In This Issue:

FEATURED TRIP: A Passage to British Honduras
CRUISE OF THE MONTH: West Coast Swing
JOURNEY OF THE MONTH: Journey to Atlantic Canada
BEHIND THE SCENES: Flying High
THE WAY IT WAS: Fort Yellowstone
PHOTO OF THE MONTH: Rafting the Snake River
VIDEO OF THE MONTH: Lava Meets the Sea
DID YOU KNOW? Fish Tales on the Columbia River
HISTORIC SNAPSHOT: Chateau Lake Louise
A TASTE FOR TRAVEL: Baked Alaska
SHIP OF THE MONTH: Eurodam
TRAIN OF THE MONTH: McKinley Explorer
TRAVEL TIPS: Packing for a Cruise
NATIONAL PARK TRIVIA: Red “Jammer” Buses
IN YOUR OWN WORDS: Guests Speak Up

 

EXCLUSIVE OFFER FOR NEWSLETTER READERS

FREE PRE-TRIP LUXURY HOTEL NIGHT in Chicago on our 13-day A Passage to British Honduras departing December 3, 2015. Note that this is an EXCLUSIVE offer that is made available ONLY to subscribers of this e-newsletter and must be redeemed by calling Uncommon Journeys at 1-800-323-5893. This offer expires Friday, May 8, 2015.



Featured Trip

  A Passage to British Honduras

Join us on a journey from downtown Chicago to the jungles of Central America by vintage train and ocean liner on our 13-day A Passage to British Honduras. We begin in great comfort with an evening departure from Chicago to New Orleans aboard the finest train to operate in this country for decades, Pullman Rail Journeys’ superb overnight vintage train. Guests then enjoy a two-night stay in New Orleans at the French Quarter before the centerpiece of our holiday, passage on the acclaimed Norwegian Dawn to exotic Belize, formerly British Honduras and one of the most fascinating places on Earth. With the second longest barrier reef in the world, lush jungles filled with jaguars, ocelots and wild monkeys, Belize is a place of stunning natural beauty, famed for its breathtaking Mayan ruins at Altun-Ha. During our port call in Belize, there is time to tour these magnificent Mayan ruins. Happily, Belize is not the only exotic port of call on our passage from New Orleans, we also visit Costa Maya in Mexico's Yucatan, popular Cozumel and delightful unspoiled Roatan, in Honduras which rarely visited by cruise ships and highly rated by our guests. After a relaxing voyage, our guests enjoy Pullman Rail Journeys private train back to Chicago.

The Norwegian Dawn’s Le Bistro Restaurant is a Francophile’s dream. Photo courtesy of NCL.

• Overnight travel round-trip between Chicago and New Orleans aboard Pullman Rail Journeys stunning new Panama Limited service. All guests enjoy sleeping car travel with grand dining and traditional service by the Pullman Company. All meals, wines and spirits while aboard are included.
• Two-night stay in New Orleans at the superbly located Hotel Daphne Orleans in the French Quarter including complimentary breakfast daily and in-room Wi-Fi.
• French Quarter sightseeing tour and visit to Café du Monde before we sail. We have intentionally left large blocks of free time for you to enjoy The Crescent City.
• 7-night West Indies cruise round trip from New Orleans aboard the Norwegian Dawn making calls at Costa Maya, Belize City, Roatan, and Cozumel. Naturally, all meals and entertainment are included.
• Hosted by professional tour manager with special cocktail parties and events throughout.

The delights of New Orleans.

Beginning at just $2,895 per person, this 13-day trip departing Chicago on December 3, 2015 is an ocean liner and train lover’s dream. Call us at 1-800-323-5893 for more details.
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 West Coast Swing

In 1939 Canadian Pacific put out a nifty brochure titled, appropriately “Glorious British Columbia”' and this heading summarizes perfectly our view of this beautiful Province. This Fall, we have a truly glorious holiday that features train travel, time in Seattle “The Emerald City”, two full nights in lovely Victoria, aptly described as “More British than Britain”, sightseeing including a visit to legendary Butchart Gardens with its famed floral displays and two days in Vancouver before the highlight of our holiday, a rare Pacific Coastal voyage down the West Coast to San Diego. With fine hotels, a leisurely pace and a traditional Ocean Liner ambiance with Holland America Line, this holiday is always popular and always sells out.

