One of the things I’ve always wanted to do in my home country, is to take a VIA Rail Train Across Canada. I can’t think of a better way to see our home and native land, than taking the Train Across Canada. In late September of 2019, we made this dream become a reality.
We chose to start our planned rail journey departing from Halifax, traveling westbound to Vancouver.
We began our journey by flying from Vancouver, British Columbia, which is our home Province to St. John’s Newfoundland on the east coast of Canada. After touring the beautiful Province of Newfoundland/Labrador, we hopped a short flight to the City of Halifax, Nova Scotia.
This is where our Cross Canada rail journey began.
Boarding our train to depart at 12:45 in the afternoon, we selected a Private Sleeper Plus Class Cabin for our overnight journey to Montreal.
A comfortable sleeper cabin equipped with private bath and shower. By day, you have 2 lounge chairs to sit comfortably in and at night, they fold down to make room for to single bunk beds.
The private comes equipped with individual amenity bags for your trip. Inside, you’ll find a large bath towel, soap and shampoo. Hand towels are also included in this room for your convenience.
The views during the daytime were excellent. This is the time of year where the beautiful changing Fall colors occur, and which is also VIA Rail Canada’s busiest time of year!
We were able to enjoy all the trains amenities on board, while sitting back, relaxing and enjoying the view of the countryside, farms and small towns along the way.
Sleeper Plus guests enjoy complimentary coffee/tea and snacks throughout the day and evening in the Dome car and Park car located at the rear of the train.
The Dome cars are excellent, with great picture and viewing opportunities! As well at certain times of the day, passengers can enjoy craft beer and wine sampling from local brewers. A nice added touch and treat! 🙂
On your journey, you will constantly pass by some amazing scenery and photo opportunities. Vistas you will most certainly miss not traveling by rail.
One of the highlights of the trip was experiencing the amazing meals prepared by their chefs on board. On The Ocean, we were served lunch, dinner and then a full breakfast the next morning in the dining car.
All meals were superb and beautifully presented. Dining car staff were outstanding, making sure you had everything you needed throughout the meals.
Above is just a sample of what we enjoyed for lunch. Absolutely delicious and beautifully presented!
What a wonderful first time experience for the two of us riding The Ocean, and what a way to kick off the first part of our Cross Canada train journey!
If you can treat and pamper yourself to sleeper class for this overnight trip, I would certainly recommend you do so.
The views were incredible, staff on board were superb, meals outstanding and our cabin was very comfortable for our journey. There is also a service car on this route that offers complimentary wifi for passengers.
The VIA Rail Experience
Montreal to Quebec City – VIA Rail Business Class
After enjoying a couple of days in Montreal, we reserved Business Class space for a return trip from Montreal to Quebec City.
This is a short journey that takes approximately 3 ½ hours in duration. Departing from Montreal’s Central Station and arriving at Gare du Palais “Palace Station” in Quebec City.
The train station both inside and out in Quebec City is absolutely beautiful. What a wonderful job they have done to this station!
VIA Rail Canada – Business Class Lounge
VIA Rail’s Business Class Lounges are reserved exclusively for Business and Sleeper Plus class passengers.
All of their lounges are equipped to offer convenient amenities such as;
Dedicated on site staff member to assist passengers;
Spacious and comfortable seating;
HD television screens with news broadcasts;
Free non-alcoholic beverages;
Free Wi-Fi (high-speed wireless Internet access throughout the lounge).
In addition, lounges in Montréal, Ottawa and Toronto Stations offer;
Business centre (PC and Mac computers and colour laser printer);
Conference room (Toronto only);
Access to the lounge upon arrival (maximum of two hours, subject to availability);
A wide selection of magazines.
As expected and because of the time of year we were traveling, these lounges can get extremely busy. Our favorite was the Business Lounge at Montreal’s Central Station. We arrived early, enjoyed coffee, wifi access and catching up on the latest news.
The staff member present was always very pleasant with passengers and eager to assist any way he could.
We chose the train departing at about 9am, which would get us in to Quebec City at about 12:25 pm. On board in the business class cabin, we were served a full breakfast, along with coffee, tea and juice.
A nice start to the day! 🙂
Business class passengers also have access to complimentary wifi on board and have entry to upper class lounges at the train stations. As well, alcoholic beverages are complimentary for passengers at specific times of the day.
We had a very comfortable short, but scenic journey both ways. Meals served were excellent, along with the service from staff members received. It is definitely worth treating yourself to business class travel if it can possibly fit this into your travel budget. 🙂
Montreal to Toronto – VIA Rail Business Class
Time to continue our rail journey westbound to the City of Toronto, where we planned to spend a few days touring the city and countryside.
