All About Our Cruise from Boston to Canada with Holland America Line

Knowing that summer is the perfect time to explore New England and areas north led us to cruise from Boston to Canada with Holland America Line.

This popular Canada & New England Discovery itinerary presented fabulous places to explore nearby Boston, including Bar Harbor, Halifax, and Prince Edward Island. We ended up in Quebec City and chose to explore the area for a few days, not wanting our vacation to end.

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Highlights of a Cruise from Boston to Canada

The ease of boarding Zuiderdam (pronounced Zy-der-dam), our Holland America Line (HAL) ship, from Boston so we could cruise north for seven nights was a breeze.

There are so many wonderful places to explore in our own backyard in North America, and using Boston as the jumping-off point for a cruise that started on the East Coast was the catalyst for northeast exploration. Highlights included Bar Harbor, Prince Edward Island, and ending in Quebec City, where we stayed a few more nights before heading home.

Overview of the Holland America Line Cruise from Boston to Canada

  • Pre-cruise: Overnight stay in Boston, arranged by the cruise line
  • Day 1: Cruise embarkation at the Port of Boston
  • Day 2: Bar Harbor, Maine
  • Day 3: Halifax
  • Day 4: Sydney
  • Day 5: Charlottetown and Prince Edward Island
  • Day 6: Day at Sea, Cruising the Gulf of St. Lawrence
  • Day 7: Quebec City
  • Day 8: Disembark in Quebec City

Considerations for a Late Summer cruise in New England and Canada

This is a great cruise if you’re looking for a vacation to enjoy a cruise ship balanced with interesting destinations where everyone speaks English. While most people in Quebec City speak French, they also speak English, and we hardly encountered anyone who wasn’t bilingual.

If you go on this cruise from Boston to Canada during late August into September or October, you won’t be sweating on excursions because the weather starts to cool off again. However, pack a light jacket. We experienced a lot of wind onboard during our cruise that started the last week of August and ended the first days of September. This meant that it was often unenjoyable to sit on the outside decks but an incredibly pleasant temperature exploring all the ports. Additionally, we were glad that there was an indoor hot tub and pool in addition to the outdoor pool.

Don’t forget to pack a passport: this cruise travels internationally from the United States to Canada.

Cruise Itinerary Day-by-Day: Starting in Boston, Massachusetts, and Ending in Quebec City, Canada

Pre-Cruise and Day 1: Boston, Massachusetts

We flew into Boston from the West Coast, as we were in Vancouver for a trip to Alaska before this late summer cruise in New England and Canada. Holland America Line arranged our pre-cruise stay.

The Fairmont Copley Plaza is where HAL organized our overnight. It’s a gorgeous hotel, and we were so pleasantly surprised by its beauty. We were also impressed by how well check-in went by the hotel staff and Holland America Line’s team, who welcomed us. The HAL representatives at the hotel also let us know what time to be in the lobby the next day to board the buses to the Boston Cruise Terminal.

We were happy to lead ourselves on a self-guided tour of Boston for the morning. We downloaded an audio guide app that helped us navigate Boston’s famous Freedom Trail. It also educated us about the Boston Tea Party as we walked through the city’s historic districts. We visited the Boston Public Library across the street from the hotel before we gathered our things to board the cruise transfer bus.

Day 1: Boston Embarkation Day

The Boston Cruise Terminal is not in the city center. Rather, it’s a 20-minute bus ride from the center of the city, where the pre-cruise hotel (The Fairmont Copley Plaza) was located.

Boarding the buses and loading our luggage was very organized and efficient. Within the half-hour, we were at the Boston Cruise Terminal. It didn’t take long to check in and proceed through security. Then we walked the gangway onto Zuiderdam, our HAL home for the next seven nights.

Day 2: Bar Harbor

We were incredibly excited to return to Bar Harbor after previously visiting during our 7-day Maine road trip and Maine Windjammer cruise along the state’s coastline. Bar Harbor is such a fantastic city; it comes alive during summer when tourism is at its peak.

We were sure to tender to the shore from our Holland America Line Zuiderdam ship before we met our group. This was because we knew we wanted to walk around town for a bit before the excursion.

It’s important to know that not many retail shops open before 11:00 am in Bar Harbor. The ice cream shops open later in the day along with most restaurants. Despite not being able to walk into most stores it was a beautiful morning. It was still nice to walk around before our official Holland America Line tour began.

Lobster Lunch Followed by Acadia National Park

A local guide was our narrator as the buses drove to a casual waterfront restaurant for a Bar Harbor Lobster Bake. If you go to Maine and don’t have lobster, were you really there?

