Five Viking shore excursions to consider on a Canada and Atlantic Coastline cruise
Our readers have expressed a lot of interest in the included and optional shore excursions offered on the Viking cruises we’ve taken. For this post, I’ve selected five of the Viking shore excursions we chose while cruising on the St. Lawrence Seaway and Atlantic coast. Although this information should be mostly consistent with upcoming voyages on the Canada and Atlantic Coastline cruise, please make sure to check your specific itinerary for options.
In each location there were several options (included and optional) for you to consider based upon your interests. In addition to cultural, historical, and nature excursions like those we experienced, there are activities that water and adventure lovers might enjoy (kayaking, zodiac rides, special operations boat rides, and even a submarine dive).
Quebec City, Quebec
Old Town Quebec City by Foot (Included)
Don’t miss seeing perfectly charming Quebec City, which was founded in 1608 by explorer Samuel de Champlain and is the only walled city remaining in North America outside of Mexico. We opted for an included morning walking tour which gave us plenty of time afterwards for lunch and some exploring on our own. The tour featured the historical highlights of the old city, and our local guide also shared other interesting anecdotes about each site.
We strolled from the pier through the lower New Town to take a short funicular ride up to Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, at the top of the hill. Our first stop was a very interesting tour of the remains of Château Saint Louis (the former governor’s residence and fortress) located beneath Dufferin Terrace. Then we were off to explore the picturesque old city by foot. Our guide led us past the historic Château Frontenac and through the cobblestone streets lined with lovely old world French-style stone buildings with colorful touches of flowers and decor.
Inviting shops, galleries, cafes, and restaurants caught our attention along the way.
Quebec City lunch tip: Cochon Dingue (means “the crazy pig”), 46 boulevard Champlain — This is a casual and bustling bistro with a friendly staff that came highly recommended by the locals. It offers a diverse menu including many Quebecois dishes. Try the pork burger for lunch.
Halifax, Nova Scotia (unscheduled destination)
Important note: Halifax is not a regularly scheduled destination on the Canada and Atlantic Coastline cruise. (It is, however, a stop on other Viking cruises.) Due to extreme weather conditions we were not able to make stops in Cap-aux-Meules in Quebec and Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia. Instead, the captain wisely changed plans and we sailed to Halifax where Viking staff arranged the Tall Ship Harbor Sail excursion as well as other onshore options for their guests.
Tall Ship Harbor Sail (Optional)
From our ship’s dock, on a crisp, sunny September morning, we walked a short way along waterfront boardwalk to board the Tall Ship Silva, a three-masted steel schooner, for a two-hour sail around Halifax Harbor while being entertained by a local fiddler. The crew was also quite entertaining making it a totally enjoyable experience. Mr. TWS even took the opportunity to hoist a sail, not a particularly easy task, but he did it well. The views of Halifax and the area coastline are terrific. After the sail, we spent time walking further along the pier and into the city before heading back to the Octantis.
Halifax lunch tip: The Bicycle Thief, 1475 Lower Water Street (at Bishop’s Landing) — Very close to the tall ship, we sat outside for lunch at this popular restaurant. It’s a bit pricey but has very good Italian food and a nice wine list. We got there right at opening time and there was already a line to be seated. With the great view and on a nice day, the outside seating goes fast.
New York City, New York
There’s no place like New York City and Mr. TWS and I have enjoyed many visits.
There were several tours (included and optional) that would be great for first-time visitors to see a lot of the city, but since Mr. TWS and I have spent quite a bit of time in New York City, we opted for the tour of the 9/11 Memorial and Museum which was a great choice and a very moving experience.
9/11 Memorial and Museum (Included)
The 9/11 Memorial and Museum seems a perfect tribute to the victims and remembrance of the events of 9/11 and its aftermath. After so many years, finally seeing the brilliantly designed and architected structure, the reverent tributes and memorials, and the well told history of events, was very moving. The memorial evokes a range of emotions from sadness to respect for the heroism of first responders and rescue teams.
