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IRT Welcomes Rovos Rail Representative

By Owen C. Hardy

Men: longing for luxury on Rovos Rail’s “Pride of Africa,” but cringing at the thought of dragging a coat and tie half-way across the world to wear in the fancy diner?

IRT Staff and David Patrick Front Row (Left to Right): David Patrick, Owen Hardy Back Row: Margaret Langner, Eleanor Hardy, Angela Walker

No worries, says Rovos Rail marketing director David Patrick. They’ll gladly loan you one. They have a wide range of sizes. And there’s no extra charge. Just let them know ahead of time.

This was just one of several revelations made known during David’s recent visit to IRT headquarters in Louisville, KY. Others are:

• In-cabin minibar: Fill out the menu, and your bar will be filled with all your favorite drinks and snacks, David says. The staff restocks your goodies each day of your journey.  Instead of a hotel mini-bar, which has the implication of an extra charge, this is a “personal bar,” and everything is included in your tour price.

• All-inclusive fare: Everything except gratuities and gift shop purchases is included. That means: all your excursions, lectures, food, alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, and, of course, everything in the minibar.

• Room Service: Run out of champagne? Need a snack? Simply attach the white Room Service tag outside your door or use your cabin phone to call, and the staff will get you anything you need.

• David’s favorite Rovos Rail journey: Surprise! It’s not Pretoria-Cape Town, the train’s most popular. It’s the special three-day safari between Pretoria and Durban departing during Africa’s summer months. “It includes a visit to a Big Five game reserve, which is fantastic,” David said. “We saw all five:” lion, African elephant, Cape Buffalo, leopard and Black Rhino. He also gives high marks to the once-a-year, nine-day “African Collage” tour, the only one which covers the “Garden Route” from George into Cape Town, at times skirting the Indian Ocean.

• Gratuities: The age-old question: how much to leave for a tip? “When asked,” David says, “we suggest 15 to 20 U.S. dollars per guest per day; maybe slightly less for the longer trips.”

Photo by Nels Freeman

• Beds: it’s crucial to let us know upon booking any mobility challenges you have and even your height. That way, we order the room most suited for you. Order far in advance for one of the limited number of cabins whose beds are configured in an L-shape. They’re easier to access than the usual king-size bed in the deluxe cabin.  Also, if you love a view, there is one exclusive cabin per car whose bed faces the window.

• Observation Car: For many IRT travelers,the outdoor platform is party central. Responding to popular demand, Rovos has enlarged the space to accommodate 12 sitting passengers—with their drinks.

• Rohan Vos: The brains and muscle behind the entire operation, Mr. Vos (Rohan, if you will) seems to be every returning traveler’s best friend. His secret? He works like a demon, knows every aspect of his operation and does his best to personally greet all Rovos Rail passengers, whether they’re boarding in Pretoria, Cape Town or elsewhere.

Photo by Nels Freeman

Meeting at Louisville’s classic Brown Hotel, IRT staff and David continued the discussion over dinner at the hotel’s English Grill that night. David had an early plane to catch the next morning, so there was no time for Kentucky sightseeing. Maybe next time!

Society owners Owen & Eleanor Hardy host one of Rovos Rail’s most ambitious trips, the July 2-15, 2011 Cape Town, S. Africa to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania trip. For information about this or any Rovos Rail trip, email us or call our office at (800) 478-4881. Or visit our website.