There were 26 in our Travelsphere party and we were met at Heathrow by our Travel Manager, who accompanied us for some of the holiday.
On arrival at Calgary, a coach took us on a one and a half hour journey to our hotel and base for three nights in Banff, Alberta.
Banff is an absolutely spotless town, nestled alongside the Bow River in a valley of the Canadian Rockies National Park. It has grown up to accommodate the thousands of tourists who visit every year and contains thriving businesses and diverse restaurants from the basic to the high-end.
I took a walk along the deserted streets just before 8am each morning (many businesses don't open until 9am and their first task is to put out metal bowls filled with drinking water, for those with dogs!) and was amazed how fresh the air was and how devoid of litter the pavements and roads were!
Day 2 continued with a gondola ride up to the summit of Sulphur Mountain (not for the faint-hearted or anyone who's squeamish about that scene from "Where Eagles Dare!").
Once at the visitor centre, there are some awesome vistas of the Canadian Rockies and as I was feeling up to a bit of adventure, I made my way along the series of boardwalks to the peak of Sansons Ridge (7,402 ft) which can be seen in the distance and affords some stunning views of the mountains and the Bow River valley and Banff, below.
Day 4 - All aboard The Rocky Mountaineer for a two-day, 600 mile train journey through The Rockies, from Banff to Vancouver, stopping overnight at Kamloops, where we slept at The Hilton Doubletree Hotel.
If you're contemplating taking The Rocky Mountaineer, I would urge you to spend the extra to upgrade to Gold Leaf Service (I was amazed that only four of us in our Travelsphere party opted for this). Comparing notes with our fellow travellers in the standard Silver Leaf carriages (single decker, with no 360 degree view and meals served at their seats, with drop down trays, as onboard an aircraft) we had a far superior experience with separate dining downstairs, more hostesses to look after us and provide entertainment as well as commentary and exclusive access to exterior viewing platforms between the cars. Food was of a superior standard with better menu choice for breakfast and lunch and unlimited snacks and drinks served at your seats in the upper level.
A very scenic journey with bears sighted, together with Eagles and Ospreys. Advance warning of visible wildlife was radioed back from the engine and passengers were advised to look out of the port or starboard windows. We quickly learned that, as mealtimes approached and one half of the car were invited to go below for their meal, that in order to secure a favoured table, one would only have to shout "Bear......on the right!" and everyone would rush to that side of the car, leaving the stairs clear for the descent to the dining area!
Day 6 (or 7 .... I forget) Vancouver and all aboard the MS Volendam (Dutch Line) our home for the next seven nights and a cruise up the Inside Passage to Alaska, where we disembarked at Juneau, Skegway and Ketchikan.
Following the mandatory lifeboat drill, we left Vancouver to start our non-stop eating journey to Alaska. We had a bit of drama, two nights into the cruise, when we were rudely awoken at 05:30 hrs by the emergency alarm! Listening intently to the tannoy message in the corridor, all crew were summoned to their forward positions. Passengers were advised that this was not a drill, but to stay in our cabins, to await further instructions! "Oh Fuck" I thought, we've hit an iceberg!
After a tense wait of fifteen minutes. The tannoy announced that a smoke alarm had detected a small fire in one of the garbage rooms, which had been extinguished by first responders!
Hearing this, my appetite returned and we awaited the usual 07:30 hrs arrival of our breakfast order.
Our steward, a very polite Philippine chap called Eyup (I called him Aye-Up) never really got the hang of Irene's name, referring to her as "Meesus Urine" which amused me no end!
They say that once you've seen one 100,000,000 year old glacier, you've seen them all!
Nothing quite prepares you for the majesty of gazing upon such natural wonders, or the thrilling sight of the Marjorie Glacier carving thousands of tons of ice from it's 250 ft face, into the ocean below (another 100 ft is submerged below the surface) and the roaring boom of the sound that accompanies it a second or two later!