Exploring this beautiful corner of the world had long been on my bucket list. So finally, this past October, I made the decision to book the cruise and commit to this awesome trip. Although New England and Canada are brilliant to visit year round, autumn (aka Fall) is the most distinctive time to visit. The colourful foliage draws people from around the world.
I have been a long time fan of NCL (Norwegian Cruise Line). So for this sailing, I picked one of their older ships, the Norwegian Pearl.
This guide aims to give an on overview of the itinerary as well as the all round experience on the Norwegian Pearl for a New England and Canada Fall Cruise.
Scenes from the beautiful Steam Trail Walk in Corner Brook, Newfoundland
The New England and Canada Itinerary
The cruise started in Québec City, Canada and finished in Boston, USA after a 7 night sailing. The stops on the itinerary included Corner Brook in Newfoundland, Sydney and Halifax in Nova Scotia and then Portland and Bar Harbour in Maine (USA). We were meant to visit Charlottetown on Prince Edward Island, but unfortunately an incoming tropical storm meant we had to adjust our route and visit Corner Brook instead.
Québec City, Canada
It had been a dream of mine to visit Québec City, and it did not disappoint. It was a truly magical place to visit. From the Disney-like castle walls to the quaint and charming Vieux Québec (Old Town), I was just so glad I opted for a cruise started in Québec City.
I’ve written a longer and more detailed guide to Québec City here so I’d definitely recommend. But a few highlights to note include strolling around the divine Vieux Québec, walking along the promenade (called Dufferin Terrace) to Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac, and watching the world go by from one of the cute cafes.
One of the main cruise docks is right by the town centre, so you might even be able to walk up to the ship to embark.
I’d say one day minimum is needed in order to see a decent number of sights in Québec City. Therefore it’s also a brilliant place to stop if it’s included as a port of call on cruise itinerary. However, if you can spare the extra time, a couple of days can easily be enjoyed in Québec City and the surrounding area.
It’s worth noting also that you may fly into Montréal as there are many more flights landing in YUL airport in Montreal over Québec City,
This was the case for myself, and so I first flew in Montréal where I spent a day before taking the train up to Québec City.
I liked Montréal (although not as much as Québec City!) I’ve detailed how to spend a full day in Montréal here. An absolute must-do is visit La Banquise for the city’s best poutine – and most extensive list of poutine options!
Corner Brook, Newfoundland, Canada
As I mentioned, Corner Brook was a last minute change the day before, and as such, I didn’t have much time to research the port beforehand.
From where the ship docks, it’s around a 20 minute pleasant walk to town. There are shuttles running back and forth, or the stroll is well sign posted.
There are a couple of main streets (namely West Street and Park Street) and most of the activity and best things to see are located along these. There are a couple of great breweries (Boomstick Brewing Co and Bootleg Brew Co) and a coffee shop (Brewed Awakening), all of which are well worth visiting. Otherwise, there’s a KFC if you fancy your fried chicken fix and a Tim Hortons with really fast internet.
For some local shopping, make sure to visit the Newfoundland Emporium. Whilst walking in the town, you’ll also see some homemade signs directing you to the store up the hill. It’s a lovely antiques and local history shop with a beautiful giant Newfoundland dog called Maggie.
Definitely worth heading up here to meet Maggie!
One of the main things to do in Corner Brook is to see the town via toy train, which we saw dozens of cruise passengers enjoying. But if you prefer exploring on foot, then I recommend exploring some of Corner Brook’s beautiful walking trails, all of which start right from town.
Directly behind the giant Corner Brook sign is the Steam Trail walk which meanders to the left, and offers a beautifully scenic lakeside route.
There’s also the Quarry Access trail and the 3 Bear Mountain trail, both of which head up the hill to a beautiful viewpoint.
In terms of shore excursions, the best would be to visit Gros Morne National Park. The ancient landscape of this national park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and well worth visiting. From cruising the freshwater fjords, to hiking the summit of Gros Morne, to even taking in a rare exposed piece of the Earth’s mantle, it’s a unique and beautiful location to visit.
Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada
Our next port of call was Sydney, in Nova Scotia. Located on the eastern coast of the well-known Cape Breton Island, Sydney was a port I hadn’t heard too much about. Unfortunately, the time of my visit (October 2023), there was some extreme roadworks and engineering works taking place through all of the town’s main thoroughfares. I found it made browsing the stores and finding the best local spots really difficult. So for future visits in 2024 and onwards, I expect the town centre to be far more bustling and with plenty more places open to visit.
The first main attraction that any visitor will come to upon stepping foot in Sydney, is the iconic violin statue, which is in fact, the world’s largest fiddle!
