By John O’Ceallaigh
In the midst of Europe’s troubling heatwave and at a time when holidaymakers of all guises are rediscovering an appreciation for transnational travel by rail, Belmond has announced its flagship Venice Simplon-Orient-Express train service will debut a significant new upgrade in June 2023.
Officially and convolutingly called ‘Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, a Belmond Train, Europe’, the service will debut a new cabin category next summer that incorporates eight new suites, all inspired in their design by the diverse landscapes passengers will admire as they crisscross the continent.
suites will reference the countryside and come in vivid velvet greens and are detailed with intricate flower marquetry – they particularly pay tribute to the pastures and vineyards of Northern Italy and the sunny meadows of the South of France. Les Montagnes suites are inspired by central Europe’s immense mountain ranges, such as Austria’s Arlberg massif which comes into prominence as the train winds its way from Paris to Venice. Les Lacs suites embody the continent’s great lakes, from Zurgersee in Switzerland to Lake Como in Italy. La Foret suites pay tribute to Europe’s great forests, with a particular nod to the Black Forest which unfurls on routes from Prague to Paris. (With the exception of that detail on La Campagne suites, the press release is vague on how these different geographies are incorporated into the disparate inventories- at this early stage I’m just taking their word for it.)
More generally, across the suites plush fabrics and furnishings will channel the train’s art deco heritage with references to designers such as Majorelle and Lalique; each suite will also have a private marble en-suite bathroom as well as a lounging area by day converted to either double or twin beds by night.
For a long time Venice Simplon-Orient-Express passengers only had one accommodation option on board: the train offered guests small Historic Cabins without showering facilities, that included seating that was converted into berth-style bunk beds at night. Then Belmond introduced a small number of lavish Grand Suites that included proper double beds, private en-suite bathrooms with showers, and a tasteful living area large enough to comfortably allow for private dining experiences.
I travelled on the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express years ago, in one of the Historic Cabins, and quality sleep was elusive: it’s hard to adapt to the roll and rumble of trains when on board for such a short period of time – journeys from Paris to Venice last just one night. Presumably plenty of Belmond’s well-off customers will be unaccustomed to such constrained sleeping space too, but the launch of the Grand Suites was considered a huge success and these new suites will no doubt entice another tranche of travellers to consider journeying by rail. Lead-in rates for these newest suites will start from £5,500, which will include meals and the services of a 24-hour cabin steward.
More on trains from LUTE
- Not to be confused with Belmond’s Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, Accor is launching an Orient Express La Dolce Vita train service in Europe in 2023.
- Long a train-travel pioneer, Japan’s newest luxury rail service is the weirdly named 36+3
- South Africa’s Kruger Shalati is an elevated safari lodge fashioned from train carriages
- Bill Bensley’s InterContinental Khao Yai is a remarkable railway-themed resort
LUTE is a luxury-travel consultant and content agency that works with hotel groups, tour operators, tourist boards, airlines and more. You can learn more about LUTE here. For frequent luxury-travel updates, follow LUTE and LUTE founder John O’Ceallaigh on Instagram.