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Sophia travels in style onboard the Rocky Mountaineer First Passage to the West

Staff member: Sophia // Trip date: Apr 2016


When it comes to train travel, Rocky Mountaineer has redefined this form of transport, making it clear that luxury and guest experience sits at the forefront of any great rail experience.


We were welcomed to the Rocky Mountaineer Station with chilled orange juice and champagne along with a jazz pianist playing away at a grand piano in the lobby. I learned quickly that this is not just a train journey, but an experience of luxury, one to which thousands visiting Western Canada each year flock. Even stepping on board the train evoked a spark of excitement, knowing that an unforgettable journey had now started.


As we ascended to the upper level of the GoldLeaf car, a Mexican wave of jaws dropping filled the carriage. We had all heard about the glass-domed roofs before, but we hadn't expected that being beneath them was the same as being beneath Canada's brilliant blue open sky. Light streamed from left, right and centre. As we found our seats, still in awe, one of our Rocky Mountaineer hosts smiled, 'Wait till you see the scenery'. I knew now why previous travellers had raved about Rocky Mountaineer's GoldLeaf service; the custom-designed, bi-level, glass-domed GoldLeaf coaches placed us right in the middle of the Canadian Rockies. On the upper level, spacious and reclining seats were to be our home for the next two days of travel, while the lower level dining room is where all our gourmet meals would be served. In SilverLeaf, guests can enjoy the same spaciousness and instead with extra-large picture windows and an enhanced service which includes an all-new culinary program that's sure to please.


If there's one thing you should know about your time on the Rocky Mountaineer, it's that you will never go hungry. Expect to be impressed by the culinary experience that awaits in GoldLeaf; three-course, à la carte meals made from fresh, local ingredients. Being a vegetarian, I was curious to find out how Rocky Mountaineer would cater to this. Taking a seat in the comfortable GoldLeaf dining car, I peeked into the tiny galley kitchen (it couldn't have been any bigger than two storage cupboards!) and wondered, 'How on earth are they going to serve all thirtysomething passengers in this dining car?'. Rocky Mountaineer however never ceased to impress; after a fresh entrée of Tomato Soup paired with the generous pouring of red or white wine (take note: Rocky Mountaineer hosts will not accept a half-empty wine glass), the hosts soon emerged from the tiny galley with arms full of gourmet dishes for the guests. Steak from prime Alberta Beef, smoked wild Pacific Salmon and brioche burgers soon appeared before us all. For me, I enjoyed one of the freshest vegetarian burgers with homemade ketchup I still pine for to this day. "They have Michelin chefs onboard and all the meals are freshly cooked," I overheard someone mentioning across a nearby table. I dug in to the gorgeous meal before me and knew a testament to the chefs was how quickly peoples' plates were emptied. More was to await us in that tiny galley. As if we hadn't eaten enough, we were treated to a sumptuous chocolate cake served with fresh strawberries and ice cream with honey brittle. When travelling with other Australians, expect there to be an overflow of Baileys, for Australians are notorious to Rocky Mountaineer onboard hosts for being true advocates of drinking Baileys during the trip. Rocky Mountaineer boasts a selection of top-shelf beer, wine and spirits for guests to indulge in while enjoying the breathtaking scenery passing before them.


Halfway through our trip between Kamloops and Banff, a passenger cried out, "Bear! Bear! Black Bear!" In an instant, all passengers in the carriage leapt from their seats to one side of the carriage for a quick glimpse. Spotting wildlife during the journey are common especially during the spring. We were fortunate enough during the trip to sight ospreys in their tangled nests, bald eagles crested on top of tall tress, families of bighorn sheep and the grand prize of all wildlife sightings, black bears. Black bears are known to frequent close to the Spiral Tunnels when nearing Banff, but have been sighted close to the train's tracks. Since freight trains share the track with the Rocky Mountaineer, food being transported from city to city can fall onto the tracks which attracts the curious noses of wild bears. Given the amount of wildlife you can encounter while on the train, equip yourself with fast reflexes and a fully charged camera; be prepared for some quick shooting and spontaneous photo-taking.


After traversing along the thundering Thompson River (have your camera ready for the dramatic scenery of the dusty canyons), Day 2 from Kamloops is where all the majesty of the Canadian Rockies truly began. The snowy mountain tops grew taller and the valleys and waterfalls become deeper. The once flat and arid landscape of the previous day from Vancouver was replaced by scenes of rushing rivers, dramatic mountain ridges and icier mountain tops. The blue-green waters of the Bow River rolling under snow-capped mountain peaks are photo opportunities not to be missed. I joined other camera-toting guests in the viewing vestibule for the showstopper of the journey: The Spiral Tunnels. The train had picked up speed as it threaded through wide patches of woods coated with snow, a far cry from the desert-like canyons from the previous day.


When our onboard host announced that we're due to arrive in Banff within an hour, a feeling of disappointment waved over the passengers in our carriage. Had it really been 12 hours we've been on the train? Then I remembered where I was going. While the unforgettable journey onboard the Rocky Mountaineer had come to an end, the majestic scenery would not. We arrived in the mountain-framed town of Banff, where the magic of the Canadian Rockies awaited us.


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