VIA Rail’s best-known route is one of the continent’s great epic train journeys, taking passengers from Toronto to Vancouver on a four-day odyssey on board The Canadian. Almost 63,000 passengers traveled on this train during last year’s peak season, from May through October.
The four day trip, beginning in Toronto, passes through the rolling countryside of southern Ontario, then stops at Winnipeg, Manitoba and Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Entering Alberta, it passes through Edmonton and into the mountains as it approaches Jasper before continuing on over the Rocky Mountains to Vancouver.
Clients taking this legendary journey across the 2,775 miles between Toronto and the Pacific Coast will pass through more than 60 communities across five provinces, a unique way to discover the vast landscapes of central and western Canada. On the way they will see major cities, charming small towns and spectacular scenery of northern prairies and the Rocky Mountains. It’s a trip filled with cultural and scenic diversity, all enjoyed from comfortable reclining seats or armchairs.
Trains depart three times weekly between May and mid-October and twice weekly from mid-October to May, in either direction. While most travelers make the entire journey, your clients can begin their trip on The Canadian at any of its several stops.
Your clients booked into the Canadian package will experience first-class travel beginning with a private waiting room close to the train in Toronto or Vancouver. Newly refurbished cars and the launch of VIA Rail’s new Prestige Sleeper class have made The Canadian even more appealing,
Clients can choose between Economy and Sleeper-Plus Class and Prestige Sleeper Class; the latter two include all meals, served in the china-and-linens dining car, complimentary hot drinks and snacks, a comfortable berth in a cabin or a suite, an armchair for sightseeing and access to the panoramic Park car and departure lounges.
There are three options available for overnight trips: Sleeper Plus, Sleeper Plus Cabin for two and top of the line, Prestige class service. Sleeper Plus solves the sleeping issue in the most economical way but the downside is that the berths at that level of service are upper bunks, awkward because it separates couples and people traveling together. Sleeper Plus cabin for Two provides a cabin with an upper and lower bunk, but at a considerably higher per-person price. All the cabins have sinks with drinkable water. The top-of-the-line accommodations, Prestige Sleeper Class, include a private cabin with a private shower.
Meal service is also provided aboard the long-haul trains. For travelers in economy class, hot and cold snacks are available for purchase. For those in Sleeper Plus and higher classes hot meals are included in the fare, often regional specialties prepared by well-known chefs. The other major advantage of the higher class of passage is access to special lounge and dome cars that provide spectacular full-angle views of the passing landscapes.
Whichever route your clients plan to travel in Canada, they will find a choice in types of accommodations on almost all VIA Rail trains. Economy tickets are reasonably priced and travel is comfortable. Seating is well designed, amply sized and usually two-by-two, with luggage racks at the end of each car. Some trains do have facing seating for family and business groups, but availability varies and should be checked when booking. A pull-up table is usually available, as is a plug for electronic devices. Most long distance trains also have WiFi available onboard. Although seats do recline, on overnight -- and especially on multi-night -- trips, encourage clients to choose a higher class to avoid having to sleep in the seats.
Transcontinental passengers on The Canadian have a couple of alternative route options that provide a change of pace and a chance to see even more of Canada’s natural wonders. Suggest a change of trains at Winnipeg for a journey north through the wilderness of Manitoba to Churchill, famed for its polar bear experiences and Northern Lights.
Another alternative is to suggest that from Jasper, rather than taking the Vancouver route, clients take the more northern Rocky Mountain route through Prince George to Prince Rupert. The route travels through Jasper National Park and the Canadian Rockies, crossing the Yellowhead Pass and along the Skeena River to the coast. Highlights include the Kitselas Canyon, Kathlyn Glacier and Skeena River waterfalls. You will need to book them a hotel room for the stopover in Prince George. Air Canada flights are available from Prince Rupert airport, or suggest they continue the trip by ferry
(www.aircanada.com/splash/agents/). The train station is at the ferry terminal for boats between Alaska and Seattle.
Trains through Maritime Canada
Special travel routes are also available in eastern Canada. A popular one is from Montreal (it can also be accessed from Quebec) to Halifax. This train travels along the southern shore of the Saint Lawrence River in Quebec, into New Brunswick through Campbellton and Moncton and on to Halifax in Nova Scotia. Rail service from the Windsor, Toronto and Ottawa areas of Ontario connect seamlessly to Montreal.