JANUARY Q&A WITH JANICE HECHT
In the January 2018 issue, senior editor Janice Hecht talked about train travel. She fell in love with the mode of transportation when she toured Europe at 19, and, recently, Janice and her husband rode the rails from Connecticut to Atlanta in a cozy sleeper compartment. On her bucket list is an extended excursion on a luxury train like the Belmond Royal Scotsman. She asked readers, “Do you enjoy traveling by train? Have you had a rail experience you would recommend to other travelers?”
I have taken Amtrak’s cross-country trains multiple times, whether the Empire Builder or California Zephyr; and each time, while my frustrations may have increased over the state of the equipment, the experience was one I would never regret. The people you meet, whether the train crew, tourists from Europe (who usually regret the trip) or some of America’s most interesting people, I come away refreshed and energized. Of course, I always do take a sleeper to ensure my own space. But it is imperative all new riders take it in stride — delays are inevitable — just relax and build in enough time so you do not worry.
On my recent trip to South Africa, I thought a long time about taking the Blue Train from Pretoria to Cape Town. With fabulous reviews and renovated cars from years ago, I wanted to make it happen, but due to scheduling I was unable to pull it off. Like you, taking a cross-country Canadian rail trip is on my bucket list — and hopefully a return to South Africa.
BRADLEY SEITZ, Portland, Maine
Like Janice, I realized how much I love rail travel while exploring Europe when I was younger. One of my favorite places to travel by train is France. There’s always something beautiful to look at through the window, and the landscape changes so much coast to coast. As someone who could never quite get used to driving on the other side of the road, the train is my go-to. Scotland is on my bucket list — either the Far North Line or West Highland Line on the Jacobite Steam Train.
MARISSA HUMMEL, via email
It’s funny, because I take public transportation to work most days, and I have trouble envisioning taking a train for pleasure after all the regular frustrations. That being said, there’s definitely something romantic about the idea of an old-timey train ride through the countryside. I’d love to do a cross-country train ride. If I ever decide to take a trip, I’ll write in!
ARLENE CROUSE, Boston, Mass.
In the January 2018 issue, reader Susan Lafarge shared her thoughts on stopover programs. We asked our Globility Board to weigh in with some advice on taking advantage of the programs.
Singapore Airlines offers free stopovers and works with the Singapore airport to offer free city tours to anyone with a long layover. There are several options to choose from, ranging from a few hours to a half-day tour.
ERIC CHIANG, Globility Board member
In the Jan. 3, 2018, edition of eFlyer USA we revealed the results of personal finance website WalletHub’s survey to find the best hotel rewards program. The overall best program, according to the survey, was Wyndham Rewards.
I have to agree with WalletHub’s findings about the rewards programs. I’m enrolled with several and they’re all fine, but Wyndham’s award nights roll over year-to-year, so there’s no last-minute panic to use or lose them. Wyndham doesn’t have as many properties as, say, Marriott or Hilton, but I enjoy the few nicer hotels it does offer like the Midtown 45 in New York. I also find IHG’s program to be better than most.
JIM HOGARTH, via email
It all depends on what you’re looking for, but I’m going to have to go with Starwood. I think it has the best properties, and earning free nights seems easier than with other brands. I also really like Wyndham; the rollover policy is great. I stayed at the Wyndham Hamilton Park Hotel recently, and it was superb.
CLARK BECKER, New York, N.Y.
TECH AND TRAVEL
In the Jan. 17, 2018, edition of eFlyer USA, we covered some of the top innovations unveiled at CES, the world’s largest consumer electronics conference, and predicted which technologies will likely make an appearance in the travel industry. We asked readers,“What are your thoughts on the recent tech trends as they relate to travel?”
I didn’t get a chance to attend this, but I really would have liked to. It’s always interesting to see these large-scale innovations tuned down and implemented in day-to-day products. I wasn’t surprised at all to start seeing Amazon Alexa pop up in hotel rooms, and I think it’s safe to say far more hotels will buy those Peloton bikes. Love it or hate it, tech isn’t going anywhere when it comes to travel.
RYAN LINDSAY, via email
I don’t know how necessary they are, but robots making their way around a hotel would certainly be entertaining. So much has changed when it comes to technology in such a short period of time, not much surprises me anymore. You never know what new thing you’re going to find when you walk into a hotel or airport. I’ve stayed in a couple of hotels lately that have tablets next to the bed or on the desk that let you request room service, set a wake-up call and control lights. Can’t say I hated it!
ELLIOTT LEIS, via email
UNITED MILEAGEPLUS CHANGES
I didn’t realize the changes in United’s MileagePlus program until I saw your news column, so I looked into it. It looks like complimentary upgrades on certain important routes are a thing of the past, and it’ll take more award miles to fly business or first. It looks like it doesn’t affect economy saver awards, so that’s a plus.
EDWARD SPEARS, via email
ONE ON ONE
I loved the interview with Kim Day, CEO, Denver International Airport, in the January issue — great column, by the way. It’s one of my favorite airports; I’m there two to three times per month. I can attest to Ms. Day’s statement about having the fastest WiFi. It’s one of the only airports where I never have trouble working in the lounge or at the gate. The food’s also great. I recommend Root Down in Concourse C.
GEORGIA MERLINI, via email
I loved the AmaWaterways article! It’s one of my all-time favorite cruise lines. My husband and I did the Rhine Christmas market cruise in December. It was our third cruise with Ama, and it did not disappoint. The staterooms are a bit small, I think, but since you’re seldom in them, it’s not a problem. The ship was so festive and the food was fantastic. We always prefer river to traditional cruises. They’re far more scenic, and you get a much more personalized experience. They’re well worth the money.
BARBARA BURKE, Miami, Fla.
Q&A WITH WITH ASHLEY RICHARDS, ACCOUNT EXECUTIVE
Having recently attended The New York Times Travel Show, I’m wondering what really captures the interest of tourists prior to planning a trip. From booth to booth, I saw everything from cuisine and entertainment to history and even some fashion. What do you look for when planning a first-time trip to a destination; and if you’ve completed a recent trip, did it meet your expectations?
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