Magic to the Maritimes: Saint John and Beyond

by Stephanie Wien, staff writer

The Disney Cruise Line five-night cruises out of New York City to the Canadian Maritimes feature two ports and two sea days. We looked at the departure port and the first port of call, Halifax, Nova Scotia, in a previous article. Heading to the next port, the Disney Magic sails westward around the tip of Nova Scotia and up into the famed Bay of Fundy (pronounced fun-day by the locals).

Fun Times and High Tides

The second port of call is Saint John, New Brunswick. Saint John is located on the Bay of Fundy, which experiences one of the most dramatic tides in the world. One hundred billion tons of seawater flow in and out of the bay every six hours and 13 minutes, with a height of approximately 50 feet.

Where the bay meets the Saint John River lie the Reversing Falls, formed due to a series of underwater ledges coupled with the difference in density between seawater and freshwater; as the seawater advances and retreats, rapids are formed that change direction depending on whether the seawater is flowing in or out. 

A rare slack tide momentarily conceals the Reversing Falls. Photo by Stephanie Wien.

This impressive natural wonder is one of the highlights of a visit to Saint John, and features into many of the excursions that are available. Thrill seekers can ride a jet boat to the Reversing Falls to get an close-up look or fly down a zip line for a bird's eye view. Those looking for an active adventure may go for a guided nature hike in nearby Irving Nature Park to spot native wildlife, or go kayaking to see the tidal zones up close. Nature and science lovers will find trips that highlight whale biology at the New Brunswick Museum, or the local geology, exposed during the high tidal events.

If your interests lie more in the culinary arts, there are several tours that highlight local food, including a trip to a maple sugar shack, a wild blueberry tour, and a gourmet lunch with wine tasting; many of the tours include a lunch of locally caught lobster, one of the major industries of the area.

Just a short walk from the pier, the Saint John City Market offers a dizzying array of food all under one roof—just remember that you'll have to eat any fresh foods you buy before getting back on the ship. For the adults, a trip to Canada's oldest independent brewery, Moosehead Brewery, may be a nice diversion.

Oriental poppies show off their bright colors at Kingsbrae Garden. Photo by Stephanie Wien.

For our trip, we chose one of the Disney signature excursions: a trip to Kingsbrae Garden in St. Andrews-By-The-Sea, featuring a garden tea party with Alice. As with all Disney excursions, we began by meeting on the boat before heading to our bus that would take us to the gardens. St. Andrews is almost a two-hour trip from Saint John, so Disney has designed activities to keep children occupied along the way. Our host, Blue Bonnie, wore a blue dress similar to what the Loyalists women wore at the time when they fled the newly formed United States after the Revolutionary War. She delighted in demonstrating the moose call she had fashioned out of a coffee can and a shoelace. 

Once we arrived at the gardens, a member of the garden staff met us with some special guests: alpacas. Kingsbrae Garden has a section devoted to a petting zoo with several types of animals, including ducks, geese, peacocks, donkeys, and alpacas. We were able to feed the alpacas and other animals, which proved to be more entertaining than I expected. The alpacas were very excited to be getting the treats we offered, and definitely had a preference for certain types of leaves.

Although recently shorn, these alpacas still sport some interesting hairstyles. Photo by Stephanie Wien.

You can see various types of columbine along the garden paths. Photo by Stephanie Wien.

After the animals, our guide led us around the gardens, which were still in the early days of summer but had plenty of things to show off. The gardens cover 27 acres, separated into various thematic areas. There is even an edible garden area where visitors can sample any of the items, although none of the fruit were quite ready yet.

Hens and chicks thrive in the succulent garden. Photo by Stephanie Wien.

These gooseberries aren't quite ready for harvest. Photo by Stephanie Wien.

There is also an area of the garden with a hedge maze that was a little less challenging for the adults due to its height, but was much enjoyed by the children, who had a great time charging around. We were able to tour around many of the different areas of the gardens before it was time to head over to the rose garden to help with a lady bug release. Lady bugs eat aphids, which feed on the leaves of rose bushes, damaging the plants. The children in our group were fascinated with the lady bugs, and remarked on how ticklish they felt when they crawled over the children's hands. 

A cat named Harry Potter patrols the labyrinth formed of wooly thyme. Photo by Stephanie Wien.

Lady bugs help keep the roses looking beautiful. Photo by Stephanie Wien.

