Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Time to take a cruise on the eastern side

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Hardly a day goes by in the spring and summer that West Coast Canadians don't see a cruise ship either heading to Alaska, via Victoria and the outside of Vancouver Island, or via the Inside Passage from Vancouver.

Now it's time to focus on Canada's other coast, and on ships that will be home-porting in cities such as Boston, New York, Baltimore, Montreal and Quebec City. For the most part, all these ships will be sailing to cities in the Maritimes and Quebec, as well as the northeastern U.S.

You might think the geographic nature of this cruise means Canadians would make up the majority of the ship's passenger list. That's not the case. While the numbers do vary by cruise line, the manifests are 10 to 15 per cent Canadians, while Americans can't get enough of these trips. Whether they're from the north or the south, about 70 per cent of the passengers are American.

If Charlottetown is among the ports of call, you will probably find a group of Japanese passengers ready to spend every minute they can, immersed in Anne of Green Gables. The Lucy Maud Montgomery novels were made popular in Japan with a TV series, and the books are still a must-read today, for young and old. One Japanese man told me while we were boarding a ship his wife had brought an extra suitcase specifically for 'Anne' memorabilia.

Most major cruise lines are participating in this region's sailing season -- some with a few cruises, others with a series that operates from early summer to late summer or fall, offering port-heavy itineraries of five to 14 days.

Here are some examples:

In September, Holland America has a 13-day, one-way cruise on the Veendam from New York to Montreal. The ship makes a few U.S. stops before porting in Saint John, Halifax, Sydney, Charlottetown, Gaspe, Saguenay and (for an overnight) Quebec City.

HAL's Maasdam is being re-positioned from the north to the south in October. Maasdam will start in Montreal and stop in Quebec City, Saguenay, Baie Comeau, Gaspe, Charlottetown, Sydney and Halifax, plus two U.S ports en route to the warmer climes of Fort Lauderdale.

Princess Cruises' Emerald Princess is offering the same type of re-positioning cruise, embarking in Quebec City at the end of October.

I found a Norwegian Cruise Line trip especially interesting. The 14-day trip on the Norwegian Dawn offers a lot more Quebec City time, starting and finishing there with a heavy Canadian itinerary that includes two stops in Halifax.

For people with time constraints, Norwegian also has seven-day, one-way trips between Quebec City and Boston through September and October.

Even Cunard is getting in on the act. The venerable liner Queen Mary 2 offers Brits a cruise that starts in Southampton, but is also available for North Americans wishing to board in New York. This September cruise is round-trip out of the Big Apple and, again, there's an overnight in Quebec City.

On the smaller-ship side, the deluxe cruise line Oceania will have its Regatta sailing from New York to Montreal in October, with only two cruising days on its 12-day voyage.

The Disney Magic will be a regular in the Maritimes this year, with shorter return trips (five days) out of New York that include stops in Halifax and Saint John.

If you haven't been to this part of North America, think of these cruises as an appetizer. I'll tell you this: They'll encourage you to come back for the full meal deal somewhere down the road.

Visit portsandbows.com for daily updates on the latest cruise news, best deals and behind-the-scenes stories from the industry. You can also sign up for an email newsletter on the site for even more cruise information. Phil can be contacted directly at portsandbows

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 12, 2012 D2

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