In recent years more major cruiselines have made the Port of Boston their embarkation point for popular Spring, Summer and Fall cruise vacations to the North Atlantic Seaboard of the United States and Canada. These cruises often travel to the beautiful port cities of Portland and Bar Harbor Maine, Saint John (New Brunswick), Halifax (Nova Scotia), as well as the Canadian cities of Montreal and Quebec City, if you opt for a longer cruise (or a one-way cruise). Fall cruises are popular due to Autumn’s changing of the foliage colors to reds, yellows, and orange. Also, you get a good value vacation visiting this unique area on a cruise. If you factor in what it would otherwise cost you to visit all these cities independent of a cruise, including hotels, meals and transportation, a cruise makes a lot of sense, saving you some money and, more importantly, valuable time.
A cruise vacation really allows you to unwind and relax, not having to worry about dinner reservations and checking in and out of hotel rooms. Many of the cruise ships departing from Boston are awesome floating resorts, complete with gambling casinos, entertainment auditoriums, luxury spas & fitness centers, shopping, multiple swimming pools, several restaurants, bars and nightclubs featuring live music and dancing. The time you spend on the ship is fun because there is so much to do to keep you entertained most of the day.
If you decide to take one of these fun cruises, be sure to arrive in Boston a couple days early so you can take in what this beautiful city has to offer. The city of Boston is full of culture, arts, American history, entertainment, and fine dining, particularly the fresh Atlantic seafood. You shouldn’t have to rent a car while you’re here because the public subway system will get you around to all the major points of interest in the city. The subway is efficient and inexpensive. All day transit passes are a bargain and the subway system is safe and easy to navigate. Also, it’s generally safe to walk around most parts of the city even at night, so you can get a lot of sightseeing in each day you are here.
The number of historical sites to visit in Boston will keep you busy, particularly if you are an American history buff. The city’s popular Freedom Trail Walk is a red brick line that leads you to some of the city’s top historic landmarks. In just one day without a car you can visit the site of the Boston Tea Party, site of the Boston Massacre, Paul Revere’s house (built 1680), and the famous Old North Church (built 1723) where Paul Revere hung lanterns to notify Boston of in-coming British troops. You can also see the Bunker Hill Monument commemorating the 1775 Battle of Bunker Hill, or visit The Granary Burying Ground which is the final resting place for such distinguished Revolutionary-era patriots as Paul Revere, John Hancock and Samuel Adams (signers of the Declaration of Independence). The historic Faneuil Hall Market Building was the site of public meetings during the American Revolution. The historic State Capitol Building was built in the 1790s. If you enjoy maritime war history, the USS Constitution (a wooden navel ship launched in 1797) is the world's oldest commissioned naval vessel afloat. She defeated five British warships during the war of 1812.
Finding nature and beauty in the center of the city can be found by visiting the Boston Common, the nation's oldest public park. Adjacent to the park you’ll find the Boston Public Garden, the nation's first public botanical garden. Other Boston attractions include the New England Aquarium, Museum of Science, and the JFK Presidential Library & Museum. For entertainment you can enjoy an evening at the Boston Symphony and Boston Pops, or enjoy a baseball game at Fenway Park (home of the Boston Red Socks). Popular neighborhoods in the city include China Town, the Newberry Street shops & galleries, and the North-End’s Little Italy neighborhood with all it’s fine restaurants. Other attractions include the historic Light Houses, the Samuel Adams Brewery, and Harvard & MIT University, which are located directly across the Charles River. Day trips are available to Plymouth Rock, Cape Cod, and the islands of Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard. You can even see the New England Patriots football team play, just 45-minutes out of town.
Dining in Boston is a real treat, especially sampling the local seafood and Boston clam chowder. A dining institution in Boston is a local chain restaurant called Legal Sea Foods, with several locations around the city. If you want to try the best this chain has to offer we recommend dining at Legal Sea Foods Harborside Restaurant, located at 270 Northern Avenue in the Seaport District (near the world trade Center). The restaurant offers great harbor views along with their multi-level fine and casual dining. Our favorite dish was the Portuguese Sea Food Stew. If you want some Grade-A sea food, the Atlantic Fish Co. at 761 Boylston Street has the best. You can sit indoors or enjoy street-side dining. There is a broad variety of fresh sea food dishes to choose from as well as excellent steaks and burgers. Their Boston clam chowder in a bread bowl is popular and they serve some of the most delicious seared jumbo scallops. They also have a beautiful bar for socializing. At the historic Lennox Hotel in the Back Bay neighborhood, the City Table restaurant offers fantastic classic American food in a cozy atmosphere with dark wood and soothing lighting. City Table uses premium meats, fresh local catch seafood and fresh organic seasonal produce, all with an artistic presentation. The dining experience is very relaxing with attentive service. Two other very good restaurants that we enjoy are Stephanie’s on Newberry Street and the Stan Hope Grill at the Back Bay Hotel. Both serve great food and wine, have a nice ambiance, and offer excellent service. Stephanie’s is a popular local hangout with a vibrant bar next to the dining room, as well as side-walk seating.
