In May 2018, the St. Lawrence River valley welcomed Croisières Jacques-Cartier, a new French-Canadian cruise firm that is converting its excursion vessel into a boutique overnight cruiser for 8- to 10-day cruises embarking in Quebec, Montreal and Toronto. For the 2019 season, initially only the May and June sailings had been announced, and now the website shows no sailings at all.
The Harveys, the family behind the venture Croisières Jacques-Cartier, touts a century of maritime experience in these waters. As it is a start-up cruise line we will keep monitoring its progress in launching the new program that appears to have a focus on francophones, though English-speakers are catered for, the cruises are not fully bilingual, and a knowledge or a tolerance for Canadian French should be a consideration.
Ship, Year Delivered & Passengers: MS JACQUES CARTIER, rebuilt 2018 and 68 passengers.
Passenger Decks: Four decks and elevator access.
Passenger Profile: French Canadians, English-speaking Canadians, Americans, French from France and other Europeans. There are no special facilities or activities geared to children. Children under 18 must share cabin with two adults.
Price: $ to $$
Itineraries: Cruises of 6,8,9 and 10 days in length embark in Quebec City, Montreal and Toronto with three basic itineraries billed as: Majestic St. Lawrence; St. Lawrence Islands and Saguenay Fjord; and Lighthouse Hopping.
Included features: Kayak and Zodiac excursions from the ship; 30-minute massage; coffee, tea, soft drinks, bottled water and juice; and a basic WiFi package. Extras are optional excursions, tips to crew and guides, taxes, port fees.
Why Go? The St. Lawrence River has many different facets starting with the Canadians referring to it as ‘la mer’ or the sea from the Saguenay River to the Atlantic Ocean. The Saguenay itself is a lovely fjord bracketed by high bluffs, and its mouth where it empties into the St. Lawrence is happy hunting grounds for whale watching. Upriver, the St. Lawrence narrows as it passes the mighty citadel of Quebec and then because of rapids, it is channeled into the St. Lawrence Seaway, a shipping canal that connects the five Great Lakes and the Atlantic Ocean. Long, slender uniquely designed lakers carry iron ore, coal and grain and container ships almost everything else. The three major cities of Toronto, Montreal and Quebec have their own distinctive urban attractions.
When to Go? The cruising season is relatively short — May to October, and apart from Quebec’s old city, the St. Lawrence region does not experience overcrowding. Fall foliage starts early in Canada, in September.
Cabins: 6 categories and all outside with French (step-out balconies), large windows or small windows on lowest deck. Measurements are 145, 160, 201, 210 and 278 square feet. Some have twin beds (combine into king-size) or queen-size beds, and some have foldaway berths for another two passengers. Larger cabins have two chairs and additionally, the owner’s suite has a sofa.
Public Rooms: An aft facing bar and lounge opens onto the deck with twin hot tubs; a sun deck solarium lounge with open deck loungers. The ship will be equipped with massage treatments, a forward-facing sauna, and an inside hot tub.
Dining: Passengers eat together in a single dining room with tables for 2, 4 and 6, and the line touts sourcing local ingredients for its food preparation.
Activities & Entertainment: On board activities include self-awareness presentations, health and well-being, and culinary crafts. Excursions ashore, some led by specialists, will use kayaks and Zodiacs, and others involve nature hikes, geocaching and visits to historic viewpoints.
Special Notes: As this is a start-up line, you might experience some teething problems early in the season.
Along the Same Lines: St. Lawrence Cruise Lines operates in much these same waters, while it is entirely English-speaking and geared to older Canadians and Americans. Ontario Waterway Cruises does not sail along the St. Lawrence, rather it uses inland waterways, small lakes and canals.
Contact: Croisières MS Jacques-Cartier, P.O. Box 64, Trois-Rivières, QC G9A 5E3 Canada; 819-266-2344; msjacquescartier.com/en.
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