Introduction/History:

VIA Rail Canada was officially founded in the 1970s to fill its nation’s need for quality passenger rail service. A country with a rich history in trains, Canada’s citizens and international rail buffs alike still enjoy the Canadian‘s gleaming silver cars and luxurious service. VIA Rail runs between Toronto and Vancouver multiple times a week, traveling 2,775 miles each way and working under the current motto of “Beauty takes no shortcuts.”

The consist varies in length depending on the season, with more cars included during the popular summer months. A maximum of 26 passengers can be accommodated in two Prestige Class cars (IRT’s recommended level of service).

The entire train accommodates a maximum of 272 passengers, although exclusive access to public cars and priority seating in the dining car make the Prestige Class experience feel much more intimate.

Prestige Class passengers gain access to many exclusive amenities—from 24-hour butler service to the first seating choice for lunch and dinners; all drinks and meals included, priority boarding, and a “welcome aboard” greeting in the first-class lounge. The significantly larger cabins with included shower, bathroom, and individually controlled AC/heating continue to wow IRT clients — but our favorite perk is the priority access in the domed observation car.

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Accommodations

IRT recommends VIA’s new Prestige Class, introduced in 2015, so you can have a large, private room (about 70 square feet) with large double bed by night, and modular L-shaped leather sofa by day; full, en suite bathroom including shower, sink and toilet; and the many perks listed below.

Read about Prestige Class on our blog, Track 25, here.


Prestige Class:
With large double bed and full, en suite facilities — there’s no more slogging down the corridor in the morning to take your shower — this is the accommodation for which IRT travelers have been patiently waiting. Prestige Class rooms are 50% larger than Doubles and have 60% bigger windows. These cabins are approximately 70 square feet in size (including bathroom and shower). Also included in the fare are the following amenities:

• unlimited free drinks (including alcoholic drinks)

• 24-hour butler service • first choice for meal sittings

• separate greeting in the first-class lounge

• private escort to the train • turn-down service

• free off-train tour in Winnipeg for westbound passengers (but only if the train’s on time)

• fully stocked mini bar and fridge

Double: A Sleeper Touring Class bedroom is 35.25 square feet, not including the private en suite toilet and sink. Each bedroom features two armchairs that collapse at night to make way for the two bunks (one upper/one lower), a small closet, fan, electrical outlet and mirror. A small table can be set up upon request. The shower is down the hall. Our most recent travelers on this train generally loved it — but managing the ladder at night to get down to the bathroom was a challenge. IRT does not recommend these accommodations for two sharing passengers.

Single bedroom:
This is a roomette designed for one person. The room is roughly 24 square feet. During the day, there is a comfortable seat, sink, and toilet. At night, the seat folds into a bed that takes up just about the entire cabin and covers the toilet.  Shared shower and toilet are down the hall. Many of IRT’s single travelers say this is much too small for them and they don’t like their toilet covered up by the bed; they book single use of a Double instead.

Economy:
This is a chair that makes up into a bed that is 5 feet 10 inches long by about three feet wide. It makes up into a chair by day, facing another chair. The upper bed gets a ladder for climbing up at night. These “sections” have curtains for privacy. IRT does not recommend these accommodations.

Dining

All meals are included when you book sleeping accommodations on board the Canadian. For dinner, there are three seatings, served with china, silver and linen, and featuring Canadian wines. Our recent travelers thought the meals were excellent and the service friendly and professional. (Alcoholic beverages are additional outside of Prestige Class.)

Breakfast times are at leisure, while lunch and dinner are assigned seatings. Prestige guests will receive first choice of dining times. Westbound (Toronto-Vancouver) passengers enjoy early continental breakfast, a wide brunch window, then dinner.

Eastbound (Vancouver-Toronto) passengers will have more standard breakfast, lunch, and dinner hours.

2019 ushered in a newly revised dining menu, one based on customer feedback and improved culinary refinement. Passengers select from three or four lunch and dinner courses at each sitting. All vegetarian options are now fully vegan-based.

Lounge Cars

Dress Code: Clothing on board the train is casual. Long pants and a polo or dress shirt are good for both gentlemen and ladies alike. Blazers or sports coats are fine if you like to dress up. You won’t find formal dresses or tuxedos in attendance. Ladies may wish to take a shawl or sweater in case they get cool.

VIA Rail offers passage to local musicians and hobbyists in exchange for on-board performances. Keep an ear open to the train’s PA system or ask your attendant if any shows will be happening during your trip. Peak season travelers may enjoy complimentary beer and wine tastings or informational events hosted by an Activity Coordinator, such as “Railway 101” on how to read rail signs along the route.

Prestige guests have exclusive use of the signature Park Car. There are several dome cars on each departure of the Canadian, dubbed “skyline cars.” But, the Park Car’s upper-level domed windows and lower-level windowed caboose lounge are our highest recommendation. It is indeed memorable to enjoy an after-dinner drink watching the stars.

Other

Feeling hungry between meals? Each skyline, or domed car, has sweet and savory snacks within a small kitchen area. The foremost skyline car contains a full kitchen for those Economy passengers who don’t have access to the train’s dining cars.

You can combine the Canadian with the Rocky Mountaineer in IRT’s cross-country tour package: the Trans-Canada Rail Adventure.

There is no smoking on board.

We highly recommend that you check most of your baggage. You’re allowed a maximum of 2 carry-on bags in your room, but we recommend taking just one.

Traditional gratuities to train staff are not included in the cost of the ticket.

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Large Murphy bed in Prestige Class Cabin on the Canadian. Photo by VIA Rail.
Large Murphy bed in Prestige Class Cabin on the Canadian. Photo by VIA Rail.
Prestige Class cabin by day with modular leather sofa.  Photo by VIA Rail.
Prestige Class cabin by day with modular leather sofa. Photo by VIA Rail.
Sleeper Class cabin on the Canadian. Photo by VIA Rail.
Sleeper Class cabin on the Canadian. Photo by VIA Rail.
The Canadian snakes around a turn.
The Canadian snakes around a turn.
Dining room on the Canadian. Photo by VIA Rail.
Dining room on the Canadian. Photo by VIA Rail.