I had to travel to Kingston for work recently and was booked on Business Class, so it provided me with the opportunity to blog about my experience. I am generally a huge fan of travelling by train. There are no security lines, the seats are more spacious, there is free wifi (albeit spotty) and I just feel physically more comfortable (no ears popping or belly bloating). I was excited to experience what Business Class would be like.
I usually arrive at the train station pretty close to boarding (except at Toronto Union Station, where there is usually a long line to board compounded by no assigned seating on the train). Nevertheless, I arrived a little earlier today to check out the Business Lounge. It was not a large lounge but it was clean, with lots of comfortable seating. There were also washroom facilities inside the lounge. In the back, there was a small selection of refreshments: coffee, tea, various pop drinks and some green apples. There was wifi, but it was not very reliable, as per usual in the rest of the train station.
I didn’t even finish my tea when they made a boarding call for our train about 20 minutes prior to the actual departure. The check in was simple with the boarding pass loaded on my phone. The Business cart was located in the front of the train, so I didn’t have to walk too far with my hands now full of luggage and tea. The attendant was very helpful in assisting me with getting my luggage in the storage area. There was also plenty of overhead storage room as well.
I found my lovely single seat that I had requested from the travel agency. If you have a choice, take a look at the seating chart and choose a desirable seat from there. I saw that there were single and double seats and some seats were facing other people (good for groups). As I was travelling by myself and I prefer more privacy, I had asked for a single seat that is not facing anyone. I really liked the extra cups/side table as I was able to place my tea and phone there while being able to use the tray table for just my laptop. The seat itself is very comfortable with a nice headrest with side bumps, plenty of leg room and a foot rest. That being said, even the Economy seats are generally very comfortable and spacious. For those sitting in the double seats, because there is a side table between the sides, it provided more space between the two seats compared to the Economy seats.
The food and drinks service on the train was truly impressive. Within 10 minutes of the train starting, we were offered a cocktail service. Then shortly after, meal service began. We had the choice of pasta, fish and pork today. I chose the fish, as was highly recommended by the attendant. I was then offered more drinks, so I chose a white wine to go with my fish. The quality of the meal is good. It was better than any airplane meals I’ve ever had (including that in Air Canada’s Premium Economy). The food was warm. The drinks were served in a glass at dinner instead of the usual plastic disposable cups. I quite enjoyed the breaded cod with sweet sauce on a bed of rice and a modest amount of bok choy (i.e. one single piece of it but boy was it delicious). My only critique would be that the cod was advertised to be breaded with Panko, which I assumed would be crunchy like Japanese tempura, but instead, it was more on the soggy side. It was still tasty, just not what I had expected. The Greek salad was also quite excellent. The chicken was actually quite juicy and much better than the usual dry chicken you would get on a plane. The dessert was this very sweet maple cake. It was good but perhaps a little too sweet for my taste.
Because I am among those passengers who would be getting off soon, (as the trip from Ottawa to Kingston is a mere 2 hours), they offered coffee/tea to us first. Shortly after, we were also offered liqueurs/digestifs. The service was non-stop and I felt for the busy attendants because within minutes, we were also offered chocolate (the options were cranberry or dark).
I took a peek at the washrooms and they were clean with perhaps a little more space compared to the Economy class seats. (Don’t quote me on this though because it has been a while since I travelled by Via Rail).
Overall, I had a very positive experience on Via Rail’s Business Class. It was a short trip, but I was really impressed with the constant service offered and the comfort of my trip. If you are travelling by train and willing to pay a little more for a nice dining experience, this is not a bad choice.