For a while now I have been dreaming of taking the recently re-introduced high-speed ferry service from Toronto to Rochester. The ferry service briefly ran last year, introduced by a group of private investors, but stopped running after a few weeks due to financial difficulties. It was reintroduced this year after the City of Rochester purchased the ferry at an auction and contracted an experienced ferry service based out of Nova Scotia to run it.
North America’s newest CAT fast ferry is an amazing vessel. Built in Australia in 2003, it made its way around the globe to its new home on Lake Ontario in 2005. It’s as long as a football field and can also reach speeds of up to 80 kilometers or 52 miles an hour. The CAT can carry up to 774 passengers and 220 cars, and is one of the fastest and largest car ferries in North America.
It’s a sharp-looking ship and its aerodynamic style and 44,000 horsepower engines allow it to make the lake-crossing within only 2.5 hours. I had a look around the ship and when you first come upstairs from the cargo hold area, you arrive in a sleekly designed passenger room that has airline-style seats, some of them with tables in-between so people can comfortably sit down and enjoy food that they may have purchased at one of a number of on-ship bars and bistros.
|Airline style seating
|The grand staircase
|One of the bars
I took a stroll around the ship and was quite astounded by the amenities: the CAT offers 2 movie theatres, a duty-free shop, a video arcade / children’s game area and a gorgeous Panorama seating area at the front of the ship that allows you to take in the scenery as you approach the harbours.
While it was raining 2 days ago on my trip to Rochester, yesterday was a crisp day with crystal-blue skies and the experience of approaching Toronto’s skyline in the ferry was breathtaking. The Panorama lounge holds comfortable table and airliner-style seating and offers excellent views through its large windows. The only unfortunate thing is that when you ride the ferry with your car, you have to leave about 10 minutes early to get to your vehicle so you don’t get to see the complete docking process.
Toronto’s skyline from the Panorama viewing area
I really enjoyed the expansiveness of the CAT. You can walk around, sit in different areas, or you can go up to the top level viewing deck and watch the vessel depart the harbour. Since it was such a beautiful day yesterday, I went upstairs to the open-air deck and watched the process as the ferry pulled away from the attractive Rochester Ferry Terminal, a 55,000 sf terminal facility built at the Rochester Harbor
with ground level restaurant and retail facilities. Then it slowly proceeded to glide out between the two long stone piers, and picked up speed once out on the open water.
Leaving the Port of Rochester and its modern terminal building
The return price for one passenger is US$ 144.00 including passenger, vehicle transportation and security fees and it shaves substantial time off the drive the Rochester. There is a $15 return vehicle discount in addition to numerous packages and special offers throughout the year. I thought one of the greatest advantages of taking the ferry are the border processing facilities. The inspection procedures on both the American and Canadian side were extremely efficient and friendly and definitely alleviated one of my worst fears of crossing the border since 911: the wait times at the border crossings. If passengers have proper ID and travel documents as required by Canada and US Customs, the check-through procedures are very smooth. On the way back I was actually the second vehicle out of the ship and within less than 5 minutes I was on my way home, well-rested after an exciting , luxurious high-speed adventure across Lake Ontario.