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Great Rail Journey Sweden/Norway

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I'm in the very early stages of planning a trip to take with my mother, who is in her mid-60s. She is half Swedish, and has never been to Sweden. I've done a mix of independent traveling and tours. I think for myself I prefer independence, but my mom has so far been more interested in a tour. And specifically a train-based tour that includes the historic Inland Railway in Sweden.

That being said -- Does anyone have any experience with Great Rail Journeys, which is headquartered in England? Either in Sweden/Norway or elsewhere? I've found some mixed reviews online, most of which seem to be similar to the downsides of many if not most group tours (the hotels are not the best, the food is not what you would have chosen on your own, and they do shepherd you into souvenir shops that waste your time).

This is the specific tour that caught my eye (and I would definitely spend additional time in Stockholm prior to any such tour). http://www.greatrail.com/tours/arctic-circle-express.aspx

All feedback welcome, and thank you.

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    I cannot comment on the tour company.

    A friend of mine who lived in Sweden took the rail trip described across Sweden and said it was beautiful.

    I rode the Rauma rail line a couple of weeks ago and I thought the scenery was great. The rail is a little bumpy in places. The train pauses (cannot get off) in places. The train waited for our late train into Dombas to make sure we made the connection.

    The Fjord1 bus I then took from Andalsnes to Geiranger up the switchbacks (with stop at some viewpoints), short ferry, and down the switchbacks into Geiranger was simply amazing.

    The Union Hotel Geiranger is up the hill from fjord on the switchback road. I thought people were crazy walking up/down that 2-lane road with campers, trucks, buses, etc. between the harbor/restaurants/shops and the Union Hotel, the museum, and the viewpoint. I took the 2-hour bus tour up to the viewpoints above Geiranger. I see they plan for you to take the roundtrip fjord cruise. I think that is OK to see the waterfalls. Geiranger is a tiny town.

    The bus trip to Flam would be over highlands, less dramatic mountains, but more severe and more snow. We stayed in Flam on last trip. Again, a tiny town.

    The Flam railroad is fun. After the scenery you have experienced near Geiranger, I think the scenery is less dramatic, but you get a better feel for the winding train tracks. This one to me is more about the train.

    Maybe not what you asked, but I hope it helps.

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    We are currently in Germany on a tour organised by Great Rail Journeys. We have previously been on a Great Rail Journeys visit to Switzerland, and most of our fellow travellers have also been on other tours with the company. That shows a certain level of satisfaction.

    Some people may prefer a higher level of hotel accommodation and food, but we have found it good for the price charged. Some of the meals you arrange for yourself, so you can follow your own tastes. Many of our fellow travellers are train enthusiasts, but there is a range of social backgrounds, and you just choose who you spend your time with. The tour managers are knowledegeable and helpful, but you can decide for yourself if you wish to join particular excursions. These are not large groups following a guide with an umbrella.

    We have never been shepherded into souvenir shops, and the tour managers we have expereinced have been totally objective about sights to visit and things to see. It has been good to have their advice and support. They are well briefed, even if they have not done a particular tour previously.

    You may be expected to handle your own bags, and to walk some distance. They are obviously group travel. But Great Rail Journeys are a professional, well-organised company with a good product, and a high level of satisfaction.

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