In This Issue:

FEATURED TRIP: Panama Canal with the Queen
JOURNEY OF THE MONTH: Wonders of the West
BEHIND THE SCENES: Thank You, Teddy!
THE WAY IT WAS: The Royal Hawaiian
PHOTO OF THE MONTH: Dinner on the Rails
VIDEO OF THE MONTH: Going to the Sun Road
DID YOU KNOW? How to River Raft in Style
HISTORIC SNAPSHOT: The Northern Pacific Vista-Dome
A TASTE FOR TRAVEL: Traditional English Scones
TRAVEL TIPS: Travel Gaget of the Year
NATIONAL PARK TRIVIA: Residents of the Grand Canyon
IN YOUR OWN WORDS: Guests Speak Up



FREE EXTRA LUXURY HOTEL NIGHT in Los Angeles before sailing on our 22-day Panama Canal with the Queen cruise tour departing April 5, 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, January 30, 2015.

Featured Trip

Panama Canal with the Queen

On April 5, 2015, Embark on an amazing 22-day journey with Cunard Line’s elegant, contemporary Queen Victoria, boasting all the traditional refinements of a bygone era with superbly modern amenities. There’s no better way to experience storied places like the Panama Canal, including three maiden calls.

The incredible Panama Canal.

While many ships offer voyages through the Panama Canal, there is only a rare chance this April to transit this wonder of the world aboard the Queen Victoria. Heir to the grand tradition established by the original Queen Mary, the original Queen Elizabeth and the Queen Elizabeth 2, this great Cunarder combines a fabled 175-year heritage of seagoing excellence with all the modern amenities one would enjoy in a modern five-star resort. Nicer still, by combining these extraordinary voyages through the Panama Canal and adding in comfortable train travel to and from the ship from your hometown, we have crafted a holiday that is both convenient, stylish and allows you to see a good deal of this great country both coming and going. Depending on where you live, you can enjoy travel on such famous trains as the Lake Shore Limited, the Empire Builder and the Coast Starlight. Best of all, after your stay in New York City, you may choose to travel home aboard the legendary California Zephyr over the storied 'Mainline through the Rockies' of the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad, a visual treat of epic proportions with Glenwood Canyon, the Continental Divide and the Front Range of the Rockies. No other Panama Canal voyage offers you the Colorado Rockies.

The equally incredible Queen Victoria’s Grand Lobby.

Despite beautiful sights on this voyage like Cabo San Lucas, the Cayman Islands, the path through the jungle of the Panama Canal, Acapulco, Charleston and, of course, sailing past the Statue of Liberty in New York, not all of the grandeur and beauty is outside. Inside, regal public rooms that evoke the golden age of Ocean travel await, from the two-story Library, the grand Royal Court Theatre, the Golden Lion Pub and nicest of all, the grand Queen's Room with chandeliers for traditional afternoon tea daily and big band dancing every night. With a wide choice of dining options, from casual to opulent, a complete spa and health club and more amenities than a small city, there is no finer way to see the Panama Canal.

The experience of transiting the Panama Canal is on everyone’s Must-Do List and this opportunity begins at just $3,995 per person. Call us at 1-800-323-5893 for more details.


