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  • Travel: Rail Journeys

    travel-Orient-Express-Dining

    This week we’re going to address a common comment we get from our clients. Many have done a lot of ocean cruising, enjoyed the small ship river cruising, but are looking for something off the traditional tourist track. Recently I was introduced to rail travel. The peacefulness and slower pace of a rail experience can be very appealing. Discover the joy of the journey, pass spectacular scenery, and enjoy a hassle-free holiday. Choose from an expertly planned holiday or let us build you a customized trip. All you have to do is sit back, relax, and enjoy the journey.

    One of the wonderful things about holidays by rail is that there are so many different ways to enhance your trip and make it special. That could be choosing a luxury train journey, for example, but there are many other choices available too. Whether you’d like a first-class experience on the rails or perhaps choose to upgrade your hotel in one or two destinations for that little bit of luxury, the possibilities are endless. One thing is for sure; there’s an option for everyone to celebrate in style!

    Select the type of vacation you’re looking for, from exciting multi-city escapes to epic cross-continent adventures – and let us recommend journeys for you. Or be inspired by our suppliers carefully chosen vacation selections, picked to highlight customers’ favorite adventures and the most spectacular destinations. Let’s say you’re interested in booking one of our most popular packages, such as the Classic Glacier and Bernina Express in Switzerland. Did you know that you can combine that trip with another to increase the sights you’ll see, the onboard experiences, and the memories you’ll make? With rail, it’s easy to add on a couple of days, or head off to another area for more in-depth exploration. 

    Any destination, any date, for any length of time… simply put, if the train goes there, we can book it for you.  We can tailor a vacation to suit your exact requirements. We’ll make sure you get exactly what you want, whether it’s a boutique hotel, a special kind of restaurant, an exciting museum tour, or a once-in-a-lifetime, off-the-beaten-path experience. Quite simply, we’ll help you carefully design an authentic train vacation that works with your budget to maximize your free time and take you off the traditional tourist track. 

    Most of our cruising clients ask us to book at least a few days pre and post cruise, especially on European itineraries, to experience those ports, often located in major cities. With rail cruise extensions, travellers have the opportunity to extend their ocean or river cruise with a rail adventure. We can organize an appealing rail itinerary throughout Europe. Choose from exploring the magical fjords of Norway, the famed lakes of Switzerland, or the bustling city centres of Paris, Amsterdam, Munich, Berlin, and Budapest. One of the best ways to experience a new destination is through organized sightseeing tours and activities. Whether you are a foodie looking to taste your way through the town like a local, a history buff looking to soak in the ancient past or want activities for the whole family to enjoy, we have endless options for your holiday.

    Coach vs First Class

    One common question regarding rail travel is the advantage of upgrading the class of service onboard the train. While the answer to this question is more about your personal preferences, the good news is that most trains have several common features as far as upgrades are concerned. 

    The first of these is space. If you are travelling by train in Europe, you will find that upgrading typically means that the seats are slightly larger, with more room to stretch your legs out and enjoy the journey. Most European trains are open plan, and First-Class carriages are typically laid out with three seats across an aisle as opposed to four in the Standard equivalent. So, larger seats, as well as the option for more seating options (for example tables for two and individual seats) are the result. Fewer passengers also mean more space to store your luggage, as well as a quieter travel environment. Currently due to COVID, there are also additional restrictions as to the number of passengers allowed on trains.

    Meals and Accommodations

    When you factor in the option to order a meal and drinks served at your seat, some train operators include a meal or drink in the cost of your ticket if you upgrade. Then, the list of reasons to consider doing this is a lengthy one! Upgrades on overnight travel in Europe may include the option to have a private ensuite bathroom in your sleeper cabin, while in North America, upgrading your overnight travel to a sleeping car accommodation means all meals will be included in the cost of the ticket. You can order these served in the privacy of your sleeping car if you prefer. 

    Even if you are staying in a sleeper compartment, pre and post rail travel hotels and sometimes an additional night or 2 along the journey are required. We can offer you a variety of hotels to fit your needs for comfort, style, and convenience. Whether you are looking to experience your stay in a quaint hotel filled with charm and history or a modern hotel chain, we have options for you ranging from 3, 4, and 5-star properties! The exact arrangements will vary depending on where you happen to be travelling– but it’s reassuring to know that the experience is a worthwhile one, no matter where you are in the world! 

    We source and book your accommodations according to your specific requirements. Most often, the hotels we recommend are conveniently located in the city centre, and only a short taxi or stroll from the train station, allowing you to maximize your stay and explore with ease. 

