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March 19, 2012

The Azamara Quest Cruise Ship Review

Azamara Quest Cruise Ship Review by Ben Lyons

By Ben Lyons

As the cruise industry has exploded over the last twenty years, so, too, has the size of an average cruise ship. What was considered a megaship a little more than a decade ago has now become a medium sized ship, with 70,000 ton floating hotels now the norm rather than exception. This dramatic growth has brought about numerous changes to the cruise experience, and for many, the newer, supposedly better ships seem to be nothing more than flashy floating resorts.
 
Happily, there are a few companies that have bucked the trend of the bigger is better rule. At 30,000 tons and carrying only 694 passengers, the Azamara Quest and Azamara Journey of Azamara Club Cruises blend the amenities and positives of a big ship experience, including multiple dining venues, numerous balcony cabins and a spa, with some of the spirit and personalized service found on smaller ships. There aren’t long, bustling lines at the buffet or the gangway, and forget an incessant string of announcements exhorting you to the belly flop contest by the pool. Instead, Azamara focuses on destination rich itineraries to many ports larger ships haven’t yet found or can’t reach. Straddling the line between luxury and mainstream companies, they also offer one of the best deals in the cruise industry. [Read full story]

 

June 28, 2011

7 Common Travel Mistakes - How to Prepare

7 Common Mistakes To Avoid When Traveling

With 17 years experience in the travel business, Ellen Paderson has seen it all. Whether her clients are first-timers going on a Caribbean cruise or veteran world travelers headed for Australia, she has compiled a list of ‘7 Common Travel Mistakes’ from which all travelers can benefit.

(1) Take along your over-the-counter medications – Surprisingly they’re hard to find. If you do find them, they’re very expensive, especially on Caribbean islands. Bring your Dr. and insurance contact info list of prescriptions and RX numbers, Carry meds with you.

(2) Check your Passport expiration
– It cannot expire within 6 months of your return travel date.
 
(3) Expired passport? Take your confirmed itinerary to the immigration office. They will issue a passport that day if your travel starts within 10 days.

(4) Check your flight schedule the night before you’re scheduled to travel to make sure flights haven’t been changed or cancelled.

(5) Leave enough time between connections -- You need at least 90 minutes to go through Customs, pick up luggage and recheck before going on the next leg of your flight. Note that leaving the U.S., you don’t need to go through Customs, but you do on the way back, re-entering the country.

(6) Notify your bank if you’ll be using a credit or ATM card outside the US. If the bank is not notified, the ATM will keep your card, and your credit card will be declined.
 
(7) Take comfortable shoes. To quote world travel expert Rick Steves, “Footloose and fancy-free is not so easy if you have the wrong shoes. Now is the time to start breaking in what you plan to wear on your next trip.” Take more than one pair of tested footwear in case one gets wet, torn or lost, or isn’t as comfy as you thought. Do you need hiking boots, walking shoes, or sandals?

[Read full story]

September 25, 2009

A Beautiful South African Luxury Train Itinerary

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Train itineraries are always beautiful because they speak a lot of the country and its multifarious beauty, and this is what you miss in an enclosed flight. Be it a luxurious ride on the best of trains or just a casual one with the locals, train trips with their sprawling display of landscape have dominated plenty of hearts. Let’s have a look at one of the best train trips around the world:

Cape Town to Pretoria on South Africa's Blue Train: South Africa's charismatic blue train, aimed squarely at tourists, links the stunning Cape Town with Johannesburg. The double glazed windows are toned with pure gold and exotic metals. The display of sheer luxury on this 27-hour journey gifts a perfect match to the mesmerizing views of the Table Mountain through the wine regions of Stellenbosch and Paarl. If you are dying to view this scenery, just pay $23 and get a sleeper. However, the ordinary passenger trains are not air-conditioned and therefore the opened windows are perfect for the panoramic vistas.

 

There are four suites per coach and a professionally trained butler is on duty on every coach to cater to the needs of his guests. The Club Car is designed along the lines of an old gentleman’s club for those who enjoy a good port wine and after dinner cigar or coffee. A large video screen provides a view of the scenery ahead of the train, courtesy of a camera mounted on the locomotive.

