You may have seen my photo share New Year’s Eve from the Toronto harbourfront cruise at Queen’s Quay West. Although we didn’t leave the dock, the experience was still one worth mentioning, so here it is.
While I had no idea why we were headed to Toronto on New Year’s Eve, I suspected a concert or an event near City Hall, or maybe a cruise. Turns out we were headed off land on one of Mariposa’s New Year’s Eve Gala Cruise. I believe there were four boats welcoming guests, with our boat, Northern Spirit I, being the second largest vessel.
How does it work? Well, you order the tickets online (months in advance because they do sell out), then closer to the date, you get an email confirming which boat you’re on and you show up at the terminal with your ticket and wait to board on New Year’s Eve. Ideally, you wait inside where it’s warm [or go out and freeze your face off taking photos like we did] and at about 8pm, you go out and line up briefly in front of the boat. You get a little pep talk about what happens if you bring alcohol on board (bye-bye), and then boarding begins. You have already been pre-assigned to a table, so the lead organizer finds your name on the master list and you are directed to your table. You wait a good hour until everyone is on and seated (we were near the front of the line) and enjoy a coffee or order a drink if you desire (note: the drinks are tiny and not inexpensive and the only one included is the champagne at midnight). Our server was Kevin and he was welcoming upon arrival. We waited quite a while before any introductions were made, then we waited some more before they set the buffet and welcome people up by table groups. I will note that the food was very good and the offerings were diverse – parmigiana chicken, beef roast, pork roast, two green salads and a quinoa salad, two kinds of potatoes, mussels and more. Desserts were presented afterwards with coffee and tea. The servers cleared the meals and that left the evening to you to either sit, dance (though I only saw about 40 people at any one time up there) or freeze outside. At about 11:30pm, champagne glasses were filled and served in preparation for midnight – we decided to drink up and head off to see if we could see fireworks at City Hall from the street level, but no such luck. At midnight, we stopped in the street for a kiss and watched the CN Tower flash funky colours while a few cars honked their horns in celebration. A new year had begun and 2017 was no more.
What surprised me? The lack of mingling and socializing. You’re close to 200 people (60 tables on two decks, with couples and families per table) stuck on a boat for 4+ hours and you aren’t going to chat a bit to the table next to you? It could have been just where we were seated, but the tables surrounding us provided a smile here and there was it. The couple behind us was angry about the lack of ‘cruising’ and the gent complained (they also left before 11pm), the other table was face timing half the night with family and the third couple sat quietly at the back. On our deck at least, most people appeared to be keeping to themselves at their own table and many were on their phones (ourselves included later into the evening). Also, one guest apparently didn’t think twice about bringing a baby (in a stroller) – not what I would call ‘appropriate’ for a New Year’s Eve celebration cruise, but technically there are not age restrictions…
What would have been nice? It is unfortunate that we were unable to undock and had to remain at the terminal through-out the night (since part of Lake Ontario was frozen) and very few guests were willing to venture outside with below -20 °C temperatures. And because of the cold, access to the outdoor upper deck was a maze to access because they wanted to retain the heat (smokers were very sad). It would have been nice to see the city skyline from the lake and explore the upper deck and the view in slightly warmer weather, but that was outside of anyone’s control. I also imagine some of the ‘waiting time’ would have been more entertaining had we been moving on open water. I think many of the guests were disappointed about not being able to go out on the lake, which may have put a damper on the mood and social scene. However, the ambiance of the evening and the food was still enjoyable and I’m glad I had the opportunity to experience the welcoming the new year in this way, and with the most important person in my life.
I'm a 20-something woman working my way through life in Canada, traveling when I can afford it and seeking out my passions one day at a time.