Rocky Mountaineer – GoldLeaf Service – Vancouver to Banff

The Rocky Mountaineer is a luxury train in Canada that visits the beautiful Rocky Mountains.

Approaching Banff on the Rocky Mountaineer Train in GoldLeaf

This was my second time onboard the Rocky Mountaineer, the first time I travelled in their SilverLeaf service, you can read about that journey here.

The Rocky Mountaineer departs from their own station in downtown Vancouver. I was travelling on Rocky Mountaineer’s “First Passage to the West” which travels from Vancouver to Banff with an overnight stop in Kamloops. The Rocky Mountaineer only travels during the daytime hours, you don’t sleep on the train. This way you have optimal viewing of the Rocky Mountains and any wildlife along your journey.

Me in front of the Rocky Mountaineer Engine before our journey

The night before we were set to depart we made our way to their Guest Services Centre which was at the Sheraton Wall Centre in Vancouver to check in and do our complementary and required antigen Covid tests. This was a very quick process and we had our negative results within fifteen minutes. We also heard the bad news that the rail tracks were still closed due to the wildfires near Lytton and we were given an updated schedule for our first day from Vancouver to Kamloops by bus.

The next morning I was dropped off at the Rocky Mountaineer station, where we dropped off our luggage and took a shuttle to the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver for an included breakfast before we boarded our buses to Kamloops in our respective rail car groups. Our Rocky Mountaineer hosts were on board our bus, pointing out a few of the “points of interest” long the way. We stopped at the Britton Creek Rest Stop on the Coquihalla Highway and we were provided with a snack bag containing some refreshments before continuing on to Kamloops.

Once in Kamloops we enjoyed an included lunch and checked into our hotel which was the Delta by Marriott Kamloops. The hotel was recently renovated, the rooms were quite nice and the bed was very comfortable.

Room at the Delta Hotel by Marriott in Kamloops

The Rocky Mountaineer includes luggage service, which means when you arrive to your hotel your luggage is waiting for you in your room and you leave your luggage in your room at your mid point hotel for them to take it to your next stop along your journey. Luggage travels by transport truck between hotels, it doesn’t come on the train. When packing your carry on for the train, keep in mind that there is no “overhead compartment” to store bags, so anything you bring on board will typically be by your feet. It’s very wise to make sure that anything of importance is kept with you (medications, electronics, etc) in case your luggage is delayed.

We were shuttled from our hotel to Rocky Mountaineer’s rail yard to board our train to Banff at 6:10am. You board your bus based on your rail car number so your bus lines up with your rail car that you’ll be travelling in.

Boarding our Rocky Mountaineer GoldLeaf Rail Car in the Kamloops Rail Yard

The Rocky Mountaineer GoldLeaf rail car features on the lower level an outdoor viewing vestibule, a dining area, two washrooms and business class style seating in the domed area up above. The seats are fully automated and each guest has their own controls for heat, recline, lumbar support and leg rests. The seat also features power outlets to charge devices and a tray table.

Business Class Style Seating in the Rocky Mountaineer Gold Leaf Train Car

In the “Welcome Aboard” package you will find a drinks menu, gratuity envelope for service recognition, souvenir catalogue, The “RM” Magazine and the “Mile Post”, which is a great guide you can follow along using the rail markers along your journey.

Welcome Aboard Package

Soon after boarding and a safety briefing we on our way! We were in the first seating for breakfast, so we went downstairs to the dining area of our train car. We started with a fresh smoothie and a croissant, followed by the Eggs Benedict. The food on board Rocky Mountaineer is so good.

Breakfast Menu in GoldLeaf on the Rocky Mountaineer
Eggs Benedict in Gold Leaf on the Rocky Mountaineer

There can be some delays and stops along the way as you wait for trains to pass as Rocky Mountaineer has limited priority on the tracks. This is a great opportunity to enjoy the outdoor vestibule, see the workings of the trains and rail yards up close.

The washrooms on board the train are kept immaculate and are well appointed. In the GoldLeaf railcars there are two washrooms on the main level with one being accessible.

It’s also so nice to see so many people waving to the train as it passes by, you can’t help but to wave back! You pass by one woman’s home in particular in Canoe, who religiously waves at each Rocky Mountaineer train that passes by. Because of this she was actually invited onboard herself and Rocky Mountaineer had arranged for hosts to go to her home, waving to her on the train as they passed by her home.

Waving at the Rocky Mountaineer as it passes by

Our journey took us along the shores of Shuswap Lake and one of our first tunnels on our trip.

