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rafinmd

A 2-line World Cruise--Around the World on Amtrak, Crystal, and Cunard

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Today I dropped my large luggage off at the UPS store in preparation for a surface based circumnavigation of the globe.  This will be my second attempt at this.

 

bagsready.jpg


I've handled my luggage shipment a bit differently from usual.  While UPS will be doing most of the actual shipping of the bag I am doing one bag through Luggage Concierge, Crystal’s official partner, and the other bag through Luggage Forward, partner of Cunard and several other companies.  While UPS gets the bags to California, each of the luggage companies uses their own courier at the destination to actually deliver the bag to the ship.  If I do not get luggage that is a serious problem since there will not be a possibility of bags catching up with me until French Polynesia.    While one courier might fail I assume the possibility of both couriers failing is minuscule.


shipped.jpg


The first was in 2003 and got off to a good start until events got in the way.  The plan then was Amtrak Baltimore to Montreal, a freighter (Canmar Courage) to Belgium, a series of ferry and rail connections to Helsinki, the trans-Siberia railroad to Beijing, the Crystal Harmony to Vancouver, and train connections back to Baltimore.


It was going pretty much to plan until I did an email check before leaving my hotel in Moscow.  2003 was the year of the great SARS epidemic and the Harmony was deadheading back to North America immediately.  I was heading into the midst of the epidemic and my way out had disappeared.  As I made my way to Beijing my travel agent found me a flight to Vancouver that would work, but I still had a couple of days to wait in a very subdued Beijing.


I picked up the trip in Beijing the following year but have not yet circled the globe continuously without onward flying.  Holland America’s annual world cruise could be a very attractive option but is a bit too long for me.  As treasurer at my local fire department I must do some year end employment reports, some of which must be done physically in the fire station, so a journey that leaves the first few days is very stressful.  I also have prostate cancer which is well controlled but requires shots not much longer than 3 months apart.  My time away on this trip is about 2 weeks shorter at each end than this year’s very attractive itinerary on the HAL world cruise and just fits into the window between my cancer shots.

 

The itinerary for this adventure works something like this:


January 14-18: Amtrak from Baltimore to Long Beach
January 22 to March 3: Crystal Serenity Los Angeles to Sydney, Australia
March 6 to April 25: Queen Mary 2 Sydney to New York


One thing I will do each day is note the locations of both of my ships.  Today QM2 is in Southampton.  Both ships this year have multiple starting locations for their World Cruises and this is the second location for QM2 with some World Cruisers boarding a week ago in New York.  Crystal Serenity versions of the World Cruise begin in Miami (1/6) and Los Angeles (1/22) and today Serenity is in Cartegena, Colombia.


My blog for this trip will be the one I use for grand journeys:


http://morethangetaways.wordpress.com


I will also set up Cruise Critic threads covering the trip on the Crystal and Cunard forums for their part of the journey and the entire trip on the World Cruising forum.


My parting shot–if at first you don’t succeed try again even if it is 17 years later.


Roy

 

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Sounds amazing!  Best of luck, and I’ll look forward to following along.

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I hate to fly, so this sounds like my kind of trip! I look forward to hearing/seeing more from it.  🙂

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6 hours ago, Guinness1000 said:

I hate to fly, so this sounds like my kind of trip! I look forward to hearing/seeing more from it.  🙂

Am I correct that you do fly but you just don't like it.  That's how I am.  The hitch with a trip like this is that it does take time.  World Cruises especially take their time and make a lot of stops and I'm 94 days elapsed from LA to New York including the day lost crossing the international dateline.  My original 2003 plan was 70 days but some of the connections I made then are no longer available.

 

Roy

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6 hours ago, rafinmd said:

Am I correct that you do fly but you just don't like it.  That's how I am.  The hitch with a trip like this is that it does take time.  World Cruises especially take their time and make a lot of stops and I'm 94 days elapsed from LA to New York including the day lost crossing the international dateline.  My original 2003 plan was 70 days but some of the connections I made then are no longer available.

