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Where does the Orient Express go? Train has new European routes


Prior to the advent of business and private flights, high-ranking members of royalty traveled across Europe aboard luxury trains.

Now anyone can do it — if they are willing and able to spend £1,700 ($2,300) for a one-night trip.

That’s the starting rate to go from Florence to Paris aboard the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, a historic luxury train operated by the LVMHBelmond is a Belmond-owned travel brand. Other routes cost more — much more.

Rail enthusiasts don’t find the high prices to be deterring. Every seat is sold on many journeys.

“2019 was a record year for Venice Simplon-Orient-Express that saw our revenue increase by 70% compared to those in 2015,” said Gary Franklin, vice president of Belmond’s trains and cruises.

Travelers again reserved some solid routes when passenger journeys resumed in June.

Franklin stated that there is a “certain revival” in rail travel after the pandemic. CNBC’s Franklin said that more tourists are discovering slow travel and we expect to see this trend continue.

Historic Orient Express Service

The Venice Simplon-Orient-Express comprises 11 sleeping cars, three restaurant cars, one bar car and two staff cars, making it the longest passenger train in Europe, said Franklin.

This train is not your ordinary train. Every one of these 17 carriages were once part Europe’s iconic Orient Express train service, which ran from Paris to Istanbul since 1883. Franklin stated that this service was later extended to other European cities and saw its peak between World War I (and II).

The oldest carriage on the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express dates to 1926.

Belmond, Courtesy

The famous railway line was largely abandoned by jet travel. The carriages eventually fell into disrepair and the services were discontinued.

American James Sherwood was Belmond’s founder in the 1970s. Numerous Auction of dilapidated carriages. By 1982, he had located — and restored to their former grandeur — enough original carriages to form the Venice Simplon-Orient Express that still operates today.

Europe has new routes

The Covid pandemic caused the VSOE to miss its 2020 travel season which ran from March through November.

The train was closed for 18 months and reopened in June. New routes were added to connect it with some of Europe’s top cities. The luxury train will now go to Amsterdam, Brussels Geneva Rome, and Florence in addition to London and Paris.

Franklin said that the new Amsterdam route is very popular and added that 2022 schedules are almost sold out.

Named “Simplon”, the name derives from the Simplon Tunnel which was opened in 1906 and runs through the Alps, between Switzerland and Italy. It is used today by Belmond routes.

Belmond, Courtesy

Three new suites were added by Belmond during closure. These suites can accommodate two people and include bedrooms, living areas, and bathrooms with marble or hand-blown Italian glasses. Prices start at £5,300 ($7,200) per person for short journeys.

Franklin stated that the train’s suites have become increasingly popular because of growing demands for privacy and special-occasion travel.

The reason people pay for the price

A train can only hold 120 passengers, while a comparable train could have 2000.

Gary Franklin

Vice president of Belmond cruises and trains

Many trips take only one night. Other trips take longer such as the famous five-night, historic Paris-to Istanbul journey. It travels the route only once every year in August. Franklin stated that cabins sell well in advance of a year.

The annual trip is so affordable that one night bookings are almost a bargain.

Twin cabins for the run to Istanbul are £35,000 ($47,650) per journey, while grand suites sell for an eye-popping £110,000 ($150,000). For the August 2022 trip, all six suites have been booked.

British writer Agatha Christie immortalized the Paris to Istanbul route in her book “Murder on the Orient Express,” which she wrote after Carriage 3309 – which now houses the three new grand suites – got stuck in a snow drift in 1929, said Belmond’s Franklin.

Belmond, Courtesy

Franklin acknowledged that trips on the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express aren’t cheap, but neither is restoring and maintaining the carriages.

“The food and beverage onboard the train … it isn’t cheap; accessing the railway network isn’t cheap,” he said. A train with 120 people can carry as many passengers as a train that has 2,000.

The rates include multi-course meals, beverages and alcohol but they do not include alcohol. Menus can change according to the season and destination.

Belmond, Courtesy

He compared the journeys to “a private aircraft on wheels” while the carriages were “art pieces.”

You wake up with breakfast as you travel through northern France’s countryside. He said, “You pull up your blinds, and you have the Swiss Alps (and the Swiss lakes) outside of you window.”

It’s a fantastic experience and value for money, he stated.