Our Travel Stories, Travel Reviews

The Rocky Mountaineer

There are no words, no photos, no videos which can even come close to experiencing the Rocky Mountaineer for real, so if you have even so much as considered this trip my advice to you would be ‘DO IT’ I promise you won’t regret it.

Cameron and I have possibly just experienced the most enriching, beautiful and magical 2 days of our entire life.

Now, despite the incredible experience we had, I should be clear in pointing out that Rocky Mountaineer really don’t market themselves for the ‘family holiday’ or for young children. Even at 47 I was possibly one of the youngest passengers on board. The general demographics of fellow travellers was retired couples and I do fully understand why – the trip which is basically 2 x 12 hour days on board would be way too long for many children and to have a train filled with bored, noisy kids running up and down the carriages would ruin the trip for many other passengers!!

Knowing Cameron’s love of trains however I didn’t hesitate when I booked this trip, but an acquaintance then said to me “oh your son will be so bored, when we went it was really cloudy and we didn’t see a thing”. I started to worry if I had done the right thing, Cameron was really excited about going and I worked hard on explaining that we would be spending ALL day for two days sat on the train. I am pleased to report that he didn’t let me down – both passengers and staff were stopping me to comment on how incredible he had been and telling me what an amazing little boy he had been, and I don’t mind admitting it was one of my ‘proud Mummy moments’. Yes he spend a couple of hours on the ipad each day but for the most of the time he was fully engaged with every one and every thing, gazing out of the window looking for wildlife and enjoying the scenery. The highlight for him was also watching all the other long freight trains go by.

DAY 1 – Vancouver to Kamloops

The taxi brought us to the Rocky Mountaineer Station at Vancouver where we were immediately met by a lovely lady who unloaded our bags and pushed them to the check in desk for us. Check in was a breeze and we then took our seats in the waiting area and listened to the lovely music being played on the grand piano whilst staff came around with trays of juice for us. Then it was time for the ‘Welcome Aboard’ Ceremony, a bagpiper played and then staff took to the stage to welcome us & to introduce the train managers. The whistle then blew and it was time board, we had already been allocated our coach and seat number on check in – so with the all aboard signal given 710 passengers excitedly make their way to the train whilst the bagpiper stood out in the rain piping us all aboard (thankfully for us as we left Vancouver the rain completely stopped).

As the train backed up to leave, all the station staff stood in the rain with their umbrellas to wave us goodbye…and then we were off. Our hosts quickly introduced themselves along with the dining car & kitchen staff and we began our day together with a glass of juice and sunrise toast.

We travelled Gold Leaf enjoying the two level coaches with the beautiful upper dome ceiling. I can’t recommend this highly enough for the additional views that it gave us. I am not sure what the difference is in price between Gold & Silver leaf as I only ever asked for the 1 quote but for us it was worth every penny. Our meals were served downstairs in the Dining Car but it made you realise how much more restrictive the views were downstairs to upstairs.

Breakfast and Lunches were served on two sittings and on day 1 we were on first sitting and so it wasn’t long before we were called down for breakfast where I enjoyed croissants, fresh fruit salad and a skillet, Cam was happy with just sausage and toast (he is the worlds fussiest eater!). The Dining Room is a very sociable place as it’s there you get to sit and chat with other passengers.

The first couple of hours leaving Vancouver isn’t really scenic as a lot of it is travelling through more industrial areas, but before long we were out and following the Fraser River, every minute revealing new views of canyons, rivers, mountain’s & prairies. We travelled on 5/6 October and this was the perfect time as the trees are turning to the rich autumn colours which seem to frame every scene with a tapestry of colour.

Onward and onward we rode, I wish I could have photographed and videoed every moment and every breath taking view. it’s impossible but also you have to be strict with yourself too so that you can enjoy the journey through your own eyes and not simply through a camera lense or back of the phone.

As the hours ticked away our hosts Alex and Emily gave interesting & entertaining commentaries which were informative for all on board but were a genuine benefit to Cameron’s world schooling as he learnt about how the Canadian Pacific Railroad was built, the life cycle of a salmon and so much more. In addition to this our hosts furnished us with a good supply of drinks, they worked so hard and didn’t seem to stop from start to finish.

Lunch was again served downstairs in the Dining Car, both the food and the service were faultless on all occasions. There was no children’s menu supplied as my travel agent had indicated, but in fairness Cameron rarely finds anything to choose from anyway so he asked for just a bowl of plain jasmine rice and reported back to our server that it was the best bowl of rice he had ever had!!

