Category Cruises & Ports of Call
Sitting on the southern tip of Aquidneck Island in Narragansett Bay and connected to the mainland by three bridges, Newport is practically synonymous with the term “idle rich.” In the late 19th century, it was the place for America’s wealthy aristocrats to spend their summers. From the Vanderbilts to the Astors, all the Gilded Age millionaires had summer mansions (or, as they called them, “cottages”) here, each grander than the next, with an aesthetic that’s half chateau, half Versailles, and 100% over-the – top opulence.
It’s not difficult to understand how this picture-postcard seaside setting drew the elite. During the Colonial period, Newport rivaled Boston and New York as a center of New World trade, and during the Civil War it became home to the U. S. Naval Academy. After the war, the town began to draw wealthy industrialists, railroad tycoons, coal magnates, and financiers, who began to build the town’s reputation as the center of the U. S. sailing universe. In 1854, the New York Yacht Club held its first annual regatta off Newport, and from 1930 to 1983, the club held the great America’s Cup race here in “the City by the Sea”—stopping only after the cup was snatched by the Australian sloop Australia II following a 132-year American reign. Despite the fact that U. S. boats won the cup back in 1987, 1988, and 1992, the race has never yet returned to Newport’s waters, but the city continues to be a major sailing center, hosting more than 40 races each summer and fall.
Today, Newport has a beautiful sea, rocky coastline, and a bustling town that’s all cobblestone streets, shady trees, cute cafes, and historical homes. Much of the hubbub is along the waterfront and its parallel streets: America’s Cup Avenue and Thames Street, with the pronunciation of the latter Americanized from the British “tems” to “thaymz” after the Revolution. Though millions of people visit every year, Newport has managed to retain much of its small-town charm and hasn’t been overtaken by T-shirt shops and fast-food outlets.
COMING ASHORE Ships both large and small are visiting Newport these days, all of them anchoring just a short distance offshore and shuttling passengers to the tender pier, just a block from the Newport Visitors Information Center at 23 America’s Cup Avenue. An information kiosk is also often set up on the pier. You’ll find all of Newport’s most popular sights, including its famed mansions, within a short walk or drive of the downtown area.
GETTING AROUND From the tender pier, you can walk around the historic town or hop on the Yellow Line/Rte. 67 RIPTA trolley (& 401/781-9400; www. ripta. com/content320.html), which visits the mansions, Bellevue Avenue shopping, the Cliff Walk, Rough Point, and other highlights. It’ll cost you $5 for an all-day hop – on/hop-off pass, and you board it at the Visitor Information Center (see above). If you want a taxi to drop you off at the mansions, try Yellow Cab Service (& 401/846- 1500). Another great way to get around town and out to the mansions is by bicycle. One of several rental shops is Ten Speed Spokes, 18 Elm St. (& 401/847-5609; www. tenspeedspokes. com), just a couple of blocks inland from the tender pier. Rentals are $5 per hour or $25 per day.
Colonial Newport Walking Tour ($29, 122 hr.): An expert guide takes you through a 10-block area of Colonial Newport, noted for nearly 200 restored 18th – and 19th – century Colonial and Victorian homes and landmarks. You’ll walk along the city’s quaint and shady streets where no buses are allowed, and hear how tobacco heiress Doris Duke and many other residents led the fight to rescue this once-neglected area. Stroll by the superb 1726 Trinity Church, architect Peter Harrison’s Brick Market, the Touro Synagogue (the oldest in the country), the Quaker Meeting House, and the Old Colony House.
Guided Cliff Walk Tour ($34, 132 hr.): You can walk Newport’s famous Cliff Walk (see below) on your own, but this option comes with narration. Your choice. . .
The Vanderbilt’s Newport ($64, 322 hr.): This tour combines visits to two of Newport’s grandest mansions: Cornelius Vanderbilt II’s The Breakers and William K. Vanderbilt’s Marble House. Another mansion tour, typically called Grand Mansions of Newport ($54, 3 hr.), visits The Elms or Rosecliff, the latter built in 1902 by architect Stanford White on the model of Versailles’ Grand Trianon.
America’s Cup Sailing Experience ($119, 2 hr.): Though Newport is not currently home to the America’s Cup (as it was for more than 50 years), you can sail a 46-foot America’s Cup yacht as part of this excursion, which sails past sites like the lighthouses, Newport Bridge, and some of Newport’s lavish estates.
This is a place for walking, if there ever was one. If you’re reasonably fit, the famed mansions on Bellevue and Ocean avenues are within 1 to 4 miles of the tender pier, or you can take the trolley or a taxi (see “Getting Around,” above).
Ten of Newport’s grandest 19th-century mansions are operated by the Preservation Society of Newport County (& 401/847-1000; www. newportmansions. org), which offers several ticket packages that combine admission to different houses. Admission to The Breakers, the most famous of the mansions, is $17. Admission to any of the others is $11. A combo ticket for The Breakers and any one other mansion is $23. For the ultimate, $49 will get you into The Breakers, Marble House, and The Elms, and add in the “Rooftop and Behind the Scenes Tour” at The Elms and lunch at The Elms Carriage House Cafe—though that’s all a bit much to squeeze into your limited time ashore.
The Breakers, 44 Ochre Point Ave., east of Bellevue Avenue (& 401/847-1000), is a 70-room Italian Renaissance-style palace built for Cornelius Vanderbilt II in 1895. Perched above the sea, it was designed by Richard Morris Hunt, the Beaux Arts master who also designed the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Highlights include the gilded 2,400-square-foot dining room (lit by 12-ft. chandeliers) and the great hall, which was designed to resemble an open-air Italian courtyard—right down to the 45-foot sky-blue ceiling.
