Last year, my husband and I decided to do a cruise on the east coast. We had just completed an Alaskan cruise (which I HIGHLY RECOMMEND) and wanted to see someplace new and different. I hadn’t been to New England since I was a pre-teen and this itinerary sounded perfect. I only wish that the cruise had taken place in October so we could have witnessed the gorgeous leaves changing colors and chilly fall weather. There is nothing like fall back east!
We booked the cruise in August 2017 for August 2018. The year went by quickly, I cannot believe our vacation was so highly anticipated and its already been a month since we’ve been home.
As I have mentioned before, I am from New Jersey and love going back although I really do not like long flights and pretty much white knuckle it for hours. My fears aside, I was super excited to board the cruise ship and head up the coast.
We left from Cape Liberty, NJ and set sail for nine days. Nine amazing days stretched out before us, promising adventures and relaxation.
This cruise included these ports:
Bar Harbor, Maine
Halifax, Nova Scotia
Saint John, New Brunswick
When I pick excursions, I always try to figure out which adventure will yield the most photo opportunities. I like visiting new cities and taking as many photos as I can which I share on my Instagram. I love to stroll along, usually in my own little world, taking note of details and staring up at the sky or at the leaves on the trees. Exploring and taking photos is my favorite way to zone out and be in the moment.
Every excursion I choose must allow me to carry my camera. For example, I don’t like riding a bike, getting on a Segway or a horse because I cannot hold my camera and take pictures. What I like best about travel is documenting every location with photos. I used to like the adventure part of travel such as snorkeling or ziplining, but now I find joy in exploring.
I have a Canon backpack specifically for a camera body and multiple lenses which also fits a wallet and a bottle of water. If you like taking pics and have a camera with multiple lenses, a backpack like this is perfect. It only takes less than a minute to swap out lenses so don’t be shy about bringing one or two (or more). I use a standard lens and a wide angle for landscape shots.
Some people like excursions which include historical elements, some are more adventurous. There are typically a lot of options to choose from and if you do your research, you can probably find options not offered through the cruise. I like to read cruise reviews and see what other people have enjoyed.
Here are the excursions we chose:
And when I say “we” I mean me, my husband just went along for the ride. Such a good sport!
My husband and I woke up early and got off the ship, thinking we’d check out the city before our tour. However this didn’t go as planned, one of us was a big baby and complained about the heat, got grumpy and wanted to go back to the ship. Yes, that was ME.
I wasn’t prepared for how far we’d have to walk from the ship terminal to the city center or where the Freedom Trail began. The walk wasn’t terribly long but the heat and humidity got to me.
Later that morning, we went on the Boston/Cambridge tour which took us on a bus ride through Boston, then a short walk to a graveyard, and then a ride to Cambridge where we walked around Harvard University, led by the tour guide. A few people complained about some steep hills and the fact the tour guide walked at a fast pace. If you have trouble walking, this is something to consider on a tour such as this.
I wished the guide was more animated and fun, she had lots of information, but the way she delivered the info did not draw me in. I tend to wander off, especially if something catches my eye…I missed some of what the guide said but I did get a few great photos.
We’ve been on tours where the guides are fabulous and we’ve done tours where the guides are dry and boring. It’s a gamble as to what kind of guide you will get on a tour.
I really liked exploring Harvard, the town of Cambridge looked like a nice place to walk around with little coffee shops and stores.
If we went back, I think we would walk the Freedom Trail in Boston on our own. Strolling through a city with no set plan is always fun for me. In a big city like Boston, you really don’t need a professional tour because there are lots of places to see simply by walking around. There are self-guided tours online and you can download a map before the trip, with some planning ahead, a tour is not totally necessary.
Boston is full of history! The red brick buildings are so pretty.
Oh, how I love Maine!
This was the tour we went on:
See Maine’s rocky coastline and visit the charming village of Kennebunkport, summer home of the Bush family. You’ll take a scenic drive through the village, passing Federal and Victorian style mansions built by wealthy sea captains and merchants in the 1700s and 1800s.
I loved seeing the beautiful homes and strolling through Kennebunkport. I wished we had more time to explore on foot rather than on the bus, it seemed like the bus ride was forever. In Kennebunkport, there are a lot of touristy shops and places to eat.
Its always fun seeing a new place and taking pictures to remember the area. There are whale watching trips, food tours, and bike tours that you can book on your own for a few hours.
TRAVEL TIP: If I had to do it again, I’d take a cab (or walk) to Saint Ann’s Church and the beach. Visit TripAdvisor to see more options here.
