As we rattled through the British Columbian countryside, I gazed at the dappled colors of the passing leaves and reflected on our trip. Enjoyable? Immensely. Fun? Of course. Value for money? No way. We were on the Rocky Mountain Express bound for Vancouver, two cold breakfasts and lunches and one night’s stop in Kamloops included, all for $709.00 per person.
Traveling economy from Jasper to the coast, our envious glances took in the large dome cars curving on the tracks behind us (filled with starched tablecloths, crystal glasses and hot gourmet meals) until we remembered how much their occupants had to fork out for their tickets – a whopping $1589.00 per person.
Our helpful guide made sure we were all wearing our red maple leaf pins as proudly as we could (as opposed to the shinier gold pins of the domed deluxe) and from time to time told us about the area through which we were passing while serving us drinks, Bits ‘n Bites and cookies.
Aside from the scenery, which mostly consisted of leaves flashing past, occasional bridges and an awesome view of Mount Robson, it felt quite a lot like being in an airplane with more leg room. As all we could do was let go and relax, we napped, ate all the food that was handed out to us and read, exchanging pleasantries with those around us.
Getting out in Kamloops was a relief after sitting all day – we explored the town more as a way of stretching our legs than actual sightseeing. Then we readied ourselves and made pretty for the Rocky Mountain Express Dinner Theatre ($80.00 per person, alcoholic drinks not included).
Bussed through the town from our hotel, we were pleasantly surprised to be shown to our table in an amphitheater looking over the stage. The food was delicious. Fresh salads, good soup, a fragrant roast and their famed broiled salmon dish meant that the tickets were well worth while before the entertainment even started. That too, was pleasantly surprising. The all British Columbian cast sung along to favorites from the sixties as the lead actor made his way across Canada by, you guessed it, train. The service was amazing and tables cheered competitively as their waitrons appeared for cameo parts onstage.
The next morning was filled with cheery hellos as the travelers congregated in the hotel lobby for cardboard cups of tepid tea. Boarding the train felt like familiar territory and we settled in for our final day abroad. Cereal or croissants meant that the breakfasts were filling and inoffensive but the uninspiring choice of chilled salmon or chicken at lunch left us, well, cold. By this time the carriage was chatting raucously and sitting in each other’s seats as we dutifully filled out our evaluation forms, feeling like children at the end of a long school trip.
Pulling into Vancouver we waited in sidings for ages as the more important freight trains crawled by. We had enjoyed a great trip with family and had met lovely people. Would I recommend it? Only if you haven’t seen that portion of the Canadian countryside. Oh yes, and if you have the spare cash rattling around. Otherwise save it up for the tropical all-inclusive and get cocktails and a tan as well.