To some observers, a pair of tour boats at Canada’s landmark Niagara Falls have become a symbol for how the country’s COVID-19 response compares to the virus-ravaged United States.
It’s a tale of two countries as shown by capacity levels on board the Hornblower Cruise on the Canadian side of the falls, and the famed Maid of the Mist on the American side.
Images shared on social media of the two boats passing each other — the American vessel carrying hundreds of guest while the Canadian watercraft holds just half a dozen — have led some to point to the Maid of the Mist as proof of pandemic failures in the U.S.
“Is looking at a big waterfall really worth risking your life and spreading a deadly virus?” wrote one Twitter user on Tuesday.
The United States has logged close to 3.9 million known cases of COVID-19 — the most in the world — while Canada has recorded 111,697 as of Tuesday evening. U.S. officials have faced criticism for not enforcing lockdown measures while countries like Canada have been able to keep new cases of the virus low. For many, the juxtaposed tour boats were a symbol of that North American contrast.
“I think it’s all about making money for the Americans, so they’re more relaxed about controls,” one man told CTV National News on Tuesday.
The Hornblower, which can usually hold about 700 guests, has been restricted to just six passengers since the start of July, while the Maid of the Mist is operating with 200 guests, or half its capacity. Both businesses are doing health screenings, require passengers to wear masks and encourage physical distancing.
For Hornblower operator Mory DiMaurizio, the Ontario restrictions go too far and the business is losing money. On Friday, Niagara moves into the next stage of reopening, which will allow up to 100 passengers per voyage on the Canadian side. But that’s still only 15 per cent of the company’s usual capacity. DiMaurizio says they could operate with double that.
“It’s ridiculous actually, I mean, it’s not about safety. We are beyond safe,” said DiMaurizio, vice president and general manager at Hornblower Niagara Cruises. “I think it could have been handled a bit differently but nevertheless we support the province in keeping us safe.”
The Hornblower has even tailored the experience to a more VIP excursion to raise prices. A ride of the boat now comes with a meal, but the company is charging $70 for a ticket, more than double the typical price.
One family from Quebec who spoke with CTV National News said that they’d rather the boat be fuller with a cheaper ticket.
“I would have opted for more people on board because we had to pay more expensive [rates],” said one man.
But 10-year-old Maria Wilson loved her ride on the boat with so few other tourists.
“It was great, because usually when there’s a lot of people you can’t even move to have a great view,” she said.