By K.C. Summers
Special to The Washington Post
Sunday, February 15, 2009
Q. For some time we've wanted to visit the Canadian Rockies by rail. Probably in June or July we'd fly to Vancouver, then tour by train. But there are so many itineraries and options that it's hard to choose. Can you give some guidance about which railroad and what not to miss?
Donald McClean, White Stone, Va.
A. The Canadian Rockies offer some of the most jaw-dropping scenery in the world, and traveling by rail is a smart way to see it up close. Three train companies serve the area; choose depending on your budget, your time frame and how much pampering you require. Prices below are in American dollars and include lodging.
· Taking it from the top, Royal Canadian Pacific is the luxury offering, with restored vintage train cars and lots of cosseting. The six-day Royal Canadian Rockies Experience starts and ends in Calgary, Alberta, stopping at Banff and Lake Louise, Kicking Horse Pass, Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park and other marvels. Lodging is on board, in private staterooms. You pay one (whopping) price, but everything is included: airport transfers, all food and beverages, and some pretty spectacular side trips. Two trips are scheduled this year, leaving July 31 and Sept. 14. Cost is $6,563 per person double. Details: 877-665-3044, http://www.royalcanadianpacific.com.
· The Rocky Mountaineer train has three routes through the Canadian West, including Vancouver to Calgary, via Banff. Its six-day Canadian Rockies Highlights trip includes some meals, guides, a glacier helicopter tour and a ranch lunch. Lodging is at hotels along the way. Three levels of service and accommodations are available; costs this summer are $1,886, $2,911 and $3,198 per person double, plus a 5 percent fuel surcharge. Shorter trips are available. 877-460-3200, http://www.rockymountaineer.com.
· VIA Rail, Canada's national railroad, travels the same routes as the sightseeing trains; you can create your own itinerary and stop off at Jasper or Banff for as long as you like, or buy a package tour. The eight-day Rockies Circle West trip, for example, travels from Vancouver to Jasper, then switches to a motor coach to explore the mountains before returning to Vancouver. Two levels of service and accommodations are offered this summer, at $2,593 and $3,364. 888-842-7245, http://www.viarail.ca.
Still confused? Lori Grant of Canada's Fairmont Hotels and Resorts recommends mixing and matching: for example, taking VIA Rail from Vancouver to Jasper, renting a car and driving to Banff, then taking the Rocky Mountaineer back to Vancouver. Driving some of the route, she said, is the best way to have "a true, authentic experience of the Rocky Mountains." Whichever company you choose, don't miss the glacier-studded Icefield Parkway, she said.
Are there any in-the-airport massage services at New York's JFK?
E. Rogers, Arlington
Yes, but don't expect an hour-long seaweed wrap. XpresSpa, which has six locations at JFK (terminals 1, 4, 5 and 7), offers 10-minute massages that focus on the head and neck. Foot massages also are available at the same price: $25 for 10 minutes. Details: 718-751-2235.Your Turn
Regarding airline terminology, nonstop flights and frequent-flier miles (Travel Q&A, Feb. 8), W. Stephen Piper of Alexandria points out that even with direct flights, sometimes changes of aircraft are required: The only constant is the flight number. Joseph Lazio of Alexandria says that when using frequent-flier miles, it's worth it to call the airline, since some itineraries don't show up online. . . . If you're planning to stay at any of Nova Scotia's bed-and-breakfasts (Jan. 22), John Somers of Nova Scotia Tourism says that 70 percent of the B&Bs feature private bathrooms.
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