Montreal from the deck of "C.T.M.A. Vacancier" — Photo courtesy of Sherel Purcell
CTMA Cruises departs from the Bickerdike Basin Pier near the Old Port of Montreal and provides visitors a glimpse of the city and life along the St. Lawrence River, a glimpse that others rarely see. This departure point is a favorite of filmmakers for its unparalleled views of Montreal en route down the St. Lawrence River all the way to the Magdeleine Islands where another ferry continues on to Prince Edward Island with connections to Nova Scotia via the new Confederation Bridge.
Located three miles from downtown, CTMA Cruises at the Bickerdike Basin Pier is easily accessible via a seven-minute taxi ride, a 25-minute bus ride or a 20-minute cycle along Nazareth Street. From here, a complimentary shuttle whisks passengers to the C.T.M.A. Vacancier.
To the south of this dock sits the manmade Cité-du-Havre Park, which is also home to the architectural wonder/urban housing experiment Habitat 67. This desirable residential complex created by architect Moshe Safdi sits on the site of the Expo '67 world's fair.
Habitat 67 Montreal from "C.T.M.A. Vacancier" — Photo courtesy of Sherel Purcell
On board the C.T.M.A. Vacancier, the crew offers a warm welcome to passengers as they head to the open deck for the best, unobstructed views of Old Montreal.
The ship passes by the Pointe-à-Callière Museum, which details the founding of Montreal, before coming upon her most famous Cathedral – Notre Dame – just ahead of the Montreal Science Centre. Nearby, the soothing sounds of a harp drift by from the floating spa Bota Bota, with its very own meditation gardens.
Montreal's clock tower — Photo courtesy of Sherel Purcell
Other interesting sights include the new Pierre-Dupuy bicycle path that winds its way through open parkland to the tip of Havre City. Further along, the ship passes by Ile Sainte Helene, home of Montreal's artificial beach and Jean Drapeau Park.
On the port side, passengers can see the clock tower, Montreal's answer to Big Ben in London. It's also known as "The Sailors' Memorial Clock," commemorating those who died in World War I. While it's possible to climb the 192 steps to the top, the views are much better from the ship deck.
The last big Montreal attraction visible from the deck is La Ronde, Montreal's largest amusement park. As the ship passes under the Jacques Cartier Bridge, the new, four-story glass and steel tower on the picnic grounds of the revamped Stewart Museum comes into view. The Stewart Museum celebrates the European influence on New France and North America.
La Ronde — Photo courtesy of Sherel Purcell
"The Path that Walks” – an apt description of the St. Lawrence River – was first coined by the Amerindians who lived along the shores of the river. It's also the name of the beautiful linear park just east of Berri Street that provides great views of the river and the port.
Important dates in Montreal’s history are inscribed on the park benches. Inspired by the rail and port industries, the park also informs visitors about the first goods transported on the river; the history of port developments, including the wharfs, berths and terminals; and the efforts to keep the river open throughout the winter.
Musicians aboard a CTMA cruise — Photo courtesy of Sherel Purcell
The cruise leaves Montreal's Bickerdike Pier every Friday at 3 p..m from mid-June to mid-September. While watching for beluga whales and learning about the history of the St. Lawrence region, passengers can sample local spirits, seafoods, fresh salads, soups and homemade pies and cakes popular in Quebec. These are all prepared by chefs from both Montreal and the Magdalen Islands, the termination point.
Popular local singers and musicians cover favorites in several genres, including the folk songs inspired by life along the path that walks throughout Quebec.