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Go Beyond the Bus with TAP

Traveling by motorcoach is fine. After all, motorcoaches get groups where they need to go and often deliver plenty of scenery along the way.

But there’s something about less-often-used modes of transportation that call to travelers and appeal to their sense of nostalgia. There’s the romance of riding the rails, the adventure of sailing the open seas and the excitement of riding horseback in the Old West.

Whether swaying in a train car, rocking on the waves or jouncing in the saddle, groups on Travel Alliance Partners tours can find plenty of other ways to travel beyond the motorcoach.

Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad

Durango, Colorado

As the steam locomotive huffs and puffs past river valleys, ranches and mountain peaks — and maybe even a moose or two — passengers on board the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad get more than a sense of “being on a train that was running back when it was in 1882,” said railroad marketing manager Christian Robbins.

During the summer, the 45-mile train route follows the curves of the Animas River from the historic depot in downtown Durango northwest to Silverton, a late-18th- and early-19th-century mining town where, “if you look at a picture from 1881 when the train was first getting into Silverton to today, not a lot has changed,” Robbins said. From November to mid-May, the ride is shorter because the train travels only 26 miles to the Cascade Canyon “wye,” train speak for a place to turn around. At the wye, deep in the San Juan National Forest, passengers can disembark to eat a meal, stroll along the river and gather around the large stone fireplace in the railroad’s covered pavilion.

One of the most impressive legs of the route is known as the Highline, a narrow, winding stretch of rail that clings to the mountainside and dangles passengers 400 feet above the river with “a straight drop-off below,” he said.

Groups can buy discounted tickets on regularly scheduled departures, charter a premier first-class car, many of which are the original Victorian-era passenger cars, or charter the entire train for a special event, either to the Cascade Canyon wye or all the way to Silverton. Another popular option is the Skyway Tour, which is a little faster because one leg of the trip, either to or from Silverton, is by motorcoach.

Tall Ship Whale Adventures

St. Andrews, New Brunswick

Anyone can take a whale-watching cruise. But not everyone can take a whale-watching cruise aboard a 72-foot, gaff-rigged cutter that’s a replica of a famous 1913 sailboat, the Jolie Brise. With its tall masts and billowing sails, the Jolly Breeze of St. Andrews is as much of an experience and an attraction as the possibility of spotting whale spouts, flukes and breaches.

“That’s why people like it: the added value of the ship itself,” said Joanne Carney, who started the company with her husband, Rob, in 2005.

The sailboat can hold 45 passengers and is also equipped with an engine to make the journey easier. When the ship cruises into the Bay of Fundy, passengers may spot minke whales, right whales, fin whales and, sometimes, humpback whales along with seals, porpoises and eagles. On board, passengers can warm up with jackets and blankets, a glass of wine from the bar or a cup of homemade pea soup, which is traditional tall ship fare. During the return trip, a marine biologist shows guests lobsters, crabs and starfish in the onboard touch tank and lets them hold a bristly whale byproduct known as baleen.

This summer, the company added a new experience: a jet boat for whale-watching tours. The 33-meter Zodiac Hurricane is a former FBI boat and can hold 12 people with individual-style seating. Though the tour is a bit shorter — 2.5 hours — the boat is lower to the water and can reach speeds of 50 mph, so “it’s a more adventurous experience,” Carney said.

Rachel Carter

Rachel Carter worked as a newspaper reporter for eight years and spent two years as an online news editor before launching her freelance career. She now writes for national meetings magazines and travel trade publications.