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Canada’s Rocky Mountaineer makes tracks across the border to Seattle

GoldLeaf service aboard Canada's Rocky Mountaineer includes a welcome toast, snacks and dinner in the dining room
GoldLeaf service aboard Canada's Rocky Mountaineer includes a welcome toast, snacks and dinner in the dining roomG Dingus

It’s 3:00 p.m. and I’m about to board Canada’s popular tourist train, the Rocky Mountaineer. It’s early May, and this will be the train’s first trip of the summer season from Seattle, Washington north to Vancouver, Canada.

The Rocky Mountaineer rolls along the Pacific from Seattle to Vancouver
The Rocky Mountaineer rolls along the Pacific from Seattle to VancouverG Dingus

Many of my fellow travelers have just disembarked in Seattle, following a week’s cruise to Alaska aboard Holland America’s ship, Westerdam. For them, the train trip to Vancouver marks the beginning of a Rocky Mountaineer rail adventure headed inland through the spectacular Rockies. After a night or three in Vancouver, they will take the train to Kamloops where they will overnight in town. From Kamloops, travelers have the envious choice of riding the rails on to Jasper, Lake Louise, Banff or Calgary.

Thanks to the Rocky Mountaineer’s new rail route, called the Coastal Passage, getting from Seattle to Vancouver and beyond is now a smooth transition—whether you’re a cruise passenger or taking a bucket list rail vacation. No airports. No car rentals. Simply sit back, relax and enjoy the Pacific coast views.

Did I mention the tasty treats they serve on board? During the five-hour ride, you’ll enjoy snacks, cocktails and a delectable dinner served with wine. It’s all cooked-to-order in the train’s rolling galley.

Join me for the ride from Seattle to Vancouver as I share a page from my journal.

All aboard! The Rocky Mountaineer backs out of Seattle’s King Street Station at 3:30 p.m. with the energetic check-in crew waving large U.S. and Canadian flags in a colorful send-off.

The first order of the afternoon on this pleasure trip is toasting our journey with a mix of bubbly and cranberry juice. I’m riding in GoldLeaf Service, the train’s top-of-the-line bi-level dome cars. For those in first dinner seating, it’s almost time to climb the circular stairway down to the dining room. Classic dining car tables are set for four with white cloths and fresh flowers.

For the rest of us in second seating “who might be feeling peckish,” the crew brings around Canadian cheddar, crackers, dried fruit and wine. We have our pick of four wines—two white, two red—from British Columbia’s Okanagan region.

By now we’re weaving our way through Seattle’s high-rises, along the waterfront and past several Alaska-bound cruise ships. Soon we pass the Ballard Locks which link Lake Union and Puget Sound to the Pacific. There’s a chance of seeing orcas here, according to our guide. We don’t see killer whales, but we do see several bustling dog beaches in action.

At the naval shipyards of Everett, we head inland to lumberyard territory, residential backyards and trees. It’s cocktail time as we pass through green farmyards with iconic red barns. In our GoldLeaf dome, basic cocktails (there’s no space for an extensive bar on the train) and wine are included in the fare.

I’m watching llamas graze in Washington’s Skagit Valley when the second seating passengers are called to dinner. The menu includes soup or salad followed with Alberta strip loin, albacore tuna or a vegetarian entrée. I choose the strip loin, and it is delicious. Now the Rocky Mountaineer returns to the Pacific coast, giving everyone a tasty serving of scenic views to accompany their meal.

As the sun begins to set, and before desert of apple strudel arrives, the train rolls over the border into Canada. When Vancouver’s skyline pops into view, it’s time to fill out customs forms and gather our gear for the station at the end of the line.

I bid farewell to the crew, collect my luggage, breeze through customs and board a bus to my hotel. By 10:00 p.m., I’m tucked into a comfy bed in Vancouver’s Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel. Tomorrow, I’ll make plans to check out city sights that weren’t even on the horizon the last time I visited this charming city on the waterfront.