Tips for Booking Rail and Sail

Cruises combined with train journeys are gaining popularity By: Janeen Christoff
Cruise passengers can easily take the train to Seattle. // © 2013 Rattlhed 
Cruise passengers can easily take the train to Seattle. // © 2013 Rattlhed 

The Details

Amtrak
www.amtrak.com

Rocky Mountaineer
www.rockymountaineer.com

VIA Rail
www.viarail.ca

Rail and sail packages are growing in popularity these days, and cruise lines and rail companies are making it easy for travel agents to book a package that includes a combined cruise and a train package.

“Rail and sail is doing really well for Amtrak,” said Frank Marini, president of Yankee Leisure Group. “Seattle to Alaska is especially popular, and we have a lot of clients from Northern California who take the train up to Seattle rather than flying when taking a cruise.”

Amtrak has partnered with Celebrity Cruises to offer Alaska and Bermuda cruises combined with a train journey. Cruises to Alaska depart from Seattle and cruises to Bermuda leave from New York City.

Rocky Mountaineer also offers cruise and train packages from the West Coast as does VIA Rail. Rocky Mountaineer will debut its Coastal Passage route in August. The route will connect Seattle to the Canadian Rockies.

“It’s our first time traveling to/from the U.S.,” said Karen Wiseman, director, USA sales, for Rocky Mountaineer. “With more than 40 percent of all of our guests combining one of our rail journeys with an Alaska cruise, this new route allows us the opportunity to tap into the Alaska cruise ship market out of Seattle.”

While Rocky Mountaineer currently offers rail and sail journeys out of B.C. and Alberta, the company will offer four departures in August that connect in Seattle and 24 departures during the 2014 season. They have also made finding a cruise to match with a rail vacation even easier for travel agents.

“We revamped our online booking system, introduced a specialized travel agent website with user-friendly resources such as live availability and developed a cruise match tool,” said Wiseman. “We also provide videos that showcase the train experience.”

VIA Rail, which also has a variety of pre- and post-cruise options available for Alaska cruise passengers also offers some helpful tips to travel agents who are booking clients on itineraries that include both a train trip and a cruise.

“We have a lot of pre/post Alaska cruise travelers that travel with us,” said Ryan Robutka, senior manager of sales and marketing, Americas, for VIA Rail. “Travel agents should always remember to give their clients at least one overnight between arriving in Vancouver by train and sailing out the next day. This gives them a stress-free trip  onboard the train, time to see Vancouver and a lot of time to catch the ship the following day."

Packing for a train trip can also be different than packing for a cruise. Robutka suggests mentioning this to clients beforehand to make sure that they have packed appropriately.

“For passengers spending a night onboard the train, there certain restrictions that one should be aware of,” said Robutka. “Generally, a carry-on-size bag, similar to one you would take on to an airplane, is the size of suitcase that will fit in our overnight cabins. Passengers should be sure to pack all of the amenities they would need for the duration of their trip with special consideration given to medication, cosmetics and clothing.”

In addition to a carry-on-size suitcase, passengers can also bring a backpack or briefcase onboard as well.

While there isn’t as long of a boarding process on a train as there is on an airplane, clients should still leave some extra time to board.

“At VIA Rail, boarding typically takes about 45 minutes for our long-haul trains and 30 minutes for our short-haul trains,” said Robutka. “Passengers should arrive at least one hour before departing on the Canadian when checking baggage and no later than 45 minutes when checking baggage in the [Windsor-Quebec] corridor.”

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