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Travel5 best fall foliage cruises in New England, Canada and beyond

5 best fall foliage cruises in New England, Canada and beyond

If you feel left out whenever your social media feeds blow up with beautiful pictures of fall foliage, you probably should plan your own leaf-peeping trip. Sure, you could arrange an epic road trip, complete with traffic jams and overpriced, overcrowded tourist traps. Or, you could take a fall foliage cruise.

From a cruise ship, you can enjoy the autumnal hues of the Canadian and New England coastline as you sail between northeastern U.S. home ports like New York and Boston and Canada’s Montreal or Quebec City. Book shore excursions for a more relaxing day out; the bus driver will navigate the traffic along tree-lined byways to scenic vistas, and your mealtimes will be prearranged (or held on board your ship’s multiple dining venues).

If you’d rather explore fall’s colors outside of the Northeast, a few cruise lines will take you to fall foliage destinations in other parts of the U.S., too.

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You’ll want to book your Canada and New England cruise at least six months (if not a year or more) in advance for the best pricing and availability. Here, we present the five best fall foliage cruises you should consider in New England, Canada and beyond.

7-day Canada and New England Discovery cruise on Holland America

The Jesup Path boardwalk at Sieur de Monts in Acadia National Park in the fall. BYRON M ONEAL/GETTY IMAGES

Holland America’s 1,964-passenger Zuiderdam is a delightfully midsize ship, so you don’t have to worry about crowds as you sail between Boston and Quebec City. The ship starts sailing this route in late August, but for the best leaf peeping, you’ll want to book one of the two October departures.

Ports of call include Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island; Sydney and Halifax, Nova Scotia; and Portland or Bar Harbor, Maine. Take your pick of scenic drives or strolls through gardens or along hiking paths, camera at the ready. On board, spend your evenings rocking out to live music or enjoying a leisurely meal of steak or seafood at the Pinnacle Grill.

Best for: Holland America attracts mainly retirees and couples who appreciate the line’s focus on fine dining and live performances. Zuiderdam’s itinerary is ideal for anyone who doesn’t mind flying in and out of different cities in order to travel farther north into Canada than the one-way sailings.

Related: 11 best cruises to Canada and New England

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7-day Canada and New England cruise on Princess Cruises

A Princess Cruises ship in Bar Harbor, Maine. PRINCESS CRUISES

For an easy round-trip New York cruise that leans more into New England than Canada, consider Princess Cruises’ weeklong October sailings on the 3,660-passenger Enchanted Princess. Choose from itineraries with four or five ports, including Newport, Rhode Island; Boston; Bar Harbor; Halifax; and (only on certain sailings) Saint John, New Brunswick.

If seascapes are your thing, don’t miss the beautiful coastal landscape by the Bay of Fundy (from Saint John) or Peggy’s Cove in Nova Scotia. Head to the hills in Bar Harbor for elevated views, or escape to sea with a harbor cruise from Newport.

Best for: Princess Cruises also attracts mature couples and lovers of classic cruising, but the 2019-debuted Enchanted Princess is much larger and bigger than Holland America’s Zuiderdam. Kick back with the line’s signature Movies Under the Stars (complete with blankets for fall nights in New England), or enjoy multiple specialty restaurants devoted to Italian specialties, steakhouse fare and seafood. Bundle up for a romantic breakfast on your balcony while the colorful coastline passes by.

Related: The best time for a Canada and New England cruise

7-night Canada cruise on Royal Caribbean

Brilliance of the Seas. ROYAL CARIBBEAN

Combine an easy Boston round-trip sailing with a fall foliage cruise focused more on Canadian than New England ports with Royal Caribbean’s seven-night voyages on the 2,191-passenger Jewel of the Seas, setting sail in September and October 2024, and 2,142-passenger Brilliance of the Seas, departing in September and October 2025. Most itineraries call in Portland, Maine; Saint John; Sydney; and Halifax.

