Very few other trains have captured people’s imagination in the same way as the Orient Express. The very name evokes images of the Golden Epoch of rail journeys when being a train passenger meant travelling in style. The Orient Express has appeared countless times in books, on film and on TV. Who could ever forget the scene in the 1963 James Bond film ‘From Russia With Love’ when Sean Connery fought a rival spy? Or the star-studded casts of the two film adaptations of the Agatha Christie book ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ (1974, 2017)? A classic example of the ‘locked door’ mystery genre. The list of its passengers reads like a Who’s Who of 20th century history and culture, including Tolstoy, Laurence of Arabia, Marlene Dietrich and Trotsky.
So, what is the attraction of this legendary and iconic train?
Travelling back in Time on the Venice Simplon-Orient Express
The original 1920s and 1930s carriages making up the Orient Express have been painstakingly restored by master craftsmen to recreate period detail. Passengers won’t just get the feeling that they are travelling – but that they are travelling back in time. Despite the authenticity of the sleeping cars, dining cars and bar car, passenger comfort has not been compromised. Not only has air conditioning been installed throughout the train and the kitchens fully-modernised but the original bogies have been replaced by new ones to meet present-day safety standards and enable the train to reach speeds of 160kms per hour.
Luxurious Accommodation on the Orient Express
Orient Express passengers have the choice between a single or double cabin. All sleeping accommodation has been decorated using polished wood panelling, upholstery in the finest fabrics and many of the original fixtures to faithfully create railway cabins of the 1920s. There is a washbasin (with both cold and hot water) ingenuously hidden in an elegant wooden cabinet. All berths have individual reading lights, a dual-voltage plug, and guests are supplied with towels, bathrobes and slippers.
The plush banquette seating is transformed into a lower and upper berth by the steward while passengers are dining. Covered in damask sheets, this will guarantee them the best night’s sleep ever, lulled by the rhythmic sound of the rails as the Orient Express travels onward into the night to its destination. Once passengers leave their cabins for breakfast, the stewards discreetly change sleeping cars back into sitting rooms.
From 2018, passengers can choose to book one of the recently-refurbished grand suites. These take up an entire carriage so travellers have more room to stretch out. With their marble showers en suite, large double beds and the option of private dining, these suites add another element of opulence to the journey.
Fine Dining on the Venice Simplon-Orient Express
The Orient Express offers dishes to delight the palate of all gourmets and lovers of fine dining. This is partly due to the train’s Executive Chef Christian Bodiguel, who has perfected his culinary skills over 30 years’ service on the train. It is also because of his commitment to choosing the best-quality ingredients. Along the train’s route, stops are made to take on board locally-produced seasonal foodstuffs whose freshness is guaranteed. Although set menus are included in the price of the trip, an ‘a la carte’ option is also possible at an extra price.
The train is able to cater for passengers with special dietary requirements as long as a request is made when making their reservation. Bookings for a celebration breakfast can be made on southbound journeys. This meal consists of a choice of different types of fresh bread and eggs as well as such delicacies as smoked salmon, truffles and caviar.
Relaxing on the Train Journey
As soon as passengers step on board the Orient Express, they are welcomed by the stewards dressed in their distinctive blue and gold livery. This highly-trained professional staff are always on hand to help with any request guests may have, offering discreet and friendly service.
Once they have settled into their cabin and freshened up, passengers can stay in their own private sitting room, or they can mingle with the other guests. The Orient Express boasts two luxurious lounges and a boutique. Gazing out of the window as the scenery changes from farmland to Alpine valleys and imposing mountains, passengers will feel the stresses and strains of modern life drain away.
As evening approaches, changing for dinner is an integral part of the experience on board the train. Before dining, passengers might choose to go to the champagne bar. With its glimmering art deco interior, baby grand piano and heavy Lalique glasses, the atmosphere is reminiscent of the Roaring Twenties. Indulging in a perfectly-chilled bottle of vintage champagne or choosing among the selection of classic cocktails adds an element of glamour to passengers’ adventure aboard the Orient Express before they head to the dining car.
The Routes Served by the Venice Simplon-Orient Express
Taking in such historical cities as London, Paris, Berlin, Verona, Venice, Prague, Vienna and Budapest, passengers have a choice of routes and journey lengths. For over 100 years, the Simplon tunnel through the Alps (and where the train derived its name) was the lowest direct crossing through these majestic mountains. Travelling through it, passengers can still marvel at this feat of modern engineering.
Whichever route they decide to take, they can be sure of the same high standard of service, facilities and fine cuisine. This makes a journey on the Orient Express unique and one of incomparable opulence and elegance.
Why Travel on the Venice Simplon-Orient Express?
In these modern times when we spend so much of our time rushing from A to B or trying to get somewhere as quickly as possible, we overlook something that passengers of the past instinctively knew. Sometimes experience in life is less about the destination and more about the journey itself. This is a truth that passengers on the Orient Express will fully appreciate after their stay aboard. For a very short time, they will be whisked away into a different era where clock-watching was not important and that enjoying life to the full was the watchword.