Photo: Mark Hind
Typically, these trains provide private two-person overnight compartments, some with built-in showers, along with lavish service, onboard guides, and elaborate meals.
Many also include a variety of day tours at stops along the way. Most carry passengers in vintage cars from the 1920s to 1950s that have been refurbished to modern standards or in newer cars designed to look like the classics.
Luxury trains are extremely expensive, so if you're more interested in the scenery and stops along the way than the extravagance, you can replicate many luxury rail journeys using ordinary modern trains at a fraction of the cost. I've included tips for this as well.
Photo: Mark Hind
The Orient-Express has to be the all-time winner for name recognition among iconic trains. The Simplon-Orient-Express excursion train still makes the traditional run from Paris to Istanbul via Budapest and Bucharest once per year (local rail conditions permitting), lacking only the original's onboard murder and intrigue.
But most trips are shorter two- to four-day links on various routes connecting London, Venice, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, and Bucharest. The train uses original vintage coaches that have been upgraded to operate on modern railroads and are hauled by modern and usually electric locomotives. Prices run between $1,000 and $1,400 per person, per day, and are all-inclusive. The Simplon-Orient-Express folks operate vintage trains over several other European routes at comparable rates.
The Golden Eagle Trans-Siberian Express
Photo: Simon Pielow via flickr/CC Attribution/Share Alike
The Golden Eagle Trans-Siberian Express serves the world's longest continuous railway line. This luxury train operates 15-day itineraries in modern cars, linking Moscow with Vladivostok. The train provides three classes of service, and all three include in-cabin showers, meal service, drinks, excursions, services of onboard tour guides, and porterage. There's even an onboard doctor included in the base prices.
But prices are stiff, starting at more than $15,000 per person for double occupancy in Silver Class. Golden Eagle also operates a Silk Road train linking Moscow with Beijing via Bukhara, Samarkand, and Almaty. If that's too stiff, you can do the regular straight-through seven-day Trans-Siberian Express over the same route through Real Russia. A first-class berth costs about $2,000 per person for single or double occupancy, including meals.
The Blue Train
Photo: Simon Pielow via flickr/CC Attribution/Share Alike
South Africa's Blue Train is yet another storied luxury train. All accommodations are in private two-person compartments with built-in showers and toilet facilities. The trip cost includes meals, drinks, and a high level of personal service. The Blue Train runs between Cape Town and Pretoria; in either direction, you leave early in the morning and arrive at around noon the next day. Trips run four to five times a month.
Costs for a deluxe suite start at 15,155 rand (about $1,500, according to xe.com) per person for double occupancy in the high season (September 1–November 15) or 12,380 rand (about $1,260) during low season. A few luxury suites include bathtubs rather than showers, and these are more expensive. The Blue Train operates on other South African routes as well. If you just want the Cape Town-Johannesburg train trip, you can ride a sleeper on the bare-bones Shosholoza Meyl tourist train, with prices starting at around 600 rand (about $60), or take the Premier Classe deluxe train, with prices starting at around 2,500 rand (about $250), including meals. Arrange both through African Sun Travel.
The Eastern & Oriental Express
Photo: Mark Hind
The Simplon-Orient-Express operators also run the Eastern & Oriental Express between Bangkok and Singapore. All accommodations are in two-person cabins, including a toilet and a shower, with upper/lower beds in Pullman Class and twin beds in State Class. As is standard with luxury trains, fares include meals, lots of personal attention, and sightseeing stops, including a side trip to the River Kwai bridge. The complete trip takes two to three nights, depending on the itinerary; prices for travel this summer start at $2,560 per person.
If you just want the train trip, you can do it for less than $100: Ride overnight in a sleeper from Bangkok to Butterworth, stay overnight in a Butterworth hotel, then continue from Butterworth to Singapore by day train (or vice versa). The best way to buy tickets in advance is through a travel agency, such as Thailand Train Ticket for the train between Bangkok and Butterworth and Malaysian Railway for the train between Butterworth and Singapore.
The Rocky Mountaineer
Photo: Tony Hisgett via flickr/CC Attribution
Rocky Mountaineer runs excursion trains over several Canadian routes, but the most important is the classic run between Calgary and Vancouver. Operating on Canadian Pacific tracks, this train passes through some of Canada's best mountain scenery, including Banff and Lake Louise—a better route than the alternate, between Vancouver and Jasper. This is the route once traveled by Canadian Pacific's famed transcontinental train, the Dominion, which was discontinued when Via Rail Canada took over Canadian train travel.
Unlike other luxury trains, the Rocky Mountaineer travels only during daylight hours, stopping for overnight hotel stays in Kamloops. Seasonal rates in August range from $2,827 for two people traveling in Redleaf service, with regular coach seats, to $5,552 for double occupancy in the full-length-window dome car. Rates include meals and overnight accommodations in Kamloops.
VIA Rail Canada does not run trains on the old Canadian Pacific line. Its transcontinental, the Canadian, runs over the less-scenic Canadian National route via Jasper rather than Calgary. A peak summer-season sleeping compartment for two people for the four-night trip from Toronto to Vancouver costs $3,487 CAD (about $3,350) per person at list price, including meals, but is often discounted to half price. Another scenic option in Canada is the Skeena between Jasper and Prince Rupert. Like the Rocky Mountaineer, this two-day train trip runs during daylight hours only. It also stops overnight at Prince George. Summer fares start at about $100 CAD (about $96), not including the overnight accommodations that you'll need to book. Winter fares are much lower on both routes.