While none of the other Newport mansions are quite as grand as The Breakers, several come close. Marble House was built between 1888 and 1892 for Cornelius Vanderbilt’s younger brother William, making it the earliest of all the Newport mansions. Some $7 million worth of marble was used in its construction. The Elms was built for Pennsylvania coal baron Edward Julius Berwind in 1901, its stately design inspired by the Chateau d’Asnieres, a mid-18th-century home outside Paris. Rosecliff was built in 1902 for Nevada silver heiress Theresa Fair Oelrichs, designed by architect Stanford White after the Grand Trianon at Versailles. All the mansions are located off Bellevue Avenue, and tours run throughout the day.
Several other mansions are privately held and open to the public. At the Astors’ Beechwood, 580 Bellevue Ave. (& 401/846-3772; www. astorsbeechwood. com), daily tours are led by actors portraying the wealthy Astor family in the year 1891. Admission is $15. The 60-room Belcourt Castle, 657 Bellevue Ave. (& 401/846- 0669; www. belcourtcastle. com), was built from the inherited fortunes of August Belmont, the Rothschild Banking representative in America. Its current owners, the Tin – ney family, still reside here, opening their home daily to tours. Admission is $15.
The 3.5-mile CliffWalk meanders between Newport’s rocky coastline and many of the town’s Gilded Age estates, providing a better view of their exteriors than you get from the street. Traversing its length, high above the crashing surf, is more than a stroll but less than an arduous hike. For the full 3.5-mile length, walk about a mile from the pier to the path’s start at the intersection of Memorial Boulevard and Eustis Avenue. For a shorter walk, end at the Forty Steps (an access point between the path and the street), which is at the end of Narragansett Avenue, off Bellevue. If you want to do the entire Cliff Walk, but don’t want to walk all the way back to the pier when you’ve reached the end, consider taking the trolley back. You can grab it on Bellevue, just 122 blocks from the walk. Keep in mind that there are some mildly rugged sections to negotiate, no facilities, and no phones. A number of mansions, such as the Breakers, Rosecliff, Astors’ Beechwood, Marble House, and Rough Point, are just on the other side of the walk; others are a few blocks inland from the path.
Just a few blocks from the pier, Newport’s Historic Hill section contains one of the most impressive concentrations of original 18th – and 19th-century Colonial, Federal, and Victorian houses in America, many of them designated National Historic Sites. Spring Street, the hill’s main drag, is an architectural treasure trove dominated by the 1725 Trinity Church, at the corner of Church Street. Said to have been influenced by the work of the legendary British architect Christopher Wren, it certainly reflects that inspiration in its belfry and distinctive spire, which can be seen from all over downtown. Not far away, Touro Synagogue, 85 Touro St. (& 401/847-4794; www. touro synagogue. org), is the country’s oldest continually operating synagogue, dedicated in 1763. It’s sometimes open for tours, charging a $5 admission. All around Historic Hill, you’ll find homes marked with signs that read “NRF,” denoting that they’re among the 83 18th-century houses that were restored by tobacco heiress Doris Duke’s Newport Restoration Foundation between 1968 and 1984. All are now owned and maintained by the foundation and rented privately. Historic Hill rises from America’s Cup Avenue, along the waterfront, and runs inland to Bellevue Avenue. Walking tour maps are available in the “Preservation” section of www. newportrestoration. com.
Other Newport attractions include the Gothic St. Mary’s Church, 12 William St. (www. stmarynewport. org), where John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Bouvier married, and the International Tennis Hall of Fame, 194 Bellevue Ave. (& 800/457-1144; www. tennisfame. com), one of the few places in North America where you can play on a grass court. Museum admission is $10. To play on the grass courts, visitors must call & 401/846-0642 and reserve in advance. Prices for play start at $90 per hour for two players.
Lower Thames Street provides some quirky shopping opportunities, including stores that sell vintage clothing, salvaged architectural components, books, and sailing gear. Spring Street is noted for its antiques shops and purveyors of crafts, jewelry, and folk art. Spring intersects with Franklin Street, which harbors even more antiques shops in its short length. Bellevue Avenue also has a collection of resort-type boutiques— shopping in the true Newport style.
Because Bermuda is relatively small and easy to get around, and because ships typically spend several days at its ports, you can access the following sights and excursions no matter where you’re docked. Depending on traffic, St. George’s and Hamilton are about a 20- to 30-minute taxi ride apart, as are Hamilton and King’s Wharf (Hamilton is roughly in the middle). It takes about an hour to drive from one end of Bermuda to the other. Taxis are metered and relatively inexpensive, starting at $4.80 and going up $1.68 for each additional mile, with a variety of surcharges. Roads around the island are well maintained, but narrow and winding. The bus (go to the “Transport” section of www. gov. bm) and ferry (www. seaexpress. bm) systems are also user-friendly. Many folks go the scooter or moped route; rentals are available for $50 to $55 per day at all three ports.
In Flatts Village, about halfway between Hamilton and St. George’s, is the Bermuda Aquarium, Museum & Zoo (& 441/293-2727; www. bamz. org). There are interactive displays, huge aquariums, and seal feedings throughout the day. It’s open daily from 9am to 5pm (last admission at 4pm); admission is $10 for adults and $5 for seniors and children 6 to 12.