The ships are among Royal Caribbean’s older and smaller ships, so don’t go in expecting a humongous megaship with wild top-deck amenities (a good thing or not, depending on your style). You’ll still find plenty of dining options (including Izumi for Japanese cuisine and Giovanni’s Table for Italian), the line’s signature circular Viking Crown Lounge and — perfect for fall weather — an indoor, adults-only solarium.

Best for: Royal Caribbean fans seeking a midsize ship experience with fewer children on board should book this cruise. Anyone looking for a round-trip cruise to Canada that doesn’t require a passport will appreciate the convenient Boston departure port (with plenty of beautiful fall foliage on its own) and three port calls in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.

Related: Canada and New England cruise packing list: What to pack for every season

7-night Puget Sound and San Juan Islands cruise on American Cruise Lines

Friday Harbor, Washington, at sunset. AZURE_VIEW/GETTY IMAGES

Canada and New England aren’t the only regions of the U.S. known for their fall foliage. American Cruise Lines offers several small-ship sailings in October to other leaf-peeping regions, including the Hudson River Valley, the Upper Mississippi and the Chesapeake Bay.

But for something completely different, why not try the line’s seven-night, round-trip Puget Sound and San Juan Islands cruise from Seattle on the 90-passenger American Spirit or the 170-passenger American Constellation?

Your itinerary will take you to Anacortes, Friday Harbor, Port Angeles (gateway to Victoria, British Columbia, and Olympic National Park), Port Townsend and Poulsbo, Washington, with a day spent cruising around the San Juan Islands. Take advantage of the Fidalgo Island walking trails near Anacortes, and don’t miss the photogenic Deception Pass nearby. Gaze at the Olympic and Cascade mountains in their fall glory, and enjoy the fall weather in historic waterfront towns.

Best for: Travelers looking for a different destination for their fall foliage cruise, but also cruisers who prioritize time on shore over time on the ship. American Cruise Lines’ ships are tiny, just four to six decks, with amenities limited to a restaurant, a couple of lounges, small fitness areas and a sun deck, perhaps with a putting green. Be prepared to entertain yourself in the evenings — or go to bed early so you’re energized for a full day in port nearly every day. Also, know that these ships generally draw an older retiree crowd.

12-day Canada and New England Fall Foliage cruise on Seabourn


Smaller ships can visit more off-the-beaten-path ports than their big-ship counterparts. Seabourn’s 458-passenger Seabourn Quest (2024) and Seabourn Sojourn (2025) sail 12-day cruises between New York and Montreal. Itineraries vary slightly by sail date, but visit several destinations in Quebec, including Trois-Rivieres, Quebec City, Baie-Comeau and Saguenay, with scenic cruising along the Saguenay Fjord. The ship also visits Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island; and Halifax, Nova Scotia; it stops at a couple of American ports, too, such as Newport, Rhode Island, and Boston, Martha’s Vineyard or Provincetown, Massachusetts.

This is also one of the best fall foliage cruises if you’re looking for an all-inclusive voyage in luxurious surroundings. On Seabourn Quest, every cabin is a suite with a view (not to mention a walk-in closet and spacious bathroom with tub). You can enjoy gourmet cuisine, complimentary wine and cocktails and a friendly crew that will go above and beyond for you.

Best for: Luxury lovers who wish to be pampered on their leaf-peeping vacation will enjoy this nearly two-week cruise around Canada and New England. The extended itinerary features several days at sea to enjoy the ship’s spa or delicious afternoon tea service, as well as some lesser-visited ports and, on select departures, an overnight in Halifax. It’s ideal for travelers who want to make the most of their fall Northeast trip.

Bottom line

You might be surprised by how many choices you have for late-September and October fall foliage cruises. In addition to Seabourn, all the major luxury cruise lines dedicate a few cruises to this region, including such lines as Silversea Cruises, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Windstar Cruises, Oceania Cruises and Crystal. Big ships like NCL’s Norwegian Breakaway and Getaway also get into the leaf-peeping action.

Here, we’ve picked the best fall foliage cruises for different itinerary configurations and ship styles. They might be our favorites, but only you know which combination of ports and onboard experience is the perfect match for your travel style.

Planning a cruise? Start with these stories:


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