Pride of Africa


Train:
Pride of Africa

Train Type: Luxury

Introduction/History:
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 the world’s finest train. 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 consistent in meeting the highest luxury standards. The coaches have been painstakingly rebuilt with fine wood paneling, traditional furnishings and period décor for an elegant and grand ambience. Some dining cars feature exquisite pillars, a signature feature of this train.

http://www.safaris-direct.net/safari-pictures/large/Rovos_steam_romance.jpg

Accommodations
There are three types of accommodation, and Rovos Rail says––and we believe them––there are no other cabins as spacious in the industry. Usually, the train accommodates 72 people.

All cabins are equipped with a writing surface and, for valuables, a personal safe. There is also a bar fridge filled with beverages of the passengers’ choice and room service is available 24 hours a day. In the en-suite bathrooms, original fittings combine with the modern technology of hot showers, hair dryers and shaver plugs.

All compartments have a plethora of windows that can be opened—a vital feature, in our opinion, for experiencing the African countryside. Windows can be securely locked.

Pullman: These are the newest and most “Spartan.” There are very few of these, and they sell out quickly. They are 76 feet square. A comfortable, daytime sofa-seat converts to double or twin beds (one up, one down) for evening. They also have ensuite, private shower, sink and toilet.

Deluxe: For years, these were Rovos Rail’s standard cabins, but they are huge and beautifully appointed, in comparison with other luxury trains. There are three to each train carriage. Deluxe suites accommodate two passengers in either twin or double beds and have a lounge area and ensuite toilet, sink and shower. They are about 118 square feet.

Royal Suites: Royal Suites take up half a train car. Special features include en-suite bathroom with Victorian bathtub and shower, and a separate, private lounge. These are about 172 square feet.

http://www.irtsociety.com/images/pullmansuite.jpg

Dining
The two restaurant cars feature meal after meal of incredible perfection. All on-board meals and drinks are included in the price of the program. If one highlight of your vacation is fine food and wines, with service to match, this is the journey for you. Jackets and ties for gentlemen and dressy outfits for ladies are expected at the dinner hour on the train.

Fresh local ingredients and traditional dishes such as game are frequently on the menu. Every morning, a made-to-order breakfast is served in the diner. Lunch and dinner are multi-course affairs on lovely china, silver and linen. South African wines are served. All meals are served in one sitting in the two Victorian-era diners.

http://www.toffsworld.com/images/stories/travel/ravos.jpg

Lounge Cars
The lounge, at the end of the train, has a bar and sitting area as well as an open-air “patio” in the rear for wind-in-the-face viewing. It is a favorite spot on the train, and something just about all IRT travelers mention enjoying immensely. This lounge is nonsmoking; there is also a separate lounge where smoking is allowed. All drinks in the bar are included.

http://www.irtsociety.com/images/BA-lounge.jpg

Other
Off-train alcohol is not included in the price of the tour. For programs in Africa’s winter, which would be around July, it’s good to note that although rooms are heated, hallways are not. Our single travelers say Pullman class is fine––but our IRT couples report that it’s just too tight a fit for them and their luggage. Next time, they’ll get a deluxe, they say.

http://www.irtsociety.com/images/royalsummary.jpg

http://www.irtsociety.com/images/deluxesuite.jpg

http://www.geo-reisecommunity.de/bild/regular/60528/Pride-of-Africa.jpg

http://im.in.com/media/blish/k/photos/2009/Jul/r9090717125009_515x343.jpg

http://www.spiegel.de/img/0,1020,328802,00.jpg

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_ax5ZIdFoW1U/Srhymvpze-I/AAAAAAAAW9g/2R2oqxJ-EPg/s400/pride-of-africa-train-04.jpg

Venice Simplon-Orient-Express


Train:
Venice Simplon-Orient-Express

Train Type: Luxury

Introduction/History:
When you board the Venice Simplon-Orient Express (VSOE) train, you feel as if you are becoming part of a glamorous history. This train, with its restored, 1920s vintage cars, is the world’s most authentic luxury train.

Why take it? When you see it standing in a station, sparkling in its navy and gold livery and snowy white roof, it takes your breath away. The cars are old-fashioned: they are coal-heated; windows open to the fresh air. There is no air conditioning. Toilets are down the hall; there are no showers.

