Quebec Delivers a Uniquely French Taste of Canada

Day 2, 2023 East Coast Voyage

Monday, Sept. 25, 2023, Quebec, Canada

I’m adding Quebec to my list of stunning cities. The Zaandam docked this morning at the edge of the Place Royale, in the lower section of the Old Quebec City, with a commanding view of Le Château Frontenac. It reportedly is the most photographed hotel in the world.

The hotel, according to the nearby plaque, “is an excellent example of the Château-style hotels built by Canada’s railway companies.” It certainly made for a spectacular first port of this cruise down the St. Lawrence River and then out to the Atlantic Ocean. Strong winds whipped through the old city streets, but the sun kept me from being too chilled. I thought I would need my thin gloves, but they never came out of my pocket.

I left the ship midmorning and made my way first to the Place Royale, the square considered the birthplace of French civilization in Canada. Walking tours filled the square, and souvenir shops lined the cobblestone streets. This is on the lower level of the city. Looming high above is most of the Vieux Quebéc, or old city.

You can climb countless stairs to reach it, but I took advantage of the funicular. I appreciated the opportunity to pay the $5 Canadian fare with some of the “loonies,” or Canadian dollar coins, that weighed down my purse. The car makes quick work of cresting the incline and leaves you in a plaza at the foot of the grand hotel. Not surprisingly, I quickly realize the best photographs of the hotel are from below.

From there (after enjoying a morning latte), I wandered the streets, ducking into shops and admiring art displayed for sale along the walls of a narrow alley.

Inside the Basilique-cathédrale Notre Dame de Québec I admired the stunning gold leaf of the neo-Baroque era.

Because I no longer have a house, I’m seldom shopping for anything in particular. On my last cruise I bought several dresses, and today I had to withstand the temptation to get another. I did get a bite of dark chocolate fudge with chili pepper. I am normally on the hunt for dark chocolate covered ginger (I still haven’t forgiven Trader Joe’s for dropping it a year or so ago), but no luck today. It’s probably a good thing that it isn’t common.

All the dresses I didn’t buy

A little about the Zaandam. I knew it would be familiar, as I sailed many times on its sister R-class ship Amsterdam (sadly sold in 2020). But I suppose after nine months in the last year on the larger Vista-class ships Zuiderdam and Westerdam, the change was more than I expected. I am feeling a bit discombobulated.

The Explorations Café with its espresso bar is adjacent to the library on deck 5 – a wonderful spot for relaxing but without the stunning view from the Crow’s Nest, where I am accustomed to spending much of the morning reading, writing and enjoying a latte or two.

This simple change may affect my daily routine. However, I can hear my sister (either one) saying “Well, this is a good time to set a new routine of starting the day in the fitness center.” And she would be right. Perhaps I will.

While the bar and espresso café in the Crow’s Nest doesn’t open until much later in the morning, the venue still has generous seating areas — and my 4 p.m. happy hour with half-price drinks. Unfortunately, team trivia takes place there at the same time, with the overly amplified and caffeinated host making it impossible to sit and visit or just relax. I know, I know – trivia is very popular among a significant segment of the passengers. Perhaps nothing short of my own private staffed yacht where I can make all the decisions would make me happy!

All in all, I love the smaller ship, and it doesn’t seem crowded even though I hear we are fully booked. My only serious complaint is that I made a poor choice of cabins. I’m directly above the Ocean Bar bandstand. On previous cruises the Ocean Bar featured relatively quiet dance music and jazz, leaving the louder rock and pop to other venues. On this ship there isn’t another venue. The sound and the throbbing of the bass travels right up to my cabin until 11 p.m. or so.

I’ll give it a few more nights and then consider contacting my travel agent about making a change before my 73-day cruise that starts Oct. 8. Perhaps that longer cruise will draw older passengers and thus quieter music. Although I remind myself that these “older” passengers were probably at Woodstock.