Incredible Train Journeys Every Cruiser Should Consider. And Why!

Too Many Cruisers Are Missing Out On These Incredible Journeys!

Too Many Cruisers Are Missing Out On These Incredible Journeys. I was shocked by how many people were totally confused as to why Royal Caribbean would launch an immersive train-based dining venue called “Royal Railway – Utopia Station” on board Utopia of the Seas. Where diners sit in rail carriages and screens at the windows take them on imagined train journeys through the Wild West and Asia.

Anyone close to cruising knows that cruise lines are incredibly involved with trains and train travel. Some even own and operate them. Including some of the most famous and iconic ones, as you will hear. That’s why they really want us to do three things: book train travel before cruises, during cruises as excursions, and after the cruise.

Let me start, based on my experience, with the best pre- and post-cruise train trips the cruise lines offer. Many of which I have done and really added to my cruise experience.

Incredible Journeys – Before And After Trips

I’ll start in Alaska as the lines are heavily linked to trains here.

Glacier Discovery Route

First, one of the most amazing experiences I’ve had is taking the train from Anchorage to join a Princess cruise sailing out of Whittier. It’s called the Glacier Discovery Route. It takes about two and a half hours and pulls up right outside where the ship docks in Whittier. They whisked my luggage away at check in and the next time I saw it was in my cabin.

It’s a beautiful experience, weaving its way through the Alaskan landscape. Giving an incredible insight into the country and its beauty as it weaves its way to the ship. It’s also very convenient. Because Anchorage is 60 miles from Whittier, it’s hard to find taxi or car transfers and it’s way more exciting and scenic than a coach.

McKinley Explorer

Next, you may be surprised to hear that Holland America and Princess Cruises operate the largest fleet of dome railway cars in Alaska. Including what’s known as the McKinley Explorer.

They use these trains as part of their land and cruise packages to transport cruise passengers from Whittier and Anchorage to the wildlife lodges they own in Denali National Park and Fairbanks.

Their cruisers travel on beautiful glass-domed trains through the dramatic Alaskan landscapes with breakfast, lunch, and cocktails available. The train trip takes between 9 and 10 hours with guides giving commentary explaining the sights, wildlife, and stories of the area.

Too Many Cruisers Are Missing Out On These Incredible Journeys!

Rocky Mountaineer

Thirdly, although the lines don’t own it, many offer packages on one of the most iconic train rides in the world to cruisers joining or leaving Alaska cruises in Vancouver Canada. The Rocky Mountaineer. This is also one of the most scenic and memorable trains I have taken.

The Rocky Mountaineer, as the name suggests, travels through the Rocky Mountains on what feels like an impossible to have built railway line due to the height and rugged terrain.

The most popular route, and the one that I did, runs between Banff and Vancouver called the “First Passage to The West”. The trip is two days on the train and one overnight off the train in Kamloops.

The train has two classes. Silver Leaf, one level glass-domed carriages where meals are served at the seat, and Gold Leaf, which I did, that has seating upstairs under a glass dome (so better for sightseeing) and a restaurant for meals on the lower level along with an open-air viewing section too. The food served was fantastic.

I recommend, if doing an Alaskan cruise, you consider adding one or more of these trips to it. The cruise shows you a narrow slice of Alaska, and you should explore deeper inland to see the scenery but also the wildlife. And that’s why the cruise lines really want you to do a rail trip, lodge stay and a cruise to truly see it.

But what about other parts of the world? Are cruise and train pre- and post-trips as intertwined?

Too Many Cruisers Are Missing Out On These Incredible Journeys!

Rovos Rail

In South Africa there is another memorable trip I have experienced, and that is Rovos Rail. Several cruise lines operating out of Cape Town during the season offer packages with them.

Rovos Rail is a private rail company based in Pretoria. Set up in 1989 by Rohan Vos, and still family owned, he converted old Rhodesia Railways Pullman carriages into lounges, restaurant cars, and beautiful sleeping compartments with ensuite facilities.

The classic route is the one between Pretoria and Cape Town, but they also go to Victoria Falls and even up into Tanzania. It really is a magnificent experience.

Too Many Cruisers Are Missing Out On These Incredible Journeys!

Indian Pacific Train

In Australia it is possible to link a cruise to two iconic and famous Australian trains, and I have done both.

The Indian Pacific Train is the most linked as it travels between Perth, which is close to the cruise port of Fremantle, and Sydney. On their website they list a wide range of cruise and rail combinations with multiple cruise lines including P&O, Cunard, Ponant and more.

It is considered one of the great rail journeys of the world and takes 4 days and 3 nights. it even travels along the world’s longest straight stretch of track of 478 Kilometres/ 297 miles across the Nullarbor Plain.

I went from Sydney and Perth, with off-train excursions in the mining town Broken Hill, Adelaide where I visited the market and had a unique dinner. The ghost town in Cook, and a dinner at the station in Rawlinna, which serves the sprawling ranches around it.

