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Surrounded by natural treasures and glorious seascapes, Halifax is an attractive and vibrant hub with noteworthy historic and modern architecture, great dining and shopping, and a lively nightlife and festival scene. The old city manages to feel both hip and historic. Previous generations had the foresight to preserve the cultural and architectural integrity of the city, yet students from five local universities keep it lively and current. It's a perfect starting point to any tour of the Atlantic provinces, but even if you don't venture beyond its boundaries, you will get a real taste of the region.
It was Halifax’s natural harbor—the second largest in the world after Sydney, Australia’s—that first drew the British here in 1749, and today most major sites are conveniently located either along it or on the Citadel-crowned hill overlooking it. That’s good news for visitors because this city actually covers quite a bit of ground.
Since amalgamating with Dartmouth (directly across the harbor) and several suburbs in 1996, Halifax has been absorbed into the Halifax Regional Municipality, and the HRM, as it is known, has around 415,000 residents. That may not sound like a lot by U.S. standards, but it makes Nova Scotia’s capital the most significant Canadian urban center east of Montréal.
There's easy access to the water, and despite being the focal point of a busy commercial port, Halifax Harbour doubles as a playground, with one of the world's longest downtown boardwalks. It's a place where container ships, commuter ferries, cruise ships, and tour boats compete for space, and where workaday tugs and fishing vessels tie up beside glitzy yachts. Like Halifax as a whole, the harbor represents a blend of the traditional and the contemporary.
A resort town since the 19th century, Bar Harbor is the artistic, culinary, and social center of Mount Desert Island. It also serves visitors to Acadia National Park with inns, motels, and restaurants. Around the turn of the last century the island was known as the summer haven of the very rich because of its cool breezes. The wealthy built lavish mansions throughout the island, many of which were destroyed in a huge fire that devastated the island in 1947, but many of those that survived have been converted into businesses. Shops are clustered along Main, Mount Desert, and Cottage streets. Take a stroll down West Street, a National Historic District, where you can see some fine old houses.
The island and the surrounding Gulf of Maine are home to a great variety of wildlife: whales, seals, eagles, falcons, ospreys, and puffins (though not right offshore here), and forest dwellers such as deer, foxes, coyotes, and beavers.
The largest city in Maine, Portland was founded in 1632 on the Casco Bay Peninsula. It quickly prospered through shipbuilding and the export of inland pines which made excellent masts. A long line of wooden wharves stretched along the seafront, with the merchants' houses on the hillside above. From the earliest days it was a cosmopolitan city. When the railroads came, the Canada Trunk Line had its terminal right on Portland's quayside, bringing the produce of Canada and the Great Plains one hundred miles closer to Europe than any other major U.S. port. Some of the wharves are now occupied by new condominium developments, with the exception of the Customs House Wharf, which remains much as it used to be.
Grand Trunk Station was torn down in 1966 and a revitalization program of this historic section was spearheaded by a group of committed residents. The result was the revival of the Old Port Exchange District with its redbrick streets built in the 1860s following a disastrous fire. The area today features a wide variety of restaurants, specialty and antique shops, and makes for a pleasant place for a stroll. Congress Street and its many side streets are an engaging mixture of culture, commerce and history. Art is everywhere, from the Portland Museum of Art to the many statues and monuments throughout the city. Other points of interest include the Portland Observatory, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's childhood home, several colonial mansions and Fort Williams Park, with the adjacent Portland Head Light. Farther afield one can visit the charming yachting and fishing village of Kennebunkport, also noted as the locale of the home and summer White House of former President George Bush.
Going Ashore in Portland
The ship is scheduled to dock at the Portland Ocean Terminal, a very easy walk to the Old Port District located about two blocks away. Taxis are available at the pier.
A wide range of Maine-made clothing, crafts and imported items can be found in shops along the cobblestone streets of the quaint Old Port Exchange. Small boutiques and numerous art galleries feature everything from paintings, crafts and furniture to prints and photographs. Antique lovers will enjoy browsing through area shops. Bargain hunters may want to visit the designer factory outlet shops in Freeport. On Sundays, most shops are open from 12:00 noon to 5:00-6:00 p.m. The local currency is the dollar.
Portland has the most restaurants per capita, second only to San Francisco. Eating establishments are as diverse as the menus they offer. The fresh catch of the day can be found on most menus, but seafood is only one of many culinary delights. From specialty coffee houses and ethnic restaurants to chowder and lobster houses to elegant dining rooms, Portland makes it easy to please every palate.
Longfellow's "City by the Sea"
Portland is a walkable city, and a good place to start exploring is at the Old Port with its striking buildings comprising a bevy of architectural styles, ranging from Italianate to Mansard, Queen Anne to Greek Revival. The charming streets house an amazing collection of shops, galleries, bookstores and restaurants. Congress Street and the Arts District reflect the changes of 350 years of history, boasting an engaging mixture of culture and commerce.
Portland Museum of Art
The museum's award-winning building is a blend of 1911 Beaux Arts and 1983 post-modernism. It houses one of New England's finest art collections. Don't miss the museum's indoor Sculpture Garden.
Built in 1807, this is a rare example of a signal tower from which signal flags would be flown to identify incoming vessels.
Factory Outlets of Freeport
About a 25-minute drive north of Portland (approximately $35 one way for a taxi), this shopping mecca is crammed with serious shoppers who come from as far away as New York.
