Initiated in 1904, The Ocean is Canada’s longest serving passenger rail service, providing overnight service between Montreal, Halifax and communities in between. It’s a wonderful way to travel to the Maritimes. Relaxing, pleasant scenery, comfortable accommodations, and most importantly, a friendly and professional staff greet you for the “All Aboard”; and are there to ensure that your trip is enjoyable.

We travelled with VIA this summer for the first time on their new Renaissance cars. Wisely, the company continues to use the stainless steel “dome car” at the rear of the train. This car is reserved for passengers traveling in the sleeping cars, so it’s not overly busy. It’s a great place to watch the countryside roll by, and sip a complimentary coffee, tea or juice. You can also have a pre-dinner cocktail or glass of wine. At various times, the car attendant will come up and offer some interesting information on the local area. We were also offered a complimentary glass of champagne after boarding.

There is also a lounge car adjacent to the dining car where you can enjoy a before dinner drink, coffee, or simply watch the world go by.

The trip on board The Ocean begins in the very comfortable Panorama Lounge in Montreal’s Central Station. Reserved for First Class passengers, you can sit and relax, read a little and wait for the pre-boarding announcement. It’s a whole lot more civilized than the convoluted process of flying today.

VIA has introduced Touring, an optional all-inclusive that includes meals, and you can make your dining car reservations can be made before boarding. It’s a good idea that regulates the flow of passengers to the dining car and avoids bottlenecks at peak meal times. Meal service begins shortly after The Ocean pulls out of the station at 6:30pm.

The dining car is elegant, and the service is attentive and professional. The three course service offers a choice of fish or meat – and they’re delicious! (VIA can accommodate special dietary requirement with advance notice.) It really quite amazing when you consider that you’re rolling through the country sidecountryside, enjoying first rate food on a train. Each dish has a suggested fine Canadian wine to accompany and complement your selection.

The following morning you have a choice of breakfasts formfrom light continental to a full blown blueberry pancakes and sausage! In the interest of investigative reporting – I am happy to report that the pancakes and sausage were delicious!

The beds fold down easily in the ‘new’ sleeper cars, (many equipped with in-cabin showers), and there’s a sense of a very civilized camping out expedition. Pillows fluffed, a good book, the odd glance at the night sky, a river luminescent in the moonlight, and you’re soon off in dreamland as The Ocean gently rocks her passengers to sleep.

Morning brings the more rugged scenery of Northern New Brunswick, before heading towards Moncton, and then crossing the border into Nova Scotia and onward to a late afternoon arrival in Halifax. It’s a relaxing journey, with time to read, enjoy the changing scenery, perhaps strike up a conversation with some fellow passengers, and maybe a nap.

VIA Rail has generous advance booking discounts and some excellent prices for people over 60. Without a little forward planning, you cantravellers save some money, and put it towards other aspects of youra Maritime holiday. You can shop on their web site forFor packages that include hotels and car rentals, visit – one stop shopping. To speak directly with an agent: 1-888-842-7245 (In Montreal 514-989-2626) Bon Voyage!

Related Posts