Planning Canadian Trip for March 2020

Discussion in 'VIA Rail Canada Discussion' started by brianpmcdonnell17, Sep 27, 2019.

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  1. Sep 27, 2019 #1

    brianpmcdonnell17

    brianpmcdonnell17

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    I am going to be taking my first trip on VIA; I have a lot of experience with Amtrak but don't know as much about VIA so have a few questions. I will be starting and ending the trip in Chicago so will get to Vancouver on the EB and Cascades and to Toronto on the LSL and Maple Leaf. My dad will be meeting me for the Canadian portion of the trip, most likely flying into/out of Seattle and Toronto. I have a maximum of 11 days to work with, so have four nights that will not be on the train. I was thinking 2 nights in Toronto and 1 each in Vancouver and Seattle; does that sound like a good distribution? The only one I have been to before is Seattle and I figured I would need 2 nights in Toronto as the connection between the Maple Leaf and Canadian would allow little time there if I only stayed one night. Also, which direction would likely have the better scenery in mid March?


    Lastly, what are the details of the accomodations? Do all sleeping car classes receive including meals and access to showers? Do coach passengers have access to an observation/dome car? Considering there are two of us, if we both get berths, should we both get upper/lower, or should one of us get each? How difficult would it be to spend time on the train together if one of us was in coach and the other in sleeper?

    I apologize for the excessive number of questions; VIA just seems to offer a much larger number of options than Amtrak.
     
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  2. Sep 27, 2019 #2

    zephyr17

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    All sleeping car passengers have the same meals. There is a shower available in each Sleeper Plus sleeper. During the peak season the times Sleeper Plus passengers can access the Park car is restricted. During the off season, Sleeper Plus passengers can access the Park car at anytime, though the first couple of rows of the dome are reserved for Prestige. During peak season there will also be two Skyline domes for Sleeper Plus passengers. Coach passengers have their own Skyline dome.

    Under the new schedule, the scenery is much the same both directions.

    Coach passengers do not mix at all with sleeper passengers and are not allowed in the sleeper section of the train, except if they want to eat in the diner in the off season (in peak season there is hot food service in their Skyline). Coach has it's own Skyline lounge car as noted above. There is minimal mixing of sleeper and coach passengers, much less than on Amtrak.

    If you get two lower berths, bear in mind that it will not block sale of the uppers in those sections.

    While the train can still be several hours late at its endpoints under the current schedule, it is no longer suffering the 24-48 hour lateness it had been having under the old schedule. I do not have any qualms about booking the Maple Leaf the next morning and have done so. In my upcoming trip in November I have that connection, and I also felt comfortable booking the afternoon Cascades at Vancouver.

    The train is worth the ride for the dome cars alone. The food is much, much better than Amtrak and the menu rotates every day. The onboard service is better and more consistent. Even the matresses are better. I have ridden it about once a year for the last 5 years, and it is a much better train than Amtrak has had in decades.
     
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2019
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  3. Sep 27, 2019 #3

    brianpmcdonnell17

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    Thanks for the information. I have a few follow-up questions.

    1. What is sleeper plus? Does it include the berths?

    2. If I make a single reservation with an upper and lower berth, will one be directly above the other? Likewise, if I reserve two uppers or two lowers, will they be adjacent? Also, I forgot to mention this in the original question, but is there any advantages to either an upper or lower berth?
     
  4. Sep 27, 2019 #4

    Urban Sky

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    “Sleeper Plus” is everything which isn’t Economy (i.e. seating-only) or “Prestige” (deluxe sleeper), so either berths (upper or lower) or Cabins (for 1, for 2 or - rarely - for 3).

    You should be placed above/next each other when booking “Upper and Lower Berths”, but 1U is above 1L, 2U is above 2L and 3U is above 3L, 1U/L is across the aisle from 2U/L, whereas 3U/L is across the aisle from the shower (check the “Manor” car diagram):
    https://www.flickr.com/photos/14589121@N00/6058883870/
     
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2019
  5. Sep 27, 2019 #5

    Seaboard92

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    In my opinion 3U is the best of the sections to have. It’s super easy to get in and out when you have the wall to brace yourself on.
     
  6. Sep 27, 2019 #6

    Bob Dylan

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    The biggest advantages for a Lower are the Window and not having to use the Ladder to enter/exit the Berth.
     
