Just the mention of its name conjures images of world-class glam and adventure. With its over-the-top decor, oh-so-proper staff and star-studded hospitality, the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express (VSOE) is the world's definitive hotel on wheels. The train traces its roots back to the original Express d'Orient: launched in 1883 and the setting for Agatha Christie's classic novel. Today, VSOE luxury journeys touch down in over a dozen culture capitals including Venice, Paris, London and Istanbul.
The mystique surrounding the Orient-Express is evident from the moment you hit the platform. While gawking passersby pause to check out the international icon of travel, starched train personnel snap to the boarding needs of your party and other VSOE travelers. All aboard and the golden age of train travel comes to life. Restored deco carriages overload the senses with backdrops of inlaid woods, plush fabrics and brass fittings; all capped by the smell of fresh flowers and the bursts of popping corks.
No detail goes unchecked. Bell stewards respond to individual requests at all hours. As a VSOE guest, you can expect first class service and amenities throughout your journey. By day, your private cabin is an elegant lounge where you can enjoy both continental breakfast and afternoon tea while watching Europe unfold before your eyes. In the evening, return to find your cabin transformed into a sumptuous sleep quarters, complete with soft towels and crisp linen.
Life among your fellow travelers is a rare experience as well. In the Bar Car, a behive of chic and chat, an accomplished pianist sets the tone. Brunch, lunch, and four-course dinner are served in one of a trio of restaurant cars. Onboard cuisine is freshly prepared 'en tren' by skilled French chefs. Table d'hÙte meals are included in the tour price; ý la carte menu and 24-hour cabin service are available. "Casual but smart" attire is expected by day; evenings are black tie optional.
operates a range of journeys from two-day itineraries to extended journeys lasting several days. Most popular is the signature overnight passage between London and Venice. The classic Orient-Express route, linking Paris and Istanbul, is commemorated with a grand once-a-year tour. Prague, Vienna, Budapest and Rome are among other VSOE destinations. Depending on the route, scenic highlights may include the Italian Dolomites, the Swiss Alps, the Danube River or the French countryside.
VSOE journeys depart from late March through early November. Accessibility is limited and wheelchairs cannot be accommodated. Tours beginning or ending in London include transfer aboard vintage British Pullman (including champagne lunch or high tea) and coach via Eurotunnel shuttle.