The St. Lawrence River is trying to build its cruise business, just like Alaska's Inside Passage. It's a bold and ambitious plan, considering that last year only 150,000 people went cruising on the St. Lawrence, compared to the 1.5 million who sailed Alaskan waters.
But the St. Lawrence has plenty to offer: 12 species of whales, fjords (the Saguenay Fjord is 100 miles long), hundreds of miles of beaches and scenery so spectacular that when you see photos such as the lighthouse in Îles de la Madeleine, you want to put yourself right there, right now. Add in French-Canadian culture and cuisine, the Innu community in Sept-Îles and the history of one of North America's great commercial arteries (the First Nations called the St. Lawrence "the way that walks"), and you've got one compelling itinerary for great cruise.
Canada, Quebec and local communities are investing $156 million in making the St. Lawrence one of North America's premier international cruise destinations.
To make sure local infrastructure can deliver a world-class cruise experience, the Canadian government has put its money where its mouth is. Canada, Quebec and local communities are investing $156 million in making the St. Lawrence one of North America's premier international cruise destinations. The result is there's more to cruising the St. Lawrence than calling in Montreal, Trois-Rivieres and Quebec. Now Saguenay, Baie-Comeau, Sept-Îles, Havre-Saint-Pierre, Gaspesie and Iles de la Madeleine all have top-notch port facilities thanks to investments made over the last three years. This means the St. Lawrence now has nine ports of call that can handle the industry's largest cruise ships. Some ports have entirely new docks and others have modernized their terminals so that they can handle even the biggest cruise ships.
The roots of this initiative date back to 2008, when the governments of Canada and Quebec unveiled a strategy to develop international cruising on the St. Lawrence and in the Saguenay Fjord. Canada has budgeted $60 million to provide berths for high-tonnage ships. Quebec has invested $52 million and local communities have also contributed. About $104 million has already been spent and the entire project should be complete by 2013. The plan includes marketing and advertising to promote cruises on the St. Lawrence, particularly the six new ports.
The St. Lawrence offers a varied cruise experience, one whose dozens of islands mean cruise ships can vary routes to deliver distinct experiences.
The St. Lawrence offers a varied cruise experience, one whose dozens of islands mean cruise ships can vary routes to deliver distinct experiences. The river has ruggedly steep, seaside bluffs, otherworldly rock formations (one that is the result of a meteorite crater in Baie-Comeau), small fishing villages and cities (not just Montreal and Quebec City but the Saguenay region as well). Most cruise departures for the St. Lawrence are from New York and Boston and last seven to 10 days. Activities include whale watching, sea kayaking, salmon fishing in the Atlantic, hydroplane and helicopter tours, to name just a few.
Holland America Line's Maasdam has been a stalwart on this route, but other ships now sailing the St. Lawrence include Cunard Line's Queen Elizabeth, making its inaugural stopover Sept. 26 and 27, Silversea Cruises' Silver Explorer and Seabourn Cruise Line's Sojourn. Other cruise lines active on the St. Lawrence between 2010 and 2012 include Crystal Cruises, Fred. Olsen Cruises, Hapag Lloyd Cruises, Oceania Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, Costa Cruises, Princess Cruises and several others. For more information, visit Cruise the Saint Lawrence's website.