Hubby and I recently returned from a delightful six night, actually two – three night cruises aboard the Canadian Empress, the one and only ship of the St. Lawrence Cruise Lines company. We cruised from Kingston, Ontario to Montreal and back through the Thousand Islands and several locks and canals of the St. Lawrence Seaway.
We drove to the port. You could drop off your luggage when you arrived in Kingston. The company had arrangements with some of the local hotels for secure parking. Embarcation was easy and all were onboard in minutes - easy to do with only 32 passengers.
The Canadian Empress is a replica of a river boat, including pressed tin ceilings. It is a small ship that can accommodate up to 66 passengers and 12 crew. All rooms are compact – think small inside cabins on the big cruise ships. All cabins are outsides and have windows that actually open. Most cabins have two twin beds, one of them folds up into the wall during the day for more floor space. There are a few rooms with a double bed. The Grand Salon is where all meals are served, where the bar is located and evening entertainment is held. This room could have felt crowded if the ship had been sailing full or if there had been a greater need for dry space outside of one’s cabin. There are covered outside decks at both the front and aft of the ship. The top deck is aptly called the Sun Deck. There are lounge and deck chairs to enjoy the views along the St. Lawrence. There is also shuffle board and checkers available to play.
Meals were wonderful. As with most cruises there was always plenty of food. Breakfast featured one entrée but there were other options, including the fresh baked muffins that were marvelous. Lunch was a fixed menu each day but there was ample food if you didn’t like part of the menu. There were two meat selections offered each night – you selected it the night before, but it was only so the cook, Joe, would have an idea how much of each to prepare. Half portions were available at each meal. There were always snacks and beverages available and the bar was rarely closed. Each evening there was some sort of prepared snack during the evening’s entertainment. I was impressed with the healthy variety of the menu.
Every member of the crew has multiple jobs on this ship. They were all very friendly and interactive with the passengers. Often the Captain, Mate and Engineer ate dinner with the passengers as we were already docked for the night. The CD/Purser was busy helping with meal service and getting the evening’s entertainment set up. Tours of the wheel house and engine room were easy to arrange if you wanted to see them up close.
Excursions along the way – usually local museums with history of the St. Lawrence or Canada – were included in the cruise fare. Our favorite was the Upper Canada Village, a recreated 1800’s village. Some of these buildings were moved to this location prior to the flooding that created the St. Lawrence. Evening entertainment was team trivia, a magician and a musician, one each night of each cruise. At various times there was commentary about what we were viewing at the time with some of the Seaway history included. We were also each given a booklet copy of these narrations. Whenever we met another commercial ship the captain would announce its name, type of cargo and other information about it.
Passengers were older, generally well travelled couples. (DH and I were the “babies”, although not my much, on the first half and we’re in our early sixties.) All were friendly and looked out for one another. On-board friendships developed quickly.
We took this cruise because we wanted to do something different. We also have wanted to see the 1000 Islands and were not disappointed with the scenery. This was also our time to relax before starting the fall schedule so the laid back atmosphere was just what we wanted. We will consider cruising on the Canadian Empress again sometime in the future.