Recently Back from the BCR tour - thoughts and tips...

Having recently completed the Best of the Canadian Rockies Tour, I thought I would share our experience and provide what I hope are some helpful tips for those who have already booked, or are considering this trip. I’ve also looked at some of the questions which have been raised in other threads about this tour, but have not been addressed at all. I apologize in advance for the length of this post, but I think the length was necessary to cover many of the questions people were posing.

Booking an additional night in Calgary prior to the Tour:
I think this is a no-brainer… any seasoned traveler knows all the things which can go wrong when air travel is part of the equation. We booked a night in Calgary at the Westin Hotel, giving us slightly more than 24 hours in Calgary before the tour departed. Scheduling your arrival at the airport on the same date as the tour departure just allows for too many variables to enter the picture in my opinion. We experienced 7 hours in flight delays due to a connecting flight cancellation, so we were okay. Did our group have some people arrive at the airport after our tour had departed? Yes. Did we have travelers who departed on the tour without their luggage? Yes. Give yourself an extra day to work out any of these potential problems, and ensure you will have a great trip. If you don’t experience any issues, you’ll have a wonderful and relaxing day exploring Calgary (be forewarned, Calgary isn’t much of a tourist destination – although it is a beautiful city). NOTE: Keep the 800-numbers for Tauck handy if you do have last minute flight changes as we did – once notified, Tauck can make the necessary changes for your limo pick-up at the airport or assist in transportation to so that you can catch-up with the tour if the tour leaves before your arrival in Calgary.

YYC (Calgary) is a relatively recently renovated airport as of the summer of 2017 (locals were telling us the international portion was about a year old). I’m not sure if we were an anomaly or not, but we passed thru customs very quickly. From the time we exited our airplane, picked-up our luggage, spoke to customs personnel, and exited the terminal to be contacted by our Tauck limo driver - was less than 30 minutes. We arrived on a Saturday evening, so I’m not sure if our experience was atypical or not.

I’ve seen a number of people ask questions on the forum about dining in the City of Calgary. When you arrive at the Westin, a welcome letter from your tour director will be waiting for you when you check-in. One of the sheets will outline the various dining establishments in the nearby area – as well as every sort of other location you might need (shopping; dry cleaning; movies; etc.). There are all manner of dining fare available within a short walk from the hotel (Check on YELP for reviews). Prince’s Island Park is a short walk from the Westin, and definitely deserving of a visit as a post-meal stroll. We found the city to largely abandoned during the weekend (hardly any people at all). Locals told us Calgarians stay out of the city on the weekends, but weekdays are highly congested within the downtown area.

Beyond the one item of luggage for each traveler guideline, there is room on the bus for a small (and I mean small) item in the overhead storage compartments (something along the line of a small day-pack). We saw people try and bring an additional small roller type luggage items (typical of overhead airline size luggage) which were far too large for these overhead bins on the bus. I brought a small backpack with me, which came in handy on some of the hikes (to stow cameras, snacks, water, jackets, etc). Do everyone on the bus a favor, and only take one item of luggage per person (too many items slows down the loading/unloading process).

This is a very casual tour, so “country club casual” attire is totally appropriate at every dining venue. For the men, collared shirts and dockers/khakis are fine for all the restaurants you will visit (some wore jeans too – although I could see this was frowned-upon in the hotel restaurants) with no need for ties or jackets – and for the women there is no need to pack dresses for the dining establishments (britches and nice tops work well).

Be sure to carry some Canadian cash with you. Although you will be able to make the vast majority of purchases with your plastic (check with your credit/debit card companies to see if they have foreign transaction fees to determine which ones to use, and how sparingly you might want to use them if these fees do apply to your cards) – BUT, there are some situations where you will absolutely need Canadian cash. No need for a lot of CAD, perhaps only $20-$40.

Cell phone reception can be a little spotty on traveling days (no wifi on the bus), but is not an issue at any of the hotels you will visit on the tour.

It was my impression that each TD has a little latitude to run their tour how they choose, so your experience may not be exactly what my wife and I experienced.

