s I waited at Manhattan's Pier 90 to
board the Golden Princess for a mid-October foliage cruise of New
England and Canada, I detected that one of the two women standing
next to me was a little nervous.
The pair had come all the way from San Diego to see a fall
spectacle they'd only glimpsed in magazines and movies, they
Was their timing right? Or was it too late? Too early?
The fall foliage window is quite wide for cruises operating
between New York and Montreal, explained this veteran of autumns in
Canada, along the St. Lawrence River, peaks about two to three
weeks earlier than coastal New England, and the New York region is
another week behind. I assured them that good color should appear
at one end of the cruise or the other.
So it was with great anticipation that we began our journey
northward into New England and Maritime Canada, 2,600 passengers,
leaf-peepers all, lured by the glorious palette of fall.
Princess Cruises' fall foliage offerings are something of a
seasonal specialty. The line offers about a dozen cruises this
year, in September and October. This year, the Grand Princess will
substitute for the identical Golden Princess on its seven-day
cruises, and the smaller Regal Princess on 10-day itineraries. The
line also offers three cruise-tours in conjunction with the
Our cruise on the Golden Princess offered two relaxing days at
sea and five ports calls in five days.
We arrived in Halifax on the second morning. The ship's pier is
within walking distance of the city center, the active waterfront
and the lovely Public Gardens.
On our cruise, a severe wind storm two weeks earlier had done
considerable damage to the trees, but less so up and down the coast
at Peggys Cove or historic and hilly Lunenburg.
Both outings are highly scenic, although the woods are not of
New England standards in terms of color-rich oaks, maples, elms and
On previous occasions, rather than having to kowtow to a
motorcoach schedule, I rented a car, which allows for spontaneous
At Saint John, New Brunswick, the best tours fan out into the
countryside. I chose the 90-minute trip to St. Andrews.
The drive revealed few fall colors until we reached town. First
planned as a French-speaking settlement, St. Andrews has developed
into a residential and hotel resort anchored by the venerable
turn-of-the-last-century Algonquin Hotel, built by the mighty
Canadian Pacific Railway and now part of the Fairmont chain.
Unfortunately, the advertised tea and scones took place in an
entertainment hall rather than the historic main building.
But the residential streets, with a variety of trees introduced
over the last 100 years, were awash with displays of reds, yellows,
oranges and lingering greens, making for a most pleasant hourlong
Docking at Halifax and Saint John provided easy disembarkation.
Tour participants gathered in designated public rooms, received bus
number assignments and an escort off the ship.
Tendering at Bar Harbor, Maine, took longer, and while well
organized, about 45 minutes elapsed between the time we entered the
assembly room and the start of the tour.
Bar Harbor provided the best autumn foliage on our cruise, as
nearby Mount Desert Island is almost completely forested and the
towns have specifically planted deciduous trees exhibiting
Some passengers went cycling and came back both exercised and
happy with the leaf attractions.
I took a tour that included the towns of Bar Harbor, Northeast
Harbor and Somesville and a drive up Cadillac Mountain, which rises
out of Acadia National Park. The 360-degree views included swatches
of vibrant color among the otherwise evergreen forest.
The tour's lobster lunch at the Asticou Inn produced roughly 150
perfectly prepared specimens, and I, who steam Maine lobster at
home, could reassure my Midwestern tablemates that they were
getting the best of the real thing, plus tasty clam chowder, potato
salad, corn on the cob and fresh blueberry pie.
During the call at Boston, the Beacon Hill neighborhood, foliage
in Boston Common and the Public Garden had not yet peaked, but some
passengers reported good colors outside the city in the historic
towns of Concord, Lexington, Marblehead and Salem.
Farther south, Newport, R.I., had yet to reach its peak, but the
resort city's diversions are plentiful whether on tour or on
Active walkers will find the historic district just in from the
tender's landing point, and Bellevue Avenue's open-to-view mansions
and the seaside Cliff Walk make for a great day's outing.
Near the end of the week's cruise, the two women I had met on
the pier in New York told me the delights of the countryside and
colors had exceeded their expectations.
And two weeks later, the trees along New York's Hudson River
reached their full display, a spectacle ready and waiting for those
who purchased a post-cruise package.
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For more details on this article, see Much to do by land and by sea.