Orient Express is bringing ‘the sweet life’ back to Europe’s railways

The historic train has been revitalised with sophistication and romance to help you fall in love with travelling by rail.

By Matt Lennon, January 18 2022
Orient Express is bringing ‘the sweet life’ back to Europe’s railways

Travelling by train has always been synonymous with class. Think of journeys like the Flying Scotsman; the Golden Eagle from Moscow to Vladivostok; Western Canada’s Rocky Mountaineer or even The Ghan between Adelaide and Darwin - each indelibly linked with refined notions of grandeur.

Now, another piece of the world’s sublime and elegant rolling stock - the Orient Express - is preparing to hit the tracks once again on a variety of journeys criss-crossing Italy and nearby parts of Europe after 14 years out of action.

Orient Express trains will feature a glamorous dining car.
Orient Express trains will feature a glamorous dining car.

Relaunching in 2023, the modern-day Orient Express La Dolce Vita will feature six trains each comprising 11 carriages decorated to reflect the historic glamour and sophistication of 1960s Italian culture.

These Suites look almost too good to leave.
These Suites look almost too good to leave.

The trains will explore various itineraries lasting from between one and three nights, most beginning at Rome’s Termini station and travelling across the Trenitalia rail network. 

Itineraries will visit 128 stations in 14 regions covering routes from Rome to Istanbul, the Croatian city of Split and Paris - the latter being the city where the Orient Express name set off on its maiden journey to the city then known as Constantinople (now Istanbul) in 1883.

Trips visiting Rome will also include an overnight stay at the first Orient Express hotel in the city’s Pantheon district, which opens in 2024.

The Orient Express lounge will be perfect for sipping cocktails as you watch the world go by.
The Orient Express lounge will be perfect for sipping cocktails as you watch the world go by.

Prior to departure, travellers will be able to access a special Orient Express executive lounge serving refreshments in a setting previewing what is to come.

Once onboard, travellers will be able to book their choice of 12 Deluxe cabins, 18 Suites and one ‘Honour Suite’. Another carriage will offer a dining car with a locally curated wine list and haute cuisine.

The luxurious 'Honour Suite' will sit in its own carriage.
The luxurious 'Honour Suite' will sit in its own carriage.

Passengers will then be able to move next door to a ‘bar car’ to enjoy beverages while being serenaded by a grand cocktail piano entertainment.

The reinvigorated Orient Express rail journey has come about through an investment from hotel operator Accor, which intends to relaunch the storied 150-year-old marque and broaden its scope to include a new hotel brand based on the classic train.

“These trains offer a new vision of luxury travel that is beyond our imagination,” said Accor Chairman and CEO, Sébastien Bazin.

Accor also plans to develop a slate of hotels bearing the Orient Express name, with each property drawing inspiration from the iconic railway.

“If we succeed by sharing the history, guests will feel like they are part of the myth of the Orient Express,” says Guillaume de Saint Lager, executive director of the Orient Express Hotels.

De Saint Lager notes that hotels will be placed in sites in Europe, North America, Asia, and the Middle East and will combine the overall Orient Express theme with destination-specific touches.

First stop: the Bangkok Orient Express hotel, where interior designer Tristan Auer has combined Thai and French artistic styles.

Vintage art deco elegance at the Orient Express hotel, Bangkok.
Vintage art deco elegance at the Orient Express hotel, Bangkok.

Auer incorporated features such as oval windows with stained glass and leather paneling, while decorations with lacquer, silk, ceramics, and basketwork in the lobby will echo the trimmings and cabinet work in individual rooms.

“It’s difficult because everybody has a different idea of the Orient Express,” De Saint Lager says of living up to the public’s imagination of the grandeur. “We have to refer to the history and never break the link. That’s where we get the authenticity of what we do.”

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

06 Mar 2015

Total posts 243

Far too glitzy. Not a patch on the elegance of the old version. Looks sterile and cold, not for me unless it's a freebee!!!

And that's not going to happen.

Etihad - Etihad Guest

21 Jul 2019

Total posts 125

The original Orient Express of Agatha Christie's day had a look which was stylish but restrained. This version is LOUD. A hodge-podge of 1960's and 70's oranges and browns, chrome, funky side and coffee tables, and wild patterns. I can imagine Austin Powers on his secret train hurtling down to Istanbul to fight a shadowy world espionage mastermind who is holding the world ransom....for ONE MILLION DOLLARS!!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

11 Oct 2014

Total posts 686

Kudos to Accor for having the 'vision' and cash to contribute to this relaunch of an iconic train. Brickbats to the organisation for having a complete (or any) lack of vision to where style and elegance should merge.

