Canada: Wheelchair Journey Aboard the Rocky Moutaineer from Vancouver to Banff
 By Kim & Shaun O'Sullivan  © 2011

Kim & Shaun O'Sullivan, of Australia, recently  journeyed from Vancouver to Banff. aboard Canada's Rocky Mountaineer. They found the train's wheelchair accessible accommodations exceptional.

Kim & Shaun O'Sullivan prepare to  board the Rocky Mountaineer from Vancouver to Banff, Canada.

Although my husband and I travel a lot, we also travel with trepidation. My husband is a T12 incomplete paraplegic and is paralysed from the waist down and is unable to walk. We have found that there is a great deal of difference in understanding and interpreting the words “wheelchair accessible”.  So therefore, even though our wonderful travel agent Dianne from Flight Centre Booval Australia, assured us that the Rocky Mountaineer was fully wheelchair accessible, we tend to wonder what we will get ourselves into when we sign up for our travel adventures.

However, from the time we arrived at the departure point for the train, Vancouver, all our fears were allayed quickly.  We were helped from the moment our car pulled up at the front door.  We were taken to the checkout counter and given our tickets.  We were then taken to an area marked “travellers who require assistance”.  After a short wait, we were collected and taken to the train via the platform. My husband was then transferred into an aisle chair, the same as the ones the airlines use, and for the same reason, as the aisles are too narrow for a wheelchair. Waiting at the train was a platform that was so simple, it was amazing.  It was a ramp that was operated by hand and as my husband said, the simple things are the best.  From there he was taken to an elevator, which was open at the top, and delivered to the first floor of the carriage.  We were given the seats directly opposite the lift.  At this point my husband had to transfer into  his assigned seat.  Unless you are able to do this, you would be unable to enjoy this travel experience, as you are not able to stay in your chair.

Shaun O'Sullivan uses the lift to navigate between levels on the train.

The dining section is on the ground  floor.  Prior to an announcement regarding moving downstairs for dining, an attendant arrived with the aisle chair to take my husband downstairs.  Also the toilet was downstairs. One of the two toilets have a double door than can be opened.  My husband found the toilet fairly easy to use, remembering that he is in the aisle chair at the time.  The dining car was also easy to access and he was placed at the first table, from where he could transfer from the aisle chair and slide across  to his seat by the window.  My husband was transferred after meals back upstairs.

The first day went from Vancouver to Kamloops.  Once we arrived at Kamloops there were buses waiting to transfer all passengers to their motels for an overnight stay.  However these busses were not wheelchair accessible.  The Rocky Mountaineer company had thought of everything, and a wheelchair accessible taxi had been ordered to take us to our hotel where we were given a fully wheelchair accessible room.  During the day, a dinner theatre had been offered during our stay in the town.  We had decided not to go, as we were not sure how we would get there, however the theatre was at the hotel where we were staying, so we would have been able to attend.  The next morning a taxi had been ordered again and we got back to the station without any worries.  We were ably assisted by the staff once again onto the train.

From Kamloops we enjoyed another day on the train, finishing in Banff.  While we were on the train, the staff accessed our travel documents to check which hotel we were staying.  Dianne had already organized a transfer to the hotel, but in case they didn’t show, the Rocky Mountaineer Company had organized a taxi.  At no stage were we left to fend for ourselves at either  Kamploops or Banff.

Mountain view from the Rocky Mountaineer.

At no stage was my husband made to feel like an inconvenience.  Several times he was asked if there was anything that he needed, and they stressed that he should not worry about how many times he needed assistance.  I would also like to add that every person in that carriage was made to feel like that.  In other words, the customer service was exceptional.  I would have no hesitation to recommend this experience for wheelchair users.

Don't miss Kim & Shaun O'Sullivan's  2010 Tour of Egypt.

Or Kim & Shaun's Wheelchair Accessible Vollendam Cruise:
Osaka, Japan, Pusan, Korea, Kodiak & Sitka Alaska

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