The dining area on our GoldLeaf car was very comfortable and was setup with partitions for proper social distancing. You were seated with your travelling party only or you could dine with others if you wished. The culinary team were fantastic and did an amazing job of all the meals and snacks onboard. The menus onboard feature local ingredients and they can cater to many different dietary restrictions.

GoldLeaf dining area on the Rocky Mountaineer
Culinary team and galley on the GoldLeaf train car

The Rocky Mountaineer beverage selections feature some great local wines from the Okanagan Valley, along with local craft beers and ciders.

GoldLeaf Drinks Menu on the Rocky Mountaineer

Passing by some of the historical landmarks is what makes this journey by train so unique. Craigellachie is an important landmark along these rails as it’s where “The Last Spike” was driven in, to join the eastern and western railways together. The actual spot is marked by a stone pyramid marker and some of the original rails still remain.

Crossing over the Columbia River, we entered into Revelstoke. I actually used to live here and saw the Rocky Mountaineer passing through all the time. I always knew I would be on that train one day and I’ve been lucky enough to have experienced this journey now twice. As we left Revelstoke it was time for lunch! We started off with some bread, marinated olives, mushrooms and a delicious red pepper dip. For lunch I had the steak, that was served with a chimichurri sauce, broccolini, potatoes and carrots. I also tried the herb risotto which was lovely. Dessert was a trio of chocolate which I enjoyed with a coffee and Baileys.

GoldLeaf Lunch Menu on the Rocky Mountaineer
Alberta Striploin Steak for Lunch in GoldLeaf on the Rocky Mountaineer
Braised Leek and Herb Risotto for Lunch in GoldLeaf on the Rocky Mountaineer
Coffee with Baileys and a “Trio of Chocolate” for Dessert in Gold Leaf on the Rocky Mountaineer

Crossing over the Stoney Creek Trestle we had an amazing view of the waterfall. In 1885 this trestle was originally built out of wood and was the highest timber bridge ever built. It was rebuilt in 1894 using steel and is 82 metres (or 270 feet) high above the ravine below and the trestle is 148 metres (or 486 feet) in length. Make sure you take in these views from the outdoor vestibule.

Waterfall at the Stoney Creek Trestle

Just before we got to Golden the skies started to break from the smoke that we had for most of our journey up to this point. We made our way up the Kicking Horse Canyon along the Kicking Horse Creek which offered some amazing photo and video opportunities to catch the engines up ahead.

Rocky Mountaineer Train entering a tunnel

This part of the Trans Canada Highway was known as one of the most deadliest because of the grade, sheer drops and being only two lanes with blind switchbacks. They straightened out a portion of it by building a large bridge which was completed in 2007, which is the same height as the Stoney Creek Trestle to give you some context of how high that trestle was that we crossed over earlier.

Rocky Mountaineer Going Under the Trans Canada Highway

At this point of the journey we have now entered the National Parks with this one being Yoho National Park. The scenery is absolutely breathtaking and where having the complete domed GoldLeaf car has it’s benefits.

Travelling Through The Rocky Mountains on the Rocky Mountaineer in GoldLeaf

After passing through Field, we travel through the historic Spiral Tunnels, once we’ve exited the tunnel you can see where we entered the tunnel down below.

It was then time for our last snack of the trip, a wine and cheese pairing with a wine from Naramata Bench near Penticton (I chose the Laughing Stock Vineyards Pinot Gris).

Wine and Cheese Pairing in GoldLeaf on the Rocky Mountaineer

The views as we neared Banff are so picturesque. The mountains and the bright blue waters were just stunning.

Gena and Rob who were our hosts did an amazing job highlighting the historical landmarks, telling us some great stories and doing everything they could to make our journey a memorable one. It was definitely a difficult good bye, everyone teared up when Rob teared up at the end.

Our Amazing Hosts Saying Their “Good Byes” at the End of Our Journey

The Rocky Mountaineer truly is an unforgettable journey and one I suggest everyone puts on their bucket list.

My journey continues as I stayed at the iconic “Castle in the Rockies”, the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel after I disembarked the Rocky Mountaineer in Banff. Stay tuned for my Banff Travel Guide and Travel Vlog coming soon!

Safe Travels,

Ariane

As a Virtuoso Travel Advisor my clients receive added benefits when booking vacations such as the Rocky Mountaineer through me. I’d love to work with you as your travel advisor, to contact me for more information click here.

Please watch my YouTube video I filmed highlighting my experience in Rocky Mountaineer’s GoldLeaf Service, it brings this blog post and review to life. You can watch it here:

Whale Watching in Vancouver with Prince of Whales

If you ever find yourself visiting Vancouver, Canada, I really recommend to do a whale watching tour.