Day 1
The tour departs from the Westin at 1PM, so grab a quick bite of lunch before you board the bus – there won’t be an opportunity for a snack for a few hours (unless you grab something at the airport when the bus pick’s up the last few travelers). We were at the airport for less than 30 minutes, so if you plan to grab a bite or use the restroom – you’ll need to be quick. Our motor coach driver had a fresh bottle of water in every seat each morning before we departed on a drive to keep us all hydrated. Back to restrooms – there is one on the bus, but they really want it used as little as possible (if you are seated at the rear of the bus, you’ll appreciate people NOT using the on-board restroom for obvious reasons). There are frequent stops, so this really shouldn’t be an issue.

The drive to the Delta Lodge was a relatively short drive from the airport. I’ve seen a lot of complaints on the Best of the Canadian Rockies main web-page regarding the Delta Lodge being sub-par lodging (by Tauck standards). The Delta Lodge has been, and is undergoing extensive renovation (at the time of this writing). We stayed in the John Palliser wing of the hotel, where all the rooms have already been renovated. There should no longer be any complaints (I believe the DL is primarily geared for winter sports activities – so travelers can be hard on the facilities in general – but we found the facilities to be in a fine state of repair). Following your arrival at the Delta Lodge, you have a short period of free-time to explore the grounds, and then you will be off to the Boundary Ranch for the welcome dinner. It’s a casual evening, where a few folks wore western attire as Tauck suggested… but, It was totally appropriate to wear jeans and a collared shirt. This is essentially a low-key mixer for people to get to know each other. Good “grub” and for those interested in comp’d wine, this is one of those stops. You’ll be back in the hotel early, so if you were tired from air travel that day, you’ll have ample time to recover.

Day 2
After breakfast at the Delta Lodge, the morning starts out with a few scenic stops along the Bow River, before arriving in Canmore for a short helicopter ride. The helicopter ride only lasts 12-15 minutes, and can be mildly bumpy at times as you move past the Three Sisters Peaks (nothing too significant in terms of turbulence – just not the smoothest heli ride you’ll ever experience due to the dynamic area weather patterns and mountainous topography). The squeamish should not be concerned – it’s well worth the experience. Following the helicopter tour, you continue along the Bow River to the town of Lake Louise, where you will stop for a fantastic lunch experience at the Lake Louise Post Hotel. There are many courses to this lunch meal (including a great dessert), so be careful you don’t over eat – or you’ll want to pass on supper (which you won’t want to do). For the winos, I believe the spirit was comp’d at lunch. Then you are off to visits of the Spiral Tunnels; the Natural Bridge; and Emerald Lake. You’ll then retrace the route to Emerald Lake back to the Chateau Lake Louise for the second and third night of lodging.

Keep in mind, the Chateau Lake Louise Hotel (as well as Banff Springs Resort) are both older hotels. While the rooms are very well appointed, they are small by modern hotel standards. But, the room views are nothing short of spectacular. You won’t be disappointed.

Upon your arrival at the Chateau Lake Louise you will receive a "Fairmont Discount Card” – good for all sorts of discounts at the various Fairmont properties (good for both activities and merchandise). Keep this card handy… as some of the discounts are up to 50% for Tauck guests.

Day 3
Following breakfast at the Chateau Lake Louise, you will have the opportunity to tour Moraine Lake with a naturalist. The “hike” is on relatively flat (and often uneven) trails. It’s an easy walk with many stops. The naturalist guide will likely only take you back ½ to ¾ of a mile, providing you with information about local lakes, wildlife and early exploration of the area along the way. You can choose to go further around the lake on your own once the naturalist completes his narrative. Take the short walk to the top of the “rock pile” (near the parking lot) for a great view of the lake. I’ve seen some ask about doing the hike in sandals – and I suppose it’s possible. Sneakers are just fine for this activity (unless there is foul weather). Following your time at Lake Moraine, you will return to the Chateau Lake Louise for “free time”. You can hike around the lake or take a hike up to the Tea House. Just be aware the “trails” both begin as wide, nicely paved walkways – and become much less manicured the further you go. Both trails will eventually become uneven earthen paths. If the weather is nice (as it was for us), sneakers are fine – but, if the weather is more inclement – you may want more sturdy footwear. If you take the trek up to the Tea House, or go beyond to the “Beehive” and plan to buy any refreshments or baked goods at the Tea House – take cash. They do not accept credit/debit cards at the Tea House (there is a primitive restroom at the Tea House). You may also wish to take a canoe ride on Lake Louise – however, my tip would be to wait to canoe on Lac Beauvert at Jasper Park (much less expensive and less wind on the lake).

