Luxury train travel, where getting there is more pleasurable than reaching your destination, is gaining in popularity. Japan’s famous luxury train Seven Stars is in such demand that prospective riders must enter a lottery. Winners are then invited to purchase their place on an upcoming itinerary. The Seven Stars offers two and four day tours around the island of Kyushu soaking up the beauty of both mountains and the seaside.
Traveling on one-of-a-kind cars built with various artisans skills and spirit, guests savor phenomenal dishes made by renowned chefs who honor the heritage of their respective regions. The Seven Stars travels at a leisurely speed, allowing you to gaze out at the scenery that transitions before your eyes. It harkens back to an era when we still had time to enjoy the journey and make new friends along the way.
Guest compartments include 2 Deluxe Suites in one car and 3 spacious Suites per car in the others. All 14 guest compartments on the Seven Stars are suites, exclusively furnished for just 14 pairs of guests. Each room is equipped with a shower, toilet, and air conditioning.
The Lounge Car, named “Blue Moon” is a saloon on wheels, where you can wind down during the day. At night, sip drinks at the bar and mingle with fellow passengers in the modern Japanese atmosphere as the pleasant sound of the live piano performance tinkles in the background.
The Seven Stars is a magnificent way to travel and see up close the beauty of the Japanese countryside. Thankfully there are luxury trains offering similar experiences around the world. Following are a few of our favorites.
The Venice Simplon-Orient Express
The Venice Simplon-Orient Express is the most storied set of carriages in the world. It promises to take you not just across Europe, but to transport you back in time. With its polished wood, sumptuous upholstery and antique fixtures, the train epitomises the glamour and elegance of the Golden Age of travel.
An uncontested icon of the rails, this train has long captured the hearts and imaginations of glamorous guests. Three elegant dining carriages exude culinary sophistication, from Lalique glass inlays in Cote d’Azur to black lacquer panels in L’Oriental. The Bar Car glows with a champagne sparkle while the resident pianist fills the air with sweet melodies. A steward in blue and gold livery waves with a white-gloved hand, welcoming you on board with a knowing smile. Settle in to your cabin, adorned with art-deco details and French-polished cherry wood, and sit back as a grand voyage begins
In 1977, recognizing a renewed appetite for sophisticated travel, James B Sherwood, founder of Belmond, a hotel and leisure company, purchased two vintage train carriages at a Monte Carlo auction. He sought out additional cars from famous vintage trains, including Le Train Bleu and the Rome Express. The famous carriages deserved a noble return to service but required a specialised level of craftsmanship to be restored. Luckily a handful of artisans were found for the task, and they began the painstaking process of returning the carriages to their former glory.
Following years of careful restoration, the iconic midnight-blue cars finally rolled onto the rails in 1982, ready to escort guests in peerless luxury on a classic journey between London and Venice. The train stops in Paris and Verona on the way and the food is sourced along the route meaning that when you sit down to dinner, there’s likely to be lobsters from Brittany or crisp tomatoes from Provence on your plate. After dinner, stop by the champagne bar for a cheers that will transport you back to the golden age of luxury travel.
Belmond Royal Scotsman, Scotland
Riding Belmond Royal Scotsman is one of those pinch-me moments. Ranking among the world’s most luxurious trains, their mahogany-clad cars marry Edwardian elegance with the comforts of a country house. Ten intricately designed carriages, including the sublime Bamford Spa, form a palace on wheels which explores Scotland’s lochs, castles and countryside., Nestle underneath tartan wool blankets in your suite or nurse a scotch in the mahogany dining car as the Royal Scotsman chugs through the highlands.
Rovos Rail, South Africa
Get a taste of the diverse landscapes in South Africa on the Rovos Rail journey from Pretoria to Cape Town. The three-day excursion takes passengers on a wide-ranging tour of environments, from the grasslands of Highveld to the desert of Great Karoo. The view is particularly exceptional from the train’s open-air balconies on the observation car. The train stops in the Cape Winelands for a parting drink before leaving passengers at the station in Cape Town. Aboard the train, guests can simultaneously experience lavish Edwardian furnishings and modern air conditioning. Recommended dress code during the day on the train is smart casual. Evening attire is more formal – for the gentlemen a jacket and tie is a minimum requirement while for ladies they suggest cocktail/evening dresses or suits. In maintaining the spirit of travel of a bygone era, there are no radios or television sets on board. The use of mobile phones, laptops and essentially anything that has the ability to disturb other passengers is confined to the privacy of your suite.
Maharajas Express, India
There are a few reasons why this train is consistently ranked among the most luxurious vacations one can have on the rails. Every car on the Maharajas Express train has a private butler, and at every single train stop, there are fresh flower garlands and a welcome ceremony. The eight-day “Heritage of India” tour is among the rail line’s most popular offerings which includes stops in Mumbai, Udaipur, Jodhpur, Jaipur, Agra, and Delhi.
Maharajas’ Express, dubbed India’s equivalent to the Orient Express of Europe, this Maharaja train is rated by prestigious travel magazines and luxury guides as one of the greatest rail journeys in the world.
The Presidential Train, Portugal
The crown jewel of Portugal’s railway, the Presidential Train has hosted Kings, Presidents, Heads of State and Popes for over a century. Built in 1890, it served the court of King D. Luis I as the Portuguese Royal Train, transporting dignitaries like Queen Elizabeth II and Pope Paul VI. Renamed The Presidential Train at the turn of the century, it proudly transported Portugal’s Heads of State until 1970, when it was officially retired.
Today, the Presidential Train brings some of the world’s finest chefs to some of the world’s freshest food as it chugs from Porto to Quinta do Vesuvio, on the eastern coast of the Douro Valley. Michelin-starred chefs board every daytrip for nine hours of gastronomic delight, of course paired with wines from the region. Passengers can relax in private cabins and watch the golden valley through their windows as they wait for meal service.
Eastern & Oriental Express, Asia
Since 1993, this elegantly-decorated train has been making stops in three of Asia’s most glittering cities, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok and Singapore. The interiors of the Eastern & Oriental Express were inspired by the 1932 Marlene Dietrich film “Shanghai Express,” and come complete with Jim Thompson Thai silk, Malaysian embroidery and cherrywood paneling. The rich decorations are only enhanced when the train passes through lush rainforest or ancient temples. Be sure to pack apparel worthy of the scene. Evening wear is required for dinner. In keeping with the golden age of travel, electronic devices are discouraged in certain areas. As for modern innovation, the train is beautifully air-conditioned so you can stay cool in the tropical climate and all of their cabins have luxurious ensuite bathrooms.
Luxury train travel is an experience that should be on everyone’s bucket list. It’s a chance to slow down your hectic life, put away your electronic devices, stare out the window and talk to your fellow travelers. Forge friendships and share life experiences, the way life used to be before everything was reduced down to ones and zeroes.