But on board, we feel, these negatives melt away. The spirit and beauty of the train and the high level of service throughout, and the five-star level of the food and wine, envelopes one in a giddy, joyful aura. We would take it all over Europe every year if we could. The train can take about 100 passengers.

http://www.irtsociety.com/images/VSOEinstation.jpg

Accommodations
Sleeping compartments have Pullman-style beds (one up, one down) that fold into a comfortable sofa during the day. A sink in a lovely, closing vanity is fitted into the corner. All amenities are supplied, and then some. Itineraries are designed to dodge the reality that there are no showers. Do what Agatha Christie did: Stop at fabulous hotels along the way.

http://blog.paradizo.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/venice-simplon-train.png

Dining
There are three gorgeous dining cars: one mainly with marquetry; another with Chinese lacquered walls with bright animals; and a third with Lalique crystal insets. The management of the dining cars is superb. For starters, a maitre d’ visits you during the day before meals to reserve your table. He rotates travelers among the three diners; you can request dining for two or four at your preferred seating time. The dining experience is five-star both in food quality/variety and service. One of the reasons is people are not all seated at the exact same time. Instead, seatings are staggered, and this allows the staff to properly welcome and serve each diner.

http://www.jpadesign.com/print_versions/images/transport_12.jpg

Lounge Cars
The lounge car is decorated in the Art Nouveau style. Fresh flowers adorn the tables, and a pianist entertains in the evening. It’s a perfect place to read Le Monde by day, enjoy cocktails before dinner and a nightcap after dinner; perhaps you’ll decide, like one traveler did on our trip to Istanbul, to dance the Charleston in her period dress. The lounge car can get very crowded, too, but the staggered dining helps with this issue.

http://farm1.static.flickr.com/4/4098766_c8e6e328f6.jpg

Other
For discriminating travelers, we recommend booking a cabin suite. This means booking two connected cabins. This way, both members of a couple get lower beds; each gets a sink. And obviously, there is more room for spreading out. Dressing up is part of this experience, and tuxedoes (at the least, dark suits and ties) and cocktail dresses are the norm for dinner.

There’s something about traveling on such historic cars. One of our favorites: Sleeping Car 3309 was part of the 1929 service which was stuck in a snow drift 60 miles outside Istanbul for 10 days. Passengers and staff survived only with the assistance of nearby Turkish villagers.

http://www.claretandbluewedding.com/picture$368

http://www.seat61.com/images/OrientExpress-restaurant.jpg

http://www.lifestyleasia.com/images/articles/right-on-track_18718.jpg

http://wwp.lastnightontv.com/bbc/50_things_to_do_before_you_die/orient_express_from_venice_to_london/orient-express.jpg




Royal Scotsman


Train:
Royal Scotsman

Train Type: Luxury

Introduction/History:
The Royal Scotsman is a standout. A small venue—just 36 passengers—it’s great for those who wish for a more intimate, luxury setting with gourmet, five-star dining, wine-pairing and superior service. Simply put, it is one of our favorite hotel trains. All the train’s cars, save the 1928-era diner, are of 1960s vintage equipment, but they have been recast into an Edwardian confection of varnished woods, polished brass and fine fabrics. Especially fun is the open-air observation platform.

Special Offer:
Book any of the Royal Scotsman's "Grand North Western," "Great West Highland," "Classic," or "Western" tours for travel in 2009, and save up to $2,720 per person, plus get a free night at Edinburgh's iconic luxury hotel, the Balmoral, immediately before or after travel (subject to
availability).

http://www.iangardiner.com/users/www.iangardiner.com/upload/Royal%20Scotsman_1.jpg

Accommodations
"The five sleeping carriages provide sixteen twin and four single cabins, beautifully designed with rich inlaid wood. The double compartments are large with two lower twin beds positioned in an “L” shape. A few beds are six feet, seven inches long, unusually large for a train. Four compartments are specifically designed for single travelers so there is no single supplement––a rarity on luxury trains. The bathrooms are large and ensuite with private sink, toilet and shower.

