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Above: A scheduled stop in Blue River.
We already showed you where we slept and what we ate on the VIA Rail Canada journey from Vancouver to Jasper, but we still have so much more to show you. (Yes, we're clearly totally sold on train travel.)
To round out our coverage of the trip, we put together a gallery of highlightsa grab bag of views, glimpses of other parts of the train, and shots from Vancouver's Pacific Central Station.
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If you spring for a Sleeper Class ticket, your meals are included. If you're in Economy, you can still access the Dining Car, although you'll be paying for your meals (they're around CAD$9-12 each) and the Sleeper peeps get priority access to the tables. There is also a snack bar on board, where anyone may buy packaged sandwiches, crisps and drinks.
The Canadian departs Vancouver at 8:30 pm and there is no dinner. If you're in Sleeper Class, however, there is a little send-off cocktail party in the Park car; down a little cup of bubbly and some hors d'oeuvres as you sit under the domed roof and watch the lights of the city slip away in the dark.
After way too many hours logged in cramped airline seats, we knew that the romance of air travel was long gone. (What's up, Pan Am?) But, we wondered, was there still charm and romance to be found when traveling by train?
After an 18-hour journey from Vancouver to Jasper, Alberta, on VIA Rail Canada, we can emphatically say yes. Of course, we were lucky enough to be traveling in one of The Canadian's Sleeper Cabins built for two, so that might have something to do with it.
We took a tour through the train before it departed, however, and found lots to like about the cabins for one, the berths and even the economy seatsmostly the fact that you don't have to sit in them the entire way, thanks to the Skyline dome car, with its observation level seating and panoramic windows.
But before we tell you more about the journey, the food and the amazing scenery of the Canadian Rockies, let's take a look at our digs on The Canadian...
VIA Rail Canada is hoping to convince budget-conscious luxury travelers to give up cruising on the oceans and instead head through the wilderness. The Montreal-based Canadian intercity train company is pushing tourists to embrace a four-night, three-day "land cruise" that will go coast-to-coast and provide meals and accommodations in between. The offer is making its way out through press releases and currently sits at the top of the official @viarailbuff Twitter feed. There are, however, a few minor glitches. Let's go to the blurb:
Though travelers can't expect casinos and nightclubs on board VIA Rail, many favorable comparisons can be drawn, including private sleeping accommodations, inclusive meal service and additional on-board amenities. Ready to "set rail"? VIA Rail's flagship service, the Canadian, which has been designated as one of the "World's Top 25 Trains" by the Society of International Railway Travelers... offers travelers one of the most comprehensive vacation options in Canada.
Singapore Airlines may frown upon passengers enjoying hanky-panky in one of their in-air suites, but VIA Rail Canada has no such qualms when it comes to riding their rails. They're determined to prove that transcontinental trains are not just for murder mysteries and chasing bad guys with guns across the tops through tunnels; they can instead be aphrodisiacs.
If the swaying of a train car and occasional moose sightings turn you on, opt for the "Romance by Rail" package onboard their Vancouver—Jasper—Toronto line. Hunker down for the long-haul into a private suite with queen bed, two private washrooms, complimentary in-room sparkling wine, fresh-cut flowers and even breakfast in bed.
The even better news is that February is off-peak, meaning that the lowest prices apply for this package: $2,926 for Toronto to Jasper and $1,739 for Jasper to Vancouver. Considering how that would be your bill for two nights in a cheap suite at The Plaza, the changing scenery of the train is well worth the price.
· Via Rail's "Romance by Rail" Package [Official Site]
· Ride the Rails in Style as Luxury Trains Proliferate [Jaunted]
· Train Travel coverage [Jaunted]
[Via rail map: Great Canadian Travel]
America isn't the only country where an extended train trip can help you recapture "the pleasure of simply moving." VIA Rail Canada, that country's answer to Amtrak, has just announced it's halving fares on its Toronto-Jasper-Vancouver Canadian as long as you leave before January 6.
How swanky are these trains?
The promotion is valid in all classes of service, including Silver & Blue, the Canadian’s premier class of service with cozy, comfortable sleeping compartments complete with duvet bedding and regional Canadian cuisine--included in the ticket price--served in an elegant dining car. Customers traveling on the Canadian train also enjoy exclusive access to a domed observation car featuring 360-degree panoramic viewing of the impressive passing landscape.
A three-day trip with a multi-night stopover permitted--in case you want to stretch the legs for a night in Jasper, say--starts at C$1,048 ($910) one-way, including taxes. That may seem like a lot, but if you figure the cost of three hotel nights, nine meals and all-day entertainment for your whole trip, it starts to look like a bargain. You'll need to book by December 11 to lock in the lower rate.
Ever taken this trip or a different VIA Rail ride? How was it?