Canada By Train ... What To Expect
Canada is a beautiful, vast country with a rich history of rail-travel. There is something almost magical about the idea of journeying from one side of the nation to the other by train, and that's what inspired me over last summer to travel across Canada on VIA RAIL's, "The Canadian".
So, what should you expect if you are jumping on the train and riding the rails? Well, it depends on the type of ticket you have. You'll be choosing between the Prestige, Sleeper Plus, and Economy class of tickets. Each is unique and offers specific advantages, but also have some disadvantages (and let's just get it out there right now that there is no wifi available in any class on The Canadian). Here are the details:
This is the preferred way for the average person to travel if they are going to be onboard for two nights or more (and, for some, even if it is only one night!). You can choose between either a bunk bed style sleeper or a private room. In either case, the ticket includes a private or semi-private bathroom, access to a shower, a dining car with three very impressive meals provided daily, access to a SkyLine Car (with dome roof) and limited access to the Park Car at the rear of the train.
The main disadvantage to this class, surprisingly, is a lack of plug-ins for electronic devices. With the exception of your bathroom (where you might leave a phone, but definitely not a laptop), the only plug (yes, that is a singular plug-in) is located in the recreation area of the SkyLine Car. There was often a lineup of devices during my trip, waiting on the table for access to a power supply.
For shorter trips with not more than one night on the train, Economy is a great option. With large windows, comfortable seating, more than ample storage space for luggage and a dome-roof viewing area in the Skyline Car, it's a great way to see the country of Canada!
You can bring your own meals onboard and use the recreation area to sit and enjoy them, or purchase something from the reasonably-priced menu that will be prepared to your liking by the cook. Unlike the more expensive Sleeper Plus class, there are plug-ins beside each row of seats, and pop-out tables (not unlike those provided on airplanes) for you to make use of.
The disadvantage of Economy Class is the lack of comfortable sleeping arrangements. There is a leg rest that can be propped up from underneath the seat, but often its height does not line-up with the chair and makes for an awkward extension of the sitting area. The cars are also very cold over night (this was my experience on four separate trips over during the summer) and a warm blanket would be recommended, as well as an eye mask for sleeping, as the cabin lights are dimmed during night hours, but always on.
You can find a complete list of amenities offered in each class HERE and a price comparison between each HERE. If you are going to be traveling over several days or weeks and expect to be getting on and off at different cities, consider purchasing a RAIL PASS which give you flexibility in planning your trip at a less expensive rate.