Spectacular Vancouver. Photo courtesy of Port Metro Vancouver.

In fact, stylish touches abound on this holiday, from our welcome dinner in Seattle, to a special cocktail party aboard the Noordam, and a very special evening in the elegant Pinnacle Grill during our voyage south to San Diego. Naturally, there is a professional tour manager from start to finish handling all of the details so that you can relax and enjoy your holiday.

Our holiday begins with a scenic ride to Seattle aboard the Coast Starlight train with an two-night stay at the Roosevelt Hotel along with plenty of free time to enjoy “The Emerald City”. In Seattle, we have included a special welcome dinner and well as a visit to Pikes Market before we sail to Victoria for our two-night stay in this magical setting with plenty of free time along with our special visit to Butchart Gardens with traditional Afternoon Tea. In Vancouver, our guests enjoy an overnight stay at the splendid Sheraton Wall Centre along with a sightseeing tour and bon voyage luncheon on sailing. Saving the best for last, we then board Holland America's Noordam at Vancouver for a rare Pacific Coastal voyage south to San Diego, a nice way to sample traditional Ocean liner travel, with a stop in picturesque Astoria, Oregon at the mouth of the Columbia River en route. Onboard there is as much, or as little to do as you like and we cannot imagine a nicer way to travel home. We have included dinner one evening in the superlative Pinnacle Grill as well as a farewell cocktail party. There is only one flaw in this entire indulgent holiday, it will fill quickly and prompt reservations are encouraged to avoid disappointment.

• Free train travel from any California or West Coast point to Seattle aboard the Coast Starlight, a scenic overnight journey.
• Two-night hotel stay in Seattle at the classic Roosevelt Hotel.
• Travel from Seattle to Victoria aboard the popular high speed ferry along the scenic Puget Sound, the best way to travel between these two cities.
• Two-night stay in beautiful Victoria, British Columbia including sightseeing with a visit to famed Butchart Gardens.
• Travel by ferry from Victoria to Vancouver with overnight stay at the Sheraton Wall Centre.
• Four-night Pacific Coastal cruise from Vancouver to San Diego aboard Holland America Line's Dutch ocean liner Noordam with a day-visit to charming Astoria, Oregon en route.
• Return train travel to any California or West Coast point from San Diego.

Beginning at just $2,695 per person and offered one-time only on September 23, 2015, our 8-day West Coast Swing cruise tour will sell quickly so call us at 1-800-323-5893 for more details.
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Journey to Atlantic Canada

It is with great pleasure that we offer our 13-day Journey to Atlantic Canada cruise/train tour departing September 24, a one-time only Fall Colors voyage to Canada & New England that combines our own special classic Streamliner train, the Montreal Limited with overnight stays in both Quebec City and Montreal in addition to an elegantly planned cruise aboard the Eurodam of Holland America Line. In addition to some brilliant sightseeing and fine dining, our ports of call are superb and include Boston, Rockland, Canada’s Atlantic Provinces and Quebec, all in one leisurely and relaxing cruise.

Holland America’s splendid Eurodam in Quebec City. Photo courtesy of wallpaperup.com.

We begin our voyage in true Ocean Liner fashion with an iconic departure from midtown Manhattan sailing past 42nd Street, into Lower Bay and past the Statue of Liberty on the 1,000 mile passage up the East Coast and the St. Lawrence River. This lovely voyage calls at Boston, Rockland, Halifax, Sydney, Charlottetown, and glorious Saguenay Fjord. The highlight of this cruise is a stop in one of our favorite cities in the world, charming Quebec City with its old-world charm and joie de vivre. Of course, complete sightseeing is also included here, along with luncheon. Uniquely, the ship stays overnight in Quebec City with guests using it as a hotel in this charming old world city, once the heart of New France. On day eleven we disembark the Eurodam and board Via Rail Canada for the short scenic ride west to Montreal where hotel accommodations await along with a complete city tour and grand welcome dinner in the second largest French speaking city in the world after Paris.

