TORONTO – The old guy is looking pretty fine.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when the folks from Omni Hotels took over the King Edward Hotel in Toronto a couple years ago. Omni doesn’t have a strong presence in Canada. I stayed at a wonderful Omni in San Diego last year but it’s not a hotel chain (sorry guys) that conjures up any particular image other than being nice properties. I give them full marks, however, for what they’ve done to one of the city’s best-known and best-loved and most historic hotels.
I had a tour of the newly renovated, 301-room hotel yesterday, along with a delicious afternoon tea. And I’m happy to report Edward is looking marvellous for his age.
Rooms have been given a wonderful makeover, with lovely caramel and taupe tones highlighted by deep red cushions with a regal crown. The King Eddy still has those wonderful high ceilings and crown molding for an elegant touch. They also have bathrooms that are surprisingly large and bright given the age of the hotel (it opened in 1903).
With rooms from $249 CDN, it’s a big-city bargain I think; especially for Americans who can take advantage of a 25 per cent discount on the Canadian loonie. A room like this in New York would cost $500 USD a night, easy.
They’ve also spruced up the lobby, one of my favourites in the city, with giant, purple-blue high-back sofas that allow for quiet conversation and four giant black chess pieces, including, naturally, a King. The Palm Court looks good upstairs, as does the Sovereign Ballroom with its white walls and intricate carvings and soft, blue lighting. They serve Sunday brunch in the Sovereign room, complete with classics such as lamb and Beef Wellington.
The Consort Bar, again one of my faves in the city for its ambience and King Street views, has new furnishings and a new drinks menu that favours the classics.
You’ll find tons of great photos of royalty scattered around the lobby and wonderful, evocative shots of London parks as well as nifty, black and white shots of Toronto for a nice sense of place.
The place looks just great, and right on time for the Film Festival, too.
I’m not a huge tea drinker but I quite enjoyed the King Edward Blend during our afternoon “snack,” which consisted of a series of crustless sandwiches with baked tomato, egg salad, salmon and a tasty sushi roll with shrimp and mango. The deconstructed Cobb Salad sandwich was a big hit, too.
They also serve fresh-made scones and clotted cream and house-made strawberry jam (no added sugar so not too sweet, thank you) and luscious olive oil cakes topped with baked peaches and a mini-Key Lime Pie for the dessert portion, so it’s a nice mix of traditional and fresh, creative ideas. Kind of like the hotel itself.
It’s a great spot for family get togethers or quiet mother-daughter chats. Some ladies still show up on a regular basis with colourful “fascinators” in their hair, as if headed to a royal wedding or a race at Ascot, which I think is fantastic.
General manager Christophe Le Chatton, who has led some of the top hotels in the world and is one of Canada’s top sommeliers, told me folks of all ages seem to love the new style at the King Eddy.
“Young people appreciate the amenities but they also love the history of the hotel. I think young people have an appreciation for classic hotels like this one.”
The situation with SkyGreece Airlines has become ridiculous. The airline (which apparently has two planes, not just one) has temporarily ceased operations, leaving folks in Canada and in Europe in a very big lurch. Folks are stranded and are having to pay their own way back home, and often paying for hotel nights as they wait, too.
Passengers have been told to contact the airline for information, but it appears there’s nobody – or not many people – manning the phones or the Internet. The Twitterverse is alive with complaints, and I can’t blame folks one bit.
I spoke with folks at the Travel Industry Council of Ontario yesterday about the mess. I admit I didn’t fully understand how TICO works, so it was good to get a bit of a lesson.
I was told by Dorian Werda, VP of operations, that if SkyGreece – or another airline or cruise line – goes belly up and you haven’t yet traveled, then you can get a refund. But that’s IF AND ONLY IF they bought their ticket through a travel agent or group that’s registered in Ontario.
All agents in Ontario pay into a special TICO fund for just such occasions, I was told. Which means there’s a pot they can dip into and help folks out when things like this arise.
Ontario, thankfully, is one of three Canadian provinces with a group like TICO that can protect passengers in cases like this. B.C. and Quebec also have TICO-like groups, she said.
One thing to keep in mind is that ANYONE in Canada or even around the world can have access to the TICO fund if they buy their ticket through an Ontario agent. You don’t have to live in Ontario to be eligible for compensation, but you do have to purchased your ticket through a registered Ontario travel group.
On the other hand, if you have complaints about poor service or an issue that doesn’t involve an airline or cruise line going bankrupt, TICO can’t do as much. They can look into your problem and contact airlines or hotels or what have you on your behalf. But they don’t have the power to enforce a settlement.
Still, it makes you think a lot of us should be using a travel agent, doesn’t it?
AIR CANADA FLIGHT PASS MESS
Another mess in the travel biz today is in regards to Air Canada’s Flight Pass program. Apparently there was a computer error of some kind two days ago and a set of 10 flight passes went on sale for $800 instead of $8,000.
Folks, naturally, snapped up the $800 passes, which would’ve meant an average flight cost of $80 for some potentially sweet trips at a fantastic rate. But Air Canada said it was a mistake. They said they would honour bookings made with the flight passes before the mistake was discovered, but subsequent attempts to book flights with the discounted passes were being “inhibited.”
Again, the Twitterverse is not happy. But Air Canada seems to be sticking to its guns.
Global TV has a good story on the situation.