The throngs head to the beaches, and for good reason. Many are powdery soft and some even pinkish (from crushed shells, corals, and other sea life); they’re easily
accessible by taxi or motor scooter from Hamilton and St. George’s, and most are free. Horseshoe Bay, in Southampton Parish, is our top pick. Though you won’t have it to yourself because it’s so popular with other tourists, the horseshoe-shaped beach has scenic rocky cliffs at its edges and a vast soft plane of sand in the middle. It’s perfect for little kids, as the sand is so silky smooth that it won’t irritate delicate little faces. Horseshoe Bay is free and has a snack bar, restrooms, and showers. Lifeguards are on duty here between May and October.
Other beach options include Warwick Long Bay (Warwick Parish); Tobacco Bay Beach (St. George’s Parish), where the water is very calm and the beach is tiny; and Elbow Beach (in Paget Parish).
The more adventurous can hop on a scooter and beach-hop among the many unnamed slivers of silky sand tucked into the jagged coastline. If you’re itching to see more than Hamilton, and beaches aren’t your bag, another great option is hopping on a local ferry (there are terminals in Hamilton and King’s Wharf adjacent to the cruise docks). For just a few bucks, you can either ride just for the view of Bermuda’s colorful harbors and coastline, or travel between King’s Wharf and Hamilton.
It’s a treat to climb the 185 steps of the Gibbs Hill Lighthouse (Lighthouse Rd., Southampton; halfway btw. King’s Wharf and Hamilton), the oldest cast-iron lighthouse in the world. At the top, you’ll be rewarded with a panoramic view of Bermuda and its coast. In the base, there’s a tearoom serving snacks. It’s open daily 9am to 5pm.
The Bermuda Railway Trail has about 29km (18 miles) of trails divided into easy – to-explore sections. It was created along the course of the old Bermuda Railway, which stretched a total of 34km (21 miles) and served the island from 1931 to 1948, until the automobile was introduced. Armed with a copy of the Bermuda Railway Trail Map and Guide, available at the various visitor centers in and right outside the cruise terminals, you can set out on your own expedition via foot or bicycle (most of the moped/scooter rental agencies have bicycles as well). Most of the trail winds along a car-free route, and there is a section of trail in St. George’s and near Hamilton.
Perched on a cliff top overlooking the St. Lawrence River, Quebec City remains the soul of New France, an enormous territory that once included all of eastern Canada, the eastern U. S., the Great Lakes, and Louisiana, stretching from Hudson Bay in the north to Florida in the south. In 1608, the French explorer Samuel de Champlain was the first European to claim Quebec City, and soon after established a fur-trading post. It was the first significant settlement in Canada, and today it is the capital of Quebec, a politically prickly province almost as large as Alaska. The old city, a tumble of colorful metallic-roof houses clustered around the dominating Chateau Frontenac, is a haunting evocation of a coastal town in the motherland of France, as romantic as any on that continent. Because of its history, beauty, and unique stature as the only walled city north of Mexico, the historic district of Quebec was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985—one of only three areas so designated in North America.
The city is split into two sections. The Lower Town (or Basse-Ville) is where the port is, while the Upper Town (Haute-Ville), the city’s oldest section, dates back nearly 400 years and is still surrounded by its old stone walls.
Though some 95% of Quebec’s 167,000 citizens speak French, most people who work in hotels, restaurants, and shops also speak English.
COMING ASHORE The cruise docks at the Port of Quebec, which includes a bustling commercial shipping operation, are within walking distance of the historic Lower Town, just outside the walled city. The Upper Town can be reached via a steep walk up the hill or the funicular (see below).
GETTING AROUND Virtually no place of interest is beyond walking distance, so your own two feet are definitely the best way to explore. Although there are streets and stairs between the Upper and Lower Towns, there is also a funicular (www. funiculaire- quebec. com), which has long operated along an inclined 210-foot track between the Quartier Petit-Champlain and the Terrasse Dufferin, up top. The upper station is near the front of the Chateau Frontenac, the majestic hotel that towers over the city, and Place d’Armes, a central square; the lower station is actually inside the Maison Louis – Jolliet, a small building with a big FUNICULAIRE sign at 16 rue du Petit-Champlain. It runs year-round daily and wheelchairs are accommodated. The one-way fare is $1.50.
Your best bet for getting a taxi is by finding a stand—such as the ones on the Place d’Armes and in front of the Hotel-de-Ville (City Hall). Restaurant managers and hotel bell captains will also summon one if you ask. Fares are somewhat expensive given the short distances of most rides. The starting rate is C$3.30 (about US$2.75) plus C$1.60 (US$2.25) per additional kilometer. You should tip an additional 10% to 15%. To call a cab, try Taxi Coop (& 418/525-5191) or Taxi Quebec (& 418/525-8123).
City Walking Tour ($54, 3 hr.): If you’re up for it, the best way to discover Quebec’s historical side is by walking through the city’s narrow cobblestone streets with a knowledgeable guide leading the way. Stroll along the first shopping street in North America, Le Petit Quartier Champlain, in the Lower Town. In the Upper Town, 3 centuries of history come to life in sites such as la Place d’Armes, la Terrasse Dufferin, Place de l’Hotel de Ville, and le Musee des Ursulines. Some tours ($54) add a stop for high tea at the Fairmont Chateau Frontenac Hotel, Quebec City’s best-known landmark.
City Highlights by Bus ($39, 21/’2 hr.): Explore the narrow streets and stately residences that have hardly changed in more than 3 centuries. Enjoy panoramic views of the St. Lawrence River from the oldest part of town, drive through the Grande Allee neighborhood for a peek at the Victorian-era homes, and then on to the Chateau Frontenac landmark hotel, where there’s time to explore. Finally, drive on to the Plain of Abraham, where the battle between the French and British armies eventually sealed the fate of the French colony.
