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Classic Canada and New England Cruise aboard Caribbean Princess (Quebec City to New York City)

Classic Canada and New England Cruise aboard Caribbean Princess (Quebec City to New York City)

By avatar  Stacy
Posted On 09/30/2019 16:50:57
Trip Date 09/24/2019  

Destinations | Cruises | Princess Cruise Lines | Caribbean Princess | Canada | Quebec City | Nova Scotia | New England | Bar Harbor | Boston | DIY Ports of Call

After arriving in Boston following our transatlantic voyage from Copenhagen, we drove directly to Canada to explore Quebec City. The mid-September sailing aboard Princess Cruise Line's Caribbean Princess, departing several days later, was the perfect ending to our six plus weeks away from home. Although the cruise was too early to see the fall foliage, there were plenty of sightseeing opportunities in both Canada and New England.

After port days in Saguenay and Prince Edward Island, we cruised to Nova Scotia to visit both Sydney and Halifax. Once we sailed into United States waters, our final two ports of call before our New York City disembarkation were Bar Harbor and Boston. These popular ports along the northeast coast of North America are all relatively close together. Because of the short distances between cities, the itinerary is port intensive and leaves limited time for rest and relaxation.

If you are considering cruise itineraries with destinations in Canada and New England, this post is just for you. As is common for us, we enjoyed going out and exploring each port on our own. If you too prefer DIY ports of call, read on for ideas to help plan your days. Following an overview of our itinerary, we'll provide a port-by-port recap of our days ashore. In addition to basic information for planning, we've also included the total cost of each day on shore for the two of us.

10 Day Cruise Itinerary

Although our cruise itinerary did not change, the time that we spent in two of our ports was reduced:
  • Our arrival into Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island was delayed by two hours due to speed reductions in effect for ships traveling in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. With our departure time extended by one hour, we ended up losing just one hour on the island.
  • The originally announced time for the last tender from Bar Harbor, Maine back to the ship was 6:30 PM allowing for a 7:00 PM departure. The 6:30 PM time was printed in the Princess Patter, displayed on the ship's electronic signs as well as confirmed by crew members distributing tender tickets. Other signs and some of the announcements made indicated that the last tender would be at 6:00 PM, yet there was no mention of why a change was made. This was rather unfortunate as many passengers were unable to disembark until after 9:00 AM due to mandatory customs procedures (Bar Harbor was our first U. S. port of call).

Had passengers been informed of these changes along with the rationale upon boarding, the reductions of time in port would have been more palatable. The way that it was actually handled, however, caused passengers to second guess explanations for these "last minute changes".

Caribbean Princess Docked at Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island

Caribbean Princess Docked at Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island

Here's an overview of the final itinerary for our sailing:

  • Saturday, September 14 - Sunday, September 15: Quebec City, Quebec, Canada (5:00 PM Departure; Late on Saturday night, the Caribbean Princess moved to a container port much further away from the city. Fortunately, Princess Cruise Lines offered a free shuttle service to get passengers to Old Quebec City.)
  • Monday, September 16: Saguenay, Quebec, Canada (8:00 AM - 6:00 PM)
  • Wednesday, September 18: Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada (10:00 AM - 6:00 PM)
  • Thursday, September 19: Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada (7:00 AM - 4:00 PM)
  • Friday, September 20: Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada (7:00 AM - 4:00 PM)
  • Saturday, September 21: Bar Harbor, Maine (7:00 AM - 6:30 PM)
  • Sunday, September 22: Boston, Massachusetts (7:00 AM - 10:00 PM)
  • Tuesday, September 24: New York, New York (7:00 AM Arrival)

It is also worth mentioning that the price of our cabin dropped dramatically. Between the date that we made our original reservation in December 2017 and our final payment date in June 2019, we had our travel agent re-fare our trip on two separate occasions. The end result of the price changes for the two of us was a reduction of over $1,200 USD! The lesson that we learned from these price changes is that it definitely makes sense to keep an eye out for sales, discounts and special offers.

Quebec City, Quebec, Canada

Following our transatlantic cruise disembarkation in Boston, we had a reservation for a one-way rental car to be returned in Canada. Our original plan was to spend two nights each in Montreal and Quebec City. Hurricane Dorian changed that as we arrived to Boston a day later than expected. We made the last minute decision to spend our pre-cruise time only in Quebec City and plan a future trip to Montreal.