Good pre-cruise hotels in Boston with good locations and transportation access include the Westin Copley Place, which is kitty corner to Copley Square and 1-block from a subway station. The Westin has several restaurants, bars, shopping, and well appointed guest rooms with modern amenities. Also across from Copley Square, you’ll find the historic Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel. The Fairmont is in a beautiful historic building and features a popular open kitchen restaurant and bar, as well as luxury guest rooms. The subway station is directly across the square. Centrally located across from the historic Boston Common and Public Garden, the Four Seasons Hotel at 200 Boylston Street offers that standard of luxury that is Four Seasons. Their upscale restaurant at street level is very popular. The Four Seasons is also conveniently located by a subway station for easy transportation access around the city. Adjacent to the financial district is the Intercontinental Boston on the Waterfront, located at 510 Atlantic Avenue. The Intercontinental offers excellent waterfront and harbor views, a great location and easy subway access. Another good waterfront hotel is the Boston Marriott Long Wharf Hotel at 296 State Street on the edge of the historic North End neighborhood. The Marriott is at a waterfront grassy park with great harbor views. If you prefer more of a boutique style feel in a hotel, then we recommend the historic and beautiful Lenox Hotel at 61 Exeter Street in the Back Bay neighborhood, or the Back Bay Hotel at 350 Stuart Street, which is located in the landmark building that once housed the Boston Police Department Headquarters. If you simply wish to stay closer to the cruise ship terminal and the seaport district, then we recommend the Westin Boston Waterfront Hotel, which is adjacent to the Boston Convention Center, at 425 Summer Street. This hotel is still within walking distance of downtown and a nearby subway station. Being next to the convention center, the Westin offers many business amenities. Best of all, you will be a short distance to your cruise ship.
On the particular 7-day cruise itinerary our Voyagemonkey.com staff took out of Boston, they visited the beautiful port cities of Halifax Nova Scotia, Saint John New Brunswick, Bar Harbor Maine, and Portland Maine. Here is what to do and see in those cities.
Halifax Nova Scotia
Located around 500 miles northeast of Maine, Halifax is a fabulous walking city full of history and natural beauty. The cruise ship terminal is downtown very close to sites of interest and attraction. You can walk from the ship down the harbor front boardwalk and view the city by foot.
As a major strategic Seaport for centuries, Halifax is rich with maritime and military history. Halifax was founded in 1749 as a British military outpost. Because of its ideal natural harbor; it played a major role in the American Revolutionary War, as well as a major immigration point into North America. Halifax hosts the Canadian Museum of Immigration as well as other attractions. Around the city you’ll discover plenty of French, British and Scottish colonial period architecture. There are also many modern era buildings, as parts of the old city have been destroyed. As recently as 1917 the Nova Scotia Explosion occurred when munitions ships collided in the harbor creating the world’s largest explosion before the first atomic bomb. The explosion destroyed much of the city, killing around 2000 people and injuring around 9000.
Walking around Halifax you’ll find many restaurants, shops & galleries, pubs, micro breweries, live music, and points of interest. With an easy walk you can visit the historic Old Town Clock, the Government House, some historic churches founded in the 1700s, and The Citadel, an 18th century fort that sits on top of a hill behind the city, offering a panoramic view of the city and the harbor. Tours of the fort interior are available. Get your camera ready and stop by the Halifax Public Gardens established in 1875. They are a beautiful example of Victorian landscape and a great photo opportunity. For more photos you can grab a double decker tour bus ride to the nearby Peggy’s Cove Lighthouse, one of Nova Scotia’s most photographed places and enjoy the tranquility you’ll feel here, as well as the sites along the way. A popular attraction in town is the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. It’s full of maritime history including original artifacts from the Titanic disaster. Find out the history of transatlantic travel and under-seas telecommunications cables. After the museum some will visit the Fairview Lawn Cemetery, which is the final resting place of many victims of the Titanic. They were recovered by Halifax ships as the first responders. You’ll have plenty of time in town to look around and have some fun. You can even enjoy gaming and entertainment at the Casino Nova Scotia on the Halifax Waterfront.