Day 4
On this day you will drive up the Icefields Parkway to Jasper Park Lodge (JPL). This is your longest day on the bus, but with frequent stops, it’s just fine. There are many sights to see (too many to list), and depending on how your day is progressing (from a timeline standpoint) as well as the weather, your TD might stop at some locations and catch the others on your way back down the Icefields Parkway on Day 6. JPL and the Icefields Parkway are your best opportunities to see wildlife – so keep your cameras at the ready. We had lunch at the Sunwampta Falls Lodge – a very good meal (comp’d wine for the cork dorks). You’ll ultimately end-up at JPL with ample free time to explore the grounds. If you plan on going to town, you are going to need a taxi (JPL is a good distance out of town – and IMHO, not much to see in town). If the weather is cool, you’ll often see wildlife roaming the grounds of JPL. My wife found the accommodations at JPL to be a little too “woodsie”; “cabinish”; or rustic for her taste – but, I found our room to be just fine. The feel of the rooms really fit the area. The rooms here are generally larger than Lake Louise or Banff.

In the evening, Tauck arranges for a “1st Nations” speaker to give a presentation on Canadian “native peoples” in one of the downstairs conference rooms. This is a highly informative presentation. Anyone who thought the United States treated their native peoples poorly won’t feels so guilty after listening to what our Canadian brothers have done. Everyone in attendance felt they learned a great deal – and from a different perspective.

Day 5
This is a free-day. Tauck includes one activity for you to participate in this day (River Rafting; Gondola; or a Wildlife Tour) – and if you wish to take two excursions – the second will be at your expense. Our TD arranged second excursions for our group (the preferred method), but you may have to make your own arrangements thru the hotel concierge. If your TD does assist in coordinating an extra excursion for you, they should ensure Tauck pays for the more expensive excursion (keep an eye on this just to make sure).
As far as the three activities are concerned:
The river raft on the Athabasca River is relatively mild ride. Not quite a “float” – but not a “white knuckler” either (it’s only class 2 – just a little white water). They provide you with “wet suits” (if you think about what surfers wear – this will be your attire – which will include footwear). Wear a bathing suit when your group assembles in the hotel lobby. The wet suit will be put on over your bathing suit (you will change-out on the bus should you decide to wear regular clothing – not recommended). You will get wet on this ride, but we never felt cold (due to the wet suits). Some were concerned with bringing cell phones to take pictures. DO NOT take your phone (or camera) – as many end-up at the bottom of the river (which is only 2-4 feet deep in most places). Your paddle will occupy both of your hands for over 90% of the time you are on the water (so you won’t have much opportunity to take your own images anyway). The tour company does have people along the side of the river at key points to take photos of your group – and they are available for purchase following your tour (great pics too). Given the currency conversion, the images are only about $20 USD – and well worth the price. Leave your wallets and purses locked-up in your room safe. (Tip: To be captured more prominently in the images taken by the tour company, sit at the front of the raft – or on the left side of the raft as you go down river).
The line for the gondola (both going up and coming back) can be long at times (depending on the day of the week and tourist volumes) – and at JPL you have a chance to see wildlife on the gondola. The views from the top are great – but, the best views (both at JP and at the Banff gondola) will require you to take a short hike (a little over a mile) to observation points. For the most part, sneakers are fine in good weather – but, if the weather is inclement you may want more sturdy footwear. Although the trails are decent, don’t underestimate your level of fitness considering the altitude (you are in for a small climb at both locations).
The Wildlife Tour is during the evening, which is when the wildlife is frequently active (as are the mosquitos). You’ll be placed into a 15 passenger van and taken to areas which are hot-beds for wildlife activity. You will be given a few opportunities to exit the bus and get a closer look (obviously not when bears or other large critters are in the vicinity). Bring your bug repellant and make sure your arms and legs are covered-up – you will be traversing some brush and tall grass. Also, ensure you pack your “After Bite” before embarking on your tour (pack it or buy some in Calgary) – as we found it hard to come by at the various hotels we visited.