Biking to Montmorency Falls ($79, 4 hr.): Peddle a mountain bike some 8 miles to Montmorency Falls, which plummet down a 272-foot cliff into the St. Lawrence River. Along the way, you’ll pass the Quebec Yacht Harbor and cross the St. Charles River to Domaine Maizerets, then ride along the St. Lawrence River for views of Quebec’s skyline and the Island of Orleans.
Spend a day strolling Quebec City’s hilly cobblestone streets, taking in their 17th – and 18th-century buildings, cafes, shops, and homes. Quebec’s Lower Town encompasses the restored Quartier Petit-Champlain, including pedestrian-only rue du Petit – Champlain, and Place Royale, home to the small Notre-Dame-des-Victoires church, the city’s oldest, dating from 1688. Petit-Champlain is undeniably touristy, but not unpleasantly so, with several pleasant cafes and shops. Restored Place Royale is perhaps the most attractive of the city’s many squares, upper or lower. Also in Lower Town, the impressive Museum of Civilization, 85 rue Dalhousie (& 866/710-8031 or 418/643-2158; www. mcq. org), is an excellent interactive museum with rotating exhibits representing historical, current, and controversial subjects. Admission is $13.
The highlight of the Upper Town is the gorgeous Fairmont Chateau Frontenac hotel, rue St-Louis (& 800/828-7447 or 418/692-3861; www. fairmont. com/ frontenac), a beauty set high above the St. Lawrence River. Colonial governors used to reside on the site, and in later years the likes of Winston Churchill and Queen Elizabeth II have stayed at the hotel, a turreted gem with slanted copper roofs, erected in 1883. Just walking around this amazing hotel is a treat, but do yourself a favor and linger for a drink to savor the aura. Fifty-minute guided tours are also available. Call & 418/691-2166 for information.
Other popular attractions in the Upper Town include the outdoor Parc-de-l’ Artillerie, 2 rue d’Auteuil (& 418/648-4205; www. pc. gc. ca/artillerie), a fortification whose walls were erected by the French in the 17th and 18th centuries (admission $3.25), and the Basilica of Notre-Dame, 20 rue Buade (& 418/694-0665), the oldest Christian parish in the Americas north of Mexico.
On a sloped hill just to the south of the Chateau Frontenac is the Citadel, 1 Cote de la Citadelle (& 418/694-2815; www. lacitadelle. qc. ca), a partially star-shaped fortress begun by the French in the 18th century and augmented by the English well into the 19th century. Admission is $8.25. At the eastern edge of the Citadel, the Ter – rasse Dufferin is a pedestrian promenade that attracts crowds in all seasons for its magnificent views of the river and the land to the south, ferries gliding back and forth, and cruise ships and Great Lakes freighters putting in at the harbor below.
Cote de la Montagne, which leads from the Upper Town to the Lower Town as an alternative to the funicular, has a few stores with more tourist-geared items and some crafts and folk art. The Lower Town itself, particularly the Quartier Petit-Champlain, just off Place Royale and encompassing the tiny streets of rue du Petit-Champlain, boulevard Champlain, and rue Sous-le-Fort (opposite the funicular entrance), has many shops selling clothing, souvenirs, gifts, household items, and collectibles. On the other side of the old city, a few blocks past Parliament down Grande-Allee, avenue Cartier has shops and restaurants of some variety, from clothing and ceramics to housewares and gourmet foods. The 4- to 5-block area attracts crowds of generally youngish locals, and the hubbub revs up on summer nights and weekends. The area remains outside the tourist orbit.
Dealers in antiques have gravitated to the cute rue St-Paul in the Lower Town, where they find everything from brass beds and Quebec country furniture to knick – knacks, paddywhacks, and 1950s U. S. kitsch. To get there, follow rue St-Pierre from the Place Royale, and then head west on rue St-Paul.
There’s a lot you can do independently, from beach hopping to shopping and walking and tram-style tours; however, if you crave a guide to narrate the highlights, or want to do something active such as snorkel or bike ride, the ships’ organized tours are your best bet. The sampling of tours below are generally offered from King’s Wharf, Hamilton, and St. George’s.
Railway Trail Cruise & Bike Tour ($75, 3 hr.): Take a scenic coastal cruise to the rural West End, where you’ll hop on a 21-speed bike. Pedal along the path where the original Bermuda Railway once ran on narrow-gauge tracks. The tracks are gone, but a trail remains behind. This excursion is a great opportunity to get views of the ocean and the island’s lush gardens and bird life. The flat route covers 8km to 13km (5-8 miles).
Snorkeling Trip ($68, 3 hr.): Board a boat and motor out to a snorkeling spot near the West End as the captain talks to passengers about Bermuda history and customs. Then, after an hour or so of snorkeling, the fun begins: The music is turned on, the dancing starts, and the bar opens as the boat heads back to port.
Coral Reef Glass-Bottom Boat Cruise ($46, 2 hr.): See the coral reefs and colorful fish living in Bermuda’s waters; then view one of Bermuda’s famous shipwrecks and enjoy a rum swizzle from a fully stocked bar.
Golf Excursion ($75+, half-day): Excursions include tee times for 18 holes at challenging courses such as Mid Ocean Golf Club, among the best in the world; Riddells Bay Golf & Country Club, a veritable golfing institution built in 1922; Port Royal Golf Course; and St. George’s Golf Club, designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr. A taxi to and from the courses may be extra and club rental is about $30 extra, but carts are included. The golf excursions are often sold directly through an onboard golf pro who organizes lessons on the ship, too.
