Two companies have luxury trains called the ‘Orient Express’. Here are the differences


The “Orient Express” has been called the “king of trains” and the “train of kings”.

Royalty, writers, actors and spies have driven the original route between Paris and Istanbul, which began in the late 19th century.

Author Agatha Christie described the Orient Express as ‘the train of my dreams’. She put a best-selling murder mystery novel on his carriages, and the fictional spy James Bond rode it in the movie “From Russia With Love.”

Travelers may think of the Orient Express as a single luxury train, but there have been quite a few over the years, with many routes and owners.

Soon people will be able to choose to ride on multiple trains under the name Orient Express, of two competing companies, the LVMHowned by the luxury travel company Belmond and the French hospitality multinational Accor.

Both have original carriages dating back to the late 1800s. But they differ in how they’re designed, where they travel and how long they’ve been in operation – one for decades and the other launching in 2024.

History behind the ‘Orient Express’

The original train was conceived by a young Belgian engineer named Georges Nagelmackers, who was inspired by the Pullman sleeper trains he drove on a trip to the United States in 1868.

Nagelmackers wanted to build something similar – but more luxurious – for luxury passengers in Europe. In 1883, the “Train Express d’Orient” made its maiden voyage from Paris’ Gare de Strasbourg (now the Gare de l’Est) to Vienna.

The Venice Simplon-Orient-Express will launch eight new suites in June 2023.


A few years later, the train was renamed the Orient Express and began traveling to Istanbul, then known as Constantinople. Travelers flocked to the modern technology of the train and the luxurious silver cutlery and silk sheets.

Soon Nagelmackers’ company began building more luxurious trains for other European routes, including one that ran through the then-new Simplon tunnel, connecting Switzerland to Italy, as well as the “Arlberg-Orient-Express”, which ran between Calais, France and Budapest, Hungary.

See also  Textured white wines - and the details that enrich their 'plot'

By the 1970s, the original Orient Express trains had made their last journeys and the carriages were falling into disrepair.

But in the 1980s, two businessmen made separate attempts to revive them.

James Sherwood, an American, reportedly spent $31 million acquiring and restoring enough carriages to form the “Venice Simplon-Orient-Express”, now owned by Belmond. (To add to the confusion, Sherwood also added hotels to his tour group, calling them Orient-Express Hotels. He renamed the company Belmond in 2014.)

Swiss tour operator Albert Glatt started a service between Zurich and Istanbul known as the “Nostalgie-Istanbul-Orient-Express”, which is now owned by Accor.

The ‘Venice Simplon Orient Express’

The “Venice Simplon-Orient-Express” has been running since 1982. The train is made from original restored carriages that Gary Franklin, vice president of Belmond’s Trains and Cruises, called “works of art”.

“This train is steeped in so much history,” he said. “The carriages are beautiful.”

As for Accor’s plans to launch a train known as the Orient Express,” Franklin said, “We’re the ones who’ve been doing it for 40 years, and I think we take it as a great compliment that people. .. see how well we do with that.”

A one-night trip on the “Venice Simplon-Orient-Express” starts from £2,920 ($3,292) per person.


Belmond has a one-time licensing deal to use the Orient Express name on its Venice Simplon train, Franklin confirmed, while Accor has the rights to the brand as a whole.

The “Venice Simplon-Orient-Express” will operate winter tours for the first time in December, visiting Paris, Venice, Vienna and Florence and encouraging guests to visit the Christmas markets in those cities.

And next June, new suites will open on the train, equipped with a private bathroom, a steward, kimonos and slippers.

A one-night trip costs from £5,500 ($6,135) per person in the new suites, which are a step down from the train’s most luxurious category – the Grand Suites – which feature private dining, underfloor heating and “free-flowing” champagne, according to the website.

See also  Puff Cannabis is giving away thousands of turkeys to Metro Detroit families

A suite on the “Venice Simplon-Orient-Express.”


Tickets for about half of the new suites have already been purchased, and Grand Suites (about $9,600 per night) are nearly sold out, Franklin said.

The ‘Nostalgia-Istanbul-Orient-Express’

A few years after Glatt put his train back on track, it was empty again.

Fast forward to 2015 and the French railway company SNCF – which then owned the rights to the Orient Express name – commissioned investigator Arthur Mettetal to find the train.

“We had a nice brand, but no cars,” Guillaume de Saint Lager, now vice president of Orient Express at Accor, told UKTN. “We knew there was a complete train, but we didn’t know where it was.”

Using Google Maps and Google 3D, Mettetal found 17 of the original cars on the border between Poland and Belarus.

Carriages of the ‘Nostalgie-Istanbul-Orient-Express’, found abandoned at the border between Poland and Belarus, are being restored by the French hotel group Accor.

Maxime d’Angeac | Martin Darzacq | Accor

The bar car on the “Nostalgie-Istanbul-Orient-Express” gets a bar with a glass counter, a tribute to the French designer Rene Lalique.

Maxime d’Angeac | Martin Darzacq | Accor

Much of the interior — including original marquetry or decorated wood — was intact, the Saint Lager said.

A detailed restoration is now underway, with architect Maxime d’Angeac hired to design the interiors. His brief was to “have a kind of fantasy of what Art Deco could be,” d’Angeac told UKTN by phone. He said he had a considerable collection of original drawings and models of the train.

Original glass Lalique lamps, in the shape of a flower, will illuminate the corridors of the train, while other original elements from the rediscovered train will also be incorporated, such as luggage racks and door handles.

A corridor on the “Nostalgie-Istanbul-Orient-Express” features original glass Lalique flower lamps.

Maxime d’Angeac | Martin Darzacq | Accor

The bar car will have call buttons for champagne and service, while the dining car will have a mirrored ceiling and a glass wall to the kitchen so guests can see the chef.

See also  New York City is an enlightened vacation destination

The bedroom suites have leather walls, embroidered headboards and a private marble bathroom. The Saint Lager described it as a “cruise train”, where guests can get off at lesser-known places (routes and prices have yet to be announced).

Passengers will also soon be able to stay in “Orient Express” hotels, the first of which will launch in Rome in 2024, according to Accor’s website.

The Orient Express ‘La Dolce Vita’

Accor has more plans to use the Orient Express name. It is also developing six “La Dolce Vita” trains that will run through 14 regions in Italy and neighboring countries, aiming to have 10 Orient Express hotels by 2030.

A rendering of the “Orient Express La Dolce Vita”, which will connect Rome with cities such as Paris, Istanbul and Split.

Dimore Studio | Accor

These trains will be a tribute to a different era than the Venice Simplon or Nostalgie-Istanbul trains.

“La Dolce Vita” – which translates as “the sweet life” – refers to Federico Fellini’s 1960 film, but also a sense of Italian glamor and fun. The trains are designed to embody “the Italian art of living and all its wonderful traditions,” according to an online post from interior design firm Dimorestudio, which is working on the project.

The trains have 18 suites, 12 luxury cabins and an ‘honorary suite’. Most depart from Rome’s Termini station, where passengers have access to a lounge prior to departure, and will cover approximately 10,000 miles of rail lines, with stops at lesser-known Italian destinations.

A rendering of a bedroom suite on the “Orient Express La Dolce Vita”, featuring the train’s 1960s style decor.

Dimore Studio | Accor

In addition to the Orient Express La Minerva Hotel in Rome, Accor will also open the Orient Express Venice Hotel in a restored palace in 2024. In addition, Accor has plans to open an Orient Express hotel in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

According to a company representative, those trains will also be launched in 2024.

– UKTN’s Monica Pitrelli contributed to this report.



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here