Where does the Orient Express go? Train has new European routes4 min read

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Before the dawn of private jets and business class flights, royalty and high society members traveled through Europe onboard luxury trains.

Now anyone can do it — if they are willing and able to spend £1,700 ($2,300) for a one-night trip.

That’s the starting rate to go from Florence to Paris aboard the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, a historic luxury train operated by the LVMH-owned Belmond travel brand. Other routes cost more — much more.

The prices, however, don’t seem to deter rail enthusiasts. Many journeys sell every seat.

“2019 was a record year for Venice Simplon-Orient-Express that saw our revenue increase by 70% compared to those in 2015,” said Gary Franklin, vice president of Belmond’s trains and cruises.

When passenger journeys restarted in June, travelers again booked some routes solid.

“We are certainly seeing a revival of rail travel post-pandemic,” Franklin told CNBC. “With more and more travelers discovering … slow travel, we anticipate that this rise in demand and interest will continue.

The historic Orient Express service

New routes across Europe

Why people pay the price

We only have 120 people on a train, where an equivalent train may have 2,000 people.

Gary Franklin

vice president, Belmond trains and cruises

Most trips only last one night. Others are longer, such as the popular five-night journey that retraces the historic route from Paris to Istanbul. The train travels this route once a year in August, and cabins usually sell out a year in advance, said Franklin.

Prices for the annual trip make one-night bookings seem like a steal.

Twin cabins for the run to Istanbul are £35,000 ($47,650) per journey, while grand suites sell for an eye-popping £110,000 ($150,000). All six suites are booked for the August 2022 trip.

British writer Agatha Christie immortalized the Paris to Istanbul route in her book “Murder on the Orient Express,” which she wrote after Carriage 3309 – which now houses the three new grand suites – got stuck in a snow drift in 1929, said Belmond’s Franklin.

Courtesy of Belmond

Franklin acknowledged that trips on the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express aren’t cheap, but neither is restoring and maintaining the carriages.

“The food and beverage onboard the train … it isn’t cheap; accessing the railway network isn’t cheap,” he said. “Also, we only have 120 people on a train, where an equivalent train may have 2,000 people.”

Multi-course meals and beverages, but not alcohol, are included in the rates, and menus change depending on the destinations and season.

Courtesy of Belmond

He likened the trips to “a private jet on wheels” and the carriages to “art pieces.”

“As you’re going through the countryside in northern France, you wake up in your bed with breakfast in bed. You pull up the blinds, you’ve got the Swiss Alps and the Swiss lakes outside your window,” he said “You’re having lunch, as you go across the lagoon to Venice.”

For that experience, “It’s fantastic value for money,” he said.

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