All cabins have dressing table, full-length wardrobe, individually controlled heating, ceiling fans, opening windows and a cabin service call button. Most people sleep like kittens on this train, because it stops at quiet sidings at night.

http://www.irtsociety.com/images/royalscotsmancabin.jpg

Dining
Dining is an elegant production. Meals are multi-course, candlelit affairs, made with the freshest, finest local produce, seafoods and meats, and served either in the traditional dining car, “Victory,” with small tables for four or two; or in the second dining car, “Raven,” set for 20 people at three large tables. Presentation is gorgeous; service is friendly and professional with fine wines included.

http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/tm/2008/11/royal_scotsman_428x269_to_468x312.jpg

Lounge Cars
At the end of the train is perhaps the most distinctive carriage, the observation car. Originally built in 1960 by the Metropolitan-Cammell Carriage and Wagon Company, the observation car entered service in 1961 as a first-class kitchen car. In 1989, the car was bought from its private owner, Michael Bailiss, and converted it to its current luxury configuration, able to comfortably hold all 36 guests at any time. At the back is a favorite spot: the open-air observation platform, for wind-in-the-face viewing of the lovely Scottish scenery.

http://www.luxuryscotland.co.uk/galleryimages/royal_scotsman_02_large.jpg

Other
Plainly said: a few nights just is not enough on this grand train. If time and budget allow, combine two of the itineraries for an eight-day journey. The cost of the tour includes everything except traditional gratuities to the train staff. Dinners are formal affairs on alternate nights. Ladies wear dressy outfits; men wear jackets and ties or tuxedoes (or formal kilts).

http://www.europeantraveler.net/images/attractions/royal%20scotsman/interior.jpg

http://www.jpadesign.com/print_versions/images/transport_11.jpg

http://insidertraveling.com/images/image003_BEZF.gif

http://blog.hotelclub.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/royal-scotsman_2.jpg

http://www.irtsociety.com/images/RSloungecar.jpg


Royal Canadian Pacific


Train:
Royal Canadian Pacific

Train Type: Luxury

Introduction/History:
Many of the cars for the Royal Canadian Pacific (RCP) train were built between 1917 and 1931 and were used as business cars for the Canadian Pacific Railroad (CPR). Sir Winston Churchill, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh (later Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip), John and Jacqueline Kennedy, among many notables, once enjoyed the cars that make up this elegant train. Now, just 32 persons can pretend to be royalty and come aboard to sample the train’s five-star dining, open-platform observation areas, several small salons, and large compartments with private, ensuite shower, toilet and sink. The train and its superb staff combine outstanding scenery, exclusive visits and elegant musical events with the five-star service and dining. It all results in one word: “Wow!” The total RCP package is matched by just a few trains in the world.

http://www.railpictures.net/images/d1/5/8/8/4588.1064417340.jpg

Accommodations
The compartments, for the most part, exactly match those of the Royal Scotsman, because the Scotsman’s owner at the time kindly loaned the plans to the CPR. Most sleeping accommodations are in the newly constructed Pullman cars “N.R.Crump” and “Strathcona” and have two lower, twin beds set at an “L” shape, desk, roomy private shower, sink and toilet and large picture window (similar to the Royal Scotsman). Finished in Circassian walnut from Russia with Bird’s Eye maple inlay and complimented by scalloped lamp fixtures, brass radiators and Turkish drapes, each car maintains the ambience of the classic era of luxury rail travel. Some of the older, historic cars have double beds. One has bunk-style beds, but this is usually for single travelers. All have plenty of storage; all are outfitted with thick white towels and lovely toiletries. The walls gleam, most with inlaid wood and vaulted ceilings.

http://www.irtsociety.com/images/RCPcabin2.jpg

Dining
An à la carte breakfast is served in the newly restored dining car, the “Craigellachie.” Tea, coffee and other beverages can be served in all the lounge areas or private rooms. Special cocktails (included), are served nightly, along with just about anything else you can think up. An elegant, multi-course dinner is served at tables for six or eight in the dining car. The meals are memorable––freshly prepared on board, beautifully presented and are five-star with service to match; paired wines are included.