At JPL, the pedal boats on Lac Beauvert are free (pedal driven – like a bike). You can also rent a canoe (this best location for this in my opinion). Because Lac Beauvert is a low spot in the water table (water filters into the lake from the floor of the lake and is not filled by a river or stream) – the water is incredibly clear – to a depth of about 30 feet. One hour is sufficient to paddle all over this lake at a leisurely pace (rentals are by the hour).

There are also several golf courses, and equestrian stables (there are stables at the Chateau Lake Louise too).

Day 6
Depart JPL for Banff. You will travel back down the Icefields Parkway a second time and stop and see some sights along the way. You will also stop at the Colombia Icefields. You will only be on the glacier for 15-20 minutes, so there really isn’t a need for a super heavy jacket here unless the weather is inclement (or you are the kind of person who is easily cold). If the weather is poor, you will want sturdy footwear too (we were fine with sneakers in good weather). Even in good weather, the glacial surface is “mushy” in places, and there is glacial run-off (small streams of water) in many spots, so watch your step or you will find yourself with wet/cold feet. TIP: Before leaving JPL, find a disposable cup (they usually have some in the lobby) you can take with you so that you can sample drinking some pure glacial water at the source – it’s fantastic!

Lunch at the Saskatchewan River Crossing was the most disappointing stop on our trek (it’s essentially a truck-stop). Although the food was okay, I just didn’t expect to eat at a truck stop on a Tauck tour. Perhaps there weren’t many other available options. You’ll end-up at the Banff Springs Resort in the early afternoon, with plenty of time to explore. Check with the desk, as they hold a free historical tour of the hotel a few times a week (not every day) which is very interesting and well worth your time. Bow Falls are just below the hotel, and there is a path along the river which takes you right into the downtown Banff area (be forewarned, the mosquito activity along the river is pretty intense). The walk from Bow Falls to town is also slightly uphill.

Day 7
A free day. The walk to town from the hotel is short (less than ½ mile) and downhill (unlike the towns of Lake Louise and Jasper – which you really can’t easily walk to town). You can also take the bus from right in front of the hotel for a nominal fee (cash only). We were fortunate enough to be in Banff on Canada Day (the equivalent of Independence Day in the USA). They hold a great parade in downtown Banff on Canada Day – and if you can arrange your trip to coincide with this event – you won’t be sorry. You’ll have ample time to shop in town; take the gondola (be prepared for long lines – this side trip will easily eat-up more than half your day); walk to Bow Falls (right below the hotel); float down the Bow River (no rapids); and engage in a myriad of other activities. Banff is much more crowded than any other location you will visit, so always be prepared for crowds (especially on weekends) and lines.

The Farewell Dinner is a the end of this day (and yes, this is your last chance for comp’d wine). Some have asked when the best time to tip your TD and driver might be. This is that time for a couple of reasons. Most importantly, this is somewhat “down time” for your TD and driver (they won’t be overly occupied with loading the bus and/or making arrangements for the next stop on the tour). When loading back on the bus to go back to the hotel would be the perfect time to tip the Tauck personnel. A little less so the next morning at the hotel or at the airport, as both venues can be a bit busy for them.

Day 8
This is the last day of the tour, and you’ll leave for the airport in the morning after breakfast. You’ll arrive at the airport in a little over an hour (short trip). A few people on our tour opted to stay an extra day in Calgary – perhaps due to air travel considerations. If you take an extra day in Calgary, Tauck will arrange your transportation to the airport.

Again, I’m not sure if we were an anomaly or not – but including the time we dropped off our checked-luggage, going thru Canadian airport security, and thru US Customs (you will clear US Customs in Calgary) we were inside of security in well under 45 minutes (maybe closer to a little over 30 minutes). Tauck recommends you give yourself 2-3 hours, which I’m sure is wise – but, our experience was that everything moved quite quickly at YYC. They do have Global Entry kiosks to speed you thru the process at this airport. Again, we were at the airport on a Sunday morning, which may be a low volume day at this particular airport. Your experience may be completely different.