We chose Business Class again, with our train leaving the station at 08:55 am, arriving at about 2:10 pm.
This was another short but very comfortable trip, served with a nice lunch and a choice of alcoholic and/or non-alcoholic beverages.
One just couldn’t get enough of enjoying the spectacular scenery and Canada’s amazing changing Fall colors! It’s no wonder this is VIA Rail Canada’s busiest time of year for travelers.
Toronto to Vancouver Aboard VIA Rail Canada – The Canadian
After enjoying the sites of Toronto and region, it was time to get back on board to begin the longest stretch of our train journey. A 4 night stretch from Toronto to Vancouver.
The Canadian travels 4466 km, from the Boreal forests of Northern Ontario through the Prairies to the Majestic Canadian Rockies.
Departing at 9:45am from Toronto’s Union Station, this would be the longest stretch of our journey, without departing the train along the way to our final destination – Vancouver.
We chose to go straight thru, not opting for other stops in between. We had visited cities on this route in previous years and just wanted to sit back, relax and enjoy the whole train experience. You certainly do have the choice to include a stop over in your train travel plans on this route.
There is no Wi-Fi onboard Via Rail’s Toronto to Vancouver train and cell phone service is not to be relied upon. So it’s time to sit back, take a break from the real world and put aside all those electronic devices we are so dependent upon these days.
As a blogger when I travel, I enjoy my travel experience and leave the blogging until I return home. I only take photographs along the way and the rest is put aside for however long we are away. 🙂
VIA Rail Canada – Pacific Central Station
Stops on the Toronto Union Station to Vancouver Pacific Station train route include;
Passengers can pick their itinerary and stop overs as they so wish with VIA Rail. You can plan your journey yourself from their Official website, or work with one of their trained agents to assist in making your travel plans.
Sleeper Plus Class Service Aboard The Canadian
For this part of the journey, we had a larger Sleeper Plus Cabin assigned to us. A special treat and that can be requested when booking well in advance, if available.
Each car in this Class has a larger cabin for 2, and for which we were pleasantly surprised to see!
This cabin had a private bath with a washbasin and complimentary toiletries as in The Ocean experience.
Our cabin included extra cabin space and larger single beds, which was an extra special treat and available in each Sleeper Plus Cabin Car.
Each sleeper car has a shared, very clean and spacious common shower for passenger convenience.
Everything was just perfect for our 4 night journey!
At night, the steward makes up your bed with fresh sheets and pillows.
Beds can go up during the day for the lounge chairs, but we opted to have our attendant leave the bottom bunk down while in the room during the day. We could stretch out on the bed with our pillows and relax while enjoying the incredible views outside.
The Canadian Cabin Selection
The Canadian offers three levels of cabin service to its passengers.
Economy, Sleeper Plus and Prestige Class
Economy Class cabins have seats and guests have access to the Skyline car to purchase meals and panoramic dome.
Sleeper Plus Class has berths and cabins for one, two or four people. Guests have access to the dining car, where meals are included, a range of activities, access to lounges and glass ceiling carriages.
Prestige Plus is the top level service, with luxurious cabins with an L-shaped couch, Murphy bed, a more spacious private en-suite toilet, access to reserved seating at the front of the dome car and personal concierge.
Luxury train travel at its finest with Prestige Class!
In the late afternoon, sleeper plus passengers do have access to the lovely rear Prestige Class dome car and lounge after 4pm each day.
My wife and I thoroughly enjoyed and looked forward to spending time in this part of the train each and every day! The prestige cars were beautifully refurbished and a pleasure to spend time in.
Dining Aboard The Canadian
As with The Ocean part of our journey, dining was absolutely outstanding! How these chefs can prepare and present such beautiful meals in such small quarters and with the train rocking and rolling, is a feat in itself!
Below is just a sample of some of the delicious dishes we were served on The Canadian.
Continental Early Breakfast or Brunch
For breakfast, you can arrive early for a nice Continental Breakfast served from 6:30am to 8:30am.
Beginning at 9:30am to 1:30pm, Brunch is served. This gives you the option of having a more lavish breakfast, such as Classic Eggs Benedict or Steak & Eggs. You also have lunch choices to choose from at this time from the menu.
Dinner Sittings On The Canadian
You have a choice of Dinner sittings based on availability. Prestige Class passengers have first pick at dining times. We had no trouble getting the early dinner sitting during our entire time on board the train.
