With my two Chicago friends, Judy and Dee, the ‘Golden Girls’ decided to do this train trip across Canada from Vancouver to Toronto. We booked the Trans-Canada Rail Odyssey with Vantage World Travel and had great expectations for the trip; I had traveled with Vantage before and had been favorably impressed with their hotels and service. This trip, however, turned into a not-so-wonderful experience.
The hotels in Vancouver and Toronto were top-of-the-line historic old buildings with all the modern facilities and well-located, but things started to go downhill when we boarded the Rocky Mountaineer train. This train company does several tourist itineraries in British Columbia and uses bright, comfortable coaches with several ‘attendants’, big windows, and hot airplane-type meals served at one’s seat. We had been hearing rumors of an itinerary change and after the night in a hotel in Kamloops, BC, we learned that the next day’s travel to Banff and the two nights at a mountain lodge there were being eliminated and instead, we’d be going to Jasper and then by bus to Edmonton for the two nights. So we missed the highlights of the trip: touring the Rocky Mountain National Park, lunch at Lake Louise, and riding an ice buggy on the glaciers. Granted, the deviation was caused by an act of God: severe flooding around Calgary, washed-out train lines and roads, and the use of Banff for refugees from other flooded towns, and our tour leader worked very hard to make the necessary arrangements for the group but we were all greatly disappointed and turned very cranky. I’m sure Edmonton is a nice place for its residents, but it has very little of interest to tourists and the 4-hour ride there was miserable due to non-functional air conditioning and toilet on the bus—crankiness increased by an order of magnitude. Boarding The Canadian train run by the national Canadian rail system, we found the sleeping compartments to be extremely tiny and the coaches in general to be circa 1980’s decor. At least the meals in the dining car were quite good. The scenery through the flat provinces of Saskatchewan and Manitoba got monotonous very quickly, we were regularly shunted off onto sidings to allow endless freight trains to pass by, and we reached Winnipeg about 9 pm–just as all the shops closed at the tourist market. The few other stops were at one-horse towns in the middle of nowhere where swarms of mosquitoes had gathered to await new victims. Finally arriving at Toronto, we were very happy to find ourselves in another beautiful old hotel; the city proved to be a large and lively place with interesting markets and street life. The tour included a day trip to Niagara Falls which I skipped in order to see some museums and more of Toronto.
All in all, the three of us enjoyed just being together again, but the trip itself suffered from the change in the itinerary. Vantage gave all the tour passengers a $300 refund but that wasn’t even close to compensating us for the places and activities we missed. I guess I’ll just have to go back to Banff someday...
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19 June ’13....Chicago O’Hare ORD — Vancouver Int’l Airport, British Columbia, Canada YVR
20 June ..........Vancouver
21 June ..........Rocky Mountaineer Train to Kamloops, British Columbia
22 June ..........Rocky Mountaineer Train to Jasper, Alberta
23 June ..........Edmonton, Alberta
24 June ..........Edmonton, Alberta; board The Canadian Train
25 June ..........On board The Canadian through Saskatchewan...Saskatoon; Winnipeg
26 June ..........On board The Canadian through Manitoba and Ontario
27 June ..........Toronto, Ontario
28 June ..........Toronto, Ontario
29 June ..........Toronto Pearson Int’l Airport YYZ — Chicago O’Hare ORD
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