Amtrak vs Via Rail Toronto to Vancouver

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CTANut

Train Attendant
Joined
Oct 29, 2019
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67
Location
USA
I looked this up a while back, but if I attempt to book Toronto to Vancouver through Amtrak instead of Via Rail, Amtrak is $1000 vs $2500.
I had to book it as a multi city trip, from Toronto-Buffalo-Vancouver. I wonder why this is the case, when both are do roomettes on the long distance routes, and Business class on the Cascades.
 

Trogdor

Conductor
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Aug 3, 2004
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Here
VIA Rail is an entirely different experience to Amtrak. VIA Rail's Canadian, in a sleeper, is effectively a land cruise. Amtrak is closer to basic transportation.
 

Rasputin

OBS Chief
Joined
Jan 17, 2019
Messages
823
VIA is not operating (except occasionally between Vancouver and Winnipeg) so Amtrak wins.
 

NS VIA Fan

Conductor
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Sep 24, 2011
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Location
Nova Scotia
I looked this up a while back, but if I attempt to book Toronto to Vancouver through Amtrak instead of Via Rail, Amtrak is $1000 vs $2500.
A totally different experience (late trains aside!!) A classic Stainless Steel Streamliner with Domes, Round-end Observation and fine dining.

The Canadian is currently operating between Winnipeg and Vancouver and only once a week. You have to remain in your room except for Breakfast and Supper (Lunch is delivered to your room) and there in NO access to the Dome Car.

Wait 'till full service returns and you might be able to find a deal. I've been on the Canadian numerous times and have never paid full-fare.
 

crescent-zephyr

Conductor
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Oct 21, 2015
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VIA Rail is an entirely different experience to Amtrak. VIA Rail's Canadian, in a sleeper, is effectively a land cruise. Amtrak is closer to basic transportation.
Eh... they really aren’t as different as most people claim imho. Now if the flex dining stays on the western trains that adds a considerable difference.
 

crescent-zephyr

Conductor
Joined
Oct 21, 2015
Messages
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I looked this up a while back, but if I attempt to book Toronto to Vancouver through Amtrak instead of Via Rail, Amtrak is $1000 vs $2500.
I had to book it as a multi city trip, from Toronto-Buffalo-Vancouver. I wonder why this is the case, when both are do roomettes on the long distance routes, and Business class on the Cascades.
You can get VIA for less than $2500. Just like Amtrak you have to search for the deals.
 

joelkfla

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Oct 16, 2018
Messages
461
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12 miles from Walt Disney World
Eh... they really aren’t as different as most people claim imho. Now if the flex dining stays on the western trains that adds a considerable difference.
Have to disagree. It's been 3 years since I took a full-route winter trip on the Canadian, but it had food that certainly seemed fresh cooked, a different menu every night with regional specialties, a "traveling artist" (in my case, a country-folk singer with a guitar accompanist) who did afternoon and evening shows in the domes and Park lounge, a welcoming champagne reception, and an ever-present selection of teas, coffee, and cookies.

And of course the domes were the highlight of the trip. An Amtrak Sightseer Lounge is nice, but to sit facing forward with a 360-degree view over the top of the train is a whole different experience.
 

crescent-zephyr

Conductor
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Oct 21, 2015
Messages
3,426
Have to disagree. It's been 3 years since I took a full-route winter trip on the Canadian, but it had food that certainly seemed fresh cooked, a different menu every night with regional specialties, a "traveling artist" (in my case, a country-folk singer with a guitar accompanist) who did afternoon and evening shows in the domes and Park lounge, a welcoming champagne reception, and an ever-present selection of teas, coffee, and cookies.

And of course the domes were the highlight of the trip. An Amtrak Sightseer Lounge is nice, but to sit facing forward with a 360-degree view over the top of the train is a whole different experience.
Well to be fair when I took the Canadian on a big circle rail trip of North America Amtrak was at its best. At that time I thought the food and extras on the coast starlight was better than the Canadian (I took them back to back). On the Coast Starlight I was given a real bottle of California Champagne when boarding vs a plastic shot glass on the Canadian.

So in my mind I’m comparing 2 more comparable products.
 

tricia

Conductor
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Aug 23, 2011
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Spring Creek, NC
Well to be fair when I took the Canadian on a big circle rail trip of North America Amtrak was at its best. At that time I thought the food and extras on the coast starlight was better than the Canadian (I took them back to back). On the Coast Starlight I was given a real bottle of California Champagne when boarding vs a plastic shot glass on the Canadian.

So in my mind I’m comparing 2 more comparable products.
Comparable at the time perhaps, but one of those products has been downgraded a heckuva lot since then.
 

jiml

Conductor
AU Supporter
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Feb 27, 2019
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Somewhere in Southern Ontario
Service is not yet back to normal on the recently-restored Canadian. Lunch is a choice of sandwiches served in your room and the dinner menu is shown below and doesn't vary day to day. One report said these are pre-prepared meals reheated onboard. (If they're as decent as the ones on the Ocean pre-suspension, then they'll be fine - just not the usual.)