New Brunswick’s largest city, Saint John sits along a sizable commercial harbor on the Bay of Fundy, at the mouth of the St. John River. Like Halifax, it was an important shipbuilding hub around the turn of the 19th century, and today its deep-water harbor can accommodate the world’s largest cruise liners.
Don’t expect a picture-postcard-perfect place overflowing with gardens and neat homes. Instead, Saint John is a predominantly industrial city, with large shipping terminals, oil storage facilities, and paper mills serving as the backdrop to the waterfront area. If you make an effort to look, though, you’ll see that its downtown buildings boast some wonderfully elaborate Victorian flourishes, while a handful of impressive mansions lord over the side streets, their interiors a forest of intricate woodcarving— appropriate for the timber barons who built them.
The first Europeans to settle here were the French, when Samuel de Champlain led an exploration party into the Bay of Fundy and founded the first French settlement in North America in 1604. A hundred years later, the British were on the scene, capturing Saint John, which, in 1785, became Canada’s first incorporated city. COMING ASHORE Ships dock right at the Pugsley Cruise Terminal, in the industrial heart of the city, just steps from downtown.
GETTING AROUND If you haven’t signed up for an organized tour, you can walk right into town or opt for a 1-hour city-highlights tour on the vintage bus-style trolleys or horse-drawn trolleys that meet the ship. Taxis queue up at the docks and work on set rates, depending on where you’re going. If you need to call a taxi, try Coastal Taxi (& 506/635-1144) or Diamond Taxi (& 506/648-8888).
Historical Walking Tour ($29, 2 hr.): See the restored historic district known as Trinity Royal and the bustling City Market that survives from the late 1800s. A bus takes groups to the farthest destination, the Loyalist Burial Ground, where the walk starts. Gravestones there date as far back as 1784. Sights along the way include the beautiful brick town houses along Germain Street; the historic commercial buildings of Prince William Street, whose elaborate facades are decorated with gargoyles, pediments, and Ionic columns; the Market Slip, where thousands of American Colonists who remained loyal to the British Crown landed in 1783; and King’s Square, designed in 1848 in the shape of the Union Jack to show loyalty to England.
Reversing Falls Rapids by Jetboat ($99, 3 hr.): Reversing Falls Rapids is a much – photographed spot where the Bay of Fundy meets the St. John River, and strong tidal conditions cause harbor currents to reverse. This large tidal swing means some 2 billion gallons of water surge into the bay twice a day—that’s 2 billion. Near Fallsview Park, an underwater ledge 36 feet down causes a boiling series of rapids and whirlpools, and the rising tide slows the river current to a stop for about 20 minutes. The tour begins with an orientation drive through Saint John, stopping at the Old City Market (open since 1876). You then head to Fallsview Park, don life jackets and rain gear, and board your high-speed jet boat for a ride over and around the rapids. You can take a 20- minute jet-boat ride (referred to as the Thrill Ride) independently for just $30 by contacting Reversing Falls Jet Boat Rides (& 506/634-8987; www. jetboatrides. com). Bay of Fundy at Fundy National Park ($149, 7 hr.): This tour is the most in-depth exploration possible of Fundy Bay, whose huge tidal fluctuation makes it possible for tour participants to walk out on the ocean bed when the tide is out. This beach walk is augmented by a museum tour, with interactive demonstrations and exhibits, and a 1-mile walk along the Dickson Falls Trail, a lush relatively easy hike to a lovely waterfall. National park and local guides describe everything, and lunch is included. The drive to and from the park is also a great way to see the brilliant fall colors.
Canadian Beer Tasting & Saint John Highlights Tour ($59, 3 hr.): Heads up, beer lovers: This is your chance to sample Canadian beers and enjoy a famous local Irish pub, O’Leary’s. Also included is a drive around the Saint John area, with time at the Old City Market, and a visit to the famous Reversing Falls.
Start your visit by wandering around near the waterfront, taking note of the gargoyles and sculpted heads that adorn the brick and stone 19th-century buildings. The Saint John visitor information board publishes several self-guided walking tours that will give you a great overview of the city. Text and maps are available for download in the “Day Trips & Guided Tours” section of www. tourismsaintjohn. com.
Of the handful of museums in Saint John, the important one to visit is the New Brunswick Museum, 1 Market Sq. (& 506/643-2300; www. nbm-mnb. ca). Established in 1842, it’s the oldest continuously operating museum in Canada. Exhibits include a marine mammals gallery whose focal point is “Delilah,” the full skeletal remains of a 40-foot North Atlantic right whale that beached off Grand Manan in 1992. Other displays include local and Canadian art, the best collection of Loyalist artifacts on the North American continent, and the largest collection of ships’ portraiture in Canada. Don’t miss a peek at the cool tidal tube in the lobby. It’s connected to the harbor, and water in the tube rises and falls with the tide. Admission is $5.
If the weather is disagreeable when you arrive, you can head indoors to Saint John’s elaborate network of underground and overhead pedestrian walkways, dubbed the Inside Connection. Passages link the city’s downtown malls and shops, two major hotels, the provincial museum, the city library, the city market, a sports arena, and an aquatics center. Another indoor option is the Old City Market, 47 Charlotte St. (& 506/658-2820), a spacious, bustling marketplace crammed with vendors hawking cheeses, flowers, baked goods, meat, fresh seafood, and fresh produce. The market was built in 1876, and it has been a center of commerce for the city ever since. A number of vendors offer meals to go, and there’s a bright seating area in an enclosed terrace on the market’s south side.
