Heritage Rail Travel

The Ins and Outs!

Since November 2016, Cruise Express has successfully run heritage rail journeys throughout the eastern seaboard of Australia. The demand for these trips has increased as passengers experience not only the destination but the joy of travel itself!

Why do our clients love heritage trains journeys?

There is a nostalgic romanticism about heritage trains, a step back in time to a bygone era like no other. Many of our passengers remember trains like the ones Cruise Express charter and in many cases have actually travelled on them in the past. Another thing we hear time and time again is that there is a wonderful camaraderie onboard and people make lasting friendships on these journeys.

A journey on a heritage train is a step back to a time of glamour, buffets and restaurant cars, first-class lounges, railway restaurants as well as ‘fastests’ and ‘firsts’ that helped these national treasures be sealed in our psyche.  

Who runs the show? 

The organisations that manage the preservation, restoration and conservation of these heritage trains are mostly self-funded and run by a small but dedicated group of volunteers. The organisations heavily rely on revenue from their own tours, private donations and funding from charters.

Many of the volunteers are current or ex-railway workers and possess special skills such as boilermakers, drivers, engineers, carpenters/train outfitters and those with knowledge of rail safety operations. The volunteers are usually entirely unpaid for their time.

Some carriages date back to the middle of last century if not even older, and are often in much the same condition as when they left service decades ago, showing an amount of wear and tear as part of their long history. Many spare parts are no longer manufactured, so when something goes wrong, this is where the dedicated volunteer’s creative abilities come into play.

While 21st-century technology is evolving at a rapid pace, raising awareness and educating the public on the importance of preserving our history is paramount. Additionally, passing these skill sets on to younger generations is critical for the survival of the heritage train industry, and it can only be done with continued interest and funding.

What to expect

Heritage Rail Journeys are often confused to be part of current Government Railway operations or public transport. In fact, they are privately owned and operated vintage trains, meaning discounts and benefits often offered on public transport simply don’t apply.

Another misconception is that heritage trains are able to run and stop almost wherever – which is far from the case. Each train will have carefully allocated stops working around all other trains on the network including both passengers, freight and trackwork.

One charming aspect many don’t expect is that most rail motors and some carriages are from an era before air-conditioning became commonplace. This means the windows can open, providing a unique connection between the traveller and their surroundings.

For those that have mobility issues, it is important to keep in mind that heritage trains were designed and built long before mobility concerns were factored. Doorways and corridors are not wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs or walking frames. Onboard lavatories and bathrooms are also small.

On a final note, please be super nice to all of the men and women working aboard your heritage rail journey. The volunteers do more work behind the scenes than you can possibly imagine, giving up their own time, and often their own money.

The trains truly are rare survivors of a long lost era, and we are lucky to have them.

To find out more about several of our magnificent heritage rail journeys, please visit our rail and sail page or call our Travel Specialists on 1300 766 537.

We look forward to welcoming you onboard!

 

Smooth Sailing

Our Tips to Consider Before Departure Day

The first day of your holiday sets the foundation for your voyage and can be the make or break for the rest of your time spent on board. Although each cruise line and ship vary with their offerings, over the years we have learnt a few general tricks and tips that will help ensure you set off into the sunset oh so smoothly!

Book Shore Excursions Online – You may miss out if you don’t look into these prior to your cruise, especially the popular tours. Don’t worry, there may be more released for onboard bookings but be warned, this will most likely involve long queues that CAN be avoided with a bit of planning.

Online Cruise Check-in – Most cruise lines will now request you complete this to release final traveling documentation. It helps to ensure the line keeps moving on embarkation day, so a much better experience for everyone involved. Information required will include ID and an emergency contact.

Drinks Package – These can be great value but do your sums to ensure you are going to get maximum value out of this for adults and/or children. Keep in mind that a service charge (approx 15%) is often applied to drinks on board and not all cruises offer this, particularly for the shorter length cruises. Many ships also now allow passengers to bring a limited quantity of wine and soft drinks, your travel specialist will be able to give you more details if this is applicable.

Adaptors – Many ships will have international, primarily US power sockets, often at a lower voltage, so please look into what you may require for an adaptor. Power boards and most electrical appliances including hair straighteners are banned, so don’t bring them. Many of the newer ships have USB points, making bringing power cords is unnecessary. Research into your ship is key here.