The Royal Scotsman
Photo: Orient Express
Those busy folks at Orient-Express also run luxury train The Royal Scotsman on a variety of two- to seven-night excursions around Scotland and England. As with the others, The Royal Scotsman features deluxe accommodations in single, double, or twin cabins; fancy meals; onboard service; and the rest. Starting rates are in the $1,700–$2,000 range per person, per day, and are all-inclusive.
The Royal Scotsman's name is a neologism of the former top two British intercity trains: the Royal Scot from London to Glasgow and the Flying Scotsman from London to Edinburgh. In the glory days of steam, both trips took a bit longer than seven hours. Trains on both routes now make the trip in about four and a half hours. You can also trace all of The Royal Scotsman's routes on ordinary trains.
The Great Southern Rail
Photo: Great Southern Rail
Although it's the only through train on the route, Australia's weekly transcontinental Indian Pacific, linking Sydney (Pacific Ocean) with Perth (Indian Ocean) now runs primarily as an excursion train. It's run by private operator Great Southern Rail. The three-night trip features varied scenery, from the Snowy Mountains near Sydney to the desolate Nullarbor Plain near Perth, and includes the world's longest stretch of perfectly straight rail track (297 miles). Advance-purchase fares in a Gold Service sleeper start at $1,634 AUD (about $1,509) for one person in a single compartment or $1,815 AUD (about $1,680) for two people in a twin, including meals. Standard fares are about 50 percent higher.
Tickets are available for intermediate stages, such as Adelaide-Perth. Great Southern Rail also operates Australia's other iconic long-haul trains: the Ghan, from Adelaide to Darwin through the Outback via Alice Springs, and the Overland between Adelaide and Melbourne. These private-excursion trains are the only ones operating over these routes.
Photo: Tren Crucero
Ecuador's historic 280-mile narrow-gauge rail link between Guayaquil on the Pacific Ocean and Quito, 9,350 feet high in the Andes, just reopened after years of neglect. Tren Crucero runs all-daylight four-day excursions with three overnight hotel stays along the way. Trips run from June through August and from December through February, and some are hauled at least partially by vintage steam locomotives.
The feature here is spectacular scenery and legendary railroading—not onboard luxury, although the coaches are designed for sightseeing tourists. The current introductory price, including hotel accommodations, is $991 per person for double occupancy with a single supplement of $97. So far, no other train operates over the entire line. But given the cost of rehabilitation, don't be surprised to see the Ecuadorian railway start providing conventional through trains.
Palace on Wheels
Photo: Train Chartering & Private Rail Cars via flickr/CC Attribution/Share Alike
India's Palace on Wheels operates weekly tours on a Delhi-Jaipur-Sawai Madhopur-Udaipur-Jodhpur-Agra-Delhi route. The focus is on hitting northwest India's destination spots rather than highlighting scenery along the way.
Modern period-decorated cars include individual compartments with private bathrooms. The tour includes local sightseeing at most stops, meals, and lots of personal service. Off-season (September through April) prices range from $390 per person, per night, for a shared cabin to $575 for single-cabin occupancy; high-season prices range from $520 to $770.
Other luxury tourist trains in India include the Maharaja's Express, running in the same general area as the Palace on Wheels, and the Deccan Odyssey and Golden Chariot, running in southern India. All are available through Luxe Train Journeys and other specialists in Indian travel. All of the luxury train routes are also served by conventional trains, which you can arrange throughIndian Railways, which accepts American Express, or Cleartrip, which accepts MasterCard and Visa (according to The Man in Seat Sixty-One, a great resource for rail travel worldwide).
The California Zephyr
The closest Amtrak comes to a luxury/historical train trip is the California Zephyr between Chicago and Emeryville, near Berkeley.
It covers much of the route of the original California Zephyr on the Burlington, Rio Grande, and Western Pacific railroads, although it now uses the Southern Pacific Donner Pass route rather than the original Western Pacific Feather River route. The three-day, two-night trip is scheduled for mostly daylight viewing on the two most scenic segments: through the Rockies from Denver to Salt Lake City and through the Sierras from Reno to Emeryville. The westbound schedule is slightly superior. This train carries bi-level sleepers plus dome cars for optimal sightseeing.
Rates vary by date, but I tested dates for travel this August and found prices starting at $204 per person plus $775 for a sleeper roomette (for either one person or two), including all meals. In October, those prices drop to $163 for a ticket and $626 for a roomette. Two other Amtrak runs replicate America's two most iconic trains: The Southwest Chief travels the same route as Santa Fe's famed Super Chief (except for the short stretch from San Bernardino to Los Angeles), and the Lake Shore Limited retraces the route of New York Central's legendary 20th Century Limited. Old-time rail buffs will tell you it's not even close to the same experience. But you take what you can get.
Read more: http://www.smartertravel.com/photo-galleries/editorial/10-iconic-train-excursions-.html?id=502&source=21073&utm_content=buffer4ba84&utm_source=buffer&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=Buffer#ixzz2cEoSqyCI