Some time ago I became aware of a tour operator who uses imagination and uniqueness in their planning. At the end of this column I’ll give you their name and contact information.
How about a vacation that begins in downtown Chicago and uses a Great Lakes coastal boat that will cruise from the Windy City via Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, Lake Erie, the Welland Canal, Lake Ontario, the historic Erie Canal and the Hudson River to downtown Manhattan. You’ll see America up-close with an amazing collection of ports on the way. This itinerary will visit Mackinac Island; Dearborn, Mich.; Cleveland, Ohio; Niagara Falls; Oswego, N.Y.; West Point and New York City. Now, you’ll have to admit, this is different.
The cruise boat is the 98-passenger Grande Mariner and will allow you a relaxing time on the lakes and rivers where you will be pampered by an American crew. The boat has a wonderful observation lounge in addition to open deck space. You’ll be close to shore in most cases so you can enjoy the coast activity and scenery. The dining room seats all guests at the same time.
In Chicago, guests will stay at the fabled Drake Hotel before the cruise begins from the Navy Pier. There will be plenty of time to explore Chicago before your cruise begins. There is the Art Institute and Grant Park, the Museum of Science and Industry and other places of interest.
You may wish to take the train to Chicago and “land cruise” through the midwest before arrival in Chicago.
Only recently I boarded AMTRAK in Flagstaff and rode the Southwest Chief to Albuquerque. The train was very nice, with friendly service and good food in the diner. I spent time in the lounge car with seats tilted toward the windows. Below was a fast food station serving quick items to eat, as well hot and cold drinks. I walked through the Pullmans and the rooms seemed very nice and clean. Some had showers with the private facilities.
This interesting vacation we are discussing is 17 days in duration and after Chicago stops at Manistee, Mich. to see the elegant architecture in this quaint village whose renovation is on the National Register of Historic Places. Then, a cruise to famed Mackinac Island, which is a charmed Victorian village that does not allow motorized transportation — only horse driven carriages are used. Lunch will be served here at the Grand Hotel. Then on to Wyandotte, Mich., which is gateway to the Ford Museum of Dearborn where the American experience is brought to life.
Next, the cruise goes to Cleveland, Ohio with tours of that city. Then, it’s on to Erie, Pa., which is this state’s only Great Lake port. The Buffalo, N.Y. stop allows a tour to Niagara Falls and time to photograph and enjoy the splendors of this world famous area.
Next you sail to Rochester, N.Y., which is home to Eastman Kodak where you will have the opportunity to visit George Eastman’s home. It is then on to Oswego, N.Y., which is the gateway to the scenic Erie Canal. The boat stops at Sylvan Beach, N.Y for the night, then travels on to Troy, N.Y. for a walkabout and Kingston, N.Y., allowing a tour to the Hudson River Maritime Museum and Rondout Lighthouse and Westpoint, N.Y where the tour operator will try and gain your tour access to the grounds of the academy. From there, you sail into New York City where you will be transferred to famed Waldorf-Astoria hotel for an overnight stay. There will be a farewell dinner where all the guests can compare notes of the trip and from there you can glide home on AMTRAK or fly.
The fare includes hotels and your cabin on the boat and begins at $4,295 from Chicago to New York City. There is only one departure, and that is Aug. 11, 2010.
Many have inquired about the Copper Canyon in Mexico. Well, here is a trip that begins with an overnight luxury hotel stay in San Diego the evening before sailing south on Holland America Lines Oosterdam down the west coast into the Sea of Cortez at Baja California, Mexico. At sea you will enjoy the refinement of this Holland America Lines ship with its beautiful European appointments and fine dining. You’ll be onboard for two wonderful nights before arriving in Mazatlan. There, disembark Oosterdam and board a coach for your drive to colonial El Fuerte where you will spend the evening in the charming town with a casual welcome dinner. The next morning you depart on the Chichahua al Pacifico Railway in clean, refurbished classic rail cars. You will travel through the heart of Copper Canyon in daylight. In the afternoon arrive in the center of the Canyon, Divisadero. This canyon is four times larger and 280 feet deeper than the Grand Canyon. The next morning you’ll ride to Urique Canyon and then on to Creel with an overnight here.
You will have opportunities to visit native craft shops, experience the taste of their foods and get acquainted with peoples you never knew existed. After, it’s on to El Paso, Texas with an overnight at the Radisson and a farewell dinner.
Fares for this fully escorted 10-day vacation begin at $2,495 from San Diego to El Paso using luxury ship, coaches and train. Departures are Oct. 29 and Nov. 7, 2010.
Would you like an escorted western National Parks trip? Get yourself to Chicago and then be part of a special tour using the company’s own private train they are calling the Great Western Limited. The train is a re-created classic 1950s era streamline train to convey guests from Chicago to and from the National Parks in great style and comfort. There will be a choice of comfortable Pullman sleeping car accommodations (all with in-room facilities), and an inviting lounge with large windows. The meals will be cooked to order and they say will be better than on any AMTRAK train. Onboard will be fresh flowers.
From Chicago you will travel west to Utah and over the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad Main Line through the Rockies with a daylight passage through Glenwood Canyon and the Front Range of the mountains.
At Provo, Utah guests will leave the train and begin a two-night stay at the Provo Marriott. Next day take the scenic Heber Creeper Railroad for a steam train ride through lovely Provo Canyon. After breakfast the next day depart for Jackson Hole and the Grand Teton National Park with rich majestic mountains, lakes and wildlife. You will stay in the 49er Inn for a two nights.
From Jackson Hole a coach will take you to visit Yellowstone, Mammoth Hot Springs, and Glacier National Park and after touring these areas board your private train that will take you through St. Paul, Milwaukee and return to Chicago. The remaining three departures for this tour are Aug. 10 and Sept. 5. Fares begin at $3,995 for a bedroom, with facilities on the train, your hotel stays, coach transportation and some meals. This is also fully escorted.
The wonderful tour company that offers these unusual tours is Uncommon Journeys Train Holidays and you can call them at 1-800-543-2846. They have been in business many years and are very reputable. Perhaps I’ll be on one of these with you.