Saving the best for last, we conclude our holiday with swank and stylish travel between Montreal and New York City over the Canadian Pacific Railway aboard our own classic vintage train, the Montreal Limited, a day trip of stunning beauty via the Hudson River Valley, the Adirondack Mountains and Lake Champlain. The Montreal Limited features club car seating, big windows, an attentive staff and, naturally, all meals, wines and spirits while aboard are included on this glorious journey, at the perfect time of the year.

Aboard Eurodam, lovely extras await including special cocktail parties, dinner in the Pinnacle Grill with our compliments and much more. There is only one flaw with this autumn holiday, it will fill quickly so prompt reservations are encouraged to avoid disappointment!
  • Fully escorted from start to finish by a professional Tour Manager with special cocktail parties and events, both aboard and ashore for our guests only.
  • Passage from Montreal to New York City aboard our own classic private Streamliner train, the Montreal Limited over the Canadian Pacific Railway, a stylish and nostalgic passage through the prettiest scenery in the Northeast.
  • Quebec City sightseeing tour including the Citadel and the Old Town, Montmorency Falls and luncheon.
  • Two-night Montreal Hotel stay with city sightseeing tour, baggage handling and breakfast.
  • Dinner with our compliments in the Pinnacle Grill aboard the Eurodam one evening.
  • 10-night voyage from New York to Quebec City aboard Holland America Line’s Dutch ocean liner, the Eurodam.

Our 13-day Journey to Atlantic Canada cruise/train tour begins September 24 and prices begin at $3,395 per person. Call us at 1-800-323-5893 for more details.
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Flying High

Discover the beauty of flight at WAAAM. Photo courtesy of WAAAM.

Where did all the old planes go? Well, much like an authentic train car or real ocean liner, these antique planes are almost gone completely. Unlike their later counterparts from World War II which were made of aluminum and have survived, the World War I ear biplanes, made of wood and fabric, have rotted away. For example, out of 6,813 workhorse Curtiss Jenny trainers produced, only about 50 have survived and of those, only a few are capable of being flown. One of those rare survivors is at the Western Antique Aeroplane & Automobile Museum (WAAAM, for short) a half hour west of The Dalles, Oregon and about an hour east of Portland, OR.

WAAAM has one of the biggest collections of vintage airplanes that are still airworthy along with antique automobiles that still operate regularly. There are stunning examples of planes from the wild and wooly barnstorming days of the 1920s, including the Curtiss Jenny and more than 130 classic cars in the collection, including a 1914 Diesel Electric, Ford Model A, a Packard, Studebaker and a rare Locomobile. There are plenty of motorcycles, too, from Harley Davidsons to Indians and Cushmans.

The museum began with a gentleman named Terry Brandt who caught the flying bug early thanks to both of his parents’ involvement in aviation in Marysville, California where they ran a flight school and Terry’s father built nearly 300 crop dusters and also took to the air in gliders. Terry learned to fly at 12 years old and bought his first plane, the ubiquitous Piper Cub, when he was 19. He’s been collecting planes ever since. In 2006, he was torn between selling his entire collection and building a museum to house it. He decided to share his collection with the world and the museum has grown in popularity. It’s an attraction that Uncommon Journeys guests find particularly intriguing because a love of trains and ships easily translates into interest in antique transportation such as vintage biplanes and old cars and motorcycles. In 2015, our guests have four different opportunities to visit WAAAM thanks to our 11-day In the Path of Lewis and Clark tours which depart June 18, July 16, August 13 and September 9.
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Fort Yellowstone

The buildings of Fort Yellowstone circa 1910. Photo courtesy of NPS.

For the decade after 1872 when Yellowstone National Park was established, the park was under serious threat from those who would exploit, rather than protect, its resources. Poachers killed animals. Souvenir hunters broke large pieces off the geysers and hot springs. Developers set up camps for tourists, along with bath and laundry facilities at hot springs. Civilian superintendents were hired to preserve and protect this land from 1872 through 1886. The good intentions of these early administrators, however, were no match for their lack of experience, funds and manpower. Word got back to Congress that the park was in trouble and legislators refused to appropriate any funds for the park's administration in 1886.