http://www.irtsociety.com/images/KZdiningroom.jpg

Lounge Cars
Choices for lounging abound: there is nothing finer than stretching out in the sunshine on the open platform of 1926 observation-lounge “Mount Stephen.” There are also the 1926 lounge-sleeper “Royal Wentworth,” the 1927 observation-lounge-sleeper “Van Horne,” and the 1916 open-platform observation lounge-diner “Killarney.”

http://www.irtsociety.com/images/RCPcabin2.jpg

Other
If you want the most intimate, elegant train program in the world, this is it. The price tag may be steep, but its all-inclusive program, including all sightseeing, meals, alcohol and gratuities, comes wrapped up in luxury few trains in the world can offer. The small number of fellow passengers (remember: just 32 total); cheerful, excellent and professional service throughout the train; and the inventive, gorgeous meals set this train apart. Jackets are expected in the dining room.

http://www.irtsociety.com/images/KZlounge.jpg

http://canadiantrainvacations.com/images/royal-canadian-pacific.jpg

http://www.railtravelcenter.com/images/RCP_compartment.jpg

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_iLSmTPwJGZY/SaPu3bA46rI/AAAAAAAAISk/ZHhJk8jYaR4/s400/7.png

http://www.railpictures.net/images/d1/0/5/1/5051.1064417340.jpg

http://www.accentontravelusa.com/images/royalcanadian/rcp1.jpg


Golden Eagle Trans-Siberian Express

Train: Golden Eagle Trans-Siberian Express

Train Type: First-Class

Introduction/History:
The new, all-ensuite Golden Eagle Trans-Siberian Express launched in April, 2007 to much fanfare in Moscow. The train has Gold and Silver Class accommodations, both with en-suite bathroom, as well as two dining cars and a lounge car. The train plies the famous Trans-Siberian route between Moscow and Vladivostok.

New! One New Heritage sleeping car, with only eight compartments, has been added to all Golden Eagle departures for 2010. Price-conscious travelers will be glad to see added to the consist.

http://static.guim.co.uk/sys-images/Travel/Pix/pictures/2007/05/19/goldneagle460.jpg

Accommodations
Gold Class :
Gold Class compartments, at 77 square feet, have five compartments per car and are the most luxurious and spacious on the train. Gold Class compartments feature underfloor heating, DVD/CD player, audio system, individual air conditioning, recessed lighting and wardrobe space. Showers in Gold Class bathrooms have curved, sliding glass door. The lower bed is double-bed width; the upper bed is a twin. Both are among the most comfortable beds we have enjoyed on a train. We loved our wake-up coffee, flowers and gift of vodka in our room.

http://www.irtsociety.com/images/goldclass.jpg

Silver Class :
Silver Class cars have six compartments each. Features include DVD/CD player, audio system, individual air conditioning, recessed lighting and wardrobe. The Silver Class shower occupies the same space as the sink and toilet; to take a shower, the passenger draws a curtain around him- or herself. Each compartment is 60 square feet.

http://www.irtsociety.com/images/silverclass.jpg

New Heritage Class :
Select 2009 and most 2010 departures of the Golden Eagle will offer one New Heritage Class car. This car has eight private cabins, each with an upper/lower berth (lower berth is a double bed; upper is twin-sized). There is a sink in the cabin; at the end of the carriage is a shower room. There is also a toilet at each end of the car. Each compartment is 39 square feet.

http://images.businessweek.com/ss/09/05/0527_luxury_trains/image/008_goldeneagle.jpg

Dining
The two new, 64-seat restaurant cars are sumptuously appointed. The “Gold” diner is decorated with a surfeit of brass, elaborate indirect lighting, gleaming wood and glowing overhead lights. The “White” diner is arrayed in shades of white and cream. Highlighted with gold medallions, mirrors and intricate carvings, it’s like a rococo wedding cake on wheels.

http://www.irtsociety.com/images/OHloungecar.jpg

Lounge Cars
The ornate bar car is the train’s social center. It has no official closing hours, and includes a piano and pianist.

http://www.gwtravel.co.uk/trains/images/GoldenEagleNewHeritage4.jpg

Other
If the train seems unusually spacious, it is: it’s amazing what an extra three-and-a-half inches of track gauge can do to enlarge a passenger compartment. (Russian railways operate on a five-foot gauge, unlike the U.S. and most other countries’ four-foot, 8 1/2-inch gauge).

