In This Issue:
FEATURED TRIP: Springtime in the Canadian Rockies
CRUISE OF THE MONTH: A Passage to British Honduras
JOURNEY OF THE MONTH: Canadian Panorama
BEHIND THE SCENES: The Pullman Name Lives On
THE WAY IT WAS: Living Large on the Union Pacific
PHOTO OF THE MONTH: Climbing Into the Rockies
VIDEO OF THE MONTH: Cunard’s Queen Mary 2
DID YOU KNOW? Dickens Was Not Impressed
HISTORIC SNAPSHOT: The Ailing Ocean Greyhound
A TASTE FOR TRAVEL: Santa’s Sleigh Ride Cocktail
SHIP OF THE MONTH: Blount Small Ship Adventures:Grande Mariner
TRAIN OF THE MONTH: Southwest Chief
TRAVEL TIPS: Clever Packing Tips
NATIONAL PARK TRIVIA:Denali’s Artists
IN YOUR OWN WORDS: Guests Speak Up
EXCLUSIVE OFFER FOR NEWSLETTER READERS
FREE EXTRA LUXURY HOTEL NIGHT at the beginning or end of either our 12-day Springtime in the Canadian Rockies train tour departing May 5, 2015 or our 13-day Canadian Panorama train tour departing May 7, 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 Tuesday, December 23, 2014.
Springtime in the Canadian Rockies
Riding on a glacier is always a highlight of any trip on which we’re able to offer this extraordinary excursion. Fortunately, it’s part of our one-time 12-day Springtime in the Canadian Rockies holiday departing San Diego on May 5, 2014. This is the ultimate civilized adventure, combining travel aboard one of the nicest ships of our time, the Noordam of Holland America Line, with visits to Victoria and Vancouver plus a full week in the Canadian Rockies, all at the perfect time of the year when crowds are less, spring wildflowers are abundant and the waterfalls are roaring.
After arriving in Vancouver on the Noordam, guests board the second marvelous conveyance. Train travel from Vancouver to the Canadian Rockies is timed so that the Rockies segment is all daylight viewing. Guests travel on Via Rail’s The Canadian, the last great train in North America. With its classic Vista-Dome cars, comfortable Pullman sleeping cars, excellent dining, and the iconic end of train Park Car with its Mural and Bullet Lounges, there is no finer way to see the Canadian Rockies. Once in the Rockies, guests enjoy the rare luxury of a five-night stay with two nights in quaint Jasper and three nights in Banff, with complete and comprehensive sightseeing included. As always, grand dining is featured including dinner at stylish Le Gavroche in Vancouver, a special farewell dinner in Banff at superb Le Beaujolais, breakfast at Chateau Lake Louise and much more.
If you live where it’s warm, you’ve probably never heard of a snowcoach and even if you live somewhere with cold winters, you still might not have heard of one. If you live on a glacier, then you just might be familiar with this intriguing way of seeing nature up close and personal. In a nutshell, a snowcoach looks vaguely like a bus on steroids headed to a monster truck competition. It’s long and lean and is elevated on ridiculously large tires with insanely big tread attached and has at least three axles, maybe more. The contraption looks imposing, as if it is ready to drive over a line of compact cars at a truck rally. But it’s not only perfectly safe, it’s rather extraordinary. It allows tourists to go places they wouldn’t be able to reach without a helicopter, specifically to the top of a glacier and across an icefield.
One of the places our guests get to experience a snowcoach is in Jasper National Park in Alberta, Canada. The Columbia Icefield is located between Jasper and Banff National Parks and covers an area of 125 square miles and is comprised of layer upon layer of ancient snowfalls. In some areas the snow is more than 1,000 feet thick. Not only does the snow found in the Columbia Icefield feed a number of glaciers such as Stutfield, Dome and Athabasca, the meltwater that flows from this massive ice cube contributes to rivers that head in all directions. Water from the Columbia Icefield eventually ends up in not just the Atlantic and Pacific, but the Arctic as well.
The glacier is just less than four miles long and covers an area of more than two square miles. Just like the Columbia icefield, it is thick, ranging from 300 to nearly 1,000 feet. Fortunately for us, the glacier is very close to the stunning Icefields Parkway that runs between Banff and Jasper so that makes it not only easy to reach but also explains why it is the “most visited glacier in North America.”