If you decide to come back to Halifax for a longer stay we recommend the Westin Nova Scotian Hotel at Cornwallis Park, the Prince George Hotel in the center of town, and the Halifax Marriott Harbourfront Hotel. All three hotels are centrally located and convenient for walking.
Saint John New Brunswick
The city of Saint John is around 80 miles north on Maine. It’s located at the mouth of the Saint John River on the Bay of Fundy. The cruise ship terminal is conveniently located downtown so you can easily walk off the ship and begin to explore the city on foot. The city is full of history. The French began to colonize in Saint John in the early 1600s. Later on, it was ruled by the British, for strategic control of the Saint John River. In 1785 Saint John became Canada’s first incorporated city. It is also the home of Moosehead Beer, Canada’s oldest independent brewery.
The Saint John River flows into the Bay of Fundy through a beautiful narrow gorge. Because the tides in the bay rise around 28 feet at high tide, it produces a unique phenomenon at the gorge called the Reversing Falls. At high tide the water reverses and flows up the river creating a series of rapids over rocks and ledges at the narrowest point of the gorge. You can view this reverse flow from the beautiful bridge that stretches over the gorge or several viewing points along the edges of the gorge. It’s only a half hour walk along the riverfront from the cruise ship pier to the gorge. While you are there you can visit the popular Saint John Adventures Ziplines at the river’s edge. While walking to or from the gorge you can visit the New Brunswick Museum and get familiar with the area and its history.
In the center of town you’ll find the Old City Market, which is the oldest city market in North America, built in 1876. The market building features an original ship's hull roof design, to honor the city’s maritime history. At the market independent vendors sell everything from hand-crafted jewelry, art, fresh brewed coffee, home-made maple syrup, candy, pastries, fresh vegetables and fruit, delicious eat-in or take-out food, sandwiches, fish and chips, t-shirts, hats and much more. It’s a fun place to walk around and talk with the local people. You can hear great stories about the city from the local people, and they are happy to share information.
There a plenty of other historic buildings to view around town like the 1817 Loyalist House near the City Market. It’s the oldest unaltered building in Saint John. The Imperial Theatre at Kings Square is a beautifully restored old theater that will take you back in time. They offer various live performances and concerts, and often let you look around inside when there are no shows. The Gothic Style Trinity Church built in 1879 features beautiful stained glass and stone work, making for great photos.
If you enjoy nature and wild life, there is plenty to explore in and around Saint John. Ten miles southwest of town you’ll discover the narrow peninsula of the Irving Nature Park. The park has great views of the Bay of Fundy, forest land, marsh land, beach, hiking trails and an observation deck. Just a few minutes north of downtown you’ll find Rockwood Park, which includes lakes, nature trails, and an 18-hole golf course. You can walk there from the cruise ship if you want some exercise, otherwise it’s just a short taxi ride.
If you wish to return to Saint John and spend more time we suggest staying at the Hilton Hotel which is located downtown right on the edge of the harbor overlooking the water. We find this hotel to be the best for location, views, and just a short walk to many points of interest.
Bar Harbor Maine
The small town of Bar Harbor Maine is located on the east side of Mount Desert Island, in Frenchman’s Bay. This nearby island is connected to the mainland by bridge. Mount Desert Island is the home of the beautiful 50 square mile Acadia National Park, the number one attraction in the area.
Bar Harbor gets its name because during low tied a land bridge is created across the harbor, allowing you to walk on the ocean floor over to the small island in the harbor, called Bar Island. A hike to the top of Bar Island offers a spectacular view of the Bar Harbor waterfront and the seaside homes and hotels. Be sure to plan your day to get back across the land bridge before the tide covers your path back to town.
From the downtown tender pier you can walk the Shore Path Trail south which follows along the edge of the harbor past the seaside hotels and luxury waterfront homes and rugged rocky coastline, finishing up at Main Street at the far end of town. The walk is less than a mile and the trail is well maintained, easy to walk and the scenery is beautiful. Bring your camera for some great photos. Your cruise ship should be anchored offshore in view from the path. You can then come down Main Street into town stopping at the Village Green (a central park) and stopping at the unique shops, galleries, pubs and restaurants along your way back to the tender pier. From town you can catch a free shuttle at the Village Green to go into Acadia National Park. As an alternative you can hop on a bus tour and get to see all the highlights of the park, like the spectacular view from Cadillac Mountain, the Ocean Trail, Thunder Hole, sites along the loop road, tiny fishing villages, and more.