The tour director and the motorcoach driver were both wonderful, knew the area well, and were able to answer all questions we posed to either of them. The TD always made herself available to the group in the hotel lobby every morning and evening, to resolve any issues or answer questions.

The activity level and pace of this tour is pretty low. We did have travelers on our tour who had mild mobility issues, and they were able to participate in just about every activity. The only locale of any concern might be Athabasca Falls, were there are MANY sets of stairs to descend and ascend if you wish to go from the top of the falls to the bottom (especially if it’s raining or there are puddles on the walkways).

Regarding the timing of your trip – Lake Louise (and many of the other lakes in the region) can still be frozen-over in early June. If that could effect your feelings about the trip, you need to take this possibility into consideration when booking your trip. The beginning and end of this tour season, when the weather is typically coldest, is when you have the greatest opportunities to observe wildlife (and you can also experience snowy weather conditions). During the warmer months (July) the animals typically remain in the higher elevations to stay cooler. Also, as I previously mentioned – being in Canada for “Canada Day” (July 1) is a great plus if you are in an area of the parks holding celebrations. And always consider when the Calgary Stampede is taking place (typically in early July). It’s a 10 day event, and not only do the crowds in Calgary (and the adjacent parks) increase, so do the prices for just about everything. If you wish to book a pre-night or post-night stay at the Westin, expect to pay nearly double what you would pay during non-Stampede dates. But, being in Calgary for Stampede could be a great add-on to your tour (or a nightmare if you aren’t into it). Last, look at the other Tauck Western Canada sub-forums for additional tips/advice… as many of the other tours stop at the same locations as the Best of the Canadian Rockies tour.

This is a GREAT trip, and the best endorsement I can give it is that I would do it again – tomorrow if only time allowed. We made a tongue-and-cheek video chronical of our Canadian Rockies tour (if you are at all curious at all about what you’ll see during your tour) which can be found on that very popular video viewing internet web-site if you search under: jncperkins .

I’ll try and check in periodically to answer any questions if I’ve forgotten anything…

- Jeff

Comments

  • Jeff:

    Thank you for posting that wonderfully detailed review. Your tips which will be so helpful as we head for this trip next week.

    A quick question on clothing: we're thinking layers (vests, scarves, maybe some gloves) which can be easily tucked away when not needed later in the day and/or at lower elevations. Along with lightweight waterproof raincoats, will that be adequate? Should we throw in something more substantial?

    Thanks again!
  • Hi KL -
    You are welcome, and hopefully some of that information will be helpful to you.

    Insofar as planning on layering your clothing is concerned - that may be overkill. I don't think you will find the weather changes are going to be all that dynamic on this trip. Also, the altitude changes are not terribly dramatic each day - making the weather all the more "stable" throughout your day (for lack of a better word). I guess what I'm trying to get at is, it wasn't super cold in the morning and then hot in the afternoon.
    We found our weather apps on our cellular telephones to be very accurate and helpful day-to-day (my Weather Channel app was spot on every day) in determining how to dress for the day. We did bring heavy winter jackets (anticipating bone chilling temps could be possible at higher elevations) - which in my estimation was a total waste of luggage space. We never felt the need for gloves either.
    I found my somewhat lightweight jacket to be all I needed, and when I took that off... I typically just had a long-sleeve shirt over jeans (I'm typically good mosquito bait, so I try to keep covered-up as much as possible). We only had one truly rainy day - and before we left on our trip, we purchased some cheap ponchos at a 99-cent store - which did the job over our light jackets (and were really small to pack too). We used the ponchos for a day, and threw them away when done. It was only a buck, and the lightweight jackets we were were enough to keep us warm for the limited time we were in the elements.

    I took a small backpack with me, and it was sufficient to stow my wife's purse, and both of our lightweight jackets once we decided to shed them. It was a great tool to help us keep our hands free and not need to worry about what to do with those items once we decided we didn't need them (I always kept our ponchos in there too, just in case our weather apps were inaccurate).

