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Snap Update, June 21, 2012: I was just in Montreal, and checked out the eye-popping overhaul of the historic Ritz Carlton there–originally designed by Cesar Ritz himself. If you’re looking for a luxe stay, this nicely situated property will deliver. It’s worth walking in just to see the Palm Court portion of the lobby–it’s a national historic landmark.
Below originally published July, 2009:
Montreal may be the most gay-friendly city in North America, and is an increasingly popular start/end point for cruises, with Boston or New York on the other end.
“Fall colors” sailings have become especially popular, and seeing the leaves from the St. Lawrence Seaway is spectacular.
Montrealers pride themselves on their cosmopolitan style and “who cares” attitudes—sort of like the Amsterdam of North America. After generations of repression by the Catholic church, most Montrealers (and people throughout Quebec province) said, “enough.” Today they have very few hang-ups about sex and sexuality. Open relationships—even among straights—are hardly shocking to Montrealers where “swingers” clubs are legal and popular. The city’s gay village is enjoyed by everyone, and in the summer several blocks become a pedestrian-only zone.
Here are three great hotels to make the most of a night or two at the beginning or end of your Montreal, Canada, cruise.
La Loggia Art & Breakfast Editor’s Pick
One of the planet’s more interesting B&B’s, proudly gay-owned La Loggia is a unique combination of lodging, art gallery, and sculptor’s studio. Co-owner and sculptor extraordinaire Joel Prevost is a wealth of knowledge about Montreal, and is fiercely proud of his city’s dedication to culture and the arts. He’s quick to explain an aspect unique to Montreal: their B&B has dual business licenses—one for the B&B and one for the sculptor studio—even though the two share the space. And he’ll point out many other businesses up and down Amherst Street that have the same arrangement: a dentist/art gallery, a florist/restaurant, a bike shop/hair salon. A small, fun gay bar is right next door to the B&B.
The B&B’s five rooms are ultra comfy, and crammed with amazing Canadian art: all of it is for sale. Continental breakfast is served on the property’s back deck. Two of the rooms share a bath; the others have private baths. The hosts don’t service your room unless you ask, reflecting their belief in your absolute privacy. They are, however, generally just a buzzer away.
- Best for: Artsy types who wish to stay in the heart of le Village, Montréal’s gay neighborhood.
- Gay Friendly: Gay owned, straight-friendly. The owners say many straights stay with them because gay properties provide a finer experience.
- Distance to cruise pier: 1.3 mile
- Distance to Montreal Trudeau Int’l Airport (YUL): 13.5 miles
- Secret tip: If you have any interest in sculpture, you might be lucky enough to catch Joel in action—often sculpting the male form. During winter months he teaches at the B&B, and guests are welcome in the studio anytime. During summer, the studio becomes an additional bedroom, and his studio moves a few doors down—but you’re still welcome to go watch.
- Extra touch: “Mop-up towels” carefully placed at each bedside.
Tucked on a side street in Montreal’s “Old Port,” (known locally as Vieux Montréal), the Gault is a gorgeous
boutique property with surprisingly affordable rates. Created from a historic, renovated warehouse, once the centre of a Andrew Gault’s Canadian monopoly on the cotton trade, the Gault’s exterior only shows four floors – in fact, the hotel has five floors, with the top being “set back” to comply with heritage zoning rules. Rooms on the top floor, thus, have fantastic shared balconies and some amazing cityscape views.
Rooms are clean and modern; polished concrete floors (heated floors in the bathrooms!) are softened by cushy rugs, and the piece de resistance is an Italian-made Flou bed, which draws rave reviews. The hotel hasn’t yet upgraded to flat-panel TVs, but with the European charm of Old Montréal right outside the door, there’s no need for TV in the first place. The hotel includes a small gym, and prides themselves on an extensive book-exchange library in the ultra-cool, open-concept lobby.
- Best for: Cruisers who want to stay in style, and affordably, near the pier.
- Gay friendly: Very. As with many Montréal experiences, you’ll think most of the metrosexual staff are gay. We’ll leave it to you to confirm who is and isn’t!
- Distance to cruise pier: 0.5 mile.
- Distance to Montreal Int’l Airport (YUL): 12.5 miles
- Secret tip:This ultra-cool property gives a whole new meaning to “It’s fun to stay at the YMCA.” Amazingly, the first branch of the YMCA in North America was organized on the corner where the hotel stands, way back in 1851.
- Extra touch: Breakfast is included in the small lobby café, which is proud of their evening tapas menu.
This slowly growing luxury Canadian chain (currently there are two, Montreal and
Vancouver, with more planned) smartly presents themselves as the hippest address for the hippest people, and that means hip gays, right? Indeed, the hotel is crawling with gorgeous, metrosexual staffers, and plays host to a number of gay events on a regular basis.