Even though the glacier’s edge is a short walk from the road, this is not a big snow cone for everyone’s amusement. It is a living glacier, crisscrossed with cracks and crevasses and along much of its surface, far too dangerous for anyone to just hike across the top. And that's where the snowcoaches come in handy.
With the multiple balloon tires, the coaches leave a light footprint and can drive right over what would otherwise be life-threatening dangers embedded just below the surface of the Athabasca Glacier. The snowcoaches take guests to areas known to be safe for pedestrians and visitors are treated to the surrealistic adventure of walking across the dome of a glacier. It’s an experience that is slowly shrinking, however. In the last century or so, the glacier is about half the size it once was and has receded nearly a full mile thanks to the warming climate.
The experience of gliding across Athabasca Glacier in a snowcoach is one of the top highlights of the 12-day Springtime in the Canadian Rockies, beginning at just $3,695 per person. Call us at 1-800-323-5893 for more details.
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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.
• 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.
Beginning at just $2,895 per person, this 13-day trip departing Chicago on March 26 and 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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For many decades, one of the "must-do" holidays on every travelers list has been the legendary cross-Canada train trip, from Toronto to Vancouver. At Uncommon Journeys, we have long believed that there was only one addition that could make this idea better. That’s why we offer leisurely hotel stays in each great part of Canada along with intelligent, comprehensive sightseeing. For those travelers who believe how they travel is as important as what they do, we offer up the most acclaimed train in North America, VIA Rail’s showcase Canadian where all of our guests enjoy First Class sleeping car accommodations in Silver & Blue Class with all meals aboard included. Guests enjoy access to the splendid art deco dining car, the signature dome cars with all-around viewing and the famous Park Car with its Bullet Lounge and Mural Bar. As befits an elegant holiday, we have included some very stylish events as well, including dinner in Toronto at the chic Canyon Creek Grill, a stunning dinner at Le Beaujolais in Banff, and a stay in Vancouver at the beautifully situated Hyatt Regency Hotel. In the Rockies, our guests enjoy five days of sightseeing including Jasper, Banff and Lake Louise as well as seldom-visited places like Moraine Lake, Maligne Canyon and Bridal Veil Falls. All sightseeing is included.
• Overnight in Toronto at the superbly located Westin Harbour Castle Hotel.
• Passage from Toronto to Jasper and Vancouver aboard VIA Rail's acclaimed Vista-Dome Streamliner The Canadian in First Class sleeping car accommodations including all meals whilst aboard the train. Four nights accommodation in Banff, more than anyone else offers in this splendid setting.
• Columbia Icefield Snowcoach tour atop Athabasca Glacier.
• Banff sightseeing tour including the famous Gondola ride and a visit to Banff Hot Springs. Lake Louise sightseeing tour including lunch at fabled Chateau Lake Louise!
• A leisurely relaxed pace with more time in Grand Teton, Yellowstone and Glacier National than most tours offer.
• Many meals including breakfast daily.
• Overnight stay in Jasper with Jasper sightseeing.
• Vancouver city sightseeing tour upon arrival.
• Overnight deluxe stay in Vancouver at the Hyatt Regency Hotel including breakfast.
Beginning at just $4,995 per person, this 13-day trip departs on May 7, 2015. Call us at 1-800-323-5893 for more details.
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The Pullman Name Lives On
We know how amazing a night aboard a train can be. It harks back to the golden era of train travel and is a reminder of the great movies of the last century with stars such as Cary Grant, Gregory Peck, Grace Kelly, Marilyn Monroe and, in rather unusual attire in 1959’s Some Like It Hot, Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis. With private trains such as our Great Western Limited, you, too, can relive the days when train travel was in top form.
Over the years, the term “Pullman” has been closely associated with train travel and the feeling of comfort, security and coziness that a night on the rails provides. It’s became a generic term over the years to refer to any bunk that pulls out of a wall, even those on ocean liners during the 20th century. But make no mistake about it; a Pullman was, first and foremost, a very special railroad car.
