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I spent $9,000 for a night on an iconic train made up of vintage Orient Express cars. These 7 details took the luxury experience to a whole other level.

I spent $9,000 for a night on an iconic train made up of vintage Orient Express cars. These 7 details took the luxury experience to a whole other level.
  • I traveled on the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, a train made up of historic Orient Express cars.

  • I only stayed on the luxury sleeper train for a night, but I felt like a VIP the whole time.

  • Elevated details included a red carpet, three-course meals, and an extravagant cabin.

I've spent countless hours on overnight Amtraks and night trains between European countries.

But none of those experiences could come close to my $9,000, one-night ride from Paris to Venice on the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express — one of the most luxurious sleeper trains in the world.

It was my first time experiencing the upscale Belmond train, made up of original Orient Express carriages from the 1920s and 1930s.

And even though it was just a night's stay, I felt like a VIP for the entire 30-hour journey thanks to elevated details like a red carpet, three-course meals, and an extravagantly decorated cabin.

I recently took an overnight ride on a luxury train for the first time aboard the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express.

The author stands in front of a navy blue train
The author prepares to board the luxury train.Joey Hadden/Business Insider

Comprised of historic Orient Express carriages that are nearly 100 years old, the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express is a Belmond train — and one of the most luxurious overnight trains in the world.

I took the historic train from Paris to Venice, Italy, in November. And despite booking the cheapest accommodation — a private room with two beds and a wash basin for about $9,000 — it was a glamorous experience I'll never forget.

With a plush couch and velvet throw pillows, my cabin was blanketed in luxury.

a train cabin with wood finishings and a plush red and blue couch.
A peak inside the author's cabin.Joey Hadden/Business Insider

I'd slept in private train cabins before with seats that transformed into beds and amenities like toiletry storage, a wash basin, and temperature controls, but they'd always looked plain with white walls and no decor.

My cabin on the luxury train had a bed, a wash basin, and all the same amenities as these other private accommodations. But it was also thoughtfully finished and decorated with a plush, cozy couch, velvet pillows, and glossy wooden walls with intricate detailing that transported me straight to the 1920s.

Sleeping in such a beautiful space made me feel regal and like I was in a luxury hotel room. It would have been easy to forget I was on a train if it hadn't been moving.

In my cabin, there were welcome gifts beyond your typical earplugs and chocolates.

Cards and blue slippers on a wood floor
A collection of gifts from the Venice Simplon-Orient-ExpressJoey Hadden/Business Insider

I'd received goodie bags in private sleeper train accommodations before filled with items like earplugs, sweet snacks, and a washcloth inside.

But on the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, there was a bottle of Champagne in an ice bucket in my cabin, as well as a welcome box. Inside, I found Venice Simplon-Orient-Express-branded paper, a pen, postcards, and an accordion book detailing the train's history.

There was also a robe and a pair of slippers in the cabin. My steward told me that the robe was just to be used for the night, but I could take home the fuzzy, blue, branded slippers.

Later in the evening, after my steward transformed my couch into a bed, I found two decks of cards on the bed with illustrations of the train on each face card.

These gifts exceeded my expectations. I collected more items than I've ever experienced in a luxury cruise ship or hotel.

There was even a mailbox on board to send out the postcards I'd been gifted in my cabin.

An aerial view of a train cabin with a blue and red couch and a wood table with a lamp, post cards, and a pen on it
The author prepares to write letters in her train cabin.Joey Hadden/Business Insider

The mailbox on board was one of the biggest surprises to me.

I assumed that the four postcards — which had gorgeous images of the train on them, from dramatic, exterior landscapes to lively bar car scenes — were meant to be taken home. But my steward told me that I could fill them out and he would send them for me.

I was excited to send postcards straight from the train. I wrote messages to my mom, my grandparents, and my partner back home.

After I gave my postcards to the steward, I was wandering the train when I noticed an old-fashioned, gold mailbox on the wall of one of the carriages.

