Operators Adding Rail to Inventory
PHOTO: Istanbul’s Hagia Sofia (Divine Wisdom) is at the end of G Adventures’ 13-day Budapest to Istanbul by Rail. (Courtesy of Turkish Tourism Office)
Rail travel is the natural heir apparent to cruise travel. Travelers who enjoy the hassle-free experience of travel by ship are natural cross overs to cruising on land by rail. More and more companies are adding rail to their product lines in order to win that kind of traveler over. It shows how widely interest in rail is growing that G Adventures, a company more known for adventure travel, has added major rail inventory to its catalogue. TourCrafters and Rail Tours Ireland both offer programs that show how rail can be used to really explore a single country.
In order to fill a void in the market of affordable rail-based journeys, G Adventures created 25 itineraries of between seven and 54 days’ duration, taking in more than 20 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe and North America all using trains as the primary mode of transport. The trips stay true to G Adventures’ travel values by adding such cultural immersion highlights as home stays, home-cooked meals with local families and visits to projects run by the operator’s non-profit organization, Planeterra.
“The new rail trips link remote, scenic and iconic destinations in an eco-conscious way,” said Rachel Wasser, G Adventures’ innovation manager. “The introduction of a mid-range rail option will capture the attention of adventurous, budget-conscious travelers who enjoy the social aspect of small group travel. Our small groups of international travelers will have the same cultural interactions they do on all our trips, with insider knowledge provided by a local chief experience officer.”
Countries featured in the new Rail program include Bulgaria, Canada, China, Hungary, India, Japan, Norway, Russia, Sweden, South Africa and the USA. The rail itineraries can be found in G Adventures’ 2015 “Earth” brochure.
Among the itineraries available are the 18-day Silk Road of China (from $2,499 per person double) from Beijing to Kashgar; the 13-day Budapest to Istanbul by Rail (from $1,799 per person double); and the 24-day Kolkata to Goa by Rail (from $2,449 per person double).
G Adventures operates small-group tours, safaris and expeditions to more than 100 countries on all continents.
Ireland, the focus of much media attention recently, will be the focus of a one-departure comprehensive exploration by rail departing this Sept. 27. Priced from €3,999 per person, Rail Tours Ireland’s eight-day Emerald Isle Express Tour offers an all-inclusive rail cruise throughout Southern Ireland in a private special heritage train.
The package is fully hosted including accommodation with ala carte dining in five-star Irish castle, city and country Hotels. The train will depart from Dublin with just 50 guests on a journey that goes onto Waterford, Cork, Cobh, Killarney, The Ring of Kerry, Cliffs of Moher, Bunratty Castle, Medieval Banquet, Connemara and Galway Bay.
“Rail Tours Ireland is currently having its best booking year to date from the U.S. market.” said Jim Kelly, the company’s vice president of sales, US & Canada. “The growth continues to come from direct bookers who find the product through the co-op advertising effort with Tourism Ireland plus the growth of retail travel agents booking through my efforts with many agency friends throughout the U.S.”
The package includes a meet and greet at Dublin Airport; private airport transfers; a welcome reception at the Shelbourne Hotel on the first evening; seven nights in a hotel with dinner and full Irish breakfast; morning coffee, lunch and afternoon tea each day; all rail travel aboard a private heritage train; admissions including private tour of Waterford Crystal; all drinks on board; services of hosts throughout; taxes and service charges.
Italian Rail Journey
Thanks to a strong dollar, traveling in Europe costs less this year than it has in recent years. For instance, TourCrafters’ 2015 Rome, Florence and Venice by Train package costs $2,479 per person and this year it’s been reduced to $2,229. The package includes an arrival transfer from airport to hotel, daily Italian buffet breakfast, four nights’ hotel accommodation in Rome, a 48-hour Hop On Hop Off bus tour, a walking tour of Rome, train from Rome to Florence, four nights’ hotel in Florence, a cooking class of Tuscan specialties with dinner, a full-day tour to Siena, San Gimignano and Chianti, a full-day tour to the Italian Riviera’s Cinque Terre, train from Florence to Venice, two nights’ hotel in Venice, and a walking tour of Venice.
The package uses four-star hotels including Rome’s Hotel Quirinale, Florence’s Grand Hotel Baglioni and Venice’s Hotel Royal San Marco. A variation package using quality three-star hotels is also available, at a lower price.
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