Our itinerary change gave us almost four full days (three pre-cruise nights plus one additional night aboard the Caribbean Princess) to explore the city. We successfully filled our time with two walking tours plus guided tours of the National Assembly of Quebec (Parliament) and the Citadelle of Quebec.

View of Quebec City from the Citadelle

View of Quebec City from the Citadelle

With our extra day, we had a good amount of time to explore Old Quebec, sample some foods for which Canada is famous and even ride the bus out to Montmorency Falls.

Montmorency Falls

Montmorency Falls

Excluding our one-way car rental, three hotel nights, meals and tips for our free walking tour guide, our expenses for seeing the city's sites were minimal. We spent $21.56 USD total for the round-trip bus ride and entrance fee to Montmorency Falls. Additionally, we paid $24.24 USD for our guided tour of the Citadelle and another $11.06 USD for a ferry ride to Levis and back.

Comparable tours offered by Princess Cruise Lines included:

  • A narrated drive plus free time for sightseeing and shopping on the 3 hour long Historic & Modern Quebec tour priced at $59.95 USD per person;
  • The 2 1/2 hour Walking Tour of Historic Quebec offered for $44.95 USD per person; or
  • Several tour options to see Montmorency Falls and other popular sites with per person prices ranging from $89.95 USD to $159.95 USD.

Saguenay, Canada

In addition to enjoying the scenery from viewpoints along our round-trip drive, we spent the better part of our time in the port of Saguenay at Saguenay National Park. Traveling in our pre-reserved rental car, we had enough time to visit two sectors within the park. Our first stop, Baie-Eternite, took us to the area near the Interpretive Center. After quickly exploring some of the trails, we hopped back in the car to head further from the port to L'anse-de-Tabatiere. With no bus traffic, this sector of the park also had beautiful views yet was more peaceful!

Saguenay National Park

Saguenay National Park

In addition to the $13.25 USD entrance fee for the national park, we spent just under $90.00 USD for a rental car and fuel for over six hours in Saguenay. Princess Cruise Lines offered a selection of six tours to Saguenay National Park. While some included both land and water activities, the three most comparable to our day were:

  • Saguenay National Park On Your Own, priced at $69.95 USD per person, included the one hour drive each way plus an additional two hours to explore the park while the coach waited at the Interpretive Center.
  • The $89.95 USD per person Guided Walk in Saguenay National Park included round-trip coach transportation, a one-hour easy walk plus one additional hour for on-your-own exploring; and
  • With transportation and a two-hour guided intermediate level hike, Hiking Saguenay National Park was priced at $79.95 USD per person.

Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada

After spending one (shortened) day driving around Prince Edward Island, we know it is a destination to which we want to return. We did our best to circle the entire island starting with a drive on Gulf Shore Parkway. Multiple stops along the coastline between Brackley Beach and North Rustico allowed us to enjoy the scenery and even see Covehead Lighthouse.

Covehead Lighthouse

Covehead Lighthouse

We made a quick stop in Cavendish to catch a glimpse of the legendary setting for the book Anne of Green Gables. We chose not to tour the home and gardens (thereby avoiding the long line filled with bus loads of visitors) so that we could see more of the island.

Although not easy, we did eventually find Teapot Rock. As our time was dwindling, we passed both the Confederation Bridge and Victoria Lighthouse before refueling and returning our car.

Teapot Rock

Teapot Rock

The 3 1/2 hour Panoramic Island Drive & Confederation Bridge tour offered by Princess included some stops similar to those that we made. It goes without saying, however, that with just the two of us and nearly twice the amount of time, we were able to see much more on our own. At $79.95 USD per person for the cruise line tour, we spent less than half for the two of us (just under $75.00 USD for our rental car and fuel).

Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada

The original itinerary for our six week trip included two port days in both Sydney and Halifax. Hurricane Dorian, however, wreaked havoc on our plans by causing our first day in both cities to be cancelled. With only one day to explore the area surrounding Sydney, we debated our options and chose to visit the Fortress of Louisbourg. We started by spending some of our morning at Lighthouse Cove and hiking a portion of the Lighthouse Trail.

Louisbourg Lighthouse

Louisbourg Lighthouse

After making our way to the fortress, we reserved two spots for the Time Travel program. Exploring the fortress on our own coupled with learning about life from a "soldier" and a "servant" made for a great way to spend several hours.