Hawaii Calls

While Hawaii is every bit as magical and enchanting as it was when Captain James Cook first came ashore, frankly, in recent years the experience of getting to and around Hawaii has become less enjoyable. Packed flights without any meal service, delays, airport hassles and, perhaps worst of all, a grim red-eye flight back to the mainland, not to mention packing and unpacking in order to visit three or four islands all make this not entirely pleasant. At Uncommon Journeys, we have a far more sensible and comfortable idea about how to do this. We begin with free train travel from any US city to Los Angeles-San Diego and board one of the highest-rated ships afloat, the superb Veendam of Holland America Line, for an epic journey from the West Coast to Hawaii. The lazy days sailing from San Diego to the Islands being the perfect introduction to “island time” as the locals put it. Once in Hawaii, you will explore them in great style and comfort, without having to hop on inter-island flights, change hotels every few days or catch shuttle buses. Instead, you will see Hawaii as it should be seen: by sea, watching in awe as Kilauea Volcano shoots fire against the evening sky, approaching Diamond Head at dawn and cruising along the scenic Na Pali Coast of Kauai. And, with the luxury of time, you will see it all: Hilo, Maui and Honolulu, all in one glorious voyage. We also added in an amenity that every experienced cruise traveler will immediately appreciate. A comprehensive shore excursion is included in each port of call, carefully chosen and presented with our compliments. The quality of these excursions is typified by the fact that one of the many included treats is our lunch at the legendary Royal Hawaiian Hotel, a nostalgic and elegant interlude.

Sunset on one of Hawaii’s beaches.

• Free or low-cost train travel to San Diego from any US city a great way to avoid the endless hassles of air travel.
• Overnight luxury hotel stay in San Diego the evening before sailing to avoid concern about same-day connections.
• 17-night voyage to Hawaii round-trip from San Diego aboard the Dutch ocean liner Veendam of Holland America Line. The January & November departures feature a bonus overnight in Honolulu spent aboard ship.
• Complimentary shore excursions in every port of call, a great value and money-saving bonus.
• Aloha luncheon at the fabled Royal Hawaiian Hotel during our stay in Honolulu.
• Fully hosted from start to finish by our professional Tour Manager with special cocktail parties and events just for our guests.

Beginning at just $2,695 per person, this 19 or 20-day trip departing January 19, March 27, and November 25, 2015 is an ocean liner lover’s dream. Call us at 1-800-323-5893 for more details.

Wonders of the West

Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks are truly extraordinary and offer an unforgettable vacation. Grand Teton, with its jagged mountains, pristine lakes and rich wildlife, is a jewel and Yellowstone, with its geysers, hot springs and waterfalls, is a visual feast. Amazing Glacier National Park, with its stunning Going to the Sun Road is a highlight. As you have come to expect from Uncommon Journeys, we have selected excellent hotels, found epic scenery and included all sightseeing such as a float trip on the Snake River during our visit to Jackson, to complete touring in Yellowstone including Old Faithful and a ride on Glacier National Park’s legendary red open-air “jammer” buses. For those with a bit less time, this is the perfect alternative to our popular 14-day Best of the West train tours. Not only are these three great National Parks included, but so is travel aboard two of America's most noted trains, the famed Empire Builder and the California Zephyr, that convey our guests to the start of the holiday in Glacier National Park and home from Utah after the tour. So, not only does our time in the National Parks yield up extraordinary vistas, but so does our travel to and from the tour. Guests may begin their vacation in either the Midwest or the Pacific Northwest aboard the Empire Builder and in either case, it is a scenic overnight journey to Glacier Park in comfort. Similarly, at the end of our tour in Utah, guests may travel East to the Midwest, or to the West Coast aboard the California Zephyr, again, an overnight ride in either direction.

The Grand Tetons rise from the valley to touch the sky.

• Train travel to Glacier National Park from Chicago, Seattle, or Portland aboard the Empire Builder train, an overnight ride in either direction.
• Fully hosted from start to finish by professional tour manager that handles all the details.
• A two-night stay in spectacular Glacier National Park, Montana with complete sightseeing including the famed red “jammer” buses over the extraordinary Going to the Sun road.
• Overnight in Jackson Hole/Grand Teton with raft trip on the Snake River and touring of Grand Teton National Park.
• Two-night stay in Yellowstone National Park at the Lake Yellowstone Lodge in Frontier Cabins along with complete sightseeing including Old Faithful geyser.
• Overnight stay at lovely Fairmont Hot Springs in Montana where we have included admission to the hot soothing mineral springs, a nice interlude.
• Train travel to Chicago and the Midwest or San Francisco from Utah aboard the California Zephyr, a scenic overnight trip from either point. To Chicago, guests enjoy the stunningly beautiful daylight passage through the Colorado Rockies, and to California, a daytime journey through majestic Sierra Nevada mountains.