Most trips include one or two dining cars, comfy lounge with bar/piano (and pianist), laundry facilities (and laundress), English train doctor, translator, train/tour manager, day and night staff (who are friendly but speak just a few words of English). Everything is included except bar liquor. In all, 64 staff members cater to the needs of up to 132 passengers.

Golden Eagle add-on: Begin or end your tour with a side trip to St. Petersburg: To travel all the way to Russia without seeing the city of Peter the Great would be a shame. As of April 26, 2009, convenient and luxurious overnight rail service between Moscow and St. Petersburg is available on the "Alexander Nevsky," which runs three times weekly in each direction. Please email us for details. We have lots of ideas for expanding your journey.

http://travelogue.indiatravelers.in/wp-content/uploads/2008/01/palace-on-wheels-india.jpg

http://www.exeterinternational.com/images/trains/trans-siberian/golden%20eagle%20restaurant.jpg

http://www.regent-holidays.co.uk/trans/gebar.jpg

http://www.exeterinternational.com/images/trains/trans-siberian/golden%20eagle%20lounge%20car.jpg

http://www.internationalsteam.co.uk/trains/pics07/russia07045.jpg

Danube Express

Train: Danube Express

Train Type: First-Class

Introduction/History:
When we experienced the new Danube Express private train on a preview trip in 2007, we knew it would jump to IRT's World’s Top 25 Trains list. This lovely train, with its brand-new deluxe carriages, was hot out of the shops in the summer of 2008. Service began in the fall of 2008. All itineraries either start or go through Budapest, Hungary, where the train is headquartered. They run north to Berlin and Gdansk, west to Brussels and Vienna, east to Istanbul; and include Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Bulgaria and Romania. Journeys can be combined, such as Istanbul to Budapest to Berlin, with the European Steam Grand Prix and International Dining Car Competition in Budapest in between.

http://www.luxique.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2008/10/danube-express.jpg

Accommodations
The new deluxe sleeping carriages offer the best train accommodations in Europe. Private compartments are air conditioned, with private, ensuite facilities and two lower beds that fold up into seating during the day. They are roomy at 83.4 square feet, including the bathroom. Those who don’t require the top level of service will find the two older “classic” carriages have roomy and comfortable compartments, 33.2 square feet, with plenty of storage and bunk-style beds that fold into seating by day; shower and toilet are down the hall. And classic compartments are priced right, especially for single travelers. There are windows that open throughout the train, a boon for photographers.

http://www.irtsociety.com/images/classicday.jpg

Dining
Dining is delicious but not fancy. Dress is smart casual. Gourmet meals and white-glove service are not the aim here; meals are hearty local specialties such as goose, mashed potatoes and braised red cabbage and service is friendly and experienced. Staff members do not speak much English, but they are pleasant and cheerful. As one staff member said to a recent IRT traveler: "We are smiling."

http://www.irtsociety.com/images/DanubeLounge.jpg

Lounge Cars
The lounge car is spacious, with room for most of the train’s passengers. The atmosphere is friendly, and the brandy—the local specialty—is tasty. Wine and beer on the train are included with the price of the journey; spirits are not included. The pianist, Apollo, is talented and jolly; the songbook on board seems two inches thick stuffed with every song you ever thought of singing.

http://www.irtsociety.com/images/deluxedayandnight.jpg

Other
The itineraries are designed to take you to the heart of Central and Eastern Europe in comfort and style. The off-train sightseeing calls for plenty of walking, often over cobblestones and uneven pavement. None of the compartments on the train is handicapped accessible. Note that no drinks are included off the train except for water on the touring buses. Gratuities are included in the price of your program.

http://www.irtsociety.com/images/classicnight.jpg

http://www.mavnosztalgia.hu/files/galeria/119/big/P3114517.JPG

http://static.guim.co.uk/sys-images/Travel/Pix/pictures/2008/10/06/danube1.jpg

http://www.mavnosztalgia.hu/files/galeria/136/big/egy_kocsi.jpg

http://www.irtsociety.com/UserFiles/Image/OwenBunky1.jpg