After lunch, our bus took us through Acadia National Park to Cadillac Summit. The local guide knew the park inside and out, so it was fun to hear his personal stories of exploration.

Next time around, we will tour Bar Harbor on our own. The lunch was delicious but it took so much time that we barely had time in Acadia National Park. This reminded us why booking your own excursion or tour in the right cruise ports is sometimes best.

Bar Harbor is very easy to navigate in a short amount of time. Though a car is required to tour Acadia National Park, it’s doable with some arranging.

Day 3: Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

We decided to spend the morning on the ship in favor of not rushing around the city before our 1:15 pm excursion.

Halifax’s cruise port looked largely industrial when we looked out from our balcony. We couldn’t tell with 100% certainty how far the walk into the city would be from the cruise ship (even with the help of Google Maps) or if a car service could pick us up at the port. So instead we opted to hang out on the ship and enjoy our stateroom balcony before our excursion.

After breakfast and lunch on Zuiderdam, we were on the bus to go to Peggy’s Cove. Afterward, we headed to Fairview Lawn Cemetery to learn more about the Titanic.

Peggy’s Cove & Titanic Combination Excursion

We arrived at Peggy’s Cove after an hour tour on a double-decker coach bus with a local guide. We admit that this wasn’t our favorite stop, but we also knew that we took the tour largely for the second stop, which was at a cemetery in Halifax where victims of the Titanic were buried.

Except for the tourists visiting Peggy’s Cove during the summer, it’s a tiny, simple fishing village. You can walk along the rocky coast for the pretty views and visit a small lighthouse. You can also roam around and visit a few small shops in the area.

At Fairview Lawn Cemetery, our knowledgeable guide shared sobering stories of the recovery efforts after the tragedy. As we visited specific gravestones, she told us corresponding stories of who the epitaph was in memory of.

Though it’s a bit ironic, perhaps, to be on a cruise and go on an excursion that discusses the most infamous cruise ship of all time, it was important to us that we go. We wanted to learn more about what happened to honor the victims and educate ourselves about Halifax’s connection to the tragedy.

It was interesting to learn that Halifax was the closest seaport and most well-equipped area in proximity to where the ship sank. This was important for the recovery of Titanic victims because the city’s railway allowed the bodies of the deceased to be shipped to their families for a final return home. White Star Line paid for the majority of the gravestones in Fairview Lawn Cemetery for the bodies that remained there.

Additionally, it’s important to acknowledge that with this tragedy came learning and industry improvements so lives were not lost in vain. Because of the Titanic sinking, there are strict regulations for passenger lifeboats on cruise ships.

Day 4: Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada

This port was a nice place to get off the ship for one or two hours. We walked ashore to explore the small city for a little while. Locals officially welcomed us to the port in such a lovely way, including with live music performances.

Man in the Port of Sydney in Canada with a huge violin in the distance.

We didn’t do much here but stretch our legs and get some exercise. And of course, we got a photo with the oversized violin, a landmark at the port.

One activity we enjoyed was browsing the racks at a cool secondhand clothing store that was filled to the brim with interesting clothing and jewelry. After photographing some interesting architecture, we returned to the ship.

We were sure to get a photo with the “SYDNEY” sculpture before getting back onboard Zuiderdam.

Day 5: Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada

Our favorite port of the trip was Charlottetown, the entry port to Prince Edward Island.

Despite the cold rain, we had the warmest welcome. We walked into the terminal building when we got off the ship to find it alive with vendors of all kinds, including people shucking oysters for guests to try and handing out mini lobster rolls.

Three women from the Mi’qmak First Nation performed several traditional songs and dances to welcome us.

It was a preview of the things we would soon learn about the island, including what makes it beautiful and unique in various ways, from food to culture. We bounced around Prince Edward Island to visit the home of Lucy Maud Montgomery, who wrote Anne of Green Gables then had a wonderful seafood lunch.

Sculpture of Lucy Maud Montgomery in Prince Edward Island, Canada.

We were lucky enough to view the gorgeous coastline at Prince Edward Island National Park that day as well. To end our time on land that day, we walked around the downtown area. This included walking back to the port, where there were plenty of restaurants and a couple of shops, including an ice cream shop.

Day 6: Day at Sea, Cruising the Gulf of St. Lawrence

A day at sea is one we always look forward to. Our day on the water aboard Zuiderdam was a great time to get to know the ship better and enjoy our stateroom. We opted to walk up later than usual as a treat and enjoy a casual day.

Our favorite part of that day’s special programming was the A City on the Sea presentation. The presentation was in the ship’s World Stage theater and provided a behind-the-scenes look at the ship’s operations and history.

