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Exploring Eastern Canada

Kerrie Lake, Branch Manager of our Felixstowe travel agents, travelled to Canada earlier this year to explore the cities along the east coast. Here are all the wonderful things she managed to squeeze into her week away.

Destination: Canada - Eastern Cities Tour
Operator/Host: Cosmos
Accommodation
(Hotel names/Ship name): 
Chelsea Hotel in Toronto, Best Western Ville Marie in Montreal, Cartier Place Suites Hotel in Ottawa
Airline: Air Transat
Duration: 7 nights

Flights

Air Transat was surprisingly comfortable; the staff were really friendly and the food was fairly good. We were upgraded to Option Plus, which gave us priority check-in, priority baggage handling, a glass of champagne on board, snacks on the flights and one further alcoholic drink. It also includes a comfort pack that consists of an eye mask, blanket and earphones. On our flight, the cost of this upgrade was $49.00 so I thought this was good value.

Unfortunately, on our return flight, the aircraft was much smaller and very uncomfortable. Lots of people were complaining that they were too cramped and those of us sitting in aisles seats were consistently hit with the passing trolley and nudged every time someone walked past. There was just not enough room, making for an extremely uncomfortable and restless overnight flight. The staff on this flight were helpful but not as friendly as we had on our outbound flight.

On certain routes, there are no individual screens onboard so customers have to download entertainment via the CinePlusA Transat App to their chosen device. This must be downloaded in advance of the flight.

Accommodation

The hotel in Toronto was lovely. It was very well located, with large modern rooms and the breakfast (payable locally) at their Market Garden buffet really did set everyone up for the day. There was a huge selection and I felt that this was a great option for guests who are going to be up early and out all day. It gave you the option to have a coffee to take away, which we were all grateful for.

In Montreal, we stayed at the Best Western Ville-Marie. Again, this hotel was in the heart of the city and had the benefit of having some of the largest rooms in Montreal. They have recently been refurbished and really were beautiful. I really liked this hotel - the owner and manager were so friendly and really wanted their clients to have a great experience. We only had one night at this hotel but I would happily recommend it to my everyone.

The Cartier Place Suites Hotel in Ottawa was a completely different experience to the other two accommodations. We literally had what felt like our own flat. The apartments consisted of a 1970's decorated bedroom with two double beds, a bathroom, a lounge, a dining area and full 1970's style kitchen with washing machine, cooker, microwave etc. We asked the tour director why they had chosen this accommodation and he said that a lot of the clients really liked that they were able to do a bit of washing, order takeaway food and have a relaxing night in, as by this point of the Tour they have been on the go for a long time. It was a very valid point and we made the most of it as it was freezing outside and ordered a pizza in.

Activities

Niagara on the Lake

We visited Niagara Falls on the Maid of the Mist (Included)

Niagara-on-the-Lake is a must-visit town with old properties in a superb location (Included)

The CN Tower for dinner (Optional)

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police Stables (Included on certain dates)

Byward Market (Included)

A Cruise through the islands of St. Lawrence Islands National Park (Included)

Trip Highlights

Maid of the Mist

Experiencing Niagara Falls on the Maid of the Mist was amazing. This is as good as it gets, the best way to experience one of the world’s most amazing natural wonders. The falls are massive, words do them no justice. The force with which the water falls, the spray and white look like you walked right into a blizzard. The giant wall that appears as you get really close and turn is almost frightening, but it is mostly awe-inspiring. The thunder of the falls as it drops many feet down is deafening. At one point I couldn't hear anyone speaking. We laughed so much as we all got soaked whilst wearing our silly red ponchos. There is no way around it - you will definitely get wet, whether you go to the top of the boat or stay at the lower level. The photo opportunities are fantastic, providing you can waterproof your device. This trip is a must do for all ages. It can get pretty rough and wet, but it is an experience I will never ever forget.

Another highlight was having dinner at the CN Tower. The views over Toronto were absolutely breathtaking; we got to the revolving restaurant at the top of the tower early evening when it was still light and were so lucky to have a clear day, giving us 360-degree views of the city. We stayed well into the evening, giving us a different overview once the sun had gone down. It was a really enjoyable experience and a great way to start a visit to Toronto. The viewing platform with glass floor is not for everyone. With a view 342m (1,122 ft) straight down, I must admit my legs were shaking. I am not one for heights but I did walk over the glass just to be able to say that I have done it.

Possible Improvements

For me personally, some more guidance on spending money would have been appreciated. I don't think it was made clear just how much was at our own cost. You will need to consider the meals that aren’t included when planning your budget.

Also, the length of some journeys wasn't really made clear before we travelled. One day, we had nearly five hours on a coach with not a great deal to look at. These journeys would have been fantastic had we been in a more scenic part of the country, but there were a lot of motorways and service stations.

Recommendations

This trip was a really good insight into Eastern Canada. Having never visited before, I was really excited.

Our trip was a condensed version of the Cosmos Tour and we did fit a lot into the week that we had. Our tour guide was fantastic; he genuinely wanted his guests to have the best trip possible and filled us full of information for the entire trip. Being a local guide living in Toronto, he knew the areas extremely well and if he felt he could enhance the guests’ experience he would adapt the trip to suit. On arrival at all of the hotels, he left us to sit and wait for five minutes on the coach whilst he went to get all of our hotel keys, giving these out to us so that there was no waiting around in the lobby. We got off the coach, into a lift and straight into our rooms. After a full day of sightseeing and long journeys it really did enhance our trip.

Also, porterage is included in the cost of the tour. I can see travellers of all ages really enjoying this trip.

Additional Comments

Parliament Hill Ottawa

Ottawa was really surprising, there is so much to do here. It is a great city to explore and learn about Canadian history. In Ottawa, myself and some of the others used our free time to explore Parliament Hill, the Canadian War Museum and the National Gallery and we had a great day.

Also, I must say how friendly I found the Canadian people. In the shops, bars, restaurants and attractions I visited, I always felt welcome and made to feel that people genuinely wanted you to enjoy their country. They were always happy to give extra information and chat.

Must see? Niagara Falls - Make sure you tie the top part of the poncho under your chin otherwise the wind will blow it right off your head.
Must do? CN Tower - having a meal in the revolving restaurant is a must.
Must try? Use the free time in Ottawa to discover the History Museum, National Gallery, Parliament Hill or the Canadian War Museum.

If you want to explore the east coast of Canada, or any other part of this beautiful country, call into your local branch of Fred. Olsen Travel Agents. We have travel shops in Christchurch, Westbourne, Lymington, Dorchester, Bournemouth and throughout East Anglia.