    We found some GREAT clothing deals in Banff, so leave some room in your luggage to bring some purchased clothing home with you. Given the current exchange rate - you are getting about 30% off on all your purchases. We got some super deals.

    Also, because 2017 is Canada's sesquicentennial (150th Birthday) - you've GOT TO try and find a commemorative two-dollar coin (the locals call them "toonies"). The national bird is the loon, and the one dollar piece is called a "loonie" - with the two dollar piece being a toonie. The commemorative toonie GLOWS IN THE DARK! It's the coolest coin I've ever seen, and there were not that many of them minted. But you can find them (we found a few). Just ask the clerks in the stores when making purchases if they have any. It's a neat keepsake :-)

    - Jeff
  • Hi Jeff:

    Thank you for your detailed reply!

    Your advice about the weather apps is spot-on, and I am continuing to use it as I pare down my choices. Our forecast appears to be quite similar to the historical data for your time there, so your advice definitely applies. After decades of working in downtown Chicago, we wouldn't be breaking out coats unless it's in the low 40s anyway.

    Also great advice about the little ponchos -- I always keep those with me on trips, as well as tucked into our car glove boxes.

    I'm a great fan of the hands-free experience as well. This trip, I'm test-driving some straps with clip rings to hang no-longer-needed jackets from a bag; I'll give you report.

    Your video was fun; looks like you had a wonderful time. Thanks again!
  • Once again, you are very welcome KL!

    We indeed did have a great time on this trip! We were only a few days into this journey when my wife told me she preferred this trip to cruising (her PREVIOUSLY preferred method of vacationing).

    The video was a bit of a pain, as it had been posted on YouTube for a little over a month before a copyright issue over some of the music I used became a problem, and it was removed from viewing. It took me a little over a week to find music which wouldn't cause problems. Hopefully, it will remain posted (fingers crossed). A friend has told me the old video has recently reappeared, but is only viewable on some digital platforms. Who knows what is going on...

    Someone remarked to me that although I outlined above that the Athabasca river rafting was pretty mild, my video painted a completely different picture. Just be aware that besides the photos which were taken at the launch point, there were only two or three other locations along the 45 minute float where images were captured. The raft pilot essentially steered us into the few places where white-water existed, giving us those images we have on the video. If anyone goes into this rafting trip believing the video is indicative of what they will experience the entire time they are on the water, they will be in for a huge disappointment. We've done Class-4 rapids before, and this was hardly more than a "float" at Class-2.

    Also, you can see my wife has her jacket on almost the entire trip. She is truly a lifelong Southern California girl... and is out of her comfort zone once the temperatures dip into the 60's :-) As you are from Chicago, I'm sure you will be in short sleeves most of the time :-)

    Have a great trip!

    - Jeff
  • Great video, well done.

    We are going July, 2018, also have tickets for the Stampede.

    Usually in our international travels with Tauck, the buses are not filled to capacity -- usually a few rows in the back are vacant and I have some room to sit in the back with a large backpack of photo equipment.

    So, my question is, were the buses filled?

    Thanks,

    Doug
  • Thanks Doug. I've found turning our vacation images into a video can make boring stack of vacation photos an entertaining experience.

    We were told this tour is generally filled. Our experience was that the last row (4 seats) of the bus were empty. Our tour guide stored some of her stuff in those empty seats, but they were generally available to anyone who needed to stretch-out. On our second trip down the Icefields Parkway, my wife and I were seated near the rear of the bus (as I'm sure you are already aware, Tauck has you rotate your seats every day). I bounced back and forth between the right and left sides off the bus capturing images in those empty seats as we drove from JPL to Banff. So, it's hard to say if you'll have this opportunity or not.
  • Thanks, Jeff Great review, Very thorough. Heading to Calgary June 30th. Will see Canada Day as tour begins, and Stampede at conclusion.
  • edited June 2018
    cuzin GJ wrote:
    Thanks, Jeff Great review, Very thorough. Heading to Calgary June 30th. Will see Canada Day as tour begins, and Stampede at conclusion.

