My husband and I love traveling by train. From model trains to the most elegant passenger train, there is something very comfortable about the notion of riding the rails. On the flip side, nothing is easier than taking a cruise. No packing or unpacking is the number one attraction, followed closely by selecting destinations enhanced by an approach from the sea, ocean or river.
Follow these links to see my thoughts and suggestions when traveling by rail or ship.
Riding the Rails
We’ve had some stellar train trips on four continents through the years. Notably, taking the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express from Venice to Paris; a magical journey that not only featured beautiful scenery, but formal/black tie dress to dine in the Lalique dining car, incredible cuisine and wine, enjoying our fellow passengers, and late-night fun in the bar car as the well-lubricated crowd sang American show tunes (badly). In Peru, our train from Cusco was the first one into Aqua Calientes (the station for Machu Picchu), after a huge mudslide disabled one train, closed access to the town, and killed many locals. We had to walk the last portion into the station, several feet of mud still covered the tracks, Russian helos were evacuating stranded tourists, and rescue workers were still bringing out bodies. Western Canada’s Rocky Mountaineer trip is a must-do for train-lovers. Commentary in the dome cars is enhanced by a visit to the outside platform for better photo ops, and the food on the GoldlLeaf service dining car was delicious. Passengers overnight in towns off the train. We combined our trip with a car rental we picked up in Banff as we continued to Lake Louise and Jasper. It made the entire experience at Machu Picchu even more surreal and spiritual. But you don’t have to leave the U.S. for great train rides, North Carolina’s Great Smoky Mountain Railroad offers some terrific day trips. We especially love going through the Nantahala Gorge and watching the experienced kayakers navigate the class 5 rapids; there is nothing like it in the fall.
Amtrack Cascades Route: Vancouver to Portland
Gornergrat: Zermatt, Switzerland
At the Throttle: Engineer for a “Day”
Rail Crossroads of America: North Platte, Nebraska
Miniatur Wunderland Model Trains: Hamburg, Germany
Eastern Europe by Train: Munich to Budapest
Challenges of the Italian Train System
Cruising by Ship or Riverboat
Living in Miami it’s hard to avoid the lure of cruising and at this point, I have been on about 25 cruises. Early cruises were family-friendly and had a very different focus for me. In those days I seem to spend as much time in the spa as possible when not doing family activities. Today, our cruise selections are destination-driven. New ships and lines are being launched every year, so I will just focus on a few.
AMAWaterways Tulip River Cruise
Azamara Journey Vietnam & Thailand Voyage
Celebrity Edge (coming soon)
Regent Seven Seas Explorer (coming soon)
Uniworld: Christmas Markets on the Rhine