Life Changing Adventures Await… Onboard the Rocky Mountaineer with Luke
Friday 5th May 2017, 12:00am
“Life Changing Adventures Await” according to the Rocky Mountaineer, and I must say they weren’t wrong…
I was lucky enough, along with 15 other travel agents to be invited on a ‘learning journey’ onboard the Rocky Mountaineer in April 2017. The route we’d be taken on was called the Journey through the clouds – Western Explorer, a 6 day eastbound tour which included 2 days onboard the prestigious Rocky Mountaineer. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity, which exceeded my expectations to say the least.
Day 1 Vancouver – From our flight in London we arrived in Vancouver, Canada. The scenery was unbelievable. A city skyline with a backdrop of snow topped mountains, was something I had never seen before. We were transferred to the Four Seasons hotel (Gold Leaf), downtown. As soon as we arrived at this property you could tell it’s renowned for luxury by the decor and we were greeted with bottles of water then escorted to the check in desk. Upgraded to a suite we couldn’t really ask for much more. We were told we had an hour to get changed and spruce up, for an evening drinks reception at the Sheraton hotel (which was only a 10 minute walk away). We made our way to the top floor, which had a balcony overlooking the harbour, and if that wasn’t special enough the sun started to set. Not a bad start to our week away.
Day 2 Train from Vancouver to Kamloops – We woke up bright and early for our 7.30 departure from the train station in Vancouver. At the terminal we were greeted by smiley faces and a refreshing beverage. We waited only 10 minutes until everyone started to crowd around the entrance to the train, where a man started to play the bagpipes, which was a nice touch. They started off with an introduction to a few staff members, and then they got two Aussies from the crowd up on stage to ‘toot the horn’ which indicated it was time to get onboard! We were then shown to our seats in a Silver leaf carriage. They were very spacious with lots of room to walk around. We made our way out of Vancouver through some industrial sites in the morning, which if I’m honest wasn’t the best scenery but I knew there was much more to come. Breakfast and Lunch was served in our seats, unlike Gold Leaf but I’ll speak more about that later on. In the afternoon we passed by the Fraser canyon and made our way into Kamloops, arriving around 5pm in the evening. Kamloops is a typical rail town, which didn’t feel like the ‘real Canada’ although it was pleasant nonetheless. We stayed in the Thomas Hotel (Silver Leaf) which was basic 3 star accommodation. After a long day on the train we were ready for bed in excitement for what was left to come.
Day 3 Train from Kamloops to Jasper – On our second day on the train we were told we’d be in a Gold Leaf carriage, not knowing it was one of the brand new carriages which had some cool new features. The domed windows give you great views of the sky and the seats were electric, reclined and were even heated! It felt like we were sitting in a Rolls Royce (not that I know what that feels like). In Gold Leaf the dining room is beneath where you sit, we were told dining would be split into two sittings and fortunately we were the first sitting. However I’m not sure how I was even hungry, as we ate so much the previous day on the train. If you’re in Golf Leaf for two days, one day you’ll be dining first, and the next day you’d be second, which is only fair. Also if you’re on the later sitting they bring you a snack whilst you’re waiting for breakfast and lunch, again another nice touch. The scenery on day 2 was spectacular. We were on ‘wildlife watch’ throughout the whole day and were lucky enough to see some elk, a moose and even a black mother bear with its cubs! There were shouts of ‘bear on the right’, which made everyone race to the windows tripping over handbags and each other’s feet, which was quite amusing. We travelled passed the enormous Mount Robson and snow started to fall, we couldn’t have asked for anything more. We arrived in Jasper fairly late and checked into the Best Western hotel (silver leaf) which was a nice 3+ star hotel. Jasper is a small town in the Rockies but had a strip of lovely bars and restaurants that we headed to for our evening meal.
Day 4 Coach from Jasper to Lake Louise – Unfortunately we’d ended our journey onboard the Rocky Mountaineer, but were picked up from our hotel by a brand new luxurious coach, in which we started our full day sightseeing tour with Brewsters. We made our way along the icefields Parkway which is one of the world’s most scenic highways. Then we arrived at the Athabasca Glacier and jumped on the ice explorer bus (I literally had to jump it’s that big!). We stepped out on the glacier to take some pictures and played around in the snow, then we hopped back on our original coach to carry on the tour, stopping at multiple destinations to take some photos. Finally ending our day arriving at the Fairmount Chateau Lake Louise hotel (Gold Leaf). This is the hotel you see in all the pictures, located right at the bottom of the Lake. Unlike the pictures, the lake at this time of the year was completely frozen over and covered in snow. It was like a winter wonderland in a five star hotel, everywhere we looked was white. Whatever time of year you visit the Fairmont at Lake Louise, it’s bound to be spectacular.
Day 5 Coach Lake Louise to Banff – We were told to stock ourselves up for breakfast as lunch was later on, so we all took advantage of the all you can eat breakfast buffet at the Fairmont chateau. We then got back on the bus and headed towards our next destination, Banff. The journey itself is usually only an hour or so but instead we drove through Yoho national park. Again we stopped off at multiple destinations to take some more photos. We arrived in the quaint town of Banff around lunchtime. The ski season was still open so the town itself was buzzing with excitement. The sun was shining and there was snow on the tops of the mountains, perfect conditions. We had lunch in the town centre then headed to our accommodation for the night, the Banff Caribou Lodge (Silver Leaf). The hotel itself was a 3+ star but felt more like a 4 star hotel, located a 5 minute walk from the main strip of shops.
Day 6 Coach Banff to Calgary – On our penultimate day we had a full day of sightseeing included, along with two really exciting tours. First on the list was a ride up the Banff gondola which took just under 10 minutes. At the top there were glorious views overlooking Banff and the rest of the Rocky Mountains. This is a must do if you’re visiting the area! When we got back down we headed back into the town for lunch and where then picked up and got back on the road. The next tour was the one we’d all been waiting for… The summit helicopter flightseeing tour! This was the one thing that stuck out to me whilst reading the initially itinerary. We were briefed on our coach then headed straight into the waiting room for our ride. The 12 minute tour went directly between the mountains and there were clear blue skies. This was the perfect way to end our trip. After the helicopter tour we headed straight to Calgary for our final night where we stayed the newly built Le Germain hotel (Gold Leaf), a 5 star property which was my favourite out of the lot. It didn’t quite have the views and the scenery as the Fairmont in Lake Louise, however the modern rooms and décor swung it for me. We had a lovely evening meal at the hotel on our last night and got given a Calgary stampede hat as a souvenir.
Day 7 Hometime – on the final day we transferred from our hotel to the airport and our journey unfortunately came to an end.
The trip itself was what they call a ‘once in a lifetime experience’. However I don’t agree with that, I’d be more than happy to do it again and again in the future. As time of year you visit the Rockies will change your experience in many different ways.
There wasn’t much missing from this trip, although if there was one thing I could have added, it’d be a cruise at the end. An Alaskan cruise to be specific. Going from the Rockies to the icebergs in the ocean is one thing that is still on my bucket list for the future. But nevertheless, thank you Rocky Mountaineer!