The Venice Simplon-Orient-Express (VSOE)
Pack your tuxedo and ball gown; you can never be overdressed aboard the elegant carriages of the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express. Make no mistake, this luxury train trip is a very expensive way to cross Europe but justifiable as a journey to tick off your bucket list or as a way to mark a significant occasion.
This is first-class, iconic train travel at its most opulent. The Venice Simplon-Orient-Express is the most romantic and luxurious way to travel from London or Paris to Venice and an example of when travel is as much about the experience of the journey as about the destination.
The vintage carriages are a delight and the food and service are truly world class. This luxury train trip really does live up to its five-star rating.
The Venice Simplon-Orient-Express (VSOE) is a privately-run train of beautifully restored 1920s, 30s and 50s coaches. An impeccable level of service is one of the hallmarks of this lavish journey. All team members, from chefs and waiters to stewards and bar staff, are passionate about the train and its history.
The Orient Express
Created back in 1883 as the Orient Express and originally running between Paris and Istanbul via Vienna and Budapest, the service’s glamorous heyday was during the interwar period. This incarnation ran until 1962, when it was replaced by the Direct Orient Express until 2009. Five months later, American shipping magnate James Sherwood bought and lovingly began restoring the original first-class carriages down to the finest detail and all their former glory.
On 25 May 1982, the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express was born, with London as the new starting point. Passengers travel from London’s Victoria station to Folkestone in Kent, before a luxury coach transports them across the channel on the Eurostar train and they board the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express at Calais, France.
Guests are given brochures describing a few rules: no smoking, no cell phones or laptops in public areas, no jeans, no trainers; the dress code is “smart casual” during the day and evening or cocktail attire at night. If you aren’t dressed to standard, you may be asked to change.
This is not a trip for introverts: socialising is a major part of the experience. The bar cart is where the real magic of the Orient Express happens. Everyone is dressed up and determined to have a good time. Without phones or wifi people are forced to do something that’s becoming rarer by the day: talk to one another.
Cabins on the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express
The Venice Simplon Orient Express is a faithful recreation of the 1920s original train and Belmond have ensured that travelling on board is an experience exactly as it would have been during its original luxurious journeys.
At its maximum length, the train consists of 17 carriages. Three of those are restaurants, one is a bar, and the rest are sleeper cabins.
Dine in one of the three beautifully restored restaurant cars on fine linen, French silverware and heavy crystal. Enjoy a three-course meal (for lunch) and a four-course meal (for dinner). All the while, travel across Europe viewing magnificent scenery and ever-changing landscapes from the comfort of this luxurious, iconic train.
There are 88 double cabins (upper and lower berth) and 11 single cabins modelled on the 1920s originals. Each private compartment is attended by a cabin steward throughout the journey.
The standard cabins aboard the Venice Simplon Orient Express do not have en-suite facilities, and as per the original train, toilets are located at the end of each carriage.
However, three incredibly spacious grand suites bring a new level of luxury to the already opulent train. Each Grand Suite includes a private en suite bathroom with showers, sinks and toilet, as well as a double bedroom and a sizeable living area.
The train operates between late March and early November on a variety of itineraries lasting from a day to six nights.
Alongside the traditional, classic journey between London, Paris, Verona and Venice you can now travel to London from Vienna, Verona, Prague or Budapest. There’s an annual journey from London to Berlin and trip from London to Istanbul, a nine-day journey that recreates the original 1883 route.
Which is better, a southbound or northbound trip?
You can depart London mid-morning for an overnight journey to Venice, where you arrive late afternoon the next day. For the reverse direction, depart Venice late morning for your overnight journey to London, where you arrive late afternoon the next day.
Most agree the southbound has the edge, although the northbound journey tends to be less popular, so often has better availability and sometimes better rates. And the arrival in Venice over the causeway is a fitting climax and, depending on the time of year, you’ll also see more of the Arlberg Pass in daylight in the morning from a southbound train than in the evening from a northbound train.
Tick this amazing trip off your bucket list.
Step back in time and into the shoes of some of the wealthiest people, including kings, presidents, politicians, and celebrities, who like you have indulged in luxury train trips.