Beginning at just $3,145 per person, this 10-day trip departs on June 27, July 25, and August 22, 2015. Call us at 1-800-323-5893 for more details.


Thank You, Teddy!

Teddy Roosevelt was truly the father of our National Parks

If you look through the itineraries on the Uncommon Journeys website, you’ll see that although we combine train travel with both cruises and steamboat river journeys, the most numerous of our vacations are focused on America’s national parks. There’s something about the sweeping grandeur of a protected expanse of park, natural wonders around every turn, and the civility of travel by train that are a perfect mix. Of course, trains long pre-dated the establishment of our country’s magnificent national parks. For the trains, we have numerous pioneers to thank for inventing, refining and elevating the art of rail journeys. But for the parks, we can thank just one man: President Teddy Roosevelt.

Today’s National Park Service tells us that “Theodore Roosevelt was a noted conservationist and had an impact on the national park system extending well beyond his term in office. As chief executive from 1901 to 1909, he signed legislation establishing five national parks: Crater Lake, Oregon; Wind Cave, South Dakota; Sullys Hill, North Dakota (later redesignated a game preserve); Mesa Verde, Colorado; and Platt, Oklahoma (now part of Chickasaw National Recreation Area). Another Roosevelt enactment had a broader effect, however: the Antiquities Act of June 8, 1906. While not creating a single park itself, the Antiquities Act enabled Roosevelt and his successors to proclaim historic landmarks, historic or prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest in federal ownership as national monuments.

Roosevelt did not hesitate to take advantage of this new executive authority. By the end of 1906 he had proclaimed four national monuments: Devils Tower, Wyoming, on September 24 and El Morro, New Mexico; Montezuma Castle, Arizona; and Petrified Forest, Arizona, together on December 8. He was also prepared to interpret the authority expansively, protecting a large portion of the Grand Canyon as a national monument in 1908. By the end of his term he had reserved six predominantly cultural areas and twelve predominantly natural areas in this manner.

Later presidents also used the Antiquities Act to proclaim national monuments: 105 in all. Forty-nine of them retain this designation today; others have been retitled national parks or otherwise reclassified by Congress. The Antiquities Act is the original authority for about a quarter of today’s national park system.”

Without Roosevelt’s initiative, we wouldn’t have national treasures like Yosemite, Yellowstone or the Grand Canyon. Just how important are national parks to an Uncommon Journey? The answer is “very!”

It seems only appropriate to give Teddy Roosevelt a posthumous “thank you” for all he did to get the conservation movement rolling and make certain that America’s natural treasures are preserved for generations to come. There is no journey more uncommon than that with Mother Nature herself as center stage.

The Royal Hawaiian

The Royal Hawaiian was the epitome of pre-war Hawaiian Luxury.

