Departure was at 8 pm, and we arrived around 6 as we had driven across from Vancouver Island. Checking in luggage was straightforward, apart from the fact that we had to go from bloke 1 to bloke 2 to bloke 3 to get our ticket (we had done it all online anyway, but that was not good enough), then back to bloke 2 to actually check in our baggage. Bloke 2 thought our case a bit too big - after a bit of pointless argy-bargy (pointless as we were the ones who had to store it in our cabin) about the size of the case, we checked everything in.
We were free then to go to the "exclusive pre-boarding lounge" on Vancouver station forecourt. At this stage we realised that this was not "first class" as we knew it. We were supplied with a plastic glass (small) of nondescript soft drink and a plastic glass of inedible artificial snack (in other words it was not nuts or anything recognisable, but a chemical concoction of some sort). The whole proceedings were overwhelmed by a rather bad musician playing not just loudly, but at a level that made one feel physically ill, and we had to leave the forecourt at this stage.
Eventually we were allowed to board - but interestingly after the other customers, in other words not priority boarding! The man at the entrance to our carriage looked at our tickets, and gave us desultory directions "to your left". After that no member of staff said anything to us that night (there was no meal the first night) - we were not told what the dining arrangements were, there was no literature about the journey or the stops (and there was effectively no commentary during the trip either).
We moved from the tiny cabin to the Park Car at the rear of the train. Here we were served the departure reception, a plastic glass of sparkling wine and one small canape (the canape was remarkably good, but the attendant only came round the Park car once). I had my suspicions that the majority of them went to the staff, as I cannot imagine that even ViaRail only budget that quantity per head.
The train moved off, without further ado - no announcements, no fanfare, just like any old commuter train - no sense of occasion. No real welcome to the journey of a lifetime. We cleared the suburbs of Vancouver and headed into the night. I retired to the delights of our cabin around midnight. Tomorrow would be another day!
The Canadian Train overview