The Pullman Palace Car Company was founded by George Pullman in the 19th century and, even though there was a town named after him, Pullman became most famous for his creation of the sleeping car. It all started when Pullman spent a decidedly uncomfortable night on a train traveling across New York from Buffalo to Westfield. Sitting upright, he couldn’t get comfortable and knew there had to be a better way to travel. He set pen to paper and came up with the idea of an upper berth that folded into the wall during the day. The seats below could be converted to a bed and, voila, a private train compartment with bunk beds was born! It might seem obvious today, but it was a sensational innovation back in the day.
By 1862, Pullman had created a company specifically to build sleeping cars and luxury became the order of the day with velvet upholstery, heavy drapes, fine woods and, eventually, even electric lights. What many folks don’t know was that after the wild success of the Pullman sleeping cars (travelers learned quickly to request such cars by name), Pullman died in 1897 and none other than Robert Todd Lincoln, the son of President Abraham Lincoln, became Pullman’s president. To survive the Great Depression three decades later, Pullman bought another company and became the Pullman-Standard Car Manufacturing Company. In fact, Pullman continued to build train cars until 1982, including Amtrak’s Superliner cars. The vestiges of Pullman remain in Canadian industrial giant Bombardier, which took over Pullman in the late 1980s. Pullman also was a major player in the far less glamorous world of streetcars and subway cars, building well over 700 subterranean coaches for New York City beginning in the 1970s.Unfortunately, the decline of train travel mirrored the decline of Pullman and its glamorous sleep cars. By the end of 1968, Pullman was no longer operating its own cars and at that point, the Pullman name on the outside of many of the cars disappeared as individual railroads took over responsibility. Of course, the legacy of Pullman’s genius lives on in historic cars such as those that are part of many Uncommon Journeys trips.
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When the Union Pacific ceased passenger service in 1971, an elegant era came to an end. The advent of the sleek Streamliner trains in the 1930s transformed rail travel and luxurious coaches raced across the rails. The stainless steel, curved lines, meticulous maintenance, impeccable service and aura of modernity were big selling points. The inability to build Streamliners fast enough, coupled with the interruption of World War II, mean that it wasn’t until 1947 that the Union Pacific was able to consistently offer daily Streamliner routes to places such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago and Portland. But the demand grew faster than cars could be built and during the 19-year period from 1946 to 1965, the Union Pacific added a staggering 291 sleeping cars, 196 coaches, 112 diners and lounges, and 43 domed cars. As was befitting travel in the 1950s, those taking to the rails dressed up for the occasion and this photo gives a hint of the civility with which strangers moved across the country.
Trains are so huge and heavy that it seems almost impossible that they can climb a steep grade yet our guests are always amazed when our private train, the Great Western Limited, heads up the foothills outside Denver and into the Rocky Mountains. The grade is steep but barely perceptible aboard where cocktails remain level and our guests’ spirits rise with the increase in altitude. It’s a glorious way to see the country. The photo above was taken last summer by one of our guests,
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 email@example.com and be sure to note in your email that we can use it for marketing purposes.
Cunard’s Queen Mary 2
The world’s most famous ocean liner offers quite a contrast to Charles Dickens 1842 voyage on Cunard’s first ship, the tiny paddlewheeler Britannia. See our Did You Know? article to get Mr. Dickens’ thoughts on his ocean passage and then watch this video, realizing that Dickens’ entire ship could fit inside the dining room of the Queen Mary 2. Appropriately, the dining room is named in honor of the little pioneer vessel. Times have certainly changed!
Though Cunard Line, now 175 years old, is one of the most revered ocean-going passenger lines in the world and is a firm favorite of Uncommon Journeys guests thanks to numerous trips each year that include their distinctive red-funneled ocean liners, not everyone has always loved their trip on Britain’s flagship line. None other than Charles Dickens traveled to America in 1842 in Cunard’s very first ship, a sturdy little paddlewheeler called the Britannia. “Before descending into the bowels of the ship,” he wrote, “we had passed from the deck into a long narrow apartment, not unlike a gigantic hearse with windows in the sides; having at the upper end a melancholy stove, at which three or four chilly stewards were warming their hands; while on either side, extending down its whole dreary length, was a long, long table, over each of which a rack, fixed to the low roof, and stuck full of drinking-glasses and cruet-stands, hinted dismally at rolling seas and heavy weather.”Nor did things improve at meal time, either. “At one, a bell rings, and the stewardess comes down with a steaming dish of baked potatoes, and another of roasted apples; and plates of pig’s face, cold ham, salt beef; or perhaps a smoking mess of rare hot collops,” he bemoaned. “We fall to upon these dainties; eat as much as we can (we have great appetites now); and are as long as possible about it. If the fire will burn (it will sometimes) we are pretty cheerful. If it won’t, we all remark to each other that it’s very cold, rub our hands, cover ourselves with coats and cloaks, and lie down again to doze, talk, and read (provided as aforesaid), until dinner-time. At five, another bell rings, and the stewardess reappears with another dish of potatoes—boiled this time—and store of hot meat of various kinds: not forgetting the roast pig, to be taken medicinally.” Despite his arduous passage, his creative juices were clearly stimulated; not long after returning to England, Dickens penned his classic, A Christmas Carol, which has become a holiday staple around the world.