Musket-Firing Demonstration at Fortress of Louisbourg

Musket-Firing Demonstration at Fortress of Louisbourg

We spent under $70.00 USD total for both of us for our rental car and fuel, fortress entrance fees and the optional program. Princess Cruise Lines offered a 3 1/2 hour Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site tour. The price of $99.95 USD per adult included transportation, the same guided tour that we purchased (albeit in a larger group) and time to explore the fort on your own. Since the excursion length was about half of the time that we spent on our own, the tour offered no time for hiking at Lighthouse Cove located just across the harbor from the fortress.

Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

As Scott is a huge fan of the television show The Curse of Oak Island, we were fortunate that we had a second chance to head to the filming area. We started with a guided sea tour which left from the Oak Island Resort. The daily charter aboard The Island Belle offered by Salty Dog Dive Services took us around Oak Island. Fans of the show, like Scott and others onboard, loved the opportunity to ask questions while getting more excited about the upcoming season!

Smith's Cove at Oak Island

Smith's Cove at Oak Island

Before making the one hour return drive to Halifax, we looked at the exhibits (and did some souvenir shopping) in the Oak Island Interpretive Centre.

Oak Island Interpretive Center

Oak Island Interpretive Center

After returning our rental car, we wrapped up our day with a stroll on a small section of the famous Halifax Harbour Walk. Had we had more time, there was so much more that we wanted to see in the port area.

Of the eight people aboard the boat tour around Oak Island, there were only two others from the cruise ship. Needless to say, for an excursion with a maximum capacity of ten, the only way to see Oak Island was on an independently planned excursion. The cost for our day totaled less than $135.00 including rental car and fuel plus the boat excursion - but not including souvenirs!

Bar Harbor, Maine

We used the Acadia's Island Explorer Shuttle for transportation from Bar Harbor as well as within Acadia National Park. While the coach service is free, visitors without an America the Beautiful National Parks Pass are required to pay the $15.00 USD per person entrance fee prior to boarding. The shuttle offers several routes, each with multiple stops.

Although one partial day was not nearly enough time to explore the entire park, we we made good use of our time. We started with a ride on Route 3 from Village Green to the route's namesake of Sand Beach. After hiking toward Otter Cliff, it was time for us to move on.

Looking Back at Acadia National Park's Sand Beach

Looking Back at Acadia National Park's Sand Beach

Route 5, the Jordan Pond Route took us to both Jordan Pond and the Visitor Center. We couldn't pass up the opportunity to sample the popovers for which Jordan's Pond House Restaurant is known. Yum!

The View from Jordan's Pond House Restaurant

The View from Jordan's Pond House Restaurant

Since we already had an Interagency Pass which covered our park admission, the only cost for our day was $26.76 USD for our late morning treat of popovers and drinks for the two of us. Similar tours offered by the Caribbean Princess were:

  • The two hour Acadia National Park Loop Road tour priced at $69.95 USD per person including a coach ride around the park with two photo stops; and
  • At four hours in duration, the Jewels of Acadia National Park tour came at a cost of $169.95 USD per person. In addition to the scenic loop drive, this tour also included transportation to the summit of Cadillac Mountain as well as popovers and coffee.

Boston, Massachusetts

A several block walk followed by short bus and subway rides gets passengers from the Boston Cruise Terminal to historic Boston. As we had previously walked the Freedom Trail with a guide, we chose to walk only a portion of the trail during this visit.

The Great Hall of Boston

The Great Hall of Boston

After roaming through both Boston Commons and the Boston Public Garden, we headed to the Charlestown Navy Yard. After enjoying a rather pricey lobster roll lunch ($85.00 USD), we toured the oldest ship in the US Navy fleet, the USS Constitution. Before heading back to the ship for dinner, we also had time to tour the nearby USS Cassin Young.

USS Constitution

USS Constitution

The fare for one-way transportation from the ship to historic Boston via bus and rapid transit is $2.90 USD per person ($5.80 USD round-trip). The only cost for walking from point-to-point along a self-guided tour of the well-marked Freedom Trail is time and energy! Although we did walk on our return, since subway routes wouldn't get us close to the Navy Yard, we hired a Lyft at a cost of $10.39 USD to eliminate the outbound walk. While the cruise line did not offer transportation to or tours of the ships, the 3 1/2 hour Freedom Trail Walking Tour was available at $59.95 USD per person.