Bar Harbor, Maine
One of my favorite ports was Bar Harbor, a place I would love to see again. This is the only port where we tendered, meaning that the cruise parks in the harbor and you take a boat to shore. Arriving downtown with time to spare, we visited a few shops and took a quick walk before we got on the tour bus.
We chose an excursion through Acadia National Park and a Lobster lunch. This was another bus tour, and by this point, I wasn’t super keen on another bus ride. I anticipated more walking and less sitting on a bus so read the fine print before you book your excursion.
Before even leaving California, I knew I wanted to see Acadia National Park. I love national parks and trees and exploring. Nature is so soothing and peaceful, seeing photos of the park before I left home really got me excited.
We drove through the park via the tour bus so most of my photos were unfortunately taken from the window. There were a few stops where we could get off and take a photo but then it was right back on the bus. Its really a stunning place and if we went back, I’d just want to walk on my own.
We had a nice lobster lunch after our drive through the park. It was a pleasant meal which included lobster, boiled potatoes and corn on the cob with a blueberry crumble for dessert. Because I cannot have gluten, I wasn’t able to eat the dessert and there were no other options.
Back in Bar Harbor, I roamed around a bit and took pictures. I liked the downtown area, there were lots of places to walk and the views were incredible. If there is one place to NOT do an excursion and simply walk around, this would be the place. You can shop, get a lobster roll, admire the harbor, stroll through the town.
There are lots of flowers and plants everywhere, its such a picturesque place. I could have easily spent more time there.
TRAVEL TIP: If you want to see Acadia National Park, do a tour where you can explore on foot. Plan on spending an hour or two in the downtown Bar Harbor area to shop and walk.
Halifax, Nova Scotia
This was the Peggy’s Cove & Titanic excursion which takes you first to the graveyard where victims of the Titanic are buried. The tour guide talks about how they came to be buried here in Halifax and shares some interesting stories. The tour guide didn’t really captivate my interest so I half listened to him as I broke away from our tour group to take photos.
After a short stop at the graveyard, its an hour-long bus ride out to Peggy’s Cove. I was seeing this destination after viewing the photos online. It’s a gorgeous spot! I HIGHLY recommend doing an excursion that will take you here.
Peggys Cove is a quaint little fishing village, you will be able to take some beautiful photos in the cove. Our time was limited and I wished we had another hour. This was another hot, humid day but I tried not to let it put me in a bad mood.
This is the ideal place to wander for a while and take in the scenery.
It was slightly overcast, but that didn’t bother me. In fact, sometimes the colors in photos pop more on cloudy days. My only issue, and it’s a small one is that this is a touristy spot and there are loads of people making it impossible to take photos without a few random strangers in the shot. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll see how I try to crop out the crowds.
TRAVEL TIP: There are tours available outside of the cruise ship but we like to book through the cruise since you are guaranteed to get back on board in a timely manner. You don’t want to risk the cruise ship leaving without you. Since this is an hour-long drive from the cruise ship terminal, play it safe and book through the cruise.
Saint John, New Brunswick
This was my favorite excursion of the whole trip. It was a Coastal Photography Tour so its geared for those who love to take photos (me)! Everything about the tour was great. I liked the tour guide who was energetic and interesting. She was the best guide of our whole trip.
I managed to get some nice pics and it was all off the beaten path so there weren’t tons of people around. Another cloudy day, but I didn’t mind. I wished we had visited more places on this tour, I enjoyed it immensely.
This is a description of the tour:
“Capture Saint John’s spectacular natural beauty as you travel off the beaten path with a professional photographer guide. Learn essential photography techniques as you focus on the character of coastal New Brunswick, including a rugged Bay of Fundy beach, a working fishing wharf, a charming waterfall and more. Plus stop at the famous Reversing Rapids, where the mighty Bay of Fundy tides force the Saint John River to reverse direction and flow upstream.
• Coastal photo stops: Photograph a Bay of Fundy beach and working fishing wharf while learning techniques from a professional photographer.
• Bay of Fundy: Capture spectacular waterfront shots of this bay, featuring the most extreme tides in the world.
• Reversing Rapids: Twice daily, the powerful tides of the bay push the river and its rapids to flow backwards. “
The waterfront area was nearly empty of people but full of boats. I believe you can almost always find things to photograph if you open your mind and your eyes! I like getting up close to textures and patterns. Though we had a little time to go off on our own, it was not enough for me. I could have used about twenty more minutes at the waterfront to focus on some of the details and take more pictures.
TRAVEL TIP: This is a must-do excursion if you like photography as I do. Even if taking pics isn’t your thing, you can see some neat places without a lot of crowds. Its a good overview of the area.
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