The smell of fine scotch and a hand-rolled cigar in the club car. The slow, rhythmic chug-chug-chug of the locomotive. Impossibly courteous conductors in pressed polyester suits leading you toward your private sleeper car. There’s something romantic and intoxicating about luxury train travel. While it may seem like the Golden Era of rail travel is long gone, some international companies are looking to revive those bygone days. Frontiers International Travel has announced a new itinerary for 2017 that it’s touting as the “world’s most luxurious train.”
The exclusive Pride of Africa train is a beautiful, vintage sleeper locomotive with full lounge cars, two dining cars, sleeper cars, and an Observation Car at the rear. The latter is a reconstructed 1960s sleeper car with large panoramic windows and open-air balconies for unparalleled viewing and photo opportunities throughout the journey. Every square inch of the train is adorned with rich wood paneling, button-leather seating, and classic Victorian furnishings.
The atmosphere during the day is smart casual — relaxed, but never without a whiff of sophistication. Dinner service is a formal affair — a jacket and tie for men, cocktail dresses for the ladies. To further preserve the simplicity and charm of old-fashioned train travel, there are no radios, televisions, or Internet service anywhere onboard. Guests are also asked to refrain from using cell phones or any form of electronics outside their suites.
As with all travel, rail journeys are more about how you get there, rather than actually arriving. The Pride of Africa boards in Cape Town, departing on a 15-day journey to Dar es Salaam (or vice versa) with stops in some of the most beautiful destinations on the continent. From western South Africa, travelers first stop at historic Matjiesfontein, then Kimberley diamond town, the capital Pretoria, and end with two nights in Madikwe Game Reserve. The train then travels through Botswana and Zimbabwe where guests overnight at the iconic, century-old Victoria Falls Hotel. This is followed by a crossing of the Zambezi River and a bush walk near Chisimba Falls. The last few days are spent navigating the viaducts and switchbacks of the Great Rift Valley. Finally, travelers ride through the Selous Game Reserve (Africa’s largest such reserve) before ending their journey in Dar es Salaam.
If anyone can stay true to the seemingly over-hyped “world’s most luxurious train” claim, Frontiers has the swagger, history, and expertise to do so. Since 1969, the company has spearheaded guided luxury travel with some of the world’s most exclusive tours. Their catalog includes an extensive list of bespoke itineraries from cycling Bhutan to photographic safaris in Africa to test driving Ferraris in Italy.
Of course, “the world’s most luxurious” anything doesn’t come cheap. This is luxury train travel at its finest. Deluxe Suites start at $16,500 per person based on double occupancy.
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