Written by Jonathan Brouillette on 04.07.17

There was a time when a cruise on the St-Lawrence was no more than a 2nd rate dinner on a small boat with no more amenities than a lousy restaurant. Over the last years however, Croisieres AML have been revolutionizing Montreal’s night cruise options substantially. Recently, the Cavalier Maxim was refurbished and the beautifully modern ship was opened to a flurry of Montreal natives to experience the Red Carpet experience ($170) that is currently available to everyone.

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The Red Carpet experience begins with priority boarding and champagne welcome on the front deck of the boat. The spacious area has several seating areas with a DJ at the head, spinning under a large metal frame. The frame, seen in pretty much any picture of the boat, is set up for the grand finale of the circus performers later in the night. For an hour, you can mingle and discover the lovely people sitting at the same table as you. It’s a chance to mingle in the late summer sun with champagne on a beautiful boat. Then as the boat starts to pull away from the dock, you are invited inside to enjoy the 6 course meal to come.

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The actual dining room is impressive. No matter where you sit, you are surrounded by a peninsula of ten-foot windows in the back of the boat. This gives you a wonderful view of everything as it passes by. After admiring the view and introducing yourself to those sitting around you, the first dishes start to come out. First comes the spicy Bloody Caesar and salmon creamed cheese with balsamic vinegar pearls. Very well thought out, the Caesar is spicy enough to require a good bite of the salmon flavoured cheese to cool off your mouth. The tiny pops of balsamic as an end note give the whole thing a playful taste that’s always appreciated.

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Then comes the orzo salad with goat cheese, chorizo, and cranberries. It has a sweet note to it that gives your mouth a refreshing feeling after the wine and Caesar you’ve been having. This is followed by some elk terrine with turnip confit. It is an interesting dish but what makes it amazing is the red pepper mini ciabattas that are served with it. Hot-out-the-oven, they remind us why warm bread and roasted red peppers are some of life’s simple pleasures.

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As the evening moves forward and the wine flows, the circus performers will sometimes come in between courses for small performances including dancing, acrobatics, and ribbon dancing. The men and women are not only talented but they also give a nice little distraction between lulls in conversation.

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Though if the show isn’t enough, the view of the port, La Ronde, and the Parc des Iles de Boucherville will be. There’s just something about being on a boat and seeing your city from a different vantage. Finally, as the view slips by and your boat starts to turn around, your choice of main course comes out. Whether you picked the beer stewed osso buco, the porto sauced filet mignon, or one of the other delicious choices, you will be well satisfied! With the little space left in your stomach, a cheese plate and delicious raspberry dessert follows and then it is back outside in the now dark night.

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The end of the evening is a dance floor with the DJ spinning and everyone on all levels of the ship outside partying. It becomes cramped as any club or bar might, but once the amazing finale of the circus acrobats begins, framed by the illuminated Jacques Cartier, people tend to spread out to get a better view. Many will go to the top deck and get the full panorama of the river along with the amazing performance.

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And then you are pulling back into port. The cruise is over, but you have an overwhelming smile as you walk back to your car or metro. Not only because the giant water screens of Avudo are playing nearby, but because the night was something special, something you’ve never quite experienced before. Thanks to the brilliant Croisieres AML, you have experienced a truly unique Montreal moment.

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Photos by Jonathan Brouillette (@darksteelangel).

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