Mother Nature‘s annual change of palette takes place in wilderness areas around the world, but few destinations can match the gloriously vibrant display of colors to be seen in the northeastern United States and throughout Canada’s eastern provinces.
During a period of about six weeks, from mid-September through the end of October, Mother Nature’s spectacular annual arboreal show rolls through Connecticut and upstate New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Maine, and Quebec, Newfoundland and Nova Scotia.
Trees in transition from the lush greenery of summer to the barren branches of winter can be seen in expansive national parks and wilderness preserves, in orchards and on tree-shaded streets of quaint colonial towns.
In fact, if you’re in Northeastern North America during Fall, you can’t avoid the alluring wonders and awe of leaf peeping.
There are always predictions as to when any destination will have its peak display of color, but there’s no way of knowing for sure. That’s part of the adventure. But even if you don’t time your visit to the peak of color, the display is breathtakingly beautiful.
The palette of colors ranges from bright yellows to deep purples, and there are trees showing every imaginable shade of orange and red, too. You’ve undoubtedly seen gorgeous photographs depicting the display, but there’s nothing like seeing the real thing. The experience really renews your appreciation for Mother Nature.
New England tour operators offer a wide variety of leaf peeper adventures, but one option that’s particularly appealing for its spectacle and convenience is the fall foliage cruise. They last three or four days to two weeks, and have price tags in the realm of budget or the stratosphere of utter luxury.
From the vantage point of the ship’s deck, you can see great displays of color as you cruise up majestic rivers or along the coast.
It’s true that observing fall foliage from the deck of a ship doesn’t put you among the colors, but cruises are good choices because they always include several ports of call, and it’s likely that the colors will be peaking in one or more of those places when you step. Additionally, at each port of call, the ship’s tour staff will suggest a variety of land tours that will put you in the middle of the foliage for an up close and spectacular look. You can actually try trekking in one port of call, biking in another, and taking a bus or self-drive tour in the third.
Picking the right cruise can seem to be a daunting task – there are so many to choose from.
Most major cruise lines -- including Celebrity, Holland America and Royal Caribbean, to name a few favorites -- offer New England leaf peeping itineraries, with calls at Boston, Newport (Rhode Island), Bar Harbor (Maine), Halifax (Nova Scotia), St. John’s (New Foundland), Montreal and Quebec City, as well as a roster of special calls at quaint towns or wilderness islands.
For example, Holland America’s msZaandam’s September sailings include a 7-day itinerary departing from Montreal, cruising the St. Lawrence River to call at at Quebic City, then on to Sydney (Cape Breton Island), Halifax and Bar Harbor before arriving I Boston. The fare starts at less than $700 per person. That’s less per night than the cost of a hotel, and it includes means and other amenities in addition to glorious leaf peeping. Also in September, Celebrity Cruises offers a 14-day itinerary that departs from Cape Liberty, New Jersey, and calls at Boston, Portland, Bar Harbor, Quebec City (overnight), Charlottetown (Prince Edward Island), Sydney (Nova Scotia) and Halifax, before returning to Cape Liberty. Fares start at around $1600 per person.
When cruising, consider each port of call as a gateway to local leaf peeping. but don’t forget that the ports are also interesting destinations in their own right. So, plan to split your time ashore between getting out into the countryside for the fall colors and wandering around town or visiting an historic mansion or museum for insight into local culture.
If you need help figuring out how to divide up and maximize your time ashore, be sure to attend the ship’s staff’s presentation about ground tours and other land options. The presentation usually takes place just after departure, in one of the vessel’s large salons.
Also, before booking, compare not only the itineraries and ports of call, but the ship’s onboard ambience and amenities, as well. It’s important to decide in advance whether you want to dress for dinner or not, or whether you prefer to be aboard a smaller, more intimate ship where you can read or have a quiet conversation on deck, or a large, bustling liner with a thousand passengers who relish entertainment, gaming and other such diversions.
And, of course, cost is a factor, too. The Fall foliage cruise season is just beginning, but there are last minute deals to be found. To shop, check out various online sources, including cruise line Websites, and those run by cruise discounters, such as cheapcruises.com and/or discountcruises.com, as well more general discounted travel sites. As with all travel, comparison shopping is a must/
Iif you want to cruise for fall foliage this year, the time to do your research and planning is now. If you can’t find a suitable cruise immediately, keep looking – additional inventory may become available at better prices at the last minute, if you can be flexible about departure dates and itineraries.