As you approach the museum, you walk through the park-like plaza with two large pools set in the footprints of each of the twin towers. Names of all of the 9/11 victims are engraved on the parapets. The entrance of the impressive steel and glass reception building incorporates two of the remaining trident-shaped beams that were recovered. Via long escalators you descend 70 feet underground to the halls and exhibits.
The museum is designed to have a profound impact on visitors from the huge sections of steel remnants, to damaged fire trucks, personal effects found in the rubble, documents, videos, newspapers and television broadcasts from the time and so much more. It’s a powerful and sobering experience to honor the victims of 9/11 and to remember the tragic events of that day.
It’s quite a moving memorial and one that I hope everyone (especially those who were not even born at the time) will visit at some point to learn and pay tribute.
Norfolk is home to the world’s largest naval base and its identity is deeply rooted in the US Navy and other branches of the military. We chose a morning tour of the USS Wisconsin and the Nauticus museum, followed by exploring the nearby historic district on our own and enjoying lunch in town.
Maritime Heritage of Norfolk (Included)
Very close to our ship’s dock in Norfolk was the battleship USS Wisconsin, one of the largest battleships ever built.
After a presentation about the ship and its history, we were free to explore much of the living and working quarters, kitchen and dining areas, and the decks. It provided a very interesting look into the lives of those who have sailed throughout the world aboard the ship during wars and times of peace. Adjacent to the ship is Nauticus, a maritime discovery center with an fine collection of historical information and artifacts, films, and interactive exhibits about maritime and US Navy history.
Norfolk walking around tip: Take a walk through the historic district to admire beautiful old homes and throughout the city keep your eyes open for the many sculptures of mermaids, the symbol of the city.
Norfolk lunch tip: Freemason Abbey Restaurant, 209 W Freemason Street — This former 19th-century church was turned into a cozy restaurant that features a nice menu with seafood, steaks, soups, salads, and burgers. Their specialty is the She Crab Soup — lump crab meat blended with cream and sherry.
Charleston, South Carolina
Founded in 1670, Charleston is a beautiful and historic city situated on Charleston Harbor, an inlet of the Atlantic Ocean formed by the confluence of the Ashley, Cooper, and Wando rivers.
Since colonial times, Charleston has been an important commercial port and it has a deep history that includes the capture of Fort Sumter by Confederate forces and the beginning of the Civil War. The city is also home to the oldest museum in the United States, the Charleston Museum, founded in 1773.
Dolphins of the Low Country (Optional)
Mr. TWS and I both enjoyed this dolphin-watching optional excursion on a marshland outside of Charleston. This was a morning excursion which gave us time to explore Charleston on our own afterwards.
There was a 45-minute coach ride to the boat and then two hours spent enjoying the natural beauty of the Low Country while navigating the creek and inlets on the lookout for dolphins — and we saw a lot (way more than we expected) as this is a major breeding area for them. Here’s a very short clip to give you a glimpse.
Our boat driver/guide kept us at a respectful distance from the animals and at no time was there an effort to lure them our way. We were just observers of them in their natural habitat, which we definitely appreciated. They are beautiful creatures and it was so much fun to watch them in the water and as they jumped and played in the water.
Charleston lunch tip: Church and Union Restaurant, 32B N Market Street — We enjoyed very good American fare (burgers and fries at the bar) in this large boisterous converted church (built in 1916 for sailors) in historic downtown Charleston.
We definitely recommend that you take advantage of shore excursions when you are cruising with Viking on river, ocean, and expedition cruises. There’s always something for everyone to select and enjoy, whether you’re a first-time or returning visitor to the destinations on the itinerary.
Thanks to Viking Cruises for sponsoring our sail on the Canada and Atlantic Coastline cruise. The commentary and perspectives in this post are totally our own, as always.