  7. Sep 27, 2019 #7

    Maglev

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    Also, I have read that the lower berth occupant is assigned the forward-facing seat in the daytime.
     
  8. Sep 27, 2019 #8

    Seaboard92

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    Yes standard railroad practice denotes the higher fare gets the forward facing seat. I also use that when traveling with friends on Amtrak roomettes.

    Even though on the Canadian I don’t know why you would care about the section seats because there is so much to do
     
  9. Sep 27, 2019 #9

    Bob Dylan

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    This is true, but as Seaboard says, you wont spend anytime sitting in the daytime seats in the Sleeper.
     
  10. Sep 28, 2019 #10

    zephyr17

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    Sleeper Plus is all sleeping car accommodations except Prestige, including open section berths, cabins for 1, 2 and 3 (roomettes, double bedrooms/compartment, drawing rooms).

    If you get an upper and lower, booked on one reservation, they will above/below each other in a single "section". You would probably have to work with a reservation agent to ensure two lowers are adjacent if you go that way. Although I mentioned it before, i want to emphasize that the upper berths will be open for sale and you may very well have another traveler assigned to the upper berths in those sections.

    As noted by others, railroad convention is the lower berth occupant gets the forward facing seat in the section. I also want to add it is pretty common for berth travelers on the Canadian to elect not to have the berths made up into seats during the day, but leave the berths down and curtains hung.
     
  11. Oct 15, 2019 #11

    brianpmcdonnell17

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    We decided to book an upper and lower berth on the train leaving Vancouver March 16th. Now we just need to plan the rest of the trip. We're thinking of spending one night in Niagara Falls instead of a second in Toronto now that GO has somewhat frequent service between the two.
     
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  12. Oct 15, 2019 #12

    jiml

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    Good call. Just be aware that weekend hotel nights in NF will be considerably more expensive than weekdays - sort of the opposite of big cities. Not sure how that works with your schedule...
     
  13. Oct 24, 2019 #13

    Skyline

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    That's an excellent idea.

    For a trip I'm planning for next summer I'd like to find a place to park near NF (preferably on the US side), spend the night, then travel to meet the Canadian next AM. Parking and lodging in Toronto is super expensive, tho more convenient.

    Does anyone have a suggestion as to where to park/stay on the US side with good frequent connections to/from Toronto? Either mass transit, shuttle vans, or even taxi. I'm not TOO picky about lodging aesthetics as this would only be a one-nighter each way -- just that humans and vehicles are safe and lodging is reasonably clean.

    I'd be leaving the car for up to three weeks (Canadian both ways, side trip to Alaska).
     
  14. Oct 25, 2019 #14

    jiml

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    The airport hotels in Buffalo offer Park 'n' Fly rates up to 14 days and there is a bus from BUF airport to Toronto (Megabus I think, and possibly a competitor - I'd have to check). You'd have to negotiate a few extra days parking with your stay, but shouldn't be difficult. There are also extended parking places at the airport.

    Edited to add: https://ca.megabus.com/route-guides...dIoz-gkWQWqnL1WzkwsflqhOteaMnLSRoCLFoQAvD_BwE
    and I think the competitor is Niagara Airbus, but they go to Toronto airport as opposed to downtown where you want to be.
     
  15. Oct 25, 2019 #15

    jiml

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    BTW, if you haven't been to Buffalo before, the airport is out in the 'burbs and both people and vehicles are very safe. You'll see a lot of Ontario license plates at both the airport and adjacent hotels, since flying from there is popular and can be significantly cheaper than Toronto.
     
  16. Oct 25, 2019 #16

    Skyline

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    Thanx, I'll check this out. I don't fly so know next to zip about airport parking. Do you need to be flying in or out of an airport to utilize their long term parking?
     
  17. Oct 25, 2019 #17

    jiml

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    No one has ever asked and you'll likely be using their airport shuttle to get to the bus, so it will certainly appear that you're flying somewhere. Although Buffalo airport is quite small, they have a lot of airport hotels which offer extended parking. There is a trio of Marriotts directly across the street that share a large parking lot... I go with whichever one has the lowest package rate. Also HGI and several others - whatever is your chain of choice. There is also long-term really cheap parking right at the airport. It's further away from the terminal, but still on the grounds with a free shuttle if you don't like any of the hotel options. Last time I checked it was $50/week. Considering airport parking can run up to $34 a day in Toronto, you'll understand why this is a great option.
     