Uncommon Journeys offers trips to Hawaii and though we certainly love ocean liners and restored trains, we’re also big fans of classic hotels and they don’t get much more classic than the Royal Hawaiian. The hotel opened in 1927 and was one of the very first tourist properties on a sleepy stretch of sand known as Waikiki Beach. With its pink exterior, broad sweep of beachfront and iconic views of Diamond Head, the Royal Hawaiian was soon known interchangeably by its nickname, the Pink Palace of the Pacific. This priceless treasure actually does have a price; it cost $4 million to build in the 1920s. Supposedly, the hotel’s eclectic style and color owe a bit of a debt to Hollywood. The movies of the era by stars such as Rudolph Valentino made Moorish architecture quite popular in Los Angeles at the time and that stylistic influence carried over to the Royal Hawaiian, which also has been liberally influenced by Spanish style as well. It’s rather ironic that a hotel that originally paid no heed to its architectural surroundings in Hawaii has now become one of the most revered architectural treasures of the islands. Even more interesting, the Royal Hawaiian owes its very existence to a shipping line. The Matson Navigation Company, one of the giants of ocean liner travel in the Pacific, ran elegant tropical liners from the West Coast to Hawaii but realized that a world-class hotel was needed to compliment the high standards of the ocean voyage and keep the upper classes happy. At first, Matson owned a converted mansion but the need for a full-fledged, purpose-built hotel was apparent by the 1920s and thus, the Royal Hawaiian was born. It was an immense success and did its part during World War II, serving as a spot for Navy personnel to rest and relax between missions. Today, it serves a similar purpose for travelers from all over the world and we’re excited that we were able to include an elegant lunch at the Royal Hawaiian on this trip. An uncommon journey is composed of special treats, unexpected surprises and unique experiences and the Royal Hawaiian delivers on all levels. We like to feature a special event at the hotel on all our trips that include Hawaii, such as our 19- and 20-day Hawaii Calls cruise tours departing January 19, March 27 and November 25, 2015.

Dinner on the Rails

Dinner service aboard a private train, the Great Western Limited.

We’re always looking at way to improve upon what we do. We take your comments into consideration and work with our partners to enhance every experience we offer. Last year, we spent some time with Pullman Rail Journeys to discuss ways to even further upgrade our private train offerings. You see the results in this photo with enhanced décor including charming tableside lamps. The photo above was taken by one of our founders from Oakland, CA, on a journey across Montana on his way to Seattle.

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 and be sure to note in your email that we can use it for marketing purposes.

Going to the Sun Road

The only way to see the true beauty of Glacier National Park is via the Going to the Sun Road, a precarious path that leads up the steep mountains and never fails to take the breath away of every visitor. It’s a favorite of our guests, who get to experience it on traditional red “jammer” buses. Take a look at this short video for a preview of the ride on this amazing road which was literally carved out of the wilderness.

How to River Raft in Style

A morning on the river is an experience you’ll never forget.

Two centuries ago, things were a bit different than they are now. Most rafts were made of logs lashed together and those riding them knew little about the nuances of the wild rivers that traveled along. Rocks could tear rafts apart and swirling eddies could capsize the flimsy log platforms easily. On most of our trips which include a stop in Jackson Hole and a trip to Grand Teton National Park, we spend a half day reliving the traditions of the early explorers with a morning float trip on the Snake River with the backdrop of the most impressive mountain range in North America, the Grand Tetons. Unlike the pioneers, however, our guides know every inch of the river and there is no possibility of coming to grief in raging rapids, being torn asunder by uncharted rocks or capsizing in unknown currents. In fact, the chances are you’ll never even get your feet wet.

But you will get your feet wet figuratively with this form of transportation if you’ve never had the joy of experiencing river rafting before. Our guests tell us it is one of the most tranquil means of getting from point A to point B that was ever conceived. There’s something about a float trip that seems almost prehistoric, especially in a location as beautiful as Jackson Hole and the Snake River. A tributary of the Columbia River measuring more than 1,000 miles in length, the Snake River is as old as the landscape itself. In fact, the Snake River Plain owes its existence to a volcanic hotspot under Yellowstone National Park and the route it follows was carved out by glaciers retreating at the end of the last Ice Age. Native Americans lived along the river 11,000 years ago and the river traces its name to a misunderstanding. A sign showing a fish made by the Shoshones was misread by early settlers and fur trappers as a snake and the river took on the misnomer.

In the early morning light, with the Grand Tetons towering in the distance, the prehistoric becomes the present. River rafting is quiet and it’s easy to bond with the surrounding landscape, soaking in the silence and imagining this land as it once was. That’s the beauty of our Western journeys; you don’t have to close your eyes to imagine what life was once like here. The land is so unchanged that you can keep your eyes wide open and still have a sense of the long history and the majesty of nature’s creations.

