Kerrie Lake, Branch Manager at our Felixstowe travel agents, spent eight days exploring the west coast of Canada. The trip included some time aboard the fanatic Rocky Mountaineer, an experience that Kerrie would recommend to everyone.
Destination: Canadian Rockies
Operator/Host: 1st Class
(Hotel names/Ship name): Delta Calgary Downtown; The Fox Hotel and Suites, Banff; Hotel 540, Kamloops; Rosedale on Robson Suite Hotel, Vancouver
Airline: Air Transat
Duration: 8 Days
The Air Transat outbound flight was fantastic; the staff were falling over themselves to help us. We had excellent seats in a row of two.
For the flight home, we had the extra legroom bulkhead seats. This meant a narrow seat pitch and it was quite uncomfortable for an overnight flight. We also had a stop in Calgary for an hour.
The range of films on board was very limited but adequate. We were upgraded to Economy Plus and this included a snack, drink, a blanket, eye mask and earphones.
A very impressive hotel that has been recently renovated throughout and offers a modern lobby area with lots of seating area. We experienced a quick check-in from the very helpful staff. Our rooms were stylish, very comfortable and offered lots of toiletries in the huge bathrooms, as well as lots of sockets and USB points. The restaurant with an open kitchen offered a varied menu, the breakfast that we had was delicious and the staff were very attentive. The hotel is well located for exploring Calgary.
This was my favourite hotel of the trip; a rustic, cosy lodge style accommodation with a roaring fire in the lobby hat made us feel comfortable as soon as we arrived. We had a superior one-bedroom suite where the living room and kitchen were upstairs and the bedroom and bathroom downstairs. The restaurant onsite, Chili’s Grill and Bar, offers snacks as well as Mexican themed meals. This was always busy and it was generally quite a young crowd who were often sitting watching sports over a beer.
This hotel is within easy walking distance of the shops, bars and restaurants and has complimentary underground parking. A bus that can take you into town and to a range of other attractions in the area stops right outside.
We had a quick one-night stopover with a late arrival and early departure the next morning. This was the hotel offered by Rocky Mountaineer. Whilst I can't say that I saw a great deal it, the rooms were adequate and comfortable.
This hotel is based in the sports and entertainment district so there are a lot of sports bars, the BC Place Stadium and theatres nearby. Chinatown, Gastown, Yaletown, Granville Island and, of course, the world-famous Robson Street can all be reached easily.
We stayed in a Deluxe Two Doubles Suite, offering a small kitchenette and floor-to-ceiling windows in the bedroom. It was a fair standard of accommodation and it was clean and functional. There is a huge sports bar attached which was extremely popular but, surprisingly, no noise was experienced from the bar once we were in the rooms.
Legends and Landmarks Tour with 'Banff Walk' – A walking tour lasting about one and a half hours. It was very informative and a great way to get your bearings at the start of a stay in Banff.
Mountain Lakes and Waterfalls Tour with 'Pursuit' – This tour has several stops in Banff and Yoho National Parks. Highlights include the Bow Valley Parkway, Lake Louise, Moraine Lake, the Valley of the Ten Peaks, Spiral Tunnels and Takakkaw Falls.
Cave and Basin National Historic Site – This visit includes the cave itself, the interior pool and the original vent hole, the basin, the open-air mineral pool with the mats of different colour algae, interactive exhibits, interpretive walks and boardwalks in the woods and marshes, interpretive panels describing the World War One internment camp that was placed here, a gift shop and snack bar.
Banff Gondola – Soar 698m (2,292 feet) on an eight-minute journey to the summit of Sulphur Mountain with views over six mountain ranges and the sweep of the Bow Valley.
Rocky Mountaineer – Silver Leaf (details below).
Vancouver Foodie Tour – A three-hour guided food tour of the Village on Granville Island, including six food tastings. This was a really fun tour on which we experienced lots of locally sourced/made types of food. We tried teas, nuts, bread, meats, cheeses and doughnuts. After the tour, we had an hour of free time to purchase any of the items we had enjoyed.
FlyOver Canada – This is a really unique experience. It’s a flight simulator where you hang suspended, feet dangling, in front of a 20-metre spherical screen while a film whisks you away on an eight-minute journey across Canada, from east to west. We did this on our last day and were all saying what a great thing to do before a cruise departing from Vancouver as it is located at Canada Place, in the same building as the cruise ship terminal. We had breakfast, checked out of our hotel, had our slot booked for 11.00 and were finished for midday, so this could easily be added to your embarkation or disembarkation day. I would fully recommend it.
I enjoyed every moment of this trip but The Rocky Mountaineer was a real highlight. We started in Banff and ended in Vancouver with an overnight in Kamloops.
I found the service throughout to be very slick. We checked in for The Rocky Mountaineer at our hotel, our luggage was put on a coach and we didn't touch it again until we arrived into our hotel room. We then left our luggage in the hotel room and it reappeared again at the end of our journey.
We happened to be delayed on our trip due to heavy snow in Calgary. As soon as our escort was alerted to our delay, we were whisked off to a nearby hotel and given tea, coffee and pastries while we waited. We had regular updates with staff coming around to check on everyone. I thought it was great to see what does happen in these circumstances and I’m pleased to report that they are very well prepared for these eventualities.
The scenery we experienced on our journey was indescribable. A real must-do if you can afford it.
I was really interested to see the differences between the two services offered:
Goldleaf: A 'double-decker' carriage with seating upstairs with a full glass dome overhead allowing for unobstructed views. Being higher up you do get better scenery. The carriage downstairs is the dining cart and all meals are served hot. The dining cart can seat half of the guests at a time, so they split the group in a way that means one day you’ll eat breakfast and lunch during the first sitting and the next it will be during the second.
Silverleaf: One-level carriage with extended height and oversized windows. Meals are not such a high standard and it is a cold breakfast instead of hot – but still lovely. The staff on board described Silverleaf as 'no frills' although you do get more than adequate meals, snacks and drinks for the journey. Dining is taken at the seat and many people commented that it felt more like being on a long haul flight.
There are vestibules for photo taking on both services but the viewing platform in Goldleaf is much larger so more guests can be out taking photos at the same time.
If you do choose Goldleaf, the hotel provided in Kamloops will be of a higher standard.
One thing to remember is the gratuities. Envelopes were passed around on the second day and we were told a recommended amount was between 35 and 45 dollars per person.
I would absolutely recommend this trip. My itinerary was:
One night in Calgary
Three nights in Banff
One night in Kamloops
Two nights in Vancouver
It’s also possible to drive this itinerary, giving you the flexibility to stop and appreciate the scenery and wildlife.
The weather was really different in Calgary and Banff to the weather in Kamloops and Vancouver. We had lots of snow in Banff and were all geared up for winter in big coats, hats and scarves. Then, when we got to Vancouver, we were all in thinner jackets but did have some rain. It’s a good idea to pack for all weathers if travelling at this time of year.
Must see? Rocky Mountaineer
Must do? FlyOver Canada
Must try? Capilano Suspension Bridge
If you would like to enjoy an epic trip to Canada like Kerrie, we can use our years of experience to help create the holiday of a lifetime. Visit your nearest branch to talk to the team – we have travel agents in Colchester, Ipswich, Felixstowe, Bury St. Edmunds, Norwich and along the south coast.