A Review: The Rocky Mountaineer.

This train has a lot going for it. And the company’s promotional material provides all the information you’ll need to decide which of the several rail itineraries are the most interesting for you.

Our Itinerary. 

My wife and I had opted for a 48-hour trip: the first day we traveled from Vancouver to Kamloops, a city of about 100,000 people, where we spent the night. The hotel and meals were not part of the tour we had purchased.

The second day took us from Kamloops to Banff, our final destination.

A Rocky Mountaineer bus picked us up in front of our hotel in Kamloops spot on time. but there had been a delay in bringing our train to the Kamloops train station.

Our bus driver cheerfully announced he had been informed at the last minute that we had a half hour to kill and that he had therefore decided that he would take us all on a tour of his home town. Our first stop: the City of Kamloops’ brand new sewage treatment plant.

The rail cars, as far as I could tell, are all the same:  custom-designed bi-levels with coach-style seating on the upper level. At the front of each car on that same upper level, there’s a well-stocked bar dispensing a variety of drinks at no charge. A very nice brunch was served in a formal dining area on the lower level. 

Also on the lower level, there’s an open air viewing platform offering an excellent spot for taking photographs. 

The Scenery.  

This train operates in, around and through some of the most spectacular mountain scenery to be found  anywhere.  The company offers several different rail excursions and you really can’t go wrong, whichever one you choose.

The Food.  

Lunch was served on the lower level of each rail car to small groups at a time. My wife and I were seated with a Chinese diplomat and his spouse. The food was excellent and nicely served on crisp table linens and china dishes.

My Best Advice.

  1. Get a copy of their refund policy, read it carefully, and satisfy yourself that you can live with the terms and conditions that are spelled out in detail.

2.  I recommend that you purchase travel insurance if you decide to go ahead and book one of the trips offered by the Rocky Mountaineer.

A Final Word.

Based on my one Vancouver-to-Banff ride, I do believe the Rocky Mountaineer offers a worthwhile experience. But it is pricey and there is still the issue of passengers having trouble getting refunds when forced to cancel for entirely valid reasons.

If the objective is to experience a traditional first class train ride and enjoy close-up views of the Canadian Rockies, as an alternative to the Rocky Mountaineer, I would consider booking one of the sleeping car accommodations on VIA Rail’s flagship train, the Canadian, from Vancouver to Jasper and return. 

You’ll travel a slightly different route, but the scenery is still spectacular and you’ll have a real railroad experience, including several opportunities to share a table in the dining car with other passengers.

And if you should have a change in plans, you can get your money back from VIA without a hassle.