From here, stroll along Sydney’s beautiful waterfront area. Along this walk, you’ll find dozens of scenic seats and benches to stop and take the world in, and of course, appreciate the gorgeous view. You’ll quickly arrive in Downtown Sydney. As mentioned, I found it hard to explore due to the unfortunate timing of the works, but in normal times, you can embark on a self-guided art walk. The town is like a tapestry of street art and cultural installations.
One of the best places eat in Sydney, Nova Scotia – and also a main attraction, is a popular watering hole that goes by the name Governor’s Pub. The line outside quickly grew so make sure to head here early!
For those into outdoor pursuits, make sure to head to the world-renowned Cabot Trail.
In terms of shore excursions, one of the most popular things to do near Sydney, Nova Scotia is to head inwards to the Cape Breton Highlands National Park.
Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
Halifax is famous for a number of things, one of which is that it was the closest land point to the sinking location of the Titanic. Therefore, there’s plenty of maritime history to tap into here, and the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic is a must-visit.
It’s Canada’s oldest maritime museum and is packed with an incredible collection of shipbuilding and seafaring artefacts. One of its permanent exhibits is Titanic: The Unsinkable Ship that details the ship’s background and fateful demise. There are tons of recovered items, as well as tributes, stories and models. It’s absolutely fascinating and was top of my Halifax bucket list. I also learnt a lot about the 1917 tragic Halifax Explosion, which I previously knew nothing about. You need to factor in at least 1-2 hours to explore this brilliant museum.
Some historic Titanic artifacts in the Maritime Museum
There’s plenty more to do and see in Halifax, Nova Scotia though. Luckily the ship docks just minutes from the city centre and the stunning waterfront. If you’re spending the day independently in Halifax, then make sure to disembark early, so you have time to see everything in this brilliant city.
For starters, Halifax is located on the world’s second largest natural harbour. So as well as a fascinating maritime history, there are plenty of boat trips and sightseeing tours to enjoy in Halifax.
Also by the waterfront is Pier 21, which is known as the Ellis Island of Canada. It was once one of the largest immigration centres throughout the 1900s, and is now the country’s museum dedicated to immigration,
Halifax also has a flourishing culinary scene, which includes everything from exciting, concept testing restaurants from young chefs, to iconic breweries and fun snack spots.
For those with a sweet tooth, Fog Ice Cream is a must. Never have I seen such incredible (and messy) ice creams. Just check out the delectable delight my friend Hannah opted for:
A famous brewery well worth stopping at is Alexander Keith’s, which dates all the way back to 1820.
I spent my day in Halifax enjoying the incredible waterfront area, with its fantastic cafes, sun trap seats and bustling atmosphere. I absolutely loved it. Later in the day, I wandered up to the Spring Garden area, which is one of the best shopping areas in Halifax’s CBD. I then climbed to the hilltop location of the Halifax Citadel National Historic Site. This huge Citadel, which dates back to 1749, is stunning and also a brilliant vantage point from which to take in all of Halifax.
In terms of excursions, without doubt, the most popular excursion is to visit Peggy’s Cove and its famous lighthouse. This gorgeous little fishing village is home to probably the most photographed lighthouse in Canada. Perched atop a series of slightly precarious looking rocks, visitors make a beeline for this lighthouse. There’s also some great eating spots in Peggy’s Cove, and if you want to try a lobster bake, this is definitely one of the best places on the cruise to do so.
On the route is also the Titanic Cemetery, also known as the Fairview Lawn Cemetery. There are graves here of 121 victims of the Titanic.
I absolutely loved my day in Halifax, and we were blessed with gorgeous warm autumnal weather. It was perfect!
Incredible ice cream from Fog Company in Halifax, Nova Scotia
Portland, Maine, USA
Next stop, and marking our arrival into the USA, was Portland, Maine. I didn’t really know what to expect from this port at all. The ship docks right into the working waterfront by Commercial Street, and CBD area of Portland. The first thing you’ll see as you walk along Commercial Street are all the wharfs stretching out to your left. Here you’ll find a variety of popular lobster spots. as well as water taxis and the Portland Fish Exchange. After strolling around here, I recommend heading up Market Street. This road, and the adjacent at Exchange Street are both brilliant for shopping. I bought way more than I planned to! Maine has its souvenirs and local goodies down to perfection, I wanted to buy everything. And of course, loads is lobster themed!
There’s also a famous Sherman’s Bookshop, and I recommend Uncommon Paws too, for dog owners who want to spoil their pooch. I bought my dog the coolest tartan coat!
Overall, despite my shopping successes, I was actually slightly underwhelmed with Portland. I needed only 2-3 hours to explore in the end.
In terms of excursions, Norwegian Cruise Line only offers a handful but I heard popular comments about the culinary walking tour in Portland. A great way to sample some of Portland’s more unusual libations and great cafes!