Yellowstone National Park turned to the U.S. Army for help. Invoking the Sundry Civil Act of 1883, the Secretary of the Interior called upon the Secretary of War for assistance in protecting the park. The Army came to the rescue and in 1886 men from Company M, First United States Cavalry, Fort Custer, Montana Territory under Captain Moses Harris came to Yellowstone to begin what would be more than 30 years of military presence in Yellowstone.

When Company M arrived in August 1886, they lived in temporary frame buildings at Camp Sheridan, established at the foot of the Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces. After enduring five cold, harsh winters, the cavalry realized there was no end in sight to this assignment. Therefore, in 1890, Congress appropriated $50,000 for a permanent post. So the days of Fort Yellowstone began.

The first buildings of Fort Yellowstone were finished by late 1891. As more troops were needed, more buildings were constructed: officers' quarters, guard house, headquarters, barracks for enlisted men, stables for their horses and non-commissioned officers' quarters. In 1909, Scottish masons began constructing sandstone buildings here - among them the Albright Visitor Center (then the Bachelor Officers' Quarters) and the administration building (then a two-troop barracks for 200 men). The Chapel, the final building constructed during the Army's tenure, was also constructed of native sandstone. The stone from these buildings was obtained from a local quarry between the Gardner River and the Mammoth Campground.

In 1910, at the height of the Army's presence in Yellowstone, there were 324 soldiers stationed here - plus some families and numerous civilian employees. These troops staffed not only Fort Yellowstone, but were stationed throughout the park in small details at various outposts. Yellowstone National Park is featured on several of our trips, including our 10-day Wonders of the West trips departing June 27, July 25 and August 22.
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Rafting the Snake River

The incomparable serenity of rafting the Snake River.

“We spent the morning floating on rafts for miles down the Snake River. No one gets wet, the rapids are mild and there’s no danger of falling out of the rubber rafts. This is a raft trip that is safe, comfortable and thoroughly enlightening. Lovers of wildlife got an eyeful early on with a bald eagle spotting. Cameras clicked as we floated past the proud silhouette of America’s national symbol high in a tree. It was remarkable. And then there was another. And another. And then an eagle skimmed the surface of the river, pulled up and soared directly over the raft. The scenery was as remarkable as the wildlife with the flat plains alongside the river dotted with cottonwoods and aspens. The snow-capped Grand Tetons loomed in the distance as if to underscore the fact that this was is awe-inspiring country and that its majesty is inescapable. We were not on vacation. We were experiencing the sights, sounds and smells of the river. Fresh mountain air, the rustle of quaking aspens and that purple mountain range stretching across the horizon painted a picture that can’t be captured any way other than to float right though its midst. Our river guide, Andy, provided an ongoing narrative that explained the history of the explorers in the Snake River area, the flora and fauna but, even more importantly, he shared stories of his own experiences living and working in nearby Jackson Hole. To connect to the land around you, you also have to connect with the people that share it with the eagles, moose, bears, wolves, beavers, osprey and otters that call it home.”

Discover the joys of rafting the Snake River and join us on our 10-day Wonders of the West trips departing June 27, July 25 and August 22.

If you’d like to see a photo from one of your own Uncommon Journeys trips featured in our newsletter, just email it to us at uncommon@uncommonjourneys.com and be sure to note in your email that we can use it for marketing purposes.
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Lava Meets the Sea

Nature is full of wonders but some are so truly spectacular and unexpected that they leave an indelible impression. One such phenomenon can often be seen in Hawaii when the lava flow from the Kilauea volcano in Volcanoes National Park drops into the sea with hisses of steam as the cold ocean waters hit the red-hot lava. The results are unforgettable. Volcanoes National Park is one of the stops on our 20-day Hawaii Calls cruise tour departing November 25.
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Fish Tales on the Columbia River

Fish ladders help move salmon along the Columbia River

Dams are built to generate hydro-electric power and the river that is the king of power generation is the Columbia River. With eight dams on the lower Columbia and Snake rivers, you might be surprised to learn that we offer cruises on these waterways. Columbia River cruises have grown in popularity and this year we have four 11-day In the Path of Lewis and Clark riverboat/train tours which depart June 18, July 16, August 13 and September 9. Each features a cruise on the 88-passenger Legacy riverboat plus a ride on our private train, the Great Western Limited.

