From Craig Travel's Sales and General Manager, Jennifer Kempa on her recent travel industry educational tour on a Rocky Mountaineer rail journey through Canada's west.... "This was a journey to remember! Arriving at Calgary airport, I was pleasantly surprised when, at the information desk, I simply gave my name and the nice gentleman behind the desk checked his computer and efficiently told me which hotel I was going to, then grabbed my luggage and lead me outside to the waiting coach. So began my lovely Rocky Mountain excursion.
I stayed at the Red Carpet Inn on Banff Ave, within easy walking distance of the downtown core and the railway station. The hotel is small, comfortable and family owned, with just a breakfast room, no restaurant. My clean, tidy room with a comfy bed was all I needed. The hotel offers free wi-fi, the login and password of which was provided with the room key. I really did want to walk to the station the next morning, so after I was settled I did a little exploratory walk around the town and the station, with everything being close by. I had dinner on my own at El Toro restaurant, in the hotel next door, and was happy to have some down time to read the new Robert Galbraith novel on my ipad while sipping a nice Australian shiraz.
Next morning, cool, bright and early I walked down Banff Ave, took a right at Elk St, passed Marten, Squirrel and Bighorn Streets to the station where I was welcomed by RMR agents and was quickly checked in and waiting on the narrow platform in minutes. The indoor waiting area is tiny and the actual outdoor platform had some seating and patio heaters. A friendly RCMP officer walked up and down to chat and welcomed us, happy to pose for photos. The train arrived in all its glory and despite the number of passengers waiting to board, the boarding procedure was very efficient. RMR are nothing if not organized. So our journey started with virtually 180 degree views from our seats. I was in Goldleaf and honestly there is no option; I would not suggest anyone travel anything less than gold. This is a 2 day journey... why not go for the best experience possible? Our journey was through our spectacular Canadian countryside, made all the more special by the crew who's storytelling abilities were awesome! The seats are comfortable with plenty of legroom, but there is nowhere except under the seat in front to store any hand luggage, so had to keep it small. Our scenic rail car had seating on the top level and below was the restaurant which served freshly cooked, virtually haute cuisine with accompanying fine wines. All beverages and meals were included in the one cost. At times when I needed to stretch my legs, I went downstairs and out into the vestibule, a covered area with railings and open sides.
Our one night during this journey was spent in a lovely hotel in Kamloops, the Fiveforty, a 4-minute bus ride away from the station. You could have dinner in the hotel or take a short walk and find a choice of small restaurants.
Back on the train before 8 the next morning and on with our deluxe adventure, beginning with a tasty gourmet breakfast followed by more stories and good company; more wildlife today as we wound our way to Vancouver. Goodbyes were strangely difficult; just 2 days spent together but good friends made, through this truly wonderful Canadian experience!"