 

On this journey, you’ll observe the grasslands of the gold-rich highveld and the haunting barrenness of the Great Karoo, then ascend to the highveld through tangles of indigenous forests, with its deep gorges and ancient cliffs, where "living fossils" flourish in the high lying land of the primeval Baobab tree. You’ll slide along past tea estates, trout streams, natural woodlands and vast citrus estates.

Train travel is said to be the perfect illustration of South Africa as a world in one country.

 

For more information about luxury trains from Road & Travel, click here.

 

 

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June 23, 2009

Rail Travel: The Most Scenic Train Tours in the World

Trains Train travel is romantic, scenic, a wonderful way to meet and mix with locals - and equally important, a very green way to experience a country, according to Bea Broda, President of the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW). Here are the SATW’s top scenic train rides around the world:

 

Switzerland: The Glacier Express is the famous Swiss mountain railway from St. Moritz to Zermatt, a 7.5 hour railway journey that crosses 291 bridges and burrows through 91 tunnels.

 

United States: Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad winds through rugged canyons in the remote wilderness of Colorado’s two-million-acre San Juan National Forest. The train is pulled by a coal-fired, steam-powered locomotive along the same tracks traveled over a century ago by miners, cowboys and settlers of the Old West.

 

Canada: The Rocky Mountaineer offers spectacular two-day journeys through the Canadian Rocky Mountains from Vancouver to Jasper.

Europe: The Bernina Express from Chur, Switzerland to Tirano, Italy, makes the highest rail crossing of the Alps, passing from icy glaciers to palm-shaded piazzas in just a few hours. It crosses 196 bridges and passes through 55 tunnels, while winding around countless spectacular switchbacks.

 

Peru: The Peru Rail carries passengers on a spectacular journey through the high Andes from Cusco to Machu Picchu.  There are three levels of service, from backpacker trains to Vistadome cars to the luxurious blue and gold Hiram Bingham train.

Continue your railroad journey by clicking here.

 

Check out RTM's Train Vacations & Tours Section, too!


May 20, 2009

Tips for Traveling by Train

Traveling by Train With ever increasing air travel frustrations and higher fuel price, train travel may be the alternative travelers are looking for. Trains offer a relaxed vacation environment and add the romance of traveling by train.
 

Here are a few tips to consider when traveling by train.

·         Consider taking the train on long trips when you have kids in tow; it can be much more relaxing than driving and a better opportunity to spend quality time talking or playing cards.

  • Plan any train trip ahead of time; prices rise as departure dates near, and deluxe cabins sell out quickly.
  • Make sure you know what time meals are served in the dining car, and arrive early to get a spot. You’ll most likely share a table with other passengers. If you don’t feel like being social or are a picky eater, pack your own food.
  • Do not lose your ticket — some rails will wait to collect them well after you board.

Click here for a full list of train travel tips.

April 10, 2009

Benefits of Train Travel

Train travel When we head off for that long-awaited and much-deserved vacation, most of us choose to travel to our get-away destination by plane or, if it's close enough, car.

Here’s a suggestion: The next time you’re planning a vacation, think about taking a train. If that conjures up the mental image of a crowded commuter train, think again. An Amtrak long-distance train is an iron horse of another color, with sleeping cars and coaches, a dining car and a lounge car, all serving the needs of 200 to 300 passengers.

Trains give you the one opportunity most methods of transportation don’t, the ability to relax! For just a little extra you can get a sleeping car, and although they are tight quarters, the sleep cars allow privacy and basic amenities to make your trip comfortable.

Eat up! Today, Amtrak’s dining experience is less than gourmet, but perfectly fine. On a recent cross-country trip, the dinner menu included beef bourguignon, pork shanks, seared salmon and roast chicken. You even can order a split of acceptable wine, usually a choice between two reds or two whites.

Although train travel may not be for everyone, if you are looking for an adventure, it’s worth a shot.

Read more on railroad travel on RTM.