Explore New England cruise ports with quaint towns, picturesque parks and fabulous food.
While Canada’s exciting and diverse cruise ports entice discerning cruisers, New England cruise ports offer incredible food, plenty of natural attractions, charming towns and worthwhile outdoor activities.
With a shorter cruise season – typically from April to October – cruise lines pack a full itinerary to visit as many New England cruise ports as possible on a single cruise.
You can visit cities steeped in U.S. history, explore national parks, bike along rugged coastlines and relax at quaint cafés. If brushing up on history and indulging in a freshly baked pie piques your interest, then New England cruise ports should be on your travel list.
Read on to discover my pick of not-to-be-missed New England cruise ports.
Bar Harbor is one of the few New England cruise ports that requires all cruise ships to anchor offshore. Popular cruise lines, including Holland America Line and Regent Seven Seas, deploy tenders (lifeboats) to ferry guests between the cruise ship and the harbor.
Located on Mount Desert Island, Bar Harbor was once the summer refuge of the rich and famous. Today, Bar Harbor attracts visitors with its spectacular mountains, lakes, cliffs and beaches. It’s a totally walkable town, if that’s what you prefer to do.
During your visit, take an excursion into Acadia National Park and head to Cadillac Mountain. Or spend time in downtown Bar Harbor for shopping and a bite to eat before heading back to meet the tender to your ship.
Newport, Rhode Island
Many smaller cruise ships include Newport on their New England itineraries. Almost everyone has heard of Newport, once nicknamed the “American Versailles.” the glamorous mansions of the Vanderbilts, the Astors and the Morgans line Bellevue Avenue. Visitors still marvel at the opulence and splendor of a bygone era. Your cruise ship may offer the option to purchase tour tickets onboard.
While you’ll likely want to tour at least one of the storied mansions, other activities could include exploring Rose Island Lighthouse and strolling along the Cliff Walk. This dramatic promenade extends for 3.5 miles and bisects the backyards of the mansions on Bellevue Avenue and the rocky Atlantic coastline.
For history lovers, Boston is a treasure trove filled with storied landmarks, an immense library, public park and a heritage that extends back hundreds of years. Today, cruise lines such as Holland America, Princess Cruises and Cunard Line offer itineraries to Beantown. Cruise visitors can step back in time as they walk the city’s cobbled streets and gaslight districts.
Walk or hop on a trolley to explore Boston’s famous Freedom Trail. Then head to Little Italy for delicious homemade cannoli and coffee.
Many cruise lines offer shore excursion outside of Boston, too. Visit Salem, home of the 1692 witch trials and the Salem With Museum. Try a walk through the ivy-covered grounds of Harvard University in nearby Cambridge.
Nestled in Casco Bay, Portland is a popular stop among New England cruise ports. Cruise lines that visit Portland include Oceania and Holland America Line.
The birthplace of America poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Portland prides itself on its beautiful Victorian brick homes, storefronts and museums. Downtown Portland, located just steps away from the cruise ship terminal, impresses visitors with its 19th-century buildings at the Old Port Exchange.
Read more: A savory day in Portland, Maine
Stop at the Wadsworth-Longfellow House and explore the poet’s childhood home. Even better, two classic New England small towns brimming with Victorian mansions and colorful fishing boats – Kennebunkport and Yarmouth – are just a short drive away.
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I’m the editor and creator of CruiseMaven.com, a solo traveler cruising the world on waves and wheels. I hope my articles and photos entertain, advise and inspire you to travel the world without flying. Take a breath… stop for a meal and a glass of wine along the way.