Opus is not exactly in the gay village—but it’s pleasantly situated roughly between the village and downtown, about a 10-minute walk to either. It’s technically at the top of a neighborhood called the Latin Quarter, which includes many fine dining spots.
Rooms at the Opus are not shy—bright colored walls come in a variety of schemes, all coordinating smartly with the consistent gray carpeting. The rooms have a fairly loft-ish feel, and include large flat panel TVs and pampered concierge service.
- Best for: Trendy gays who don’t mind spending a few bucks for the privilege.
- Gay friendly: Very. The restaurant manager is openly gay, and the hotel actively courts the gay market, being host-spot for Montreal’s GLBT chamber of commerce meetings.
- Distance to cruise pier: 1.3 miles
- Distance to Montreal Int’l Airport (YUL): 12.7 miles
- Secret tip: The hotel hosts a gay tea dance on many Sunday afternoons (ask when reserving).
- Extra touch: the hotel’s small gym has a full-time trainer on staff to help ensure you don’t lose your six-pack abs before your cruise, or re-find them after!
Researched & written by Randall Shirley. Disclosure: The editor’s stay at La Loggia was courtesy the B&B and Tourisme Montreal, however the views are his own and remain impartial. Read our full disclosure statement here.
I just completed a cruise.
It was not a luxury cruise, nor was it a cheap cruise. For the same price, about $1,200/person for an inside cabin, there are much nicer ships…especially in the current economy.
But the cruise I took, aboard the MV CTMA Vacancier, is unusual, and I’m curious if any of you have taken a similar “regional speciality” cruise.
The 12,000-ton, 500-passenger Vacancier (French for “holiday maker) sails entirely within Quebec, Canada, traveling a weekly route from Montreal (a glorious destination), up the St. Lawrence River, to its home port of Les Iles de le Madeleine. After a 2-night stop on the islands, the ship returns to Montreal, with day stops on the Gaspe Peninsula and in Quebec City. Most of the passengers are French Canadians, and they happily pay the hefty cruise price to see a tiny group of islands that are legendary in the Quebec culture.
The ship itself is old (circa 1972), and is really just a ferry with upgraded passenger facilities, including a couple of bars, a cafeteria, an evening dining room, and small rooms with exercise equipment and children’s activities. Music is provided by an island singer, or by the ship’s staff crooning to their guitars. The food is sub-par, but the passengers don’t seem to mind. They are quite content to sail within their own waters–a regional staycation, perhaps–viewing shore features they’ve only heard of, such as the giant windmills near Cap Chat or the hole-in-the-rock at Roche Percé.
On board, I met a gay couple, around 30 years old, who live in the Montreal suburbs. When I asked them why they chose this cruise, they shrugged “we’ve always wanted to experience Les Iles de la Madeleine.” It seemed to be the answer of everyone on the boat–gay or straight.
I became table-mates with the couple, and the maitre d’ added a fourth person–a single older woman–to our table. She was straight, but turned out to be the perfect fit. For the two nights we cruised together, we became the ship’s sole “Friends of Dorothy” party. I taught them English words like “shenanigans;” they explained many facets of French Canadian culture to me.
My cruise ended on the Islands where I’m now spending four-nights in a splendid gay-owned B&B, La Butte Ronde. I’ve been treated to dinner by the hosts–one of them, Guy, made his version of the idlands’ signature seafood pie called “pot en pot.” It was crammed full of lobster and scallops, and divinely delicious.
But back to the cruise–I enjoyed sailing to these mysterious islands rather than flying (although I’ll fly back), and I did have a “meet me on board” experience–even if it wasn’t arranged through our site.
Have you ever taken a specialty or regional cruise such as this one? What was your experience? Did you meet fellow gays on board? Share your thoughts!
Hello cruisers. I’m going cruising this week, and doing it on a cruise line you’ve likely never heard of: Groupe CTMA. The cruise sails entirely in Canadian waters, departing Montréal and sailing up the St. Lawrence Seaway to the Magdalene Islands (Les Iles de le Madeleine). While most passengers on the ship will sail round-trip back to Montréal with stops in the Magdalenes, Québec City, and Chandler, I’ll be staying in the islands for several nights at a gay-owned B&B, la Butte Ronde.
I’ll keep you up to date on the experience, but I suspect it will be fantastic. The eye-candy alone in Québec should make it a delightful journey!
I suspect gay cruise passengers do more of these types of trips than anyone knows, on small ships or through ferry companies. A couple of years back I took a cruise in the Arctic on Cruise North – another line most people have never heard of. You can learn more about that experience by clicking here.
Have you ever done a cruise on a little-known cruise line? Share your experience below!
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