Ah, the Orient Express! Original 1920s and 30s carriages painstakingly restored with exquisite marquetery panels and designs by Art Deco artists; elegance and splendour: no wonder the allure of this luxury train is so hard to resist. This very special rail journey – operating between March and November – lets you experience the very best of glamorous Europe, from the matchless tradition of London to the waterways of Venice, where, with the help of an ultra-luxury hotel stay and private touring, you’ll immerse yourself in the history and majesty of this beguiling city. And, it’s all enjoyed via one of the world’s most exclusive travel experiences – a journey on the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express.
To start your journey in suitable style we’ll arrange a chauffeur to whisk you to London’s Victoria Station, arriving early so that you can let the excitement build as you sip champagne at a private reception. The thrill and anticipation is palpable. Then board the umber and cream carriages of Belmond’s British Pullman. Settle into your seat as you roll through the Kent countryside, dining on a gourmet lunch paired with great wines. Let us escort you onto the Eurotunnel for the short under-sea exchange between Folkestone and Calais, where you’ll lay eyes on those signature blue-and-gold carriages. Climb aboard and as you are guided to your oak-panelled cabin or suite note how you’re stepping back in time to a more elegant and congenial era. In the elegant privacy of your cabin unpack your finery and freshen up before immersing yourself in life onboard. Spend your evening mingling with other passengers in the Bar Car, listening to an accomplished pianist while you sip perfectly prepared pre-dinner signature cocktails. Alternatively toast your exceedingly good taste with a vintage champagne from the train’s extensive selection. As dusk begins to settle, sink into your seat in one of the three beautifully restored restaurant cars, prepare to feast on lobsters from Brittany or salt marsh lamb from Mont St Michel as the train pauses in Paris, before seeing out the evening with a night cap and discovering that your cabin has been discretely converted into a sleeping compartment. Climb the upholstered ladder to your upper berth or snuggle down under luxury linen on the bottom bunk to be lulled by the movement of the train as you roll east, overnight, towards the Alps. Unless you’re travelling in a Grand Suite of course, and have the indulgent luxury of a double bed.
Next, we’ll pile on the glamour as you awake to a sumptuous Continental breakfast served in your cabin by your personal steward. Watch mesmerised as the landscapes of the Swiss Alps rush past. Spoil yourself with the luxury of time, time to sit and absorb the experience of travelling on a service synonymous with the golden age of travel, calling on your cabin steward whenever you need anything. Swap your luxurious cabin for the elegant dining car and indulge in a three-course lunch as the peaks of the Dolomites signal your arrival into Italy. Then, as you take afternoon tea the train will cross the Venetian Lagoon to arrive at the Venezia Santa Lucia Station. As you step down onto the platform, there’s a chance you’ll feel elated and sad as you have to disembark from your 1920s bubble. Console yourself though by taking a moment to admire the imposing architecture before a waiting water taxi whisks you to the Baglioni Hotel Luna, one of Venice’s most exclusive addresses. This luxurious overnight stay remains a favourite with our clients, and it’s easy to see why. The timeless elegance, coupled with its well-regarded restaurant make it a heavenly base for exploring Venice, from the Bridge of Sighs to the Piazza San Marco; don’t miss sunset over the city’s most famous square and make sure to find your way to Harry’s Bar.
In the morning take breakfast on Venice’s highest roof terrace, revelling in the panoramic views of the neighbouring basilicas, canals and terracotta rooftops from your privileged vantage point. Rested and refreshed, you’re then set to explore Venice’s waterways and labyrinthine streets. We’ll help you delve deeper by arranging an in-depth private tour led by a top guide, who will unmask Venice for you. Priority entry will ensure that you don’t have to queue to uncover the grandeur of the Doge’s Palace and the treasure trove of Venetian artefacts hidden behind the Gothic façade. Your knowledgeable guide will bring the history and hidden side of this former residence of the rulers of Venice to life, letting you uncover the dark prisons and notorious torture chamber behind the opulent exterior. The remainder of your day is then yours to do with as you please. Tell your holiday planner what sort of things you like or are interested in and let them make some personalised suggestions for you. Perhaps a private tour to explore the medieval towns and teal-blue waters of the Venetian Islands? A punt on the romantic canals aboard a gondola or a chance to wander through the winding streets, alleyways and secret squares. With a surprise around every corner, you’ll enjoy getting lost in the maze of streets and waterways. When you’re done with strolling the atmospheric streets and soaking up La Dolce Vita, take some aperitivo time and stake your claim at a grand-Canal-facing table or make for the Hotel Metropole, one of Hemmingway’s favourite haunts, where you can sip a perfectly-prepared Bellini. Imagine the stories you’ll tell.
Allow yourself to linger over breakfast, luxuriating in your surroundings before you indulge yourself with a final morning’s exploration. Perhaps you’ll take in St Mark’s Church and the towering Campanile, soak up the classic and contemporary art scenes or simply go in search of the perfect gelato. We’ll then ensure that your holiday finishes in the same style it started, with a water taxi to the airport and a chauffeur upon touchdown to squire you swiftly and easily home.
"Simply put, this is one of the greatest journeys by rail. Not only is the route impossibly scenic, but the onboard experience is truly indulgent, from the fine dining to the white-gloved service. Lastly, speak to your consultant about travelling in the Grand Suites. New for 2018, these are the last word in luxury, resplendent in Art-Deco opulence and free-flowing champagne."
Low Season Twin Cabin from: £3,395 pp
High Season Twin Cabin from: £3,590 pp
Low Season Cabin Suite from: £4,885 pp
High Season Cabin Suite from: £5,080 pp
Departures : The Venice-Simplon-Orient Express departs between 17 Mar and 07 Nov 2019