A day on the Rocky Mountaineer train
Often described as North America’s best train journey, the Rocky Mountaineer has long been a favourite among A&K’s luxury rail holidays and tours. Departing from cosmopolitan Vancouver, this luxury train winds its way through the towering Canadian Rockies, stopping at jaw-dropping, UNESCO-listed sites such as Banff and Jasper. The staff are welcoming, the carriages are luxurious, the food is delicious and the scenery is breath-taking.
We recently sent one of our travel specialists, Jon, out to Canada to take a ride on this incredible train and asked him to keep a diary of his time onboard. If a trip on the Rocky Mountaineer isn’t on your travel bucket list yet, it may be soon.
After an early wake-up call, our journey started with a transfer to the Rocky Mountaineer Train Station. Despite the early-morning chill in Vancouver, we received the warmest of welcomes from the staff. There was even a bagpipe player present to greet us as we climbed off the coach. After a short welcome speech, a blast of the train’s horn let us know our departure was imminent. We made our way to the platform, where our gleaming navy blue and gold carriage waited for us. The friendly hosts welcomed us onboard and showed us to our seats.
Take your seats
The first leg of our Rocky Mountaineer journey took us from Vancouver to Kamloops – a small city located at the confluence of the North and South Thompson rivers. We started our journey in Silver Leaf - a single-deck coach with huge windows offering panoramic views of the passing scenery. We also travelled in the superior Gold Leaf class later in the journey, with seating offered upstairs in the glass-topped dome carriage, and a dining compartment on the lower level. Seating in both areas is similar to that offered in Business Class on a reputable airline. Wide, spacious, comfortable seats are positioned side-by-side, with plenty of leg room, foot rests and the ability to recline. Pillows and blankets are also provided, but with such incredible scenery and an abundance of wildlife outside the window, there’s little time for sleeping on this train.
One excellent feature of the seating on the Rocky Mountaineer is the ability to turn the seats to face each other. This is perfect if you’re travelling in a group with friends or family.
Once we’d settled into our luxurious seats, we were introduced to our carriage hosts, including the professional chefs who prepared our meals. A morning cocktail was poured for each guest and we raised our glasses to the journey ahead. Then the train slowly pulled away from the station as the staff on the platform gave us one final wave.
Breakfast is served
As we made our way out of Vancouver, the scenery changed rapidly from city skyline to suburbs, and finally the open plains and forests of southern British Colombia. Shortly after we’d left the city, breakfast was served. For guests travelling in Gold Leaf, meals are served in two sittings and the experience is similar to dining in a fine restaurant (but with an ever-changing view). In Silver Leaf, meals are served at your seat.
Delicious Danish pastries, fresh fruit, warm bread and coffee or tea is served first. You then have your choice of hot, freshly prepared breakfast dishes served a la carte. The menu offers plenty of options. I opted for the Eggs Benedict, and I’m glad I did - it was one of the best I’ve ever tried. Coffee and tea lovers are not forgotten – the attentive staff will offer to top up your cup without you even having to ask.
Take a look out the window
As we continued our journey, our knowledgeable hosts were happy to share facts and stories about the areas we were passing through. Fascinating tales were told of Canada’s early pioneers, who helped to find and map the routes through the wilderness. We also learned about the teams of people who created the train tracks that we were travelling along.
The wildlife of British Columbia was a popular topic with our hosts and the guests. Different species were pointed out and described to us as we travelled through the mountains and valleys. As we passed through an area well-known for spotting bald eagle and osprey, we saw giant nests that the birds had created on telegraph poles alongside the tracks. Later in our journey, we were also treated to the sighting of a family of black bear strolling along the tree line.
The train passed through an ever-changing landscape, with sparkling lakes and vast forests framed by snow-capped mountains. We were invited to enjoy a drink from the full bar service before lunch, which included a wide selection of fine wines, beers and spirits.
Time for lunch
As with breakfast, there’s a choice of dishes to choose from, all served with excellent wines to accompany your meal. The quality of the food served in both Silver Leaf and Gold Leaf is exceptional. The onboard chefs clearly take great pride in their work, using the finest and freshest seasonal ingredients to create mouth-watering cuisine.
After lunch has gone down, an afternoon treat is served – on the day we travelled it was a warm chocolate brownie with a decadent chocolate sauce. If you’re on a diet, you might want to place it on hold for a couple of days.
The rest of the afternoon was ours to enjoy an after-dinner drink, or simply relax and gaze out of the window at the stunning Canadian landscapes passing by. Before we rolled into Kamloops, a final treat was served - a warm oatmeal cookie (a signature, and delicious, snack on the Rocky Mountaineer).
As our train pulled into Kamloops, our hosts bade us one final farewell. Coaches were waiting at the station to transfer us to our hotel for the evening. As we disembarked, a couple of fellow guests told me that they were already looking forward to getting back on the train in the morning and continuing our journey through the Rockies. I have to admit, I was in complete agreement with them.