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Discover The Venice Simplon-Orient-Express

Quite possibly the most iconic train journey in the world, the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express exudes Art Deco glamour as it speeds through some of Europe’s most stunning scenery. Travel between a collection of magnificent cities on board the classic carriages, which will transport you back to the 1920s and the Golden Age of travel with their gleaming French-polished cherry wood marquetry, opulently embroidered upholstery and vintage fittings.

Though you may hear tell of the ‘original’ Orient Express, there’s actually no such thing, as the name is given to a service rather than a specific set of coaches. The service ran until 2009 between Paris and Bucharest and differs from the luxury scheduled trains of the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express service. Different rolling stock has been used at various times since the service was launched, each one more glamorous than the last. The first iconic midnight blue cars of the modern train rolled into action in 1982 and have been offering a peerless way to travel ever since, some restored from the Roaring Twenties.

Whether you choose to make the iconic journey between London and Venice, or perhaps to the lofty domes of Istanbul or the vibrant streets of Berlin, you’ll be privy to some of the finest dining experiences on board the rails.

The Experience

Every part of your journey is designed to help you capture a little of the magic of a bygone era, whether that’s the gentle clinking of solid crystal glassware in the bar car, or the traditional hospitality of your besuited steward. Travelling on board the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for many, and the experience more than lives up to its reputation.

Dressing for dinner is a key part of the experience; you can dress in smart separates should you wish, but keep in mind that most people will don a floor-length dress or something that evokes the style of the 1920s.

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Carriages

The train is made up of sleeping cars dating back to the 1920s and 30s, plus three dining cars, a bar car with an elegant baby grand piano which is played every evening before and after dinner, and an on-board boutique. There is also a baggage carriage for storing outsize bags that will not fit in your cabin. The most famous carriages are undoubtedly the three dining cars, where all the guests of the train come together for sumptuous cuisine in the most genteel surroundings. You may find yourself seated in L’Oriental, built in Birmingham in 1927 and dressed in black lacquer panels and red upholstery, or perhaps Côte d’Azur with its Lalique glassware, or Etoile du Nord with its stunning marquetry, which once travelled to Amsterdam, Paris, Lisbon, Madrid and Seville. The vibrant 3674 Bar Car, with its blue zebra and gold detailing, is also a guest favourite. In the early days of the service back in 1900, it was possible to buy certain carriages of the Orient Express, but today your accommodation is yours for as long as you’re on board.

Cabins

The restored 1920s sleeper cabins are some of the most luxurious train accommodation in the world. Each one is beautifully appointed with exquisite craftsmanship, such as bespoke soft furnishings and polished wood. There are four different cabin options to choose from: cosy single cabins, twin and double cabins with a banquette that converts into a bed at night, cabin suites made of two interconnecting cabins and Grand Suites – the most opulent accommodation on the rails. In most of the cabins the beds convert from a sitting area; while you’re enjoying a leisurely breakfast in your allocated dining car, your steward will slip in to return your bed to a banquette. At night, you’ll climb an upholstered ladder to the top bunk, or take the berth below where you’ll fall asleep to the gentle rocking motion of the train. In a Grand Suite, the sense of grandeur is inescapable, with Art Deco glamour from floor to ceiling, free-flowing champagne and flourishes taken from the service’s most iconic cities: Paris, Venice and Istanbul. There are three Grand Suites available, with each taking up an entire carriage and fixed beds so you can rest comfortably at any time. Precious materials used throughout include exotic woods, onyx and marble mosaics and light fixtures made from mouth-blown glass. Whichever cabin you choose, you’ll have a washbasin with hot and cold water, towels, bathrobes and slippers plus dual voltage plugs to stay connected. There are no showers or en suite bathrooms except in the Grand Suites, but there are two WCs at the end of each sleeping car. You will also receive mineral water and luxury toiletries in your vanity. As you can imagine in a train cabin, space is limited so you will need to transfer your necessary clothing and items for the journey into a carry-on bag and a garment bag, and to check-in any larger suitcases which will be returned to you once you reach your final destination.

Service

While the carriages have differed over the years, the exquisite service, however, remains unchanged. Every stay is unique to each guest, with your finely-attired stewards available for your every whim and to transform your cabin between a sitting area or sleeping bunks. Whatever you need, capture the attention of a liveried blue-and-gold attendant and you’ll find every request taken care of. The stewards are specially chosen for their excellent attention to detail and many have worked on board the train for decades.

Food

The cuisine on board is truly exceptional – its presentation is as such it’s hard to believe that it has been created on board a moving locomotive. Executive Chef Christian Bodiguel has honed his menus on the Orient Express for over 30 years, and takes inspiration from local, seasonal produce, dependent on the route that the train takes. You will be asked to choose from one of two sittings for breakfast, lunch and dinner, where you will enjoy multi-course dining of the highest calibre, accompanied by a selection of perfectly paired wines. Set menus are included in your journey, while drinks and à la carte dining is at an additional charge. Each afternoon, you will also be offered a sumptuous afternoon tea. The champagne bar is quite a spectacle, dressed in Art Deco relics and Lalique glassware. Here, you can sample perfectly chilled champagnes and all manner of soft and alcoholic beverages while you listen to the melodic sounds of the baby grand piano. If you’re a night owl, the bar car closes only when the last passenger has gone to bed.

Dress Code

On the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, you can never be too overdressed. If you’ve packed jeans, shorts or trainers for your holiday then keep them in your checked suitcase, as the dress code on board requires more formality. For dinner, men should wear a dark suit and tie, or dinner jacket, while women can dress in smart attire; many guests choose to embrace the occasion with black tie dress. During the day, the dress code is smart casual. Jeans are not acceptable at any time.