The afternoon continued to reveal more breath taking views and the autumn colours just seemed to get more spectacular with every mile. As we passed by Kamloops lake the Eagles were out in force, it was hard to photograph them from a moving train without professional equipment but they truly were a sight to behold.

Just as the sun began to set we made our final river crossing as we pulled into the town of Kamloops.

Not only were our suitcases delivered directly to our hotel rooms in Kamloops but hotel keys were issued on the train too. Rocky Mountaineer truly could not have made things easier for us. We were instructed to leave our bags in the room the next morning too, where they would be collected from….and low and behold they reappeared in our room in Banff the following evening.

A coach transferred us the short journey to our hotel ‘The Sandman’ in Kamloops where we enjoyed a very comfortable overnight stay. We were greeted on arrival by the Canadian Mounted Patrol and after retiring to our rooms enjoyed the most spectacular autumn sunset from our small balcony.

A little video we made on the summary of day 1:

Day 1: Youtube Vancouver to Kamloops

Day 2 – Kamloops to Banff

Day 2 was another early start as the coach was picking us up at 6.15am, Cameron was not impressed with my trying to drag him out of bed at such an hour again but his excitement mounted as we headed for the train.

We departed Kamloops to a fairly misty start but as the mist started to rise up from the lakes as the sun rose it really was quite mystical and haunting.

We were on the second dining sitting today but whilst the first group went downstairs for breakfast we we given warm cinnamon scones and hot coffee. A great start to the day and actually I preferred having the later breakfast as I had started to wake up a bit by then and was ready for it. On day 1 I had enjoyed a delicious breakfast skillet and on day 2 scrambled egg with smoked salmon which was beautifully presented as you can see below.

The scenery on day 2 got even better as we climbed higher into the Mountains. Mother nature had truly blessed us and we couldn’t have asked for a better day; clear blue sky’s, autumn colours on the trees, and with a early winter blizzard the week before the snow capped mountains were literally the icing on the cake. To add to that the train had been divided in two overnight with the rear half going up to Jasper whist we travelled on to Banff. This however meant that our coach now became the rear coach of the train and gave us additional views from the open vestibule.

As I said earlier no photos do justice to the magnificent mountains or indeed any part of the scenery, it truly does have to be experienced for real. I wanted to capture every single moment and every view.

At lunch time we were again on second sitting but whilst we waited our turn we were served cheese and wine at our seats and for lunch I enjoyed a delicious prawn risotto.

Towards the end of the journey our guest services manager Mubina came round and gifted Cameron a beautiful Rocky Mountaineer Teddy ‘Jasper’. He was overjoyed and I think he has made a new best friend as he hasn’t let him out of his sight since we left.

It was two long days for a 6 yr old but he LOVED every single moment and I have to say that my heart was filled with pride when other passengers commented on his good behaviour throughout.

Although as I said at the start I know Rocky Mountaineer isn’t really aiming for the family/children’s market, they could not have done more to make both mine and Cameron’s trip magical. That goes for station staff at Vancouver, our hosts Alex & Emily, dining room staff Amy & Holly Ann and every single member of the train crew we encountered. The social media team on twitter were also fantastic and very quickly came back to me with answers to a couple of questions before we departed.

I should perhaps add at this stage that I have also done the Orient Express trip from London to Venice and it doesn’t even come close to the Rocky Mountaineer experience!

I would 100% recommend this trip, I honestly don’t have a bad word to say, it was possibly two of the best days of my life – and that’s coming from someone with extensive world wide travel experience, specialising in the luxury travel market.

The additional 3 nights we spent in Banff at the Fox Hotel & Suites were fantastic too (Cameron especially loved the underground cave for swimming!)

If I could make one tiny recommendation it would be to eventually add USB chargers to the seats on the train. With so many people using phone cameras these days and so many incredible views phones were going flat quickly. There were charging points available at the front of the carriage, but this means passengers were without a camera whilst theirs phones were charging. USB in seat backs would be welcome by many I’m sure.

I am delighted to recommend Rocky Mountaineer on my blog, I truly didn’t want it to end. Before we left the U.K. I said that this was going to be a ‘once in a lifetime’ experience – it wasn’t! I only say that now because one day we WILL be back to do it all over again.

Here is our second youtube video of day 2.

Day 2 – Youtube, Kamloops to Banff

Thank you to every member of the Rocky Mountaineer team who helped make our experience so magical – you made a little boy very very happy!

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