We happened to arrive on a day when Charlottetown was celebrating not only a big national holiday (Canada Day) but also the 150th anniversary of the conference that led to the formation of Canada several years later. With only a few hours in port, we maximized our time by taking a Gray Line tour that covered the highlights of this small but charming provincial capital in about 65 minutes. The guide was a native who seemed thoroughly informed about local history and culture; at a cost of $17.25 each, this tour was a terrific bargain. Afterwards, we dropped in on several of the holiday celebrations and also visited some of the permanent attractions: St. Dunstan's basilica and the shops along Victoria Row. For city of only 30,000, there's a lot to do here.
At $49.95 per person for 90 minutes, this was at the high end for what we'd normally pay for a city tour. But it was well worth the money. The guide was a retired railroad official who provided a steady stream of facts and stories about the city. Highlights included seeing the vast amount of green space that Halifax has preserved for public use, and visiting the site of the 1917 explosion that killed 2000 residents and destroyed much of the city.
Compared to the other ports, Sydney might seem to have been added to cruise itineraries mainly as an alternative to a sea day. And while it doesn't match up with Quebec, Halifax, or even little Charlottetown, there are some things worth seeing. One surprise was the pavilion housing the passenger terminal, which, on days when a ship is docked, houses dozens of local vendors. Be sure to visit the museum on the second floor, which is small but of high quality, to learn more about the entire Cape Breton area.