The Cruise Director: combining cruise and rail holidays

Combining a cruise with a rail journey is an increasingly popular holiday choice in Alaska, Europe, parts of Asia and Africa, and now in Australia.

Great Southern Rail has a range of rail-sail combos. These connect cruises with rail trips through the Red Centre, across the Nullarbor between Sydney and Perth, and on The Overland between Melbourne and Adelaide.

Next February, Cruise & Maritime Voyages has a rail-sail holiday when you can travel on The Ghan from Adelaide to Darwin, then join Astor for the voyage to Fremantle via Bali, Port Hedland and Exmouth. Other itineraries from Great Southern Rail include the "Outback and the Orient", which combines a cruise from Sydney to Singapore, a flight to Darwin, then a rail trip on The Ghan to Adelaide. To find out more, phone 132 147.

Railway buffs will be familiar with the Rocky Mountaineer, which travels several routes through the Canadian Rockies and along the stunning coast.

You can step off the train and onto a Holland America Line or Norwegian Cruise Line ship for an Alaska Inside Passage sailing. Many packages are available at

Princess Cruises has packages that combine Alaska cruises with rail trips to Denali National Park, where you stay in wilderness lodges.

Most cruises offer shore excursions on the historic narrow-gauge White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad.

In southern Africa, a journey on the luxurious vintage Rovos Rail train can be combined with a cruise on the Chobe River on board the Zambezi Queen, plus visits to Kruger National Park and Victoria Falls; see for more info, dates and packages.

The Royal Scotsman is as well-known as its African cousin, although it takes only 36 passengers to the Rovos' 72.

Belmond offers an upmarket package combining a rail trip on the Royal Scotsman with a Scottish islands cruise on board the Hebridean Princess.

Find out more at

Perhaps the most famous train is the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, travelling between London and Venice, Budapest and Istanbul. Its carriages and restaurant cars have been restored to their original art deco glory and a European cruise on board a Silversea ship makes a perfect pairing; see and


LAUNCHED: 1996; received a multi-million-dollar refurbishment in 2011-2012.

PASSENGERS & CREW: 350 passengers (double occupancy), 160 crew.

ACCOMMODATION: There are 190 cabins altogether, 44 balconies, 100 outsides and 46 insides. Several inside and outside cabins are singles and four are wheelchair accessible.

REGULAR HAUNTS: Baltic Sea, Black Sea, Adriatic, Aegean, Mediterranean, Caribbean, South America, India, Burma, China and Japan.

PERFECT FOR: Well-educated couples and singles, 55-plus.

DINING: Meals are served in the main Swan Restaurant or the Veranda, an informal, buffet-style cafe. The food is top quality and includes traditional British dishes plus produce sourced in local ports.

PARTYING: Passengers generally gather in the Darwin, Orpheus or Livingstone lounges to enjoy the onboard speakers, for which Swan Hellenic is renowned. Other civilised drinking spots are the Veranda or the Shackleton Bar.

DOING: Selected cruises feature workshops in bridge, watercolour painting, singing or writing, led by expert tutors. There is an excellent library, small gym and pool, and a beauty salon on board.

DID YOU KNOW? Cruise fares include an extensive range of shore excursions, plus all gratuities on board and on tours. Late-night sailings or overnights in port extend the experience in cities such as Singapore, Yangon, Ho Chi Minh, Hong Kong and Mumbai.

THE DETAILS: The 15-day "Aegean and Adriatic Odyssey" cruise from Istanbul to Citavecchia, calls at Santorini and Naupli in Greece, sails through the Corinth Canal, then visits Albania, Croatia and Sicily. Departing May 11, 2015, fares start at $3625. Phone 1800 623 267, see



Book early and enjoy a 12-night Mediterranean cruise aboard Royal Caribbean International's Vision of the Seas that visits France, Italy, Greece and Turkey. Cruiseco's 14-night fly/cruise/stay holiday starts at $4135. It includes return airfares and two nights pre-cruise accommodation in Barcelona, and departs on May 16, 2015. Phone 1800 225 656, see


MSC CRUISES is offering last-minute festive specials on several Mediterranean winter cruises. For example, the 11-night round-trip cruise from Genoa, Italy on MSC Sinfonia, departing December 19 or 31, starts at $889. Phone 1300 028 502, see

BENTOURS, specialist in Scandinavian travel, has a one-off "Follow the Lights" cruise/stay tour of Norway and Finland, departing from Bergen on January 24, 2015. It includes a seven-day coastal voyage onboard a Hurtigruten ship, a reindeer safari and seven nights accommodation. Valid for sale until October 16; phone 1800 221 712, see

Little tip

Looking for a cruise on a small ship? A new Sydney-based company, Micro-Cruising, specialises in cruises on ships that accommodate a maximum of 100 passengers - its catchphrase is "small ships, great trips". You can find voyages on motor-yachts, sailing yachts, junks, barges, gulets and river ships, in Europe, Asia, South America, the Pacific - almost anywhere in the world you can name. Founder Nicola Caygill has many years of experience in boutique tourism and expedition travel; for more info, see