Consumer requests for Canada / New England cruises are surging to all-time highs, according to Heidi Allison Shane, spokeswoman for CruiseCompete.com, a Web site where consumers compare competing offers for cruise vacations. She attributes the popularity of cruising the eastern seaboard among CruiseCompete.com users to a number of reasons, most notably:

Whale Watching

Interested in a possible up-close encounter with a majestic 50-foot, 40-ton creature?

According to the World Wildlife Fund, the coast of Massachusetts is one of the Top 10 whale-watching spots in the world.  Watching whales and other frolicking mammals from your cruise ship balcony will take your breath away.  There also are a number of port excursions that focus on whale watching.

Travelers have the opportunity to see eight species of toothed whales, including beluga, long-finned pilot, killer, northern bottlenose and sperm whales, as well as a variety of porpoises and dolphins.  Baleen whales in the St. Lawrence include minke, humpback, northern right, fin and blue whales.

On-Board Naturalists

Many of the cruise ships and excursion companies offer experienced naturalists who provide onboard interpretation on the habits of the whales and other wildlife being encountered at sea, enriching the experience even further for guests.  Other educational and learning programs are offered as well, that highlight the people and places along the voyages.

Lovely Destinations

Gorgeous summer days and beautiful autumn landscapes and foliage make for breathtaking splendor while visiting historic cities of New England and coastal Canada.  Ports of call include Bar Harbor, Maine; Boston; Martha's Vineyard; Newport, R.I.; New York City; Corner Brook, N.F.; Halifax and Sydney, N.S.; Montreal; Quebec City, Quebec; Saint John, N.B; and other interesting locales with rich histories dating back centuries to the discovery of the New World.

Great Food and Drink

Nobody leaves New England with an empty stomach.  Steamed and boiled dishes are the region's specialty.  Seafood obviously is a favorite, including a multitude of dishes featuring lobster, crab and clams.  (The east coast features a variety of tasty and filling chowders and crab cakes galore.) Atlantic seafood dishes are hugely popular in the Canadian ports, as well, and the regional cuisine of Quebec is legendary.  Maple syrup is harvested across the eastern seaboards of both countries.  There also are a number of award- winning breweries and brewpubs in both New England and Canada, as well as a variety of local vineyards worth visiting during port stops.

Unique Cultural Experiences

The old world meets the new in many of the cities and villages included on

the itineraries of Canada/ New England cruises.   Unique peoples and

traditions abound on both sides of the national border, many of which are centered on the sea and living off the hard-scrabble land.  The roots of these communities date back centuries to the first hardy settlers who visited North America from a number of European countries.

Short Drives

For many east coast cruisers, no plane ride is needed to reach the port of embarkation for a Canada/ New England voyage.  Regular departures are offered from Boston; Montreal; Quebec; New York City; Norfolk, Va.; Baltimore; and Bayonne, N.J.  The Port of Baltimore recently received Royal Caribbean International's worldwide "Best First Turn" award for customer satisfaction.  The honor recognizes a passenger's pre-board experience at a cruise port.

Substantial Deals on Several Cruise Lines Carnival, Crystal Cruises, Holland America, NCL, Norwegian, Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean and Seabourn all specialize in voyages along the eastern seaboard, with stops at a number of picturesque cities and locales.  Rates for 7-day cruise rates range from $449 for an inside cabin to $5,000 and more for a luxury suite.

Princess is offering a seven-night Canada / New England cruise, embarking August 31, for a great rate of $734 per person. The cruise travels roundtrip from New York City, with stops in Halifax, Saint John, Bar Harbor, Boston and Newport.  More New England / Canada voyages can be found in the specials area on CruiseCompete.com: