Hotel on Wheels: Is Train Travel on Your Radar?
On a recent swing through the northeast of Canada, we took the VIA Rail Ocean Route from Halifax to Montreal. Our ticket served as both a mode of transportation and overnight accommodations--a hotel on wheels, if you will.
It was a blast into the 1920s, visiting the dining car and hanging out in the lounge with fellow travelers. For me, an American, it was nostalgic to watch the world go by, interact with the porters and hear the clanging of the tracks. For the rest of the world, it might not be so foreign an experience. Canadians and Europeans take full advantage of train travel for business and pleasure. In the United States, though, the experience has been mostly publicized solely for commuter purposes.
That's a shame, because, frankly, train travel is the only type of long distance transportation that truly allows for socialization between passengers (personal cars are the opposite of social, and planes and buses aren’t designed for people to walk around and interact). In those qualities, the train emerges as something that offers travelers a much different experience. Social pleasantries aside, train travel is an excellent way to explore.
One of the reasons other countries travel by train more frequently is because they have better options than Americans (sorry, Amtrak). The high-end “you can never be overdressed on board” Orient-Express has routes in Africa, Asia, Europe, and South America. White-gloved waiters pour Prosecco and all meals are included, with most trains supporting three restaurants. VIA Rail Canada just completed a $22 million renovation on its Canadian line, which runs from Toronto to Vancouver. Sleeper-plus class rooms give passengers access to the observation car, as well as hotel-like amenities, such as a private shower, turn down service, and even a champagne toast upon departure.
Like hotels, train accommodations vary depending on the route and specific vessel, but here are a few shots of some of the current accommodations to get you started. We want to know your thoughts.
Is train travel on your radar as an alternative to hotel hopping? Why or why not?
Disclosure: We rode VIA Rail while on assignment for another publication, but all opinions expressed are our own.
[Photos: VIA Rail/Orient-Express]