When the opportunity to join Rocky Mountaineer on the First Passage to the West was presented, I was excited to experience not only the destination, but the train itself. However, after committing to it, a little hesitation set in. I am a very active person, how would I do on a train for two full days? Rocky Mountaineer is often a vacation for a more mature clientele, and here I am in my mid-forties and a marathon runner, would I like it? To answer both (after having taken this trip)…. Yes and yes, and I cannot wait to do it again!
The trip started in Vancouver, with two nights to spend exploring. Rocky Mountaineer arranged for us to stay at the Sheraton Wall Centre. A centrally located hotel – perfect for walking down to the waterfront, shopping, Gastown and finding some of the best sushi I have ever tasted.
After our time in Vancouver, we were ready to board the train. I was booked in the Gold Leaf service, to experience it just like our clients would. From the moment we arrived, it did not disappoint. From the red carpet as we boarded the train, to the initial impression of the rail car where we were going to spend our next two days, the wow factor was strong!
The Gold Leaf cars are two levels, with the downstairs dedicated to the dining room, as well as a large open air platform to enjoy while onboard. The seats were comfortable recliner style, equipped with warmers – which was definitely used throughout the trip. Topping it off, was the glass domed ceiling of the train car.
As the train started off we were invited to experience our first on-board meal service – a full breakfast menu with 6 different options to choose from. Later in the day lunch. The food and the presentation was spectacular – Rocky Mountaineer really focuses on a farm to table menu, based on the area in which it travels. One of my favorite parts of travel is tasting the local foods and dining in the area, and Rocky Mountaineer does this well.
Rocky Mountaineer continued with the local theme in their the wine, beer, and spirits menu, as all were local to Western Canada….. Who knew Canada produced such great wines?
Comfortable seats, ample space, great food, and amazing service – what is not to love about this trip? This is when Mother Nature comes in and does even better – the views. This trip was over five months ago now, I am still in awe of the landscape our Rocky Mountaineer train was able to transport us through. Under the clear glass dome, I took hundreds of pictures as I kept thinking it couldn’t get any better, but it did.
The train is great as you can converse with those travelling with you, or just sit and enjoy yourself with the beautiful landscapes floating by – I cannot remember the last time I felt so relaxed.
After two full days on the train, with a stop over for the night in Kamloops, we came to Banff. We stayed in the downtown area in a Silver Leaf hotel. The location was great for getting up in the morning and walking downtown as well as enjoying the nature trails surrounding the town and the river. We were treated to a bus tour into Lake Louise, Emerald Lake, as well as Yoho National Park – we saw Elk, and even some in our group saw a brown bear.
The pictures do not do it justice. On our last day in Banff, before traveling to Calgary for the final part of our tour – we visited the Banff Gondolas. These Gondolas carry you almost 7500 feet up to Sulphur Mountain for sweeping views of the surrounding peaks of six mountain ranges and the town of Banff itself. There is also a walkway out from the main building to enjoy the views, as well as bars and restaurants to enjoy.
The week concluded with a ride into Calgary, and a stay in the Gold Leaf Fairmont Calgary Hotel. That evening we visited the Heritage Park Historical Village – Canada’s largest living history museum. A 127 acre park in the center of Calgary. The highlight of the evening was learning the history of Calgary and even being gifted an official white cowboy hat of Calgary – a time honored Calgary symbol of hospitality.
Rocky Mountaineer was an amazing tour, whether for couples, friends and people who want to be in awe of the nature that exists in the world. Rocky Mountaineer is train travel at an elevated level that forces you to slow down and just enjoy one another and the sights.