    Venice Simplon-Orient Express 

    If you are looking for an over-the-top luxury experience, step over the threshold of the Venice Simplon-Orient Express and you’ll encounter a world of decadence, where ornate interiors and free-flowing champagne are simply a way of life. Experience pure comfort, opulent interiors, fine dining and convivial company along the tracks as you relive the ‘golden age of rail travel’! Accommodations vary greatly by category or class, but the most luxurious option is the Grand Suite. Each Grand Suite has a double or twin bedroom, a living area with a private dining space and a sofa which can be converted into an additional bed. The private en-suite bathroom has a shower, unique washbasin and toilet, plus bespoke amenities, and complimentary bathrobes. 24-hour cabin service includes complimentary champagne in the Grand Suite. In-suite dining is a feature of the Grand Suite for the ultimate privacy.

    Special Occasions 

    A rail vacation is a unique and very memorable way to celebrate special occasions. We can provide a variety of recommendations to take your holiday from memorable to unforgettable. With hotel upgrade options like a room with a spectacular view – perhaps of the Matterhorn or the canals in Venice, private experiences, and incredible luxury trains including the famous Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, your entire trip becomes its own cause for celebration.

    Here is an overview of a 7-day vacation from Florence, Italy to Paris, France, including an overnight on the famous Orient Express! Prices for this trip are as low as $4299 CAD per person. A rail journey from London to Florence is an optional add on to start this adventure. See the attached map for a few route possibilities.

    DAY 1 

    Welcome to Florence! Following your trip, you will be met on arrival and transferred to your hotel to check-in for a 3-night stay.  That evening head out to get your bearings.  Florence is surprisingly compact and a stroll along the banks of the Arno to the gorgeous Ponte Vecchio is a lovely way to work up an appetite for dinner. (Hotel Overnight Florence)  

    DAY 2 PISA, SIENA, SAN GIMIGNANO AND CHIANTI TOUR  

    It is an early start today but so very worth it as you are driven to Pisa for some free time to admire the unmistakable Leaning Tower for the obligatory photo, then onto a winery on the slopes of San Gimignano for a typical Tuscan lunch and wine-tasting.  Take a stroll around the beautiful medieval village before continuing on to Siena where a guide will lead you through the Piazza del Campo to the Cathedral and through one of the most beautiful Contrade that make up the city.  Enjoy some free time for shopping before heading back to Florence for the evening. (Hotel Overnight Florence) 

    DAY 3 FLORENCE

    A full day of sightseeing lies ahead today with a small group morning tour led by a local, which is a brilliant way to learn the vast history of this ancient city.  You will visit the Accademia Gallery to see firsthand Michelangelo’s David, then on to visit Florence’s beautiful Cathedral.  Relax for lunch in one of the city’s many fine restaurants. In the afternoon make your way to the Uffizi Gallery for a tour. (Hotel Overnight Florence)

    DAY 4 FLORENCE AND THE VENICE SIMPLON-ORIENT-EXPRESS

    Enjoy breakfast at your hotel, perhaps do some more sightseeing before making your way to the station for a departure to remember!  Once onboard and settled into your cabin you will be shown the way to one of the opulent restaurant cars for a spectacular 4-course dinner, then perhaps a nightcap in the bar before bed. (Overnight on the Orient Express) 

    DAY 5 THE VENICE SIMPLON ORIENT-EXPRESS TO PARIS  

    The train pulls into Paris in late morning, and here you bid farewell to your cabin and are driven to your hotel for a 2-night stay.  Once refreshed, head out to enjoy the city and make use of your great sightseeing pass.  An evening cruise along the river is a lovely way to spend your first night in the City of Lights!  (Hotel Overnight Paris)

    DAY 6 PARIS  

    A great day of sightseeing lies ahead today with a plethora of famous museums and sights to visit and see.  Cross the city by metro or take the scenic route via a Hop-on Hop-off tour and enjoy the stories behind the famous streets and boulevards of Paris.  If you would rather get out of the city, take the metro out to Versailles to visit the breath-taking Palace and its vast gardens.  We would be happy to assist if you might prefer a private guide, a visit to the Eiffel Tower, or a trip out to Giverny’s Gardens perhaps.  (Hotel Overnight Paris).

    The beauty of rail travel is the total flexibility. If you decide you’d enjoy more days in Switzerland than in Italy, we can arrange that. An overnight on the Orient Express is definitely on my bucket list, and the allure of sitting back enjoying the scenery without having to worry about driving or navigating, is very appealing. If you’d like to know more about rail travel, give us a call 403-474-6985 or drop us a line at pdumouchel@tpi.ca. We’d love to help you plan your next adventure!