Port of St. John's (Newfoundland)
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St. John's claims North America's easternmost seaport and the closest one to Europe, so it's little wonder it claims to be the continent's oldest city. Beginning in the mid-1500s, Europeans regularly sailed across the pond to Newfoundland during the summer to exploit its fish-rich waters, while returning to their families and creature comforts for the winter. By the early 1800s, Irish and English immigrants were encouraged to settle in year-round. Some chose St. John's as a base, thus giving the city its decidedly Anglo spirit.
Perhaps because it's located on an island, one surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, the Labrador Sea and Gulf of St. Lawrence, St. John's has kept itself a charming mix of old and new. Major streets parallel the waterfront, while historic footpaths (now side streets) meander up the hillside, creating irregular routes. Ancient stone stairways still climb hills too steep for paved roads. They're all part of St. John's homey, easy-going ambiance.
Top St. John's (Newfoundland) Itineraries
MSC Meraviglia10 Night Canada / New England CruiseNew York , Bar Harbor, St. John's , Halifax, Sydney , Portland , Boston, New YorkNow
Island Princess31 Night Transatlantic CruiseLos Angeles, Puerto Vallarta, Huatulco, San Juan del Sur, Puntarenas , Fuerte Amador , Cartagena , Fort Lauderdale , St. John's , Reykjavik, Isafjord, Akureyri, SouthamptonNow
Island Princess32 Night Transatlantic CruiseFort Lauderdale , St. John's , Reykjavik, Isafjord, Akureyri, Southampton, Geiranger, Tromso, Spitsbergen , Trondheim, Alesund, Skjolden, SouthamptonNow
Zaandam35-day Voyage Of the VikingsBoston, Bar Harbor, Reykjavik, Reykjavik, Alesund, Olden, Bergen, Amsterdam, Amsterdam, Dublin, Torshavn , Akureyri, Isafjord, St. John's , Halifax, BostonNow
Seabourn Quest39-day Commonwealth & Viking Route QuestSouthampton, Tobermory, Belfast, Scilly Isles, Southampton, Cobh , Dublin, Tobermory, Reykjavik, Isafjord, St. John's , Quebec City, MontrealNow
Where You're Docked
Ships dock in the heart of town, at piers 10 and 11 alongside Harbour Drive. When two ships call, the smaller vessel docks at pier 17. If you don't have an exact address, no worries. You'll be able to see your ship from all over town.
There are no facilities on the cruise pier. As the locals say, the cruise dock is within five minutes walking distance of everything you'll want to see or do downtown.
Good to Know
Don't confuse St. John's, Newfoundland, with Saint John, New Brunswick (it's easy to do because both are cruise ports found on Atlantic Canada itineraries). And, when setting your watch, note that Newfoundland has its own time zone. It's an hour and a half ahead of Eastern Standard Time.
On Foot: Water Street, the main shopping street, is one block up the hill from the port. Water Street runs into George Street, best known for its lively pubs. The City of St. John's Visitor Information Center at 348 Water Street is open daily 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., May through early October and weekdays the rest of the year.
By Taxi: Taxis are usually waiting at the pier. If you're heading to the airport and your ship does not supply transfers, take the 20-minute taxi ride. Call Bugden's Taxi at 709-722-4400.
By Bus: Ride the Metrobus around town. Be aware, exact change is required. Or, buy a multi-ride M pass online. (www.metrobustransit.ca)
By Car: So you want to get out of town and don't want to join a tour. Rent a car. All the major rental agencies are represented. Cars are in limited supply, so make a reservation.
Currency & Best Way to Get Money
The Canadian dollar is the official currency. Visit www.xe.com and www.oanda.com for current rates. ATMs are easy to find in banks and the lobbies of larger hotels. Most shops and some taxis accept credit cards.
English is the official language. After a few pints at the pub, you might have a hard time understanding the accents or local slang. "Now the once," for example, means "a little later in the day."
Food and Drink
St. John's claims it has more pubs for its population than any city in Atlantic Canada, and many of them are found on George Street. So, what could be more natural than a pub lunch or pub dinner of fish and chips? The fish is generally cod. Don't miss the local favorite of cod cheeks or crispy cod tongues. Both are fleshy parts of the cod's head and as tender as you might imagine.
Local Eats: Portobello's (115 Duckworth Street, www.portobellosrestaurant.ca) serves exceptional seafood, steak and poultry in a two-story setting overlooking the harbor. Lunch, served 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday to Friday, includes salads, chowder, fish cakes and pan-fried cod with scrunchions (fried pork rind). Celtic Hearth (298 Water Street) serves beer-battered fish and chips, Guinness lamb stew, and other Irish pub grub. It's open 24 hours and handy if you're looking for a bite at odd hours. The Gypsy Tea Room is tucked in the historic Murray Premises. The Mediterranean menu highlights seafood. Check out the fisherman's stew, seafood pasta or Greek souvlaki. (315 Water Street; Open for lunch, 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday to Friday; brunch, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday)
Gourmet Dining: Oppidan (115 Cavendish Square in the Sheraton Hotel) offers chic surroundings with harbor views. Lunch, served from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., features Screech glazed salmon, burgers and salads. Saltwater Restaurant + Bar (284 Duckworth Street) serves fresh fish and shellfish in a classy contemporary setting. Go for lunch, noon to 2 p.m. Monday to Friday.
Near Attractions: Grab a bite at The Rooms Cafe. when visiting the cultural museum of the same name. The menu offers soups, salads, sandwiches and traditional fish dishes. (9 Bonaventure Avenue; open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday)
It's worth buying a bottle of Screech Rum, a high-proof spiced rum, for the fun name on the label alone. A shot of Screech and kissing a cod fish serve as integral parts of being "Screeched in," a hilarious ceremony at a bar or on an excursion that welcomes mainlanders to the island of Newfoundland. For a sweeter foodie option, bring home berry jams, especially those made from bakeapple (aka cloudberry) and partridgeberry.