If you don’t sign on to one of the ship’s shore excursions, you can walk to the Reversing Falls Rapids via the Harbour Passage, an interconnected system of walking and biking trails that wind along the waterfront from Market Square to the Reversing Falls, a distance of just under 3 miles. To immerse yourself in an even more natural side of New Brunswick, book an excursion or take a taxi to Irving Nature Park, Sand Cove Road (& 506/653-7367), situated along the coast across the St. John River, less than 3 miles southwest of town. The park consists of 243 hectares (600 acres) of dramatic coastal scenery and as many as 240 species of birds have been spotted here. Soft wood-chipped trails and marsh boardwalks provide access to a lovely forest and wild, salty seascapes.
You’ll find art galleries, antiques shops, souvenir shops, and boutiques within a 10- minute walk of the cruise terminal, clustered around Market Square, Brunswick Square, King Street, and Prince William Street.
Honeymooners flock here for a reason: The place is gorgeous and culturally vibrant. Even The Brady Bunch schlepped Alice and the six kids to Hawaii (you didn’t see them going to Disney World, did you?). However, it’s not all about surfer boys and hula girls. The diverse landscape on this cluster of islands in the Pacific ranges from fuming volcanoes to crashing surf, serene beaches, and lush jungles. In a place where the weather really is perfect all the time, it’s no surprise that the locals are so mellow. Learn to surf, go to a luau, snooze on the sand, float in warm water surrounded by rainbow-colored tropical fish, enjoy the local coffee, or check out the native Hawaiian culture, of which the locals are fiercely proud. The past survives alongside the modern world in a vibrant arts scene, which includes traditional Polynesian dance and music, as well as painting, sculpture, and crafts. You’ll also likely get a glimpse of age-old customs such as outrigger canoe races, the most popular sport in all of Hawaii, and, of course, the ubiquitous ukulele playing.
Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) has one year-round ship that cruises among the islands round-trip from Honolulu (down from a high of four ships, which NCL realized was too many for the market). Thanks to some intense lobbying in Congress a few years back, NCL’s Hawaii vessel sails under the U. S. flag, which means the ship can concentrate solely on
the islands and doesn’t have to throw in a call to a foreign port (a requirement for foreign-flagged vessels). In isolated Hawaii, this is a real advantage and no other competing line currently has it (see NCL review on p. 197 for details).
Aside from NCL’s cruises, other ships typically stop in the islands in April, May, September, and October. The four main ports here are Oahu, where you’ll find the famous Waikiki Beach; Maui, home of the historic town of Lahaina; Kauai, the most natural and undeveloped of the four; and Kona and Hilo on the Big Island, home of the state’s famous volcanoes, including Mauna Kea and the still – active Kilauea.
HOME PORTS FOR THIS REGION Honolulu, on Oahu, is the main hub for inter-island cruises. Foreign-flagged vessels generally sail from the mainland— from ports such as Ensenada (Mexico), San Diego, Seattle, and/or Vancouver— hitting the Hawaiian Islands as they cruise between seasons in the Caribbean and Alaska.
LANGUAGE & CURRENCY While English is the official language, it is infused with a few native Hawaiian words, including the customary greeting, aloha. (Contrary to what you may believe, “Book ’em, Danno” is not actually a native phrase.) The U. S. dollar is the official currency.
The Columbia-Snake system is one of America’s most important river systems, second to the Mississippi-Missouri in the size of the area it drains. The Columbia River flows 1,200 miles from the Canadian Rockies in southeast British Columbia into Washington, and then forms the border with Oregon on its way to the Pacific. The 1,000-mile Snake River starts in Yellowstone National Park and flows through Idaho into eastern Washington, where it meets the Columbia River.
The two rivers have served as the primary artery for east-west travel in the Pacific Northwest, used first by the Nez Perce Indians and later by Western explorers, fur traders, settlers, military expeditions, and missionaries. Settlers came in increasing numbers in the few years prior to the 1846 Oregon Treaty, and in 1859 Oregon became the 33rd state. Washington, once part of Oregon, was organized as a separate territory in 1853, and became the 42nd state in 1889.
Today, the Columbia-Snake corridor provides a fascinating trip into more varied landscapes than along any North American river. Beginning at the Pacific Ocean breakers, the river mouth near Astoria, Oregon, begins as a broad bay, narrows upriver to a more natural stream, and then squeezes dramatically through the deep Columbia Gorge (www. fs. fed. us/r6/columbia/forest). Thickly forested slopes rise to flanking high cliffs, while melting snow cascades into pencil-thin waterfalls. The river’s surface is turbulent and the winds strong, but a series of dams built beginning in the Great Depression tames the flow into a series of separate pools. Navigation locks lift boats and barges while parallel fish ladders provide a bypass for salmon heading upstream to spawn, as well as for the young heading in the other direction, toward the Pacific.
Beyond the gorge, the land becomes drier, and with the right soil and an ideal climate, vineyards have burgeoned in Washington and Oregon to create the country’s second-largest wine-producing region in the U. S. after California’s. Wildlife is abundant, as hundreds of thousands of birds come to roost and nest, especially in the Umatilla National Wildlife Refuge (www. fWs. gov/umatilla). By the time your ship reaches the Snake River, the land on either side shows few signs of habitation, instead rising from the waterline in layers of basalt laid down millions of years ago, forming multicolored buttes and mesas.
