World's Fanciest Sleeper Cars
Courtesy of Canadian Pacific
From Moscow to Paris, take a tour of the most luxurious sleeper cars around the world.
Step into your own half of a train car and soak it in: rich
carvings and lush tapestries line the walls, blending with the flat-screen TV,
stereo system, and fully stocked pantry. And why settle for one bathroom when
you can have two? Step outside and music from a nearby baby grand fills the
hallway, down which you’ll find the spa offering ayurvedic
massage. Welcome to your sleeper car aboard India’s
Deccan Odyssey train. Price tag: $3,000 per night.
If you’ve boarded an Amtrak train
recently, rolling palaces with doting cabin stewards, king-size
beds, and marble and gold interiors may seem like a fairy tale from a bygone
era. But though the current economic doldrums have put a dent
in the industry, luxury trains have found a place in the 21st
century and are still plying major routes on the world’s most developed rail
systems. And this over-the-top luxury is seen most
clearly in sleeper cars.
“The standards and expectations of rail passengers
just keep going up,” says Eleanor Flagler Hardy, president of the Society of International Railway Travelers, a tour and publishing company. Intense competition for a small pool of
affluent travelers has led to better and more sophisticated food and service in
recent years, making for what she calls an “addictive experience.”
Luxury train travel expanded rapidly in Europe and beyond in
the 1980s when private companies began to buy up and
restore antique rail cars. Beyond the “standard” features such as
individual climate controls, a stocked refrigerator bar, and a safe for your
bling, the most luxurious sleeper compartments are set apart by their generous
size (the Deccan Odyssey’s Presidential Suites are nearly 200 square feet),
commodious beds (king size on the Pride of Africa), rich furnishings (antique
brass radiators and Turkish drapes on the Royal Canadian
Pacific), and attendants who
provide wake-up calls, deliver breakfast, tidy your room, and remember your
For now, anyway, this is a strictly overseas experience
(though you can charter a private rail car in the United States). It’s not that
American companies haven’t tried to create a luxury line: the most recent such
venture—a partnership between Amtrak and GrandLuxe Rail Journeys that traveled
between Washington and Miami,
Los Angeles and Chicago,
and Chicago and San Francisco—launched in 2007
but stopped running after less than a year.
So, until some brave company resurrects
luxury train travel in the States, you’ll have to go abroad for your fix.
Here’s where to rest your head.