Amtrak vs Via Rail Toronto to Vancouver

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crescent-zephyr

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often the same in both directions, and across multiple trains)
Well VIA only has one train with this type of service, so across multiple trains isn’t a fair comparison.

VIA - Complimentary alcohol (for sleeper passengers) with the meal
This wasn’t the case when I rode VIA, and I don’t think it’s accurate but I don’t know 100%.

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.
When I rode VIA the park car had a plate of shrink-Wrapped snacks and a basket of fruit out. Twice they distributed some plastic shots of champagne.

VIA - exclusive dome cars for sleeper passengers (sometimes multiple cars, depending on load)
Amtrak - sightseer lounge free-for-all.
This doesn’t really change the amenities, on VIA the domes are just as crowded as the SSL on Amtrak in my experience. A crowded observation car is a crowded observation car no matter the class of passengers.

Note - I’m not saying VIA isn’t a good experience, I loved it. You also left out the bedding which is 10 times more comfortable than Amtrak’s bedding. VIA and Amtrak both have pro’s and con’s and they both provide decent long distance passenger train experiences (pre-covid).

I just disagree that they are completely different experiences, that’s all.
 

Seaboard92

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I had the duck. Photo or it didn’t happen! :p

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I've had the Prime Rib once twice on one trip. We were so late they used the leftovers for Prime Rib Sandwiches and let me tell you those were good sandwiches. I usually don't like leftovers but I love VIA ones. I wish I had the prime rib recipe just so I could make the sandwiches the next day.
 

joelkfla

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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.
I used the term "whole different experience" specifically in reference to riding in a 360 degree dome compared to riding in a Sightseer Lounge. That's my opinion, and I'm sticking to it. :)
 

crescent-zephyr

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I used the term "whole different experience" specifically in reference to riding in a 360 degree dome compared to riding in a Sightseer Lounge. That's my opinion, and I'm sticking to it. :)
I do enjoy the dome cars. The park cars are very nice as well with the wrap around view out the back.
 

Trogdor

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I may have been misremembering the complimentary alcohol part. I could’ve sworn the wine was free, but I might have paid for it and just don’t remember.

The rest of my post stands, though.
 

crescent-zephyr

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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.
This is the quote I disagreed with. Rocky Mountaineer is a land cruise. The Canadian is not. When I rode the Canadian I had meals with college students returning to school and with workers returning to work.

But that’s mostly me being picky probably. I do enjoy the Canadian.
 

jiml

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I may have been misremembering the complimentary alcohol part. I could’ve sworn the wine was free, but I might have paid for it and just don’t remember.

The rest of my post stands, though.
There is complimentary alcohol in Prestige Class on the Canadian. It is not currently available and the only other complimentary drinks in the VIA system are in Business Class on corridor trains. Alcohol on VIA tends to be expensive and, unlike Amtrak, they don't include a "first one on us" on most trains.
 

jis

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The last time I rode the Canadian was on its last run on the three day schedule. I really don't have much desire to run on the current four day schedule, specially with the high likelihood of a half day to a day's worth of delays added on, no matter how good the food is ;)
 
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Seaboard92

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The last time I rode the Canadian was on its last run on the three day schedule. I really don;t have much desire to run on the current four day schedule, specially with the high likelihood of a half day to a day's worth of delays added on, no matter how good the food is ;)
I wonder if we were on the same train. I was on the last No. 2 on the tri weekly schedule.
 

20th Century Rider

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Comparable at the time perhaps, but one of those products has been downgraded a heckuva lot since then.
And as you know... sadly the CS Parlor car was removed... wine tasting comes with a fee [if and when they have it] and no cheese or crackers... and the dining experience was replaced with those lukewarm tasteless nasty flex meals. Of course everything is in flux with the pandemic... it will be interesting to see what eventually pans out on both sides of the boarder.
 

20th Century Rider

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I used the term "whole different experience" specifically in reference to riding in a 360 degree dome compared to riding in a Sightseer Lounge. That's my opinion, and I'm sticking to it. :)
Agreed! The sightseer lounges on the Superliners are ok but nothing compared to the dome car. And of course the upstairs counter bar is no longer used. Also the seating can be somewhat uncomfortable as some chairs swivel and some are fixed.
 

