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Canada Cruises

About Canada

The largest country by area in North America, and the second largest in the world after Russia, Canada boasts the world’s longest coastline and the world’s longest border, 5,000 miles, with the US. Sophisticated cities, soaring natural beauty, fertile farmlands and a rich maritime culture tell only part of Canada’s story, a long and stirring history that belies its quiet presence on the world stage.

Canada was first inhabited by First Nations people—mostly the Inuit, or Eskimo. Vikings were the first Europeans to arrive when Norse explorer Leif Eriksson landed at Newfoundland in the year 1000. He and his settlers briefly established a colony, but their stay was short-lived, as winters were harsh.

Several centuries passed before Europeans returned. This time, England and France landed on these shores. In the 16th century, Frenchman Jacques Cartier led two expeditions for his king, which resulted in a settlement in what are today the Maritime provinces. Meanwhile in the west, Russians, Spaniards and others pursued the rich possibilities of the fur trade.

In 1603, another Frenchman, Samuel de Champlain, the “Father of New France,” sailed up the St. Lawrence River and founded Port Royal in the Nova Scotia territory. In 1608, he founded Quebec City and later established a fur-trading post on the island of Montreal.

England and France became intense rivals as each moved to colonize the region. In 1763, after the Seven Years’ War, it was officially handed to Britain under the Treaty of Paris. Colonization by both English and French settlers continued, however, and French customs and culture blossomed, laying the foundation for the joie de vivre that travelers witness here today. Canada was officially formed in 1867 when Britain passed the British North American Acts, which granted Canada the freedom to govern itself.

Canada Lifestyle and Culture

Beginning in the late 19th century, Canada began a policy of open immigration to help develop and grow the country. Because of this, Canada has become a nation of great cultural diversity. Descendants of its First Nations and European populations (French, English, Scottish, Irish and others) are complemented by Indians, Pakistanis and other Asians, making for a vibrant and colorful tapestry.

Canadian people are generally regarded as polite, tolerant and community-oriented. Much of the population closely identifies with the province in which they reside and consider that more important than their Canadian nationality. The province of Quebec, especially, remains closely tied to its French heritage, which is apparent not only in the charming streets of Quebec City’s Old Town but also in the several periods in history during which Quebec has tried to secede from the nation.

The Canadian Maritimes are steeped in a rich Scottish and Irish heritage, the result of the diaspora of Scots from their native Highlands and of the Irish during the Great Potato Famine. One of the more festive traditions that their ancestors brought with them was the ceilidh, a celebration of song and dance with Gaelic origins.

Canada’s northern location on the globe provides it with cold winters. As such, the country’s most popular sports include skiing, snowboarding and ice hockey.

Canada Sights and Landmarks

Canada’s landscapes are vast, unending and wholly breathtaking. Much of the nation is undeveloped wilderness, from forested plains to stark northern tundra. The Rocky Mountains, the Great Lakes and Niagara Falls are among its most magnificent natural wonders. Along the St. Lawrence River, admire dramatic fjords, charming lighthouses and forested shorelines. In addition, you may spot as many as a dozen species of whale in these waters.

Quebec City is Canada’s French-flavored grande dame. Its old fortifications, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, are the only surviving walls of their kind on the continent north of Mexico. Its Old Town exudes all the charms of a quaint French village, and the Dufferin Terrace affords sweeping views of the St. Lawrence River. Montreal, too, is a Canadian gem. With a picturesque island setting on the St. Lawrence, its Old Town evokes the early days of fur trading, rich with stone houses and topped by the inspirational neo-Gothic Notre-Dame Basilica.

Canada’s Maritimes (the provinces of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick) bring to life the nation’s relationship with the sea. Here, former fishing villages and shipbuilding towns are watched over by old British fortresses. Fertile farmlands are kissed by salty air. And charming coastal enclaves invite endless strolls among scenic, picture-perfect vistas.