The train has Gold and Platinum classes. In Platinum, I had a large double cabin with en-suite bathroom and a dedicated dining car and lounge. It shows Australia beyond the ports, and an appreciation of the scale of the country.

Too Many Cruisers Are Missing Out On These Incredible Journeys!

Ghan Train

For cruisers doing The Kimberley expedition cruises, which start or end in Darwin, the Ghan is the train linked to those.

The Ghan also takes 3 nights and 4 days and travels 2,917 Kilometres / 1,851 miles between Darwin and Adelaide. Through the great Outback, and so-called Red Centre. I did this train before joining Queen Mary 2 in Sydney.

There were off-train excursions in Katherine and the famous Alice Springs to visit things like the home of the Flying Doctors.

In Europe and UK there are some links to cruising and trains. While not as significant as in the countries I’ve spoken about so far, there are some fascinating options.

Too Many Cruisers Are Missing Out On These Incredible Journeys!


Some river cruise lines use the Eurostar to whisk cruisers to and from the UK under the English Channel to Paris. To join river cruises close to the Eiffel Tower sailing down the River Seine, which I have done with CroisiEurope.

Others use the Eurostar to take cruisers to Amsterdam. To sail the Rhine or even all the way down the Danube to Budapest.

Too Many Cruisers Are Missing Out On These Incredible Journeys!

Northern Belle

In the UK, there are many day trips that cruise lines and cruise travel agencies book guests on and even charter carriages on. For example, I recently went on the Northern Belle on a day trip out of London Victoria down to Bournemouth. Where most of the train was charted by Imagine Cruising, a major cruising travel agency.

The Northern Belle is rated by Conde Nast Traveller as Britain’s most luxurious train. It has refurbished Pullman carriages, with lavish meals and on-board entertainers.

Too Many Cruisers Are Missing Out On These Incredible Journeys!

Bellmont British Pullman

A similar and equally famous train is the Belmont British Pullman which I have also been on and does a similar thing.

These are both more like excursions which brings me to the surprisingly large number of train excursions that cruise lines offer passengers in ports around the world. There are four that you should look out for and consider.

Incredible Journeys – Train-Based Excursions

The first is in Skagway Alaska. The White Pass & Yukon Train which is owned by Carnival Corporation and the single most popular attraction for cruise passengers across the state.

It started construction in 1898 when the Klondike Gold Rush began with the aim of making it easier to get to the goldfields over the dangerous and treacherous White Pass. And then to shift the materials and ore back.  The train stopped operating in 1982 until it was revived as a heritage railway years later.

The trains now run right to the side of the ships and take cruisers on a 20-kilometre/ 13-mile each way trip. Winding its way up the enormous mountain, passing old bridges and through tunnels while the guide explains the gold rush, history of the train and the sights.

I love this train and go on every time I go to Skagway. It never tires.

Too Many Cruisers Are Missing Out On These Incredible Journeys!

Flam Railway

An equally impressive mountain train I love to do on a Norwegian fjords cruise, is the Flam Railway.

Like the White Pass & Yukon train, this goes high up into the mountains. It’s also a relatively short train trip of 20 kilometres/ 13-miles each way between Flam and Myrdal. And it basically weaves up the steep mountain with 21 hairpin bends, 20 tunnels and stunning views.

The train makes a stop at the incredible Kjosfossen waterfall where an actress dressed as a legendary Huldra (a seductive forest creature in Scandinavian folklore) dances and sings in front of the waterfall.

End of the World Train

On a different continent is another incredible train excursion with a lot of history. This is in Ushuaia Argentina, where over 90% of all Antarctica cruises depart from and a key stop on many South American cruises.

It’s known as the End of the World Train, and it goes from Ushuaia through the Tierra del Fuego National Park. This is a rail line with an extremely narrow gauge and very narrow carriages that follows the route of a convict train that ran from 1910 to 1947 which took them out daily to collect wood.

It has an incredible history, and as I chugged along as well as stunning scenery with waterfalls, forest, and rivers, I saw the famous wild horses. It also stops part way at a station with local crafts on sale.

Too Many Cruisers Are Missing Out On These Incredible Journeys!

St. Kitts Scenic Train

Another perhaps more accessible for most cruisers train excursion is in the Caribbean, which is the St. Kitts Scenic Train.

This 3-hour train ride weaves its way for 30 miles / 48 kilometres around St. Kitts in double decker carriages. It was built in the 1910s to transport sugar cane from the island’s sugar plantations to the sugar factory in the capital city of Basseterre. It’s a fun and scenic experience.

Too Many Cruisers Are Missing Out On These Incredible Journeys!

So, as you see! Too many cruisers really are missing out on these Incredible Journeys!




Gary Bembridge

I grew up in Zimbabwe, but I have been based in London since 1987. My travel life spans more than three decades and that includes more than 95 cruises. In 2005, I launched Tips for Travellers to make it easy and fun for people to discover, plan and enjoy incredible cruise vacations. And the rest, as they say, is history. I have the largest cruise vlogger channel currently on YouTube, with more than 3 million video views per month.

You may also like...

Leave a Reply