The Belmond name is synonymous with some of the world’s most luxurious and distinct hotels. Be it Cipriani, A Belmond Hotel, Venice, hemmed inside the 15th-century Palazzo Vendramin, or the colonial mansions and 17th-century fort that create Casa de Sierra Nevada, a Belmond Hotel in San Miguel de Allende, remarkable stories and a sense of place shimmer between the opulent chandeliers and ancient stones.
Authentic stays in one-of-a-kind locales are a hallmark of the brand and have been for more than 40 years. But if there’s a case to be made for the journey being more important than the destination, Belmond’s exceptional portfolio of trains and boats makes it loud and clear, and travelers are listening.
“Without question, we’ve seen growing interest in rail and boat travel, especially with younger people,” says Kate Dicks, divisional director of sales for Belmond trains and cruises. “Slowing down and disconnecting has a real allure these days.”
It’s no surprise that each of Belmond’s rail and waterborne odysseys is laced with mystique, and each has a story to tell too, just waiting for an ear to bend.
After a nearly three-year hiatus, Belmond’s Eastern & Oriental Express returns in February 2024 with two itineraries guaranteed to make you swoon.
Essence of Malaysia (September to February) is a three-night trip through the country’s western wonders, from Singapore through Kuala Lumpur and Langkawi to Penang. During the trip, guests disembark to take a private cruise to Langkawi for snorkeling at Pulau Payar Marine Park, the island’s prime fish-ogling spot. Arrival in Penang includes visits to UNESCO World Heritage sites, temples and markets, and an authentic Peranakan cooking class in a private residence.
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Alternatively, the Wild Malaysia itinerary (March to August) follows the ‘Jungle Railway’ toward the eastern side of the peninsula, giving intrepid riders a chance to visit the Taman Negara National Park — one of the oldest tropical rainforests in the world and home to tigers, leopards and Sumatran rhinos. If that’s not enough of a pinch-me moment for you, consider an excursion such as a photography master class.
The Eastern & Oriental Express has 15 carriages and three compartment categories — Pullman, State and Presidential — that are equipped with air-conditioning and private bathrooms. The train decor has been refreshed, decked out in glossy cherry wood and bright colors that reflect the vibrant destination and spirit outside the oversize windows. Guests will also find two restaurant cars, a piano bar car (how retro) and an open-air observation car.
When it comes to train lore and indelible mystique, it doesn’t get more iconic than the Venice-Simplon-Orient Express, a historic route that started with a posh Paris to Constantinople trip in 1883. Flash forward a century and a smidge, and the name Orient Express still calls to mind lavish overnight treks across Europe in elegantly restored sleeping cars. With dark polished woods, sumptuous jewel-tone upholstery and antique accents and details, they conjure the golden age of travel while offering the modern amenities and impeccable service Belmond delivers around the world.
The most frequent route is the Venice/Paris-Paris/Venice itinerary (one-night journeys), but there are also overnight odysseys between Vienna, Brussels, Geneva, Amsterdam, Budapest, Prague, Cannes, Florence and Rome, as well as December departures to the ski gateways of Bourg-Saint-Maurice, Moutiers and Albertville in France. Ask your Ciao Bambino Family Travel Advisor to help you connect between these cities in style. As of June 2024, the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express will also launch a route along the Ligurian coast, beginning in Paris, traveling through the French countryside and along the Mediterranean Riviera, and ending with a two-night stay at Splendido, A Belmond Hotel, Portofino.
The signature five-night voyage between Paris and Istanbul operates just once a year in each direction.
The carriage capacity of the Venice-Simplon-Orient Express is 108 in three cabin types: Historic Twin (shared bathroom), Suites (eight in total) with private bathroom, and Grand Suites (six total) with ensuite bath, living area and complimentary free-flowing Champagne and caviar.
Between April and October, the Royal Scotsman whisks riders to the scenic Scottish Highlands in the comfort of a luxury train. Roundtrip journeys depart form Edinburgh’s Waverly Station and range from two to seven nights through craggy peaks, green valleys, moody lochs and fortified castles.
With only 38 passengers on board, this intimate travel experience is relaxed while service is indulgent, filled with world-class cuisine and entertainment. Trips include meals and drinks, including a choice of more than 60 different whiskies — it is Scotland, after all!
The Royal Scotsman has two Grand Suites, new for 2024, four double-bed cabins, 12 twin cabins and two single cabins, each with a private bathroom. There’s also a twin and double interconnecting configuration, great for a young family.
If you’re looking for an extra-special experience after sightseeing in London, ask your Advisor about a day trip or weekend outing to the English countryside aboard Belmond’s British Pullman. Choose from a dining experience with a celebrity chef takeover, a murder mystery, or one of many sightseeing journeys to castles, gardens and other cities.
Trains operate between February and December and depart from London’s Victoria Station. You can also combine the trip with an overnight stay at The Cadogan, a Belmond Hotel, in the heart of Chelsea and just a five-minute drive from the station.
The luxury of a Belmond boat is that everything is customized and personalized to guests’ day-to-day desires, which makes this a great choice for families.
Coquelicot, A Belmond Boat, launched this year as the newest member of the now seven-boat fleet, and takes passengers on an easy glide into France’s iconic and UNESCO-listed Champagne region. Featuring professional interior design across its three well-appointed cabins with marble ensuite bathrooms, an indoor salon and Champagne bar (bien sûr), and a large outdoor deck with shaded dining area, the vessel blends the charm of bygone-era travel with five-star hotel comfort, not to mention exclusive excursions to some of the best Champagne houses in the region, such as Moët & Chandon and Veuve Clicquot.
“Because Belmond is a member of the LVMH family, we can leverage those ties to create experiences that can’t be bought off the shelf,” says Kate.
There is no better way to cruise the waterways of France than aboard one of Belmond’s seven bateaux: one in Champagne, three in Burgundy and three in the south of France (Provence and the Canal du Midi). Every boat has its own six-night route, but all deliver slow travel, epicurean savoir faire and a unique lens on life in France
Belmond boats accommodate between four and 12 guests for full buyouts. Sailings depart every Sunday between April and October and include an experienced crew; meals prepared by a private onboard chef; open bar including premium wines, Champagne and spirits; return transfers; use of bicycles; and private excursions and experiences.
That joy is found in the journey rather than the destination is an oft-quoted adage, but whoever said it probably didn’t travel with Belmond. Whether it’s a boat or train, a palace hotel or a former fortress, all Belmond routes, rivers, rails and roads usually lead to one thing: the most extraordinary experience you’ve ever dared to dream up.
“When you step aboard our trains or boats, you relinquish a little bit of the control. Everything is done for you,” says Kate. “There’s something refreshing about not worrying about time or how fast you’re going to get somewhere. It opens something new inside you.”
As one of Belmond’s hand-selected Bellini Club members, Ciao Bambino can often pass perks to guests who book a Belmond train or boat journey through our agency, such as credits and/or customized gifts. Ask your Advisor for more details.
Editor’s Note: Photos courtesy of Belmond.
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