Quebec, QC, Canada

Sailing into Quebec City you arrive at the oldest inland port in Canada, just minutes from the city center. As you head inland to explore the Old Town, you begin to sense a unique history and romance.

The only fortified city in North America, Old Quebec is a true one-off. There’s nowhere quite like it in Canada, or maybe anywhere in the world.

The architecture is thoroughly European and remains untouched by time. The district is best explored on foot so as not to miss any gems. The city walls are close to three miles in length and the cliff-top location is a perfect vantage point to view the distinctive cityscape which spans 300 years.

The “Star Shaped Citadel” has the characteristic form of Vauban fortifications, and in summer the Changing of the Guard ceremony is a fantastic spectacle. The regimental band, complete with its “Batisse the Goat” mascot, are inspected by the officers. Dressed in formal scarlet uniforms with tall bearskin hats, the ceremony is much like that at Buckingham Palace, London, on which it is based.

Wander up Rue Saint-Paul where a host of galleries and some very tempting antique shops will lure you in. The magnificent period buildings are an attraction in themselves and look magical in the winter when covered in snow. When you are in need of refreshment there are plenty of bistros and cozy cafés to rest and refuel.

You will certainly need refreshment if you decide to climb the 59 “Breakneck Stairs” which link the upper and lower town. For a less strenuous trip to the top, take the funicular. It is worth the journey as it brings you to the Petit Champlain quarter.

This district is magically quaint and a must-see for visitors. The one-of-a-kind boutiques are the perfect place to stock up on souvenirs from your cruise to Quebec City. You cannot miss the remarkable trompe-l’oeil murals on the walls of Soumande House near the Palace Royale. Depicting the city’s history and characters, the frescoes are relatively modern and breathtaking in their detail. They are so lifelike that you will believe people are waving to you from open windows, but it is all a “trick of the eye.”

The St. Lawrence River is a huge presence cutting right through the city. Near the bridge that spans the river, the Aquarium du Quebec is a watery playground for more than 300 different species of animals, fish and reptiles. The huge site spans 39 acres, indoors and out, and is a fabulous way to view the indigenous species of the ocean and river.

Polar bears, walruses and seals frolic in the outdoor park to enchant you with their antics. In the 92,500-gallon tank seahorses, rays, jellyfish and other exotic species will intrigue you from this natural environment. It is like diving into the Pacific without getting wet.

You will find plenty of traditional, sweet treats in Quebec City. “Poor Man’s Pudding” is a delicious cake, served warm and topped with a sticky, syrupy sauce – scrumptious. To complete your sugar rush “Sugar Pie” is a single-crust open tart filled with creamy sweet custard, sometimes flavored with maple syrup. A walk back to ship will work off the extra calories so you may give yourself permission to indulge.