Bar Harbour, Maine USA
This port was probably the one I was most excited to see. Acadia National Park, and its famous summit, Cadillac Mountain were top of my list of things to see on this New England and Canada Fall Cruise. Turns out Bar Harbour is also the most charming town too!
I headed off the ship really early to make an efficient start on my Acadia National Park exploration. But thank goodness I did, because Bar Harbour gets BUSY. There was another ship in with ours that day, and the passengers from two mid-sized ships sure fill this town. Once I got back to the town at around 2pm, the streets were absolutely packed. The shops were hard to wander and you couldn’t even really enjoy the incredible Halloween decorations that adorned the homes and shops. Fortunately, I’d got to see the town without the crowds early in the morning, so I would definitely recommend getting off the ship early to appreciate the town.
The good thing about Acadia National Park is that you can access it within minutes of arriving at the port. Therefore, it was perfectly feasible to spend half the day hiking in the mountains, before spending the latter part of the afternoon exploring the town.
A couple of things to note is that Ubers are actually quite hard to come by. So if/when they do accept your ride, the wait can be quite long. Other ways to get to the top of Cadillac Mountain include using local services such as the Cadillac Mountain Shuttle.
Or of course, using the ship excursions. With my new ship friend Hannah, we got chatting to a nice American couple at a gas station. Next thing we know, they’re kindly giving us a lift to the top which saved us the time hiking and the entry fee. It was our lucky day! The standard entrance pass fee is $35.
However we weren’t so lucky with the weather. Clouds completely shrouded Cadillac Mountain, we couldn’t see a thing! We decided to start hiking down, and gradually the clouds cleared and gave us stunning views in every direction. It took us around 2 hours or so to get from the summit to the town. Looking back, with the one day in port, we’re glad we did it this way round. Plus, it was pretty steep and those we passed heading up towards the peak were pretty tired!
Bar Harbour town itself is a brilliant place to pick up a lobster roll and souvenirs to take home. A lovely stop, despite the crowds!
In terms of excursions, most of these are centred around the Acadia National Park. As mentioned, you can definitely do this independently, but if you want to try a different mode of transport such as an e-bike, definitely opt for an excursion.
Boston, Massachusetts, USA
Lastly on our cruise ship itinerary, and marking the end of our cruise was Boston. I’d never been to Boston, so I was looking forward to the day here.
Upon disembarking the ship, I wandered out to the road to the bus stop and hopped on the SL2 route to South Station. Here, I could have stored my bags at the station, but luckily my friend’s hotel was nearby and I could store my suitcase at hers for the day.
Boston accommodation is extortionate. Truly one of the most expensive cities I have ever encountered. So I couldn’t extend my stay for the night and instead booked a flight home that same night after disembarking the cruise.
The city of Boston is quite feasible to explore in the day, or to at least get a sense of the city. Following the Freedom Trail from Boston Common really does take in a lot of the historic city centre. It’s easy enough to follow on foot, but you can also enjoy a guided tour, which we saw lots of groups enjoying.
The Freedom Trail weaves its way through a whole host of sites in Boston, all of which tell the story of the American Revolution and beyond.
My favourite section of the Freedom Trail was between the Faneuil Hall Marketplace, the Boston Public Market and North End. All of these are fab food spots in Boston, with North End being the home of the best Italian cafes, restaurants and delis to be found.
I then detoured from the Freedom Trail to walk towards the waterfront and the Boston Tea Party Ship and Museum.
The Ship – The Norwegian Pearl
I was really excited to sail on the Pearl again, having sailed on her back in 2006 and 2008 as a teenager. The Norwegian Pearl has always been my favourite ship, both within NCL and amongst other cruise lines.
I’ve always loved her layout, the size and the feel onboard the Norwegian Pearl. It’s worth noting that the interior décor had changed since my earlier cruises, as she underwent a major renovation in 2021. Most notably they toned down the once decadent and colourful interiors to a more pared back and slightly more neutral colour palette. The ship’s various rooms and spaces were all lovely on my 2023 cruise, but I used to love the atrium and Spinnaker lounge before the renovation. They were such vibrant and quirky spaces, and I did miss this. The ship definitely felt a little more classical these days.
That being said, the interior décor of my stateroom was much better than before. Not only have they calmed down the colour palette, but more of the mod-cons you’d expect were in the stateroom. Here’s my overview of the ship and her various spaces:
So let’s start with the stateroom and the destination for some beauty sleep! I had an inside stateroom on this sailing (#5543) and really enjoyed the space. It’s worth noting it was just myself on the cruise, so I didn’t need to share the space – which probably helped. I had plenty of hanging room and shelves to hang all my clothes and store all my belongings. If I had had to share the stateroom, that might have been a bit tricker but not impossible. You just have to be organised!
The bathroom, even in an inside stateroom, was spacious. I found the shower to always be hot and powerful, and there was a large vanity space surrounding the sink and ample shelving. I found it really easy to get keep it tidy and organised.
