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All systems are go for St. Lawrence Cruise Lines in 2021

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KINGSTON — Despite Canada’s newly extended cruise ship ban, Canadians still have a small-ship cruising alternative in 2021 with St. Lawrence Cruise Lines.

The small-ship operator, which sails on the St. Lawrence and Ottawa Rivers, has confirmed operations for 2021, with overnight cruises on both rivers from May 20 to Oct. 24. A variety of cruises ranging from four to seven nights will depart from Kingston, Ottawa and Quebec City, sailing exclusively in domestic waters with stops at select ports in Ontario and Quebec.

On Feb. 4, Canada’s Minister of Transport, Omar Alghabra announced that Canada’s cruise ship ban will be extended until Feb. 28, 2022. This measure, which effectively prohibits cruise vessels carrying more than 100 passengers from operating in Canadian waters, does not impact the small-ship operations of St. Lawrence Cruise Lines and its 32-stateroom CANADIAN EMPRESS.

“We are excited to offer travellers a small ship option for the 2021 season,” said President Jason Clark. “Our overnight cruises stay close to shore in Canadian waters and our COVID-19 Health and Safety program has been recognized for its high standards.”

This past December, the cruise line was awarded the Safe Travels Stamp by the Tourism Industry Association of Ontario (TIAO) for adherence to global standards of health and hygiene. The program includes a wide range of safety measures, including reduced passenger loads, masking, physical distancing and hospital-grade electrostatic disinfecting for both private staterooms and shared spaces. Plus, all staterooms have access to fresh air, climate controls and views of the river.

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Travel & Escape

American woman faces $2,800 parking bill after leaving car in Toronto during pandemic

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Parking in the city can be costly, but one American woman is learning just how bad it can be after being unable to retrieve her car for nearly a year.

Detroit resident Kim Richardson left her 2004 Honda Element at the Park2Sky lot by Pearson airport in March 2020 before flying out to Europe for a medical procedure. She originally planned to retrieve it within two weeks but partway through her trip, the Canada-US border got closed due to COVID-19 precautions.

Richardson’s return flight was rerouted to Detroit and she’s been unable to return to Toronto since.

What was originally a $100 bill has now inflated to $2,800 as the lot’s owner says he has a business to operate and is owed payment for 11 months of storage. However, Richardson believes she’s being extorted for an issue beyond her control.

Park2Sky personnel claim that several Americans who found themselves in similar predicaments have had their cars shipped home.

“I don’t understand, I don’t know what’s going on here. Business is down, I’m not making any money at all. People who leave their car are paid. She’s the only one that hasn’t paid,” said the owner to CBC News this week.

The stalemate is expected to last a while longer as travel restrictions remain in place and Ontario Provincial Police have said they won’t get involved in a civil matter.

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Travel & Escape

Here’s How Canada’s ‘Screening Officers’ Will Check On Travellers During Quarantine

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The federal government is reminding all travellers in Canada that “Screening Officers” may pay them a visit post-arrival.

In a statement about the country’s latest travel restrictions, Transport Canada confirmed that newly-trained officials would be tasked with checking up on travellers during their two-week quarantine period.

The role of the Screening Officers will be to visit travellers’ quarantine locations to “establish contact, confirm identify and confirm that travellers are at the place of quarantine they identified upon entry into Canada.”

This is to make sure individuals are complying with Canada’s mandatory 14-day quarantine requirement.

The checks will be conducted across 35 Canadian cities, having already started in Montreal and Toronto back in January.

The officials will provide “compliance education” and will be able to issue verbal warnings, but stronger enforcement action will be referred to the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) and then law enforcement for follow-up checks. 

Failing to comply with the Quarantine Act or with Screening Officers’ instructions could result in fines of up to $750,000 or even jail time.

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Travel & Escape

Nova Scotia travel agents fanning the embers of travel during pandemic

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SYDNEY, N.S. —

Travel will never be the same, even when the world reopens. That’s the reality travel agents are dealing with these days but it doesn’t mean they’re not still planning your next vacation, even if you are not. 

Fanning the embers is what Danny Almon, owner of Nova Scotia’s Almon Travel, describes his recent efforts through a partnership with the Canadian Association of Retired Persons (CARP) Nova Scotia. 

Each Tuesday, he co-ordinates travel webinar presentations on different destinations and itineraries on the CARP website. 

He is not making any money on the endeavour and has been investing a significant amount of unpaid time into it. He hopes the webinars will keep the idea of travel at the top of mind for people and that travellers will remember him when the pandemic ends and it is safe to move around again. 

“It’s a bad situation. It’s not a downturn it is a fall off a 100-foot waterfall,” said Almon, whose father is from Cape Breton. 

“I know a lot of my colleagues who are just doing nothing. You can’t do nothing. You have to do your best to try to keep your name out there. When travel comes back, you hope that your name sticks.” 

Almon described dark times for travel agencies across the country.  

At the beginning of 2020, he said Statistics Canada showed nearly 6,000 travel agencies in business in Canada — many of them home-based businesses like the one he operates with his wife. 

A December business count from StatsCan showed 3,845 such (with employees) businesses. 

The commission-based income of a travel agent has also been a big concern. 

Almon said commissions are received from tour operators but without travel, there’s no income. Worse still, for some, is that commissions had to be paid back after client trips were cancelled last year due to the pandemic. 

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