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5 great vacations that combine a cruise and a train trip

Aug. 20, 2021
8 min read
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Some people can think of nothing better than spending every moment of their vacation time on a cruise. Others dream only of train trips.

And then there are some who love both modes of travel -- in some cases so much so that they have a tough time deciding which way they want to go when it's time for a getaway.

If you feel you're squarely in the latter category, we have some good news: You don't have to choose between the two types of trips. You can arrange vacations that combine the best of cruising with the best of train travel, too.

Termed cruise-and-rail trips, many aren't even official pairings. That is, you'll have to book the cruise portion of the trip and the train portion separately, as no company is selling them together as a package. But don't worry about that too much. You'll be able to find a travel agent to do the heavy lifting in working out the logistics for you.

The more significant issue you'll face is in deciding on which stunning part of the world with train corridors and cruise ship-plied oceans you should focus for a cruise-and-rail adventure.

It is in this area that we can help. Here, our picks for five of the most spectacular cruise-and-rail combination trips.

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An Alaska cruise with the Rocky Mountaineer

(Photo courtesy of Rocky Mountaineer/Facebook)

One of the great hubs for Alaska cruises, the port of Vancouver, British Columbia, also is the gateway for one of the most scenic train experiences in North America: a two-day ride through the Canadian Rockies on the Rocky Mountaineer. As a result, travelers can easily combine the two experiences into an extended cruise-rail vacation.

Fans of trains and ships can board the Rocky Mountaineer in Banff or Jasper, Alberta, for the two-day journey through the mountains to the Rocky Mountaineer Train Station in Vancouver. From there, it's just a seven-minute cab ride to the Canada Place Cruise Ship Terminal, where vessels operated by Princess Cruises, Holland America and several other lines depart on seven-night trips to Alaska.

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Expect to see soaring mountains, forests and wildlife -- and learn a little about Gold Rush-era history -- during both pieces of the trip. The Alaska cruise portion also will include stops in small port towns such as Juneau, Skagway and Ketchikan.

Read more: The 6 coolest things to do on an Alaska cruise

An Alaska cruise with the White Pass & Yukon Route Railway

The White Pass & Yukon Route Railway travels through the mountains around Skagway, Alaska. (Photo courtesy of Travel Alaska)

Are you looking for a shorter train experience to tie into an Alaska cruise? Consider signing up for a daytrip on the White Pass & Yukon Route Railway in Skagway as your shore excursion when visiting the small Alaska port town on a cruise.

A ride into the mountains on this narrow-gauge railroad is the "tour that everybody does" when visiting the Gold Rush town turned tourist hub, and for a good reason. It offers an easy way to get deep into the great Alaskan outdoors.

Personally, I’m a fan of more active excursions in Skagway. But for someone who isn’t going to hike, bike, horseback ride or raft their way through the wilderness around the town (there are tours for all of those things, too), a ride on the White Pass & Yukon Railway is one of the best ways to get a glimpse of the area’s classic Alaskan scenery.

From the comfort of a vintage rail car, you’ll get stunning views of mountains, gorges, glacial rivers and waterfalls as you climb nearly 3,000 feet to the summit of White Pass — the headwaters of the mighty Yukon River. Designated an International Historic Civil Engineering Landmark, the 20-mile route is a marvel in its own right, with improbably steep grades at times and segments that pass over soaring wooden trestles and around tight, cliff-hanging curves.

A Mediterranean cruise with the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express

(Photo courtesy of Belmond Venice Simplon-Orient-Express)

You'll want to pack a copy of Agatha Christie's "Murder on the Orient Express" for this combination trip.

This trip pairs an overnight ride from Paris to Venice on the train that Christie made famous: the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, with a Mediterranean cruise out of Venice (or a dock nearby Venice; with changing docking rules in Venice, some cruise vessels have started sailing out of other Northern Italian ports such as Ravenna).

Read more: Big cruise ships may say goodbye to the classic Venice sail-away

Now owned by U.K. luxury hospitality company Belmond, the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express features restored art deco carriages. You can view the heart of Europe as the train travels southward from Paris through the Alps to Italy in advance of your cruise. Or save the train portion of your trip for the end of your vacation and ride the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express in reverse. You also can extend the trip with an add-on train ride between Paris and London.

From Venice, the cruise portion of the trip can take you to Adriatic ports such as Dubrovnik, Croatia, or to the Greek Islands or western Italy, France and Spain, depending on which vessel you pick. Dozens of ships sail out of the region around Venice each year.

Read more: Orient-Express debuts new, dream-worthy European routes

A Norway cruise with the Bergen Railway

The Bergen Railway, known as the Bergensbanen to the locals, will take you across the mountainous "Roof of Norway" from Oslo to Bergen, where you can catch a cruise along the scenic Norwegian coast with such lines as Hurtigruten or Viking.

Expect stunning mountain scenery on both pieces of the trip, with the seven-hour railway portion of the adventure taking you across the snowy Hardangervidda mountain plateau. Stretching a tad over 300 miles, the Bergen Railway route is the highest in all of Northern Europe and will bring you stunning views of mountains, forests, fjords, waterfalls and rivers. A marvel of engineering, it'll take you through 180 tunnels and make stops at some of the highest train depots in Europe.

From Bergen, cruise vessels can deliver you up the Norwegian coast to such fairy-tale lands as Alesund and the mountainous and glacier-carved Lofoten archipelago.

Read more: 9 mistakes travelers make on their first train trips

An Asia cruise with the Eastern & Oriental Express

Like Europe's Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, the Southeast Asia-focused Eastern & Oriental Express is owned by U.K.-based hospitality company Belmond, and it will take you on a multiday rail journey through the region that can be paired with an Asia cruise for an epic cruise-rail adventure.

There are several routes of the scenic luxury train from which you can choose, but perhaps the most logical option is to start with a three-night trip from Bangkok to Singapore. From there, you can hop on one of several dozen cruise vessels that call the city-state home at various times during the year.

Onboard the Eastern & Oriental Express, which features elegant green and gold carriages, you'll find magnificent interiors adorned with cherrywood paneling, Thai silks and Malaysian embroidery. The train's routings will take you past lush jungle, paddy fields, ancient temples and quaint villages. Cruises departing from Singapore often visit coastal destinations in Thailand and Vietnam or venture farther afield to Indonesia or even as far as Australia.

Planning a cruise? Start with these stories:

Featured image by (Photo courtesy of Rocky Mountaineer/Facebook)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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TPG featured card

Best premium travel card for value
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

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1 - 10X points
10xEarn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
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1xEarn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases

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Annual Fee

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Recommended Credit

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Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

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If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

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  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more
Best premium travel card for value
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10xEarn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
5xEarn 5x total points on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
3xEarn 3x points on other travel and dining.
1xEarn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

    80,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $550
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more