After all of our garden touring, we were ready for tea. Our tea was held in the Fantasy Garden, a wonderful corner of the gardens filled with all sorts of playhouses that immediately attracted the children's attention. The variety of designs had us all discussing which house we would prefer. I was partial to the little yellow house with a porch, although I'm sure my nephews would have loved the miniature castle.

The tea is held outdoors, seated at picnic tables with place settings for four, although a few more could squeeze if necessary; we shared our table with another mother and daughter. The tea menu includes three finger sandwiches (smoked salmon, cucumber, and egg salad), scones with jam and cream, and brownies. A child's menu is available that substitutes the finger sandwiches for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

Bright table settings and creative playhouses provide a cheery setting for the garden tea. Photo by Stephanie Wien.

The food was good, but the highlight of the event was the visit by Alice. First to appear was the White Rabbit, who ran around the garden trying to find Alice, who followed shortly behind. The reaction of the children was great; they had a ball going in and out of the playhouses with Alice and investigating parts of the garden. Both made their way around to each table to visit and pose for photos.

The tea party excursion is a great example of a Disney Cruise Line itinerary that includes special Disney touches, and is a particularly good option for families with children, who should definitely enjoy the gardens and playtime with Alice.

The White Rabbit appears to be concerned about the time, but we all had a wonderful party anyway. Photo by Stephanie Wien.

On the way back to the ship, we had a short time to shop and explore the town of St. Andrews-By-The-Sea. There are several shops selling locally made goods, as well as items with the New Brunswick tartan design. The tide was still out, so large stretches of sand were visible off the town's pier.

The tide is out. Photo by Stephanie Wien.

Special Surprises on Board 

In addition to the fun shore excursions in Halifax and Saint John, the Disney Cruise Line has a variety of options to keep you occupied on your two days at sea. The Disney Magic features nightly shows, including "Twice Charmed: An Original Twist on the Cinderella Story," which is exclusive to the Magic; we learn just how wicked those stepsisters can be as they try to undo Cinderella's "happily ever after." Sea days also feature a wide selection of seminars and activities for adults and families, all of which can be found in the daily Personal Navigator newsletter that you receive each evening.

Relaxing on deck is always a popular choice on sea days, although being out in the Labrador current can lead to some cool temperatures. The Pirates Deck Party occurs the night before the final sea day, and during our sailing, it was windy and chilly up on deck. It's best to pack a jacket just in case; you don't want to miss the fireworks at sea because you were too cold.

For adults, the Vista Spa is a great way to spend a day, getting a massage or relaxing in the Rainforest Room. The clubs and lounges on the Magic are very similar to those on the Wonder, although I missed the fantastic styling of the Cadillac Lounge. Its counterpart on the Magic, Sessions, didn't have the same ambiance. Shopping is another way to pass the time on board, and there is an extensive range of merchandise especially for the Canadian Maritimes cruises. The items for sale highlight the New York City port as well as the Canadian ports of call.

Just a small sample of the wide range of merchandise available on board. Photo by Stephanie Wien.

Finally, what would a Disney cruise be without the lovable characters? Meet-and-greet opportunities abound, and are listed in the Navigator as well as on a monitor in the atrium where most of the photo opportunities occur. There are some fantastic outfits that are exclusive for the Canadian cruises, and I was a little disappointed that they weren't specifically mentioned in the listings. If you want to catch a character in a particular outfit, you may have to check over the course of a few days, or ask one of the guest hosts to see if they can give you a tip. 

One of my favorite outfits for Donald is his plaid jacket and red toque. Photo by Stephanie Wien.

Taken together, Halifax and Saint John provide a wonderful introduction to this historic and beautiful area of Canada. There's plenty to explore and keep you occupied while on shore at the ports, whether on your own or as part of a group—and the wide variety of excursions offered by Disney Cruise Line may make it hard to decide. Whatever you choose, you will have a memorable adventure exploring the Canadian Maritimes with the Disney Cruise Line.

If you'd like to see more photos from the cruise, visit my Flickr page!

For further information or to book a cruise, you can call Disney Cruise Line at (888) 325-2500, visit the Disney Cruise Line website or contact your travel agent. MousePlanet's preferred Disney travel providers are Mouse Ear Vacations, Small World Vacations, and Get Away Today Vacations.