Comfort is one argument for taking a cruise; the fact that by ship is the way cities and countries were meant to be discovered altogether is another. Come June 2009, you’ll be able to travel this way along Canada’s St. Lawrence, one of the most extraordinary rivers of the world and the avenue into the continent that Basque fishermen, and then Samuel de Champlain and the French, navigated more than 400 years ago.*
This summer, Carnival Cruise is launching “Quebec—After the Glaciers,” its first-ever Quebec voyage. The nine-day cruise will sail from New York, NY (USA), stopping in three cities along the river while taking in the region’s natural beauty.
To cruise through Quebec’s Gulf of St. Lawrence, past the Îles-de-la-Madeleine and Anticosti, is to enjoy the privilege of nature in one of Canada’s most extraordinary maritime ecosystems—but also to follow in the steps of the pioneers. See the long, narrow fields that meet the shore—seigneurial strips of land that guaranteed the first French habitants good farmland, but also vital access to the highway of the water. Pass the rocky outcrops of Kamouraska, one of the historic communities of the Bas Saint Laurent remembered by Anne Hébert in her wonderful, wintry novel of the same name.
Of course, not all local history you may wish to remember: at the port of Rimouski, a small museum by the lighthouse at Pointe-au-Père commemorates the floundering, in May 1914, of the Empress of Ireland after it struck a coal freighter in the middle of the night with more than 1,000 lives lost. It was the biggest maritime disaster in North American history after the Titanic—but not to worry, the museum is charming and informative and fun for the kids. And besides, if you’re not able to distract yourself in the swimming pool, bars, restaurants casino and health club of the Triumph, remember that these days all cruise ships have radar and GPS.
* The old highway, Route 132, follows the slate and marshy banks of the south shore and is still called the Rue des Pilotes after the river pilots that, even today, guide ships in from Rimouski and on to glorious Québec City, QC—the historic French citadel, now the provincial capital, seized by General James Wolfe and the English 250 years ago and dramatically refurbished for its 400th birthday in 2008.