Cruise ports of call: The North Atlantic coast for foodies
Crystal Cruises ship in Quebec City. (courtesy of Crystal Cruises)
The Canada and New England cruise region is mainly known for its autumn foliage sailings, but the region has far more to offer, including varied and unique culinary traditions.
Passengers cruising along the North Atlantic coast will enjoy the legendary seafood traditions of New England, the British influence of food and culture in Nova Scotia, and the French culinary vein of Quebec -- all without having to board a transatlantic flight.
Because of the demand for leaf-peeper cruises, the New England and Atlantic Canada high season is during September and October. Better deals can be found on the cruises that sail the region from May to August, the earlier, the cheaper.
Cruise ships of every size sail these waters, usually departing out of New York City, New Quebec and Boston. The largest visit main ports like Halifax, Montreal, Quebec and Bar Harbor, Maine. Smaller vessels stop at towns on Quebec’s Sagunay River and remote islands.
The popular ports of call deposit passengers in the heart of New England and Canadian cities, making it easy to start your own culinary adventure.
Bar Harbor lobster crawl
When in Maine, you must eat lobster in whatever form you choose. Bar Harbor has enough places that specialize in local seafood to allow you to go on a lobster crawl, enjoying the delicacy as a soup, a roll or steamed whole. Use any sightseeing excursions, such as to Acadia National Park or a schooner cruise in the harbour, to work up an appetite.
For a traditional New England-style lobster bake head to Stewman's Lobster Pound, only steps from the cruise pier in downtown Bar Harbor, for steamed lobster served with clam chowder and corn on the cob. For an afternoon snack, Galyn’s, also downtown, has a memorable lobster bisque and harbour views. Finally, before heading back to your ship, stop at the Thirsty Whale, a local favourite, for traditional chilled lobster roll on a toasted bun and an Old Soaker Blueberry Soda, made in town.
Cruise ships anchor outside Bar Harbor and use small craft to drop passengers at the town pier, from which most restaurants are within walking distance.
Halifax hops and barley
The influence of the Nova Scotia capital’s Anglo-Saxon settlers can be tasted in the Haligonians penchant for beer. Halifax’s growing number of breweries and brewpubs include options within walking distance of the cruise terminal, starting with the Garrison Brewing Company which serves cheap samples from its diverse beer selection and has ample outdoor seating. Three blocks from the cruise terminal is the Henry House, a 1800s-built granite building that serves English-style ales (top-fermented and unpasteurized), from the nearby Granite Brewery. The Hart & Thistle, also along the waterfront, usually has two of its own hoppy brews on tap. Its other selections include choice picks from the oldest brewery in Halifax, Alexander Keith’s, established in 1820.
Montreal bikes, baguettes and poutine
The city's cafe culture and dedication to French culinary tradition will satisfy the pickiest of palates. A fun way to experience the best of Montreal’s eats while seeing many of its vibrant neighbourhoods is to rent a Bixi Bike from the bike share station (one of 405 city-wide) in Old Town, a short walk from the cruise terminal.
First peddle to Marche Atwater, one of the city’s many famous markets, for the best baguettes, croissants and pungent cheeses this side of the Atlantic. Au Pied De Cochon offers nine versions of foie gras, including one where hunks of it sit atop poutine, the local specialty of French fries, gravy and cheese curds. In the upscale Laurier district, Lemeac Cafe Bistrot is known for serving exceptional boudin, a blood sausage cake. End your bike tour with steamed mussels in a beer and leek sauce and a glass of ice wine, a local specialty distilled from apples, at Le Fripon in Montreal’s Old Town.