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The Renaissance of Luxury Train Travel

Luxury Train Travel
Allianz - Luxury Train Travel

Remember the days when the hardest part about train travel was not spilling your Champagne when crossing a rickety bridge? OK, maybe you don’t personally recall them, but you’ve likely seen such images of extravagant train travel in movies and books.

Today’s trains often make mundane journeys. Around the holidays, you’ll find college students flocking to stations to travel home for break. And commuters catch their daily trains to and from work to avoid the traffic of the city. Train travel has evolved to serve practical purposes, but trains have a history steeped in luxury. In the past, train travel was as much about the journey as the destination, with dress codes and five-course meals, making the trip itself an elegant event.1

Fortunately, there has been a bit of a luxury train travel renaissance. So why simply romanticize the past when you can hop aboard the upscale train travel movement right here and now? Why indeed.

If you’re the type of traveler who likes someone else to do the navigating while you sit back and relax, you’re in luck. There are several railways that have created or restored extravagant trains that have people once again seeking out train travel for their exclusive getaways.

The Blue Train - South Africa

The Blue Train has been transporting people from Cape Town to Pretoria since 1923.2 The trip spans 994 miles and you can watch the varied landscapes roll by from an observation car.3 Perhaps the most notable aspect of traveling on the Blue Train is the top-notch service you can expect. You’ll enjoy 24/7 access to well-trained butlers who ensure that you’re well taken care of as you indulge in the all-inclusive cuisine, extensive South African wine list and Montecristo Havana cigars.4 If they don’t have what you’re looking for, odds are they have something even better. The train’s appeal has drawn well-known figures including Nelson Mandela, Quincy Jones, Paul Simon and Margaret Thatcher.5

Seven Stars - Japan

Making its debut in 2013, the Seven Stars’ creators had complete freedom to craft a luxury rail experience from scratch. That’s because they weren’t limited to honoring the famous train’s past life, as is the case with many luxury railways that are brought back to life. Inside the train, local artisans and designers came together to create a one-of-a-kind atmosphere.6 The train’s journey is equally unique, highlighting the diverse scenery that Japan has to offer, from lush green mountains to dazzling sea views.7 The train includes a swanky lounge car where guests can listen to live music, and the dining car serves gourmet seasonal meals.

The Ghan - Australia

If you find yourself Down Under, you have the opportunity to experience “one of the world’s greatest rail journeys” in the heart of Australia.8 The Ghan sets off in Darwin, and travels more than 1800 miles to Adelaide. The journey offers insight into some of the lesser seen regions of Australia, captivating travelers along the way. Stops include the Katherine Gorge, an off-train excursion into Alice Springs, and an underground journey at the opal mining capital of the world, Coober Pedy. Throughout the journey, the train’s chefs create meals featuring local delicacies, making your time aboard The Ghan a true culinary adventure.9

Simplon-Orient Express - Europe

The Orient Express became a household name when author Agatha Christie published her infamous whodunit, “Murder on the Orient Express.” (And it’s since been made into a few different movies.)5 The Orient Express made its debut in 1883, and its passengers give you a glimpse into both the luxury and history lesson it offers, having whisked away Tolstoy, Lawrence of Arabia and the spy Mata Hari.

Today when you step aboard the carriage, you are transported back to the Golden Age of travel as you look around at the polished wood, lush furnishing, and authentic fixtures.5 The train features the original sleeping cars from the 1920s, three different dining cars, and a bar car complete with a grand piano.10 And don’t forget the red-carpet access to some of Europe’s most loved cities including London, Paris, Venice, Berlin, Prague, and Budapest.

Rocky Mountaineer - Canada

The Gold Leaf Service on the Rocky Mountaineer is one of the few North American opportunities to experience five-star train travel.5 The luxury carriage is enclosed by a glass-dome, providing for a show-stopping view of the Canadian terrain.11 Depending on the voyage you choose, you’ll explore a combination of canyons, mountains, coastlines and even rainforests. Plus, you can see it all from an open-air viewing platform that lets you breathe in the fresh air as you travel.

Belmond Andean Explorer - South America

The Andean Explorer launched in May 2017 and is the first luxury sleeper train in South America. Because the train isn’t steeped in history like many of the other luxury trains, it brings a fresh perspective to luxury train travel. The train embraces a contemporary style that complements the Andean landscape.12 Choose from the four available journeys to pick and choose the sights you’re most excited to see. An exciting option is the trip from Puno to Cusco, it’s one of the highest train routes in the world!

The Great Western Limited - U.S.A.

Uncommon Journeys is a specialty travel company that’s honoring the history of U.S. train travel. One of their popular trains is the Great Western Limited, which has been restored to its former glory. The train is well known for its Vista-Dome car, complete with rooftop windows. When it’s time for meals, you’ll be treated to a fine dining experience complete with white linen tablecloths, china, and red roses. This train hosts a variety of trips, including a cross-country route that starts and finishes in Chicago. This train passes through the Colorado Rockies, snakes through Nevada and the California coast, and showcases the landscapes of New Mexico. There is also time off the train built into itineraries, which allows travelers to check out destinations, and even includes a short ocean cruise to Catalina Island in California.13

Train travel is making a comeback, and for good reason. Gone are the days of having to compromise luxury travel accommodations if you’d prefer to travel by train. These high-end trains allow you to skip the traffic, avoid the airport, and most importantly, truly enjoy the journey between destinations.

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