My Review: The Rocky Mountaineer.
I’m frequently asked about various train rides. Which ones have I taken? Which ones did I like best? Which ones would I recommend? And, specifically, I’m often asked if I would recommend The Rocky Mountaineer. Well . . .yes and no.
Four years ago, my wife and I took the Rocky Mountaineer from Vancouver to Banff. It was a two-day ride, stopping that first night in Kamloops, where everyone got off the train and piled into buses that took us to a number of different hotels where we had dinner. The next morning, we were collected in buses, taken to the railway station and resumed out journey to Banff.
It was certainly a very scenic trip and it was quite difficult picking from the photos I took along the way. I finally decided to include some in this post and a few more in the next one. And save my comments and opinion of the total experience for the second post. Anyway, here we go:
The rail cars are bi-level with seats on the upper level and a dining area on the lower. They make a mini-production out of the boarding process, complete with a couple of men performing on bag pipes. Cynics say the pipers were there to drown out the pickets shouting at the entrance to the station. The short version of the long story is that when the union contract with his employees was up, the owner of the Rocky Mountaineer fired them all and hired new non-union people. There’s more to the story, but not now.
Food and drink are a big part of the Rocky Mountaineer experience. (Are you listening, Amtrak?) There is a mini kitchen and tables on the lower level and, at the forward end of each car up above, a bar set-up for coffee, tea and just about any alcoholic beverage you might care for.
A half hour or so after departing from Vancouver, we’re invited to the lower level of our car where the choices included a delicious Eggs Benedict served on real china on a crisp white linen tablecloth. As in Amtrak dining cars, we were seated with another couple—he was a member of a Chinese trade mission who had been living in Washington DC for the prior two years. A breakfast bonus!
After progressing at a leisurely pace following the Fraser River through the beautiful, verdant valley, the train entered the mountains. We followed the river—sometimes almost placid, sometime a torrent—for the rest of the day.
A unique feature of these rail cars is an open vestibule area which was always pretty well crowded with passengers taking photos of the passing scenery. I don’t remember exactly what time of year it was; I do remember—the shirtsleeve attire of these folks notwithstanding—that it was damn cold out there.
More photos and my impressions of the Rocky Mountaineer experience next time.