Discover popular cruise and rail itinerary combinations for your next holiday…


Experiential cruise holidays are quickly rising in popularity and now it’s not uncommon to find a cruise holiday package that includes excursions, tours and other land based activities. However, perhaps the quickest to grow in popularity are rail and cruise holidays.

The main appeal of a cruise and rail holiday, is the chance to explore a destination in two very different ways. Arriving by ship into a cruise port can showcase the coastal scenery or links to some of the world’s most incredible cities whilst a train journey allows those on board to explore the stretches of landscape that connect these cities.

There are famous railways all around the world, known for their opportunity to provide visitors with a way to see some of the best natural wonders that a destination has to offer. In this blog, we’ll be looking at some of the most popular railways which you can pair with a cruise holiday.


Amtrak Coast Starlight
Amtrak Coast Starlight

Coast Starlight – Amtrak

Travelling daily between Los Angeles and Seattle, the Coast Starlight passes through Santa Barbara, the San Francisco Bay area, Sacramento and Portland to link some of the greatest cities along the West Coast. With scenery that ranges from the intrepid, snow-covered peaks of the Cascade mountain range to the lush forests and valleys; many would suggest that the beauty of the landscape along the Coast Starlight route is unsurpassed. The legendary train features Superliner Sleeping and Dining Car accommodations as well as a Sightseer lounge which is exactly where you want to be to appreciate all the incredible views available enroute. Coach passengers will enjoy large, comfy seats with plenty of legroom along with an Express meal service. If you’d like to see some of America’s most mesmerising cities then the Coast Starlight presents the ultimate opportunity to do this. You’ll be able to visit Seattle, the birthplace of Starbucks and perhaps enjoy a couple of extra nights courtesy of one of our Smart Packages and take a trip outside of the city to the Olympic National Park or Tiger Mountain State Forest. On the opposite end of the spectrum, you’ve got Los Angeles with its beautiful beaches, links to the Anaheim Disneyland Park, the Hollywood Walk of Fame and Rodeo Drive where designer boutique are abound.

Pair with: A Hawaii or Alaska cruise


Empire Builder Railway

Empire Builder – Amtrak

Follow in the footsteps of early pioneers on this route which travels daily between Chicago and the Pacific Northwest, taking in major portions of the Lewis and Clark trail which follows the historic 1804 to 1806 expedition. The route features majestic views of the Mississippi and you’ll also witness the glowing night skyline of Minneapolis and St Paul. The following day of your journey you’ll cross the North Dakota plains and travel over the Gassman Coulee Trestle. You’ll pass through Montana, also known as Big Sky Country due to its rugged yet breathtaking skyline which is uninterrupted by man-made structures. You’ll also pass by Glacier National Park nestled in the Rocky Mountains and featuring more than 700 miles of walking trails. After stopping in Spokane, you can carry on to Seattle or venture down the Colombia River Gorge toward Portland for fantastic views of Mount Hood – a stratovolcano in Oregon, and Beacon Rock with its picturesque lakeside location.

Pair with: An Alaska cruise

Beale Street in Memphis

Memphis to New Orleans

This train journey begins in Chicago before making the 900 mile journey all the way to New Orleans. However here at Cruise Nation, many of our Caribbean cruise and stay packages features stays in Memphis, New Orleans or both which enables us to package in the Amtrak train journey between the two musical cities. The route takes you through the heart of America’s musical heritage from Beale Street in Memphis with its history of Blues to New Orleans, the birthplace of Jazz. If you’re a fan of famous musicians such as Louis Armstrong, Muddy Waters and Elvis Presley then this is a simply unmissable experience.

The Memphis to New Orleans route features spacious Superliner accomodation with showering facilities to make your trip even more comfortable and enjoyable. You can choose from a wide Reserved Coach Seat or make a reservation for Sleeper Service accommodation. In the daylight hours of your journey, be sure to find a seat in the Sightseer Lounge and enjoy  watching the incredible scenery roll past.

The Memphis to New Orleans Amtrak experience features a Cross Country Cafe which has regionally inspired cuisine from the city of New Orleans. The bi-level carriage combines high technology for food and beverage preparation and an improved dining ambience. Full dining car breakfast is available on the Southbound 59 train whilst express continental service is offered on the Northbound train 58.

Pair with: A Caribbean cruise


Flam Rail experience
Flam Railway

Flam Railway

If you have a certain number of days you need to fit your holiday into, but the idea of travelling by rail during this time still interests you, then consider a cruise through the Norwegian Fjords which features the port of Flam on the itinerary. The railway station in Flam is a short 2 minute walk from the cruise port and the train departs every couple of hours. The Flamsbana railway was voted by National Geographic Traveller as one of the top 10 railways in Europe and it’s easy to see why.  With sprawling green valleys, winding rivers and steep mountains – it’s one of the most picturesque train journeys and sure to delight travellers of all ages.

A return ticket for a trip from Flam to Myrdal and back to Flam is approximately £42pp.


Rocky Mountaineer

Perhaps the most famous railway in the world, the Rocky Mountaineer features highly on many travel wishlists. Forget packing your walking gear because this rail journey enables you to scale the sides of mountains and weave through valleys without the need for any physical exertion! The luxurious carriages have spacious, reclining seats that you’ll want to melt into and the impeccable hosts will dazzle you with their service and stories. You’ll dine on delectable gourmet food and sip local wines and beers whilst taking in the jaw-dropping mountain scenery, perhaps being lucky enough to spot glimpses of wildlife through the trees.

The Rocky Mountaineer has four routes:

  1. Coastal Passage: Seattle – Vancouver – Canadian Rockies
  2. Rainforest to Gold Rush: Vancouver – Whistler – Quesnel – Jasper
  3. Journey through the Clouds: Vancouver – Kamloops – Jasper
  4. First Passage to the West: Vancouver – Kamloops – Lake Louise – Banff

The Rocky Mountaineer is a popular additional experience to an Alaska cruise, however once you’re on board the Rocky Mountaineer the chance to experience further activities doesn’t stop there. At many of the stops, tours and excursions are available including a visit to Jasper National Park – a UNESCO World Heritage site and Canada’s largest National Park. There’s also the opportunity to walk across the Capilano Suspension Bridge in Vancouver and brush the tops of the trees with your fingertips or go whale watching in Victoria.

National Park and Amtrak Trails and Rails logo

Trails and Rails Programme

On selected Amtrak trains and routes, you might notice that a Trails and Rails programme is available. This initiative has been set up as a collaboration between the National Park Service and Amtrak to offer educational talks along some of the routes so that passengers on the train can learn more about the scenery around them. There are around 350 volunteers who contribute to keeping this programme running, who work with the Texas A&M University’s Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism to provide programme oversight and assistance. Take a look at the routes available with Trails and Rails guides on board.

If you’re considering a cruise holiday that includes a rail experience, why not get in touch and ask us a question in the comments, call us FREE on 0800 408 0757 or take a look at some of our cruise and rail packages available on our website.