Note from the editor: This post has been updated by Cruise Specialists staff to keep keep facts and updates about Rocky Mountaineer current since the original time of this train review.
I recently had the pleasure of travelling with fellow travel advisors aboard Rocky Mountaineer, a fabulous train journey. If I had to sum up this very well-coordinated seamless travel product into a few words I would say it is a “deluxe cruise on rail”.
Rocky Mountaineer began in 1990 with private investors taking over the route from VIA Rail to Banff. They have since expanded their package offerings and even have built their own private rail depot building outside of the city. I was lucky enough to take part in the 2-day route from Vancouver to Banff. This journey consists of two long days aboard the train, no stops to get off and walk around, and two hotel nights.
We began our journey with a one-way Amtrak train from Edmonds, WA to Vancouver, B.C. This is a great way to avoid long lines at the airport and long waits at the Canadian border. Many other guests were also taking the train that morning to Vancouver.
Rocky Mountaineer offers two classes of service onboard, SilverLeaf (previously known as RedLeaf) and GoldLeaf. I had the opportunity to experience both levels of service. The first evening I utilized the RedLeaf level of service. This level of service offers lower level viewing, at your seat meals (breakfast & lunch are cold), drinks are extra, and hotels are of a moderate level. I also stayed at the RedLeaf moderate hotel property in Kamloops, BC. Accommodations were very clean and nice, but just OK.
My second night, and for two days, I experienced the GoldLeaf service, which is far superior and the value of it far exceeds the additional cost. This service is in the bi-level cars with upper deck seating in a glass-domed rail car affording fantastic views. The GoldLeaf service also includes full course freshly made gourmet meals served on the lower level with wine included. This enhances the experience tremendously and makes the days fly by while watching the gorgeous scenery. During my GoldLeaf level of service I stayed at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel. This is a large and most unique property offering small, but nicely appointed rooms with beautiful views from almost every room. I also had the opportunity to visit the Fairmont Lake Louise Hotel, which is a beautiful property in a remote setting. This hotel would be an excellent choice for all you active folks, as it is set in a wonderful natural setting with quick access to hiking, rock climbing, biking, fishing, etc.
I concluded my journey with a quick jaunt on Horizon Air from Calgary to Seattle. This reminded me of the way flying used to be- your carry-on luggage is taken right to the side of the plane and placed on a cart for placement on the plane (turbo-prop of about 70 passengers) and you are on/off the plane within five minutes. Sodas, micro-brews and wine are complimentary.
I would highly recommend this product in the GoldLeaf level of service to guests who are avid train enthusiasts, guests who love to watch beautiful scenery, or for guests who would like a nice very relaxing vacation. There are plenty of opportunities to make your own fun with board games, chatting with all different people and of course the animal spotting – imagine landscapes dotting with bighorn sheep, bear, elk, deer, coyote and wolf – some even right near the rails. In addition, these Rocky Mountaineer journeys would be a fabulous extension to an Alaska cruise that is ending in Vancouver or even Seattle. You could take a short 2-day train journey, like I took, or a journey up to 13 days!
Cruise Specialists, Cruise Consultant