Did you ever take a scenic trip by car, perhaps the Grande Corniche on the French Cote d’Azur or the Italian Amalfi Coast, with the driver of the car missing out on at least half of the fabulous, breathtaking views thanks to winding, cliffside roads? Or have you ever felt that good narration about the sites you were seeing, or gourmet meals as awesome as the scenery, would enhance your travels?
In western Canada there is a company which has devoted itself to providing the best in scenic travel to a discriminating clientele, Rocky Mountaineer. The company has been awarded multiple times the prestigious Word Travel Award as the “World’s Leading Travel Experience by Train”. Recently we had the distinct pleasure of being their guests for a luxurious visit through the Canadian Rockies and surrounding areas so we can describe firsthand their unique approach to the art of scenic travel.
World Class Service is the hallmark of the company. Each Rocky Mountaineer coach has hosts who will share colorful stories and tell tall tales about the sites and dramatic vistas outside your window. They will come around to your seat regularly throughout the day to offer you drinks and snacks and attend to any wish you might have. Further over-seeing your comfort are a Guest Services Manager and a Train Manager who will visit your coach several times each day to share some info about the sights and the company with you, make sure you are fully satisfied with your trip, and address any questions you might have.
Similarly, the servers in the dining car aim to attend to your every need … would you like to have your food cooked a special way, or would you like to substitute “risotto” for “potatoes”, or perhaps you’d like a larger portion? No problem! Just ask and you will find they aim to please.
Since Rocky Mountaineer takes great pride in the quality of the service they provide it is not surprising that their employees undergo an intensive two-month training course before they begin working with customers. Rocky Mountaineer provides three levels of service, “Gold Leaf”, “Silver Leaf” and “Red Leaf”. You can check out their website for further details: Rocky Mountaineer
Offering the ultimate in viewing and comfort, Rocky Mountaineer’s Gold Leaf Service coach is a double decker with 180 degrees of viewing from the glass sides and roof of its upper deck dome. The reclining chairs for the passengers are super comfy with both headrest and footrest support along with a large fold-down tray and lumbar pillow. Also on the upper deck is a full-service bar which serves non-alcoholic beverages throughout the entire trip and offers complimentary wine and cocktails starting from 11am.
Both a spiral staircase and an elevator for wheelchair passengers descend from the upper deck to the lower deck, which offers superb window views from its comfortable and elegant dining room, along with a good-sized state-of-the-art kitchen, 2 large bathrooms including one that accommodates wheelchairs, and a viewing outdoor balcony which offers an ideal space for taking photos outside while serving as the link between coach cars.
“Eat Well Travel Often” is the apropos motto of the Rocky Mountaineer’s gourmet menu. Breakfast and Lunch are served daily in the dining room, and when the train arrives later than scheduled due to unavoidable delays on the tracks, dinner is also provided by the culinary team. Meals are served in two shifts. While the first shift of passengers has their breakfast, the second shift remains in the upper deck and is served freshly baked scones and coffee or tea. Similarly at lunch, the second shift is offered a cheese platter with wine while the first shift has lunch. The following day, the passengers in each Gold Leaf Service car rotate dining shifts.
The cuisine is an important part of the Rocky Mountaineer experience. The two lead chefs are French men trained in France whose mission is to produce the best meals possible from farm fresh, local ingredients sourced in Western Canada. There are always a vegetarian and a gluten-free offering on every menu, and the lunch menu also offers daily fish, poultry and beef options. While breakfast starts with a deliciously fresh fruit platter and includes freshly baked croissants, lunch offers authentic French baguette, a selection of local wines with the meal, and the Chef’s dessert du jour.
Some of the recipes served at meals are featured in their Rocky Mountaineer cookbook which I couldn’t resist buying after I sampled the food and read through most of the recipes. My favorite offering at breakfast was the farm fresh Gold Rush eggs scrambled with smoked salmon and accompanied by a light, lemon chive creme fraiche with kelp caviar, while at lunch it was the Alberta beef short ribs slowly braised in Okanagan Valley Merlot wine. Meals were always accompanied by coffee and a selection of teas.
While customer service from their dedicated well-trained employees, their “Gold Leaf” coach design and service, and their gourmet cuisine are the pride of Rocky Mountaineer’s business, I would be remiss not too mention a few other important features of traveling with the company.
Excellent narration of sights from our hosts Candice, Tiffany and Jordan kept us well-entertained and broadened our appreciation for the beauty and history of the scenes passing outside our windows. Printed materials in our seat pockets also helped us identify and understand the spectacular vistas we were enjoying. Cellular service in the Canadian Rockies is sporadic, but our Skyroam Global Hotspot gave us internet access in and near all the towns of the area.
Guest Services Manager Tyler kept us informed daily on the logistics of our travel … where we would be arriving, whether we needed to check in or would receive our key in an envelope upon our arrival from one of the Rocky Mountaineer staff, whether we needed to identify our luggage for the bellman or whether we would find it in our room, what time we would meet up in the lobby for the following day’s adventures, and so on. The TLC of our luggage, which traveled separately from hotel to hotel, and the transport and organization of passengers from the Rocky Mountaineer to the the hotel each night and back again in the morning is a hallmark of Rocky Mountaineer’s logistical excellence.
The Rocky Mountaineer experience also includes the option of taking a bus trip from Banff to Jasper along Alberta’s famous Icefield Parkway, the most scenic highway in Canada. This day trip includes a visit to the Athabaska Glacier offering a truly awesome walkabout on the ice with the trip onto the glacier via the extraordinary Ice Explorer. If you enjoy communing with nature, do not miss this memorable experience! While the glacier visit was the highlight of this day trip, truly breathtaking scenery was the theme of the day accompanied by expert narration from our guide and driver, Bill.
Finally, you should know that Rocky Mountaineer offers a selection of itineraries which can be combined and customized to suit your needs and interests. Please visit their website, RockyMountaineer.com, for more information.
Bon Voyage everybody!
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