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If anyone needs proof positive that the era of ocean liners thundering across the ocean at 35 knots was an elegant, amazing time, then just take a look at this photo of the world’s fastest ocean liner, the magnificent United States which swept the record for the fastest Atlantic crossing from the Queen Mary back in 1952. The SS United States Conservancy is dedicated to restoring the United States Lines’ glorious United States. She’s been out of service since 1969 and is currently rusting away in a Philadelphia backwater. Though she has been stripped of her interior, her powerful lines, knife-like bow, over-sized funnels and low superstructure are the epitome of an ocean greyhound and the chic style of 1950s ocean travel. If we don’t preserve the United States, she will be lost forever. If companies didn’t have the foresight to preserve and restore classic 1950s Vista-Dome rail cars, we wouldn’t have Uncommon Journey’s private Great Western Limited train that is featured on so many of our trips. But a ship is a lot bigger than a rail car and the cost of preserving and restoring a ship like the United States is orders of magnitude greater than the work and effort that went into refurbishing sleek Streamliner train cars. If you love history, we urge you to help preserve it with a donation to the Conservancy. At Uncommon Journeys, we feel that if we ignore our past, we will have no future at all.
“Our many different cultures notwithstanding, there's something about the holidays that makes the planet communal. Even nations that do not celebrate Christmas can't help but be caught up in the collective spirit of their neighbors, as twinkling lights dot the landscape and carols fill the air. It's an inspiring time of the year.” Marlo Thomas
Santa’s Sleigh Ride Cocktail
One of the most popular features of our private train, the Great Western Limited, is the open bar. Our mixologists can come up with any number of cocktails and we asked them what their favorite was at this time of year. They said that incorporating eggnog in any drink is a must. But when we asked them to reveal their own eggnog cocktail suggestions, they carefully guarded their secret recipe. However, we found a close facsimile online from Sandra Lee on the FoodNetwork.com website for you to enjoy this holiday season as you imagine yourself rolling through a white landscape punctuated by towering mountains - all from the luxury of your own private Vista-Dome Streamliner car!
Dampen the rims of 4 martini glasses and then line the rims with sugar crystals. Combine eggnog, brandy, amaretto, nutmeg, and ice cream in a blender; process until smooth. Pour mixture into martini glasses and garnish each glass with a whole cinnamon stick.
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We have partnered with Blount Small Ship Adventures, with whom we’re offering out 19-day Great American Waterways cruise tour on Grande Mariner departing August 16, 2015. They have two ships that were recently refurbished and carry a maximum of just 88 guests. Blount Small Ship Adventures’ vessels are reminiscent of the cozy familiarity that develops on a train trip. You get to know your fellow guests and you share remarkable experiences together. Every voyage is a little different but the first thing you notice is the casual atmosphere. You begin to unwind and relax and it’s then that you get the itch to explore. Take a photography class, and get to know your cameras a little better, and maybe even make your vacation pictures a little more interesting along the way. Attend a wine tasting, featuring vintages from the city on the banks of the river you’re cruising. Or learn from an onboard naturalist, teaching you about the wildlife at your next destination. And because Blount cruises are filled with people filled with curiosity, you’re just as likely to learn a thing or two from your fellow passengers before you come home. The possibilities keep coming once you land onshore with kayaks and bikes available. Over the years, they’ve developed close relationships in many of their ports, so the shore excursions are always personal, unexpected, and rewarding. Join us and experience our Ship of the Month!