    You're welcome. You'll probably be at Lake Louise on Canada Day. I can't imagine too much will be going on there, but if you can somehow make it over to the City of Banff for their annual parade (it's a short drive), you'll be in for a small town parade treat. Also, we didn't do this, but a few on our tour did, and claimed it was spectacular... was to go to Johnston Canyon (about 20-25 minutes outside of Banff by car) when you are righteously in Banff on your tour. From the pictures I've seen on-line, it's definitely a spot I want to visit once I'm out that way again.

    If you want to see some of what you are in store for, my wife and I put together a light-hearted video journal of our adventure in Canada at this link - The Best of the Canadian Rockies Tour

    You are in for a fun time!
  • Great summary of what to expect! Thank you! We just got our documents (we are going on July 27th) and there was no mention of wearing "western wear." Does anyone know if that's been dropped?
  • NinaLoo wrote:
    We just got our documents (we are going on July 27th) and there was no mention of wearing "western wear." Does anyone know if that's been dropped?

    If you are referring to wearing "western wear" at the Welcome Dinner on the first night of the tour (I believe that was mentioned on the Tauck web-page when we booked this tour), I can tell you NO ONE wore western-wear that night. It was a TOTALLY casual affair... only the hosts (Boundry Ranch employees) were in western-attire. Most the men wore blue jeans or khakis and a button up shirt or polo (one or two wore t-shirts); and the women were largely dressed at a similar level of comfort (as is pretty typical for these affairs, I think the women were generally dressed nicer than the men).

    I would say save that room in your luggage for clothing you are going to wear more regularly on this tour.

    While they are "stalling" to get your "supper" prepared between the mixer and meal, the employees are going to try and get the group to participate (totally voluntarily) in learning a western two-step dance. Although neither my wife nor I participated, but we did enjoy some of the hardest laughing we had experienced in years. It's a good time...
  • My wife and seven other family members just returned from this tour. We departed Calgary on Sunday June 19, 2022, and were returned to Calgary International Airport on Sunday June 26, 2022. overall, this was a great trip because of the spectacular scenery and the amazing hotels we stayed at. We chose this tour because we cancelled our Baltic cruise due to Covid concerns, and felt that staying at least on this continent gave us some control over the virus. By the time we went, the US had dropped its requirement for pre-reentry testing, and the only time masks were required were on AirCanada, and in the Calgary Airport. Even the weather cooperated - for weeks before we left the forecast was nothing but rain, however, upon arrival and through the end of the week, we lucked out with only spotty rain and overcast skies. Naturally the day we returned home was glorious.

    The high points of the trip were the hotels we stayed at - except for one all were Fairmont properties and the scenery itself. Our tour guide, Tanya, and driver, Adrian, were top notch and went out of their way to make us feel comfortable and safe. Having said that, there were parts of the tour that did not live up to “Tauck standards” as we’ve noted in five previous Tauck tours. There was wayyyyyyyy too much free time on this tour, yet arrivals at hotels (remember you’re traveling every other day to a new location) didn’t allow for much time to book anything, and when it did, most activities were either fully booked, or the weather wouldn’t lend itself to biking or horseback riding or basketball. Having said that, my family had a wonderful time and made our own fun!

    Things that Tauck could plan better: lunch at “Sunwapta Falls Resort” was planned as a BBQ, but turned out to be a buffet line that started at an outdoor grill where previously cooked trout was kept warm; lunch at “The Crossings Resort” where a buffet with fried chicken and mashed potatoes sounded lovely, but the experience was a let down. We were on a Tauck tour of Southeast Asia where a box lunch was provided by the Four Seasons Hotel we were staying at - maybe that could be worked out here.

    At the farewell reception, a talk by an RCMP could be eliminated because he gave no tie-in to the week we just spent in Alberta. However, the cellist and violinist couple who played were fantastic! Even my 12, 14, and 16 year old grandchildren were impressed. Unfortunately, the dinner that followed went on for over two hours as the servers in our private dining room were also serving in the main dining room next door - definitely not a Tauck experience.