Accor's De Saint Lager is correct - in that 'everybody has a different view' of the public imagination of grandeur. God knows where Accor's came from.

It is plainly evident that the public's perception of the iconic history of the Orient Express has been formed from literature (up to the 1960's) and via movies, documentaries and travel guides in the post 1970's. That perception engenders a view of wealth, prestige, influence and privilege mingled with curated style, elegance, sublime service and jaded glory of the early 1900's through to the early 1930's. During the latter 1930's the train carriages were mainly dispersed or commandeered by various military powers, or abandoned. The early years are what enchants most people's interpretation of this timeless luxury.

What is now being presented looks more like a Carnaby Street (circa mid 60's) mash-up blended with an Italian flair of the same era. Gare-ish, style-less, soul-less. Bold and affronting in a way that bares no resemblance to subtlety. A horrid mix of non-complementary styles and shapes.

Of course, style is a personal element and something that is often unique to individuals. Elegance however, is generally subtle - but obviously evident to the least-trained eye. I am wondering where the charm of etched, Lalique glass dividers in the dining car is? Where is the warmth and glow of classic, polished timbers? The Bauhaus designed pocket wall lamps?

Look at the photographs. A dining car which is cold and sterile. A suite where the striped settee screams at the block-patterned curtains and the curtains scream at everything else. A bar car which would have you wondering whether you were sober, upon entering. Where the principal point of being able to relax with a beverage and view the passing landscape is usurped by electronic shades and eye-level lights (that would be fun at 10pm). A blended carriage door which could be difficult to find for the poorly sighted. An unco-ordinated throw-together of marble or timber or whatever casual tables. An 'Honour' Suite with - nothing - on one wall and more decorative styles than there have been decades. Ugh. Gaudy and somewhat tasteless, for me.

I would somewhat give Accor a 'slightly' better pass for the Art Deco style Bangkok Hotel styling. However, rather than being struck by elegance, charm, sophistication .. I am drawn to a vivid reminder of one of Sydney's more (in)famous, novelty establishments. Who remembers the Wynyard Arcade and the ugly but 'go to' Menzies 747 Bar ? Trying to emulate train / plane windows at night in a hotel or bar is a design style that thankfully didn't outlast it's 1970's decade. 

06 Feb 2021

Total posts 46

A perfect example of why having plenty of money to spend is no guarantee of good taste.  The " Instagram Influencer " set will possibly flock to it to have their photos taken on it, but I can see this train going in for an interior refit sooner than planned.   

QFF

12 Apr 2013

Total posts 1451

Main question unanswered - how much? If price is on par with our Chan then thank you - I rather fly in business.

30 May 2018

Total posts 30

What is this about the Orient Express returning after 14 years absence ?? The Venice Simplon Orient Express site is alive and well and shows most trains ‘Sold Out’.  I travelled on it myself less than 14 year ago.  If this is some nouveau riche copy under the title ‘Orient Express Dolce Vita’, then I’m not sure we knew what that was and certainly have not been lamenting its absence for 14 years. Please don’t qualify this train simply as the ‘Orient Express’ as this is highly misleading….   I will stick with the real thing and do not celebrate the return of this thing. 

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

09 Dec 2021

Total posts 1

It's easy to confuse the two here, but Venice-Simplon-Orient-Express is a private venture from Belmond (owned by LVMH) that uses the Orient Express name unofficially (perhaps because it uses restored versions of the original carriages). 

The name and rights of the Orient Express train as a brand are owned by French company Newrest but the original holding company, Compagnie Internationale Des Wagons-lits is a fully owned subsidiary of Accor, hence why it is involved in relaunching the official train.

30 May 2018

Total posts 30

As you say, the Venice-Simplon-Orient Express uses the orignal restored carriages. So, to most of us, it is the ‘real’ deal.  This Accor relaunch may own the name, but the rest is a mix of influences, most of which have less to do with the actual Orient Express of history. 

Etihad - Etihad Guest

21 Jul 2019

Total posts 125

@OzGlobal. Exactly right! It doesn't take a long-winded genius of the decorative arts and interior decoration to see that there's something really, terribly way off about this particular 'Orient Express'. Widely help expectations of the O.E. are formed from a basis of (past) reality. If people are panning this junk version, it's because it doesn't conform to that past reality. I guess some folks don't understand that simple concept.....


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