The route from Chicago to Los Angeles has always attracted some of the most famous and most impressive trains in America. One of the greatest was the Super Chief, operated by the Atchison, Topeka and Sante Fe Railway which, just by its name alone, seemed to be one step up from the equally popular Chief and El Capitan. The name lasted into the 1970s and even survived the first few years after the formation of Amtrak when the new national rail company continued to use the Super Chief name on the route until the Atchison, Topeka & Sante Fe laid claim to the name and asked Amtrak to find another moniker. They came up with Southwest Limited but about 10 years later adapted the hybrid name of Southwest Chief which has now stuck around for over 30 years. A little-known fact is that at one point Amtrak wanted to combine the Southwest Chief with its Capitol Limited service between Chicago and Washington DC to create a coast-to-coast train named National Chief. The name itself never was used and the coast-to-coast service along that specific route only lasted for a year in the late 1990s.
SOCK IT AWAY – It’s not tough to pack efficiently if you remember a few tips. Don’t forget that a shoe is both a container as well as an item you wear. Roll up your socks and wedge them into your shoes so that you save space and keep your shoes from getting crushed in your luggage.
ONE LESS – Once you make up your packing list and lay-out all your clothes, before you fold and place them in the suitcase, take one outfit and put it back in your closet. People always pack too much and just trimming back by one outfit does wonders for making sure everything fits in your suitcase.
DON’T CRAM IT IN – And speaking of fitting everything in your suitcase, make sure that you don’t have to sit on the top to close it before you leave. If you do, that means you don’t have a single square inch of extra space for the gifts and souvenirs you’re sure to pick up during your trip. Leave room for the things you’re bound to buy on vacation.STAKE YOUR CLAIM – While we all know how important it is to have tags on your luggage with your address and phone number, don’t forget to add your email address as well for quick notification in case your luggage goes missing. And make certain to leave a note or business card with the your name, address, phone number and e-mail address inside your suitcase as well just in case the tags on the outside get removed.
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You learn something new every day. Thanks to the National Park Service’s website for Denali National Park – one of the featured stops on some of our trips that include an Alaskan cruise – we discovered there’s an extensive program for artists in the park. “Since 2002, more than 50 accomplished artists, writers, and composers have participated in the Artist-in-Residence program. Following a 10-day residency, each volunteers to lead a public outreach activity with visitors and to donate one piece of art to the program collection. Artists are challenged to create pieces for visitors that offer a fresh and innovative perspective of the park drawn from their own experience. Within the past year, the program has demonstrated a renewed commitment to providing expanded opportunities for artists, and for fostering greater interaction between artists and the visiting public. A new winter residency program was created, along with a new series of afternoon outreach activities throughout the summer in public areas outside the Denali Visitor Center. With the welcome addition of several new gallery spaces, more pieces in the program collection enjoy a larger life in the public eye. With its next open call May 1 to September 30, 2015, the program will invite a new category of applications for an annual residency in music composition. The first selected composer will visit the park in 2016, and a composition that he or she donates is expected to be performed at the Denali Music Festival in 2017, as the park is celebrating the 100th anniversary of its founding as Mount McKinley National Park in 1917.”
Guests Speak Up
"My partner and I just returned from your Fall Colors in Quebec trip and we had a wonderful time. The tour guide, Conrad, was tip top and the hotels were great, especially La Westin in Montreal. We loved having four days at the same hotel in Burlington, VT and not having to pack and unpack every other day. The farewell dinner on the boat cruise on Lake Champlain was a fine and elegant way to end the trip. We also both loved the vintage train trip to Montreal from New York City. We can’t wait to learn what train trips will Conrad be hosting in the future! - Don J. from Redding, CA
We’re sending this email to tell you how pleased we are with the Best of the West trip to the National Parks we participated in during September. The pace of the tour with free/resting time was just great and all accommodations and meals were very nice with attentive staff. Conrad, the tour guide, was exceptional in his method of including everyone in discussions and his knowledge of areas visited. We also were recipients of a beautiful Yellowstone book from Conrad and Uncommon Journeys and an overnight stay on the Delta King steamboat in Sacramento. We thank you so much for all of this, the kindness and courtesy of your staff and for Conrad making our first tour a real joy! - Lynn & Dollie R. from Hood River, OR
* 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 November 28, 2014 and is only available for new bookings.