A whale watching tour a great way to see the city of Vancouver from the water, explore the waters and the marine life just off the coast. Prince of Whales Whale Watching apparently has a 95% success rate in seeing whales on your tour and even offer a “Sighting Guarantee”. This means if for some reason you don’t see whales on your tour, you’ll be able to keep going back until you do!

Orca Whales surfacing during our whale watching tour with Prince of Whales Whale Watching

Check In:

I experienced this whale watching tour during the pandemic, which strict Covid protocols were put into place and enforced. I felt very safe and even took my 85 year old Grandmother along with me. You are currently required to wear masks for the entire duration of the tour (even if you are outside on the decks). Social distancing is also maintained onboard.

It is strongly recommended that you arrive and check in for your whale watching tour at least 30 minutes prior to your tour time. This is to make sure that you are present for the initial briefing and sign the release form if you weren’t able to online beforehand.

Prince of Whales Whale & Marine Wildlife Adventures in Vancouver is located on beautiful Granville Island. I highly suggest making a day trip out of your stay on Granville Island, either grabbing some snacks and exploring the Granville Public Market before or after your whale watching tour. We made sure we grabbed some Lee’s Donuts for the trip!

Make sure you grab some snacks at the world famous Granville Island Public Market

The Equipment:

Prince of Whales Whale Watching tours in Vancouver use catamarans that seat 95 people, however they are equipped with many more seats than that for optimal comfort for indoor and outdoor viewing. During the pandemic they are not running at full capacity and are currently running at only half capacity, around 50 guests maximum. On our tour there were only 37 people.

Onboard Experience:

Onboard Prince of Whales catamaran ships, you’ll find a comfortable indoor seating area (some seats have tables which is perfect to enjoy your picnic lunch or snacks) with a snack bar (they were serving complementary tea, coffee, hot chocolate and bottled water) and plenty of outdoor seating areas, including right on the bow (at the front of the ship). They also provided sea life colouring pages and crayons for kids I noticed, which was a great touch to keep kids occupied as we sailed out to where the whales were reported to have been seen. There were also two, very clean bathrooms onboard available for use. Make sure you check out my YouTube video for images of the ship and the onboard experience!

On our whale watching tour we had four naturalists and a photographer who were very knowledgeable. Guides made their rounds to everyone and had personal chats about what we were on the search for during our tour. They also had lots of different visuals to explain what we were looking for, how to identify whales, a map of our area to point out our location and did a great job educating all ages on our local marine life here in the Vancouver area. They even had a map that they were updating live with what we had seen and the locations we saw them in the Straight of Georgia which is also known as the Salish Sea.

The guides also had some stories of how some of the whales got their names, I’ll never forget how “Stanley” got his. Let’s hope one day he returns to the Burrard Inlet to give the Canucks a shot at winning the Stanley Cup haha! The guides take photos of the whales and use markings on their tails and backs to identify which whales we are viewing with their catalog of images.

Overall Whale Watching Tour Experience:

Both my Grandmother and I had an amazing time. We saw two pods of Orca Whales, Harbour Seals and Stellar Sea Lions. The first pod we were able to get very close as they surfaced near the ship, the captain turned off the engines and it was just amazing to see them and hear their breath as they surfaced. The second pod or Killer Whales we saw were living up to their name. They were on the hunt. They were actively thrashing around, jumping out of the water and aggressively diving.

“Stanley” a popular male Killer Whale
Orca Whales are very social creatures, here are two with their noses out of the sea and one on its side with the fin showing
Such a great day, viewing the Orcas with the snow capped North Shore mountains in the distance

I highly suggest this whale watching tour if you’re visiting Vancouver as a day tour before or after your Alaska cruise, or even if you’re a local looking to do something special.

Prince of Whales Whale & Marine Wildlife Adventures also has a location in Victoria, so if you’re visiting Victoria on a cruise you can book a whale watching tour there as well.

If you’re interested in seeing the experience, I created a YouTube video (going to be released on Sunday, May 30th) on my whale watching experience with Prince of Whales.

Disclaimer: I did receive this experience as a gift from Prince of Whales Whale & Marine Wildlife Adventures in partnership with Tourism Vancouver. I was not required to write a blog post, YouTube video, social media posts or give a positive review in return. This is my own positive experience that I wanted to highlight. As always, all thoughts, opinions and images are my own. I only team up with products and brands that I love and think you’ll like as well! Thanks so much for supporting the brands that support Wanderlust Journey.