Category Cruises & Ports of Call
Back in the year 1614, the first successful American colony, at Jamestown, Virginia, was only 7 years old, and exploration of North America had just begun. No one yet knew just how vast the continent was, but Europe’s great powers had already begun fighting for its bounty. To the north, the lands known as “Northern Virginia” caught the imagination of Jamestown founder John Smith, who mounted an expedition along the coasts of what are now Massachusetts and Maine. Returning to England with stories of the region’s natural wealth, he argued strongly for its colonization and renamed it “New England,” a name that King James I made official in 1620. A few years later, James’s son, Charles I, sent a party of Scots to colonize the land even farther north, in what are now the Canadian Maritimes. And so it came to pass that, just as England has Scotland on its northern border, New England’s nearest neighbor is beautiful Nova Scotia—the “New Scotland.”
The legacies left by the English, Scottish, French, and other settlers who immigrated to these parts have lent ports along the New England/Canada coast their unique character, whether it’s the Puritan ethics of stubborn independence and thriftiness that define many New Englanders, or the French culture and language that thrive in the Providence of Quebec. On a cruise in this region, you’ll see lots of historical sites, from Boston’s Paul Revere House to Quebec City’s 17th-century Notre-Dame des Victoires Church to the Halifax Maritime
Museum’s Titanic exhibit. But you’ll also get a dose of the region’s inimitable character: fishing boats piled with netting, Victorian mansions built by wealthy ship owners, lighthouses atop windswept bluffs, and the cold, hard beauty of the north Atlantic sea.
The classic time to cruise here is in autumn, when a brilliant sea of fall foliage blankets the region. You can also cruise these waters in the spring and summer, aboard either big 3,000-passenger megaships or smaller vessels carrying less than a tenth that load. Depending on the size of the ship and the length of the cruise, itineraries may include passing through Nantucket Sound, around Cape Cod, or into the Bay of Fundy or Gulf of St. Lawrence. Some ships traverse the St. Lawrence Seaway or the smaller Saguenay River.
HOME PORTS FOR THIS REGION New York, Boston, and Montreal are the main hubs for these cruises, joined occasionally by Quebec City.
LANGUAGE & CURRENCY English and dollars. Virtually all businesses in Canadian ports such as Halifax and Saint John accept U. S. dollars, though if you’re spending time pre – or post-cruise in Montreal or Quebec, you’ll want to pick up some Canadian dollars, which at press time we valued at C$1 = US83^ (US$1 = C$1.20). Exchange rates fluctuate, however, so prices may not be exactly the same when you arrive in port. Prices in this chapter are in U. S. dollars, unless noted.
SHOPPING TIPS You don’t go on a New England/Canada cruise for the shopping, though there are a few choice spots. Of course, New York, Boston, and Montreal, being major cities, have lots of shopping opportunities.
Quaint and historic, St. George’s was the second English town established in the New World, after Jamestown in Virginia. King’s Square, also called Market Square or the King’s Parade, is the center of life here. But because most ships are too big to dock here, this charming little town is visited only by those taking a tour or willing to using a bus, ferry, or taxi to reach it (which does help keep the number of visitors down).
COMING ASHORE Cruise ships tie up at the edge of the small town. For 2009, only one smallish ship was scheduled for regular calls to St. George’s.
GETTING AROUND You can walk to a handful of historic attractions (see below), or if you’re beach-bound or heading for a day of golf or some other attraction, you’ll be able to find a taxi at the dock.
A great option is grabbing a free walking-tour map from the tourism office in King’s Square, just steps from your ship. Sights on the tour include Ordnance Island, a tiny piece of land that juts into the harbor just in front of the dock, where a replica of Deliverance—the vessel that carried the shipwrecked Sea Venture passengers on to Virginia—stands. Don’t miss a quick stop at St. Peter’s Church, on Duke of York Street, believed to be the oldest Anglican place of worship in the Western Hemisphere; some headstones in the cemetery date back 300 years, and the present church was built in 1713. The oldest stone building in Bermuda, the Old State House, built about 1620, sits at the top of King Street and was once the home of the Bermuda Parliament. At the intersection of Featherbed Alley and Duke of Kent Street, St. George’s Historical Society Museum houses a collection of Bermudian historic artifacts and cedar furniture.
A mile or so from King’s Square in St. George’s (many walk it, some hop in taxis), overlooking the beach where the shipwrecked crew of the Sea Venture came ashore in 1609, is Fort St. Catherine, which you’ll want to see. Completed in 1614, and reconstructed several times after, it was named for the patron saint of wheelwrights and carpenters. The fortress houses a museum, with several worthwhile exhibits. Admission costs $5 for adults and $2 for kids.
Almost straight across the Sea of Cortez from Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan—“The Land of the Deer” in the old Nahuatl language—dates from the beginning of the 19th century, when German immigrants developed it as a shipping port. After a lull of about 160 years, it gained new fame as a sport-fishing capital, then as a destination for American college kids on spring break. Today, families and mature vacationers are flocking here as well, taking advantage of the low prices and 10-plus miles of beaches. For cruise travelers, the points of interest form a huge barbell shape, with the historic downtown area at the south end (near where your ship docks), the tourist-oriented Zona Dorada (Golden Zone) about 4 miles to the north, and the long, uninteresting curve of Avenida del Mar in between.
COMING ASHORE Ships dock on the south side of town along a navigational channel, in the midst of substantial commercial shipping. Debarking passengers must take a short tram from the ship to the welcome terminal, where they run a veritable gauntlet of gift and craft shops before popping out into air again on the far side. GETTING AROUND The port is about a 15- or 20-minute walk from the center of the old downtown, but you can also take a taxi. In fact, we challenge you not to— there are so many of them on hand at the pier that you might find yourself sitting in one without ever having intended to. In addition to the green-and-white, fixed-rate taxis, you’ll also see hundreds of open-sided pulmonia cars, which look like a cross between a jeep and a golf cart. Apparently the name (which literally means “pneumonia”) stems from an old belief that riding in an open-air car can make you sick. Fares between the port (or Old Mazatlan) and the Zona Dorada average $5 to $8 for either kind of taxi.
