Cruises

Preparing for Your Cruise to Quebec

As Canada’s largest province in terms of land, Quebec is a special blend of Canadian, French and Indigenous cultures, thanks to the region’s rich Indigenous history and early French settlers. Before Quebec was explored and settled by French explorers, the area was home to Algonquian, Inuit and Iroquoian people. After a period of struggle between the French and English, the area was officially claimed as “New France,” with Quebec as its seat. The colony grew into what is now a cultural hotspot of fine dining, museums, beautiful scenery and a large Francophone population.

If you’re looking for a diverse cruise destination with scenic views, ample restaurants and shopping and fascinating historical sites, Quebec is waiting for you. Learn more about preparing for a cruise to Quebec, including seasonal considerations and can’t-miss activities.

Table of Content:

Prepare for the Weather

Quebec encompasses more than 15% of the entire country of Canada, so the climate varies depending on which part of the province you’re in. Windstar Cruises visits the southern region, which has milder temperatures. Windstar cruises to Quebec take place during September and October. These months are considered to be the most comfortable and beautiful time to visit the area. 

Your packing list and itinerary will depend on what you plan to do during excursions, but you should never book a cruise to Quebec without these essentials:

  • A comfortable pair of walking shoes
  • Rain gear, including a raincoat, boots and umbrella
  • Your driver’s license if you plan on renting a car for the day
  • A legal ID if you wish to purchase alcohol or drink at a bar
  • High SPF sunscreen
  • A water bottle to stay hydrated on the go
  • Entertainment for downtime onboard, like a tablet, an e-reader or a book
  • Your camera or smartphone
  • A map and guidebook of the area
  • Personal belongings, including your wallet, lip balm and hand sanitizer
  • Ticket and reservation information for local events, if applicable

Summer

Quebec summers are warm and humid, with temperatures generally ranging from the 60s to 70s. This is the province’s busy season — a great time to meet fellow travelers — so prepare for longer lines and busy crowds when you visit. It’s also a fairly wet season, so don’t forget to check the weather before starting your day.

When packing for a summer trip to Quebec, bring along the following:

  • Lightweight layers
  • A light jacket
  • A sun hat or sunglasses
  • Swimwear
  • Sandals and open-toed shoes

Fall

Few places on Earth are as beautiful in autumn as Canada. No matter where you go in the province, you’ll get to see the country’s vivid display of autumnal colors and brisk winds. Some of the most popular places to see the foliage are at Marais du Nord, Mont-Sainte-Anne and Cap Tourmente National Wildlife Area. As temperatures begin to drop, most tourists go home — leaving you with a chilly but gorgeous season and minimal crowds.

If you’re visiting Quebec in the fall, you’re going to need:

  • Warmer layers
  • Walking boots
  • Thick socks
  • A coat
  • Long-sleeve shirts
  • Sweaters

Winter

Winter in Quebec — and most of Canada — is frigid and snowy. It’s the perfect getaway for winter sports enthusiasts, snow lovers and anyone seeking an intimate, cozy trip with a loved one.

Winter must-haves for Quebec cruises include these items:

  • Snow boots
  • A warm hat
  • Water-resistant gloves
  • A scarf
  • An insulated or lined winter coat
  • Hand warmers
  • Thick socks
  • Sweaters
  • Winter sports equipment
  • A thermos to carry warm drinks with you

Spring

Spring in Quebec means three things — low to mild temperatures, rainy days and lots of maple syrup. Spring is the maple harvesting season, so be sure to visit a maple sugar shack to watch how the sap gets transformed into the delectable, sticky syrup we all know and love. While you’re at it, stock up on handmade maple snacks, which you will have no trouble finding in shops and stores across the province. 

