Special Vacations

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A wonderful vacation departs from Toronto on a 13-day train trip featuring spectacular sightseeing, including Banff National Park.

I call today’s article “special vacations” because the combinations of itinerary and method of travel are not too common. At the end of the column I’ll give you contact information for the tour wholesaler who has brilliantly put these fine vacation experiences together.

The first is titled “Autumn in the Ozark Mountains” and the eight-day trip departs Oct. 9, 2010. Your travel professional will assist you with air reservations from home to Chicago where the vacation begins. From there, you will be traveling by vintage 1940’s Streamliner train aboard the tour company’s private “Memphis Special” complete with special round-end observation car over the fabled Illinois Central Railroad. This will be a short overnight journey.

Then, spend a full day and overnight in Memphis, which is home of the Blues and will include a dinner at BB King’s, a music tour of Memphis by Backbeat Tours and accommodation at the superb Doubletree Hotel at Peabody Place. You’ll hear the “Memphis Sound” and have a chance to explore famed Beale Street and its many live music venues which will be only a minute’s walk from your hotel.

Depart the next day for Eureka Springs by coach. This is a magical village, nestled in the mountains and you begin a two-night stay at the historic Basin Park Hotel situated in the heart of the village. That night at dinner, is a chance to get to know your fellow travelers.

Day 4 is yours to enjoy the several amenities of the hotel and village. There is the formal lobby, Crystal Dining Room, Dr. Baker’s Lounge and Recovery Deck and, the New Moon Spa and Salon. Close by is the Great Passion Play, as it looks across the Arkansas Ozark Valley at the Crescent Hotel. Be sure to see this. In the afternoon you will board a steam train on the Eureka Springs & North Arkansas Railroad. What fun!

After breakfast the tour departs on the scenic drive to beautiful Hot Springs, Arkansas, with a stop at the Hot Springs Mountain Tower — 1,256 feet tall for the view overlooking 140 miles of the State including Hot Springs National Park. Your hotel this night is the Embassy Suites. You will enjoy local sightseeing, a cruise by amphibious “Duck” on Lake Hamilton and a visit to the famed hot springs.

Sightseeing also includes a tour through the Hot Springs National Park and a farewell dinner on the last evening in the Park in Hot Springs.

On Day 8, the “Texas Eagle” passes by the Gateway Arch before a short stop in St. Louis with connections onto Chicago for a midday arrival downtown at the Union Station. The price is $1,995 plus per person, double occupancy.

Here is another fine vacation which departs Oct. 12 for 13 days and is a train trip leaving Toronto, Canada and ends in beautiful Vancouver on the West Coast. For many decades, one of the must-do holidays on every travelers list has been the cross-Canada train journey. Many train enthusiasts believe the best train operating in North America today is the famed “Canadian.” This is a completely restored 1950’s era Streamliner that is very first class. You can choose “Silver” or “Blue Class” (your travel professional will explain the difference), a first class sleeping car with private rooms, all meals onboard the train and featured are the special dome cars and round-end Park Car with its Bullet Lounge and Mural Bar.

First is the passage from Toronto to Jasper National Park on the domeliner. Three comfortable and restful nights are spent on this fabled train crossing the Canadian Prairies. You detrain in Jasper for your stay at Amethyst Lodge. Then, you’ll enjoy three nights accommodation in Banff at the ultra-luxe Banff Park Lodge in superior rooms. On your way, you will travel on the Columbia Icefields Parkway. Sightseeing here will include Maligne Lake and Maligne Canyon. Photography here is a must. Thrilling scenery!

Included is a gondola ride up Sulphur Mountain followed by a visit to Banff Hot Springs. And, more sightseeing waits with additional visits to Yoho National Park which takes in Bridal Veil Falls, Moraine Lake and Lake Louise.

On Day 11, a special tour is included bound for Jasper over the Icefields Parkway stopping at Peyto Lake and Sunwapta Falls. After arrival in Jasper, you will re-board the “Canadian” for a most spectacular ride through the Rockies. Be sure to walk to the last car, the Park Car which provides comfortable chairs, a bar and an opportunity to make friends in the lounge.

The next morning, you arrive in Vancouver, are met and begin a brief city sightseeing tour of this beautiful city before checking into the Hyatt Regency Hotel with breakfast included. There will be ample time to walk the downtown section of the city and perhaps do some shopping. You might also choose to take a ferry to Victoria Island during the afternoon. This evening your tour leader will host a farewell dinner at the hotel. The next morning you depart for home. Fares start at $3,995 plus airfare and extras.

Here is one special vacation, a South Seas & Polynesia cruise on Holland America Line lasting 30-days, circling Hawaii and visiting French Polynesia. The deluxe MS Rotterdam departs San Diego Jan. 3 and March 4, 2011 returning there 30 days later. If you wish, you can even drive to San Diego and leave your car if you are one that no longer wishes to fly. Onboard, you will be pampered by superb service, excellent dining, fine entertainment, lectures, movies and much more while at sea. You will be in the tropics of the Pacific and the weather should be warm and nice. There will be stops in Hilo, Lahaina, Honolulu, and Kauai in Hawaii. Numerous sightseeing tours will be available in each location and these may be purchased onboard the ship. Then, sail south to Fanning Island in Kirabati then south crossing the equator to reach Raiatea in French Polynesia. After this magical island it’s on to famed Bora-Bora, Moorea, Papeete, Tahiti, Rangiora, in the Cook Island,s Nuku Hiva and return to San Diego.

What a cruise! This will spoil you for any other vacation, believe me.

Be sure to bring a few books you haven’t had time to read and of course, there will be TV in your room with programming supplied by satellite and onboard videotape. Holland America Line will offer cooking classes, wine tasting and other educational courses while cruising the beautiful blue Pacific Ocean. And, if budget permits, this is the perfect itinerary to enjoy a room with your own private balcony. Private space outside on your veranda to relax away from the other guests onboard is special at times. Fares begin at $3,895 for an inside cabin. Verandah staterooms begin at $7,199.

Still another fine holiday departs Chicago Nov. 4, Dec. 9, 2010 and April 8, 2011. It is 12 days and consists of train travel in the tour company’s private train cars from Chicago to Memphis and then to New Orleans. Again, the train equipment includes the private vintage Streamliner Club Car serving beverages and snacks while enjoying the scenery of America.

Upon arriving in Memphis you will be served breakfast at the famous Arcade Restaurant and then a city tour. Your overnight will be spent at the Doubletree Hotel at Peabody Place. Dinner this night is at the Rendezvous Barbeque Restaurant.

The next morning board the “City of New Orleans” for the ride to New Orleans. Here you stay at the Hilton Riverwalk just a few blocks away from the French Quarter. The next morning is a tour of this interesting city and in the afternoon you will board Norwegian Cruise Lines “Norwegian Spirit” to enjoy a 7-night cruise to Mexico’s Costa Maya, Santa Thomas de Castilla, Guatemala, Belize City in Belize, Cozumel, Mexico and return to New Orleans. Onboard is free style dining and other pleasures offered on a modern cruise ship. Shore tours are offered which you can purchase onboard ship.

Upon arrival in New Orleans you will be transferred to the rail station for the return train trip to Chicago on Day 12. Again, your travel professional can book your air or train travel into and out of Chicago. Fares begin at $1,995 plus for double occupancy. Pullman accommodations on the trains are $495 extra.

Now, here is your booking information. Use your travel professional or call direct to Uncommon Journeys & Train Holidays at 1-800-543-2846, www.uncommonjourneys.com. This tour operator has been in business for many years and specialize in very interesting vacations.

Pack me in your suitcase and take me with you, please!

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