 

Roy

I have to fly sometimes, but yeah, I don't like it. Especially not longer flights. My husband used to be a pilot until he almost died in a plane crash while doing aerobatics. I'm not an adrenaline junkie. Going slow is perfectly fine with me.  🙂

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11 hours ago, Guinness1000 said:

I have to fly sometimes, but yeah, I don't like it. Especially not longer flights. My husband used to be a pilot until he almost died in a plane crash while doing aerobatics. I'm not an adrenaline junkie. Going slow is perfectly fine with me.  🙂

Maybe I shouldn't have said like.  Well, like, except for the part about your husband almost dying.

 

Roy

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Greetings from Club Acela in Washington DC.  So far everything has gone smoothly and I will board the Capitol Limited there in about 30 minutes.  I won't have wifi on the train so you won't hear from me until Chicago.

 

Roy

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Day Amtrak0, Tuesday, January 14, 2020, Board Amtrak Capitol Limited to Chicago

Crystal Serenity was scheduled to be in San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua but tendering conditions did not permit it..  Queen Mary 2 is at sea from Lisbon to Messina, Sicily.


I was supposed to be picked up by the Airport Shuttle at 10:57 but they arrived about 10 minutes early and I was ready.  I arrived at the BWI Amtrak station about 11:15.  For the last several months they have used a temporary facility but the renovated station is now open.  It is significantly larger than the old one but still does not have wifi.  The temperature was roughly 50 (20C) but it was damp and varied from a
mist to a drizzle all day.


https://morethangetaways.files.wordpress.com/2020/01/newstation.jpg


My Northeast Direct train left BWI and arrived in Washington on time for all practical purposes.  


https://morethangetaways.files.wordpress.com/2020/01/direct.jpg


I checked into Club Acela (the First Class lounge for Acela and sleeping car passengers) and stashed my bags.


https://morethangetaways.files.wordpress.com/2020/01/acela.jpg


I guess my age is showing; I accepted a booking for the Red Cap and headed out to Panera for lunch.  It was 3 stops away on the Metro and I got my typical Chicken Noodle Soup with coffee and returned to Union Station and stopped at McDonalds for an ice cream cone before returning to Club Acela.  


https://morethangetaways.files.wordpress.com/2020/01/metro.jpg


I had about 30 minutes to do some work on the computer before the Red Cap found me.  A larger backpack with a zip off compartment and a carry-on size both tipped the scales at about 23 pounds.  The main compartment of the big bag stayed in a compartment in the lower level of the train while the rest of my stuff went up to my compartment.


https://morethangetaways.files.wordpress.com/2020/01/lowerrack.jpg


I did ok carrying my stuff from the first train to the station and probably could have done the same to the Capitol Limited as the distance was not significantly greater.  In any case, I got a ride in a golf cart to the train.  My compartment is on the second level of the train and consists of 2 seats facing each other which fold down to become a bed.  For a second person an upper berth could fold down but it would be VERY tiny for 2 people.

 

https://morethangetaways.files.wordpress.com/2020/01/roometteday.jpg


A table that folds out is just large enough for my laptop.  There is one toilet on the upper level and 3 more on the lower level.


https://morethangetaways.files.wordpress.com/2020/01/workarea.jpg


Our route out of Maryland mostly followed the Potomac River, crossing into West Virginia at Harpers Ferry before returning to Maryland near Cumberland.  It was getting quite dark as we crossed the Potomac.


https://morethangetaways.files.wordpress.com/2020/01/potomac.jpg


Until recently the Capitol Limited featured a full service dining car but recently they have gone to what they call "Flexible Dining" with a much more limited selection of meals, especially at breakfast. The dining car is still there but you go to the counter and place an order which is mostly pre-plated entrees.


https://morethangetaways.files.wordpress.com/2020/01/diner.jpg


My dinner was a pasta with meatballs, salad, and a kind of toffee sponge cake for desert.


https://morethangetaways.files.wordpress.com/2020/01/dinner14.jpg


I am trying to put the finishing touches on my post and get it ready and then headed to bed about 8:30.  Attendant Michael set up the bed when I was ready.


