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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
City maple pilgrimage
Like Montreal, restaurants in Quebec City
lean heavily on French traditions. But the Quebecois have also forged their
own, unique culinary journey that goes beyond poutine. Your foodie mission is
to reach a cabane à sucre, or sugar
shack, where sap is tapped from maple trees to make syrup. Locals love these
countryside cabins where meals are served on communal tables and plates of
hearty local favourites like hams, eggs and potatoes are topped with fresh
maple syrup. Sugar shack meals are often accompanied by musicians and folk
The optimal time to visit a sugar shack
is in late winter when the syrup is being boiled, but many shacks offer meals year
round. Several sugar
shacks are within a half-hour of Quebec City, and most charge less than $30
Canadian per person for an all-you-can eat meal. A taxi from the port should
cost about $40 to $50 Canadian each way. Many cruise lines also offers
excursion to a sugar shack that include transportation, but charge as much as
$100 Canadian per person.