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Canada's East Coast and Labrador

Canadian Arctic Cruise

Summary : Embark on an epic journey along Canada's east coast and beyond to the rugged coastline of Newfoundland and Labrador. Start by exploring the islands of Canada’s Atlantic Maritime Province, which feature a rich and diverse culture, found in small fishing communities and remote out ports. The area is well known for its Celtic traditions and the music and cuisine of the region is celebrated the world over. Historically, this is one of the most fascinating places in North America. Your exploration of the Maritimes starts and ends in the historical town of Louisburg on Cape Breton Island. The region offers a staggering abundance of wildlife, including prolific birdlife, numerous seal and whale species and even the fabled ponies of Sable Island. Beaches and lagoons provide viewing opportunities for numerous shorebirds and as you cruise towards the mouth of the St. Lawrence River, hope to see the great baleen whales such as the humpback, minke and blue whale, as well as grey and harp seals. These rich feeding grounds act as a magnet for wildlife. A ship-based exploration allows you to visit places that are otherwise inaccessible or difficult to get to for land-based visitors and achieve this all in a manageable time frame. Daily shore excursions with expert guides, a range of wonderful activities and an inspired dining menu make this an ideal way to experience this enchanting region of Canada.

Travel northwards into higher Arctic latitudes. Subtle changes to vegetation and wildlife species can be noticed and your expert guides will interpret and explain these changes throughout the journey. The region features strong cultural diversity. Encounter the Nunatsiavut people in small communities along the coastline of Labrador. Numerous wildlife species are found along this coastline including bears, seals, whales and both migratory and resident birds. A particular highlight of your voyage is a visit to Torngat Mountains National Park –home to the highest mountains in Canada, east of the Rockies. This is one of the jewels in the crown of the Canadian National Park network. The Inuit have strong cultural and spiritual connections to the land which you will learn about during your visit. Your expedition vessel is the perfect platform for exploring the remote bays and fjords of this spectacular wilderness as many locations can only be accessed by ship. A final highlight awaits as you venture across Frobisher Bay to Monumental Island. This is remote, small-ship expedition cruising at its best.

Activities : Birding, Child-Friendly, Culture, Hiking, Triple/Quad Cabins

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Itinerary
Day 1
Louisburg, Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia

Your adventure begins in the historic port town of Louisburg, Nova Scotia, where you board your expedition vessel. First visited in 1597 by the English, the town was fortified in 1713 by the French in recognition of its strategic maritime location. During the 18th century, Louisburg was the third busiest seaport in North America. Board the ship in the late afternoon in time for a dinner of fresh local lobster as you sail out past the lighthouse into the North Atlantic, and onto the Grand Banks.

Day 2
Sable Island

Located on the edge of the Grand Banks, hundreds of kilometers from the coast, Sable Island has a storied history as a graveyard of ships, with more than 350 ships falling victim to the treacherous currents and sandbars. Sporadically inhabited by sealers, shipwreck survivors and salvagers, the island is now home to fewer than six year-round inhabitants, a herd of Sable Island ponies and one of the largest gray seal colonies in the world. It is an important stopover for numerous migratory bird species as they make their way to and from the High Arctic region. Sable Island is one of Canada’s newest national parks and the long sand beaches are best explored on foot.

Day 3
Cape Breton

Heading into the mouth of the St Lawrence River, you will commence your exploration along the north-central coast of Cape Breton. The Bird Islands are home to a number of important species including the great cormorant, Atlantic puffin, Atlantic razorbill, black-legged kittiwake; and are known as an important feeding area for Cape Breton’s population of bald eagles. Plan to cruise in the Zodiacs and hike onshore during your daily shore excursions, all in the company of your expert guides.

Day 4
Gulf of St. Lawrence

Sculpted out of sandstone, the remote islands of the Gulf of St. Lawrence are home to unique fishing communities with beautifully maintained waterfront houses and boats, and flowing grassy plains. In addition to the traditional fishing and sealing culture found in the islands, you will encounter a wide diversity of bird life along the beaches and lagoons. Europeans first discovered the islands in the mid-15th century, though it’s thought indigenous Mi’kmaqs have been visiting for centuries to hunt walrus. Quebecois and Acadian culture runs strongly through the towns and villages of the islands, through local cuisine, craft and language.