My parting shot is one I had hoped to use later but this seems to be the time.  I was alerted to it by a blog reader and with the sudden defeat of the Baltimore Ravens in what would be their only playoff game this is the time.  Hats off to the men and women of the Baltimore County Fire Department who originally volunteered to do whatever they could for the team when it first moved to the city.  They cleaned uniforms, made appointments, maintained the locker room and did whatever else was needed.  While their positions are now paid they started out volunteering their time out of the love of the game.  Well done.

https://www.latimes.com/sports/story/2020-01-09/baltimore-fire-fighters-enjoy-being-taken-to-task-to-help-take-heat-off-ravens

Roy

 

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Hi Roy!!! So excited to be reading your wonderful blog again!!!!

I will be looking forward to everything with my coffee each morning!

Take care Roy!

Denise😊

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Day Amtrak1, Wednesday, January 15, 2020, Arrive Chicago


Crystal Serenity is at sea from San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua to Huatulco, Mexico.  Queen Mary 2 is at sea from Lisbon to Messina.


At night my roomette is pretty nearly the size of a twin bed.  There is about 8 inches on the corridor side but everything else is the bed.


https://morethangetaways.files.wordpress.com/2020/01/thebed.jpg


There is one small closet, just about wide enough to put a pair of shoes in the bottom.


https://morethangetaways.files.wordpress.com/2020/01/closet.jpg


I slept reasonably well but when we stopped at Toledo about 5AM things got extremely cold, and I stayed in bed another hour.  


The fog that had been in Maryland diminished but it was still cloud covered and there was no sunrise.  The continental  breakfast did not have a lot that I found attractive but I did take milk and a fruit cup back to my seat.  


We ran pretty much on schedule through South Bend, the final intermediate stop but ran into heavy freight traffic in Illinois, finally arriving in Chicago a little after 9, about 20 minutes late,


I checked into the Metropolitan Lounge, and tried going on line for a while but found the service functionally useless.  I am staying at Club Quarters on Adams Street near LaSalle.  I went over with the big pack a little after 10 and they did not have a room but stored the bag.  


I bought a transit day pas and left with the smaller bag for Panera on Michigan Avenue for lunch, and the post I had struggled helpless with in the Metropolitan Lounge loaded in about 20 seconds.  I walked back to the Club Quarters and checked in about 1.  I should be comfortable for the night.


https://morethangetaways.files.wordpress.com/2020/01/clubqut.jpg


I discovered a packing mistake.  I have packed camera chargers in the bags to be delivered to the ship but did not bring one with me on the train.  I returned to Panera on the "El" and stopped at a nearby camera shop.  A replacement would be about $40 and I passed on it.  I will try to save the battery as much as possible and occasionally use my IPAD where possible.  I tried the IPAD on the CTA.


https://morethangetaways.files.wordpress.com/2020/01/theel1.jpg


Dinner was Mac & Cheese at Panera, and the El back to the hotel.

I watched television and used the internet at the hotel until about 10:30.

 

https://morethangetaways.files.wordpress.com/2020/01/theel2.jpg


As a parting shot I think I'll be glad to get out of Chicago.  It will be quite cold Thursday (low teens in the morning to about mid 20's for a high) and snow is coming.  By the latest forecast I should be in New Mexico when the snow hits Friday evening.


Roy

 

Edited by rafinmd

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Greetings from Union  Station where it's about 19F (about -6C).  I got a report on my thread on the Crystal Forum that they are getting snow in Lamy.  That's not far from our service stop in Albuquerque where I had hoped to find some wifi and post today's report.

 

The Southwest Chief should be boarding in about an hour.