In addition to the tours listed here, cruise lines offer a lot of “mix-and-match” Mazatlan bus tours, taking in highlights of downtown and almost always heading through the Golden Zone for shopping.
Old Mazatlan Walking Tour ($34, 4 hr.): Start at the shore-side Cerro de Neveria, where divers plunge off a cliff into the sea. Then amble through Old Mazatlan’s narrow, shady streets, visiting the Teatro Angela Peralta (see “On Your Own: Within Walking Distance,” below), stopping at a cafe for refreshments, and then heading to the main plaza and the cathedral. It’s not a bad way to get oriented, and you can continue walking on your own around the old market, and then (if you like) grab a taxi out to the Golden Zone.
Sierra Madre Tour ($79, 71/’2 hr.): Travel by bus into the foothills of the Sierra Madre to the town of Concordia, founded in 1550 and famed for its furniture, handmade pottery, and baroque church. Continue to Copala, a former gold-mining town founded in 1565, where you can wander the narrow, cobbled streets and see the old colonial houses and 16th-century stone church. The tour includes a traditional Mexican lunch and a shopping stop in the Zona Dorada.
Pacifico Brewery Tour ($59, 2Z hr.): Founded in 1900, Pacifico brews one of Mexico’s most popular beers. Tour the brewery, have a taste or three, and take in the incredible view of Mazatlan from the rooftop bar/hospitality room.
Though most people will probably take a taxi the short distance to downtown, we’re going to consider it “walking distance” both for argument’s sake (we walked it easily) and to distinguish it from the more distant Golden Zone.
Downtown Mazatlan is centered around the palm-shaded Plaza Principal, also called Plaza Revolucion and filled with vendors, pigeons, shoeshine men under Pacifico beer umbrellas, and old gentlemen sitting in the shade. A Victorian-style wrought-iron bandstand sits at its center and the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception hovers over one end. Built in the 1800s, the cathedral has twin, yellow-tiled steeples, while its interior has a vaulted ceiling and more than a dozen chandeliers. It’s worth a quick peek. One block behind the cathedral is the covered Mercado Municipal (aka Mercado Pino Suarez, or just “the municipal market”). Taking up the whole city block between Juarez and Serdan, it has its share of tourist shops, but is more a place for locals, with stands selling fresh produce, meat, clothing, herbal remedies, and religious mementos. It’s a vibrant slice of life, as are all the streets around it.
Backtrack along Juarez a few blocks to reach Mazatlan’s historic district, a 20- square-block area centered around the pretty little Plazuela Machado, which boasts a few sidewalk restaurants and sometimes hosts local cultural events. It’s bordered by Frias, Constitucion, Carnaval, and Sixto Osuna. On one corner of the square stands the Italian-style Teatro Angela Peralta (& 669/982-4447; www. culturamazatlan. com/tapl. php), built between 1869 and 1881. A center of Mazatlan arts and culture for its first 40 years, the theater fell into disrepair following the Mexican revolution of 1910 and began a period of decay that lasted until the late 1980s, when a group of concerned citizens spearheaded its renewal. Today, the 841-seat theater is a national historic monument and regularly hosts folkloric ballets, contemporary dance, symphony concerts, opera, and jazz performances. Its sumptuous, jewel-box-like interior, with three levels of dark, woody balconies, has been restored to its 19th-century glory. It costs $1 to tour the building.
The blocks around the theater and Plazuela abound with beautiful old buildings and colorful town houses trimmed with wrought iron and carved stone. Many buildings were restored as part of a downtown beautification program, which aimed to turn the neighborhood into the center of Mazatlan’s artistic community. Half a block to the right of the theater’s entrance is the Nidart Galena (see “Shopping,” below). Check out the town houses on Libertad between Dominguez and Carnaval and the two lavish mansions on Ocampo at Dominguez and at Carnaval. For a rest stop, try the Cafe Panfico (decorated with historic pictures of Mazatlan) or one of the other cafes on the Plazuela. Those with an interest in Mexican history can walk a couple of blocks down Sixto Osuna to Venustiano Carranza, where you’ll find the small Museo Arqueo- logico de Mazatlan, Sixto Osuna 76 (& 669/981-1455), which displays both preHispanic artifacts and contemporary art. Admission is free; closed Monday.
If you feel like taking a good, tiring walk, head west down Constitucion toward the ocean; then turn left and walk along the oceanside walkway on Paseo Clausen. Passing the beach at Olas Altas (the original Mazatlan beach strip), you’ll see signs for Cerro del Vig^a (Lookout Hill). Follow these up the steep hill at the edge of town, bending around the school and then hugging the coast. Below, accessible via several sets of stairs, is Playa del Centenario, a lovely stretch of pounding surf with views of the offshore Sea Lion rocks, the El Faro lighthouse (the second-highest in the world, after Gibraltar), and Deer and Wolf islands, just off the Zona Dorada. Frigate birds and pelicans soar overhead, and down below are sea-carved arches and patches of bright-green vegetation. You’d be pounded to death on the rocks if you tried to swim here, but it’s a romantic picnic spot. At the point of the lookout, a stair-path leads out to a viewing platform that resembles the prow of a ship and lets onto some wonderful vistas. From here, continue along the coast road right around and back to the cruise docks.
Four miles from downtown, the Zona Dorada (Golden Zone) begins where Avenida del Mar intersects Avenida Rafael Buelna and becomes Avenida Camaron Sabalo,
Mazatlan probably affords the best golf value in Mexico, with two notable courses open to the public.