Again, the meals were absolutely fabulous! Our hats off to the chefs of VIA Rail Canada and the beautiful meals they prepared each and every day.
All the meals were fabulous, making this trip even more special for us. Also, while enjoying each meal in the dining car, it gave you a chance to sit with and meet fellow passengers as well while you dine.
It simply amazed us meeting people from all over the world, coming to Canada to experience our beautiful Country and by train as well.
Planned Activities On The VIA Passenger Train
There are planned activities that take place at certain times of the day, some of which include craft beer and wine tasting. Staff members will also periodically give small talks in the Dome Car, on the specific area the train is passing through.
VIA Rail does bring aboard live entertainers at times. We had the pleasure of enjoying a young couple of musicians, who performed on the train at certain times and at the Jasper Station during our short stop over.
The Scenery Aboard The Canadian
Perhaps the main reason for taking the train across Canada, is to experience the spectacular scenery along the way. You will definitely see sections of this beautiful Country that simply cannot be seen by any other forms of travel.
As you pass along and into each Province along the way, the landscape and scenery changes dramatically. It’s hard to stop for a moment and not look out the viewing windows during the entire trip.
You simply don’t want to miss anything along the way!
Pyramid Falls in the Province of Alberta
Dome Viewing Car
The view from the Dome Car is excellent, but space is limited for the many passengers on the train at this time of year.
Don’t be a dome car hog when traveling. The train is usually always full to capacity and sometimes getting a seat can be difficult at times. Try to be courteous of other passengers and give them a chance to enjoy the dome car and views.
On The Canadian route, we and fellow passengers remarked on one gentleman who stayed in the dome car day and night, hogging the seats around him with all his personal items. His companion would come up to take his seat when he would go down to eat or use the facilities.
This reminded me of lounge chair hogs on cruise and all inclusive resort vacations that you see all the time. 🙁
VIA Rail Canadian Train Vacations
Our Experience and Recommendations
If you have the time, want to sit back, relax and enjoy everything rail travel has to offer, then choosing VIA Rail Canada is a great choice. Step back in time and experience how travel used to be years ago.
Taking the passenger train in Canada is not inexpensive, but you do have options to make it affordable for you and your travel budget. The cost of taking the train varies significantly between economy, sleeper, and prestige classes.
Traveling during the off season and taking advantage of online specials does help to reduce the cost. Economy class is the cheapest way to travel, but can be enjoyable if you make plans to stop over at certain destinations along the way. This especially so if riding The Canadian to/from Toronto and Vancouver.
To sit back, relax and be able to view the ever changing landscape of Canada from Province to Province by rail, is an amazing experience.
The cabins were spotless, dining fabulous and staff always friendly and eager to assist in any way they can, to help make your journey as enjoyable and memorable as possible. It’s also a great way to meet fellow travelers, enjoy their company and share travel experiences with them.
You have a variety of cabin choices for your train travel, depending on your budget and individual wants and desires.
On The Canadian, I would highly recommend stopping over if you can for a few days in Jasper, Alberta, and catching the next train stopping by. There’s so much to see and do in this part of the Canadian Rockies that should not be missed for first time visitors.
All in all, my wife and I had a wonderful train journey across Canada. Finally seeing many parts of the country we have so longed to have wanted to visit. I highly recommend this form of travel to be included in your Bucket List at least once in your lifetime.
Train Delays On Route
I do recommend preparing for delays that may occur during your train travel experience. Freight trains have priority on the tracks and there are a lot of them. Don’t be surprised when the train comes to a stop often, and in the middle of nowhere. Your train is simply stopping to wait for another freight train to pass.
It’s not uncommon for passenger trains to be hours late arriving at stations. So be sure to make room for delays in your travel and booking plans. We stopped several times on this route and were late getting into Winnipeg, but arrived well in advance of our scheduled time at our final destination – Vancouver.
For those of you taking the cross Canada journey like we did, you will pass through five different time zones along the way. [Atlantic, Eastern, Central, Mountain, and Pacific]. Staff always announced the changes in advance, and we experienced no difficulties or sleep disruptions whatsoever with each change throughout the journey.
Advance reservations are highly recommended, especially if booking during their Peak season months. Below, I have included VIA Rail’s Official website for your convenience. Here, you can access much more detailed information for planning and booking your train travels throughout Canada.
🚂 VIA Rail Canada
As well, I’ve included the Official Destination Canada website link below. Their site is filled with everything you need to start planning your travels to Canada.
Safe and Healthy Travels! 🙂