Tag Archives: Royal Scotsman

Royal Scotsman Scores with ‘Limited Edition’ Confections

7 Mar
IRT guests Robert & Virginia Montgomery aboard the Royal Scotsman.

IRT guests Robert & Virginia Montgomery aboard the Royal Scotsman. Photo courtesy of the Montgomerys

One of the world’s most intimate luxury trains — the Royal Scotsman — threw open its doors this week for 2016 bookings, even as space this year is dwindling on many departures.

During the last several years, the train has inaugurated several “limited edition” tours, which have proven to be very successful, said Valerie J. Ottofaro.

Ms. Ottofaro is Director of Sales, Belmond Trains & River Cruises. (The train’s official name is Belmond Royal Scotsman, honoring the company’s new brand.)

“The Grand Tour of Great Britain will continue to run as an exclusive tour in 2016,” she said. The dates are July 8-15, 2016.

The popular, 7-night annual tour is for true devotees of history, food & spirits, culture, and life in England, Scotland and Wales.

The varied, exclusive activities include a castle tour with its owners, a ride on the narrow-gauge Ffestiniog Railway and dinner at a country estate.

Royal Scotsman breakfast tray. IRT Photo by Owen Hardy

Royal Scotsman breakfast tray. IRT Photo by Owen Hardy

“IRT guests who have done this trip have raved about it,” said Eleanor Flagler Hardy, President of The Society of International Railway Travelers®.

Other special trips are for devotees of whisky, golf and Scottish country life.

The “Classic Whisky Tours” — in partnership with the Scottish Malt Whisky Society — “have proved very successful over the past two years,” Ms. Ottofaro said.

The five-day whisky tour includes visits and tastings at a number of distilleries as well as on-board tastings in the train’s lounge car. For 2016, one trip is planned: April 25–29.

Belmond plans one Classic Golf Tour for June 13-17, 2016.

“This is a four-night journey through the heart of the Scottish Highlands,” Ms. Ottofaro said, “offering three rounds of golf at some of the country’s finest and most northerly of the UK’s championship golf courses.” One of the courses will be Gleneagles.

“The Heritage Homes and Gardens tour,” meanwhile, “has been received very well over the past two years,” she said. Next year the trip runs June 6-10.

“This is an exploration of Scotland’s most fascinating and scenic country homes and gardens,” said Ms. Ottofaro.

“It’s a special four-night tour hosted by an experienced gardener, a professional photographer and a freelance garden writer who provide guests with gardening tips and fascinating history along the way.”

Taking the perfect photo on the Royal Scotsman's outdoor rear platform. IRT photo by Eleanor Hardy

Taking the perfect photo on the Royal Scotsman’s outdoor rear platform. IRT photo by Eleanor Hardy

Meanwhile, officials said space was almost gone for several 2015 specialty tours, including the annual Grand Tour.

Just one double and one single cabin remain for the 8-day Grand Tour of England, Scotland and Wales, a Belmond reservations specialist told IRT yesterday. This year’s dates are July 10-17.

This year’s April 27-May 1 “Classic Whisky Tour” has one twin and two single cabins left.

A second 2015 “Classic Whisky” departure, July 5-9, has just one twin cabin remaining.

Drinking tea in the lounge car. IRT photo by Eleanor Hardy

Drinking tea in the lounge car. IRT photo by Eleanor Hardy

More space is available for this year’s annual Heritage and Garden Tour, the spokesperson said: five twins and two singles. The dates are June 5-9.

Call (800) 478-4881 or email tourdesk@irtsociety.com, if you’d like to grab a spot. IRT will accept bookings on a first-come, first-served basis. A 15% deposit is required to secure your booking. If the trip is within 60 days of travel, full payment will be required.

(Book by March 31 for value-added special offers for certain departures. Restrictions apply.)

“Booking soon gives you a better chance of getting just what you want,” IRT’s Mrs. Hardy said.

RedLady

Lively conversation in the Royal Scotsman lounge. IRT photo by Eleanor Hardy

“Also, in general, the earlier you book, the closer you’ll be to the lounge and dining car. And that’s especially true for singles, since there are only four single cabins on each departure — with no single supplement.”

Another success story is the 2014 addition of the 3-night Edinburgh-London tour, Majestic England. An add-on return trip, “A Tale of Two Cities,” is an overnight London-Edinburgh journey whose emphasis is on-board food, spirits and ambience.

“We have seen encouraging sales for both journeys,” Ms. Ottofaro said.

The 3-night Edinburgh-London trip includes Alnwick Castle, home to the Duke of Northumberland’s family; York, site of the National Railway Museum; Sandringham, the Norfolk retreat of the Royal Family; and Cambridge.

Toddy time in the lounge car. IRT photo by Eleanor Hardy

Toddy time in the lounge car. IRT photo by Eleanor Hardy

Thus, a traveler could combine this 3-night Edinburgh-London trip to the one-night London-Edinburgh return journey.

