By J.S. Fletcher and Kathy M. Newbern ©2014
Our first glimpse of Montréal from the St. Lawrence River was in October 2012 when we docked at the Old Port to disembark through Iberville Passenger Terminal. We were finishing up our 10-day itinerary aboard Compagnie du Ponant’s small, luxury ship Le Boreal, which had carried us from Boston and Bar Harbour, U.S., then, in Canada to Halifax, Louisburg, the Magdalen Islands, Perce, Havre Saint Pierre, Tadoussac, Saguenay, Quebec City, and finally, Montréal.
In 2014, May 17 marked the official beginning of Montréal’s cruise season when Holland America’s Maasdam arrived from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, with over 1,266 passengers ready to go ashore and see the sites in this fascinating city.
During our two-night stay, we managed to visit many of the attractions (check out the slideshow):
• The Olympic Stadium was built for the 1976 Summer Olympic Games, with its Observatory that boasts being the world’s highest inclined tower. You can ride a cable car up the tower for a 360-degree view of the city.
• Along the river, Tour de l'Horloge or "Clock Tower" in English, is also called the Sailors' Memorial Clock because it was erected in honor of the Canadian sailors who lost their lives in World War I. Standing 150-feet tall at the entrance to the Old Port, the Clock Tower – with 192 steps to the top - was built between 1919 and 1922. The cornerstone was laid by Edward, Prince of Wales.
• The Notre-Dame Basilica of Montréal (Notre-Dame-du-Bon-Secours Chapel, "Our Lady of Good Help") in the popular Old District of Montréal was built in 1771 over the ruins of an earlier chapel.
• The market area near the Old Port is the location of Marché Bonsecours, a wonderful place to enjoy shopping, mixed with a bit of Canadian history. In a bygone era, this was a busy center of cultural and social activity with its mansions, hotels, and even a theater where Charles Dickens and his band of actors once performed.
• Montréal's Hôtel de Ville (City Hall) is one of the city's most spectacular buildings, fashioned in a style that pays homage to the mother country of France. Sitting in the midst of Old Montréal, facing Place Jacques-Cartier, it took six years to construct and was finished in 1878.
• For more than 150 years, Place Jacques-Cartier (named in honor of the famous French explorer) has been a popular public area and a common central gathering place for locals and visitors. Running from Hôtel de Ville and Rue Notre-Dame to the waterfront and Rue de la Commune, Place Jacques-Cartier is now the main street in the Old Port area and the heart of tourism in Montréal. You’ll likely see, as we did, street artists, small-stall vendors selling fine handmade goods, horse-drawn carriages, and lots of restaurants and hotels.
• Though it may seem out of place in this Francophone city, Nelson's Column is easy to spot at the Place Jacques-Cartier. Similar to its counterpart at London's Trafalgar Square, the tall column – dating to 1809 - features a statue of English Admiral Horatio Nelson on top.
• Mount Royal Park offers more great views of the city. It was designed by New York City’s Central Park architect Frederick Law Olmsted. Here you’ll find pathways and greenery, but also two of the city’s oldest cemeteries, two university campuses plus the Saint Joseph’s Oratory.
• Montréal’s world-class Botanical Garden is a wonderful daytime destination, including a planetarium, but the don’t miss the annual light show, open at night. We were fortunate that our visit coincided with The Magic of the Lanterns installation – see our video.
Montréal has become a popular port stop for cruise ships. Its cruise season runs from May to November and hits its peak in September and October, showing up when the fall colors are reaching theirs as well.
Holland America’s Maasdam will arrive here 12 times, and three ships will be stopping for the first time: the Pearl Seas Cruises brand-new Pearl Mist, the MV Hamburg operated by Plantours Reisen, and the Seabourn Quest. Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ MS Europa will return after her previous visit in 2004.
Last year, the Port of Montréal received 47 cruise ships and a record 55,611 passengers. Including crews, nearly 70,000 people boarded or disembarked in Montréal, 70% of whom were international tourists. This year, we hope you will be among them.
If you enjoyed this story, you might also enjoy:
• Other stories by Newbern and Fletcher
• Other Stories by JS Fletcher,
• Stories by Kathy M. Newbern, Luxury Travel Examiner
International Travel Examiners J.S. Fletcher and spouse, Kathy M. Newbern, report on luxury destinations, spas and cruising around the globe. They are award-winning members of the Society of American Travel Writers and created YourSpaReport.com and YourNovel.com, their personalized romance novel business.