• The 27-hole course at the El Cid resorts, just east of the Zona Dorada (& 669/913-3333; www. elcid. com), has 9 holes designed by Lee Trevino as well as 18 designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr. It’s open to the public, though preference is given to hotel guests, and tee times book up quickly. Greens fees are $75 for 18 holes, plus $17 for the caddy.
• The Estrella del Mar Golf Club, across the channel from downtown, on Isla de la Piedra (& 669/982-3300; www. estrelladelmar. com), is an 18- hole, 7,004-yard course, also designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr. Greens fees, including cart, run $75 to $110 depending on the season.
which leads north through the tourist zone. While shops, restaurants, and bars are much more abundant here than downtown, it’s very, very, very touristy, and worth the drive only if you’re in a beach-party mood.
Much as we’re not nuts about the Golden Zone, it is the better spot for beaches. At the beginning of the zone, you’ll find Playa Gaviotas and several other beaches backed by resort hotels. Remember that all beaches in Mexico are public property, so all of these are accessible to visitors. Farther north, Playa Sabalo is perhaps the best beach in Mazatlan. The next point jutting into the water is Punta Sabalo, beyond which you’ll find a bridge over a channel that flows in and out of a lagoon. Beyond the marina, more beaches stretch all the way to Los Cerritos.
In the downtown area, Playa Olas Altas (at the western edge of town) is a thin strip of curving beach backed by several low-key sidewalk bars. It’s the closest beach to the docks, but lacks any amenities or any kind of “scene.” Around a rocky promontory north of Olas Altas is Playa Norte, which offers several miles of good sand beach with numerous palapa bars, but busy Avenida del Mar is right there behind you, taking something away from the experience.
La Zona Dorada is the biggest area for shopping, with hundreds of shops and stalls selling the usual items for this part of Mexico: jewelry, shell-covered art, T-shirts, and lots of other touristy souvenirs, with a smattering of folk art mixed in, most of dubious quality. Downtown is more oriented toward locals, but is much more authentic. Check the historic district around the Teatro Angela Peralta for small galleries and shops, among them the wonderful Nidart Galena, av. Libertad 45 at Carnaval (& 669/981-0002; www. nidart. com), an exhibition space selling works created by local artists on-site, as well as works from around Mexico. This is quality stuff, including clay and leather sculptures and masks, paintings, woodwork, jewelry, and other items, priced much lower than you’d expect.
Bar Harbor is situated on the mid-Maine coast, overlooking Frenchman’s Bay from its perch on the eastern shore of Mount Desert Island—its name an anglicization of Isles des Monts-Deserts (“bare mountains”), the name French explorer Samuel de Champlain gave the island in 1604. In its 19th-century heyday, Bar Harbor was one of the premier resort areas on the East Coast, attracting Astors, Vanderbilts, Rockefellers, and other wealthy families looking for rustic summer getaways. Today it’s a humbler place, with no shortage of T-shirt shops and ice-cream parlors, but is no less popular with tourists.
Bar Harbor’s biggest pull is its proximity to the lush Acadia National Park, which got its start in 1901 when millionaire George B. Dorr formed a preservation group and began buying up land, eventually turning over thousands of acres to the federal government. The park today covers most of the 12-by-16-mile island and a few neighboring islands, totaling some 35,000 acres of lake-dotted fir and spruce forests and surrounded by offshore waters that are great for whale-watching. Winding amid its acreage is a 57-mile network of carriage roads created by John D. Rockefeller, Jr., as well as 120 miles of hiking trails—all of them motor-free, open for walking and bicycling only.
COMING ASHORE While small ships less than 200 feet long can pull alongside the Town Pier, most ships must anchor offshore and send guests to the Harbor Place pier via tenders. The ride to the pier takes only about 10 minutes. The two piers are next to each other in the downtown waterfront area.
GETTING AROUND Once in town, you can walk along the waterfront and to many shops, restaurants, and a few attractions (highlighted below in “On Your Own: Within Walking Distance”), but to see Acadia, your best bet is signing up for one of your ship’s shore excursions or renting a bicycle from a local dealer. Try Bar Harbor Bicycle Shop, 141 Cottage St. (& 207/288-3886; www. barharborbike. com), or Acadia Bike, 48 Cottage St. (& 800/526-8615; www. acadiabike. com). Rates are $15 for a half-day, $21 for a full day. If you want a taxi and there aren’t any waiting, try At Your Service Taxi Cab Co. (& 207/288-9222; www. atyourservicetaxi. com), which also offers guided tours of the park.
Best of the Park and the Town ($64, 4 hr.): Traverse the 27-mile Park Loop Road of Acadia National Park via bus, taking in spectacular coastal, mountain, and forest scenery. Tours include visits to Turrets Mansion overlooking Frenchman Bay, the summit of Cadillac Mountain, and Thunder Hole, where the right tidal conditions can send flumes of ocean spray high into the air.
A Walk in the Park ($44, 3 hr.): A naturalist guide leads a 2-mile hike along Acadia’s trails and provides insight into the park’s ecosystem, geology, natural history, and legends. The tour also includes a drive to the top of Cadillac Mountain for a 360-degree view of Mount Desert Island.
Acadia Carriage Ride ($79, 3 hr.): Fifteen-person horse-drawn carriages provide a chance to experience John D. Rockefeller’s carriage paths in the way he expected you to. Approximately 1 hour is spent in the carriage itself. The tour also includes a drive to the top of Cadillac Mountain for the view.
Biking in Acadia ($49, 2% hr.): Jump on a 24-speed mountain bike and follow the guide through the park’s hard-packed gravel carriage trails that crisscross some of the most scenic areas of the park. The guide makes stops to discuss the island’s history and lore.
Frenchman Bay Kayak Adventure ($59, 2V2 hr.): This scenic paddle passes ocean – front mansions not visible from the road and provides great views of Cadillac Mountain. You also have opportunities to spot harbor seals, porpoises, and seabirds such as the storm petrel, shearwater, and northern gannet.
