, churned to perfection and offered in several spots around town. It’s a regional treat not to be missed, crafted from berries as fresh as the ocean breeze.

Adventure beckons right at your doorstep in Bar Harbor – no need for curated tours. My friend Angie and I chose to weave our own path through the area’s fabric. With an Enterprise car rental secured (conveniently picked up with their courtesy shuttle service), we set out to engrave our visit in the pages of our National Parks Passport with a self-guided trip through the majestic Acadia National Park.


Our exploration led us through the serene beauty of Frenchman Bay, unveiling sights of eagles and cormorants taking flight. We ascended the paths of Acadia, making frequent stops to take hundreds of pictures.

At Cadillac Mountain, the world unfolded in a breathtaking 360° spectacle of nature’s splendor, while Jordan Pond offered a blend of delectable dining and tranquil trails.

Our drive unveiled Bar Harbor’s opulent Victorian mansions and introduced us to Ellsworth, a charming artery leading to Acadia’s heart. Here, amid the stunning scenery, we savored what could only be described as lobster roll nirvana at the Trenton Bridge Lobster Pound.


Cruise New England: A Bucket List Completed

Reflecting on my Canada and New England cruising experience, I’m grateful to Holland America for making it effortless to immerse in the diverse offerings – from selecting daily delights to choosing intriguing shore excursions.

This voyage wasn’t just a means to satisfy a travel itch; it was the fulfillment of a long-held aspiration—a hearty thanks to Holland America for creating such an educational and lesser-known itinerary.


Check out more of our cruising posts:

Sailing on the Holland America Zaandam

Carnival Vista: 35 Things to Fall in Love With

Delectable Windstar Cruises Food and Restaurants

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.