Spring weather can be unpredictable, so have the following on hand:

  • A heavy jacket or light coat
  • Warm and lightweight layering pieces
  • Warm gloves
  • A hat
  • Comfortable boots with traction
  • Long sleeve shirts

Plan Your Quebec Itinerary

What does your ideal cruise destination entail? Maybe it’s challenging hikes and breathtaking waterfalls or eating a five-star dinner after shopping at locally owned boutiques. You might enjoy immersing yourself in history and culture or simply relaxing with a good drink and scenic view. Fortunately, Quebec has everything a traveler could want and more. 

As you plan your itinerary, don’t forget to see what local events, shows and festivals might be taking place during your stay and leave plenty of space in your daily schedule for last-minute excursions.

Go Sightseeing

Parks, waterfalls, historical landmarks — there is so much to see in Quebec! Here are some of travelers’ favorite places to go sightseeing:

  • Observatoire de la Capitale: The Observatoire de la Capitale provides a special kind of sightseeing experience — the kind that lets you see several amazing sights from a single, indoor location in one of Quebec City’s largest skyscrapers. The observatory is an immersive experience providing a one-of-a-kind look into Quebec’s current and historical identity with vignettes and modern video projections. 
  • Montmorency Falls: Montmorency Falls at Parc de la Chute-Montmorency in Quebec City is an astounding 272.3 feet high, with rushing white water and a cliffside observation deck or suspended bridge to take it all in. If you want a little exercise with your visit, try the staircase challenge up the falls — just be prepared to climb nearly 500 steps. You can also go ziplining or climb the cliff on your own. Those seeking a more laidback venture can opt for a cable car ride to the top.
  • Place Royale: Take a step back in time at Place-Royale in Quebec City, a picturesque neighborhood full of local crafters selling their creations, as well as boutique stores, art galleries, pubs, eateries and regional specialties. 
  • The Battlefields Park: Learn about Quebec’s famous battles and spend the day surrounded by trees, plains and trails. When you first enter Battlefields Park, stop by the Plains of Abraham Museum to see the exhibitions and learn more about the park. After that, you can make your way outside for a picnic or leisurely stroll. The park hosts several activities and events throughout the year, including a skating rink, skiing and snowshoeing areas, holiday celebrations and games.

When sightseeing, it’s a good idea to bring along a pair of binoculars and a trail map so you know where you’re headed and which overlooks you shouldn’t miss. Some places offer guided walking tours, so you can hear stories about the area while you explore. Windstar offers a Southeast Canada shore excursion that allows guests to learn more about the people of the Huron-Wendat nation and get a more in-depth look at the culture.

Visit Historic Sites

Canada’s history is filled with interesting architecture and famous heritage sites, and most places offer educational tours to help you understand the area’s roots even better. Reserve a guided tour or go on a self-guided journey through Quebec and find these traveler-favorite spots:

  • Toboggan Slide: The Toboggan Slide in Quebec City is a historical site and a fun way to spend the day. See the historic wooden slide that has raced through Dufferin Terrace since 1884. You can watch others take the legendary trek or hop on your own sled before ending the day with a warm meal at the Au 1884 restaurant nearby.
  • Citadelle de Québec: The Citadelle de Quebec marks the history of the Old Quebec fortress, including the notable figures who were stationed there and items commemorating the 22 Regiment. Witness the changing of the guard ceremony, take a religious tour or visit during Noël à la Citadelle, or Christmas at the Citadelle.
  • Gaspésie Museum: Gaspésie Museum in Gaspé has numerous exhibits, archives and collections documenting the area’s maritime history. On the grounds, you’ll also find monuments and sculptures paying homage to the country’s founding, as well as an amphitheater with occasional shows and demonstrations.
  • Basilica Cathedral Notre-Dame de Québec: The Basilica Cathedral in Quebec is a large, neoclassical stone church with opulent golden sculptures and beautiful stained glass windows. It’s also a deeply spiritual place, thanks to the Holy Door, a symbol of moving and transitioning through one’s own life. 

Check your historic site’s website for more information about tickets and hours of operation. These are popular places, so availability may fill fast during the tourist season — reserving ahead of time is a great option whenever possible. Many of Quebec’s historical heritage sites are special places to locals. Always follow all posted guidelines and rules of conduct to ensure a comfortable, respectful experience for all.