Day 5
Bonaventure Island

At Bonaventure Island you will drop anchor near the town of Perce and visit the island by Zodiac. This location has a rich natural, historic, and geological heritage. Sculpted by time and the sea, the island is situated at the tip of the Gaspe Peninsula. Its outstanding flora and fauna, including its famous colony of Northern Gannets, make it a must-see location. Almost 300 different species of birds have been recorded as visiting, migrating to, or living here.

The island's gentle terrain is a cyclist's paradise, while the sea kayaking and stand up paddle boarding through sea arches and into sandstone sea caves is superb. Otherwise, you might enjoy a whale-watching cruise in the zodiacs or head to the beach to soak up some sun and build sand castles!

Day 6
Anticosti Island

At the mouth of the St. Lawrence River where the river water mixes with Arctic waters from the Strait of Belle Isle and the more temperate Atlantic waters, Anticosti Island is rich in marine wildlife. Hike along the beaches near the eastern end of the island followed by a zodiac cruise along the cliffs at East Point. Keep your eyes open for shorebirds and seabirds as well as whales and seals, which are frequent visitors to the island's waters.

Day 7
Gros Morne National Park and Woody Point, Newfoundland

Sailing into Bonne Bay, in the heart of Gros Morne National Park, the cliffs soar up out of the water and are covered in a green blanket of tuckamore forest. At Woody Point you will be welcomed ashore by a delegation from the community before hiking up to the excellent interpretation centre. From there, various guided walks take you into the World Heritage-listed Tablelands and to the lookout for a view over much of the park – a spectacular experience!

Day 8
Francois

The community of Francois on the south coast of Newfoundland was settled in the late 1700s. Small boat fishers harvested a variety of species during the summer fishing season. Francois’s rich fishing heritage also included operation of a whale factory in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Known as an ‘out - port’, and accessible only by boat or from the air by helicopter, Francois has a deep harbor which is navigable year round. When entering Francois harbor, you will first be greeted by one of the few remaining manned light stations anywhere on the coast of Newfoundland. Once past the light, the narrow opening leading into the steep, walled rocky fjord will amaze you. This is a spectacular location and for many, a highlight of the trip.

Day 9
Sainte-Pierre et Miquelon, France

Saint - Pierre et Miquelon are a small group of islands situated off the south coast of Newfoundland. They were first settled by the French in the early 17th century and today, the islands represent the sole remaining vestige of France’s once vast North American empire. Walking down the streets feels like taking a stroll through a provincial French town. As a part of France, the area has much in common with Europe, but also with its Canadian and American neighbors. There's an excellent puffin colony here and, if weather permits, you will cruise in the zodiacs to see these colorful birds. Tonight you will enjoy a special dinner attended by the Captain to mark the end of your voyage through Canada’s spectacular Atlantic provinces.

Day 10
Louisbourg, Nova Scotia

Sail back to Cape Breton across the mouth of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, heading again for the historic port of Louisbourg. Some passengers will depart today, while new ones will join you for the journey to Labrador and Torngat.

Your ship will depart in the late afternoon in time for a dinner of fresh, local lobster as you sail out past the lighthouse, into the North Atlantic, and on to Newfoundland and Labrador.

Day 11
Gros Morne National Park and Woody Point, Newfoundland

This morning you are anchored off the tiny fishing community of Trout River, the access point into Gros Morne National Park. Your zodiacs will take you ashore and you will be transferred by bus for a visit to the UNESCO World Heritage site the Tablelands. This incredible location is noted for its unique geology and exceptional scenery. Here, the Earth’s mantle is exposed on the surface – pushed up over millions of years by the movement of tectonic plates. You will explore the boreal wetland landscape, featuring dramatic rock ridges, pitcher plants, white-throated sparrows and may encounter the iconic moose as you explore the park. Continuing north through the park you will enjoy a visit to the Discovery Center, before arriving at Woody Point located in majestic Bonne Bay. You'll meet the ship here, before re-boarding in the afternoon to continue your voyage northwards.

