Wine or golf? Either works on Rocky Mountaineer

Why not make it a foursome? While most travel deals these days tack on extra nights, the latest from Rocky Mountaineer lets you add people! To celebrate it twentieth anniversary, the luxury rail service in Canada, is offering a unique program for its GoldLeaf trips. Whether you take the golf or winery tour excursion, you can pay for three and get one free. So, you’ll have eight days to hit the links or sip some wine, effectively at a 25 percent discount.

The golf and wine trips will take you between Banff, Alberta and Vancouver, British Columbia. Wine-paired meals are the norm for both excursions. Golfers will enjoy the Predator Ridge Golf Resort, Harvest Golf Club and Fairmont Springs Golf Club. Winery guests will visit Gray Monk Estate Winery, Sumac Ridge Estate Winery and Nk’Mip Winery.

“Rocky Mountaineer is committed to providing the most unforgettable travel experiences in the world,” says Hubert Wat, Vice President, Marketing of Rocky Mountaineer. “We are excited to offer our guests an opportunity to take advantage of a first-class experience that highlights some of the most beautiful and recognized areas of Canada, known for their superb wineries and golf courses.”

Rates start at $7,499 a person, with the wine trips leaving on June 17, 2010 and September 9, 2010. The golf trip departs on June 24, 2010.

Weather and travel issues dominate UK web use during storm

Brits set records last week, as nasty weather sent traffic to transportation and weather websites sky-high. For the week ending January 9, 2010, according to Hitwise Intelligence, weather websites were responsible for 1.5 percent of all internet traffic in the United Kingdom. That’s three times higher than the level reached the same week a year earlier. It also beat the last snowstorm, in February 2009, by 26.9 percent. BBC Weather was #12 on the list of all websites visited in the UK, and the Met Office was #22. There were plenty of peeks at how the trains were doing, as the National Rail Enquiries website ranked 56th among all British websites.

Snow dominated the search engines, as well. UK web users logged more than 146,000 searches containing the word “snow” during the four-week period ending January 9, 2010. “Snow forecast” was the most popular. Snow-related searches were up 378 percent compared to the same period the year before. Searches for “snow chains” grew by a factor of 23, with “snow boots” up by a factor of six.

North Korea to announce availability to Americans

North Korean officials are thinking about opening the country to American visitors all year long. Though we’d still have to use the existing tour operators and have our options constrained once in the country, we’d at least be able to visit the most isolated country on Earth at virtually any time. Since 2005, Americans have only been able to visit during Arirang — and for only up to five days at a time.

Asia Pacific Travel Ltd has been in touch with Korea International Travel Company, North Korea‘s state-run travel business, which said that a decision on the policy regarding U.S. visitors will be made “around January 25. Asia Pacific Travel is also looking into whether Americans will be able to enter the country by train this year. In the past, only air travel has been open to Americans.

According to Walter Keats, President of Asia Pacific Travel, “If the North Koreans let Americans stay longer, we will be able to offer a different and more extensive mix of long and short-stay study tours.”



[Photo by ninjawil via Flickr]

Hell train hits Chicago 19 hours late

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The passengers who got stuck in the Channel Tunnel recently had an awful situation, but was it worse than what the passengers who just pulled into Chicago endured? Those who endured the Eurostar incident were stuck for 15 hours without food, water or information. The passengers on Amtrak‘s California Zephyr reached Chicago 19 hours late. One called it “the train from hell,” with local news outlet WMAQ saying the passengers hit town “tired, hungry and stinky.” Severe weather was among the problems that caused the delay, with a pass between two hills in Nebraska suffering from snow drifts more than two stories high. Also, the train hit a pickup truck that got in the way in Iowa.

Food were in short supply on the train, and some of the passengers were pissed that the information from Amtrak flowed about as readily as the water on the train (there wasn’t much). And, it seems goodwill still remains scarce. Though Amtrak is offering hotel rooms to passengers who need them, refunds will only be paid on a case-by-case basis.

Eurostar to suspend Channel train service indefinitely

Most people think “airlines” when the topic turns to the misery of holiday travel. Well, the trains are getting in on the action now. European railway Eurostar‘s Channel Tunnel train, which connects England and France, is being shut down indefinitely. It’s a natural side-effect of having more than 2,000 passengers trapped inside the tunnel for several hours because of technical glitches.

Several hours? Try 15 of ’em! Sans food, water or information, passengers had no relief from a truly miserable situation.

Eurostar has promised that it won’t send any more trains into the tunnel until the problem has been identified and resolved. On Sunday, it said that the malfunction was related to “acute weather conditions in northern France,” according to a report by The Associated Press. The area is suffering its worst winter in recent memory.

The suspension of train service under the English Channel forced 31,000 people in Great Britain, France and Belgium to cancel their travel plans on Saturday, with another 26,000 estimated to have been impacted on Sunday. The backlog is still building, and Eurostar isn’t planning to start selling tickets again until after Christmas.
So, time to hop on a flight, right? Not quite.

The winter storm conditions that Eurostar is blaming for the train’s being trapped in the tunnel forced air carriers to cut almost half the flights departing from both airports in Paris through the middle of Sunday afternoon. More are expected for Monday. Lines were long at the airport in Brussels, as well.

[Photo by OliverN5 via Flickr]