But those dams, which have locks to allow boats through, also would seem to block the migration patterns of salmon. After all, there are dams at Bonneville (which you can tour as part of our trip), The Dalles, John Day, and McNary on the lower Columbia; and Ice Harbor, Lower Monumental, Little Goose and Lower Granite on the lower Snake River. The Army Corps of Engineers points out that “the dams impede juvenile and adult migrations to and from the ocean by their physical presence and by creating reservoirs. The reservoirs behind the dams slow water velocities, alter river temperatures, and increase the potential for predators. Reduced water velocity increases the time it takes juveniles to migrate downstream, higher water temperatures may have adverse effects on juvenile and adult behavior, and predators find prey more easily in slower-moving water.”

But there’s good news. “All eight of these dams have juvenile and adult fish passage facilities to enable fish to migrate past the dams; and, the dams are operated to improve passage as well as reservoir conditions for fish. Adult fish ladders at all eight lower Columbia and Snake dams were integrated into the design of the dams beginning with Bonneville in 1938. These ladders consist of a series of steps and pools which provide a gradual upward climb over the dams for returning adults. To steer the adults to the ladders, flows at the downstream ladder entrances simulate conditions that would be found at the base of natural waterfalls, a concept has proved effective for adult fish passage.”

Juvenile fish, unlike their adult counterparts, are much smaller and believe it or not, one of the ways that these small fish get by dams is actually going through the turbine systems as well over the spillways. The Corps points out, however, that “some fish are transported past the dams by barge and truck under the juvenile fish transportation program. At The Dalles Dam, fish are bypassed through the ice and trash sluiceway.”

However going through the turbines is not desirable, despite a surprisingly high survivability rate. “The juvenile fish bypass systems in place at the lower Columbia and Snake River dams guide fish away from turbines by means of submerged screens positioned in front of the turbines. The juvenile fish are directed up into a gatewell, where they pass through orifices into channels that run the length of the dam. The fish are then either routed back out to the river below the dam, which is called bypassing or, at the four dams with fish transport facilities, fish can be routed to a holding area for loading on specially equipped barges or trucks for transport downriver. The juvenile bypass systems guide 80 to 90 percent of steelhead salmon and 60 to 70 percent of spring/summer chinook salmon away from the turbines and upward through the bypass channel. This percentage measure is called fish guidance efficiency, and the rates vary from dam to dam.”

You heard that right: sometimes the best way for juvenile fish to get past a dam is to be loaded onto barges or trucks. In fact, “three of the four Snake River dams, and McNary Dam on the Columbia River, have fish transport facilities. At these four dams, juvenile fish that go through the bypass systems can be routed either directly back into the river below the dam, or to holding and loading facilities for loading into barges or trucks for transport. The transport barges and trucks carry the fish past the remaining projects for release below Bonneville Dam. River water circulates through the barges allowing the fish to imprint the chemicals and smells of the water during the trip downriver. The barges have a closed-circuit recirculation system which can shut off water intake in case of contamination in the river.”

See these remarkable systems for yourself on one of the tours offered as part of our 11-day In the Path of Lewis and Clark riverboat/train trips which depart June 18, July 16, August 13 and September 9.
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Chateau Lake Louise