Dinner
Beef pot roast
Tender pot roast served with
vegetables and Chef’s choice
of accompaniment.
Citrus glazed salmon
Baked salmon served with vegetables
and Chef’s choice of accompaniment.
Vegetarian chili
Mild chili serve with vegetables and
Chef’s choice of accompaniment.
VIA Rail accepts most major credit cards.
Consumption of personal alcoholic beverages on these premises
is prohibited by law. Some menu items may
contain nuts or traces of peanuts.
 

crescent-zephyr

Conductor
Joined
Oct 21, 2015
Messages
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Comparable at the time perhaps, but one of those products has been downgraded a heckuva lot since then.
Agreed. Although even on my last trip on a Parlour Car the Lamb Shank would still beat out anything I had on the Canadian!

That would have been beginning of 2018 I think?

Sure the Starlight has lost its parlour car, but the Canadian has come pretty close to losing the park car for standard sleeping car passengers as well.

I’m not arguing the Canadian is great, I’m just saying I don’t find them to be “entirely different experiences.”
 

joelkfla

Lead Service Attendant
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Oct 16, 2018
Messages
461
Location
12 miles from Walt Disney World
Sure the Starlight has lost its parlour car, but the Canadian has come pretty close to losing the park car for standard sleeping car passengers as well.
That's one advantage of winter travel: unrestricted Park car access. (At least it was 3 years ago.) And I like snow -- but I like it much more looking at it from a nice warm dome car than being out in it. (I used to like being out in it, but nowadays I have trouble staying upright.) :)
 

Bob Dylan

Conductor
Joined
May 31, 2009
Messages
22,207
Location
Austin Texas
Service is not yet back to normal on the recently-restored Canadian. Lunch is a choice of sandwiches served in your room and the dinner menu is shown below and doesn't vary day to day. One report said these are pre-prepared meals reheated onboard. (If they're as decent as the ones on the Ocean pre-suspension, then they'll be fine - just not the usual.)

Dinner
Beef pot roast
Tender pot roast served with
vegetables and Chef’s choice
of accompaniment.
Citrus glazed salmon
Baked salmon served with vegetables
and Chef’s choice of accompaniment.
Vegetarian chili
Mild chili serve with vegetables and
Chef’s choice of accompaniment.
VIA Rail accepts most major credit cards.
Consumption of personal alcoholic beverages on these premises
is prohibited by law. Some menu items may
contain nuts or traces of peanuts.
Still sounds MUCH Better than the Amtrak offerings!
 

joelkfla

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Oct 16, 2018
Messages
461
Location
12 miles from Walt Disney World
Actually, BOTH products have been downgraded these days. Gone are the lamb chops and prime rib, for instance, on VIA 1/2, and there's no access to any domes. Too bad.
But the comparison was pre-COVID. If both return to the state they were in just prior to the pandemic, VIA holds the clear advantage.
 

crescent-zephyr

Conductor
Joined
Oct 21, 2015
Messages
3,426
But the comparison was pre-COVID. If both return to the state they were in just prior to the pandemic, VIA holds the clear advantage.
Sure, but they aren’t “entirely different experiences” - they are pretty much identical experiences just VIA is a little better but you pay for it.
 

Trogdor

Conductor
Joined
Aug 3, 2004
Messages
5,653
Location
Here
Sure, but they aren’t “entirely different experiences” - they are pretty much identical experiences just VIA is a little better but you pay for it.
Pre-COVID:

VIA - real china, cloth table linens
Amtrak - plastic plates and paper table “cloths”

VIA - Different menu for every meal
Amtrak - Same menu for every meal (often the same in both directions, and across multiple trains)

VIA - Complimentary alcohol (for sleeper passengers) with the meal
Amtrak - one free can of soda. Alcohol extra (wine tastings had been discontinued before COVID)

VIA - Appetizers, snacks, drinks distributed to sleeper passengers between meals.
Amtrak - Feel free to visit the cafe car and buy a shrink-wrapped brownie or a can of Budweiser.

I suppose the quality of the food itself served in the diner is subjective. I’ve only done a couple of trips on the Canadian (one Edmonton-Vancouver, one Vancouver-Toronto), but it my impression was that the food was better (not sure if it was the selection, or if I just got lucky). Amtrak diner food in recent years has felt like Denny’s, at best. Maybe the main course was good, but Amtrak’s pre-meal salad has been sad for a while, and the side vegetables were okay, at best.

VIA - exclusive dome cars for sleeper passengers (sometimes multiple cars, depending on load)
Amtrak - sightseer lounge free-for-all. Eastern trains, there’s the sleeper lounge (Viewliner diner), but significant food downgrade. Prior to the food downgrade, your “lounge” was an Amfleet II cafe car.

But other than all of that, probably identical.
 
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