Portland, Oregon, a city of just over a half million (with another 1.5 million in its metropolitan area), is the embarkation city for nearly all Columbia-Snake cruises. The city has kept its local culture better than most, maintaining a vibrant, walkable downtown; preventing major expressways from slicing through its heart; and nurturing local businesses, including the dozens of microbreweries for which it’s become famous. Known as the Rose City, Portland boasts 250 parks, gardens, and greenways, and since 1907 has celebrated the annual Portland Rose Festival (www. rosefestival. org) for several weeks each June, with an extravagant floral parade, music, car and boat races, and visits by U. S. Navy ships.
The city’s core is Pioneer Courthouse Square (www. pioneercourthousesquare. org), whose modern architecture still manages to convey an old-time-city-square feel. It’s surrounded by stores, offices, restaurants, and hotels, and hosts some 300 concerts and other events each year. A half mile to the northwest, in the city’s Old Town neighborhood, the Saturday Market (www. saturdaymarket. org) is a huge draw for its open-air handicrafts, clothing, and jewelry stalls. Nearby, the Portland Classical Chinese Garden (www. portlandchinesegarden. org) is one of only a few in North America, taking up a walled block in Chinatown. Stepping through the gate feels like walking into an entirely different world, with pavilions, bridges, walkways, hundreds of native Chinese plant species, and a teahouse arranged around a central reflecting pond. About 10 blocks southwest, Powell’s Books (www. powells. com) is the world’s largest independent bookstore, with new and used books shelved together in a warren of rooms spread over three floors and a whole city block.
High up and to the west of downtown, Washington Park’s terraced International Rose Test Garden (www. rosegardenstore. org) displays 557 varieties of roses, usually at their blooming peak during June and July and again in September and October. Just up the hill, the park’s 5//2-acre Japanese Garden (www. japanesegarden. com) is one of the finest of its type outside Japan, with walking paths leading among streams, ponds, Japanese flora, and five distinct gardens representing classical Japanese styles. The views of Mount Hood from both the Japanese and Rose gardens are spectacular.
Upon leaving Portland, cruises sail overnight downriver to where the widening Columbia meets the Pacific Ocean and call at Astoria, Oregon, tying up at a pier adjacent to the Columbia Bar lightship Columbia and Coast Guard cutter Steadfast, both of which are open for visitors. The Columbia River Maritime Museum (www. crmm. org) is part of the pier complex, exhibiting the history of Columbia River trade in ship models, drawings, and photographs. Don’t miss the 20-minute walk up Coxcomb Hill to the 125-foot Astoria Column, which dominates the landscape from its 600-foot elevation. Erected in 1926 to mark the location of the first permanent American settlement west of the Rockies, it was designed by New York architect Electus D. Litchfield after Trajan’s Column in Rome. Italian artist Attilio Pusterla created a bas-relief mural that scrolls around the column to depict the history of the town. The views here are extraordinary, both from the top of the column and from the property around it.
How’s this for a metaphor for our current economic times: Trade (or at least cruise trade) on America’s greatest commercial river has all but come to a halt. For perhaps the first time since the early 19th century, there are no river ships offering full-service overnight cruises on the Mississippi or its tributaries—and no one is jumping in to fill the void.
The big blow, of course, came with the shuttering of Majestic America Line in November 2008. By itself, that company accounted for approximately 85% of the overnight river cruise trade on the Mississippi River system, which encompasses not just the Mississippi itself but also the Atchafalaya, Arkansas, Ohio, Tennessee, Cumberland, Missouri, and Illinois rivers (see map on the inside front cover of this book). A further blow came 1 month later when RiverBarge Excursions, operator of the 198-passenger barge vessel River Explorer, announced it was closing up shop due to low demand and rising costs.
Majestic America’s end was particularly troubling because of its history. Though it was only formed in 2006, it was a successor entity to two other steamboat operators, America West Steamboat Company and the fabled Delta Queen Steamboat Company, which traced its history back to 1890 and had as its flagship the great Delta Queen, a vintage 1927 paddle-wheeler that for decades was the only wooden riverboat left on the Mississippi. At this writing, Majestic America’s American Queen and Mississippi Queen were both laid up awaiting a buyer, while Delta Queen was operating on an allegedly temporary basis as a floating hotel and tourist attraction in Chattanooga, Tennessee (www. deltaqueenhotel. com).
Though true "sleep on the boat" overnight service had as of mid-2009 ceased on the Mississippi, many options still exist for day cruises, evening cruises, and even a few pseudo-overnight cruises, with accommodations at a shoreside hotel sandwiched between days on the river. Here’s a rundown of a few of the better options. Due to their brevity, day cruises typically cost between $15 and $30. Overnights range from about $100 to $300.
Organized excursions head downriver to Fort Clatsop (www. nps. gov/lewi/plan yourvisit/fortclatsop. htm), where Lewis and Clark spent 4 wet winter months in 1805 and 1806. A historically accurate re-creation of their fort is on-site. Another stop, the popular seaside resort of Cannon Beach, offers a wooden weathered-cedar shopping district with typical craft-type boutiques.
Longview, Washington, gives access to Mount St. Helens (www. fs. fed. us/gpnf/ mshnvm), the site of the May 18, 1980, volcanic eruption that in minutes reduced the mountain’s height by about 1,000 feet. The drive uphill winds through increasingly scarred hillsides covered in lava, ash, mud, and 150 square miles of destroyed forest to an interpretive center overlooking the cloud-enshrouded mountaintop and deep into a valley wasteland.
