“Trip of a Lifetime” for 2016 CAA Travel Rocky Mountaineer Contest Winner


Read about what last year’s winner of our Rocky Mountaineer travel contest thought of her trip, plus find out how to enter this year’s contest.

by Mary Wimmer

An “epic rail journey of a lifetime” was how CAA North & East Ontario billed its grand prize trip in October of last year, an annual travel contest run in partnership with Canadian rail tour company, Rocky Mountaineer. And according to the lucky prize winner, whose name was drawn from more than 40,000 entrants, the trip truly lived up to the hype.

“It was a once-in-a-lifetime dream trip,” says Ottawa’s Marlene Kuehl. “Enjoying Rocky Mountaineer’s GoldLeaf service, with its glass-domed car, provided wonderful views of the mountains, wildlife and scenery. The hosts were entertaining and so knowledgeable about things along the route, and the food is as fabulous as advertised…definitely a first-class experience, all the way.”

The journey, on Rocky Mountaineer’s “First Passage to the West” itinerary, began with train travel from the coastal city of Vancouver to Kamloops, in the heart of British Columbia’s interior, where Marlene and her companion (her husband) got to see the lush green fields of the Fraser River valley transform to forests and winding river canyons surrounded by the peaks of the Coast and Cascade mountains, and then to the desert-like environment of the interior.

They then overnighted in Kamloops before riding the rails eastwards to the mighty Canadian Rockies and the province of Alberta, where panoramas of placid ranchlands and rocky lakeshores graced their glass-domed views before they reached Banff for an overnight stay.

“This is part of Canada we all should see if we can,” says Marlene. “Two days aboard the train between Vancouver and Banff provides lots of time to see beautiful scenery and so many highlights along the way. It also gave me the opportunity to add tours of places I wanted to see in and around Vancouver and Banff.”

Some of the attractions the Kuehls were lucky enough to see on their train trip included Hell’s Gate in the Fraser Canyon, the steep slopes and rock sheds along the Thompson River, Craigellachie (where the last spike of the Canadian Pacific Railway was driven), Rogers Pass, Kicking Horse Canyon, the Spiral Tunnels, and the glaciers and snow-capped peaks of the Canadian Rockies.

They even opted to spend an extra day in Banff to venture up the Icefield Parkway to the Columbia Icefield. “It was an interesting experience to be walking on a glacier that has been there for more than 100,000 years,” says Marlene. “We also got to do the Glacier Skywalk…I wasn’t brave enough to walk around the glass floor Skywalk that juts out from the side of the mountain about 280 meters over the bottom of the gorge, but my husband was!”

Another aspect the Kuehls enjoyed on their prize trip for two were their hotel accommodations, particularly at the Fairmont Pacific Rim and the Holiday Inn and Suites on Howe Street. “The Fairmont Pacific Rim is beautiful, as was our room on the 18th floor with an awesome view of the harbour and downtown,” says Marlene. “And the Holiday Inn and Suites is a great hotel that is modern and clean, with a convenient location, good restaurant and super staff…I’d recommend both to everyone.”

Marlene says she’d also recommend booking with a CAA Travel Professional. “Our agent was super-knowledgeable…she knew what we wanted and found the best deals for us,” says Marlene. “It was thanks to her that our trip went without a hitch, from the booking of the hotel, the rental car, to the tours. Everything on our trip went smoothly, with not a glitch in any of the bookings.”

Not having to worry about the details of planning their prize trip meant that the Kuehls instead had plenty of time to enjoy the experience, and were left with “lots of wonderful pictures and memories” to remember their wonderful rail ride by.

Are you feeling lucky? Be sure to enter this year’s CAA Travel’s Rocky Mountaineer Luxury Journey and you could be the 2017 winner of an epic rail journey of a lifetime! Tune in to CTV News at Six in Ottawa to obtain the daily CAA Travel Code until Dec. 1, 2017, which you’ll need in order to enter the contest. Contest closes midnight on Dec. 1, 2017.

Marlene’s trip photos.