On a cruise in this region, you’ll see lots of historical sites, from Newport’s Gilded-Age mansions 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.

A number of smaller ports in New England and eastern Canada host smaller cruise ships. These include:

Block Island, Rhode Island, an 11-square-mile Y ankee gem with freshwater ponds, some 17 miles of beach, dramatic seaside bluffs, and a wildlife refuge that covers a full third of the island.

Nantucket, Massachusetts, a classic New England island that was once the world’s top whaling hub. Come here for cobblestone streets, old ship captain’s mansions, and a yacht-filled harbor.

Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, New England’s largest island, boasts handsome old towns, lighthouses, white picket fences, and charming ice-cream shops plus lots of summer visitors.

Fall River, Massachusetts, offers some interesting museums, from Battleship Cove’s collection of preserved American warships to the quirky Lizzie Borden Museum.

New Bedford, Massachusetts, the 19th century whaling capital of the world, boasts a beautifully restored waterfront area and a great Whaling Museum.

Portland, Maine, draws visitors with its cobblestoned Old Port neighborhood, a revitalized warehouse district stuffed with boutiques and an exciting restaurant scene; there’s also fabulous outlet shopping nearby in Freeport.

Sydney, Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, wears its Highland Scots heritage proudly, and has a spectacular national park, Cape Breton Highlands.

Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, is prime Anne of Green Gables territory, and the island’s scenic highways wend past sandstone cliffs, rocky coves, lovely beaches, and fishing villages.

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. 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.


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