Canoeing on Lake Louise. Photo courtesy of Larry Turner/HighOnAdventure.com

There’s a castle in a fairytale setting hidden high up in the Canadian Rockies and once you experience it, you’ll never be quite the same. The place is the Chateau Lake Louise, now a Fairmont hotel, and it’s one of the hidden gems on our 13-day Great Canadian Train Ride train tours departing June 18 and October 8. The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is just one of those historic properties that take your breath away thanks to its architecture, its setting and its history. You see, the Fairmont Lake Louise Hotel in Alberta, Canada is more than simply a grand luxury hotel. Since 1890, it has played a considerable role in the colorful history of Canada's mountain west. “Right from the start, holidays in Lake Louise have meant mountain climbing, horseback riding and gazing at stars - both natural and human,” the hotel claims.  “A top location within western Canada's continuing reputation as 'Hollywood North,' early movies shot in Lake Louise include 1928 Eternal Love starring John Barrymore, 1942 Springtime in the Rockies with Betty Grable and Carmen Miranda and 1944 ''Son of Lassie.''  Literally hundreds of stars have come here for filming or vacationing, including Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Alfred Hitchcock, Marilyn Monroe, Christopher Reeve, Angie Dickinson and many of the latest celebs as well. As early as 1912, when the British Prince of Wales (King Edward VIII, who abdicated) included a hike to the Lake Agnes Teahouse as a part of his morning exercise, the Chateau has also welcomed dozens of royals including Prince Rainier of Monaco, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip, Queen Margrethe of Denmark, King Hussein and Queen Noor of Jordan.”
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Mary Kay Ash

 

“Don't limit yourself. Many people limit themselves to what they think they can do. You can go as far as your mind lets you. What you believe, remember, you can achieve.” Mary Kay Ash
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Baked Alaska

Recipe courtesy of Saveur

Photo courtesy of Todd Coleman/Saveur
Photo courtesy of www.realsticcookingideas.com

Sometimes special occasions call for a fancy dessert and there’s no more special occasion than a cruise to Alaska. Try this recipe from our friends at Saveur Magazine (check them out at www.saveur.com) and you’ll see what we mean. For a taste of the real thing, book one of our 17-day Yosemite to Denali train/cruise tours departing June 15, July 13 and August 10.

Ingredients
For the filling and cake:

  • 2 pints strawberry ice cream, slightly softened
  • Unsalted butter, for pan
  • ½ cup cake flour, plus more for pan
  • ¼ tsp. kosher salt
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • ½ tsp. grated lemon zest

For the meringue:

  • ¼ tsp. cream of tartar
  • 4 egg whites
  • ½ cup sugar

Directions
For the filling: Line a 7"-diameter bowl with a 15″ piece of plastic wrap, allowing excess to hang over rim of bowl. Pack ice cream into bowl, smoothing top, and freeze until solid, at least 4 hours.

For the cake: Heat oven to 325°. Grease and flour an 8″ round cake pan; set aside. Whisk together flour and salt in a bowl; set aside. Beat sugar and eggs in a bowl on medium-high speed of a hand mixer until tripled in volume, about 5 minutes. Stir in juice and zest; fold in flour mixture. Pour into prepared pan; bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Cool completely, invert onto a rack, and set aside.

For the meringue: Heat oven to 450°. Place cream of tartar and egg whites in a large bowl; beat on medium speed of a hand mixer until soft peaks form, about 1 minute. Add sugar, and beat until stiff but not dry peaks form, about 2 minutes.

To serve, place cake on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Invert ice cream onto cake and peel off plastic. Cover ice cream and cake with meringue. Bake until meringue begins to brown, about 5 minutes. Using 2 metal spatulas, transfer to a cake plate and serve immediately.
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Eurodam

The Eurodam is the evolution of the mid-sized ship. Photo courtesy of Holland America Line.

Launched in July of 2008, Eurodam marked the first of Holland America Line's new Signature-class ships. Eurodam furthers the evolution of sophisticated mid-sized ships with 11 passenger decks, a new topside Pan-Asian restaurant and lounge surrounded by panoramic views, an Explorer's Lounge bar, a new Italian restaurant adjacent to the Lido, elegant luxury jewelry boutique, new atrium bar area, an enhanced and reconfigured show lounge and a new photographic and imaging center. On the technical side, Eurodam features the latest state-of-the-art navigation and safety systems. The ship is powered by six diesel generators and propelled by the latest Azipod® propulsion technology. Guests on Eurodam are be able to "show and tell" their vacation memories through the Digital Workshop powered by Windows®. Free workshops led by Microsoft-trained "techsperts" will show even the most novice camera or computer user how to take better vacation photos, make movies, edit pictures and create scrapbooks using a variety of Microsoft Windows and Windows Live services. Guests will learn how to share all their digital memories through email, blogging and social networking — so friends and family can see where they've been cruising even before they return home. Following in the Holland America Line tradition, Eurodam features an exquisite art collection based on the theme, "The Dutch Golden Age — An Inexhaustible Tradition". Highlighting works by Dutch masters and contemporary artists, some of the pieces featured will include 17th-century watercolor maps by famed cartographer Johannes Vingboons, photo-realistic oil paintings by artist Jan van 't Hoff and The Nightwatch, Two Minutes Later, a contemporary reinterpretation of Rembrandt's famous painting. The Eurodam is the star of our 13-day Journey to Atlantic Canada cruise tour departing September 24.
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McKinley Explorer

