Add a Luxury Train to a Cruise for a Rail and Sail Vacation

If a weeklong cruise isn’t enough, combine it with a luxury train adventure for the trip of a lifetime.

This isn’t a new concept.  Rail-and-sail vacations have been quietly available for years.  When combined with a cruise, a rail journey offers a chance to explore territory that simply can’t be seen from a cruise ship.

Travel by train past snowcapped mountains and sleepy picturesque villages while nestled in your luxurious accommodations.  Settle into a plush lounge chair in a vintage glass-domed observation car. Indulge your palate with fine dining, complimentary cocktails and meet other train enthusiasts bound for a new experience.

If this sounds intriguing, here are some of the most popular rail trips around the world to enhance your cruise vacation.

Luxury train Rocky Mountaineer at Columbia Icefield in British Columbia
Absolutely crazy scary but fun was a visit to the Columbia Icefield, a Rocky Mountaineer “shore excursion” between Banff and Jasper.

Explore the Canadian Rockies with Rocky Mountaineer

If you’re interested in cruising, chances are you’ve thought about an Alaska cruise.  This means one of three options:  a northbound or southbound cruise between Anchorage and Seattle or Vancouver.  Or an Inside Passage cruise round-trip from either Seattle or Vancouver.

Stay longer and explore more.  Combine an Alaska cruise with a luxury train ride with Rocky Mountaineer.  Ride the rails deep into the awe-inspiring Canadian Rocky Mountains.  The gleaming navy and gold rail cars slowly meander past some of the most spectacular scenery in the world.  Board the Rocky Mountaineer train in Seattle or Vancouver for a choice of a simple one- to an amazing 14-night luxury train adventure.  With four train routes to choose, there are dozens of post- or pre-cruise itineraries.

Luxury train Rocky Mountaineer upper level in Gold Leaf class.
Upper level in Gold Leaf class affords beautiful vistas from the upper level of the double-decker train.

Onboard Rocky Mountaineer

You can also choose from two classes of service; GoldLeaf or SilverLeaf.  As someone who’s tried both classes, if your budget allows, go with the GoldLeaf.  As you travel through the Canadian Rockies, you’ll spend the overnight in world-famous hotels, not on the train.  In the morning, re-board your train and travel deeper into the mountains through areas not reachable by car.

Because the train rarely exceeds 35 m.p.h., passengers in GoldLeaf can step outside onto old-fashioned roomy outdoor platforms and wave at passing wildlife.  Those in SilverLeaf have an a very small outside area, just enough room for two or three guests at a time.

For example, embark on the seven-night round-trip rail journey from Vancouver and visit the charming city of Kamloops, then onto Banff, the Columbia Icefield, gaze across sparkling Lake Louise and spend time wandering the ski mecca of Banff.

Not a luxury train, Amtrak City of New Orleans train ride is special.
Amtrak City of New Orleans slowly rolls along the edge of a bayou as the train heads south to New Orleans.

Down to the Delta

If a river cruise in the United States is on your to-do list, hop aboard an authentic paddle wheeler and ply the Mississippi River.  You can step back in time on a severn-night cruise between New Orleans and Memphis.  Try round-trip from New Orleans or choose from a variety of itineraries as long as they include Memphis or New Orleans.  A Mississippi River cruise combines history, regional cuisine and an antebellum experience.

For more southern charm, design your rail and sail vacation with a ride aboard Amtrak’s famous City of New Orleans train. While not actually a luxury train, it more than makes up for it in history and nostalgia.  This legendary train route runs between the Big Easy and Chicago with Memphis in the middle.  Meet fellow train enthusiasts in the Sightseer Lounge car or in the dining car.  As you roll past “houses, farms and fields” it’s easy to remember singer/songwriter Steve Goodman’s City of New Orleans song.  Try to get the song out of your head as you travel past fields of wheat, corn and snowy cotton gently waving in the wind.

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Whether you choose to ride the City of New Orleans before or after your Mississippi river cruise, this one-night train journey offers tranquil scenery and a glimpse of rural America that can only be viewed from a train.

Venice Simplon Orient Express in Venice Italy
As my train was leaving Venice, there across the tracks was the Orient Express. In Venice!

Romance, mystery and Agatha Christie

Mention the Orient Express and it usually conjures up visions of intrigue along the rails in foreign lands.  A resurgence and new affordability of luxury train travel, you can experience an adventure that was once available only to the rich and famous.

Add the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express onto a Mediterranean cruise from Venice.  Board or depart from Berlin or Budapest.  Add a London departure after a transatlantic crossing to England.  The Venice Simplon-Orient-Express is the epitome of a rail and sail combination.

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Travel back in time and journey across Europe in your cozy bedroom in original 1920’s carriages.  The train runs in both directions (seasonally, from March to November), so you can embark on your journey before or after your cruise.

If you’d like a very special finale to your Mediterranean cruise, board the vintage train in Venice.  Embark on a five-day journey across Europe, an adventure that includes two nights in Budapest.  Mainline from Budapest to Paris and, after crossing the Channel, board the luxury British Pullman train for a short jaunt into London…or vice versa. This itinerary could be the most once-in-a-lifetime rail adventure aboard one of the world’s most famous trains.

luxury train The Ghan in Australia
The Ghan in Australia, rolls between Darwin and Adelaide. A great add-on to your Australia cruise. Photo: Tourism Australia, The Ghan NT.

Train travel down under

Australia offers so much more than can be seen while on a cruise.  No one should fly all the way to Australia for a one- or two-week cruise.  If you’re going the distance, consider adding on one of two luxurious cross-continent train trips to your itinerary.

Complete your visit to Sydney with a first-class 3-night journey aboard the historic Indian Pacific.  Travel some 2,700 miles between Sydney and Perth in the comfort of your own cabin.  Along the route you’ll cross the famous Nullarbor Palin.  At nearly 300 miles in length, brags the longest stretch of straight track in the world.

Australia’s other historic luxury train, the Ghan, runs between Adelaide in the south to northern Darwin on the Indian Ocean.  This is the route if Alice Springs and Uluru (Ayers Rock) are on your list of iconic travel sights.  In my opinion, no trip to Australia is complete without the breathtaking experience of watching the sunrise over the magnificent red rock mountain of Uluru.

If time allows, you can even leave the train to spend an overnight or two at these points of interest.  Rejoin the train to continue on to Adelaide.  From there, you can transfer to the eastbound Indian Pacific train back to Sydney.

Across Canada by train on the Canadian

On my Canada/New England and Alaska cruises, I met rail and sail passengers who ended their cruise with a cross-Canada train trip.  With convenient departures from Vancouver or Toronto, it’s easy to begin a luxury train ride aboard the Canadian on Canada’s ViaRail train network.  A really great idea if you have the time and money.

ViaRail’s most famous four-day route winds its way in either direction between Toronto and Vancouver.  If you want to go coast-to-coast, you’ll have to connect in Toronto to Montreal on a day train.  Then continue on a one-night ride to Halifax, in Nova Scotia.

More luxury trains around the world offer rail and sail vacations

No matter which luxury train you choose, it’s a great beginning or ending to a fabulous cruise.  And this is just the tip of the luxury train iceberg.  There’s the Golden Eagle – a luxury version of the Trans-Siberian Express from Moscow to Vladivostok.  Take the elite Blue Train from Pretoria to Cape Town, South Africa and have your own bathtub!

Read more:  How to take Amtrak to any cruise port in the USA

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