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Agent alert: Growing demand for rail-sail holidays

Rail-sail combos are a great way to extend a holiday afloat with an equally relaxing train journey. Here’s a look at some popular options in Europe, Alaska and closer to home in Australia.

Rail-sail combos are a great way to extend a holiday afloat with an equally relaxing train journey. Here’s a look at some popular options in Europe, Alaska and closer to home in Australia.

Railway buffs and avid cruisers have a lot in common. Both cohorts enjoy slow travel that offers up-close views of the surrounding countryside or coastline, freedom to move around the train or ship, and stops at fascinating destinations.

Throw accommodation and dining aboard heritage trains and luxury ships into the mix and you’ve got a winning combination.

And while it’s perfectly possible for your favourite travel advisor to arrange all the elements of an individually tailored rail-sail holiday, it’s much easier (and often more cost-effective) for them to book a cruise-line or travel company’s package.

Europe river and rail

Danube Express
Golden Eagle Danube Express, Breitenstein-Kalte Rinne viaduct

It looks like Uniworld has cornered the market in river-cruise rail-sail journeys in Europe. The ultra-luxe company has partnered with Golden Eagle Luxury Trains to provide a boutique collection of five Cruise & Rail programs in Europe for 2024.

Itineraries range from the 14-day Grand Alpine & the Enchanting Danube (seven-night river cruise from Passau in Germany to Budapest; six-night Golden Eagle Danube Express rail journey from Budapest to Venice) to the 19-day Milan, Venice, Istanbul & the Balkans rail-cruise experience.

Bespoke shore tours, opulent accommodation, top-notch wining, dining and service aboard the ships and trains are all part of the package.

For more information, visit uniworld.com

Alaska ocean and rail

Holland America Line and Princess Cruises are the biggest and longest-established operators of rail-sail holidays in Alaska, but Celebrity Cruises, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Line and Silversea, among others, also offer a range of pre-and post-cruise railway journeys in the spectacular 49th State.

The Alaska cruise season starts in April and runs until September-October, with the most popular month being July and the least-crowded being September.

The weather, wildlife-spotting and adventurous excursions vary considerably over the Alaskan spring, summer and autumn, so discuss with your travel advisor the best time to go according to what you want to experience there.

Denali NP, Alaska
Denali NP, Alaska

Celebrity and Royal Caribbean use the Wilderness Express for pre- and post-cruise land tours. The cars have 360-degree dome viewing windows, reclining leather chairs, and an outdoor viewing platform.

Both cruise lines operate nine- to 13-night Cruise tours that combine a seven-night cruise with pre-or post-cruise land tours.

NCL’s Alaska Cruisetours range from 11 to 14 days, also combined with seven-day Alaska sailings. Rail journeys are aboard the Alaska Railroad train, which offers Adventure Class and Gold Star Dome Service.

For the full luxury rail-sail experience in Alaska and the Canadian Rockies, check out Silversea’s itineraries that include a two-day Rocky Mountaineer trip from Vancouver with overnight stays in Banff and Kamloops.

For more information, visit:

Australia ocean and rail

Cruise Express, Phil Hoffmann Travel and Journey Beyond are the go-to companies for rail-sail holidays in Australia – and further afield too, of course, but who knows Australia better than our local operators?

Cruise Express’s January 2024 rail-sail holidays are already booked out, but there’s still availability on the 24-night Sydney-Perth-Melbourne itinerary, departing December 11, 2024.

This package features an epic cross-country train journey on the Indian Pacific and a cruise from Fremantle to Melbourne aboard Azamara Cruises’ boutique ship Azamara Pursuit.

For more information, visit cruiseexpress.com.au

Venice Simplon Orient Express

Among the rail-sail options Phil Hoffman Travel offers is a 16-night itinerary departing on December 3, 2024. It includes an eight-night Diamond Princess cruise from Adelaide to Brisbane, five nights in Brisbane, and a three-night journey on the Great Southern in new Gold Premium class back to Adelaide, visiting Coffs Harbour, the Hunter region and regional Victoria.

For more information, visit pht.com.au

Journey Beyond and Silversea have teamed up to offer an incredible 28-day journey that combines rail journeys on The Ghan and the Indian Pacific with Silver Cloud’s Kimberley voyage from Perth to Darwin.

Departing on August 21, 2024, this one-off itinerary offers discerning travellers the experience the most remote reaches of Australia.

For more information, visit journeybeyondrail.com.au or check out the Karryon cruise report that includes both The Ghan and Indian Pacific rail journeys plus a Silversea Kimberley cruise.