The bedroom space had a double doored wardrobe, with two hanging sections and two drawers, and of course the safe. To the side of the wardrobe was a 5 shelf unit and to the right was the desk area, with further shelving, a stool and a hairdryer to use in front of the backlit mirror. No qualms my side with all this storage!
Opposite the bed were further shelves and two hooks by the bathroom door, as well as full length mirror. A lot of guests say that one of their best hacks is to bring magnetic hooks to attach to the walls as of course they’re all metal!
The bed was a large double and so comfortable, with USB ports and headboard lamps. The bed did take up a large portion of the room but I really didn’t have an issue with this and actually found the stateroom so cosy and practical. All in all, 5 stars from me!
I have previously stayed in balcony staterooms on the Pearl (on deck 10). Although these offer extra space, I found it was too chilly on the whole on this sailing to be outside for long periods of time anyway.
There’s no shortage of lovely spaces to enjoy on the Pearl.
For chill time to read or relax, the Spinnaker Lounge is always my favourite spot.
The atrium was always busy and bustling, with lots of different presentations, musical performances and game shows taking place throughout the day. This is also home to guest services, shore excursions and the CruiseNew desk for loyalty passengers.
The Stardust Theatre spans deck 6 and 7 at the front of the ship and was home of evening shows.
I personally love the dining on board Norwegian Pearl. Included is the Garden Cafe which offers a very organised, clean and beautifully presented buffet, as well as The Great Outdoors. Then of course, there are the stunning two main dining rooms of Indigo and Summer Palace.
These two dining rooms offer a set number of staple appetisers, mains and desserts evening, alongside a different selection each night of specials.
Also included in the fare is O’Sheehan’s Irish pub, as well as the Lotus Garden offering Asian-fusion cuisine.
Specialty dining options include La Cucina (Italian), Moderno Churrasascia (Brazilian steakhouse), Le Bistro (French fine dining), Teppanyaki (Japanese), Sushi and Cagney’s Steakhouse. All of these are subject to an addition charge.
I managed to enjoy two of these within my sailing – Teppanyaki and Le Bistro. Both of these were included perks for being a Platinum Latitudes member. I particularly loved Le Bistro. I thought the food was exquisite and was definitely a special experience.
I have to be honest and say that the evening shows weren’t quite as spectacular as previous cruises (pre-2010). Although I hear this is the case at the moment on most cruise lines as they have cut back post-pandemic.
The shows ranged from comedy shows and to musical medleys. I personally loved the gameshows up in Spinnaker Lounge in the evening, with were run by the Cruise Directors team. Most of these included audience and guest participation. Some of the games ended up being some of the funniest things I’ve ever seen.
Throughout the ship in a variety of different venues were some great live singers and bands. I loved the ambience and vibe on board, even as a solo travelling 32 year old!
Solo travelling with Norwegian
So I was travelling solo on this cruise with Norwegian. A choice entirely down to me – I am married after all! But I had quite a bit of extra annual leave and thought about what I wanted to do most, and it was indeed this cruise!
The first thing to note is that of course, many cruise lines and sailings charge a solo supplement to cover where they could have had the second person in the stateroom. For this very sailing, there was no supplement, making the cruise extra appealing and affordable. Had the supplement been too high, I wouldn’t have been able to consider this cruise.
I find it very easy to make friends with other passengers and crew, so I wasn’t too worried about my time on board. But I was fairly curious to know if there would be other solo cruisers. On the first evening I went to the solo meet up in Maltings. Within one minute of arriving, I met a fellow solo cruiser who was just a few years younger than me. Her name was Hannah and she was all the way from New Zealand. So I was really lucky and we met up often throughout the cruise for other meals and experiences. And you’ll see I mentioned her above a few times whilst out and about in port.
There were around 20-30 other solo cruisers at the meet-up and I continued to see them around throughout the cruise.
I was expecting the other passengers to be slightly older, and indeed they were. But despite the older demographic, the cruise was high energy and high participation – something I didn’t really expect.
I did eat some meals alone though and I felt completely fine about it. There were other diners eating alone too and some had books, some just enjoyed the view. No-one stared at all, it felt completely relaxed. Norwegian is really brilliant for solo cruising, and everyone is welcome at everything. No-one is made to feel awkward or silly for sailing alone. I loved it!
New England and Canada Fall Cruise
So, there’s my complete overview of a New England and Canada Fall Cruise on Norwegian Pearl.
I really hope this blog post has helped in your research and planning for a fall cruise in this beautiful part of the world. As mentioned, if you’re looking for a more detailed blog post on either Québec City or Montréal, make sure to check out my guides here.
As always, let me know if you have any questions.
Disclaimer: This guide has no involvement from the local tourism board or the cruise line.
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