Day 12
L'anse aux Meadows, Newfoundland

Today tells a story a thousand years in the making. Start the day by boarding a short cruise to the rocky shoreline. A millennium ago, Viking long ships would have been found along this same beach. L’Anse aux Meadows is one of Canada’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites. This is where Norseman, Leif Erikson, (son of Eric the Red) - is thought to have founded “Vinland” around 1000 AD. As you explore the reconstructed sod huts and Norse ruins with the site’s resident archaeologist, you will see evidence that the Vikings discovered North America some five hundred years prior to the arrival of Christopher Columbus. This evening you will leave the coastline of Newfoundland, crossing the Strait of Belle Isle overnight.

Day 13
Battle Harbour, Newfoundland

Battle Harbour marks your arrival into the province of Labrador. The location was one of the first British settlements on the east coast of the Americas. It was an important gateway to the rich Labrador fisheries. You will venture ashore to explore the restored fishing, whaling, commercial buildings found in this remote community. The colorful buildings make for fantastic photographic subjects amid the backdrop of breathtaking coastal views.

Day 14
Hopedale, Newfoundland

The ancient rocks of the Canadian Shield (the exposed portion of the Earth’s crust) cradle the small coastal hamlet of Hopedale. This remarkable geological feature, estimated to be up to 4 billion years old, greet you as you sail through narrow channels and weigh anchor off Hopedale. You will venture ashore by zodiac to visit the Hopedale Moravian Mission – built in 1782 and said to be the oldest building east of Quebec. It’s a fascinating place to learn about the influence of the early Moravian missionaries on the Inuit people of Northern Labrador. This location has been designated a Canadian National Historic Site. You will visit a local museum for a deeper insight. The local Inuit produce wonderful carvings and other crafts which make memorable souvenirs.

Day 15
Hebron, Newfoundland

Today you will enjoy a visit to the historic town of Hebron, once the northernmost settlement in Labrador. The Moravian missionaries established Hebron in the early 1830’s and the Germanic influence is clearly seen in the architecture. The Mission was closed and the local Inuit families relocated in 1959 but the original buildings still stand today. This is another designated National Historic Site and is considered one of the most historically significant mission - built structures in the entire province. We will hope to meet Buddy and Jenny, Nunatsiavut Government ambassadors, who have been looking after the historic site for years. They have a fascinating story to tell.

Day 16
Torngat Mountains National Park, Labrador

This morning you will sail into Saglek Fjord, the southern gateway to the Torngat Mountains National Park Reserve, established in 2005. The Park is bordered by Quebec on one side, and the Labrador Coast on the other. It is home to Canada’s highest mountains east of the Rockies, and features breathtaking fjords, remnant glacial systems and stunning landscapes. The Inuktitut word 'Torngat', means “place of spirits” and the Torngat Mountains have been home to Inuit and their predecessors for over 7500 years. These mountains represent a very spiritual connection to the Inuit spirit world. Polar bears hunt seals along the coast, and both the Torngat Mountains and George River caribou herds cross paths as they migrate to and from their calving grounds. Inuit continue to use this area for hunting, fishing, and traveling throughout the park during the year. There are some terrific hiking opportunities here. Explore the area on foot and along the shoreline in the zodiacs. Wildflowers are spectacular when in bloom and bears feast on local berries found among the grasses on the raised beaches along the shores of the fjords.

Day 17
Nachvak Fjord, Labrador

Nachvak Fjord is exceptionally beautiful. The fjord is deep and narrow and stretches more than 12 miles. The rocky walls of the fjord soar almost 3,000 feet above you at several points. Many species migrate through the area during the short boreal summer. Numerous seal species may be encountered including ring, hooded, harp and harbor seals. Minke whales have been known to linger in the fjords, while larger species, including fin and humpback, tend to stay offshore. This is an outstanding location for landscape photography with endless subjects, a dynamic color range interesting lighting.

Day 18
Button Islands, Nunavut

As you reach the far northern stretches of coastal Labrador, you will learn of the remarkable events at Martin Bay. Here a German U-boat made the only known armed landing in North America during WWII. In 1943, U-537 sat at anchor here, while the crew manhandled ashore and established an automated weather station. This station remained undiscovered until the late 1970s when a German historian came across a reference to it in the German naval archives. The equipment was collected by the Canadian Coast Guard in the early 1980s and is on permanent display in the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa. Later in the day you will visit the Button Islands before sailing into southern Davis Strait. Named after Thomas Button who explored the area in 1612, the islands are in the middle of the upwelling of nutrients on the edge of the continental shelf. This action makes it a magnet for thousands of seabirds and other marine mammals.