 

Roy

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On 1/15/2020 at 11:19 PM, Copper10-8 said:

You're on your way Roy! See you Sunday @ 1:00 PM at the Queen in Long Beach

John I remember the picture of you and Roy when you met some years ago!!

Have a great visit! 
FYI: I was born there grew up in Long BEACH !! I remember when Ports of Call

was a big thing and my DH and I would go there in High School! Wow memories!

Denise😊

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48 minutes ago, rafinmd said:

Will not post from Albuquerque.  Blog post should have gone through but now I must return to the train.

 

http://morethangetaways.wordpress.com

 

Roy

 

Loved your write up Roy!!!! And the pictures of inside the dining car lounge food yummy!!Safe travels Roy! Enjoy your time with John in Long Beach!

Denise😊

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I did not know there was a second level at Chicago lounge. I've been there a couple of times. 

 

Depending on when you ate dinner and where you were sitting - you might have been  on live streaming at LaPlata MO - It would have been about 7:30 pm.  😄

 

 Safe travels.  Carole.

                                                                                                                       

Edited by Happily@Sea

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Day Amtrak2, Thursday, January 16, 2020, Board Amtrak Southwest Chief, Chicago


Crystal Serenity is in Huatulco, Mexico.  Queen Mary 2 is in Messina, Sicily.


I woke at 5 but went back to bed for another hour.  At 6 the temperature was 11F (about -12C) and I did not go outside a lot.  I did go to McDonalds (coffee, milk, and hash browns; 1/quarter mile round trip), but that was my only un-necessary venture outside.  


I packed a bit differently for the Southwest Chief.  I walked over to Union Station about 9:30 with the larger backpack.  Once checked into the Metropolitan Lounge I unzipped the small compartment (8 pounds) and checked the rest of the bag to Los Angeles.  


https://morethangetaways.files.wordpress.com/2020/01/lounge.jpg


With that done I hung out briefly at the lounge.  It was relocated a few years ago and the current lounge has an upper level which is much less used than the main floor.


https://morethangetaways.files.wordpress.com/2020/01/upperlounge.jpg


I returned to Club Quarters for a few more online tasks and packed the smaller backpack, now down to 16 pounds.  I checked out at 11:30 and returned for the final time to Union Station with the temperature now up to 19 (-7C).  The Chicago River was not frozen but it was not really a very pleasant place to be.


https://morethangetaways.files.wordpress.com/2020/01/chicago.jpg


I did not bring a winter coat but layered up with a light rain jacket, sport coat, heavy sweater and heavy shirt.  My body was warm enough but my neck was freezing.  Despite the cold the sun was shining brightly.


Lunch was at McDonalds conveniently located in the station (nuggets, milk, and ice cream.  Afterwards I got coffee in the Lounge and did some additional computer work.  The wifi was better but I still could not send a batch email.


https://morethangetaways.files.wordpress.com/2020/01/loungesnacks.jpg


Boarding was called at 2:10, and with a bag checked through I did not feel the need for a red cap for boarding,  At the car (just 1 sleeper plus a few available spaces on the crew sleeper). Cynthia checked me off and sent me upstairs to my roomette.  It is identical to the one on the Capitol Limited with the possible exception of some switches.  


We left spot on time at 2:50 (my old schedule said 3PM but the times are close.  Even accounting for that we seem to be running a little early at our first few stops.  (It's a reserved train so they can account for boarding passengers).  After Napierville the landscape quickly turned agricultural with patches of snow and clouds started to develop.