Private arrangements for independent sightseeing may be requested through the Tour Office on board.
Established in 1639 by a small band of religious dissenters led by William Coddington and Nicholas Easton, the city by the sea became a haven for those who believed in religious freedom. Newport’s deepwater harbor at the mouth of Narragansett Bay ensured its success as a leading Colonial port, and a building boom produced hundreds of houses and many landmarks that still survive today. These include the Wanton-Lyman-Hazard House and the White Horse Tavern, both built during the 17th century, plus Trinity Church, Touro Synagogue, the Colony House, and the Redwood Library, all built in the 18th century.
British troops occupied Newport from 1776–1779, causing half the city’s population to flee and ending a golden age of prosperity. The economic downturn that followed may not have been so great for its citizens but it certainly was for preserving Newport’s architectural heritage, as few had the capital to raze buildings and replace them with bigger and better ones. By the mid-19th century the city had gained a reputation as the summer playground for the very wealthy, who built enormous mansions overlooking the Atlantic. These so-called "summer cottages," occupied for only six to eight weeks a year by the Vanderbilts, Berwinds, Astors, and Belmonts, helped establish the best young American architects. The presence of these wealthy families also brought the New York Yacht Club, which made Newport the venue for the America’s Cup races beginning in 1930 until the 1983 loss to the Australians.
The Gilded Age mansions of Bellevue Avenue are what many people associate most with Newport. These late-19th-century homes are almost obscenely grand, laden with ornate rococo detail and designed with a determined one-upmanship.
Pedestrian-friendly Newport has so much else to offer in a relatively small geographical area— beaches, seafood restaurants, galleries, shopping, and cultural life. Summer can be crowded, but fall and spring are increasingly popular times of the year to visit.
From Wall Street's skyscrapers to the neon of Times Square to Central Park's leafy paths, New York City pulses with an irrepressible energy. History meets hipness in this global center of entertainment, fashion, media, and finance. World-class museums like MoMA and unforgettable icons like the Statue of Liberty beckon, but discovering the subtler strains of New York's vast ambition is equally rewarding: ethnic enclaves and shops, historic streets of dignified brownstones, and trendy bars and eateries all add to the urban buzz.
Like many other old Southern towns, Norfolk has undergone a renaissance, one that's especially visible in the charming shops and cafés in the historic village of Ghent. There's plenty to see in this old navy town.
Wandering through the city's famous Historic District, you would swear it is a movie set. Dozens of church steeples punctuate the low skyline, and horse-drawn carriages pass centuries-old mansions and town houses, their stately salons offering a crystal-laden and parquet-floored version of Southern comfort. Outside, magnolia-filled gardens overflow with carefully tended heirloom plants. At first glance, the city may resemble a 19th-century etching come to life—but look closer and you'll see that block after block of old structures have been restored. Happily, after three centuries of wars, epidemics, fires, and hurricanes, Charleston has prevailed and is now one of the South's best-preserved cities.
Although it’s home to Fort Sumter, where the bloodiest war in the nation's history began, Charleston is also famed for its elegant houses. These handsome mansions are showcases for the "Charleston style," a distinctive look that is reminiscent of the West Indies, and for good reason. Before coming to the Carolinas in the late 17th century, many early British colonists first settled on Barbados and other Caribbean islands. In that warm and humid climate they built homes with high ceilings and rooms opening onto broad "piazzas" (porches) at each level to catch sea breezes. As a result, to quote the words of the Duc de La Rochefoucauld, who visited in 1796, "One does not boast in Charleston of having the most beautiful house, but the coolest."
Preserved through the hard times that followed the Civil War and an array of natural disasters, many of Charleston's earliest public and private buildings still stand. Thanks to a rigorous preservation movement and strict architectural guidelines, the city's new structures blend in with the old. In many cases, recycling is the name of the game—antique handmade bricks literally lay the foundation for new homes. But although locals do dwell—on certain literal levels—in the past, the city is very much a town of today.
Take, for instance, the internationally heralded Spoleto Festival USA. For 17 days every spring, arts patrons from around the world come to enjoy international concerts, dance performances, operas, and plays at various venues citywide. Day in and day out, diners can feast at upscale restaurants, shoppers can look for museum-quality paintings and antiques, and lovers of the outdoors can explore Charleston's outlying beaches, parks, and waterways. But as cosmopolitan as the city has become, it's still the South, and just beyond the city limits are farm stands cooking up boiled peanuts, the state's official snack.
Like many southeast Florida neighbors, Fort Lauderdale has long been revitalizing. In a state where gaudy tourist zones often stand aloof from workaday downtowns, Fort Lauderdale exhibits consistency at both ends of the 2-mile Las Olas corridor. The sparkling look results from upgrades both downtown and on the beachfront. Matching the downtown's innovative arts district, cafés, and boutiques is an equally inventive beach area, with hotels, cafés, and shops facing an undeveloped shoreline, and new resort-style hotels replacing faded icons of yesteryear. Despite wariness of pretentious overdevelopment, city leaders have allowed a striking number of glittering high-rises. Nostalgic locals and frequent visitors fret over the diminishing vision of sailboats bobbing in waters near downtown; however, Fort Lauderdale remains the yachting capital of the world, and the water toys don’t seem to be going anywhere.
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