Day 19
Monumental Island, Nunavut

Today you will sail across the mouth of Frobisher Bay and make landfall on Monumental Island, a small, steep-sided outcrop off the southeast coast of Baffin Island. Here you will be on the lookout for both polar bears and walrus that live around the island in an uneasy truce. While polar bears have been known to attack and kill young walrus they are no match for a fully grown male walrus, especially in the water. You will then enjoy your final zodiac cruise here. In the evening, reflect on the last 10 days of exploration while enjoying a sumptuous farewell dinner, attended by the captain of the ship. During the night the ship will negotiate the narrow channels of Frobisher Bay on the way to your disembarkation point, Iqaluit, the capital city of Nunavut.

Day 20
Iqaluit, Nunavut

Bid farewell to your crew and disembark the ship by zodiac. If time and tides permit, take a short tour of Iqaluit before transferring to the airport for your flight back to Ottawa. On arrival in Ottawa, an airport transfer will be provided to a central downtown location.

Notes

Specific sites visited will depend on ice and weather conditions experienced and the itinerary will be updated throughout the voyage in order to take advantage of favorable conditions. ExpeditionTrips is not responsible for itinerary changes.

Medical Documentation: Once you have booked your voyage, you will be required to complete a Medical Information Form. This form must be completed, signed and returned no later than 90 days prior to departure.

Bicycling: Included
Bikes, helmets, high visibility vest, and guides are included. A range of guided bike excursion options are available.

Photographer in Residence: Included
The photographer in residence provides presentations, critiques, informal instruction, and a photographer zodiac to assist with each passenger's photographic goals.

Sea Kayaking Option: $695 per person; pre-booking required. 
Limited to 16 passengers. Guests will be accompanied by 3 kayak guides. Both single and double kayaks are available. This activity requires previous experience and must be booked in advanced. There is no option to book once onboard. Please contact ExpeditionTrips for details and booking information.

Stand Up Paddle Boarding: Included
A fleet of stand up paddle boards are available for passenger use.

Trekking/Hiking: Included
A range of guided hiking options are available for passengers, from contemplative, relaxing shore walks to two-to-three hour treks with challenging terrain.

Special Family Departure:
This is a special family-friendly voyage. There will be hands on activities in the field with binoculars and journals provided, a miniature laboratory, and social events including a movie night with popcorn, a game night, and on deck wildlife identification. Families can expect to learn about the early explorers during their voyage, see hundreds of seabirds, have the chance to spot pods of whales and seal colonies and take trips by zodiac to get up close to wildlife and also visit traditional communities within the region. Children will receive a membership to the Young Explorers Club, an embroidered badge and certificate, and specialized pre-departure information.

Mandatory Insurance:
All guests are required to have comprehensive travel insurance which must cover accidents, injury, illness and death, medical expenses, including any related to pre-existing medical conditions, emergency repatriation (including helicopter) and personal liability. It must cover cancellation, curtailment and loss of luggage and personal effects. You must carry proof of insurance with you and produce it if requested by expedition staff. The expedition team reserves the right to cancel or suspend your participation on a trip or in certain activities that comprise part of a trip, at any time, including after the commencement of your tour, with no right of refund, if you are unable to provide proof of insurance when requested.

Included:
Accommodations onboard; meals; complimentary tea and coffee 24 hours per day; shore excursions; services of guides and naturalist staff; access to multimedia room and download stations; use of onboard expedition rubber boots; use of wet weather gear; transfers as applicable, kayaking; stand-up paddle boarding; cycling.

Not Included:
International airfare; charter airfare where applicable; pre- and post-cruise hotel nights; passport and visa fees; excess baggage charges; airport taxes; travel insurance; all gratuities; extra meals; items of a personal nature such as laundry, drinks; medical expenses; optional activities and trips.

Photos: © Barrett & MacKay, © Ira  Meyer, © Jocelyn Pride, © Kyle Marquardt, © Parks Canada, © Tony Beck

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