Rocky Mountaineer is a privately owned rail service that operates on three different routes. This journey is on First Passage to the West Eastbound from Vancouver to Banff.
Important to note about Rocky Mountaineer and settle some misconceptions
- There are no overnights on the train – it is not a sleeper service
- The days are long and can be between 10.5 and 14 hours with early starts and late arrivals at hotels
- Rocky Mountaineer shares the tracks with the Canadian Pacific and Canadian National Freight services and doesn’t have priority
- There is no room for cases or nor are there any overhead racks so only small bag is suitable to take with you
- Breakfast and Lunch is served with a drinks service at multiple times in the journey
- Transfers to the train and from the train are supplied by Rocky Mountaineer (& partners)
- The difference between GoldLeaf and SilverLeaf is £500 per person (approx)
- You are not guaranteed good weather or to see wildlife
- Tips are not included unless you are part of a group and recommended at about CAD70 per person
- There is no access between cars for passengers
It is now a firm favourite on the ‘bucket list’ things to do. I have written copy and brochure pages on Rocky Mountaineer for over ten years and to actually get the opportunity to board the train was overwhelming.
All luggage was tagged with three labels – Pink (to identify the group) Gold (hotel in Kamloops) and Blue (destination). You are parted from your luggage at the Rocky Mountaineer Station and reunited with it inside your hotel room at the half way point. Luggage travels by road which is a much quicker journey.
All customers are given a seat assignment ticket and then you enter the departure hall in Vancouver to wait for the ‘All Aboard’ whistle. Our journey consisted of 720 passengers and 23 carriages made up of GoldLeaf and SilverLeaf Service. A kilted bagpiper signals the start of the adventure and after a short speech from the CEO welcoming everybody the doors are flung open and you go and find your carriage.
I was seated in SilverLeaf Service along with half of my group in coach 2. The doorways have flags either side along with a red carpet and you are greeted aboard. I felt quite emotional when I actually got inside.
To upgrade from ‘perfect’ to ‘more perfect’ costs approximately £500 per person. The seats in SilverLeaf were large with arm rests and a foot rest on the seat in front. There was masses of leg room. The scenic windows were oversized and went all the way up to the domed windows in the roof of the car. The centre strip was the only part of the roof that didn’t offer visibility but as the scenery was to the sides it didn’t make much difference.
The service onboard was brilliant. Each SilverLeaf car had two hosts and a chef with it’s own galley to heat and prepare the food service.
When the train departed Vancouver the ground staff all stood and waved the train off. It sets off backwards until it reaches a point that it can pull forwards. It took over two hours to leave the outskirts of Vancouver behind.
The famous Rocky Mountaineer fruit cocktail is served along with a toast to welcome you aboard before morning coffee is served then the chef comes round and asks you for your choice of breakfast. Meals in SilverLeaf are served at your seat and in GoldLeaf in the dining car below.
During the whole journey the hosts speaking into microphones keep you informed of what are looking at and about to see. The train is allowed to slow down at certain points so that you can take pictures of interesting sights.
Rocky Mountaineer is the only passenger service on the tracks but has to give way to the freight trains and there were quite a few times that the train was sitting in the sidings waiting for the 2 and half mile long freight trains to pass.
The first day of the journey followed the Fraser River with it’s silt laden muddied waters flowing towards the Pacific Ocean via Vancouver. For the most part the land is desert like and although there are some stand out sights such as Hells Gate it is the second day that builds with a crescendo to the Rocky Mountains finale.
At around 16.00 hrs I asked when it was appropriate to do so if I could visit the other half of my group in GoldLeaf. I was taken through other cars to the bi-level GoldLeaf car. In GoldLeaf meals are served downstairs to half the carriage and when they have finished and retaken their seats the other half go down to eat.
The seats are like airline business class seats with buttons to adjust the backs and foot rests. The domed roof does go all the way over for unrivalled scenic viewing. My group looked very comfortable up there I have to say. The thing I noticed though was that after being in SilverLeaf where the roof was really high it seemed much lower in GoldLeaf and thus felt slightly claustrophobic in comparison.
When I returned to my carriage I was asked for my opinion and gave my honest feedback about GoldLeaf. Personally SilverLeaf was a great experience and not really worth the additional cost. The difference is almost somebodies spending money.
Room keys are handed out in envelopes before you disembark the train and your motorcoach number is advised as well as the time that you have to be down in reception the following morning to continue your rail adventure.
Sure enough the luggage was waiting in the room. We were in the Coast Kamloops which was a GoldLeaf standard hotel. I went straight to bed without eating but some of the group ventured out and others were annoyed that there just wasn’t the opportunity to explore Kamloops.