Whale-Watching ($56, 3/2 hr.): This excursion allows visitors to view the humpbacks, finbacks, minkes, and dolphins that gather in the waters off the island between April and October.
If for some reason you’re allergic to beautiful forests and want to stay in town, you can check out the great views of the area from the foot of Main Street at grassy Agamont Park, which overlooks the town pier and Frenchman Bay. From here, set off past the Bar Harbor Inn on the Shore Path, a wide, winding trail that follows the shoreline for about half a mile along a public right of way. The pathway has views of many elegant summer homes (some converted to inns) and of The Porcupines, a cluster of spruce-studded islands just offshore. So named because they look like a group of porcupines migrating southward, the islands’ distinctive shape—gently sloped facing north, with abrupt cliffs facing south—is the result of ancient pressure from a southward-moving glacier.
For a glimpse of the area’s past life, stroll on over to the Abbe Museum, 26 Mount Desert St. (& 207/288-3519; www. abbemuseum. org), a sprawling 17,000-square – foot gallery housing a top-rate collection of Native American artifacts. Admission is $6. Around the corner is the Bar Harbor Historical Society, 33 Ledgelawn Ave. (& 207/288-0000; www. barharborhistorical. org), set in a handsome former convent dating to 1918. Its collection encompasses exhibits on old-time Mount Desert Island hotels and estates, photos of most of the 200 estate homes burned during the great fire of 1947, and a collection of milk bottles from the more than 40 dairy farms that were once active on the island. Admission is free; closed Sunday.
Somewhere during your stay, try some fresh Maine lobster—served boiled, baked, broiled, in rolls, and any other number of ways—at one of the many restaurants along the waterfront area. The fresh lobster bisque served at many of the local restaurants will warm you up nicely on cool autumn days.
You don’t want to come to Bar Harbor without getting a taste of the most famous attraction: Acadia National Park (www. nps. gov/acad). Sign up for a guided hike or drive along the 27-mile Park Loop Road, which wends around 1,530-foot-high Cadillac Mountain, the highest point on the Atlantic coast. If you luck out and there’s no fog, expect awesome views of natural sights like Thunder Hole, where ocean surf dramatically crashes against granite cliffs. Perhaps the best way to really experience nature here is bicycling a stretch of the 55-mile car-free carriage trails that wind through the park (rent a bike in town or sign up for one of your ship’s biking excursions). Horse – drawn carriage rides are another popular way to tour. No matter what your transport, there’s a great chance you’ll spot some wildlife, from beavers, foxes, eagles, hawks, and peregrine falcons to the occasional moose.
SHOPPING You don’t come here for the shopping (unless lobster potholders are your thing), though a handful of interesting shops on Main Street sell locally made and/or inspired handicrafts and gifts. At Island Artisans, 99 Main St. (& 207/288- 4214; www. islandartisans. com), you can browse for local handicrafts such as tiles, sweet-grass baskets, pottery, jewelry, and soaps. Down the street is the Bar Harbor Hemporium, 116 Main St. (& 207/288-3014; www. barharborhemp. com), an interesting store dedicated to promoting clothing, paper, and other products made from hemp, an environmentally friendly, fibrous plant that’s usually known for other reasons entirely.
Looking at the vibrant, bustling Puerto Vallarta of today, it’s hard to imagine that only 50 years ago, the only tourists who stopped here landed on a dirt airstrip outside town. Established in the 1850s as a port for processing silver from the Sierra Madre mountains, the place took off as a resort destination only when Hollywood stars began arriving 110 years later. In 1963, John Huston brought Ava Gardner and Richard Burton here to film the Tennessee Williams play Night of the Iguana, and Burton’s new love, Elizabeth Taylor, came along even though both were married to other people at the time. Paparazzi arrived hot on their heels, and the rest is history.
Downtown, a seaside promenade (or malecon) runs north-south beside Paseo Diaz Ordaz, adorned with public art and stretching the length of El Central—the center of town. From the waterfront, cobblestone streets reach a mere half-dozen blocks back into the hills. The areas bordering the Rio Cuale are the oldest parts of town, and a lovely island in midstream, Isla Cuale, is full of shops and lush foliage. Three bridges link the two sections of downtown, the most pleasant being a footbridge that hugs the shoreline. Isla Cuale can be accessed from any of them. The area north of the river is the main tourist zone, while the area immediately to the south is home to a growing number of sidewalk cafes and fine restaurants, plus the town’s better beaches.
Many excursions here will take you outside town and up into the foothills of the Sierra Madre. Farther up, the Huichol Indians still live in relative isolation, simultaneously protecting their culture from outside influences and making a living off their distinctive beaded artwork, which you’ll see around town.
COMING ASHORE Cruise ships dock at the Puerto Vallarta Marina, about 3 miles north of downtown along the busy Avenida Francisco Medina Ascencio. A plethora of crafts and T-shirt shops, along with several small bars and restaurants, are clustered right in the port area; but it’s not a destination in itself, so plan to take a taxi into town if you’re not doing an excursion. Marina Vallarta, a resort and yacht harbor, is just north of the terminal.
GETTING AROUND Technically, you can walk into town. We did it, just to see if it’s worth doing, and here’s the scoop: It’s not. Instead, take a shore excursion to get back into the hills, or grab one of the taxis that greet ships at the dock, charging about $6. Once you’re in the center of town, nearly everything is within walking distance both north and south of the river. And don’t worry about getting back to the ship from here; the cabbies will find you.
Jungle Canopy Adventure ($139, 5 hr.): Ever wanted to be George of the Jungle? At a private reserve in the Sierra Madre, professional guides help you master the techniques of using horizontal traverse cables to travel through the jungle canopy, high up in the trees. Observation platforms give you a breather and a chance to observe the flora and fauna. At the end of your adventure, you rappel down a tree to the forest floor.