Lonestar648

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VIA just started a once a week truncated, extremely limited access, Canadian between Vancouver and Winnipeg. No Dome access, and no viewing from either the Skyline nor the Park cars. Sleeper Plus passengers are to stay in their rooms unless eating in the Dining Car twice per day. Menu only has three items on it and doesn’t change. Coach passengers must stay in their seats, there is a snack cart meal service for cash. The trip doesn’t sound like fun. Of course, the border is still closed I think to tourists, so mute point for US residents.
 

jiml

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VIA just started a once a week truncated, extremely limited access, Canadian between Vancouver and Winnipeg. No Dome access, and no viewing from either the Skyline nor the Park cars. Sleeper Plus passengers are to stay in their rooms unless eating in the Dining Car twice per day. Menu only has three items on it and doesn’t change. Coach passengers must stay in their seats, there is a snack cart meal service for cash. The trip doesn’t sound like fun. Of course, the border is still closed I think to tourists, so mute point for US residents.
That sums it up perfectly. The current menu is posted earlier in this thread. One wonders why they're even bothering to tow the dome cars, since lockdowns here have actually worsened since they restarted and show no sign of letting up anytime soon. Inter-provincial travel is certainly discouraged.
 

crescent-zephyr

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Also the seating can be somewhat uncomfortable as some chairs swivel and some are fixed.
I appreciate the variety of seats in the SSL cars vs. the standard coach or bench seats of dome cars.

Of course if you can grab the railfan window of a traditional dome... doesn’t get better than that!
 

Seaboard92

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That sums it up perfectly. The current menu is posted earlier in this thread. One wonders why they're even bothering to tow the dome cars, since lockdowns here have actually worsened since they restarted and show no sign of letting up anytime soon. Inter-provincial travel is certainly discouraged.
Coach meal service has generally been run out of the skylines so that is what I think is going on as far as that.

Then again they are still towing it to Churchill and they aren't offering any coach service. And a sleeper for the crew is being towed along as well.
 

mlanoue

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What about scenery? I love the views of Glacier NP, the Cascades, the the Columbia Gorge, but the pictures I've seen make me think The Canadian is a whole different level of scenery. Is that true?
 

crescent-zephyr

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What about scenery? I love the views of Glacier NP, the Cascades, the the Columbia Gorge, but the pictures I've seen make me think The Canadian is a whole different level of scenery. Is that true?
In my opinion, the Zephyr and the Starlight beat out the Canadian for scenery. But that’s going to be very subjective.

The Empire Builder vs. The Canadian is a close call.... I’d give it to the Canadian but both are great.
 

Willbridge

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The Canadian has the better scenery over the Empire Builder in my opinion. Also the better equipment.
The best scenery overall on an Amtrak or VIA train was on the Pioneer before it was doomed by routing it through Wyoming. I have ridden all of the current transcontinental routes except for New Orleans>San Antonio and rode "the real Canadian" Calgary>Vancouver and each route has its strong points. I have used the Calgary>Vancouver and Chicago>Portland routes (Trains 25/26 and 27/28) in the winter and the summer.
 

jis

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I wonder if we were on the same train. I was on the last No. 2 on the tri weekly schedule.
I don't recall exactly when it went from tri-weekly to bi-weekly. I was on the last train that ran on the three day schedule. Did the change to bi-weekly happen at the same time as when it went from three day to four day schedule?
 

crescent-zephyr

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I don't recall exactly when it went from tri-weekly to bi-weekly. I was on the last train that ran on the three day schedule. Did the change to bi-weekly happen at the same time as when it went from three day to four day schedule?
I know it was down to bi-weekly in the winter of 2013. The crews were grumbling about it when I rode. I really didn’t see the magical VIA crews that others rave about. Seemed like an average Amtrak crew to me. Some were really nice, others were pretty grumpy.
 

jiml

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I really didn’t see the magical VIA crews that others rave about. Seemed like an average Amtrak crew to me. Some were really nice, others were pretty grumpy.
On balance both companies have some great employees, some mediocre employees and some that should be doing something different. My last VIA1 corridor trip pre-Covid was nothing special. Outbound the steward did her best impression of some flight attendants, only getting up when someone went and asked for a refill, etc., spending most of her time on her phone while sitting with her feet up on the adjacent seat. On the return trip meals were dropped unceremoniously on the trays still in their foil cooking containers. My previous trip on the same route had been outstanding. Last year's trip on VIA's Ocean was excellent and my last Amtrak trip (eastbound Cardinal) featured a great crew, with only the meal quality lacking. Hit or miss.
 

fdaley

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I don't recall exactly when it went from tri-weekly to bi-weekly. I was on the last train that ran on the three day schedule. Did the change to bi-weekly happen at the same time as when it went from three day to four day schedule?
I believe the Canadian went to twice-a-week operation for the winter months starting in the fall of 2012 -- at the same time as the Ocean was cut back from six days a week to three. The plan was for the Canadian to resume three departures a week in the high season, from May to October, and that happened for a few summers, although I believe the season got shorter over time. Then one year when CN freight congestion was causing more and more extreme delays, the third departure never resumed for the summer, and VIA began lengthening the schedule. However, I think it was already a four-night schedule for several years before the 2012 cuts.
 
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