Magic to the Maritimesby Stephanie Wien, staff writer
For the Disney Cruise Line, this year marks a year of many firsts, including departures from New York City for the Disney Magic cruise ship. From May to September, the Magic is sailing out of New York City to the Bahamas for eight-night cruises and up the New England Coast to the Canadian Maritimes for five-night jaunts, with a couple of two-night getaway cruises to “nowhere” that sail out into the ocean and back. The Maritimes trips include two sea days, and two port days, with stops in Halifax, Nova Scotia and Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada. These Canadian ports are beautiful examples of the Canadian Maritime region, with a rich sea-going history and beautiful coastal scenery.
New York, New York, It’s a Wonderful Town
Sailing out of New York means a more convenient departure point for cruisers from the northeast and less expense for families who might not be able to afford the cost of plane tickets and hotel rooms for a cruise that leaves out of a Florida port. For me, it was nice to be able to drive from my home in Upstate New York instead of having to fly into Orlando and taking a shuttle to Port Canaveral. Parking at the Manhattan Cruise Terminal is currently $35, paid in advance with cash or a credit card. The terminal is right off of the Henry Hudson Parkway, at 55th Street, and very easy to get to—even for those not used to driving on Manhattan streets. If you drive, arrive early in the day, as space is limited. The garage opens at 9:30 a.m.
If you arrive by train or plane, there are taxis and other shuttle companies to get you to port. Disney Cruise Line offers a ground transportation option from all of the nearby airports, including JFK, LaGuardia, and Newark, as well as three different excursions you can book for your debarkation day that include siteseeing around the city before you head to the airport. You can see the skyline by water, tour Midtown Manhattan with a trip up to the top of Rockefeller Center, or tour the American Museum of Natural History and Central Park. In addition, Disney Cruise Line offers two signature excursions that highlight the fabulous Broadway productions of The Lion King and Mary Poppins, including a tour of the New Amsterdam Theater and rare behind-the-scenes access—a must for any theater buffs.
One other option for those arriving early to the cruise terminal is the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum, located just next door. Housed on a retired aircraft carrier, this museum showcases historic aircraft, and provides a glimpse into life aboard a military vessel. The most recent addition to the museum is the Space Shuttle Enterprise, housed in a pavilion on the flight deck.
Once on board and underway, the trip out to sea affords some great views of the Manhattan and New Jersey skylines. One of the highlights of this portion of the trip is sailing past the Statue of Liberty as the sun sets behind her. If you want to see both Manhattan and the statue, you’ll have to do some walking back and forth across the deck; Lady Liberty is off the starboard side, while Manhattan is to port.
Although the cruise is billed as "Canada and the New England Coast," the ship doesn’t really come within sight of the coastline once you emerge from beneath the Verrazano Narrows Bridge. The lack of coastline didn’t bother me too much, but I can imagine it would be nice to be within sight of land, especially as we transition into fall and the leaves begin to turn. Passengers have one day at sea to explore the ship and relax before arriving at the first port town.
Gateway to Canada
The first port town on the itinerary, Halifax, Nova Scotia has a few historic ties to New York. Halifax earned the nickname Gateway to Canada, because it served as the point of entry for immigrants into Canada through Pier 21 at the port of Halifax. Similar to Ellis Island in New York, this pier now houses a museum chronicling the history of the million immigrants who passed through from 1928 to 1971. Pier 21 is right next to the arrival pier, so it is very convenient to include as part of your visit either at the beginning or end of your day.
The Maritime Museum of the Atlantic provides insight into the area’s rich maritime heritage, and is also located within walking distance of the pier. One of its highlights is a permanent exhibit on the Titanic. Ships from Halifax were used in search and recovery efforts after the ship went down, and the exhibit includes artifacts recovered as well as information on the efforts that went into identifying them. All who died and were found are buried in a Halifax cemetery.
For those who are more interested in natural wonders, a trip to Peggy’s Cove offers unparalleled views of the Canadian coastline. Peggy’s Cove is a bit of a drive from Halifax (approximately 90 minutes by bus), and there are several excursions that include it in their itineraries. We chose the coastal hike itinerary offered by Disney Port Adventures in order to get in some exercise while off the ship. Once we arrived at the cove, we met our guides, who briefed us on the hike details, emphasizing the fragile nature of the landscape and our need to stay on the trail—and then we headed off.
Although the hike was at a leisurely pace over largely flat terrain, there were some tricky spots with steps up and down, and the path we took was boggy in parts. You definitely need to be able to handle those types of conditions to do this hike, and I would recommend waterproof, lightweight hiking or trail running shoes for anyone not interested in possibly having soggy feet by the end.
To say that this area is beautiful is an understatement; I don’t think it’s possible to take a bad photograph here. At the time we were hiking, the flowers were just starting to bloom. The ecosystem in this area is similar to an Arctic tundra, so the flowers are small and bloom for only a short time.
Once we were done with our nature hike, we headed over to Peggy’s Cove to see the lighthouse. This tiny town is so picturesque, you’d swear it was a movie set. I could have spent more time here just climbing over the granite shoreline and gazing out over the water.
Once we were done at Peggy’s Cove, our bus took us on a whirlwind tour of the city, with the host pointing out different highlights along the way. We stopped at the Citadel to take photographs down over the city, but weren’t given time to explore the inside. This drive was the only part of the tour I found disappointing—I would have preferred to be given more time to explore at Peggy’s Cove, or at one of the museums in town.
Choosing a Disney Port Adventure makes an excursion very easy: you meet at a location on the ship, and then are escorted off to your excursion transportation. There is no need to worry about missing the ship, since they will make sure to get you back on time. They also work to provide information for adults and activities for children to make any longer bus trips more interesting.
The Canadian Maritimes itinerary is a great introduction for first-time cruisers, as well as a nice diversion for experienced cruisers looking for a shorter trip. The historic port of Halifax offers natural beauty as well as historic sites to satisfy many different interests, and departures out of New York allow out-of-town visitors the chance to extend their stay and see more of the bustling metropolis.
Rates for the five-night Canadian itineraries start at $715 per person for an inside stateroom, based on double occupancy. The remaining sail dates for trips to Canada are July 15; August 5, and 12; and September 2, 7, and 12.