Sierra Madre Hiking Expedition ($39, 4 hr.): Head by bus to Rancho Sierra Madre, where a local naturalist leads your 5-mile hike through the forest to a volcanic hot spring, where you can take a dip. Back at the ranch, you’re free to wander around to check out the operation or just relax with a drink.
Hideaway at Las Caletas ($89, 7% hr.): Las Caletas was Oscar-winning director John Huston’s hideaway, so basically on this tour you get to live like a celeb, traveling to the cove by motor launch, relaxing on its palm-lined beaches and drinking in its bar, taking a nature hike, or going kayaking or snorkeling. Some of Huston’s possessions are still on display.
Swimming with Dolphins ($179, 2-3 hr.): At the Dolphin Adventure Center, you get a half-hour in a saltwater pool with two Pacific bottlenose dolphins. Do we really have to say more? A longer excursion, Dolphin Trainer for a Day ($299, 7 hr.), lets you work with dolphin trainers in the water and out.
Swimming with Sea Lions ($99, 232 hr.): At the Dolphin Adventure Center, you’ll get an orientation about sea lion physiology and behavior before entering the water to swim with the big goofballs. The Snorkel with a Sea Lion at Las Caletas tour ($159, 7 hr.) takes you an hour north of Puerto Vallarta by boat to Las Caletas, once the hideaway of film director John Huston, where you can interact with sea lions in open water, close to the beach.
Assuming you don’t want to make the hot, dusty 3-mile walk into town, let’s call everything here beyond walking distance. Once you do make it to town, though, Puerto Vallarta’s cobblestone streets are a pleasure to explore on foot: filled with small shops, rows of windows edged with wrought-iron curls, and vistas of red-tile roofs and the sea. Start with a walk up and down the malecon, taking in the fine collection of public art that stretches from end to end. Across from Carlos O’Brien’s restaurant on the north end is Ramiz Barquett’s Nostalgia, depicting a couple sharing a romantic moment while gazing out to the bay. Farther south is an array of fanciful, almost Dr. Seuss-like chairs by renowned Mexican artist Alejandro Colunga, one topped with a large octopus head, another with giant ears for backrests. Farther south is Sergio Bustamante’s Ladder to Heaven, depicting children climbing a ladder to nowhere. Closer to the main square, you’ll find Boy on the Seahorse, which has become a Puerto Val – larta icon.
Near here, the main square is dominated by the Parish of Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe church, topped with a curious crown held in place by angels. It’s a replica of the one worn by Empress Carlota during her brief time in Mexico as Emperor Maximilian’s wife. On its steps, women sell religious mementos; across the narrow street, stalls sell herbs for curing common ailments. Stretching along the north end of the square is the municipal building, which has a large, folkloric Manuel Lepe mural inside in its stairwell.
Three blocks south of the church, head east on Libertad, lined with small shops and pretty upper windows, to the Rio Cuale municipal market by the river (see “Shopping,” below); then cross the bridge to Isla Cuale. Near the sea end of the island, the small Museo Rio Cuale has a permanent exhibit of pre-Columbian ceramics, jewelry, and statuary (free admission).
Retrace your steps to the market and Libertad, and follow Calle Miramar to the set of rough stone steps. Follow these past the cafe, then take the steep, narrow, pastel steps up to Calle Zaragoza, pausing on the stairs to catch your breath and also for a nice view of the sea. Once on Zaragoza, go right 1 block to the famous arched pink bridge that connected Richard Burton’s and Elizabeth Taylor’s houses.
For years, beaches were Puerto Vallarta’s main attraction. Unfortunately, those near the cruise terminal are the worst in the area, with darker sand and seasonal inflows of stones. Stretching south to town, the hotel zone is known for broad, smooth beaches, open to the public and accessible primarily through hotel lobbies. Just south of town, the easiest beach to reach is Playa Los Muertos (aka Playa Olas Altas or Playa del Sol), just off Calle Olas Altas, south of the Rio Cuale. The water can be rough, but the wide beach is home to several palapa restaurants that offer food, beverage, and beach-chair service. About 6 miles south of town along Hwy. 200, Playa Mismaloya, where Night of the Iguana was filmed, boasts clear waters. Entrance to the public beach is just to the left of the Jolla de Mismaloya Resort. There’s an Iguana-themed restaurant and bar on-site.
Puerto Vallarta is one big shopping opportunity, with hundreds of small stores selling everything from fine folk art and modern art to tacky T-shirts, plus tremendous amounts of silver jewelry and sculpture depicting everything from Aztec calendars to Mickey Mouse. The municipal market is just north of the Rio Cuale, where Calle Libertad and Calle Rodriguez meet. The mercado sells clothes, jewelry, serapes, shawls, leather accessories and suitcases, papier-mache parrots, stuffed frogs and armadillos, and, of course, T-shirts. Be sure to comparison-shop, and definitely bargain before buying. Upstairs, a sort of low-key food court serves inexpensive Mexican meals, giving adventurous diners a cheap, authentic local experience. Exit the market by the corner of Encino and Maramoros and walk across the suspended plank-and-rope bridge to Rio Cuale Island, where outdoor stalls sell crafts, gifts, folk art, and clothing.
Back in El Centro, head for the corner of Calle Galeana and Calle Morelos (right across from the Boy on the Seahorse statue) to find the Huichol Collection Museum Gallery (& 322/223-2141), the best place in town for authentic Huichol Indian art. Descendants of the Aztec, the Huichol live in the high sierra north and east of Val – larta. They produce remarkable beadwork and “yarn painting” inspired by visions they experience during hallucinogenic peyote ceremonies. The colors explode from wall hangings, masks, bowls, and animal forms, the latter three made from carved wooden shapes to which incredibly intricate beadwork is added, eventually covering the entire surface. A Huichol artist is often at work in the back of the shop, and explanations in English tell you what you’re looking at. Prices can be high for large pieces, but are worth it for the quality.