Indulge in Delicious Food

Indulge in Delicious Food

Dining in Quebec is something special. Though every restaurant has its own personality, the region has several award-winning eateries and fine-dining establishments. French cuisine is popular here — for obvious reasons — but you would be remiss to forget about Canada’s other favorite foods. Get your fill at these popular Quebec restaurants:

  • Joe Beef: Second place winner of Canada’s Top 100 Restaurants, Joe Beef in Montreal is a Quebec staple. Dine on hearty dishes prepared with top-quality ingredients, inspired by traditional and French cooking. 
  • Chez Boulay: Chez Boulay serves Northern-inspired food with mouthwatering flavors in a cozy setting and an elevated presentation. The menu changes seasonally, but you can always expect local wine, cocktails and expertly prepared seafood.
  • Legénde: Looking for an intimate date-night spot? Legénde is an up-scale eatery focusing on bringing new, imaginative twists to the flavors of the past. Every dish is a sensory experience, focusing not just on taste but also on stylish appearance and tantalizing smells.
  • Toqué!: Toqué! earned the third spot on Canada’s list of Top 100 Restaurants, and that’s largely due to the playful, flavorful dishes inspired by French and Asian culinary traditions. Every meal here is full of unexpected flavor combinations and bright, visually stunning colors in an up-scale setting.
  • Aux Anciens Canadiens: Aux Anciens Canadiens is a historic restaurant located in Maison Jacquet, a large house built circa 1675. Enjoy delicious fine cuisine under the warm lighting in thick-walled rooms with traditional architecture and construction.

Consider reserving a stay on a culinary or microbrewery tour from Windstar for a more immersive food experience. Each tour is designed to let travelers experience the best of the region’s food and drink, with a special focus on how culture and culinary delights intersect.

Go Shopping

Big box stores and outlet malls are a lot of fun, but if you’re taking a cruise to Quebec, the real treasures are in the boutiques, family-owned storefronts and quaint shops scattered throughout the province. Find all the antiques, collectibles, special grocery items, souvenirs and handmade gifts in any of these shopping destinations:

  • Marché du Vieux-Port: Marché du Vieux-Port in Quebec City is an indoor public market with restaurants, markets and souvenir stands. Pick up maple-flavored products during maple season, pack a bag full of regional produce or find edible souvenirs to munch on throughout the rest of your journey.
  • Quartier Petit Champlain: Take a leisurely walk on the stone streets of Quartier Petit Champlain and shop to your heart’s content at any of the dozens of storefronts that line your path. Here, you’ll find art galleries, fashion boutiques, home accessory stores, jewelry stores, handmade crafts, sweets, souvenirs and gifts and several restaurants to fuel up.
  • Île d’Orléans: Île d’Orléans, or Island of Orleans, houses six villages near Old Quebec. Each village is full of heritage sites and businesses, including a prominent agritourism scene and 17th century New France homes. Find souvenirs and one-of-a-kind pieces at art galleries, boutique shops and antique stores.

When packing your cruise luggage, leave plenty of space for those items you’ll purchase when shopping in Quebec. If you’re traveling across the Canada and United States border, be sure to check the list of restricted items and abide by all customs restrictions. 

Spend Time Outdoors

Soak in the sun and scenery on a hike or while visiting a wildlife viewing area. Expect to see some of Quebec’s non-human residents, like deer, moose, caribou, bear and puffins. Some of the best places to connect with nature in Quebec are:

  • Jacques-Cartier National Park: Located in Stoneham-et-Tewkesbury, Jacques-Cartier National Park is a forested, mountainous plateau region with glacial valleys and the rushing Jacques Cartier River. While autumn is an especially beautiful season for the park, it’s a serene place of escape for locals and travelers year round.
  • Parc du Bois-de-Coulonge: Parc du Bois-de-Coulonge gardens and nature walk area is the best place to visit in Quebec if you’re hoping to unwind in a peaceful atmosphere, surrounded by colorful blooming flowers and Canadian plant life. If you visit during the summer, be sure to sign up for a guided tour or visit the interpretation center to learn more about the site’s history.
  • Marais du Nord: Marais du Nord in Stoneham-et-Tewkesbury is a bird watcher’s dream come true. With more than 160 types of birds and numerous mammals and reptiles, you won’t want to forget your camera and binoculars for this destination. See the park from the level footpath or on a canoe or kayak ride along St. Charles Lake. 
  • Cap Tourmente National Wildlife Area: Cap Tourmente National Wildlife Area is near Saint-Joachim and features marshland, vast plains and lush forests, all with a sparkling view of the St. Lawrence River. It’s a great place to go if you want to catch a glimpse of the greater snow geese during their migration or to see some of the area’s historic buildings and farming sites.
  • Forillon National Park: Cliffs, forests, lighthouses, a pebble beach — Forillon National Park in Gaspé is ideal for creatives searching for artistic inspiration, peace-seekers hoping for a respite from the busy city or anyone who wants to pause and reflect in a place teeming with natural beauty. Keep your eyes open, and you may spot a seal or whale from the shore.
  • Whale watching tours: The best time to see a whale is during autumn visits to Quebec City, where you can reserve a spot on a whale watching tour and catch them during their most active period. Bring along warm clothes, as whale watching boats get cold and windy. 

Visit During a Festival

One of the best tips for Quebec cruises is to visit the province during a popular cultural festival. Immersing yourself in the local culture and regional history is an excellent way to better understand and appreciate the sights and destinations around you. One of the easiest and most enjoyable ways to do this is through an annual Quebec celebration.

One popular autumn festival in Quebec is the Les FrancoFolies de Montréal. Les FrancoFolies de Montréal is a festive outdoor 10-day French music festival that consists of more than 200 concerts that take place in the Quartier des Spectacles area of Montréal. 

Snow Sports

Snowsports might be primarily a seasonal activity, but it’s so popular in Quebec that it warrants its own category. Many travelers book Quebec cruises with the sole intent of experiencing the beautiful, snowy mountainsides in places like Mont Sainte Anne and Sentier des Caps de Charlevoix.

Popular snow sports here include:

  • Ice skating
  • Snowshoeing
  • Skiing
  • Snowboarding
  • Snowmobiling
  • Dog sledding
  • Fat biking

When participating in snow sports, always work with a professional guide or agency unless you have experience in the Canadian backcountry. If you’re a beginner, consider enrolling in a group class or private lessons so you can learn some new skills. Most recreational destinations will have equipment available for rent if you don’t want to bring it along on your cruise. Never head out for the day without packing all your winter gear and checking the forecast — you don’t want to get caught in a Quebec blizzard unprepared. 

Book a Windstar Cruise to Quebec Today!

Quebec is a province full of history and culture that you can find everywhere, like the regal architecture, delicious authentic eateries and educational heritage sites. Whether you’re looking to participate in outdoor recreation, attend a festival or reconnect with loved ones in a beautiful setting, a Quebec cruise is an excellent way to spend your vacation. 

Are you ready for your Canadian getaway? Windstar yachts serving just 148 to 342 guests can take you there. Each Windstar ship is beautifully appointed and has a welcoming and unpretentious ambiance, providing you with everything you need for an eye-opening and memorable vacation without any of the crowds and cliché. Dine on our chef-prepared meals, participate in an enrichment program, unwind in a whirlpool or reminisce with your significant other with a cocktail at the Lounge. Our cabins boast luxurious linens, soft lighting and soothing color schemes. Optimize your experience with beverage packages, onboard laundry service, luggage shipping and internet connections to create a trip that suits all of your wants and needs.

Learn more about the Windstar standard and start planning the cruise vacation you deserve.

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