It’s impossible to imagine a more relaxing and enjoyable way to appreciate Canada’s majestic Rockies than a journey on one of Rocky Mountaineer’s trains – something that has become a ‘must do’ experience. It’s garlanded umpteen travel awards, but there are dilemmas.
Even before you board the gleaming blue, white and gold coaches, which of the three routes through the mountains should you choose? What about starting in Seattle and taking Rocky Mountaineer’s Coastal Passage train up to Vancouver?
All Rocky Mountaineer’s journeys begin (or end) in Vancouver and travel in daylight. Both ‘Journey through the Clouds’ to Jasper and ‘First Passage to the West’ to Banff share the same route as far as the overnight stop at Kamloops, because the Fraser and Thompson river canyons were the only way the two transcontinental railways could forge a passage through the mountains.
‘Rainforest to Gold Rush’ leaves from North Vancouver and heads north to reach Whistler and Quesnel for an overnight stop before turning south west down the Rocky Mountain Trench – the longest valley in North America – to reach Jasper.
It offers a very different experience from the two classic trains through the Rockies, though it too is seldom out of sight of mountains and few stretches of railway beside water can rival the shoreline passage of Anderson and emerald-green Seton lakes.
A few hours into your first journey with Rocky Mountaineer, you realise there is a further dilemma. On the one hand, you came on the train to see what passes by the window, and just about every curve in the track throws up something that seems unmissable – this isn’t the Trans-Siberian where you can skip a few million birch trees while reading Tolstoy. But then you fall into conversation with some people sitting nearby and you’re off on travel stories, exchanging tips for unusual journeys.
Or you get talking to the incredibly knowledgeable and friendly train crew, but then you realise they seem to know every twist and turn of the track and aren’t going to let you miss any of the highlights. And if the engineer up front on the locomotive spots interesting wildlife, they radio the coach crews so no one misses seeing the bear or moose.
The dome-car windows give a panoramic view over the landscape, but for those serious about taking pictures or want to feel part of the landscape the open end-balcony to the coach is the place to be.
I enjoyed catching scents of the forest and the cool, clean air that wafted up from a river gushing through a gorge grudgingly shared with the railway. For a quiet moment, anyone who loves trivial information will find the mile-by-mile guide provided for every passenger adding colour and context to the scenes passing by.
Tables for four in the GoldLeaf dining-car encourage more conviviality, particularly when the award-winning wines from the Okanagan flow.
I had heard the food was good, but everyone seemed pleasantly surprised just how good. Anyone familiar with British Columbia and Vancouver in particular knows how much emphasis is placed on high-quality local ingredients and creative cooking. Food sourced from BC and Alberta is used in the à la carte three-course menu, with dishes devised by renowned chefs.
The constraints of cooking in a narrow galley kitchen weren’t evident as we vacillated over the dishes on offer, such as Alberta pork loin served over a creamy sweet pea purée, local veg, whipped garlic potato and white corn chips or pan-fried shrimp Gyoza, accompanied by wild greens, sautéed jumbo prawns, and a pickled ginger cilantro dressing.
With a table of white napery, glass, silver and fine china (remember those days on British Rail?), sublime landscapes passing by the window and stimulating conversation, railway travel doesn’t get much better.
Rocky Mountaineer is the headline sponsor for the BGTW Annual Gala Awards Dinner, held this year on Sunday 3 November 2019 at The Savoy hotel in central London, and on the eve of World Travel Market.
The prestigious event will bring together more than 300 BGTW members, ambassadors, ministers of state, travel and tourism CEOs and their top executives, PRs and key travel editors, journalists and bloggers, to network in the glamorous surroundings of the famous Lancaster Ballroom.
Individual tickets, which include a Champagne Reception and a three-course dinner with wine, are £195 (+VAT). Tables of 10 are available at £1,950 (+VAT).
Two early bird offers are available, until 31st August 2019:
- Tables of 10 are available at £1,755 (+VAT), offering 10 places for the price of nine
- Tables of 12 are available at £1,950 (+VAT) offering 12 places for the price of 10