Dinner seatings are 5:30, 6:00, 6:45, 7:15, and 7:45.  I chose the 6PM.  I walked up to the lounge looking for a sunset.


https://morethangetaways.files.wordpress.com/2020/01/swclounge.jpg


It was not good and actually I got a better view from my room even though the sun had already gone down.  One challenge on this trip will be that with us heading West sunrise and sunset will generally be either almost directly ahead of us or behind us.


https://morethangetaways.files.wordpress.com/2020/01/dusk0116.jpg


North American dining cars generally practice "community seating"  with people mixed together to fill up each 4-top.  Meals are included in the sleepers but people in coaches can purchase them.  I was seated with 2 local passengers from the coaches and one other sleeping car guy.


https://morethangetaways.files.wordpress.com/2020/01/dinerswc.jpg


For dinner I chose the "Signature steak" along with pudding for desert.


https://morethangetaways.files.wordpress.com/2020/01/dishes16.jpg


When finished I walked back to the lounge and the café on the lower level and bought a bag of chips for a bedtime snack.


https://morethangetaways.files.wordpress.com/2020/01/swccafe.jpg


We were very early at Kansas City, our first service stop.  I had time to go into the station and check email, and still was out a half hour before our 10:30 departure.  I turned out the lights as we left Kansas City.


My parting shot will be of the coincidence nature.  There has been a lively discussion of cosmetics on the Crystal Forum of Cruise Critic.  I noticed as I went to bed that the slippers I wear on the train were Etro and surely came from a Crystal ship.  I am sure they were not scented when they left the factory, and am quite sure they are now but have no desire to investigate further.

 

etro.jpg


Roy

 

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16 hours ago, Happily@Sea said:

I did not know there was a second level at Chicago lounge. I've been there a couple of times. 

 

Depending on when you ate dinner and where you were sitting - you might have been  on live streaming at LaPlata MO - It would have been about 7:30 pm.  😄

 

 Safe travels.  Carole.

                                                                                                                       

I chose 6 PM dining and was finished by then.  By 7:30 I was probably in my roomette and out of view of the window.  Have you been at the lounge recently, the one off the Great Hall?

 

Roy

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Day Amtrak3, Friday, January 17, 2020, Onboard Southwest Chief


Crystal Serenity is at sea from Huatulco to Cabo San Lucas.  Queen Mary 2 is at sea from Messina to Hafia, Israel.


I posted photos of my roomette from the Capitol Limited.  The roomette on the Southwest Chief is identical but the perspective from the IPAD may be a bit different.


https://morethangetaways.files.wordpress.com/2020/01/swcnight.jpg


I woke about 5:15.  At the time we were at Dodge City Kansas and left perhaps 20 minutes late.  From there took a serious downhill turn.  We came to a stop about 6:40 and sat and sat and sat.  My room was returned to day mode once Cynthia came on duty at 6.


https://morethangetaways.files.wordpress.com/2020/01/roomette.jpg


With no word from the train crew speculation abounded, track problems, car on the track, police activity among the possibilities.  As the darkness brightened we could see that there was fresh sleet on the ground.  After sitting over an hour a vehicle arrived that looked like a tow truck but was actually a railroad maintenance crew.  A half hour later we finally started moving.  The conductor explained that there had been a signal issue and possibly a defective rail on a bridge just ahead of us.  He and the railroad crew walked the bridge and they resolved the signal issue and we resumed our progress.  At the next town (Garden City) we were over 2 hours late.


I went to breakfast just after 8; the Continental with oatmeal, milk, and chicken sausage.  My tablemates were all in the coaches; one couple was headed to Albuquerque and concerned that they might arrive after their rental car place closed.  The other was a short timer, getting on in Garden City (after a long wait in the station).


