1 Q: Why do I have to be there 1 hour before the ship leaves? Why can’t I arrive half an hour before departure?
A: OSTC is aware that many people dislike the 1 hour in advance requirement and if it was possible to reduce the time OSTC would not hesitate to do so.
The one hour rule is what ensures the ferry operates on time and on schedule.
Here is how it works: It takes approximately 30 minutes for the ship crew to adjust the ship’s internal vehicle ramps to accommodate the load on the lot, and load those vehicles before departure. All vehicles must therefore have been processed through the ticket booth, and organized in the correct lanes on the loading lot by that 30 minute deadline.
All reserved vehicles must arrive no later than 1 hour in advance, because it takes roughly 30 minutes to process them through the ticket booth and into the loading lot so that they are ready to be loaded during the 30 minute window discussed above. In the event that the vessel is not 100% reserved, stand-by vehicles must also be processed through the ticket booth and on the lot for loading, but those vehicles cannot be sold tickets until the deadline for reserved vehicles has passed (1 hr). That means stand-by vehicles are being processed during the 30 minute loading period.
What does this mean for stand-by vehicles? It means that you might not get on because the ship will leave on time. Stand-by vehicles are ideally accommodated on a “first-come, first-served” basis, but are sometimes brought to the head of the line if the space available will fit their vehicle, but not the vehicles that were there first. Being the first vehicle in the “stand-by” lane is not an assurance of getting on the ferry. If OSTC reduced the arrival time for those with reservations to half an hour before departure, then OSTC staff would be processing vehicles at the ticket booths while simultaneously loading the ship (the ship starts to get loaded about half an hour before departure). This does not give OSTC crew a chance to organize the vehicles into the most optimal load arrangement, and vehicles that could have been carried, including some with reservations, will be left behind.
For example: The crew starts loading the ship half an hour before departure. Vehicles are just arriving at the ticket booth at the half hour mark. The small car ramps on the ferry get loaded first. All the small cars get loaded up the ramps and the ramps get lifted up. Once these ramps are lifted they cannot be lowered because vehicles are loaded below them. Therefore, it is critical to have all the cars that can fit on the ramps processed by the time the ship starts getting loaded. Any small cars processed after that would not be able to go up on the ramps but would be put on the main deck. This would result in vehicles that could have gone up the ramp taking away space from larger vehicles that have to go on the floor and does not efficiently use the limited space available. Had OSTC crew had the required time to organize the vehicles, they would have been able to put that small car in the small car line and load it on a ramp.
Additionally, if travelers arrived only half an hour before departure, ticket booth staff would be processing all those with reservations first and then have no time to process additional customers without reservations on standby.
2 Q: Why can’t I book and pay for my trip online?
A: OSTC is working on ways to increase the functionality of the company website and improve the booking process. Quite often, OSTC’s services are compared to airlines, where passengers can go online, pick their flight date and time and pay for their flight online. A key distinguisher between OSTC and an airline is that the airline is selling a fixed number of seats to a fixed number of passengers on a 1-to-1 ratio. The ferry fee per passenger with a vehicle is not fixed. Ferry fees are based on vehicle overall length and height including attachments (trailer hitches, bike racks, and so on) as well as the number of persons inside the vehicle. These factors vary from customer to customer.
To pay online at the time of making a reservation would require each passenger to correctly enter the overall length and height of their vehicle with all attachments, and the exact number and ages of all passengers. If the vehicle and passengers who arrive at the ticket booth are not identical in every aspect to that which was booked, and a financial transaction has taken place, the time to reverse the transaction and take payment for the correct amount would double or triple the time required to process the vehicle through the ticket booth. Any increase to processing time at the ticket booth would result in a corresponding increase to the advance arrival requirement from one hour to 90 minutes or more. OSTC agrees that it would be ideal for customers to be able to book and pay online, however at this time, there are far too many variables to contain and control to ensure that the ferry is booked but not overbooked, and that no additional time is taken at the point-of-sale, causing the customer to have to arrive earlier than one hour in advance of sailing.
3 Q: If I cancel a reservation is there a penalty?
A: If a reservation is cancelled or re-booked at least 24 hours prior to the sailing time there is no charge. If you cancel WITHIN 24 hours prior to the sailing, but re-book for a difference sailing, there is a $5 fee. If you cancel WITHIN 24 hours prior to the sailing and do not re-book, there is a $10 fee (Same-Day Double Bookings excepted). No-shows (individuals who make a reservation and do not show up and do not cancel their reservation) and Same-Day Double Bookings (with 2nd booking cancelled WITHIN 24 hours of its scheduled departure) are charged the full vehicle fare.
4 Q: When are your ferry terminals usually busiest?
A: Our terminals and ship are always busiest on holiday weekends. Peak traffic volumes occur on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays. Weekends are usually busy. When travelling during these periods, please allow extra time to reach your destination.
Q: Can I park my car at the terminal?
A: Yes. There are visitor parking lots situated at both the Tobermory and South Baymouth terminals for customers using the ferry service. OSTC is pleased to be able to provide free parking for customers, but is not able to provide an exclusive assurance that parking will always be available. The OSTC management team is continuously looking for positive solutions to increase the amount of parking available, without increasing the cost to either the organization, or the customer.
6 Q: Can I pay by Credit Card?
A: Yes. You can purchase tickets using cash, traveller’s cheques, Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Debit. Cash, Debit & Credit Cards are available on-board the ship
7 Q: Do you have ATM’s available at the terminals?
A: There are currently no ATM’s available in the terminal or on the ship, however there are ATM’s only a short walking distance from the Terminal buildings that you could use to withdraw cash. OSTC is currently looking into the possibility of getting ATM’s in the terminal buildings and being able to accept debit on board.
