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Riding the Rails

Quebec City Hotel

I call it quality control. In order to further strengthen our business, I am presently travelling coast to coast on VIA Rail’s “Canadian” train across Canada to visit all of the hotels and suppliers that we use at Canada Rail. This has been a great way to see our country and I’ve been able to look objectively at the products we are offering from the point of view of a guest. I did not give any of the hotels a heads up that I was coming, thus I was able to check in and be treated the way one of our guests would. All of the properties were excellent, but of course we book our guests into the ones we personally prefer. I know everyone that has travelled with us in recent years has always been happy with what they received.

There will be a few hotel changes for next year, mostly for the better. The Fairmont properties in Toronto and Montreal will now be moving into our Popular category because they are able to offer us very competitive pricing and they are conveniently located at their respective train stations. What better way to arrive in a city than to just walk less that 100 metres to your hotel? A new addition to our future tour programs will include Quebec City. We will be able to offer rail and cruise programs due to the many cruise ships that embark from the beautiful city on the St Lawrence River.

My personal journey across Canada began in Vancouver on July 21, 2011. In order to reconfirm why we do not book economy class tickets on overnight VIA Rail trains, I booked myself a seat on the overnight train from Vancouver to Jasper in coach class. Let’s just say the rooms are cosy, but we as a company will never book an economy class train ticket for an overnight guest. The lack of comfort simply isn’t worth the savings. We do get some guests enquiring about a cheaper way of travelling but we will not book coach for them.

Canada train in eastern Canada

Most of the service staff on the VIA trains do a great job. Some of them work long days, upwards of 16 hours per day, but you would never guess that they are going on that little sleep. The food service is generally great. The rooms are small and quaint. The lounge and parlor cars are a great way to spend the afternoon. Even with the 200 person “Canadian” train running at full occupancy it still provides plenty of space for our guests. Don’t be alarmed if the ticketing staff at check in aren’t very service oriented, the onboard staff do their best to make up for it. Thanks again to Ivan, Amanda and Courtney who went above and beyond the call of duty on our most recent trip.

After leading a group of 38 American guests eastbound, I turned around the next day guiding a small group of Germans on our “Coast to Coast Rail Adventure”. We also included an excursion into Quebec City for this trip.

While any of the tours that we offer with VIA Rail are great, the tours that we offer on Rocky Mountaineer are phenomenal. With Rocky Mountaineer, they are trained in professional service. All of the staff are great, the trains are very modern and the scenery of the Canadian Rockies speaks for itself. It is a perfect rail tour. I always say you get what you pay for and the upgrades on Rocky Mountaineer are 100% worth the money. Imagine travelling through the Canadian Rocky Mountains in a dome car being served free drinks, excellent food with commentary about the sights visible from the train. The Rocky Mountaineer only travels during day time hours to allow for better visibility and the trips then spend a night in Kamloops or Quesnel.

Rocky Mountaineer train crosses the Fraser River

Rocky Mountaineer is now providing a SilverLeaf service which I have had the opportunity to experience firsthand. We had an inquiry in the spring with someone wanting to book SilverLeaf and I refused to take the booking without knowing the product. Firsthand experience is very important to us at Canada Rail. In 2012, SilverLeaf is available on all departures. It’s a great way of saving some money but still getting use of the Dome Car.

Another thing that puts the Rocky Mountaineer train a step above the rest is their customer service. As a tour operator and travel agency specializing in rail vacations, we spend a lot of time communicating with the rail companies. Rocky Mountaineer is a dream to work with and are very accommodating. We’d like to say a big thank you to Rocky Mountaineer for taking our staff out on your trains to experience your products. We very much appreciate it.

Martin Flanagan



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