The Canadian Empress St. Lawrence Cruise
The Canadian Empress St. Lawrence Cruise

The Canadian Empress St. Lawrence Cruise

Cruising the Mighty St. Lawrence River Aboard St. Lawrence Cruise Lines’ Canadian Empress

As the pandemic settled down, I was able to start travelling again. Reluctant to go far from home, I wanted to explore as much of Canada as possible! 

I started my Canadian explorations on a small ship cruise with St. Lawrence Cruise Lines aboard the M/V Canadian Empress. This cruise explores the St. Lawrence River between Quebec City and Kingston, Ontario. My 5-day cruise started from Kingston, stopped at Upper Canada Village and returned to Kingston on the 350 kilometre route. 

map of canadian empress cruise

St. Lawrence Cruise Lines: M/V Canadian Empress

Built in 1981, the M/V Canadian Empress is a three-deck ship that carries 66 passengers. On our sailing there were just 24 passengers. The ship has no elevator, and each floor is accessed using the stairs in the centre of the ship. 

St. Lawrence Cruise Lines’ Canadian Empress

There is a total of 32 cabins on two decks, all with windows that open with a view of the water.

St. Lawrence Deck 

This deck has 24 cabins, and 20 of these cabins each have twin beds, a sink, a toilet, and a shower. The remaining four cabins are larger, and two cabins can accommodate three passengers. There is also a small gift shop on this deck as well. 

Ottawa Deck

screened-in Aft Lounge

The Ottawa deck has eight cabins, which are slightly larger, the Grand Saloon lounge, a dining room, a small library, plus forward and aft outdoor seating areas. When the sun began to set, they added a protective screen to the aft outdoor lounge area to keep the mosquitoes at bay. 

Renovations to the ship in the past four years, including replacing all the windows and a complete overhaul of the Grand Saloon, gave it a wonderfully fresh look with bright white finishes. 

Cabin upgrades included mirrored cabinets over the sink that provided ample storage space for toiletries and small items, as well as two large wooden drawers under the bed. Our cabin on the Ottawa deck was compact, and well-designed with enough shelving and hooks above the beds and drawers under the bed to have everything neatly organized. 

Canadian Empress interior

The Sun Deck

Judi on deck of St. Lawrence Cruise Lines’ Canadian Empress

This deck was my favourite place to relax and enjoy the view on our cruise. There were plenty of deck chairs and loungers and a shuffleboard was in the middle. I enjoyed playing shuffleboard with the other guests. The best time to enjoy the Sun Deck was early morning and late in the afternoon when it was cooler.

Passengers of the Canadian Empress

The Canadian Empress holds 66 passengers, however in 2021, temporary regulations stated that the number of passengers on board was limited to 50. While Americans typically comprise at least 50% of the passengers, the border restrictions during the pandemic prevented Americans from coming to Canada.

Guests ranged in age from their mid forties to their mid nineties, and most were mobile and active. The cruise line makes it clear that passengers must be able to climb three flights of stairs, without having an elevator to assist. 

All 24 passengers were Canadian citizens on our trip, mostly from Ontario and four from western Canada.

St. Lawrence Cruise Lines’ Canadian Empress passengers dining

What is Included in the Canadian Empress Cruise? 

This particular cruise included:

  • All admission fees and guides – including the gratuities
  • As well as house wines, domestic beers & soft beverages with our lunch and dinners. 

Premium wine or cocktail were available at a nominal charge. Tips for staff were optional at the end of the cruise. The suggested tip was $10-$15 per day per guest.

Dining on the Canadian Empress 

All meals were served in the Grand Saloon. Breakfast was from 7 am until 9 am daily. Lunch was at 12:30 pm. And dinner was at 6:30 pm. While we only had one seating on this sailing due to the limited passenger numbers, during normal sailings with full capacity loads, there were two dinner seatings, at 5:30pm and 7:15pm.

The Grand Saloon was a sun-filled room with panoramic windows to watch the scenery. During dinner, it transformed into a more formal atmosphere with tablecloths and candles on each table. 

Guest attire was very casual throughout the cruise. On the last night, a few guests dressed up a little. I got dolled up in a printed silk top and white pants for the last dinner. 

Canadian Empress cocktail hour

Breakfast included fruit and juice, followed by the feature dish of eggs, pancakes, omelettes, bacon, and toast. 

St. Lawrence Cruise Lines’ Canadian Empress breakfast

Lunches would typically have soups, salads, and a sandwich or quiche with a daily choice of dessert. 

Roast Prime of Beef on Canadian Empress

There were two options for dinner each day. Orders were taken for our dinner choice during lunch so the chef could prepare accordingly. Dinners include comfort foods like tender roast prime rib of beef with horseradish, Duck a l’Orange, salmon, sirloin steak, and even a turkey dinner.

turkey dinner on Canadian Empress

And every meal had freshly baked bread and buns with butter. 

dessert on Canadian Empress

The apple and pumpkin pie with whipped cream were hits with most guests.

Onboard the Canadian Empress

While on board the ship, we were required to wear masks as we walked through the indoor pubic areas. We fortunately were not required to wear masks while we were seated in the Grand Saloon for meals and entertainment and on the Sun Deck.

While our mornings and afternoons were dedicated to wonderful excursions in cities and towns, the evenings were spent largely on board where we had live entertainment and played shuffleboard.