Port of Saint John (New Brunswick)
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Saint John is Canada's first incorporated city, a celebrated wooden shipbuilding center with a colorful history. A great fire in 1877 destroyed almost the entire city center. Today, the quaint "Uptown" area is laden with Victorian-influenced architecture, brick walkways, historic churches, town squares and flowers blooming around old-fashioned lamp posts. There's a storybook quality about the town that's a nice respite from bustling, overly touristy cruise ports. Saint John also has a bohemian flair, with lots of street musicians, funky galleries and independent record stores.
But the town is best known for its Bay of Fundy-related attractions. The Bay of Fundy is world-renowned for its extreme tides -- twice daily seawater rises (and then falls) about four stories high! As a result of the tides, the region is incredibly rich in scenic vistas (cascading waterfalls and cliffs carved out by water) and in sea-life, the latter of which draws folks interested in spotting rare whales and interesting shore birds.
The most exotic -- and fabulous -- experience that you shouldn't miss in this port of call is a look at the Reversing Rapids. At low tide, the rapids are turbulent and there's a bottleneck gorge at the falls. At high tide, the waters are pushed upstream, so the river runs in reverse.
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Where You're Docked
Cruise ships dock at Port Saint John in the heart of the city, which is known as uptown Saint John to the locals. The port is home to two terminals: Marco Polo and the newer Diamond Jubilee. On days when three ships are in port, a tent is erected at Long Wharf Terminal, also in the heart of the city.
Most shore excursions in Saint John take no more than four hours, so there's time to explore the town on your own before the ship departs. Pick up a map at the Welcome Kiosk in the ship terminal, or the Visitor Information Centre a few blocks away, at Market Square. There are more than 100 retail shops within a 10-minute walk of the terminal, including Market Square and Brunswick Square, which are modern, indoor malls linked by a pedestrian walkway. The King Street area is lined with quaint shops, cafes and galleries. Germain Street and Prince William Street are known for historic churches and architecturally significant buildings. But you may get no further than Water Street, across from the terminal, which is home to a few inviting pubs.
Good to Know
Saint John is a relatively safe city, but it's always smart to be aware of your surroundings, and be sure to leave any unnecessary valuables in your stateroom's safe.
Saint John is very pedestrian-friendly, with most of the tourist spots and historic uptown Saint John no more than a 15-minute walk from the ship terminal. Taxis are available for trips to the Reversing Rapids, though nearly every shore excursion includes a stop there, so you don't have to worry about getting there on your own if you don't want to go independently. For sightseeing fun, it's hard to beat a horse-drawn trolley. You'll find them near the terminal, waiting to take passengers past town landmarks, such as the Old Country Courthouse, the Loyalist Burial Grounds, Loyalist House and King's Square.
Currency & Best Way to Get Money
The Canadian dollar is the official currency of Canada. Many of the shops and restaurants near the pier take American dollars, though they will give you back change in Canadian dollars. There's an ATM at the Marco Polo Cruise Terminal that dispenses Canadian currency.
English is spoken in Saint John, although you will find signage in both English and in French. Saint John is the only officially bilingual province in Canada.
Food and Drink
Steamer's Lobster Company couldn't be more convenient. It's on Water Street, across from the ship terminal. You'll get an authentic seaboard spread, served outdoors on picnic-style tables with umbrellas. Lobster is the house specialty, but don't miss the bucket o' mussels, served with a platter of lemon wedges and drawn butter. There's even a "lounge singer" that serenades customers during their meal.
If you really want some traditional food, peruse the stalls at the Saint John City Market. Several vendors have set up small dining areas with tables and counter service. Fish and chips and all types of chowders are the most popular offerings. But you'll also find crepes and traditional British fare, such as pasties and sausages.
Farm-to-table dining is what Saint John Ale House embodies. This upscale ale house offers one of the biggest beer selections in town, paired with expert cuisine. You'll find pub fare, local delicacies and their famous lobster roll.
Urban Deli, located on King Street, boasts a sophisticated take on deli classics. Don't Miss their signature sandwiches, which include the Uptown Big Beef Bad Boy and the original Montreal-style Smoked Meat.
Thandi Restaurant offers "East meets West" fusion, featuring Indian dishes like korma and masala for diners who prefer spicy food. There's also a maritime seafood platter for those seeking a sample of the Atlatic.
Java Moose Coffee Roasters is your spot for a cup of joe or a cappuccino. They are a locally owned and operated coffee chain with lunch specials. You can also find Canada-themed gifts and free Wi-Fi.
Stroll down side streets in uptown Saint John to find one-of-a-kind art, books and vintage items. For the beer-lover in your life, snag a memento from Moosehead Brewery. Or, if you prefer more Canada-themed souvenirs, try Java Moose Coffee Roasters, where you can also grab some java.
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