Chronological / Destinations / Hotels & Resorts / Maine / United States

A Windowless Arrival into Charming Portland, Maine

Harbor in Downtown Portland, Maine
Harbor in Downtown Portland, Maine

If you’ve ever booked an inside stateroom, you know that it is similar to living in a walk-in closet, with a few conveniences. For my autumn New England/Canada cruise to Quebec City, I experienced fourteen days in a windowless room.

Some people actually say that they prefer an inside stateroom. Their sentiments range from, “I’m never in the room anyway,” to “Nothing like an inside stateroom for a great afternoon nap.” If someone were to give them a balcony stateroom, I wonder if they would refuse it, saying that it would interfere with their daily snooze.

Televisions on almost every cruise ship have at least one channel devoted to a live camera broadcasting 24/7 with a view to the outside. On this ship, it is a Bridge Cam.

Here’s my trick to surviving without a window. I keep my TV turned on to the Bridge Cam overnight, without the sound. Then, as dawn approaches, my stateroom is flooded with “sunlight.” The horizon is visible on the screen and I have a virtual window.

This morning, my “window” foretold of a beautiful fall day in the Northeast. The sun was shining, and although the temperature was hovering around forty-five degrees, with a bit of skillful layering of clothes, it was sure to be a perfect autumn afternoon.

Downtown Portland, Walking Distance to the Port, Portland, Maine
Downtown Portland, Walking Distance to the Port

Downtown Portland is just steps from the port. While there are wonderful shore excursions into the countryside, I like to get familiar with the city centers. In Portland, you simply exit the security area, turn left and start walking. My biggest decision for the day was where to sample the local lobster and chowder.

One of the best ways to find good eats is to ask a local. I make a point of buying something at a local store and then at check-out, ask for a suggestion for lunch. This time, I was directed to Gilbert’s, a small hole-in-the-wall on Commercial Street, just a couple of blocks from the port. As I anticipated, everyone sounded like the Gorton’s fisherman. I knew I was in the right place.

The lobster roll ($13.95) was piled high with fresh lobster. My seafood chowder (a mere $4.50) was overloaded with shrimp, scallops, white fish and more lobster.

While enjoying my lunch at the counter, I struck up a conversation with a couple of the customers and the counterman. I spent an hour listening to local banter and shared my cruise itinerary with those who were in disbelief that we were headed to Quebec City by the end of the week. There could be snow across the deck when we docked there.

Seafood chowder at Gilbert's, Portland, Maine
Seafood chowder at Gilbert’s

Next stop, Halifax — also located right in the heart of downtown. Hopefully, as in Portland, the last of autumn’s colorful foliage will still be visible.

If you are headed to Portland, Maine, via cruise ship, don’t feel compelled to sign up for every shore excursion. Simply exit the small port and leisurely stroll through the downtown area. Sample a “real” New England seafood lunch. Shop for unique “Made in Maine” handicrafts and hand-knit woolens.

When choosing your Canada/New England cruise, try to find one that includes Portland, Maine. It is one of the nicest American ports of call — friendly, accessible and delicious.


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