Rambling across the landscape aboard a luxury train was once the zenith of cutting-edge, sophisticated travel. Trains are no longer the fastest way to reach a destination, but they’re as stylish as a private jet and much more romantic. (Even if Agatha Christie had lived to see the 21st century, can you envision her writing Murder on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner? Of course not.) Top-of-the-line trains continue to clatter across six continents. If anything, losing the speed race to the airlines has made luxury train travel a greater status symbol because it demands a wealth of time as well as money. And make no mistake — riders place a premium on luxury. If you want the choicest sleeper cabins on a train journey, you might need to book two years in advance.
AN ART DECO ICON
The Venice Simplon-Orient-Express looms large in legend, thanks to Agatha Christie, who chose it as the setting for her 1934 detective novel Murder on the Orient Express. Now part of the Belmond collection of properties and luxury trains, the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express offers its classic London-Paris-Venice route (as well as Venice-Paris-London) several times a year. But the route features only one overnight on board. Those who hunger for something longer should consider one of the signature journeys, which follow a route similar to the one that the train debuted with in 1883. Both the Paris to Istanbul and the Istanbul to Venice itineraries are offered once a year and last five nights, with three of those spent aboard the train. Both also include a tour of Budapest, a cruise on the Danube river and a visit to Peles castle in Romania.
The best berth: The 70-square-foot Cabin Suite combines two interconnecting Twin Cabins to provide a pair of lounge areas and a choice of bed configurations at night. Mosaic-tiled bathrooms are at either end of the carriage. In March 2018, the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express will debut three new Grand Suites, named for the train’s best-known destinations: Paris, Venice, and Istanbul. Each offers double beds, a living area and private bathrooms with showers, as well as decorative touches that reflect the classic cities. Embossed leather and hand-carved wood enlivens the Istanbul suite; chic, elegant fittings grace the Paris suite; and the Venice suite features silk fabrics and hand-crafted Venetian glass. A one-night London to Venice journey in a Grand Suite costs $6,160 (£5,500) per passenger.