Luxury Train Travel: 5 Trips For Locomotive Lovers

luxury train travel

Matt Hind/Orient Express

Train travel is not as glamorous as it used to be. In the States, riding the rails means crowded coach cars, cramped sleepers and quick-serve food. But, look beyond our shores and there are still some lines that evoke the glory days of traveling by train. Train travel is not as glamorous as it used to be. In the States, riding the rails means crowded coach cars, cramped sleepers and quick-serve food. But, look beyond our shores and there are still some lines that evoke the glory days of traveling by train.

Nowadays, the purpose of most trains is to ferry people from point A to point B quickly. There was a time, though, when the train was as much an experience as a mode of transportation. With accommodations, meals and some excursions included, all that's left is to enjoy the simpler things in life. So, instead of rushing through Europe on crowded planes and commuter trains, enjoy leisurely meals with real silverware, sunset cocktails in a piano bar and plush beds and linens on a luxury train.

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Luxury Train Travel: 5 Trips For Locomotive Lovers

The Danube Express specializes in train tours of Eastern Europe. Passengers can choose from five routes to visit countries such as Austria, Bulgaria, The Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia and Turkey. Journeys last from four to nine days, or purchased as part of a complete holiday package of nine to 13 days. Holiday packages include airfare from London to the departure city as well as off-train hotel stays.

The Transylvanian Bud-Ist route can be taken as a four-day journey or a nine-day holiday. Travelers begin their journey with a three-night stay at a four-star hotel in Budapest before heading to Istanbul. On the way, stops are made in Kecskemrt, Sighisoara, Brassov, Veliko Turnovo and Kazanlak where walking tours include visits to Bran Castle – known as Dracula’s castle – historic churches and ancient tombs. Days seven and eight are spent exploring Istanbul before departing on a flight back to London.

Dates: May 15, June 6, August 28 and September 18, 2011 departures; other journeys annually from May to September
Price: Transylvanian Bud-Ist: Deluxe twin: £3,690 ($6,031); Classic single: £3,940 ($6,440)
Reservations: +44 146 244 1400

It’s impossible to talk about train travel of yore without mentioning the Orient Express. The company has many trains under the Orient Express name, but Venice Simplon follows the original glamor train’s routes. It makes station stops in nine European cities (London, Paris, Rome, Venice, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Krakow and Istanbul) and its variety of itineraries can be as short as one day or longer than a week.

To channel the classic “Murder on the Orient Express,” board the Venice Simplon in Istanbul like Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot. From there spend 6 days and 5 nights traveling towards Venice. Stops with overnight hotel stays are made in Bucharest and Budapest, and tours of those cities plus Sinaia and Vienna are included

Dates: Istanbul-Venice: September 9-14, 2011
Price: Shared double cabin: $8,080; Shared suite cabin: $12,260
Reservations: 0845 217 0799

Another train in the famed Orient Express family, the Eastern and Oriental Express offers routes through Southeast Asia. Six rail adventures are offered on the line, with stops in Thailand, Malaysia, Laos and Singapore. For a quick trip, hop from Singapore to Bangkok, or vice versa, for two or three nights. (Starting at $2,320.)

For a more inclusive Southeast Asian journey, passengers can opt for the “Epic Thailand,” “Legends of the Peninsula,” “Tales of Laos” or “Fables of the Hills” routes. The seven-day, six night Fables of the Hills trip runs between Singapore and Bangkok. Along the way passengers are treated to excursions in Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Wang Po, a visit to a monkey training college in Surat Thani, and a barge cruise on the River Kwai. An overnight at the Cameron Highlands Resort two hours north of Kuala Lumpur is also included.

Dates: October 2-8, 2011
Price: Single Pullman/State cabin: $8,900; Presidential suite: $11,500
Reservations: 1 800-524-2420

The Royal Canadian Pacific train winds its way through Western Canada and the Canadian Rockies. Travelers have their choice of two five-night trips: the Royal Canadian Rockies Experience and the Royal fly Fishing Adventure (though not available in 2011.) This year, to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the first transcontinental train to arrive at the Pacific Ocean, the line is also running the Royal Pacific Express for one trip only. Beginning in Calgary on July 1, and ending in Vancouver, the trip will “tread in the footsteps” of the nation’s first train travelers.

The Royal Canadian Rockies Experience is the line’s signature tour, beginning and ending in Calgary. Perfect for nature lovers, the tour includes the Head-Smashed-In-Buffalo-Jump, Waterton-Glacier International Piece Park, Crowsnest Pass, Canadian Museum of Rail Travel, Yoho National Park, the Spiral Tunnels, a Kicking Horse Gondola ride and Banff National Park. New this year is a helicopter ride over the Rockies. A true hotel on rails, the Royal Canadian Pacific accommodates guests onboard each night of the trip. But, the train stops at night to allow for a peaceful sleep.

Dates: July 24-30 and  August 10-16, 2011
Price: $8,200
Reservations: 1-877-665-3044

The Royal Rajasthan on Wheels may only have one tour, but it makes up for it in character. The train is designed to capture a contemporary royal style. Cabins are made up in brightly colored walls and linens with blue, red, gold, orange and yellow hues, complimented by patterned upholstery. The vibrant coloring so synonymous with India extends to public areas as well. The Royal Rajasthan’s eight day/ seven night journey begins and ends in Delhi. Destinations along the way include Jodhpur, Udaipur, Chittorgarh, Swai Madhopur, Jaipur, Khajuraho, Varanasi and Agra. If the excursions are too overwhelming, there are also spa services onboard.

Dates: Journeys between September and April

Price Sept 2010-April 2011: Super Deluxe: $1600, Twin deluxe: $590, Single deluxe: $825 (prices per night)

Price Sept 2011-April 2012: Super Deluxe: $1600, Twin deluxe: $650, Single deluxe: $910 (prices per night)

Reservations:+91 9717179408


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