Foliage Cruises: Why I Love Them
I love fall foliage cruises for a number of reasons.
For anyone who lives on the East Coast, as I do, there is no need to fly, not with so many ships sailing roundtrip from New York, Bayonne, or other coastal cities.
Even better, for East Coasters, these itineraries can be budget-friendly, starting as low as about $500 for a 7-night trip on a Carnival vessel. (Further discounts are occasionally offered to area residents.) Typical ports on a 7-night trip out of New York include: Bar Harbor (Maine), Portland, Halifax and St. John. Or, Newport, Boston, Bar Harbor, St. John and Halifax.
For clients who live in the South, there are foliage cruises that begin in Miami and Fort Lauderdale-and on the West Coast, foliage cruises start in Seattle.
For bigger budgets, and for those who prefer a setting of luxury for their autumn leaves, Cunard, Crystal, Regent and Silversea are among the lines that sail foliage itineraries. Other lines that sail the foliage cruises include Princess, Windstar, Oceania, MSC, Norwegian, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and Holland America, with itineraries up to 14 days. Viking Sun sails a 12-day itinerary that begins in Montreal, visits Quebec City, Ville Saguenay, cruises the St. Lawrence River and visits Gaspe (Quebec) before cruising the Gulf of St. Lawrence. After a day at sea, the ship spends two days in Boston, ending with two days in New York.
As more and more first-timers are now choosing river cruises, there are options for clients who wish to sample the river experience (at higher starting prices). American Cruise Lines offers a number of itineraries on the East Coast, including a 7-day Hudson River Cruise (out of New York) and a 7-day Chesapeake Bay Cruise (sailing from Baltimore).
Other river options include an 8-day Upper Mississippi Cruise (August-September); an 8-day Cumberland River Cruise (September, 2019; August/September, 2020). On the West Coast, the line has an 8-day Puget Sound and San Juan Islands itinerary September-October) and an 11-day Grand Puget Sound trip (roundtrip Seattle, late September, early October).
As some foliage cruises are offered in September, early October and later, when school-age children are back in their classrooms, the demographic skews older. While this may put off some younger cruisers, the opposite is true for people like me: those who have raised children, love their own grandchildren, but prefer the tranquility of a cruise with other adults.
Wherever the foliage cruises sail, the weather is generally gentle, the scenery, beautiful. There are a great variety ports on both ocean and river foliage cruises, a mix of big cities and smaller ones, allowing for a variety of pleasures, like the cultural attractions of places like Boston, the stunning photo ops (and the brilliance of the autumn foliage) in St. John, the historic charm of Colonial Williamsburg.
For maximum enjoyment of a foliage cruise, clients should consider the timing. As weather can make the difference between trees richly painted orange and gold and those wearing only a few said leaves, check one of the foliage predictor websites, such as (https://smokymountains.com/fall-foliage-map) when planning the ideal date. In the Northeast, the cruises sail in September and early October. Farther south, the sailing dates are later. And on the West Coast and on America’s rivers, the dates vary.
PORTS OF CALL
Check for additional attractions offered in various ports. For example, while summer might be an ideal time for whale watching outside of Boston Harbor, the sightings of humpbacks and finbacks can also be good in September. Montreal offers lots of free concerts in September, along with gathering of food trucks in Olympic Park.
Consider an add-on before or after the cruise. New York can be unpleasantly hot and crowded during the summer months, while September can be an ideal time to enjoy the city’s museums, theaters and other cultural attractions. (The foliage in Central Park can be dazzling in the fall.)
Also consider the ports that best provide the client’s preferred attractions. For example, Boston and Montreal, while also crowded with tourists during the summer months become much more visitor-friendly in September/October-and they, too, offer a rich menu of cultural attractions and fine dining options along with the season’s colors.
Finally, but not least, consider the culinary options. For example, lobster lovers will certainly want a stop in Maine, and foodies who crave those wonderful PEI mussels will enjoy the stopover in Nova Scotia. On the Chesapeake Bay Cruise, visitors will certainly want to visit the little town of Crisfield, which is considered (at least in Maryland) to be “The Crab Capital of the World.”
Bottom Line: With some advance research, a foliage cruise will provide clients with plenty of photo ops, as well as a richness of cultural, historic and culinary experiences.