Sydney, NS, Canada

Off the east coast of Canada lies a group of large islands that make up the region of Nova Scotia. The port of Sydney is at the end of a long waterway to Canada’s ocean gateway to Cape Breton Island.

Sydney is the historic capital and the largest urban conurbation of Cape Breton. The stunning coastline and panoramic vistas will make you gasp at their magnificence. But for those who enjoy a more urban experience, the city itself will not disappoint.

When you disembark at the port, prepare to stand back in amazement as you are confronted by the world’s largest fiddle, “Fidheal Mhor A’ Ceilidh.” Make sure you have your camera ready for a photo with this giant icon before you begin your onshore adventure. The fiddle carries two messages, a reminder of the cultural concerts and performances held regularly in the Joan Harris Cruise Pavilion where it stands over 50 feet high, and it's a nod to the Celtic ancestry of the area.

For a more in-depth experience of the local culture, you could walk around the colonial town of Old Sydney. Intriguing sites include St. Patrick’s, the oldest Roman Catholic Church in Cape Breton, Cossit House, built in 1787, and Jost House, also built in the 18th century. While walking from site to site, you will find the homemade refreshments in the local cafés make for a welcome pit stop.

On the beautiful lakes of Bras d’Or, in the nearby village of Baddeck, is the Alexander Graham Bell Museum. Bell visited here in 1885 and fell in love with the landscape because it reminded him so much of his Scottish homeland. He returned the following year and built his summer residence, Beinn Bhreagh (Beautiful Mountain), a haven for him and his family. He and his wife are actually buried on the site. The house is still a private residence owned by the family and can be seen from the grounds of the museum. Exhibits include many genuine artifacts donated by his descendants.

Centuries ago, Celts from both Ireland and Scotland crossed the sea to make their home in Nova Scotia which translates as “New Scotland.” To this day, fiddle and pipe playing, Irish folk songs and ceilidh dancing are part of the Cape Breton culture. The informal gatherings of song, music, dance and storytelling are a regular occurrence to keep the community’s historical Celtic roots alive.

There are almost 5000 miles of coastline in Nova Scotia, so it is hardly surprising to learn that it has some of the most stunning beaches in the world. Sea birds abound in their thousands and more than 12 species of whales visit throughout the summer and autumn. During your cruise you may even spot finback and minke whales as well as dolphins.