Specialty Dining – Many cruise lines offer discounted package deals to make reservations at one of their fine dining ‘specialty’ restaurants. It’s a good idea to purchase these packages and make your booking prior to boarding, although you can wait until you board if you are more flexible on which days and times you’d like to take up the offer.

Tip: You are more likely to get a reservation in one of the specialty restaurants on the first night. Occasionally there is even surprise a perk, gift or discount for doing so!

Register a Credit Card for Onboard Spending – Streamline your spending, in particular seamlessly settling your account upon departure. Throughout your cruise you will be able to monitor your onboard spending, often via in-room technology on your TV. On departure day, by having set up your credit-card payment, you can avoid often long queues of passengers looking to pay with cash to settle their accounts.

Pack a Carry-on Bag – Depending what time you check-in, you may require things such as a swimsuit and sunscreen, medication, books or ipads throughout the day. Access to your room is usually late afternoon or early evening, sometimes after dinner so be prepared.

Pack Appropriately – Research your ship, destination and activities. For example, if you are hunting the Northern Lights, pack warm clothes as you’ll be more than likely standing on deck for a long time.

There are often theme nights or formal nights on board, and activities such as ice skating require thick socks, and rock climbing walls need tennis type shoes.

Where possible, bring clothes that don’t require ironing. Remember also – at some point, you will need to move your own luggage – so pack light!

If you have any questions about preparing for your trip please call one of our Cruise Travel Specialists on 1300 766 537 or visit our website.

 

Cruise, Camera, Action!

Movie set locations around the world are almost always spectacularly interesting to know, especially when you visit them as the memories and familiarity floods in from some of your favourite movies and TV shows.

There are literally tens of thousands to choose from, so we’ve highlighted a few of our favourites in countries, cities and towns where we often journey to, by sea, river, road and rail.  But there are countless more in almost countless locations around the world.

We hope you enjoy reading these as much as we did putting them together….and remember your next destination with Cruise Express has undoubtedly been a film location – and probably will be again, who knows, maybe even while you are there!

SOUTH AFRICA

  • Blood Diamond
  • Monty Python’s: The Meaning of Life
  • Mandela Long Walk to Freedom
  • Invictus
  • The Power of One
  • Zulu Dawn
  • The Gods Must be Crazy (I, II, III)
  • District 9

SIEM REAP, CAMBODIA

  • The Killing Fields
  • Lara Croft: TombRaider 
  • City of Ghosts
  • Wish You Were Here
  • Two Brothers
  • Poppy Goes to Hollywood

HALONG BAY, VIETNAM

  • Pan
  • Kong: Skull Island
  • Bond: Tomorrow Never Dies
  • Indochine

ALASKA

  • The Hunt for Red October
  • The Bourne Legacy
  • The Proposal
  • Pacific Rim
  • Brother Bear I, II
  • The Tony Blair Witch Project
  • Northern Exposure

 

SEATTLE

  • An Officer and a Gentleman
  • Fifty Shades of Grey
  • 10 Things I Hate About You
  • Twin Peaks
  • The Fabulous Baker Boys
  • Grey’s Anatomy
  • Frasier
  • Homeland
  • Sleepless in Seattle

EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND

  • Chariots of Fire
  • The DaVinci Code
  • Outlander
  • Trainspotting & T2
  • Churchill
  • The Body Snatchers
  • Castles in the Sky
  • Skyfall
  • Braveheart

OSLO, NORWAY

  • The Empire Strikes Back
  • Die Another Day
  • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
  • Superman II
  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
  • Spies Like Us
  • Captain America: Civil War

 

So which is your favourite movie destination?

Click here to find out more about our amazing holiday packages to all of the above destinations and more or call 1300 766 537 and speak with one of our experienced Travel Specialists.

Australia’s Last Great Wilderness

Why The Kimberley?

With its grand yet unforgiving landscape, The Kimberley is often referred to as Australia’s last great wilderness frontiers, boasting some of the largest intact natural areas left on the planet.

Whether you travel by land, sea or air, there is no doubt every visitor will be impressed with the abundance of wild coastlines and seas, gorges, volcanic remnants, mangroves, rainforests and islands, deserts and sandstone hills.

With an area encompassing over 427,000 km2, The Kimberley is three times the size of England!

The Beauty of Exploring by Ship

Formed billions of years ago, the 2,000km Kimberley coastline is famous for its awe-inspiring rugged beauty, and stunning diversity. As you relax in luxury onboard Ponant’s Le Lapérouse you will discover first-hand, the abundance of wilderness, secluded beaches, spectacular waterfalls and indigenous rock art and history.

