Tall Ships heading to Toronto; a sneak peek from Montreal..WestJet risky move?
MONTREAL – So cool.
I came into town on Thursday to check out the Roald Amundsen, a tall ship out of Germany that will be at the Toronto tall ship festival June 30-July 4. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, and after touring the Amundsen I can’t believe it took me so long to board one of these beauties.
Folks who wander down to the Toronto festival on the waterfront (for information, go to www.towaterfrontfest.com) will be able to clamber on board a dozen or so schooners, brigs and barks. You can ask questions, likely put your hands on the helm, examine the decks and check out the rigging (from below; no climbing to the crow’s nest unless you take one of their trips, which can be easily arranged).
“If you’ve ever stood on shore and watched a ship go by in full sail, you know” why people find tall ships so appealing, said Claudia Bankert, who does endless hours of volunteer work for the Roald Amundsen from her home in Cleveland.
Even docked without her sails, there’s something undeniable majestic about the Amundsen. Just peering up into her massive yardarms and seeing the million miles of rope gives you a sense of the adventure one would find on the open sea.
Captain Hugo Bauer told me there are still openings for folks who want to sail from Montreal to Toronto starting June 21, and from Toronto Cleveland on July 3 (to the 8th). Each trip is only a few days, and you’ll get to do the work of a regular crew member. In fact, you have to; it’s part of the deal, with a pair of four-hour watches. Prices start around $900 according to their website, www.sailtraining.de.
They go easy on volunteers, but they also can teach folks very quickly how to do most of the normal tasks on a ship. It looks like great fun. They won't ask you to climb the rigging unless you feel comfortable. I HATE heights but I managed to get most of the way up to the first crow’s nest on Thursday, thanks to a guiding hand from veteran volunteer Ulli Dorn and a couple of harnesses that kept me from falling into the St. Lawrence while I took a couple photos.
Other ships that will be in Toronto include a replica of the HMS Bounty, as well as the lovely Bark Europa out of the Netherlands and the Pride of Baltimore II, a top-sail schooner that’s a replica of a War of 1812 ship that sadly sunk a few years back.
A daily pass for the show in Toronto is just $12 if you buy it online but $15 on the day of the event. There’s a parade of sail grand finale on July 4, with grandstand seats available at Ontario Place. And there’s also a race through the Great Lakes involved for the summer, so this ought to be pretty cool.
They had a ceremony on the Amundsen on Thursday to celebrate the work being done on Montreal’s St. Lawrence quais. They’ve spent $4 million already this year, and there’s solid progress being made.
It’s yet another reason to visit one of the world’s great cities. More on Montreal in this space on Monday, including a brief look at the wildly popular Au Pied de Cochon restaurant and a quick look at a fresh, new hotel in town, Le St. Martin Hotel Particulier on Maissoneuve.
WESTJET MOVE CHANCY?
WestJet on Thursday introduced what it calls “new everyday value fares.” They call the program “an enhanced pricing structure that reduces the volatility that has been present in the airline industry by providing lower fares across their entire schedule (330 days ahead of departure). Guests can purchase with confidence when they're ready to book rather than have to wait for a seat sale to get a low price.”
In addition, WestJet has taken the extraordinary step of reducing its full price fares by an average of 25 per cent for all flights across its entire 68-city North American and Caribbean network.
"Since the launch of our airline in 1996, WestJet has been the leader in driving prices down and providing value to millions of Canadians," said Hugh Dunleavy, WestJet Executive Vice-President, Strategy and Planning. "This move today reasserts our value leadership position to our guests.
"Feedback from our guests shows that they are frustrated at the unpredictability of fares with seat sales only available up to a few months in advance," continued Hugh Dunleavy. "WestJet is listening and has responded by providing guests the opportunity to book great prices across the entire schedule.
"As part of this new strategy, fares at the higher end of the spectrum will be reduced," concluded Hugh Dunleavy. "For those guests who, for one reason or another, have to travel at the last minute or at peak travel times like Christmas, we've significantly reduced those fares to make them more affordable. This is what our WestJet care-antee is all about - offering great low prices and high value, and most of all, always caring for our guests."
Personally. I think people expect sales once you’ve started. Perhaps they’re trying to control oil costs; I don’t know. But it still strikes me as funny. And they’re going to have to keep their marketing going.
WestJet officials admitted earlier this week that upstart Porter Airlines is far more top of mind in Toronto than they are. If WestJet’s expansion plans are going to be realized, they’ll have to do a better job of making themselves known in Canada’s biggest city. Sitting back and saying “these are our fares, end of story” isn’t likely going to help. So it’ll be interesting to see what kind of marketing and advertising they do. Knowing WestJet, I suspect some of their efforts might involve social media.