Rocky Mountaineer, First Passage to the West

My first thought when I was invited to take a Rocky Mountaineer journey was how on earth I was going to enjoy two full days on a train; but I was completely blown away by this amazing experience, which is civilised, convivial, relaxing, beautiful – there are not enough superlatives for me to use!

Rocky Mountaineer passing Vermilion Lakes on First Passage to West

The overwhelming sense that everything had been thought of and would be attended to was what really impressed me and it started at the very beginning.  There’s a small list of nominated hotels in each of the pick up and drop off points that Rocky Mountaineer operate a transfer service from which takes you to the platform and carriage you’ll be travelling on.  You’re met in the hotel lobby, checked in on the bus, your luggage is tagged and the next time you see it it’s literally in your hotel room at the end of the first day’s journey.  It makes such a huge difference that’s not clear until you get to the train station and see the queues of taxis unloading client, porters rushing around and then guests lining up to check in at the desks. Since then, I always recommend that staying in one of the hotels on the list and use the highly-efficient transfer service.

The Rocky Mountaineer is already in the station and the station is buzzing; bagpipes are playing and a sense of anticipation of something good is in the air. There are Rocky Mountaineer staff literally everywhere, guiding you to your carriage, settling you into your seat and offering you  refreshments. The GoldLeaf carriages are two-storey; glass dome and main seating for the journey on the upper deck and dining carriage and outdoor viewing platform below. The single-level SilverLeaf carriages do not have an outdoor area but they have huge armchair-type seating and large picture windows and meals are served at your seat. Each carriage operates completely independently with their own kitchens and staff, the benefit being that all the meals are fresh and hot and service is fabulous.

GoldLeaf carriage

I travelled from Vancouver to Banff; from the city up into the mountains. I’m often asked if this is the right way to do the trip or if it is better to start in the mountains and end on the coast, but, to me, I don’t think it matters; the journey was lovely and had something to offer every step of the way.  The staff in your carriage are constantly entertaining you with stories of where you are, what you can see, offering you snacks and drinks and a lovely lunch and before you know it you are halfway through the journey and at the end of the first day when the train pulls in to Kamloops.  Alongside the train are a host of coaches; you’ll be impressed to hear the coach you’ll be travelling in is literally adjacent  to your railway carriage.   As you step on the coach, you’re handed your room key for your overnight stop and when you arrive at your hotel in Kamloops, you’ll discover that you have already been checked in and  your luggage is waiting for you in the room. Once again every attention to detail has been thought of.

Day two continued in the same vein; relaxed, informal and yet sophisticated, constantly changing scenery with lakes, mountains, waterfalls and wildlife all to be seen from the comfort of your armchair. After enjoying so much food and drink on both days, I have to admit my waist line was a little larger at the end of my journey.  I travelled in GoldLeaf and I just loved the flexibility of being able to walk down to the open-air viewing platform to take photos whenever you wanted; it’s so convivial and civilised with all the passengers chatting to one another and making space so everyone can get the best phone.

This is such a fabulous experience and if you can you really ought to do this journey; I can’t wait to go back with my husband.

Joanne Moores
Frontier Canada