Troy Ackerman loves music and travel, in fact says he enjoys all kinds of music, but has a real soft spot for country and western. As General Manager of the Globus family of brands in New Zealand, he has been lucky enough to travel widely for his work, but he still jumped at the chance to try one of the routes, The Old South and Florida, in the United States, which is now much more accessible, with direct flights to Houston.
“Everything people say about the hospitality in the South, we found to be true,” he says. “The people were so warm and accommodating and genuine – we truly felt welcome.
“Flying in to Houston was also interesting – it was the best U.S customs experience I have had; they were still rigorous and obviously had a job to do, but they were courteous with it.”
Troy loves all kinds of music, so the pull of a musically focused tour really piqued his interest. “The Grand Ol’ Opry was a real highlight,” he says. “We had amazing seats reserved – just three rows from the front, and knowing you were a part of a live radio broadcast was almost surreal – the whole place was chocka and it runs like clockwork!
“For the artists, it’s a real honour to be invited to perform at the Opry, and they really give it their all.”
There was a sense of camaraderie among the tour group, as they were bonded by a love of music, even though everyone had their own preferences. Fortunately the itinerary took them through New Orleans, to Memphis to Nashville, so most tastes could be accommodated.
The deep south really embraces musicians, and Nashville takes it to a new level. “The hotel we stayed at was only a couple of blocks from the Opry, and all the staff in the hotel restaurant seemed to be musicians, there to make it and gain exposure,” says Troy. “They performed in between taking your order and delivering it – there were performances every 10 minutes or so, and they were just great.”
He still always appreciates the convenience and flexibility of group travel. “It’s so nice to be with people who know how to make things easy for travellers,” he says. “For example, when we went to Graceland, our guides knew to get us up and going early – we were the second group through for the day, and we had the place largely to ourselves – by the time we finished looking around the mansion, we looked back across the road and there were people everywhere.
“On the other hand, there were a few people on the tour who spent most of the time doing their own thing and just joining in on when they felt like it – there’s no pressure.”
The food of the South is distinctive and delicious; “If you’re a fan of ribs and BBQ, as I am, it was fantastic,” he says. “Again, we had the opportunity to find our own meals sometimes, and eat together sometimes, so there was a good mix.”
For more information on how you could get on board such an interesting trip, click here for details.