Bonneville Dam (www. nwp. usace. army. mil/op/b), dedicated by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1937, signaled the first major WPA undertaking by the
• Julia Belle Swain (www. juliabelle. com): Built in 1971 in Dubuque, Iowa, Julia Belle Swain is one of the few authentic steam-powered passenger vessels in operation on the Mississippi. She offers day cruises from Riverside Park in La Crosse, Wisconsin, and also does overnight cruises to Winona, Minnesota; Lansing, Iowa; and Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, with passengers spending their nights at hotels on shore. Occasional multiday cruises sail to more distant river cities, such as Dubuque, Iowa, or Red Wing and Wabasha, Minnesota.
• Spirit of Peoria (www. spiritofpeoria. com): The traditional-style boat was built in Paducah, Kentucky, in 1988 by Walker Boat Yard, and is solely propelled by its large stern paddle wheel. She offers day, overnight, and 2- night cruises, with overnight accommodations at shoreside lodges. She sails from Illinois and Missouri.
• Riverboat Twilight (www. riverboattwilight. com): Built in Jennings, Louisiana, and launched in 1987, this diesel-driven paddle-wheeler offers an overnight riverboat cruise from Le Claire to Dubuque, Iowa, with evening accommodations ashore.
• Belle of Louisville (www. belleoflouisville. org): Built in 1914 in Pittsburgh, the Belle of Louisville is a National Historic Landmark vessel that operates day sightseeing and dinner cruises along the Ohio River, from downtown Louisville, Kentucky.
• Natchez (www. steamboatnatchez. com): The steamboat Natchez is another traditional classic, also operating under old-fashioned steam power. She offers day cruises from New Orleans, boarding at the foot of Toulouse Street in the French Quarter.
• Creole Queen (www. creolequeen. com): Also sailing day cruises from New Orleans, Creole Queen is a traditional-style paddle-wheeler powered by very untraditional diesel engines. She was built in 1983 in Moss Point, Mississippi.
U. S. Army Corps of Engineers to create a safe passage through the Cascade Rapids. The dam created 48-mile-long Lake Bonneville, and its hydroelectric plants generate enough power to light 40,000 homes. The visitor center screens a slide film showing the dam under construction and describing how the salmon fish ladders work.
Upriver, the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center (www. gorgediscovery. org) exhibits the area’s history and geology, revealing how the Columbia Gorge was formed by violent volcanic upheavals and raging floods, as well as the building of the Columbia River Scenic Highway, which leads to Multnomah Falls. An exhibit illustrates how Lewis and Clark equipped their expedition.
About 6,000 feet up the slopes of 11,245-foot Mount Hood stands Timberline Lodge (www. timberlinelodge. com), a timber-and-stone hotel hand-built in 1936 and 1937 by unemployed craftsmen hired by the WPA. It was dedicated in September 1937 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The view is north to 12,307-foot Mount
Adams, part of a line of volcano-formed mountains that include Mount St. Helens and Mount Rainier.
At The Dalles Lock & Dam, an excursion crosses the river to Maryhill Museum
of Art (www. maryhillmuseum. org), set high above the river in Washington. A Midwestern Quaker pacifist named Samuel Hill, son-in-law of James J. Hill of the Great Northern Railroad, established the museum in the late 1920s. It now exhibits Russian Orthodox icons, Rodin sculptures, a collection of 250 chess sets, Queen Marie of Romania’s royal regalia, miniature fashion costumes on stage sets, and Native American clothing, baskets, and weapons. Four miles east of the museum, just off Washington Scenic Route 14, is a full-scale replica of Stonehenge built by Sam Hill as a monument to Klickitat County soldiers who lost their lives in World War I.
Stops in Pendleton, Oregon, may include a visit to the grounds of the annual September Pendleton Round-Up (www. pendletonroundup. com) for a presentation of rodeo riding, country music, flintlock rifle firing, and other activities. In town, Pendleton Underground (www. pendletonundergroundtours. org) is an odd tour centered around a huge warren of tunnels dug by Chinese laborers in the 19th century. The Chinese lived and ran businesses here entirely underground, while some areas of the complex were used as bars, opium dens, and, later, Prohibition-era speakeasies. Elsewhere in town, the Tamastslikt Cultural Institute (www. tamastslikt. com) presents a variety of Native American traditions, including dancing, drumming, and storytelling. Exhibits include horse regalia, war bonnets, bows, and demonstrations of saddle making. Nearby, the Fort Walla Walla Museum (www. fortwallawallamuseum. org) exhibits a collection of carefully restored and re-created historic buildings that include a schoolhouse, doctor’s office, railroad station, and houses arranged in a closed compound. Other buildings house farm equipment and a fire engine once drawn by a 33-mule team.
Finally, after passing through four Snake River locks and dams, your ship reaches the end of deep-water navigation at the border towns of Lewiston, Idaho, and Clark – ston, Washington, 465 miles upriver from the Pacific Ocean. From here, an all-day jet boat ride heads into Hells Canyon, Idaho (www. hellscanyonvisitor. com), a National Recreation Area. The Snake River starts out sluggish, but soon becomes a fast-flowing stream of twisting rapids with 20-mph currents. The high bluffs and mountains on either side increase in height, creating a canyon 7,900 feet deep—1,900 feet deeper than the Grand Canyon. Passengers are likely to see bighorn sheep standing still on rocky ledges, mule deer down by the water, eagles and osprey overhead, and Nez Perce Indian petroglyphs depicting bighorn sheep inscribed on the flat rock surfaces. LINES SAILING THESE ROUTES Cruise West (p. 325), Lindblad Expeditions (p. 335), and American Safari Cruises (p. 324) offer cruises here in the spring and/or fall.