Travel with us into the world of old school charm and romanticism on board the Orient Express.
We traveled on the Orient Express in Sep 2016. It was a childhood dream for us having grown up reading Agatha Christie novels, namely 'Murder on the Orient Express'.
Long distance train travel has an aura of mystery and romanticism attached to it - gazing out of the window as the train winds through beautiful landscapes, meeting interesting people (and strangers) on the train - all add to the experience. And, doing all this in style and luxury is like the icing on the cake. The Orient Express is able to blend all this in one ride.
Watch the James Bond movie "From Russia with Love" or Chanel's "Train de Nuit" advertisement if you need further reasons to get inspired to undertake a journey on board the Orient Express :)
The original Orient Express ran from Istanbul to Paris in the 1880s. It has a rich history of connecting Europe, and used to be preferred mode of transport for royals, dignitaries, in general the privileged people in those days.
The modern Orient Express retains much of this old world charm and sophistication. The interior decorations have been carefully restored, so that you immediately feel like entering a bygone era as soon as you step on the train.
The (current) Orient Express covers multiple destinations on journeys ranging from 1 to 5 nights. You can get the full list of journeys here: (link). Note that these journeys are very expensive to say the least - a 1 night train ride can easily cost you 1500 Euros per person. So the 1-2 night journeys get booked fast, and advance booking of around 3-4 months is definitely recommended! In our opinion, a 24 hour (1 night) journey is more than enough to get a feel of the train. So 2 days are more than sufficient to fully explore and experience the train - anything above that purely depends on the time and budget you have at your disposal.
We took the Venice to Prague part, which is basically a 20 hour journey. Within this period, we had sufficient time to explore the train, even the souvenir shop :), have 3 meals on board, relax in our cabin, and even visit the bar; so we had pretty much covered everything (worth exploring) by the time the train entered Prague.
The cabins are small, meant for a couple (2 people); however the two of you will definitely have trouble moving around or getting dressed for dinner, at the same time. The price may make it seem that you will be getting half the compartment, but that is clearly not the case :) In fact, all cabins are the same; the suites are basically two cabins combined together!
The cabins are small, but of course very elegantly decorated - refer to the pic below:
Basically, the upper part of the seat gets converted into another bed at night. So space is usually not a problem while sitting or sleeping, but moving around needs a bit of adjustment. Regarding luggage, we also had some confusion initially regarding the amount of luggage that will be permitted with us in the cabin. As a thumb rule, let's say one suitcase of the usual airline limit (23 kgs / 50 lbs) will be allowed with you in the cabin. The rest will be stored in their luggage cabin, and only returned to you at your destination - so pack accordingly!
Regarding other amenities, there is a wash basin and mirror in the room. However there is NO attached bathroom in the room. There is one per compartment, and of course you can cross over to the one in the adjoining compartment if your need is urgent :) However, there are still no showers in any of the bathrooms. This is one of the main reasons why a journey of more than 2 days is difficult on the Orient Express. (This is also why the 5 night journeys on the Orient Express usually have a layover of 1-2 nights in between at a city hotel, in one of the intermediate cities en route.)
The other reason why a multi-day journey is difficult on this train - is the amount of sleep you will get at night! The train usually travels at quite a fast speed at night, and the disadvantage of maintaining the train as it used to be in the old days; is that you will feel the jerks and bends of the train as it travels at night. Most other such luxury trains now stop at a station during night to allow you a peaceful sleep. For us, however, sleeping on a moving train is very much part of the experience; and we prefer it to stopping at a station at night. However, it would of course be difficult to sustain this 'lack of sleep' over multiple nights.
Bar and Dining
Of course, you will not be spending all the time in your cabin. There are 3 dining cars on the train, where you will be having your lunch and dinner - breakfast is usually served in your cabin. There is not much to choose among the 3 restaurant cars, all 3 are equally stunning and uniquely decorated.
All meals are freshly prepared on the train. The quality of food and presentation can easily rival that of a Michelin star restaurant. So you also need to be dress accordingly for the occasion - don't forget your suits, tuxedos and gowns! The train is pretty long, so be prepared for some walking to reach the dining cars, of course depending on the location of your compartment.
There is also a bar with a live pianist where you can relax before and after your dinner.
Overall, we had an amazing journey on the train, leaving us with memories which we will cherish for the rest of our lives. The (super) friendly and helpful staff make it even more special. If you love classics, our absolute recommendation would be to experience this train journey at least once in your lifetime. Bon voyage!!