Some of the more attractive shops are a block or two inland from the malecon, centered roughly around the intersection of Calle Corona and Calle Morelos. One block north, near the corner of Calle Aldama, La Casa del Tequila (& 322/222-2000) has a tasting room where you can sample a selection of fine tequilas, plus a hacienda-style taco bar with swirling ceiling fans and cane seating.
Perched midway up the Nova Scotia coast, Halifax is the top port of call for big ships on the New England and Eastern Canada circuit, owing to the city’s natural deepwater port and its especially pleasing harborside setting and tree-lined streets. Its history goes back to the days of the Micmac Indians, who called Nova Scotia Chebuctook (“Great Long Harbor”). In 1605, the French staked their claim and renamed it Acadia (“Peaceful Land”). By 1621, the British had a foothold and renamed the land Nova Scotia (“New Scotland”), and in 1749 Edward Cornwallis founded Halifax, naming it for George Montagu Dunk, second earl of Halifax. Halifax eventually became a thriving shipbuilding and trading center as well as a military hub for the Royal Army and Navy. Even into the 20th century, it had strong military ties, serving as an important supply and convoy harbor in both World War I and World War II. In recent years, it’s evolved into a vital commercial and financial hub, as well as home to a number of colleges and universities.
COMING ASHORE All ships dock right in town, with Halifax’s attractions just steps away. Typically, two ships are in port at one time, though occasionally as many as four or five ships may be tied up. Be sure you’re awake when your ship docks so you can go out on deck to hear the Halifax town crier and members of the 78th Highlander Regiment, who greet all ships with an exciting program of bagpipe and drum music.
GETTING AROUND Halifax is exceedingly walkable (there are free walking-tour maps available at the terminal), but there are also plenty of taxis at the docks if you’re inclined to head for the hills.
Highlander Experience ($99, 3 hr.): Those who want an up-close-and-personal experience of 19th-century Halifax military life can sign up for this excursion offered at the Halifax Citadel, where participants are immersed in the duties and traditions of the Victorian Army and the Scottish Highlanders.
Treasures of the Titanic ($49, 222 hr.): When the fabled liner Titanic sank on April 15, 1912, three ships from Halifax had the grim job of recovering victims from the icy waters 500 miles southeast. In all, only 335 bodies were found, of which 150 were later laid to rest in three Halifax cemeteries. This tour includes all aspects of Halifax’s connection to the tragedy, including the historic pier from which the ships were dispatched to pick up victims; the church where memorial services were held; the temporary morgue sites that housed the bodies of such wealthy victims as John Jacob Astor; the cemeteries where rows upon rows of identical gravestones mark the final resting place of 150 victims; and the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, which houses an excellent permanent exhibit on the disaster, featuring the world’s largest collection of wooden artifacts—including a post from the famous Grand Staircase and one of the few intact Titanic deck chairs in the world.
Pub Crawl ($69, 2/2 hr.): Led by a kilted guide and a bagpiper, this tour visits several of Halifax’s favorite old-English-style pubs, with libations and music included. Peggy’s Cove ($49, ЗУ2 hr.): For a glimpse of Nova Scotia’s more rugged side, several different shore excursions head about 45 minutes south to the tiny fishing village of Peggy’s Cove, in a picturesque setting on the eastern shore of St. Margarets Bay. Settled by six families in 1811, the village hasn’t grown much since, but what it lacks in population it makes up for in scenic beauty, sitting on solid rock just above the crashing surf. A kilted guide leads a walking tour along the craggy coastline, with its bold glacier-formed outcroppings of granite rubbed smooth by eons of crashing waves, and past the town’s impressive lighthouse, one of the most photographed spots in Canada. A longer version of the tour ($129, 6У2 hr.) visits the 200-year-old hamlet at Fisherman’s Cove and includes a lobster lunch at a local restaurant.
Tidal Bore Rafting Adventure ($199, 51/2 hr.): The Bay of Fundy is home to what’s probably the world’s strongest tidal bore, when 2 billion gallons surge into the bay, creating waves up to 10 feet high. The trip is timed so you can watch the river change direction, creating the surge.
City and Harbor Duck Tour ($49, 1 hr.): Drive around to see the city highlights in an amphibious vehicle, then plunge into the harbor for views not possible from land.
Lunenburg Getaway ($64, 6У hr.): Just southwest of Halifax, Lunenburg is Nova Scotia’s main fishing port, with an Old Town that’s been restored to its original colonial character. Tours include a 45-minute walking tour with free time to explore the town’s shops and cafes.
Right at the cruise docks, Pier 21 (& 902/425-7770; www. pier21.ca) was Halifax’s version of Ellis Island, where between 1928 and 1971 more than a million immigrants entered Canada. Opened as a museum in 1999, it provides an interactive experience that re-creates 4З years of immigrant life through displays, films, and sound clips. Admission is $7.
To the north, Alexander Keith’s Nova Scotia Brewery, 1496 Lower Water St. (& 902/455-1474; www. keiths. ca), offers one of the best brewery tours we’ve ever taken. Unlike the typical walk-through of a modern plant with a few historical exhibits, Keith’s has restored significant portions of its plant to the way they looked when Keith established his business in 1820. Costumed actors take you through grain storehouses, historic brewing displays, and residential rooms en route to the 19th-century barroom for a sip (or two, or three) of Keith’s brew. It’s entertaining and fun, it’s historical (Keith’s is, after all, the oldest brewery in North America), and there’s music to boot. Hour-long tours run every half-hour from June 1 through October З1 noon until 8pm (noon-5pm Sun). Admission is $13.
