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New Luxury Trains, Itineraries Inspire at Virtuoso Travel Week

By Owen C. Hardy

An IRT member enjoys the open-air platform at the back of the current Belmond Andean Explorer train. IRT photo by Eleanor Hardy


Las Vegas, NV — Just back from Virtuoso Travel Week, and here’s the scoop:

  • It’s “one-week-and-counting” for the launch of Ireland’s Belmond Grand Hibernian;
  • May, 2017 sees the opening of Japan’s ultra-modern Train Suite Shiki-Shima;
  • Also in May: Peru’s enticing Belmond Andean Explorer luxury overnight service debuts;
  • The Golden Eagle Danube Express’ exciting new Venice-Sicily tour runs next September.

IRT’s Rachel Hardy and I learned much during our whirlwind meetings with the world’s top luxury travel professionals: in formal sit-downs, hallway talks — even an interview with a Wall Street Journal reporter.

Our summary:

  • The Belmond Grand Hibernian debuts Aug. 30 with a sold-out train, chartered by yours truly: The Society of International Railway Travelers®! It’s sold out the rest of the year as well. Click here for 2017 dates.
  • Shiki Shima Accommodation
    Train Suite Shiki-Shima bedroom. Photo courtesy of JR East.

    Beginning service next May, the Train Suite Shiki-Shima departs Tokyo’s Ueno station to Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island. Sporting a totally modern, almost space-age look, it’ll be a stark contrast to Japan’s Cruise Train Seven Stars in Kyushu, a veritable rolling display of the island’s natural beauty and traditional crafts.

  • Just one Sicily trip next year: Sept. 14-25. But it will be memorable. Running along the Adriatic coast, the Golden Eagle Danube Express will offer guests an awe-inspiring, panoramic view of Mt. Vesuvius. More info, click here.

Other news:

South Africa: The classy Blue Train makes luxurious overnight trips between Pretoria and the famed Kruger National Park, one of Africa’s largest game reserves. There’s one more round trip this year; three next year. Click here.


beer train

Switzerland: Attention all beer-lovers: the Appenzell Railway offers the new Quöllfrisch-Express service. It runs every Sunday next month, Gossau-Wasserauen. The beer car serves specialties from the Quöllfrisch brewery. The first glass is on the house.

Also: the world’s longest rail tunnel, the Gotthard, is scheduled to open this December. Plus a new end-point to end-point luggage service makes it easier than ever to ride Switzerland’s rails. Click here.

Finally: We think Ecuador’s Tren Crucero looks fabulous, and our clients have raved about it. We at IRT hope to ride it in November. The four-day trip — including a ride across the acclaimed “Devil’s Nose” — is part of our 11-day Ecuador package. Click here.