It’s that time of year when the leaves in Canada and New England turn from shades of green to vibrant hues of yellow and red. Fall officially begins this week, and it’s peak season for Canada & New England cruises. From the Saguenay Fjord to the coastline of Maine, it’s a spectacular display of nature at its finest.
Journalist John Pead recently took a Canada & New England Discovery cruise aboard ms Veendam and wrote about it for the Daily and Sunday Express in the U.K.
I am looking down on the battlefields of the Plains of Abraham which once saw mighty clashes between the French and British Empires.
These days it’s mature Quebec City parkland yet beyond it are the trenches and battlements of the Citadel, still with its military garrison.
Straight ahead is the old town, dominated by the iconic Fairmont hotel, Le Chateau Frontenac and the harbour.
Through the early morning mist I can just make out the Isle of Orleans sitting in the mighty St Lawrence River on which I shall soon be cruising in some luxury.
I am joining MS Veendam for the Canada & New England Discovery cruise taking in major cities including Quebec, Halifax and Boston as well as the small coastal towns of Charlottetown, Sydney, Lunenburg and Bar Harbor.
In winter the landscape is different with several feet of snow, frozen seas and lots of ice. But it’s summer now and the landscape is beautiful: soft and rugged at the same time.
Never having been on a cruise before I’m not entirely sure what to expect.
First impressions of the grand Holland America Line ship are of an upmarket shopping mall. The staircase spirals around an enormous glittering crystal chandelier. The endless twinkly, art-encrusted corridors linking the shops, bars, lounges, restaurants and leisure facilities at first seem quite overwhelming.
It takes a couple of meandering expeditions to fix the deck plan in my head. And yet this floating wonderland isn’t regarded as big. Carrying about 1,400 passengers and with 580 crew, I am assured Veendam is medium-sized, understated and intimate.
I soon discover that there is a place for whatever activity you fancy.
There’s Strictly style in the Crows Nest disco, Las Vegas style in the Casino and even Tunbridge Wells style in the form of a quiet game of bridge in the Hudson Room.
You might try leaping and twisting at the aerobic sessions, grinding away on the exercise machines in the gym, swimming serious lengths in the pool or flopping about in the hot tubs followed by a checklist of spa treatments.
But it was the destinations that I couldn’t wait to sample.
Our first stop is Prince Edward Island. The shoreline is dominated by rugged red sandstone cliffs, pink sandy coves and small picturesque fishing harbours. Inland the fertile iron-rich soil and rolling landscape is intensively cultivated.
Back in 1908 author Lucy Maud Montgomery published Anne of Green Gables, the first of a series of stories based on the life of young orphan Anne Stirling.
That first book sold 50 million copies worldwide and the movies, TV and stage shows have generated a major industry. Couples come from as far away as Japan, where it is a set schoolbook, to get married in Green Gables farmhouse and the museum hosts themed events throughout the summer.
Down the coast in the U.S., Bar Harbor, Maine, is one of New England’s premier summer resort towns and has long-standing links with America’s wealthiest families. The Vanderbilts, Rockefellers, and Astors have all owned enormous properties here and John Travolta has a home nearby.
It’s not just a playground for the rich and famous though. It also attracts artists and creative types.
I enjoy wandering around the many galleries just off main street and buy a couple of prints to remind me of my visit. Then I head to the great outdoors and take a tour through Acadia National Park to see why so many outdoor enthusiasts flock here.
With almost limitless paths for hiking, biking and, in winter, skiing and snowshoeing, we spot eagles and falcons circling above. Venture farther into the park and you may see furry mammals, not to mention moose.
Our last port of call was Boston, which I was expecting to be similar to Quebec. Both are seats of learning and culture packed with classical architecture underpinned by serious history.
There are marked differences though. Boston is more bustling and lively. The ad hoc patchwork of old and new makes for a rather confusing street layout so my navigation of Boston’s historic landmarks was made much easier by following the Freedom Trail.
The two and a half mile red-brick route snakes from Boston Common, the oldest park in North America, to the 18th century, 44-gun frigate, USS Constitution, winner of battles with British warships.
We stop at the Granary Burying Ground where Benjamin Franklin rests, alongside 5,000 other prominent Bostonians. We also visit the only house on the trail, once belonging to the revolutionary, Paul Revere.
Revere and his family lived in this distinctive simple wooden property until 1800 and its original fireplaces, rafters and floors alongside furniture and household items still remain.
Along the trail signs and captions tell how Boston led the war for American independence.
History lesson over, a final sign indicating Logan Airport, confirms my homeward journey is just beginning.
To read John’s story online, click the headline at the top of the article or click HERE.
Have you taken a Canada/New England cruise with Holland America Line? Send your favorite fall foliage photo to firstname.lastname@example.org and you could be featured on social media.