Aside from the major ports listed in this chapter, there are a number of smaller ports that small-ship lines such as American Cruise Line (p. 318), American Canadian Caribbean Line (p. 317), and Cruise West (p. 325) include on their itineraries. Big ships may also visit some of these ports, on occasion. Block Island, Rhode Island (www. blockislandchamber. com): The Nature Conservatory has called Block Island one of the "last great places in the Western Hemisphere," an 11-square-mile Yankee gem. It has more than 300 freshwater ponds set amidst rolling green hills that end in dramatic 250-foot bluffs that look like the cliffs of western Ireland. A full third of the island is set aside as a wildlife refuge, accessible via 30-plus miles of hiking trails and cliffside bike paths. Down at the shore, the island is ringed by some 17 miles of beach.
Nantucket, Massachusetts (www. nantucketchamber. org): Just 30 miles off the coast of Cape Cod, Nantucket Island is classic New England, and was the worlds top whalin g hub before New Bedford stole the show. Today, it’s vastly popular with summer tourists, but still manages to maintain a low-key attitude. Its main town, also named Nantucket, is all cobblestone streets, historic buildings, and yacht-filled harbor, while out around the residential island you’ll find tranquil villages, rolling moors, heaths, cranberry bogs, and miles of exquisite public beaches, including Jetties near Nantucket Town and Surfside on the Atlantic coast.
Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts (www. mvy. com): New England’s largest island, Martha’s Vineyard boasts handsome old towns, lighthouses, white picket fences, and charming ice-cream shops. . . plus lots of summer visitors. You’ll find great beaches (though many are private), as well as dramatic cliffs and meadows that make for great long walks and bicycle rides. The most genteel of the island’s six towns is Edgartown, full of regal sea captains’ houses and manicured gardens.
Fall River, Massachusetts (www. fallriverchamber. com/visitor): In the northern reaches of Narragansett Bay, about 20 miles north of Newport, Fall River allows visitors a chance to visit Battleship Cove (www. battleshipcove. org),
A few blocks north, the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, 1675 Lower Water St. (& 902/424-7490; http://museum. gov. ns. ca/mma), provides a window into the lives of Halifax’s sailors and shipbuilders, its galleries displaying some 24,000 artifacts,
20,0 photos, and even whole vessels. Exhibits include an impressive collection of Titanic artifacts, and there’s also a fascinating exhibit on the incredible explosion that leveled much of the city in 1917 when a French munitions ship collided with a Norwegian steamer. Admission is $7.25.
Up at downtown’s highest point, about 9 blocks uphill from the waterfront, the star-shaped Halifax Citadel (& 902/426-5080; www. pc. gc. ca/lhn-nhs/ns/halifax/ index_e. asp) was built by the British between 1820 and 1856, mostly to guard against attack by the United States. The U. S. never did strike (it picked on Mexico instead),
a collection of preserved American warships including the USS Massachusetts, submarine Lionfish, and other veterans of World War II. At the town’s Marine Museum, you’ll find artifacts from the Titanic, while at the Lizzie Borden Museum, you can get the down-and-dirty details on that famous unsolved murder mystery.
New Bedford, Massachusetts (www. newbedford. com): In the 19th century, New Bedford was the whaling capital of the world. Today, it remains a major deep-sea fishing port, and boasts a beautifully restored waterfront area. The town’s Whaling Museum (www. whalingmuseum. org) displays ship replicas, whale skeletons and paintings, glasswork, and scrimshaw, which is carved whalebone or whale ivory.
Portland, Maine (www. visitportland. com): Maine’s largest city is set on a peninsula in scenic Casco Bay. The top attractions include the Portland Headlight (the oldest American lighthouse in continuous use) and the lovely Old Port neighborhood, a revitalized warehouse district that now boasts boutiques, restaurants, and entertainment along its cobblestone streets. Nearby Freeport is a town-size outlet center anchored by tres Maine L. L.Bean (www. llbean. com).
Sydney, Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia (www. cbisland. com): Nova Scotia’s northernmost landmass, Cape Breton Island was principally settled by Highland Scots, and today that influence remains in the island’s Scottish-style folk music. The island’s scenic highlight is Cape Breton Highlands National Park (www. pc. gc. ca/pn-np/ns/cbreton/index_e. asp) on the northwestern coast, and its spectacular highlands, dramatic cliffs, and ocean scenery are accessible via the 185-mile roadway known as the Cabot Trail. Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island (www. visitcharlottetown. com): In Canada’s smallest province, you can visit historic sites such as the house of Lucy Maud Montgomery, who wrote Anne of Green Gables, which describes the innocence and beauty of life on the island at the turn of the 19th century. You can also opt for a drive along one of the island’s scenic highways that wend past sandstone cliffs, rocky coves, lovely beaches, and fishing villages.
but the ever-vigilant British still maintained a garrison here until 1906, after which it was manned by Canadian forces. Restored now to its mid-19th-century appearance, it’s one of the most visited National Historic Sites in Canada, with costumed animators portraying a regiment of Scottish soldiers and their families. Visitors can see displays of weapons and uniforms, view audiovisual presentations and demonstrations by soldiers’ wives, take an hour-long guided tour, enjoy panoramic views from its ramparts, and watch maneuvers and bagpipe concerts on the central parade ground. At noon each day, one of the fort’s cannons is fired ceremoniously. Boom! Admission is $9.75 adults, $4.75 kids. To get here, head up Carmichael Street from Grand Parade Square/Barrington Street toward the old Town Clock, gifted to the city by Edward,
Duke of Kent, who commanded a garrison here in 1800. A staircase at the foot of the clock, on Brunswick Street, will take you to the Citadel’s main entrance.