New York, New York

After disembarking from the ship, claiming our luggage and passing through US Customs and Border Control, we headed straight to the airport via Lyft. Even though there is so much more that we'd like to see, after being away from home for over six weeks, we passed on the opportunity to spend more time in New York City.

New York City Skyline from Caribbean Princess at Brooklyn Cruise Port

New York City Skyline from Caribbean Princess at Brooklyn Cruise Port

Total cost for our Lyft ride was $37.00 USD for the two of us. Options offered by Princess included:

  • A 6 1/2 hour coach tour of the city ending with transportation to any of the three airports priced at $129.95 USD per person (only available for passengers with flight times after 5:00 PM); or
  • One-way shuttle service to the airport at a price of $29.00 USD per person.

Tips on Planning Independent Shore Excursions

Although typically more expensive, there are advantages to reserving excursions offered through a cruise line's Shore Excursions Desk. The biggest benefits include an automatic refund due to any itinerary change and the guarantee that the ship will wait for you if a tour is delayed for any reason.

In our early years of cruising, we frequently booked tours through the cruise line. That changed after going out on our own in Athens, Greece in 2001. Of our entire cruise itinerary, I remember our day in Athens more vividly than any of the others. We now typically tour ports either completely on our own (our favorite) or join or organize smaller private tours.

If you are considering doing your own thing while in port, here's a few suggestions to help you get started:

  • Be prepared for the time commitment! While you can often save money and/or see more on your own, it takes time to research options.
  • If you are contemplating car rental to get around during a port visit, make sure to know and plan for the following:
    • operating hours of the agency that you plan to use;
    • pick-up and drop-off locations (some rental agencies provide round-trip transportation from the port, but make sure to include plenty of time if relying on this option);
    • insurance requirements and costs (Your personal auto policy may cover car rentals in some locations. Become familiar with the benefits associated with your credit cards as some include various levels of car rental insurance. There are, however, destinations which require renters to purchase some level of insurance.);
    • costs for traveling in a car such as fuel, parking, toll or ferry charges, etc.;
    • alternative driving routes (an offline map such as MAPS.ME can prove to be invaluable when needing to make last minute changes to your route);
    • additional time due to traffic jams, road conditions, special events, mechanical issues, etc.;
    • any other possibilities that you can think of!

  • When planning for a tender port, learn about the tender ticket distribution process and allow plenty of time for getting to shore. Remember, in most cases travelers on ship excursions have priority which can significantly impact the time that others will get to shore. (We have had a few experiences where getting to shore by tender was pain-free. Unfortunately, there have been many more memorable times where longer than expected delays required waits of an hour or more before boarding a tender for the typically short ride.)
  • Finally, don't leave your ship without either bringing or taking a photo of the daily planner which includes your ship's agent in the port city, helpful contact information and all aboard time!

Canada and New England Ports of Call

For more information on each of our days in port, check back in the coming weeks. We'll have a post dedicated to each port of call which will include details on planning our excursions, itineraries and, of course, more photos from each of our days ashore.

Cruising North America's Northeastern Coast

What are your favorite ports of call to explore when sailing along the northeastern coast of North America, and why do you favor them over all of the others?

Classic Canada and New England Cruise aboard Caribbean Princess (Quebec City to New York City)

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Created On 09/30/2019 12:15:54  
Updated On 10/06/2019 13:52:04
Scheduled On 09/30/2019 14:50:57
Posted On 09/30/2019 16:50:57
Last Editor Stacy
Location  Port of Quebec City
LinkId  CanadaNewEnglandCruise
StoryId  1569860154207

Port of Quebec City Overnight Piers

avatar  Joan Bystrowski  
10/05/2019 11:46:00  

Your website has good info & tips. My DH and I also prefer independent touring when cruising. I suggest mentioning that our first cruise port, Quebec City, included an overnight pier change nearly 2 miles away from the original docking pier. This new pier was industrial-oriented with limited transportation services. Luckily, Princess had a free shuttle to the original pier. This made it easier to access the city on our own.
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Overnight in Quebec City

avatar  Stacy
10/06/2019 13:59:16  

Thanks for checking out our site, Joan. We appreciate your looking around as well as your great comment. Just as you recommended, I did add mention of the port change. We too were very glad that Princess made transportation available for passengers at no cost.

We sure hope you'll return to our site in the future - either in search of information for planning one of your future trips ... or to make more great comments helpful to other viewers.

Happy exploring!
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