Day 7: Quebec City

If you’ve never been to Quebec City, you’re in for a real treat with this cruise from Boston to Canada. Ending or beginning your itinerary in this French Canadian destination is truly lovely during summertime.

The highlight of visiting Quebec City is its old city center, where you can walk around the romantic cobblestone streets. It’s abuzz with tourists during summer when it’s filled with colorful flowers and sunshine during longer days.

There is so much to do beyond what meets the eye in Quebec City. You can sign up for ghost tours or historical walking tours through HAL or on your own. There are also vineyards and waterfalls not too far away from the city center, where the ship docks.

The ship overnighted in port on the last evening of our cruise from Boston to Canada. This provided even more opportunity to explore Quebec City during the last leg of our New England and Canada cruise.

Though we could have easily dined on land for lunch or dinner on the last full day of our cruise vacation, we opted to dine onboard to enjoy our last hours with Zuiderdam and our new cruise friends.

Day 8: Disembarkation in Quebec City

We said goodbye to Zuiderdam in the morning. But luckily, we didn’t need to go far for our next adventure. We transferred from our ship to the historic and centrally located Auberge St. Antoine hotel, where we did a post-cruise stay to explore Quebec City further.

Our Top Tip for a New England Cruise from Boston to Canada

Since the season for this cruise is short — sailing only during summer months and sometimes into very early fall — our number one recommendation is to book early. This is especially true if you have your heart set on a specific date or itinerary.

Holland America Line Cruise Itineraries from New England to Canada

If this 7-day cruise from Boston to Quebec City doesn’t fit the bill for you for one reason or another, HAL has several incredible itineraries in the area. Here are a few more options:

  • Canada & New England Discovery 7-day cruise on Volendam from Montreal to Boston. Stops in Quebec City, Prince Edward Island, Halifax, Sydney, and Bar Harbor.
  • Historic Coasts cruise starting and ending in Boston. This 7-day closed-loop cruise on Volendam visits Portland, St. John (Bay of Fundy), Halifax, Sydney, and Bar Harbor.
  • Newfoundland & New England Discovery for 11-days on Volendam. This cruise begins in Boston and ends in Montreal. In between, ports include Portland, St. John (Bay of Fundy), Halifax, Corner Brook, Prince Edward Island, Saguenay, and Quebec City.
  • Newfoundland & New England Discovery 10-days on Volendam. Starting and ending in Boston then Montreal, with ports of call in Rockland, Halifax, St. John’s, St. Anthony, Corner Brook, Havre-Saint-Pierre, Baie-Comeau, and Quebec City.

Our recommendation is to check HAL’s “Have it All” package pricing no matter the itinerary you select. This pricing is inclusive of WiFi, a drinks package, shore excursions, and specialty dining.

Zuiderdam Ship, Overall Review

Two ships that currently sail to this area of North America in the HAL fleet are Volendam and Zuiderdam. Zuiderdam — the ship we cruised on — is part of Holland America Line’s Vista Class of ships.

The vessel was lovely, though she was showing her age a little bit. The main lobby area had a nice design, though not a focus of the ship or too grandiose. The wrap-around staircase encircled a couple of decks, from a little lounge area where there was nightly jazz music to the guest services area below.

The restaurants were comfortable and served good food, as is to be expected on most cruises. The music venues were some of our favorite places to be, especially the dueling pianos area, a favorite Holland American Line musical feature. Though we’re not gamblers, it was next to the casino, and it was fun sometimes to look over to see people at slot machines or card tables enjoying this aspect of the cruise line.

The shops were best for Holland America Line cruise gear. Nothing particularly caught our eyes like the watch stores on other cruise lines. But they had shopping events like a clearance sale one day that was very popular, sales on metal chains by the foot as we’ve seen on other cruise lines, and an assortment of non-cruise line apparel and gifts.

Neptune Suites are part of the cruise line’s ship-within-a-ship class. This ship seemed to have been somewhat retrofitted to accommodate the suite class. The Neptune Suites lounge was very nice, but the top deck cabanas and such that are part of Neptune Suites weren’t anything like The Retreat on Celebrity Cruises. This is likely because the ship was built in 2002, though its last refurbishment was in 2017. Pinnacle suites do not exist on HAL’s Vista Class ships, the ship class of Zuiderdam.

We really enjoyed that there was an indoor and outdoor pool. It’s great to have both options during a cruise that heads north in summer when the temperatures can be a bit breezy outside.

We look forward to sailing with Holland America Line in the future and discovering more ships in the fleet!

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