Nothing is better in the Fall than cruising in the Canadian and northern New England waters where autumn leaf peeping, whale watching, and breathtaking sunsets are the norm while relaxing aboard Viking’s award-winning, all-veranda, state-of-the-art ship Star.

Quebec City Harbor
Quebec City Harbor

Sailing on the Canada and New England Scenic Shores cruise included ports that ranged from ones with old-world charm, like Montreal and Quebec City, to lesser-known remote destinations like Saguenay, Charlottetown, and St. John, known for local hospitality and natural beauty. This time of year, the Canadian and Maine coastlines showcase fiery-colored leafy trees set against backdrops of calm rocky beaches.

Saguenay Harbor
Saguenay Harbor

We had a magical sail through the Gulf of St. Lawrence over to Prince Edward Island and then rounded Nova Scotia, where we encountered some sporty (rough) seas; however, the stabilizers took care of most of the chop. Passengers were grateful that Captain Magnus Bengtsson kept the ship on an even keel for this voyage. As we sailed southwards to Maine, the chilly weather of Canada was behind us, leaving warmer temperatures and plenty of time to enjoy outside dining on the verandas.

Eastport, Maine port call
Eastport, Maine port call

From Maine southwards, we stopped in delightful Bar Harbor and bustling Portland, known for its boat-to-table seafood restaurants and local pubs. Portland also has fabulous specialty shops for pottery, art, and clothing. Continuing down the coast, we experienced a special day at sea, heading through the Cape Cod Canal before reaching our final port destination. Viking Star anchored in the Newport Harbor just off Goat Island near the center of town on an unusually dismal rainy day. Luckily, most folks booked mansion and bus tours, keeping them dry. The weather disappointed those who envisioned strolling the cobblestone streets like ancient mariners. Still, the intrepid soldiered on, stopping into one of the many restaurants specializing in New England Clam Chowder for respite from the deluge of precipitation. Late afternoon, by the time the last tender was aboard, the sun popped out from behind the clouds for a glorious exit from Newport with views of Hammersmith Farm, the childhood home of First Lady Jaqueline Bouvier Kennedy, Fort Adams, The Pell “Newport” Bridge, and the Castle Hill Inn. 

Captain Magnus Bengtsson, his wife Ruby (left) and Priscilla
Captain Magnus Bengtsson, his wife Ruby (left) and Priscilla

We spent our last two sea days enjoying the various entertainment options onboard, including the phenomenal show by Cruise Director Kate Syrett entitled Celtic Kate, where she welcomed guests journeying us from her hometown of Edinburgh, Scotland, to Ireland, Broadway, and beyond. Engaging guest lecturer topics ranged from A Life at Sea, where Senior Officers held an informal Q&A session, to a session on Christopher Columbus, another on Working in World Affairs, and the History of Navigation. 

Viking Cruise deckMy favorite interactive game was “Baggo” known to many as corn hole or bean bag toss. Passengers play against Viking Star officers, with the winning team enjoying Mimosa’s as the prize. Trivia teams (up to a maximum of six guests) gathered in the Explorer’s Lounge to test their general knowledge, geography, and naming musical tunes and their artists. A popular evening for movie buffs was spending time under the stars in the pool area, where guests enjoyed movie nights with headsets reclining on lounge chairs, Top Gun one night and A Man Called Otto on another.

Notre-Dame Basilica in Montreal
Notre-Dame Basilica in Montreal

Because there are so many public lounge areas, no space feels crowded. Small groups had areas to play cards, Scrabble, or enjoy a cocktail together, while those wanting quiet reading nooks found plenty to satiate their need for alone time.

Is everything on a cruise perfect – never; however, Viking does limit mistakes by performing logistics very well. The embarkation and disembarkation systems, flight coordination, luggage organization, tour groups dovetailing with private excursions, and re-booking flights due to unforeseen circumstances are extraordinary. 

Snowbirds like me took advantage of the final destination, ending in Fort Lauderdale just as it was time to fly south for the winter. Suitcases were packed with warm weather clothing, saving me a flight south – it was easy to step off the boat and begin the “season” in Florida, well rested from the past couple of weeks of cruising. 

Must Do’s on this Cruise:

Whale Watching – either in Saguenay or St. John (St. Andrew) – we spotted endangered North Atlantic Right, Humpback, and Minke Whales.

Charlottetown local oyster farmers
Charlottetown local oyster farmers

Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island

Famous for their PEI oysters, a sample raw bar handled by a couple of friendly local shuckers, greeted us on the pier. Attend the authentic Ceilidh (a Scottish and Acadian-inspired musical kitchen party) lobster feast and leave a bit of room for an ice cream cone at Cows Creamery nearby. 

Newport Harbor at sunset
Newport Harbor at sunset

Newport, Rhode Island

This port visit is a very short one, so prioritize – if you have never been to this historically significant town, take the overall bus tour on the earliest time frame and then stroll the cobblestone streets, stopping for a cup of New England Clam Chowder at the famous Black Pearl restaurant. 

Bar Harbor, Maine

Tour the Acadia National Park by kayak. It’s a serene way to take in the fall landscape. 

Cheese and Sweets plate Fruit plate

Worth Mentioning

Of all the Viking cruises I have been on, this one had the best selection of foods, presentation of dishes, creative theme nights, and high-quality fruits, vegetables, fish, and meats. Executive Chef Joseph Dabassious and his team did an extraordinary job – breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, snacks, and dinner were stellar. Kudos to Kayhan Halil, Restaurant Manager, who was laser-focused on his team performing well in each dining area. We gravitated to one section when dining in the World Cafe because of two stellar waiters – Lang-Lang and Mark. Both knew our names and Silver Spirit’s wine preferences by night one. 

Our cabin stewards, Rashid and EJ, consistently superior, greeted us with genuine smiles every morning and again at night at turndown. Their boundless energy and positivity were inspirational. 

Final Thoughts

This cruise was perfect for a couple or friends wanting picture-perfect scenery, a laid-back itinerary, and lots of sea time relaxing at the spa or attending exciting talks. It is super for foodies who want opportunities to taste authentic seafood dishes, fresh from the sources. It is a dream cruise for folks who have never experienced fall foliage.

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Priscilla Pilon travels the world but is an admitted Paris addict. She began her career as a food/travel writer and photographer through her own personal trips and her time spent living and working abroad. A true travel chameleon, she can find herself skiing in the French Alps one day and snorkeling in the British Virgin Islands the next. A wife and mother of two grown boys, Priscilla sees travel as art – a blank canvas where unique hotels and experiences paint priceless pictures. Born and raised on the South Shore of Boston, she now splits her time between Newport, Rhode Island, Key Largo, Florida, and Boston’s North End. She is an avid photographer, sailor (Oyster 54), tennis player, skier, foodie, and amateur sommelier.