While in Bar Harbor you can enjoy boating, kayaking, hiking, biking, shopping and eating. If you want to try the freshest Maine Lobster, this is the place to do it. Right next to the cruise tender pier you’ll find Stewman’s Eagle’s Nest Grog & Grub which serves up a fresh whole lobster with traditional local side dishes in a casual waterfront pub setting. It’s a good way to enjoy Bar Harbor before you go back to the cruise ship. For a more upscale dining experience just steps from the tender pier try the Reading Room at the Bar Harbor Inn. The restaurant serves delicious gourmet food, fabulous steak & lobster, deserts, features nice décor, patio dining, and excellent views of the harbor.
BAR HARBOR INN
If you’d like to return to Bar Harbor someday to spend more time, we recommend the following nice hotels that are centrally located: the Bar Harbor Inn, the West Street Hotel, the Bayview Hotel, or the Harborside Hotel, Spa and Marina. Make your reservations early as these hotels tend to fill up during the tourist season.
Portland Maine is located around 110 miles north of Boston along the Atlantic Coast of Maine, in Casco Bay. The bay has over 300 islands and is a beautiful body of water for kayaking and boating. Boat tours of the bay and the islands are a popular attraction in Portland. There is also regular ferry service to some of the local inhabited islands, like Peaks Island and Long Island. If you have time, you can even take a ride on the Mail Boat that delivers daily mail to the inhabited islands in the bay.
The cruise ship terminal is directly downtown in the Old Port district. This is another perfect port to simply walk off the ship and tour the downtown on foot. The city is very safe and the local people are friendly. You’ll run across street musicians and sidewalk vendors selling arts & crafts along the waterfront. You can visit one of the many micro breweries in town. The area has many historic buildings, museums, theaters and nightclubs. Exchange Street is the center of the Old Port neighborhood, full of Irish Pubs, outstanding international and seafood restaurants, coffee houses, unique little shops and eclectic galleries selling local goods. The area is romantic with its cobblestone streets, old brick buildings, and antique street lights. Although the Old Port area takes up only several square blocks, you can spend a lot of time here. One of the best restaurants in the Old Port district is Fore Street restaurant, located at 288 Fore St. It serves eclectic contemporary American and seafood, getting their fresh organic produce from local farmers and seafood from local fisherman. Fore Street restaurant offers fantastic food and service, and a great casual ambience with an open kitchen and wood fired oven.
Walking west along Commercial St. and the waterfront you’ll pass many interesting shops, restaurants and pubs. There are plenty of good photo opportunities along the waterfront. This is a great area to feast on some fresh Maine Lobster or New England Chowder at one of the waterfront restaurants. A few blocks west of the Old Port on Danforth St. you’ll find the historic Morse-Libby Victoria Mansion which is the finest preserved example of residential architecture and furnishings from the American pre-Civil War era. A couple blocks from there on Congress St. near Monument Square is the original restored 1786 home of the great American poet Henry Wadsworth-Longfellow. The Longfellow house is the oldest standing brick structure in Portland.
Walking east along the waterfront away from downtown and the cruise ship terminal is the popular Eastern Promenade, with its grassy waterfront parks, walking and biking trails, and great Casco Bay and harbor views. From here you can see Little Diamond Island and Hog Island’s Civil War era Fort Gorges. A five-minute water taxi can take you to the Fort. While on the East Promenade you can walk up the hill to the historic Portland Observatory on Congress St. which was built in the 1800s as a watch tower to monitor and identify ships in the bay. Take a camera to the top for a great view of Portland, Casco Bay and the islands. On the walk back from the Promenade you can stop by the Shipyard Brewing Company on Newbury St., which offers Brewery tours and beer tasting.
If you go beyond downtown Portland to see the surrounding areas you’ll find historic lighthouses, rugged coastline, forest, wildlife and natural beauty. For a future trip to stay overnight along the water front, there are not many hotels to choose from. We did visit and recommend the Portland Harbor Hotel, at 468 Fore Street, the Hampton Inn Downtown Waterfront, at 209 Fore St., Hilton Garden Inn, at 65 Commercial St., and Residence Inn by Marriott, at 145 Fore St. These hotels are nice and are all located in town, for easy walking and transportation.
As on most cruises, in any port you can always opt to schedule a variety of guided tours and shore excursions offered by the cruiselines. They usually have a broad offering of things to do and places to see, accommodating all ages. These will usually cost more than a similar tour purchased in town, but the cruise ship won’t generally leave without you if you book your tour through the ship.
VoyageMonkey.com provides Online Travel Booking. Find Discount Travel Packages, Vacation Package Deals, Discount Cruises, Cheap Air travel & Hotel Accommodations, Unbiased reviews and articles on destinations, hotel accommodations, restaurants and attractions all at voyagemonkey.com