When you think of Canada, the idea of cruises to Canada might not be the first thing that pops into your head (more likely something like Mountie, hockey, or maple syrup), but there are stunning cities and vast coastlines to explore in the great white north, including the charming Pacific Coast, with ports of call like Vancouver – an urbane, sophisticated metropolis of more than two million people framed by skyscrapers and mountains – as well as the English-looking Victoria, with its quaint flower boxes and attractive public buildings, a suitable capital for idyllic British Columbia.
Many Alaskan cruises pass through British Columbia on their way north, and almost all include Vancouver on the itinerary. There’s no shortage of things to see on a day away from the boat in Vancouver, from the 70,000 creatures that call Vancouver Aquarium home, to a horse-drawn carriage ride around the city. You can also walk through the calming Chinese garden located in the city centre (and rated by National Geographic as one of the ‘1,000 places to see before you die’) and visit the city’s hip shops and cafes. The east coast of Canada has a completely different vibe, though it’s equally delightful. What it lacks in natural grandeur – after all, there are no imposing mountains to gaze at on the Atlantic side – it makes up for in culture. In case you have any doubt, remember, the French are here. Some cruises will head up from New England, over to Halifax, onwards to Prince Edward Island, and then take the St Lawrence River into the heart of French Canada: Quebec City and Montreal.
Quebec City is the cultural heart of the experience – the only walled city in North America, and the spiritual home of the French in North America. As such, it boasts everything you would hope for, including wonderful French cuisine and romantic strolls through its beautifully preserved centre. Montreal, on the other hand, is the urban centre of Quebec with a major hockey team, big concerts, serious museums, skyscrapers and beautiful Catholic churches that hearken back to another era.