Best Fall Foliage Cruises

Fall Foliage. Photo courtesy ##http://www.freefoto.com/index.jsp##FreeFoto.com, Ian Britton##

CNN.com chose 3 New England sites in their list of the nation’s top budget fall-foliage cruises. Here’s an excerpt:

Casco Bay, Maine

Operating out of South Freeport, Maine—home to the L.L. Bean flagship store—Atlantic Seal Cruises offers passengers the chance to see more than just the changing maple trees. On the nearly three-hour-long outings through Casco Bay, passengers often spot cruisers often spot photo-worthy wildlife like seals basking on the shore, and the crew occasionally hauls up lobster traps along the route to demonstrate how to measure and band the tasty crustaceans.

  • Atlantic Seal Cruises, September 15 – October 31, $35.
  • Timing Tip: Check up on how the leaves are changing at the state’s official fall foliage site, which starts publishing reports September 15.
  • Atlantic Ocean, New England and Canada

Talk about making a splash. With 12 departures this fall, MSC Cruises full-scale ocean voyages cover some of North America’s most spectacular leaf-peeping territory. For its inaugural stateside season, the Europe-based company is sending the 2,550-passenger MSC Poesia between New York and Quebec, with ports of call at Prince Edward Island; Halifax, Nova Scotia; Newport, Rhode Island; Boston, Massachusetts; and Bar Harbor, Maine, to name a few.

  • Select departures in September and October, from $599 (price is for a six-night cruise and includes meals). MSC Cruises.
  • Timing Tip: For updates on foliage around New England, visit Yankee Magazine’s fall foliage chronicles.
  • Budget Travel: Most amazing hotel pools

Connecticut River, Connecticut

It’s only been operating for about 40 years, but the Essex Steam Train and Riverboat package transports passengers straight back to the 19th century. After boarding a vintage railcar at the 1892 Essex Station in Essex, Connecticut, riders sip warm apple cider as the coal-powered train chugs up to Deep River Landing, about four miles north.

  • There, the three-level, 220-passenger Becky Thatcher riverboat waits to take sightseers on a 90-minute cruise from Deep River to East Haddam, providing a spectacular survey of birch, dogwood, sumac, and maple trees — plus the state’s trademark white oaks– along the way.
  • Reserve tickets ahead for weekend trips, which often sell out; typically, colors are at their peak for two to three weeks following Columbus Day (this year that means October 8 to 24).
  • Essex Steam Train and Riverboat, Thursdays through Mondays September 30 – October 25, $26.
  • Timing Tip: Before the “all-aboard!” peruse the state’s foliage reports.

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