The dome cars of the McKinley Explorer. Photo courtesy of www.digintoalaskablogspot.com

Back in 2002, Holland America Line made a big announcement. They let the world know that they were introducing the next generation of their storied McKinley Explorer rail car for the line's Alaska cruise and tour packages. These world-famous Full Dome cars set the standard in luxury rail travel back in the Golden Age of the railroad and have been a favored part of Holland America's Alaska cruises for years. The new cars entered service on May 16, 2003 and are the largest passenger rail cars in service in North America, complimenting Holland America's existing fleet of well over a dozen cars. These marvels of modern design feature a host of guest amenities and innovative technology, providing an unsurpassed touring experience through Alaska's pristine backcountry. The Full Dome cars seat up to 88 guests and feature more glass area than any other passenger car ever built, providing for uninterrupted viewing through some of the most spectacular wilderness vistas on Earth.

Each McKinley Explorer train features informative narration provided by Holland America Line's Car Managers and is augmented by a state-of-the-art Global Positioning System (GPS) automated narration system. Each passenger seat offers six channels of music and a seventh channel offering a GPS-automated narrative of the tour.

All of Holland America's McKinley Explorer cars provide guests with access to spacious observation lounges, gift shops, leisurely dining and spectacular views from outdoor viewing platforms. The cars' interiors are designed to reflect the countryside they pass through.

"The best scenery is outside our rail cars, but we've made the interiors a work of art as well," Holland America claims. "The cars feature custom designed fabrics using Swiss wools, museum quality art and color schemes that evoke the award winning designs of Holland America Line ships."

You can take a ride on the McKinley Explorer as part of our 17-day Yosemite to Denali train/cruise tours departing June 15, July 13 and August 10.
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Packing for a Cruise

Layers and comfort are the keys

Our guests often ask us for tips on what to pack when their tour includes a cruise on an ocean liner. Of course, that depends on whether you’re sailing to cooler climates such as on our 17-day Yosemite to Denali train/cruise tours departing June 15, July 13 and August 10 and our 13-day Journey to Atlantic Canada cruise tour departing September 24 or to warmer locales such as those found on our 20-day Hawaii Calls cruise tour departing November 25 and 12-day Passage to British Honduras departing December 3. However, what you’ll need while aboard ship varies little based on the destination and our friends at Holland America Line have some useful tips.

The right clothing can make a big difference in the enjoyment of your cruise. First and foremost, dress for comfort. Daily life aboard ship and in ports of call is laid back and casual. Warmer climates call for clothing made of lightweight, breathable fabrics. For cooler climates, bring casual clothes that can be layered easily and possibly a raincoat and waterproof hat or umbrella and gloves. Certain shore excursions may require particular attention to clothing. For example, certain churches or other places of worship may not allow tank tops or short pants.

Bring a swimsuit as all ships have pools and whirlpools. You may wish to bring more than one outfit for the water. Remember that you’ll need to wear shoes and a cover-up over a bathing suit when walking through the interior of the ship. If you would like to jog on the sports deck or work out in the fitness center, bring workout gear. Footwear should include comfortable walking shoes for visits ashore and sandals or rubber-soled shoes for strolling on deck.

Evening dress falls into two distinct categories: Formal or Smart Casual. Smart Casual can be defined as slacks and sports shirts or sweater for men and skirt or trousers and sweater or blouse for women. Printed T-shirts, swimsuits, tank tops and shorts are not allowed in the restaurants or public areas during the evening hours.

