In many parts of the world, train travel appears poised for an upgrade – this year and beyond – as upscale consumers are re-discovering the romance of earth-bound travel and transit firms are upping their game by re-inventing luxury class train traveling.
Japan: Twilight Express Mizukaze & Train Suite Shiki-Shima
Two luxury trains are coming to Japan in 2017: Twilight Express Mizukaze, which will feature art deco design and food by Michelin-starred chef Yoshihiro Murata, and Train Suite Shiki-Shima, whose most expensive room will have a bath made of Japanese cypress.
Twilight Express Mizukaze has not yet taken its inaugural journey but ticket sales are already brisk. Would-be voyagers must first apply for the chance to buy a ticket, and only one in 5.5 applicants is expected to be successful during the train’s first three months, according to train operator JR West. The train’s most luxurious suite, a carriage-sized room for two, sold for $6,524 per person for the train’s inaugural voyage.
Ireland & Scotland: Belmond Grand Hibernian & the Royal Scotsman
In August, Ireland welcomed the Belmond Grand Hibernian, which passed through Dublin, Cork, Killarney, Galway, Westport, Belfast and Waterford on an inaugural grand tour. It offers Irish cuisine made with local ingredients, well-appointed cabins and communal areas, and other luxury amenities.
Also by Belmond, the Royal Scotsman train is expected to launch in April 2017, offering Europe’s first spa carriage. Sustainable wood from Scotland and the Cotswold’s region in southern England were used to build the spa, and two treatment rooms offer views of the passing scenery.
France: Eurostar’s Business Lounge at Paris’ Gare du Nord
The Eurostar train service between London and Paris, a symbol of UK-European unity, is reeling after last year’s Brexit vote, but is also investing in its future nonetheless. A new business lounge at the Gare du Nord intends to replicate the look and feel of a Parisian apartment. White marble fireplaces, a circular bar, and French and British cuisine by a Michelin-starred chef create an atmosphere of comfortable indulgence.
Europe: The Orient Express – Venice, Vienna and Paris
Embark on a voyage aboard the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express train and become part of its glorious, ever-changing history. The Double Cabins feature upper and lower berths while Single Cabins have one lower berth. During the day, the berths are transformed to offer comfortable banquette seating from which to admire the views. Crisp damask sheets and fine blankets contribute to a cozy and restful atmosphere at night.
Enjoy the unique ambience of each of the three beautifully restored 1920s restaurant cars. Côte d’Azur, boasting Lalique glass panels, Etoile du Nord, with its beautiful marquetry, and L’ Oriental, decorated in black lacquer. At the heart of the train, the stylish Bar Car offers a welcoming environment in which to relax over cocktails or coffee. Chat to fellow guests or enjoy music by the resident pianist.
India: The Maharajas’ Express – The Indian Splendor
The Maharajas’ Express was custom-built to be the most luxurious train in India – and perhaps the world – offering state-of-the-art facilities and amenities. All cabins have large windows, LCD televisions, wi-fi access, individual temperature controls and full en suite bathrooms. There is one Presidential Suite that comprises a full train car – the largest suite available on any train in the world. The two elegantly decorated dining cars serve a choice of multi-course Indian and continental cuisine. Two lounge cars provide cool drinks and comfortable seating. The train is 22 cars long, taking a maximum of 84 passengers.
Africa: Rovos Rail’s Pride of Africa
Rovos Rail’s Pride of Africa offers an old-world elegance and luxury to a degree that was never equaled in the 1920s. Many seasoned IRT Society travelers consider it their favorite rail experience. Celebrated not only for its fabulous equipment, the train is rightfully proud of its stellar dining and on-board service. In short, the entire experience is an exciting luxury rail adventure.
South America: Belmond Andean Explorer – Peruvian Luxury
Running along one of the world’s highest rail routes, traversing the Peruvian Andes from Cusco to Lake Titicaca and on to Arequipa, the new Belmond Andean Explorer will explore natural wonders and ancient kingdoms on one- and two-night journeys.
The train is intimate — a maximum of 48 guests in 34 all en suite cabins — and includes an open-air observation platform, two dining cars serving fresh, locally-sourced delicacies, a lounge car with grand piano and bar, and a full spa car with treatment rooms.
Australia: Indian Pacific Ghan’s Australia Rail Extravaganza
Australia’s transcontinental Indian Pacific offers a twice-weekly service in both directions between Perth and Sydney, via Adelaide, across more than 2,704 miles. Almost 300 miles of it is across the longest straight track in the world, the Nullarbor Plain. The journey takes three nights, and our travelers report it’s frequently a very jolly departure, with many Aussies traveling the route, especially around holiday periods.
North America: VIA Rail’s The Canadian
The Canadian is VIA Rail Canada’s flagship train. It runs between Toronto and Vancouver three times a week, traveling 2,775 miles.
IRT recommends VIA’s new Prestige Class, introduced in 2015, with large bedroom with double bed, full en suite bathroom, plus a host of amenities including flat-screen TV (for videos only), unlimited free drinks, including alcoholic drinks, 24-hour butler service and first choice for meals (included in your fare). A major delight is exclusive access to the great dome cars for seeing the sights day or night.
The schedule from Toronto to Jasper allows three nights on board (10 p.m. departure Vancouver, 1:00 p.m. arrival Jasper.) All the way to Vancouver is four nights (three days, 14 hours and 42 minutes). Arrival in Vancouver is scheduled for mid-morning.
America: Amtrak – San Francisco to New York City
Trains are a pretty great way to travel. Think about it: You can sleep, eat and lounge pretty comfortably in them, and even pretend to be living in the Gilded Age while sitting in your personal cabin and twirling your mustache, or sipping some tea.
But trains can also be unbelievably cheap, and according to travel blogger Derek Low, you can take a scenic trip from coast-to-coast on Amtrak for as little as $213. Low conveys the beautiful trip from San Francisco to New York in great detail, describing everything from the food (pretty bland, to surprisingly good), to the multiple environments and landmarks he encountered.
In short, you can see most of the continental U.S. – that’s 3,397 miles across 11 states – without breaking the bank. Here’s the kicker: The trip from SF to Chicago can cost as little as $130 if you buy California Zephyr tickets. If you want to see more of the country, you can transfer to the Lake Shore Limited train from Chicago to NYC for an additional $83, making your grand total an especially frugal $213.
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