Looking for a different way to discover Montreal? Maybe Le Bateau-Mouche au Vieux Port de Montréal is the answer. Here are ten reasons why a dinner cruise had me cruising merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily down (and up) the St-Lawrence River…
#1. It’s a floating restaurant and terrasse. While this is clearly not Jay-Z and Beyonce’s super-yacht, it’s a chichi affair. Dinnertime departure is at 7 p.m., but guests are invited to arrive as soon as 6:15 p.m. at Jacques Cartier Pier. So get there early to enjoy a glass of bubbly before anchor’s up.
#2. The (non-enforced) dress code makes for a nice excuse to clean up and look your sartorial best. This is not the place to pull out your deck shoes, shorts and tank tops. My BF insisted on wearing jeans, a collared shirt, and a jacket, whereas I arrived in a cocktail dress and heels – and we both fit in just fine. Even the staff dress-up in black tie, if that’s any indication on how to align your outfit for the evening.
#3. Get a different perspective of the city’s skyline. Whether you’re a newbie to Montréal or you live here like I do, you’ll see the city from a fresh viewpoint. The window-to-window Salle Panoramique (or the open deck on the upper level called the Chic Terrasse) is basically unobstructed.
You’ll see the Cirque du Soleil yellow and blue striped tent up close, and from a distance the Place Ville Marie building (the tallest) and the Aldred (think: mini-version of the Empire State Building), just to name a few. If you co-ordinate your dinner with the fireworks festival, the pyrotechnics explode above you.
#4. A star chef conceived the dinner menu. Louis-François Marcotte is a local version of Jamie Oliver. He’s opened a bunch of restaurants in town (Le Local, Simpléchic, and Le Hangar – although he sold his shares last March), as well, he’s on TV, is the author of cookbooks, etc. The food is a little pricey for what it is, but, remember, you’re also paying for the scenery and the overall experience. Plus the bill includes taxes, tips, and entertainment (see #6). You can see what I ate here.
#5. The scenery along the river is pretty. While this isn’t the Seine River in Paris, there are several lovely moments that are definitely photo-worthy: passing the thrilling 360-degree roller-coaster tracks at La Ronde, the architectural gem Habitat ’67, and the Jacques Cartier bridge, under which you’ll sail.
#6. You’re not the first to travel these waters. There’s a lot of history to take in. Fun factoid: the Jacque Cartier bridge was originally called the Harbour Bridge (very original, I know), but was renamed in honour of Jack to commemorate the 400th anniversary of his first trip along the St-Lawrence River. The boat also goes past the beautiful waterside homes of Boucherville, which was founded in 1667 and is one of the ten oldest cities in the province of Québec (Montréal was in 1642, Québec City in 1608).
#7. Enjoy live musical entertainment. Different musicians perform on different nights. To book a night with your preferred artist check the calendar here where you can even get a sound byte of their style. On the night I was there, we had Paul Millette, a jazzy-bluesy guitarist.
#8. This is a place for celebration. But don’t be forced into thinking you have to be feting some kind of milestone. While there are quite a few out-of-towners along just for the ride, you’ll see that a majority of the people on board are office get-togethers, circles of friends, or families toasting an anniversary. A couple sitting across from us (whom I later found out was from Boston) was particularly cute. The husband surprised his wife when the waiters came to sing happy birthday at their table, which turned into a sing along for everybody on-board.
#9. It’s a place for grown-ups. I didn’t see any kids on my boat. Considering you’re all dressed-up, paying per plate and the boat returns around 10 p.m., I wouldn’t recommend this activity for the little ones. Plus, your average teen might get bored, especially if they lose their Internet connection somewhere along the waves.
#10. At night they turn on the tiny little lights. The cruise is about three hours, so by the time you’re heading back, the sun has gone down and the atmosphere can be magical, even romantic if you’re into that lovey-dovey kind of stuff. You’ll see the skyline one more time, this time glittering with lights. If the stars are out, you’ll be doubly impressed.
Le Bateau-Mouche, Boarding dock at the Jacques-Cartier Pier, 1 (800) 361-9952