by Justin Gibson

The Magic of a Fall Foliage Cruise

When we dream of the colors we’ll see on a cruise vacation, we often think of the sugar-white sand of Caribbean beaches, the cobalt blue of the Mediterranean Sea or the shimmering sky blue of an Alaskan glacier. Yet a fall foliage cruise up the northeast coast of the United States and into eastern Canada unveils a whole swathe of additional hues: burnt orange, glowing yellow and purplish red of autumnal leaves.

Embarking on a fall foliage cruise is more than just a celebration of colors, though. It’s an opportunity to explore historic seaports, to dig into authentic northeast cuisine and to relish dramatic coastlines. Here are some of the highlights you can expect from a typical coastal cruise that will create anything but typical memories.

Paul Revere Statue in Boston, Mass.
Boston Paul Revere Statue

Setting Sail

To enjoy Mother Nature’s magic show in the northeast — along with all the lighthouses, lobster bakes and granite cliffs in between — first you must take to the sea. Fall foliage cruises typically set sail from Boston or Montreal, and while these larger cities are not as boutique as many of the ports you’ll discover in between, they still warrant exploration.

As one of the oldest towns in the original 13 colonies, Boston has played a starring role in some of America’s most notable chapters. See for yourself on the 2.5-mile-long Freedom Trail, which takes you to 16 prominent places of historical interest, though simply walking through the city on your own accord is also a day well spent. Even those who care little for history can still enjoy Boston’s academic side, possibly perusing the 23 million titles in the Renaissance-inspired Boston Public Library, or visiting the Houghton Library, the public branch of Harvard’s library system.

If Montreal is your starting or ending point, make a point to simply walk around this engaging city and soak in all the beauty. In Vieux Montreal, feel the cobblestone streets beneath your feet as you amble past sidewalk cafés and old-world architecture, enjoying the sights and sounds of horse-drawn carriages and sidewalk buskers. Old Port Montreal has a more Brooklyn-esque flare, home to narrow streets, boutique shops and art galleries.

Bar Harbor, Maine
Bar Harbor

Your Ports of Call

During the cruise itself, the coastline is rarely out of sight. Boulder-strewn beaches and rising waves of tree-covered hills keep your eyes perpetually delighted, especially as the leaves transform from verdant green to a blazing tapestry of reds, golds and yellows. Each stop along the way includes excursion options that take you deeper into the forests and mountains, giving you prime views of the changing foliage. And with many hours to spend in each port, you will also have time to sample the local culture.

In Bar Harbor, Maine, that sampling could include what some claim is the East Coast’s most stunning national park. A breathtaking oasis of mountains, coastline, woodlands and lakes, Acadia National Park is best experienced by either the 27-mile Park Loop Road, where you’ll enjoy numerous opportunities to take the best photos ever; or by a nature cruise to spy whales, seals, eagles and possibly even Atlantic puffins.

After leaving the United States, Canada’s natural splendor takes over during your next few port visits. In Charlottetown, you can bask in the beauty of Prince Edward Island National Park, home to the famed 19th-century Green Gables farmhouse, before diving into the freshest PEI mussels and oysters you’ll ever enjoy. Québec City awaits you next, a historic city with a strong French backbone, where you’ll find centuries-old stone chateaus, patisseries and fromageries.

Quebec City
Quebec City

Fall Foliage Sojourn

Visit several of these ports on an 8 Nights Fall Foliage Sojourn with Crystal Cruises. Sailing from New York in late October, just in time for the fall’s dazzling leaf show to begin, the cruise visits Newport, R.I., Boston, Bar Harbor, Charlottetown and Québec. 

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