ALL ABOARD ... Experience one of the many spectacular train journeys offered throughout the great cities of the world. Trains offer the freedom to move around, enjoy lunch while passing alongside some of the wonderful streams and rivers of the world, capture the beauty of snow-capped mountains at dinner and intertwines you with the natural settings that surround you.
On long-distance trains, you will discover full service dining cars, café /lounge cars, sightseeing cars, sleeping cars with several options and even family accommodations. Many trains are luxurious, refurbished to represent an earlier era and offer the same amenities you would expect on any other vacation.
Did you know North America has its very own "Orient Express," the GrandLuxe Rail Journeys? As famed legend has it, this is the most luxurious way to ride the rails. Elegant dining cars, fine wines and white linen tables set the stage for an exceptional dining experience from Copper Canyon to the grandiose Rocky Mountains. The fully restored vintage trains offer deluxe accommodations, dome observations cars and lounge cars decorated in eras of the past. Along your route, local guides are available to take you through the many historical cities introducing you to their proud cultures.
On a more down-to-earth train journey, AMTRAK USA has many scenic and historical routes throughout the United States. From Jacksonville, you can take the "Sunset Limited" to Los Angeles, with stops in New Orleans, San Antonio, Tucson or whichever cities en route you choose. You can continue your journey as far north as Seattle and return home on the northern route across country through Montana and several states, reaching New York or Washington D.C. Customized vacation packages are available through your travel professionals.
AMTRAK provides regular passenger service throughout the United States and may be booked at any full-service travel agency. Auto train, which will carry you and your car from Sanford to Lorton, Va., offers reduced rates at various times of the year (traveling north in the fall/winter or south in the summer).
A bit of trivia: Many wonder why the auto train goes only as far north as Virginia. It is because the tunnels in the north are too low to accommodate the auto train's high double-decker cars. Meals are included in the price of your ticket aboard the auto train.
Traveling through Europe on a Eurail pass is an exciting adventure. The pass may only be purchased in the United States and is for first-class accommodations only. Your age, days and countries visited will determine the price for the pass. You can purchase a multi-country pass or a pass for a particular country. The multi-country pass gives you the freedom to visit several countries leisurely and in comfort. Travel lightly and advance reservations for pre- and post-hotel reservations are a must. Hotel reservations for the rest of your journey can be made at all major train stations throughout Europe. Hotels are walking distance from the station. A representative from Eurail will be on hand for further information. However, careful scheduling is necessary to take advantage of this service.
After stopping at a local grocery store to pick up a bottle of French red table wine, a loaf of bread and a slice of the local cheese, sit back and relax. Begin your trip in Paris. Ride the TGV (high speed train) to Nice, where you can overnight at a nearby hotel and enjoy the French Riviera, where the rich and the famous hang out.
Continue your journey through Milan, high up into the Alpine regions of Switzerland, Austria and Germany. Stay in one country and take day trips to visit the others, or, if time permits, stay in all three countries.
Traveling through the mountains of the regions is breathtaking. Chalets with neatly arranged flower boxes cover the mountainside as they did many centuries before.
We've almost come full circle. Plan the final stage of your journey, leaving on the night train from Munich to Paris, no hotel necessary. Purchase a sleeper at a reasonable cost and wake up in Paris the next morning to catch your flight home around noon. No time wasted. There are several itineraries to choose from.
Our neighbors to the north offer several Canadian rail vacations aboard their world-renowned trains. Rocky Mountain vacations offer a variety of packages, allowing you to enjoy the most scenic wonders of Canada. Your vacation includes accommodations, attractions, a national parks pass, sightseeing tours and more. Rocky Mountain rail vacations are independent. However, there is always someone nearby to assist you.
Riding the rails isn't for everyone. You must be physically fit, independent, adventurous, outgoing and organized. You are now ready to book your rail vacation!
Pat Kelley is owner of Port Orange Travel. She can be reached at (386) 788-3990 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.