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The Country And The City – Boston And Bar Harbor

Boston, MA and Bar Harbor, ME

The point of a cruise is that you should have as much fun on the journey as you do at the various destinations. To achieve this you don’t need to stray that far from home, either. There are some fantastic cruises available along the coasts of New England and eastern Canada, vacations that take the strain out of traveling, allowing you time to enjoy a variety of places of interest and natural beauty. These (Royal Caribbean’s Canada and New England routes, for example) usually embark in New Jersey and sail northwards from there.

Stopping in Boston is like seeing the past and the future of America all rolled into one. It’s a great city simply for walking around, and you can admire the rows of beautifully kept Georgian houses in the oldest part of the city. Half of US history seems to be here: you can visit the site of the original Boston Tea Party, one of the protests against British taxation that helped to spark the War of Independence.

Also worth a look is Paul Revere’s house at 19 North Square. Built in 1680, it’s the oldest building in downtown Boston. It’s seemingly ramshackle appearance makes it look even older. You would hardly be surprised, seeing it for the first time, to hear it was a thousand years old. Inside you can find out all about Revere himself, the man who made the epic ride on the night of 18 April 1775 to warn patriots Hancock and Adams that they were about to be arrested. This was part of the sequence of events that led to the Battle of Lexington Green the next day, and the ‘shot heard around the world’ that was the first one fired in the war.

If you really want to get a feel of old Boston, have a look at the Old North Church in Salem Street. It was built in 1723 in the style of the great British architect Sir Christopher Wren. Although it’s still very much a working place of worship, stepping inside really gives you a sense of what it was like to live in pre-revolutionary North America. Its elegant interior and dark wooden pews are a strong reminder of the city’s British past; Boston, Massachusetts has strong links with Boston, England, the town for which it was named and where the Pilgrim Fathers were imprisoned.

Cruise on up the coast from Boston and you’ll arrive at Bar Harbor. It’s a very popular destination for cruise ships. At peak times in the year your ship might be ‘parked’ pretty much nose-to-tail with dozens of others! But don’t worry: there’s a huge amount to see in the Bar Harbor area, so you needn’t be surrounded by your fellow cruisers all day long.

Bar Harbor town is on the seaward side of Mt. Desert Island, part of the spectacular Acadia National Park. The Park offers some of the most outstanding sights of natural beauty in America. Everyone knows that New England is beautiful during fall, but there’s more than simply great trees in Acadia. The fantastic sea views and granite cliffs are worth the journey all by themselves.

If you want to make the most of the National Park during your short stop in Bar Harbor, you could do worse than take a nature tour. Several local firms – Down East Nature Tours for example – offer full- and half-day tours to cruisers who want to take in a little of the Park’s natural beauty and wildlife. More general coach tours of the area are also available, typically featuring generous amounts of stop-off time in some of the most scenic spots. These all start and finish in Bar Harbor itself. If you want to make your own way around the Park you can hire a bike and cycle in safety around some of Acadia’s carriage roads, which are free of cars. This is a great option for families, and also allows the kids to wear off some of that shipboard steam in the fresh air.

Eating, drinking and going out are all well provided for, and the town hosts many special events and festivals catering for the cruise trade – including special events for lovers of nature and the arts. Because so much of the town’s tourism business comes from cruise vacationers – who disappear back aboard their luxury ships at nightfall – many of these events are designed to fit a daytime schedule, and often you can drop in or out as you please.

Leaving Bar Harbor behind, cruises head north to Canada, often taking in Nova Scotia and locations as far away as Newfoundland. It’s on vacations like this that you really get a sense of the United States as a world in one country – and a world very much worth exploring, at that.

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