9 Oct 2023
An Icon of the Rails
Few experiences compare to the elevated feeling of stepping aboard Belmond’s eternally beautiful Venice Simplon-Orient-Express. Imagine Cruising caught up with the train’s general manager, Pascal Deyrolle, to find out about life onboard.
“One can never be overdressed on the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express”
Describe the feeling of stepping aboard the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express?
There is no feeling like stepping on board the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express. From the second you see the 1920s and 1930s carriages pulling into the station you can feel the excitement in the air. The moment guests step on board, they are transported back to the golden age of travel and it’s amazing to see their dreams coming true as they explore their cabins and begin their journeys.
What do you think most surprises passengers about the train?
The level of detail on board the train is immaculate. From the Lalique panels in the dining car to the marquetry on board. Guests are always surprised and delighted with the staff on board. Each carriage has their own cabin steward and guests form excellent bonds with the staff meaning they return again and again.
What’s your favourite aspect of your role as the train’s general manager?
I have worked on the train for over 20 years and no day is ever the same. I love speaking to guests and making their travel dreams come true. I also love the routes I get to take on the train – visiting some of Europe’s most iconic cities including Venice, Budapest and Vienna and of course travelling once a year to Istanbul.
What are the essential items one should pack?
Essential items include; a dinner jacket for men, smart cocktail dress for ladies, or a full-length gown if one is inclined. A smart, yet comfortable outfit for the daytime.
When considering packing for the journey, passengers should bear in mind that luggage space in the cabin is limited and consists of an overhead luggage rack sufficient for two small suitcases (approximately 70x45cm).
What new health protocols and social distancing measures have been introduced?
Belmond has extremely robust hygiene and cleanliness procedures in place and we have implemented a series of new cleaning protocols targeted to protect against COVID-19 and ensure our even-higher standards are achieved and upheld. We have also reduced the number of people on board the train to allow for social distancing and will ensure that all guests are temperature checked before boarding the train.
Providing a safe environment for our guests and employees is our top priority. Upon arrival at check-in we will be asking all guests to undergo a contactless temperature check.
What secrets can you reveal about the VSOE?
The Venice Simplon-Orient-Express has a storied history and there are many legendary tales and secrets to tell. For example, our new Grand Suite carriage 3309, which is believed to have been the carriage that was stuck in the snowdrift and inspired Agatha Christie’s famous novel. Today, each year there are approximately 30 romantic marriage proposals on board. The train has a thousand stories to tell!
What are your tips for passengers to make sure they make the most of their time on board?
I always suggest that guests make the most of their time in their cabin watching the world and scenery pass by and that they make the most of dressing up for dinner. It is a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience and it deserves the finest and most glamorous attire.
What’s the most requested cocktail at the bar?
The most popular cocktail served on the train is called the ‘Guilty 12’ – inspired by the characters in Agatha Christie’s famous novel it is made of a secret recipe that our barman holds dear to his heart!
Do you enforce a dress code?
Yes, we do. One can never be overdressed on the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express. The historic décor of the train and its atmosphere encourages everyone to dress to suit the occasion. Dinner provides a marvellous opportunity to recreate the style and glamour of a bygone age.
As a consideration for fellow passengers we ask our guests to meet our minimum requirements of a jacket and tie for gentlemen and an equivalent standard for ladies.
At other times, smart daywear is the custom. Passengers are requested not to wear T-shirts or jeans and sneakers.
Do you have a favourite moment from your time working on board?
I love it when it snows and there is no moment that compares to seeing the snow on the Alps as we pass by on the train. I will always remember being a cabin-steward and sipping tea in the final carriage as I watched the sun set over the snowy Alps. Magical!
Do you have a favourite section of a VSOE journey?
I love the Verona to Innsbruck section of the journey. It is extremely dramatic with the Dolomites on one side and the river flowing at the bottom of the valley. The Alpine scenery on the Brenner Pass is incomparable and a true highlight of the journey.