  18. Oct 27, 2019 #18

    NS VIA Fan

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    Why not just drive to the Toronto Airport and do the Stay & Park there? Lots of Hotels there offer this .. and with the US $....you'll save about 25%. Then take the UP Express from the Airport right to Union Station. Trains run every 15mins and take 25 mins.
     
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  19. Oct 27, 2019 #19

    jiml

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    The savings on exchange might not make up the difference. YYZ hotel park 'n' fly rates run about double those in BUF - another reason there's a big billboard across from the Buffalo airport that features a Canadian flag and reads "Welcome to Buffalo Niagara International Airport - The Toronto Alternative". Frequently the Ontario plates in long-term parking (hotel or at the airport) outnumber those from NYS.

    That having been said, the UP Express might be a nice add to Skyline's trip. Something like the Four Points Sheraton Toronto Airport East, which is fairly distant from the airport while still considered an airport hotel, might have lower rates and is an 8-minute Uber/taxi ride from Weston station - the second on the UP Express route to Union Station. This would save a trip to the airport entirely.
     
  20. Oct 28, 2019 #20

    Skyline

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    Sorry for hijacking this thread but the info I attract may be valuable to the OP, or others. If moderators need to separate my questions/answers to a separate thread, that's fine.

    I may have come up with a scenario that is affordable in Toronto, considering the exchange rate. Does anyone here have experience with...

    1) Long-term parking at Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport in their "Value Park" areas. Yes, I'd have to take the Ferry ($14 CDN round trip) to get my car to those areas ($99 CDN per week) but compared to other parking/hotel options this combo may not be that bad. So ... Any good or bad experiences at Bishop? Is there good public transit, or affordable taxi/Uber, from Bishop to hotels near Union Station? I could also walk if not more than a couple miles as I'll be using a large backpack in lieu of luggage (I'm a long distance backpacker) but I'm thinking after driving all day from Virginia that might be a bad idea.

    2) Staying overnight at either the Intercontinental Toronto Centre (from $144 CDN) or Hotel Victoria Toronto (from $121 CDN). Pricing via www.canadianhotelguide.com, unverified yet by me. Both claim to be a six-minute walk to Union Station. I don't need a fancy hotel, just something clean and safe.

    This adventure would tentatively happen in August 2020. I would be arriving the day/night prior to #1 leaving the next morning. On the return, I'd likely stay in a hotel that night and drive home the next day. As of now, travelling in a sleeper, solo.
     
  21. Oct 28, 2019 #21

    NS VIA Fan

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    That ferry ride to Billy Bishop takes about 90 seconds.....then just walk back through the tunnel (moving sidewalk) and a block out to Queens Quay. Very frequent TTC Streetcars to Union Station. About 10mins.

    The Intercontinental is a great spot with some good views overlooking Union Station.

    Billy Bishop, Union and the Intercontinental are all close downtown, walkable and safe.
     
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  22. Oct 28, 2019 #22

    jiml

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    Intercontinental used to be CN's Union Station hotel, intended to compete with CP's (now Fairmont's) Royal York. It didn't, but is a decent hotel and is basically next door to the station on the south side of Front St. If you can get a room for that price, take it.

    Everything NS VIA stated about the island airport is spot-on.
     
  23. Oct 28, 2019 #23

    Skyline

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    Thank you for the insights. I am going to tweak my itinerary over the next couple weeks, and confirm pricing and avails. I need to do the same for Vancouver (likely staying here again -- https://skwachays.com -- for the experience) and beyond re: Alaska. Somewhere out west, I'm going to try to squeeze in at least a night or two of backpacking close to trains or ships.
     
  24. Oct 28, 2019 #24

    jiml

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    Looking forward to your trip report.
     
  25. Oct 31, 2019 #25

    Skyline

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    Preliminary inquiries show my itinerary, which was to include a ship to Alaska from a west coast port, plus railfanning in Alaska, plus return to Vancouver, is going to break the bank.

    So now, I'm thinking of ending my westbound train travel in Vancouver, revisiting Vancouver for awhile, and seeking a backpacking opportunity not too awfully far from Vancouver. Preferably four days/three nights on a circuit, likely involving a shuttle or rental car to get to/from trailheads. I will ask the same questions on hiker-related sites/FB groups I participate with, but if by chance anyone here has suggestions I'm all ears, er, eyes.

    At the conclusion, I'd return to Vancouver to catch the next day's #2 back to Toronto.
     

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