South of the Citadel, Halifax’s famous 17-acre Public Gardens (www. halifaxpublic gardens. ca) make a beautiful spot to relax after a long walking tour. Created through the merger of the old Nova Scotia Horticultural Society Garden (laid out in 1837) and an adjacent public park opened in 1866, they’re the oldest formal Victorian gardens in North America, and look much as they have since the 1870s. The best place to enter is via the ornate, Scottish-made wrought-iron gates at the corner of Spring Garden Road and South Park Street. Inside, winding gravel paths meander among the trees and flowerbeds, with exotic plants from around the world, commemorative statuary and fountains, and, at the park’s center, a red-roofed gazebo built in 1887 to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee.
For information on Peggy’s Cove, see “Best Cruise Line Shore Excursions,” above. Nearer to Halifax is the Fairview Cemetery, where 120 Titanic victims were buried in 1912. At least one of your ship’s organized excursions will generally include a stop here, with the guide explaining Halifax’s role in the ocean disaster.
Locally made maritime handicrafts such as hooked rugs, pottery, wood items, quilt work, and hand-knit woolens are big in Halifax. Because of the city’s Scottish roots, you’ll also find plenty of tartans and gifts made of pewter. There is no shortage of shops in and around the waterfront, including the Historic Properties (& 902/422- 3077; www. historicproperties. ca), a group of warehouses dating back to 1800, which have been converted into a shopping, dining, and entertainment complex. It’s situated a little north of the Maritime Museum, with cobblestone streets leading between buildings that once held goods seized by privateers who plundered enemy vessels for the British Crown. Outside, street musicians and painters add a touch of the artistic; inside, you’ll find fashionable shops, gifts, pubs, and lunch spots.
T his neat and tidy oasis in the middle of the Atlantic is edged with pink-sand beaches and rocky cliffs—and crawling with Brits in shorts. And not just any shorts, but shorts colored in perky tones of pink, green, or yellow, and paired with sports jackets, ties, and knee-highs. To the casual visitor, Bermuda is a pleasant paradox of sorts, mixing sane and proper with a healthy dose of silly (back to those shorts again). But what really matters to the cruise passenger is that Bermuda is an orderly, beautiful, easy place to visit. Aside from the Caribbean and The Bahamas, the 21-square-mile island nation of Bermuda (which is actually a chain of more than 100 small islands), sitting out in the Atlantic roughly parallel to South Carolina (or Casablanca, if you’re measuring from the east), is the other major island cruise destination from the U. S. Eastern seaboard.
Although the Spanish stumbled upon Bermuda in the early 16th century, it was the British who first settled here in 1609, when the ship Sea Venture, en route to Virginia’s Jamestown colony, was wrecked on the island’s reefs. No lives were lost, and the crew and passengers built two new ships and continued on to Virginia; but three crewmembers stayed behind and became the island’s first permanent settlers. Bermuda became a crown colony in 1620 and remains one today, retaining a very British character—the island is divided up into parishes, driving is on the left, and horse-drawn carriages trot about—but the sun and the ubiquitous
Bermuda shorts serve as proof you’re in the islands.
That’s not to say things aren’t bustling when the ships are in town at King’s Wharf, in the West End, where most ships are now docking because they’re too large for the piers in Hamilton and St. George’s, Bermuda’s other two port towns, but a calm and controlled atmosphere reigns as visitors fan out across the island. There are many powdery-soft beaches easily accessible by taxi or motor scooter, and Bermuda has more golf courses per square mile than any other place in the world. For shoppers, Front and Queen streets in Hamilton have dozens of shops and department stores, most specializing in English items, while the interest of history buffs is piqued by the 300-year-old St. Peter’s Church, museums, and other sites within walking distance of the pier in St. George’s. From King’s Wharf, there are also impressive exhibits at the Maritime Museum, which is built into the ruins of Bermuda’s oldest fort at the Royal Naval Dockyard.
Cruise ships have been sailing to Bermuda for over a century, making it one of the earliest cruise destinations. The Quebec Steamship Company, which eventually evolved into the Furness Bermuda Line, began service from New York to Bermuda in 1874 with the small steamers Canima and Bermuda and then added the Orinoco in 1881, the Trinidad in 1893, and the liner Pretoria, acquired from the Union Line, in 1897.
Unlike most Caribbean itineraries, on which ships visit ports for a day at most, the many Bermuda-bound ships spend several whole days at the island. To protect its hotel trade, maintain a semblance of order, and keep the island from getting overrun by tourists, the government of Bermuda limits the number of ships that can visit the island on a regular basis during its season, late April through October, when the temperatures hover between 75° and 85°F (24° and 29°C) and extended rainfall is rare.
For the 2009 season, five ships made regular calls: one from Princess and two each from NCL and Royal Caribbean, the latter of which had the supersized Explorer of the Seas making regular visits. To accommodate the big ships, the more commodious piers at King’s Wharf in the West End are now being used for most ship calls (Hamilton and St. George’s can accommodate only medium to small ships).
HOME PORTS FOR THIS REGION New York/New Jersey and Boston are
the main hubs for Bermuda cruises, with ships sailing round-trip on mostly 7- night itineraries. A few ships also sail to Bermuda round-trip from Baltimore, Norfolk, Charlotte, and Philadelphia. A few more itineraries include Bermuda on transatlantic crossings in spring and fall, or visit the island as part of longer itineraries that also include Caribbean ports.
LANGUAGE & CURRENCY The
official language is English. The currency is the Bermuda dollar (BD$), which is pegged to the U. S. dollar on an equal basis—BD$1 equals US$1. There’s no need to exchange any U. S. money for Bermudian currency.
SHOPPING TIPS While St. George’s and the West End Dockyard both have souvenir shops, Hamilton is the center of Bermuda’s shopping universe. Here, it’s all about English (and some Irish) goodies such as porcelain, crystal, wool clothing, cashmere sweaters, and linens, and it’s within walking distance, right outside of the terminal. Don’t expect great deals, though—prices in Bermuda are generally on the high side.