Published on October 20th, 2014 | by Alyssa Daniells4
Making tracks aboard the incredible Rocky Mountaineer
If you’re looking to embark on an enthralling, exhilarating and elegant journey through the Rocky Mountains, one of the world’s most remarkable ranges, hop aboard The Rocky Mountaineer, a luxury daylight train tour that’s truly unique, unparalleled in beauty and distinctly Canadian.
Or perhaps you’re like me and never knew quite how amazing this rail experience is; until I did an intrigued investigation. As the only passenger train travelling along the Canadian Pacific Railway, a national icon, Rocky Mountaineer offers you a slice of history that no other operator can. Plus, the train is able to take you through parts of the Rockies that are inaccessible by car, as there are no roads, only rambling railway. This means magical opportunities to admire elusive wildlife and hidden natural splendour. There is a thorough variety of carefully-crafted itineraries, taking you through beautiful cities and towns, winding through the heart of the Rockies, showcasing awe-inspiring mountain passes and national parks like Jasper and Banff. Since the train only travels during the day and makes overnight stops in hotels along the way, you don’t miss any scenery like you would when it’s dark, or if the train had sleeping quarters.
Keen to learn more about this newly added item to my bucket list (unfortunately, the increasing ratio of empty boxes to checkmarks isn’t working in my favour!) I spoke to Flight Centre’s Brian Feldbloom, who was lucky enough to recently travel on one of Rocky Mountaineer’s remarkable routes. With over 15 years experience as a travel agent, as well as a bona fide globetrotter, Brian has countless off-the-beaten track experiences, yet this unique, on-the-track journey really impressed him.
Rocky Mountaineer offers a range of routes and itineraries. Brian did one of the most popular, First Passage to the West, a spectacularly scenic journey departing from Vancouver, with stops in Kamloops, Lake Louise, Banff and Calgary. There is also the option to travel this route westbound. The dreamy Journey through the Clouds is a route that takes you to Vancouver, Kamloops and Jasper. View an exciting array of landscapes on the Rainforest to Gold Rush route, featuring Vancouver, Quesnel and Jasper. The Circle Rail route makes a loop from Vancouver, through the majestic Rockies and back. On the Coastal Passage, guests admire exciting vistas from Seattle, Vancouver and the Rockies range. The Whistler Sea to Sky Climb is a gloriously uplifting route, figuratively and literally.
A popular option for Rocky Mountaineer guests is adding a Pacific Coastal cruise to their vacation, which takes you through the Rocky Mountains, then your Alaska cruise departs from Vancouver or Seattle. Finally, for those with adventure on their mind and time on their hands, the awesome Coast to Coast route takes you through our diverse and amazing country, starting from Vancouver or Halifax.
These three “S’s” seemed to stand out for Brian – service, seating and most of all, scenery. Here are my notes from our chin wag about his jaw-dropping experience!
There are three tiers of service, GoldLeaf Service, SilverLeaf Service and RedLeaf Service. Brian travelled in GoldLeaf, the most popular and luxurious cabin class. GoldLeaf passengers are treated to sweeping panoramic views from their glass-domed, two-level coach. The seating could recline and swivel to face others and facilitate conversation as a group of four. For anyone with aches and pains, the long journey is a breeze with this comfortable seating and you are free to stretch your legs, using both levels in this luxury class. Brian also enjoyed the complimentary welcome champagne, alcoholic beverages and gourmet cuisine in a proper dining room that GoldLeaf includes.
SilverLeaf service is limited to one level, but also has a glass-domed roof, making its viewing areas 167% larger than those of RedLeaf service. SilverLeaf meals are more casual and limited than GoldLeaf, with breakfast and lunch served at your seat and not in a dining room, and a beer or wine at lunch. RedLeaf Service includes two meals at your seat and has a similar feel as a VIA train. Brian’s advice is to spend the extra money and travel on GoldLeaf and if that’s not possible, SilverLeaf.
Thanks to his glass cabin vantage point, Brian took in a constantly changing (and envy-inducing!) backdrop of glacier-fed lakes to stunning forests of towering trees indigenous to Canada’s west coast. He witnessed cascading waterfalls flowing from stages of rock, mythical-looking aeries set amid cliffs, dramatic white-capped rivers, yawning canyons that definitely do not trigger any yawns, and of course, breathtaking mountains.
Along with his descriptions of striking topographies, Brian had stories of seeing bears and mountain lions in their natural habitat, in areas inaccessible by foot or motor.
Speaking of stories, all Rocky Mountaineer’s service levels provide a “story teller” whose engaging commentary serves to both enlighten and entertain. The friendly and knowledgeable service staff was also happy to chat and help answer questions.
So who would appreciate a Rocky Mountaineer trip?
According to our travel expert Brian, the experience appeals to mature tastes, as small children may get bored, while aboard. Parents would do well to include a tablet with movies, activity books and the like to prevent children getting fidgety during the long stretches of travelling. Brian was surrounded by adults in his GoldLeaf cabin, people from around Canada and the world. The Rocky Mountains are a Canadian icon, attracting international visitors who wish to admire our beautiful Canadian wilderness. Similarly, my desire to travel on a Rocky Mountaineer route is fuelled by reverence for our country and wanting to pay homage to it. Having travelled to so many other places in the world, why wouldn’t we want to celebrate and explore Canada, too?
Nature and adventure lovers should also make tracks towards the Mountaineer railway routes. It’s a thrilling way to travel, showcasing rugged scenery, yet in a relaxing and refined environment.
Rocky Mountaineer is the recipient of numerous accolades and awards, including “World’s Leading Travel Experience by Train” from the World Travel Awards, seven years in a row and as its tagline states, “25 Years of Life Changing Experiences.” Brian’s experience, as well as testimonials on the website, underscores the truth in these statements.
I definitely think it’s time I took a voyage through the heart of the Rockies, one that will remain in my heart long after the trip is over.
Ready to book your trip of a lifetime? Call a Flight Centre travel expert at 1 877 967 5302, or enquire online.
Photos courtesy of Brian Feldbloom.