On festive Formal evenings, ladies wear a cocktail dress or gown and gentlemen wear a suit and tie or tuxedo. Formal wear for ladies and gentlemen can be pre-ordered for your use during your cruise visiting cruiselineformal.com. Your formal wear will be in your stateroom when you board. The number of Formal evenings on your cruise will depend upon the duration of the voyage.
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Red “Jammer” Buses

The historic red buses are a staple of Glacier National Park.

Some experiences are so breath-taking, so stunning and so much more than you ever expected that they make an indelible mark on your memories and quickly move into the realm of the unforgettable. Sometimes it might be something as sublime as dining alongside a mountain lake at sunset. Or perhaps turning around at an overlook in a National Park and seeing a bison ambling along the side of a road. Or perhaps it’s the rocking of a train as one falls asleep while the lights of small towns pass by in a blur outside the picture window. Whatever it might be, there are certain memories that last a lifetime.

One place that seems to deliver these moments with regularity is Glacier National Park, the only park in the United States that straddles the border with Canada and which is jointly administered by the two countries. And while there are many aspects of the park that enchant our guests, a ride on the Going-to-the-Sun Road on the famed red “Jammer” open-air buses through the heart of the park is undoubtedly the highlight. The buses were built in the 1930s by the White Motor Car Company and completely rebuilt by Ford just a few years ago. They got their name from the sound from the jamming of the gears as the drivers made their way up the steep park roads, even though the ride today on the refurbished buses is both quiet and environmentally friendly. With a canvas top that is rolled up on sunny days, the drive along the Going-to-the-Sun Road is like travelling in your own chauffeured convertible to heaven.

The National Park Service, which administers Glacier National Park just as it does all the parks in the national system, says that this “engineering marvel spans 50 miles through the park's wild interior, winding around mountainsides and treating visitors to some of the best sights in northwest Montana.”

The highlight, literally and figuratively, is Logan Pass. The climb to the top along the winding roads is dramatic with vistas that stretch for miles both horizontally and vertically. The hairpin turns, tunnels and switchbacks keep drivers on their toes and guests on the edge of their seats. Photo stops are made along the way with frequency so you never have to worry about missing the perfect postcard view. Look closely and you’ll see mountain goats and other wildlife clinging to the rocky landscape.

At Logan Pass, a visitor’s center offers snacks, a gift shop and restrooms but also serves as a starting point for several trails into the alpine meadows that slope above the building on one side as well as steep mountain trails that cut through the cliffs on the other side. Snowfall is so great and the amount of plowing so intense, that the pass and the Going-to-the-Sun Road is closed for nine months out of the year.

You can experience the red “Jammer” buses and the Going-to-the-Sun Road on many of our trips, including our 10-day Wonders of the West trips departing June 27, July 25 and August 22.
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Guests Speak Up

“My wife, our daughter, and I joined your August 2014 Best of the West Uncommon Journeys trip managed by Conrad Tausend. Our daughter wanted to let you know her reaction to the trip:”

“I just wanted to let you know what I good time I had on my trip this summer. This was the first time I had ever experienced any national park in my lifetime. It was nice to have a quick overview of each of the five parks we visited. It makes me want to go back and explore them further. I’m hoping to go back to Utah and visit all the parks there in the next year or so. All of the park activities, restaurants, and hotels were great choices. Conrad was a very nice, patient, and knowledgeable tour manager. Thank you so much for opening my eyes to the beauty of the national parks with such an amazing trip.”

“In addition, my wife and I also want you to know that we feel the same way about the trip. Conrad was a very amenable and entertaining tour manager, and added immeasurably to our enjoyment on the trip. Also, his enthusiasm for the national parks in our country gave us an appreciation of these jewels that we access to. We have to be thankful to the people that helped make these parks happen, and for the people that continue to keep them alive and functioning. So, many thanks to Conrad and to you. We enjoyed our trip very much, and look forward to another trip with Uncommon Journeys.”

-Ernest, Cathy, and Nicole K.

 

To submit your own comments about a trip and to be featured in our monthly newsletter, just email us.
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* Note that this is an EXCLUSIVE offer that is made available ONLY to subscribers of this e-newsletter and must be redeemed by calling Uncommon Journeys at 1-800-323-5893. This offer expires on Friday, May 8, 2015 and is only available for new bookings.