    In summary, I was glad that we went on this trip - it was casual from start to finish, so my wife and I had ONLY carry-on luggage. The people we met were wonderfully friendly, and commented positively on our grandchildren. I really think that Tauck needs to review this trip from start to finish. our daily schedule said it was the 810th tour of the Best of the Canadian Rockies - leads me to wonder when was the last time Tauck looked at it.

  • This is my daughter, older grandson and granddaughter enjoying the Tauck Best of the Canadian Rockies tour June, 2022. We all had a great time!

  • But your review seemed so negative.

  • We had a great time as a multigenerational family traveling together. My negative comments reflect our view of the tour as designed. We felt that with so much free time, and moving to different location every two days, Tauck should have planned it so we arrived with one and a half days to enjoy each stop. Instead it seemed as if we killed time on the bus to avoid arriving at a hotel before 4:30pm, which gave us very little time to really do or see anything that first day. Also, instead of stopping at mediocre places for lunch Tauck could have provided box lunches similar to what we had in 2019 on the Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand tour.

  • One of the reasons we haven't taken this tour is it seemed like there was too much time just spent at the resorts. It's one thing to have free time in a city with sights to see on your own but another to be out at a resort where you'll likely have to pay extra for activities.

    Any tour can have a disappointing meal or two. A couple in Switzerland I wasn't thrilled with. I'm still glad we went and would recommend the tour.

  • We’re actually booked for Switzerland Europe’s crown jewel in September and really looking forward to it.

  • Most Tauck tours consist of two night stays in places these days and a lot more ‘free’ time than there ever used to be. Most people would not be happy to have boxed lunches. I prefer the tours some years ago when we stayed in places sometimes three nights with less free time. I believe people wanted more free time, meals on their own and wanted to see more places, hence the changes. I don’t believe it was to keep prices down. Also. People want top notch resorts and hotels which to me are a waste as we don’t have time to enjoy them…..unless it is a ‘free time’ day. 😂

  • Grandpa49, it's a wonderful tour in many ways and we're glad we went. The worst of the meals was the very tough filet at the welcome dinner. Hopefully solved by now. The ala carte meals at the hotel in Zermatt and Lugano were a bit hit/miss depending on what you ordered. The farewell dinner was great especially following the lovely boat ride on the lake.

  • Grandpa49 - Switzerland Crown Jewels was my favorite trip. The hotels and food couldn't be beat.  It was five stars all the way.   Also, the scenery was just spectacular.  You will have a wonderful time.

  • Grandpa49 - thanks for sharing your thoughts on this tour. We are scheduled to depart in two weeks and I appreciate having a more recent review; although all the contributions from previous years are very helpful. Per your comment on late arrival on travel days, should we expect not to arrive at our destination until late afternoon; and which activities did you find were already booked? I have contacted Tauck for a more specific timeline and have yet to hear back. I like to be prepared with an advance plan so as to take full advantage of our free time. Appreciate any additional insight on those travel days; also, were the departures all early morning? And finally, did anyone in your group book the Hydrotherapy experience at the Nordic Spa? It doesn't sound like there is enough time to properly enjoy it. Thank you so much!

  • JRMSoCal, Yes, all departures were in the am, I think around 8-9. we arrived at each new hotel around 4-4:30pm, so there was little time to do much of anything other than explore that particular hotel. Not sure which activities had been booked since no one in our group attempted to book anything. At Jasper Park Lodge I did book horseback riding for the second day for myself and two grandkids, but the weather was rainy so we cancelled with 2 hrs notice - they were very gracious about it and understood. Don’t know anything about the Nordic Spa, so I can’t help you there. 5 of us did the rafting experience on the Athabasca, and even with the rain and 55 degree weather we had a good time. Tanya, the TD, was great in helping secure transport back to YYC for 7 in our group who were leaving at different times. We’re going to Switzerland with Tauck in September, and Portugal/Spain in April, so don’t think this trip soured us on Tauck - no way! Just very different from European tours. Very casual; in fact, one of our tour group wore sandals onto the glacier, while others were bundled up with hats, scarves, and gloves. We didnt waste luggage space with that, just hoodies and jeans. Have a great time - hotels are amazing! All three Fairmont properties made the Travel & Leisure list of top 10 hotels in Canada.

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