Jim Byers’ Travel Blog: A Safe Visit to Niagara Falls + a Worldwide Marriott Sale

Capacity is severely limited. Masks are required. Temperatures are taken. And crew members wipe down surfaces between trips.

A lot has changed on the Hornblower Niagara Cruise Ships that take visitors to the base of Niagara Falls, and there are tough, new health and safety protocols in place.

Luckily, the Falls themselves haven’t changed; the ride is just as powerful and majestic as ever.

We arrived at the entrance to the cruise on Monday morning of this week. We immediately had our temperatures checked and took advantage of the hand sanitizer. They then asked for a phone number where we could be reached for contact tracing purposes.

Only then did we present our e-tickets for the 10:15 a.m. departure. (Hornblower currently is using timed ticketing to avoid big crowds.)

There were, of course, social distancing stickers on the ground so we could stay two metres apart.

We decided to try the funicular as a new way to get to the bottom of the gorge/river valley, which  was great. There were more stickers on the ground for distancing inside the funicular.

A ride to the Horseshoe Falls with Hornblower Niagara Cruises. JIM BYERS PHOTO

Down at ground level, we got our plastic red rain ponchos and again obeyed the distancing signs on the ground as we lined up. I noticed crew members wiping down the railings that lead from the gorge to the ship, which was good to see.

I also couldn’t help but notice the difference between the Canadian Hornblower Cruise catamarans being used and the Maid of the Mist boats on the American side of the Falls. The Hornblower folks are being extra cautious and limiting capacity to no more than 100 people, which is less than 15% of normal capacity of 700. I checked the Maid of the Mist website and discovered they’re running at 50% of normal capacity.

With so few people on board the Hornblower, we had plenty of distance around us. The nearest folks to us on the lower level up at the bow were at least two and perhaps three metres away. And, of course, we were outside and were wearing masks, which are required on board.

A Hornblower Niagara Cruise ship. JIM BYERS PHOTO

“The health and safety of our guests and crew members is always our top priority, and these unprecedented circumstances have only reinforced and strengthened our commitment to providing the best possible experience from start to finish, all the while operating and maintaining a rigorous process to promote cleanliness, physical distancing and reduced contact,” Mory DiMaurizio, Vice President and General Manager of Hornblower Niagara, said in an email statement.

I think I’ve been on the trip to the falls three times now, and it never fails to totally wow my senses. The immense power and beauty never gets old, and the thundering sound of the water falling from high above is truly amazing, as is the thick, rain-like mist that quickly wets your mask. (A word of advice; you might want to bring a back-up mask. And, of course, you need to be very careful with your phones or cameras. A waterproof case for your phone is definitely recommended.)

You also get nice  views of the American Falls, the Rainbow Bridge and the hotels and towers on both sides of the border; vistas usually framed by keering, whirling seagulls or other birds.

Niagara SkyWheel: Safety First

The Niagara SkyWheel. JIM BYERS PHOTO

We also took a ride on the Niagara SkyWheel. Again, there were social distancing stickers and sanitizers for us to use, and they were limiting the number of people in each pod. I also noticed a worker wiping down surfaces after folks exited, leaving a fresh, clean pod for the next guests.

The Niagara SkyWheel’s fully enclosed gondolas are equipped with air conditioning and heating for a comfortable ride. They also have treated glass that cuts the glare, making it easier to get good photos.

The rides last from eight to 12 minutes and you get at least three revolutions.

A view of Niagara Falls From the Niagara SkyWheel in 2017. JIM BYERS PHOTO

The top part of the SkyWheel is 53.34 meters (175 feet) high and offers tremendous views of the falls and the attractions on Clifton Hill, which I always enjoy.

I’ve never been on the wheel at night but I imagine it’s pretty spectacular to see the city lights and the lights they project onto the Falls.

Marriott Worldwide Sale

The JW Marriott The Rosseau Muskoka Resort and Spa in Minett, Ontario.

Today, Marriott Bonvoy Escapes has launched the biggest five-day sale across more than 4,900 hotels throughout the US, Canada, and Caribbean and Latin America. Marriott Bonvoy members save 25% and non-members save 20% on stays. Marriott Bonvoy members always earn points, receive best rates guaranteed, flexible cancellation policy, free Wi-Fi, and mobile check-in.   

Visit http://www.marriottbonvoy.com/escapes from August 26-30 to book stays for the following four weekends (Thursday through Sunday), and seven days of the week at resorts. The minimum stay is one night and travelers will have the opportunity to explore destinations from coast to city for last-minute getaways.



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