“And twice each season — in August and September — the London itinerary has been scheduled so it can be added to a 5-day Classic journey through the Scottish Highlands,” Ms. Hardy said.

For questions or to book, call (800) 478-4881 (U.S. and Canada) or (502) 897-1725 (elsewhere). Or email us: tourdesk@irtsociety.com.

“Sprie” Spriestersbach: THE International Railway Traveler

27 Apr

It is with great sadness that we report the death of  D.C. Spriestersbach, one of the most senior members of The Society of International Railway Travelers®. He died on Monday. He had been a member of The Society of IRT for more than 20 years. (He is pictured above with Owen Hardy, IRT Society CEO & Publisher.)

“Sprie,” as he asked everyone to call him, was 94, and was Dean Emeritus of the University of Iowa. He passed away after a brief illness, after a happy week visiting with three generations of his family including his twin 7-year-old great-grandchildren. He lived in his beloved Iowa City, IA, home until his death.

He started traveling with The Society in 1997 and soon became known as a most charming and affable traveler. He booked 16 of the greatest train trips in the world, from the tiny Darjeeling Himalayan Railway to the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express. He made the longest rail journey in the world—twice—on the Golden Eagle Trans-Siberian Express.

Indeed, Sprie traveled thousands of miles with us on trains. Some of our happiest memories traveling are with Sprie, because he was always so fun, upbeat and modest. He loved The Blue Train, the Hiram Bingham, Andean Explorer, Rovos Rail, Trans-Siberian and Venice Simplon-Orient Express.

But hands-down, his favorite was the Royal Scotsman, which he enjoyed for a second time on a Society group tour. He’d first ridden it with his wife, Bette, grandson Matthew Swain and Matthew’s wife Sasha.

“I think the Royal Scotsman has to be at the top,” Sprie told me. “Better than the Blue Train, it was fantastic. They were absolutely marvelous and without being quite as self-conscious…they were easy. They were so good, so authentic and so skilled…it is hard to explain…my grandkids couldn’t believe that you could have a train trip like that.”

Sprie paid Owen and me the ultimate compliment following his last trip with us on our 25th anniversary trip across Siberia on the Golden Eagle. Raising his glass to us at our post-tour celebratory dinner in Moscow, he said he loved traveling with The Society of IRT.  “These people seem to care about their travelers. I mean really care.”

“I think those were some of the happiest times of his life, riding those trains,” said his daughter, Ann Swain, after he died. “You’ve got to know how much he loved going on those trips.”

George Stratton, his best friend for 34 years, said after his career of teacher, administrator, researcher, director of a literacy program, acting university president for 8 months was over, Sprie turned his full focus on traveling the world by train. He was always happiest knowing a grand journey was around the corner. In the last year, “sometimes we would talk about the trips: Which was your favorite? He loved them all.”

A memorial service will be on May 15. Please click here to link to the details.  And please post if you remember traveling with Sprie. We’d love to hear from you.

Bargain LuxRail for Bunny-Quick Bookers

6 Apr

Rail travel bargains are popping up like crocus this spring on some of our World’s Top 25 Trains if you act by June 30:

Royal Scotsman

• Save $1,210 per person for 6-day Grand West Highland tours departing June 22nd and July 27.
• Free night at Edinburgh’s luxury Balmoral Hotel with any 3-day Highland journey booking.

More info: click here

Venice Simplon-Orient-Express

• Free night at Venice’s fabulous Cipriani Hotel when two persons book a cabin suite on the 8-day northbound trip to Krakow, Dresden and London (subject to availability).

• Complimentary on-board credit (for drinks or items from the train boutique) on the 2-day London to Venice (or v.v.) trip: up to 400 Euro per couple or 150 Euro per single traveler.

More info: click here

Eastern & Oriental Express

• Book 4-day Bangkok-Singapore tour (or v.v.) by June 30, 2011 and receive one free night at the St. Regis in Bangkok and one night at the St. Regis in Singapore. Restrictions apply. This is for 2011 departures only.
• Take 25 percent off the regular per-person fare on the 3-day southbound Bangkok-Singapore tours departing Bangkok May 11, June 8 and July 6, 2011. Restrictions apply.
• Complimentary hotel nights pre- and post-tour on all Extended Tours; Bangkok’s Mandarin Oriental for Epic Thailand and Laos Extended Tours; Bangkok’s Mandarin Oriental and Singapore’s Raffles Hotel for Singapore-Bangkok and Bangkok-Singapore Extended Tours. Restrictions apply. This is for 2011 departures only.

Rocky Mountaineer

Book any 2011 Rocky Mountaineer vacation of 7 nights or more by June 30 and receive 2 for 1 airfare between select cities and Vancouver, Calgary or Toronto.

More info, please call 800-478-4881 or 502-454-0277

El Transcantábrico

Deep discounts (call for specifics) on this gem of a Spanish luxury train if you book as little as four months before departure. Best discounts are for September.  Availability is tight on many departures.

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