The Northern Pacific Vista-Dome

Touting the sleek luxury of the Streamliner.

It’s easy to forget that not just the railroads were excited about the advent of sleek Streamliner trains in the 1940s and 1950s, as this ad can attest. Even the manufacturers got in on the act, promoting their part in this modern revolution in rail travel. While the focus here is on the Northern Pacific’s Streamliners, the ad is from the railcars’ manufacturer, Budd. The company began supplying car bodies to Dodge but later expanded their manufacturing capabilities to include much larger and more complex railcars. Started in Philadelphia in 1922, Budd remained independent for over 60 years, finally being folded into Thyssen in 1978 and then into Krupp in 1999. In this ad, naturally, their emphasis is on the Vista-Dome cars which provided for panoramic viewing. Uncommon Journeys offers numerous trips which incorporate a Vista-Dome into our private train, the Great Western Limited.



Edith Lovejoy Pierce

What travels will you record in your Book of Life this year?

“We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year's Day.” Edith Lovejoy Pierce

Traditional English Scones

Refine your life with a batch of scones.
Photo courtesy of James Petts/Wikimedia Commons

There’s nothing more British than High Tea, a treasured event celebrated on virtually every Uncommon Journeys trip. You’ll find it on our private train, the Great Western Limited. It’s present aboard the very British ships of Cunard Line which is one of our premier travel partners. And, of course, you’ll find it throughout Canada in destinations such as Victoria, Vancouver and Banff. And a traditional English tea wouldn’t be very traditional or English without some traditional English scones, would it? We searched for the best example of this easy-to-make treat and discovered this lovely example on the Cooking Channel’s website, courtesy of quirky culinary celebrity Alton Brown.


  • 2 cups flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons shortening
  • 3/4 cup cream
  • 1 egg
  • Handful dried currants or dried cranberries
Heat oven to 375 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Mix well. Cut in butter and shortening. In a separate bowl, combine cream with beaten egg then add to dry ingredients. Stir in fruit. Turn dough out onto a floured surface. Roll dough out and cut into biscuit size rounds. Bake for 15 minutes or until brown.

Queen Mary 2

Experience the legendary Cunarder.

While many ships offer autumn voyages to Canada & New England, there is only one iconic Queen Mary 2, the grandest ocean liner afloat, that offers a one-time cruise this fall with a style and opulence unmatched by any other ship afloat. Heir to the great tradition established by the original Queen Mary, the original Queen Elizabeth and the Queen Elizabeth 2, this great new Cunard liner combines a fabled 170 year heritage of seagoing excellence with all the modern amenities one would enjoy in a modern Five-star resort. Nicer still, by combining this extraordinary voyage with the world's most legendary hotel, the fabled Waldorf Astoria, along with a sailing day luncheon at storied 21 Club, it is hard to find a more comfortable and civilized way to enjoy the fall colors. Aboard Queen Mary 2, you will enjoy the majestic Britannia Restaurant, the resplendent Royal Court Theatre, the swank Commodore Club, the Golden Lion Pub and - nicest of all - the grand two deck-high Queen's Room, complete with chandeliers and big band dancing nightly to a live orchestra. Enjoy little touches available on no other ship such as the best traditional Afternoon Tea daily, performances by the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts and the largest library afloat (not to mention the Canyon Ranch Spa and acres of open deck). Our 16-day Canada and New England with the Queen departs September 26, 2015.

The Canadian

One of the Top 10 Train Rides on Earth. Photo courtesy of VIA Rail.