Onboard you will also enjoy Ponant’s renowned gastronomy, complimentary beverages and shore adventures including the Ord River, El Questro, or why not try a Bungle Bungle scenic flight.

Kimberley

 Flora & Fauna

Annually, over 35,000 humpback whales visit The Kimberley coastline, where they give birth to and nurture their calves before heading back to the summer feeding grounds in Antarctica.

The region is one of the last remaining healthy refuges for many threatened and endangered marine species, including six of the seven species of marine turtles, dugong, and countless varieties of sharks, dolphins and fish.

The coastal areas of The Kimberley also offers sanctuary for many species of native mammals and marsupials, reptiles, amphibians, insects and other invertebrates, some that no longer exist in other parts of Australia. It is also home to many species of birds, rare plants, freshwater crocodiles and fish including catfish and barramundi.

Unfortunately, The Kimberley faces a number of serious environmental issues, including climate change, large wildfires, weeds, feral animals and cattle grazing degradation.

Melting Pot of Culture

For hundreds of years, the “Macassans”, people of the Indonesian Archipelago, interacted with Indigenous Australians. Although the British landed on The Kimberley shores in 1688, Portuguese, Dutch and the French also continued to visit throughout the 17th and 18th centuries.

While cattle grazing on the grasslands was popular in the mid-19th century, the gold rush of 1886 brought many Europeans and Chinese to the area, particularly Halls Creek. Also around this time, pearl fishing became a major industry, with Japanese and Malay divers joining the multiculturalism that became typical of Broome.

Come Along!

With so much to immerse yourself in, a trip to the Kimberley by ship has to be one of the greatest experiences of a lifetime.

For more details on our Ponant Kimberley sailings for 2020 click here. Alternatively, call 1300 766 537 to speak with one of our Travel Specialists as we would be delighted to help.

 

Legendary Rail Nostalgia

The California Zephyr – Heritage Rail Journey of a Bygone Era

zephyrvˈzɛfə/noun
  1. a soft gentle breeze
  2. Zephyrus, the Greek god of the west wind

On 19 March, 1949, outside the Embarcadero in San Francisco, as Soprano Evelyn Corvello sang the Star Spangled Banner, San Francisco Mayor Leland Cutler gave a welcome address and actress Eleanor Parker, stepped up to Western Pacific locomotive 803, smashing a bottle of champagne to launch of the “California Zephyr”. Few attending realised they were witnessing a legend in passenger train history being born. 

California Zephyr

Departing on its inaugural run the following day, every woman on the train was given silver and orange orchids especially flown in from Hilo, Hawaii for the occasion. Soon dubbed “the most talked about train in America” with its glass-domed carriages, the California Zephyr (also known as the Silver Lady) operated along some of the most spectacular scenic routes in the USA.

Run by the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad (CB&Q) from Chicago to Denver, Colorado, the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad (D&RGW) between Denver and Salt Lake City, Utah, and the Western Pacific Railroad from Salt Lake City to Oakland, California.

The trains were carefully scheduled to enjoy the breathtaking grandeur of the Feather River and Rocky mountains during the day, while the Nevada deserts and plains states were crossed at night.

The trains were carefully scheduled so passengers could enjoy the breathtaking grandeur of scenery including the Feather River and Rocky mountains during the day, while the Nevada deserts and plains states were crossed at night.

As air travel had air-hostesses, so to did the Zephyr. Affectionately known as “Zephyrettes”, they debuted on the Denver Zephyr in 1936. They were trained to perform a wide variety of roles, including welcoming passengers, making announcements, sending telegrams, making dinner reservations, babysitting, and generally serving as a liaison between the train’s passengers and its crew.

Like many railways, by the mid to late 1960s The California Zephyr was experiencing rapidly falling numbers. Airlines and bus routes had begun to make serious cuts to rail travel by offering faster or cheaper transportation.

The last westbound California Zephyr to the west coast left Chicago on March 22, 1970, and arrived in Oakland two days later. The California Zephyr had operated for 21 years and 2 days.

Although the original train ceased operation in 1970, it continued to operate as a passenger service, as the Rio Grande Zephyr, between Salt Lake City and Denver using the original equipment until 1983. Since 1983 the California Zephyr is used by Amtrak service, which operates daily and is a hybrid of the original route.

For more information on how you can embark on this historic rail experience, please call one of our Travel Specialists today on 1300 766 537 or click here!