There is no more memorable an experience than seeing the train for the first time. You may be at London's Victoria Station, boarding the umber and cream carriages of Belmond British Pullman or at Calais, Paris or Venice getting your first glimpse of the blue and gold carriages of the Continental Wagons-Lit. This memory will stay with you for a lifetime.
Climbing on board the original Venice Simplon-Orient-Express carriages, you step back into a more congenial and elegant era. Today, the enchantment and romance lives on, and, in an age that too often reduces travel to the speed and efficiency of getting you to your destination, the experience of this journey is more alluring than ever.
The Venice Simplon-Orient-Express is distinctive down to the smallest detail. The train is composed of original 1920s and 30s European carriages, painstakingly and lovingly restored to their original elegance and grandeur. They boast exquisite marquetry panels and designs by artists of the art deco movement, including René Laliqué.
Travelling in private compartments, passengers are attended by Cabin Stewards throughout the journey, and are assured of attentive yet discreet service. Each compartment has its own original washbasin cabinet with hot and cold water, and at night-time it becomes a comfortable bedroom, complete with soft towels and crisp linen. Compartments are converted by your cabin steward from daytime seating to a comfortable bedroom. For added comfort, cabin suites, made up of two interconnecting double cabins, are recommended.
The service is perfectly in keeping with the setting. Once your journey starts, settle into your private cabin and watch Europe's finest scenery gliding by. Whilst on board, you will have a personal steward, who will show you to your compartment of polished brass, gleaming inlaid wood, crisp linen and soft towels. He will show you how everything works in your compartment and how to call him if you need further assistance at any time during the journey. Your comfortable compartment provides a restful oasis, offering panoramic views of the ever changing landscape. Most passengers leave their cabin doors open during the day, in order to view the scenery on both sides of the train as it passes by and to chat to other passengers as they walk along the corridor and this leads to quite a 'community' atmosphere on board.
Later in the afternoon, tea with cakes and pastries is served in your cabin by your cabin steward, after which it's time to start getting ready for dinner. Dressing for the occasion is all part of the experience and our guide is that you can never be overdressed on board the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express.
The tone of the evening is set with a visit to the Bar Car, famous for its delicious cocktails and welcoming atmosphere it is the heart of the train. It is truly a unique, intimate and stylish experience that resounds to the voices of royalty, heads of state and celebrities such as Gregory Peck, Alan Whicker and Cher. Enjoy a few pre-dinner cocktails here whilst mingling with fellow travellers and soak in the atmosphere of this once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Then on to one of the three beautifully restored 1920s art deco restaurant cars - L' Oriental decorated in black lacquer, Etoile du Nord with its beautiful marquetry, and Côte d'Azur, featuring its stunning Lalique glass panels. Softly muted lighting enhances the mood while fine linen, French silverware and heavy crystal invite you to prepare for a meal to remember.
In the dining cars, the attention to detail is breathtaking: the linen, the silverware and the crystal glassware are all alluring parts of the experience. The overall result is a beguiling evocation of the golden age of travel. Yet, like all true classics, it transcends its historical origins and feels utterly fresh and contemporary. At this level, luxury is timeless.
Meals on board are an unforgettable delight. All dishes are freshly prepared on board by French chefs, with the finest supplies taken on board during the train's journey.
Brunch, lunch and dinner are served in one of the three individually designed Restaurant Cars with service provided by attentive Italian waiters. Breakfast and afternoon tea are served in your compartment by your cabin steward.
The train now visits some of Europe's most evocative destinations. The traditional route between London, Paris and Venice (or vice versa) is now complimented by departures from Venice to the exciting cities of Vienna, Prague, Berlin and Budapest. For the most discerning of travellers, the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express invites you to embark on its annual, very special departure to Istanbul, re-creating the original journey of 1883. The sheer romance of the on-board experience is entirely undiminished.
Enjoy the uncompromising luxury of the authentic period carriages, and the finest quality of service, amid some of the most beautiful scenery in Europe on board the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express.
A variety of journeys is available, which can be taken individually or as a centrepiece to a European holiday. Choose to travel on the train and make your own arrangements, or enjoy a holiday that incorporates visits to exciting cities, such as Venice, Vienna, Prague and Istanbul.
Whatever your destination, you can be sure of superb service, a veritable feast of sumptuous menus and perhaps, in the hectic world of the 21st century, a nostalgic reminder of a time when the journey was as important, if not more so, than the destination. Enjoy the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express.
Please Note : The Venice Simplon-Orient-Express is certainly not suitable for everyone - only those who yearn for the adventure and this unique experience of a bygone era. The carriages are the original 1920 - 1930s carriages and although they have been beautifully restored and regularly maintained, they have received very few modernisations (if you are travelling during the cooler months, you may well see your steward shovelling coal into the little boiler in each carriage in order to heat the radiator in your cabin). They were built in an era when travelling across Europe and sleeping on a train were a luxury in themselves. Passengers should note that the compartments are relatively small and do not have private facilities, other than a wash-basin. There is a w.c. at each end of the carriage. There are no laundry facilities on board the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express.