You're eager to take that flight to New York or Orlando or Los Angeles. You get through the lineup at the gate at Pearson and you're thinking you're on your way. But then, wham. There's that U.S. customs line snaking out the door halfway to Highway 409.
The Greater Toronto Airports Authority has worked with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (those nice folks guarding the American border from hordes of pale-skinned Canucks) to introduce new Automated Passport Control kiosks to expedite the preclearance process at Pearson.
The new kiosks are supposed to mean faster processing, as passengers will swipe their passport at the kiosk, answer declaration questions using a touch screen, take a photo and then take their printed receipt to the U.S. customs officer to finalize their inspection. Unlike the fast-track NEXUS program, which I belong to and uses an iris scan to clear your way into the U.S., this program has no fees attached. And free is always good.
There will be 40 kiosks at Terminals 1 and 3. Happy travelling to the land of Uncle Sam.
CANADA'S TOP HOTELS: THINK BRITISH COLUMBIA
U.S. News and World Report magazine, which has a lot more travel content on its website (travel.usnews.com) than I knew about, has issued its first ever ranking of Canadian hotels. As per usual in these things, those pesky folks out on the left coast have grabbed the lion's share of the medal, with B.C. properties nailing down the gold and silver spots on the podium, as well as three other top-10 finishes.
Here's the list: 1. Fairmont Pacific Rim, Vancouver (see photo at left) 2. Rosewood Hotel Georgia, Vancouver, 3. Ritz-Carlton Montreal, 4. Hastings House, Salt Spring Island, B.C., 5. Auberge Saint-Antoine, Quebec City, 6. Ritz-Carlton, Toronto 7. Trump International Hotel and Tower, Toronto. 8. Four Seasons, Whistler, B.C., 9. Loden Hotel, Vancouver. 10. Hotel Le St-James, Montreal.
It's a pretty good list. I'm surprised the Wickaninnish Inn in Tofino, B.C., isn't on the list as it's almost always near the top when other magazines issues their ratings. And it's certainly near the top of my list.
I would've thought one of the Shangri-la hotels, either Vancouver's or the new one in Toronto, would be on the list somewhere, as well.
Still, these all are terrific properties. I personally don't love the lobby at the Fairmont Pacific Rim as I find it a tad stark with all that glass and the white furniture and fixtures. But the rooms are lovely and the service almost always gets great reviews.
Your only occasionally humble correspondent has managed to stay in about half the properties in the past five years, which isn't bad. I quite liked the Loden and really enjoyed the posh, old-world feel at Le St-James in Montreal, where they've turned an old bank vault into what might be the most beautiful restaurant in the country, XO Le Restaurant. I'm not a huge fan of the lobby at the Toronto Trump, which feels like a cramped downtown condo (part of it is, in fairness), but I hear great things about the rooms and service from friends and family who've stayed there. I'm not completely sold on the lobby at the Ritz-Carlton in Toronto but the facilities are marvellous and they have a spa that recently was voted the best of any hotel in the world. Service is always terrific and the food at Toca is very good. Oh, and the patio out back is one of the best in Toronto, for sure. I also have been known to sing the praises of Auberge Saint-Antoine, where you can find old relics from Quebec's past scattered about the hotel and also can dine in an exceptional restaurant, Panache.
I've been to the Four Seasons Whistler but haven't ever stayed the night. Ditto for the Rosewood Georgia, which was given a stunning facelift and is a remarkably beautiful property. I've never been to the Ritz in Montreal and have never visited Salt Spring Island or stayed the night at the Trump. So I guess I still have some work to do!
AIR CANADA CHANGES
Air Canada has added flights from Halifax to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, starting Dec. 14 and continuing until the end of April, 2014. They also will launch non-stop flights from Toronto Pearson to Vail/Eagle Airport in Colorado, running Dec. 14 to April 5 of next year. That's good news for folks who love skiing in legendary Vail or nearby Beaver Creek.
JAUNT.CA DEAL OF THE DAY
Jaunt.ca, a division of Torstar, has a deal today for a southern Caribbean cruise, priced at$1,429, including $150 in taxes.
- JAUNT EXCLUSIVE: $100 Onboard Credit per stateroom
- BONUS WITH INCLUSIVE OPTION:
- non-stop service from Toronto to San Juan
- free seat selection
- 7-night Southern Caribbean cruise sailing aboard the Celebrity Summit
- Summit is a newly redesigned cruise ship offering the best in modern amenities from an energizing martini bar to an authorized Apple reseller
- The ports of call introduce the diverse landscapes of the Caribbean, from the jungles of Dominica to the stunning bay area of St. Thomas
- Explore the islands on a variety of exciting and optional shore excursions
- Departs from and returns to San Juan, Puerto Rico. Ports of Call include: St. Croix, U.S.V.I.; Basseterre, St. Kitts; Roseau, Dominica; St. George's, Grenada and Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas
- Optional return airfare from Toronto or Montreal to San Juan and round-trip airport/pier transfers
- Accommodations in a Inside (Category 9) stateroom
- All meals included
- Valid for travel on December 7, 2013
- Pricing (Rates are per person, plus tax):
Air and Transfers Option from Toronto and Montreal:
Inside (Category 9) stateroom:
1st & 2nd Passenger: $1279 + tax
Inside (Category 9) stateroom:
1st & 2nd Passenger: $678 + tax
We also offer Other DATES and Gateways.
Call us at 1-855-687-5925.
- Why choose Air Canada Vacations?
Earn & Redeem Aeroplan® Miles, in-flight seat-back entertainment on most flights, airline service and reliability of Air Canada, and more!
- Valid passport required for travel from Canada
- To book dining times please fill out the 'Requests' form specifying preference for first or second seating at time of booking
- This offer is refundable until 5PM EST on Oct 14, 2013. After that time, this offer is 100% non-refundable.