This is a short train, 1 ½ sleepers, diner, lounge, and 2 coaches.  I walked a bit on the train before breakfast and a bit more at our service stop in La Junta for a total of just under 30 minutes.  I got a decent look at the full train in La Junta.


https://morethangetaways.files.wordpress.com/2020/01/swchief.jpg


The climb up the Raton Pass was quite scenic.


https://morethangetaways.files.wordpress.com/2020/01/ratpass2.jpg


We passed the summit of Raton Pass just about noon.  I caught only the edge of the marker as we passed.  It was about 7700 feet.


https://morethangetaways.files.wordpress.com/2020/01/ratsummit.jpg


I did not want to be in the diner when we stopped at Raton (stop for Philmont Scout Ranch) so I made my lunch reservation for 12:30.  It was also an abbreviated smoke stop and we left at 12:26.  For lunch I chose the kids macaroni and cheese along with milk.


https://morethangetaways.files.wordpress.com/2020/01/raton.jpg


Soon after lunch we were approaching the next town of Las Vegas(NM).  This is an area where there's apparently a long stretch of single track.  We had to pull over to a siding and wait for the Eastbound Southwest Chief to pass.  The wait was about an hour.  


We were 3 hours behind schedule at our next station stop, Las Vegas.  Sunset was supposedly a little after 5 but it went down behind the mountains several minutes earlier.


https://morethangetaways.files.wordpress.com/2020/01/dusk0117.jpg


Shortly after sunset we stopped at Lamy.  The station building has been repurposed as a brewery and there was a fair amount of snow there.


https://morethangetaways.files.wordpress.com/2020/01/lamy.jpg


I had made dinner reservations for 6:45 assuming we would have left Albuquerque by that time.  It became clear that was not likely and inquired with the dining crew about moving my dinner to 5:30 and it turned out not to be busy then.  My lunch had been more than I planned and I had the signature steak again but skipped the potato, salad, and desert.


https://morethangetaways.files.wordpress.com/2020/01/dishes17.jpg


I was out of the diner about 6:15 and we arrived in Albuquerque.  We were VERY late and they would minimize the service stop but Cynthia indicated we had at least 25 minutes.  I was not going to risk going beyond the station but there was "Greyhound free wifi" in the multi-modal station.  From my bench I could see the new conductor checking in boarding passengers and there was quite a line.  I post to the blog by email and that is the source of the photo links I put on Cruise Critic so the blog has to be posted first.  The email got to 99% and then timed out.  I tried again with what looked like the same results, but the post went through as the checkin line got down to about 4 people.  I put the computer to sleep and returned to the train.  We were actually in the station for another 20 minutes completing maintenance checks but I was not taking any chances.  I plan to wrap up this post and be in bed about 9.


As a parting shot, I should actually come out of these delays reasonably well but it was a big inconvenience to some.  One of my breakfast tablemates was disembarking in Albuquerque and had planned to rent a car from a place that closed.  The wife was trying to change the rental to a different company, but I did not hear how it turned out.  I hope they were successful.


Roy

 

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4 minutes ago, rafinmd said:

I chose 6 PM dining and was finished by then.  By 7:30 I was probably in my roomette and out of view of the window.  Have you been at the lounge recently, the one off the Great Hall?

 

Roy

 

Metro lounge off the main floor. I remember seeing a staircase - but just figured it was another level - maybe different tracks. I didn't see any  elevator, but I'd already found myself in a cozy spot next to the wall - with an outlet. I was only there a couple of hours each time [at most]. With my mobility problems - I always get a Red Cap.

 

7:30 is much too late  to be still eating - with a 6 pm start. When the train came through Barstow just before 6:30 am - there was no one in the dining car - but it was set up.

 

When you you get on the ship?

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1 minute ago, Happily@Sea said:

 

Metro lounge off the main floor. I remember seeing a staircase - but just figured it was another level - maybe different tracks. I didn't see any  elevator, but I'd already found myself in a cozy spot next to the wall - with an outlet. I was only there a couple of hours each time [at most]. With my mobility problems - I always get a Red Cap.

 

7:30 is much too late  to be still eating - with a 6 pm start. When the train came through Barstow just before 6:30 am - there was no one in the dining car - but it was set up.

 

When you you get on the ship?

There's an elevator at the very back of the lounge.  I board the ship on Wednesday.

 

Roy

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3 hours late and no wifi & we think we have terrible trains ! As a matter of interest do you get any compensation for delays ?

Enjoying your reports as always

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