There are train rides. And there are quite a few good train rides. And there’s even a handful of great train rides. But no train ride is quite like VIA Rail Canada’s Canadian, a truly first class experience in a world where the ordinary has become commonplace. Every company has its flagship brand, and for VIA Rail Canada, that is unquestionably the Canadian. We love the fact that VIA has preserved some of the most notable train cars of the 20th century. During the spring and summer months, for example, the Canadian includes Château sleeper cars. Built between July and November of 1954 Budd Car Company and AMF, 29 units were acquired by VIA in 1978 and have been regularly refurbished ever since. The cars were originally constructed for use by the Canadian Pacific Railway on their Canadian and Dominion trains, the Château cars were appropriately named after important figures in Canadian history. The names were chosen to commemorate famed explorers and administrators of the first French and British colonies. Another highlight of the Canadian is the famed Park cars with their lovely Mural Bar and Bullet Lounge. VIA owns 14 of these 1954-built cars, also crafted by Budd Car Company and AMF. The cars are named after famous Canadian National Parks and carry monikers such as Banff Park, Glacier Park, Prince Albert Park, Evangeline Park and Yoho Park (our personal favorite). We feature the Canadian on our 12-day Springtime in the Canadian Rockies holiday departing San Diego on May 5, 2015 and our 13-day Canadian Panorama trip departing Toronto May 7, 2015. 

Travel Gaget of the Year

Discover just how healthy travel can be for you with this handy fitness tracker.
Photo courtesy of Boston Luggage Shipping.

Our friends at Travel + Leisure magazine are the undisputed experts in all things relating to travel. Just check out their website at if you don’t believe us. And they point out that being on vacation burns a lot more calories than you may realize. You might indulge in things like an extra helping of white chocolate mousse on our private train, but you’ll also burn it off exploring Yellowstone or Yosemite. To keep track of how you’re doing and alleviate the guilt of indulging while away from home, they recommend the Basis Carbon Steel fitness band which not only counts the number of steps you walk, but also gives insight into your sleeping habits. It retails for $199 and can be found at

Residents of the Grand Canyon

Humans have lived in this rugged landscape for nearly 12,000 years.

One of our guests’ favorite things about traveling with Uncommon Journeys is discovering insight into attractions or destinations that might seem familiar. A perfect example is the peerless Grand Canyon. It’s easy to forget that the Grand Canyon was (and is) also home to humans. In fact, the National Park Service (NPS) reports that the “oldest human artifacts found are nearly 12,000 years old and date to the Paleo-Indian period. There has been continuous use and occupation of the park since that time. The park has recorded over 4,300 archeological resources with an intensive survey of over 5% of the park area. The park's 11 traditionally associated tribes and historic ethnic groups view management of archeological resources as preservation of their heritage. Archeological remains from the following culture groups are found in Grand Canyon National Park: Paleo-Indian, Archaic, Basketmaker, Ancestral Puebloan (Kayenta and Virgin branches), Cohonina, Cerbat, Pai, Southern Paiute, Zuni, Hopi, Navajo, and Euro-American.” Between the NPS and the Museum of Northern Arizona, a total of nine sites were uncovered near the Colorado River during a three-year period from 2007 to 2009. The timing coincided with the realization that erosion would reclaim some of the sites in the near future and the only way to understand the people, the culture and the daily life of our ancestors was to excavate and catalog before it was too late.”

Guests Speak Up

"We recently took the Uncommon Journeys train tour from Chicago to New Orleans and then the cruise on the Norwegian Dawn to Cozumel, Belize, Roatan and Costa Maya. Don Downs, our tour guide, worked miracles, always keeping his indefatigable attitude, allaying our concerns, and shepherding an older crowd, some with disabilities. He was nothing short of amazing. Don was efficient and professional always, but somehow managed to keep his sense of humor and concern for this group paramount. We really cannot praise him enough, along with our compliments to your company. After relating our experience to friends, they were sufficiently impressed with Uncommon Journeys to express definite interest in touring with your company at their first opportunity. We supplied them with one of your brochures and schedule for the coming trips. Thank you for the support you gave Don which made our lovely tour a continued pleasure and a good travel experience." -Gail M. and Robert P. from Meridian, ID

To submit your own comments about a trip and to be featured in our monthly newsletter, just email us.



* 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 January 30, 2015 and is only available for new bookings.