Apt Canadian Rockies Famil Tour 14-23 April 2010
BY LISA WELLS, BRIGHTON TRAVELWORLD
I was extremely fortunate to have the privilege of participating in this trip. This was my first visit to Canada to see the beautiful Rockies and sample the 5 star service of APT Tours.
Our Tour Director, Trent Phillips met us on arrival and we transferred to Banff approx 1 hour by road to the beautiful iconic Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel.
This “castle” built in the late 1800’s still has the old world charm décor with all the modern day amenities. As the bathrooms were built onto the existing rooms they are quite small and can really only accommodate one person in them at a time. The beds/doonas are extremely comfortable.
Food and beverage was 5 star. The buffet breakfast was of the highest standard with many choices.
The hotel has a fantastic day spa, 1 indoor and 1 outdoor heated pool. There is a tennis club, horseback riding, and the Banff Springs’ world renowned Golf Course.
We enjoyed a sightseeing tour of Banff and rode the Banff Gondola to the top of Sulphur Mountain with incredible 360 degree views of six Rocky Mountain ranges.
After leaving Banff we headed for Lake Louise where we had a site inspection and lunch at The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise.
This hotel is set on beautiful Lake Louise which was still completely frozen. I would love to see it in summer which would be a completely different sight.
After lunch we continued along the Icefields Parkway, one of the world’s great scenic drives. The scenery so beautiful you can’t take your eyes off it!! We stopped at Columbia Icefield for an Ice Explorer ride onto Athabasca Glacier which was amazing.
That night we arrived in Jasper National Park, a fairytale mountain retreat surrounded by breathtaking scenery. We stayed at The Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge. Situated on a beautiful lake, we stayed in individual cabin type rooms, still with all the modern amenities and again the most comfortable beds. Our dinner was again 5 star cuisine where I sampled the local specialty “Bison” which was delicious. This resort is very suited to families. Many Elk roam the grounds of the property.
After Jasper we headed via Mt Robson which is the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies for the alpine village of Sun Peaks. It is renowned for its world-class skiing, mountain-biking and snowboarding. The ski season had only just finished a few days before we arrived and it was like a “Ghost Town”. We stay at Delta Sun Peaks Resort, a modern 4 star hotel which also has self contained apartments that would suit families during the ski season. The hotel has a lovely indoor/outdoor heated pool and 4 hot tubs. We enjoyed another delicious 5 star dinner.
On our drive to Whistler we went though the rugged Cariboo region. This route is a longer/slower drive but is very picturesque. Whistler was a very busy bustling town compared to Sun Peaks. Many people were still skiing, and a snow board festival was taking place. The pedestrian only village is alive with pubs, bars, music and shopping.
We stayed at The Westin Resort & Spa a beautiful 5 star resort in a great central location. The rooms are quite large, with a self contained kitchenette. The Westins’ famous “Heavenly Beds” were exactly that!! Yet again we enjoyed another scrumptious hosted dinner. Whistler is only approximately 1.5 hours drive from Vancouver.
In the morning we enjoyed a walking tour of Whistler village. After leaving Whistler we drove along the Sea to Sky Highway again enjoying beautiful scenery. We boarded a ferry for the cruise through Georgia Strait to Vancover Island where we stayed in Victoria at the Delta Ocean Pointe Resort & Spa. After arrival we had a site inspection of the hotel which I would class as 3.5 star. Our rooms overlooked the water. We enjoyed a hosted dinner at the hotel.
One of the highlights was visiting Butchart Gardens for breakfast the following morning. We sat down to a beautiful breakfast in the old world charm dining room, and then enjoyed a quick tour of the incredible gardens which has to be seen to be believed with all the gorgeous flowers. This is now included on the APT tours and is well worth it.
In the afternoon we had our “Freedom of Choice” touring which was either whale watching or Seaplane flight over Victoria Harbour which I chose to do. This was a fantastic trip giving a great arieal view. Duration was approx 20 minutes and I can highly recommend it. We had some time to do shopping in Victoria. That afternoon we took the ferry back to Vancouver where we stayed at the Fairmont Waterfront Hotel . This is a beautifully appointed hotel with large rooms over looking the water in a great location to down town.
On our last morning we had a city tour and then a site inspection of the Rocky Mountaineer Train. We were unfortunately unable to travel on it due to it having not commenced operation for the season as yet. Although we couldn’t experience the service/food etc, it was beneficial to be able to view the Gold and Red Leaf carriages and see some of the differences. All APT tours travel in Gold Leaf.
In the afternoon we headed out to the airport and had a site inspection of the Fairmont Vancouver Airport Hotel. This hotel is situated on top of the airport terminal and is great for people in transit or only spending 1 night before commencing a tour.
Overall I would highly recommend APT Tours for most people travelling to Canada and other destinations. It is definitely a stress free way to travel with most things included. The main benefits especially for Australians are the included tips for tour guide, driver, restaurant staff and porterage. There is no need to worry or think about this. Breakfasts, most gourmet dinners are included and usually the best view rooms at the best hotels, included sightseeing tours, first rate experienced Canadian Tour Directors, and excellent coaches and drivers.
APT definitely delivers what they promise.