8 Q: Do you have telephones/internet on your ferries?
A: No, we do not have telephones/internet on our ferry. Personal cell phones can generally be used, but reception can sometimes be poor. The ship does have a radio phone for emergencies.
9 Q: What is your dangerous goods policy?
A: Customers must declare additional fuel containers upon arrival at the dock. Transport Canada safety regulations prohibit the carriage of gasoline and propane in excess of the following quantities:
Recreational Vehicles: Not more than two 30lb cylinders of propane safely secured to the vehicle in an upright position with valves closed and tagged.
Vehicles with a built-in propane tank: The tank must be (OEM) original Vehicles with a built-in propane tank: the tank must be (OEM) original equipment manufactured and engineered for the vehicle.
Automobiles: Not more than one 25 litre container of gasoline.
Motorboats: Not more than two portable 25 litre containers.
All persons must vacate vehicle deck during crossing.
10 Q: What should I do if I’m riding my bicycle onboard?
A: Cyclists should proceed to the vehicle ticket booth to purchase their ticket. The ticket agent will direct you onto the loading dock. Reservations are not required.
11 Q: May I travel with my pet(s)?
A: Yes. Pets are allowed onboard the MS Chi-Cheemaun. Pets must be on leashes or in cages and accompanied by their owner and will be allowed on the outside Cafeteria deck only. You may leave your pet in your vehicle if you wish, but because no one is allowed on the automobile deck when the ship is sailing, your pet will be unattended for almost 2 hours. The only exceptions are guide dogs for people who are visually impaired, and certified assistance dogs for those with other disabilities.
12 Q: What about transporting livestock?
A: We do allow vehicles transporting livestock onboard the MS Chi-Cheemaun. Reservations recommended. (1.800.265.3163)
13 Q: Is there any bus service available?
There is a bus that connects with the Tobermory Terminal, on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, and Holiday Mondays while we are on the Summer Schedule. For more details call Laidlaw Bus Terminal 519.376.5712.
Parkbus provides bus service out of Toronto to the Tobermory area on various dates throughout the sailing season. Visit www.parkbus.ca for more information.
14 Q: Can I make Bus reservations for travel on the MS Chi-Cheemaun?
A: Yes, buses must make advanced reservations and can book on all sailings. Buses must fax their request to 519.371.2354. A valid credit card number, Visa, MasterCard or American Express, must guarantee all reservations. Groups of 10 or more persons receive an overall discount of 10%. On-Peak fares do not apply. Buses must arrive at least 1 hour in advance of their sailing time.
15 Q: Do any restrictions apply to Motorcoach and Commercial Vehicle traffic?
A: Buses must make advanced reservations. Trucks requiring overweight highway permits cannot be accepted for passage. Wide-load highway permits are charged for half fare extra above normal rates. Some restrictions and additional fees apply. Reservations are recommended. Please call for details. (1.800.265.3163)
16 Q: Do you handle motorcycles differently from other vehicles?
A: We supply tie-downs to secure motorcycles to the automobile deck. Reservations are recommended. (1.800.265.3163)
17 Q: Can you help me find your terminals?
A: While there is plenty of highway signage to guide you to our ferry terminals, we understand that many customers would like more information on how to find them.
Tobermory Terminal – 8 Eliza Street, Tobermory, Ontario, NOH 2RO.
(519 596 2510)
South Baymouth Terminal – 41 Water Street, South Baymouth, Ontario, POP 1Z0
(705 859 3161)
18 Q: Are Group Rates available?
A: Discount rates are available for groups of 10 or more travelling in one vehicle. They will receive an overall discount of 10% if done as a single payment.
19 Q: Do you have special rates for seniors?
A: Yes. There are special passenger fares for seniors using our ferry. You must be 65 years of age or older.
20 Q: Are there special rates for people with disabilities?
A: Yes. Adults or children with specific accessibility needs who require the assistance of an attendant will be charged the full fare, however, their attendant fare is free.
21 Q: Are your facilities accessible to individuals with disabilities?
A: OSTC provides a variety of services for persons with disabilities to ensure a safe and comfortable journey for our passengers. Wheelchair and elevator service are available; please advise ticket agent on arrival if such services are required. Please visit our accessibility page for complete information on OSTC’s accessibility policies and procedures.
Note: Some motorized wheelchairs may not fit and a transfer wheelchair may be necessary. Please call ahead if bringing a motorized wheelchair.
22 Q: Is hand luggage service available?
A: There are no lockers available on the M.S. Chi Cheemaun however there is room for carry on luggage in the mid ship walk on passenger area. Customers requiring assistance with luggage should advise Ticket Agent when purchasing ticket. The Owen Sound Transportation Company does not accept responsibility for loss of, or damage to, baggage or contents under any circumstances. Luggage containing dangerous goods is not permitted.
23 Q: What is your smoking policy?
A: We now offer a smoke and vaping free environment on the entire ship.
24 Q: When loading or unloading the ferry’s vehicle decks, how do you decide who gets to board and/ or disembark first?
A: Although we strive to ensure that our customers are loaded in sequence according to the time of their arrival at the terminal, staff are primarily concerned with dispersing vehicles in an appropriate fashion on the deck. Vehicle loading always requires careful attention to balancing the load and using all available space in an efficient, orderly and safe manner. Loading takes place under the supervision of experienced crew members who are directed by the Chief Officer or Mate of the vessel. The Chief Officer is required to work with whatever mix of vehicles is waiting to board or disembark from the ship, in the sequence he or she judges will best accomplish these goals. Since the mix of vehicles varies greatly from sailing to sailing, procedures that work well in one situation might not apply in another. Vehicles that are first to board the ferry might not necessarily be the first to disembark.