"That must be where my postcards are," I thought.

The dining carriages each felt like upscale restaurants.

The author sits in a blue, velvet chair in front of a table next to the window with a white table cloth, fancy dishware, and a golden lamp on it
The author dines at Côte d'Azur on the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express.Joey Hadden/Business Insider

Most overnight trains I've taken have had a dining car filled with booths serving bland tray dinners. But on the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, I felt like I was dining in five-star restaurants.

During my 30-hour ride, I had two lunches and one dinner. Each was served in a different restaurant car.

Each of the three dining cars had plush velvet chairs, curtains, and white cloth-covered tables topped with gold lamps and sparkling dinnerware. But each car — which had its own name — had a unique vibe.

"Côte d'Azur" had navy-blue decor — a touch lighter than the exterior of the train — with illustrations carved into glass windows. "Étoile du Nord" was filled with green accents and intricate wooden marquetry. And "L'Oriental" had a warm color palette with gold finishings and black, lacquer panels.

I was spoiled with three-course menus designed by a Michelin-starred chef.

A fork holds a bite of scallop over the dish on a white plate
A bite of a seared scallops appetizer at dinner.Joey Hadden/Business Insider

In my experience, most train meals are fine on average.

But on the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, I had the most luxurious dining experience of my life with fixed, three-course menus created by Michelin-starred chef Jean Imbert.

Since trains operate with limited space, I was surprised by the wide variety of proteins, produce, and flavors there were to choose from on the menus. The ingredients also tasted so fresh to me, which I learned was no accident; of course, they had been picked up in Paris just before I boarded, as the train manager Pascal Deyrolle told me.

At the beginning of my ride, I had lunch with Deyrolle, and the starter was scrambled eggs topped with caviar. Aside from fish eggs on sushi, I hadn't tasted real caviar before. I was nervous to try it in front of Deyrolle, but I didn't need to be.

The caviar was delicious. It melted in my mouth, and paired perfectly with the texture of the soft scrambled eggs. It was a refreshing garnish I never realized eggs were missing.

After I took a bite, I blurted out, "This is amazing! I've never had anything like this."

Deyrolle replied, "On a train, you mean."

I just smiled. But I meant in my entire life.

I dined like a queen throughout the trip, eating everything from scallops, chicken, and lobster to sweet-potato gnocchi and scampi ravioli. And for dessert, there were inventive dishes like a "hot and cold" chocolate-hazelnut ice-cream creation.

The afternoon-tea service exceeded my expectations.

An aerial view of a hand pouring a silver pot of hot water into a teacup on a dark, brown wooden table.
The author pours her afternoon tea in her cabin.Joey Hadden/Business Insider

I'd never had afternoon tea before, so the idea of having tea served to my cabin sounded luxurious enough.

But when my steward came back, I realized I was getting a true VIP afternoon-tea experience.

On a wooden tray, my steward presented me with an intricately-painted teacup and saucer, what appeared to be a sterling silver kettle, and another plate of colorful cookies.

It far exceeded my expectations for the relaxing ritual, and it made me realize that on the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, no luxury detail goes unnoticed.

Every time I disembarked the train, I stepped onto a red carpet.

A train employee in blue sets down a red carpet on the train platform
A cabin steward lays out a red carpet on a train platform.Joey Hadden/Business Insider

Like other overnight trains I've taken, the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express stops at some stations on the route for 15 to 30 minutes, so passengers can disembark, stretch their legs, and get some fresh air.

During the first stop, I noticed my steward laying out a square, red carpet for me. I thought it was a surprising and cute detail of the experience.

"Do you pull the red carpet out at every stop?" I asked the steward.

He nodded and said that on this train, "you're a VIP from the moment you arrive" until the end of the trip.

By the end, that sentiment summed up my experience perfectly. From the gifts in my luxury cabin to the extravagant meals served in the dining cars, I felt like a VIP the whole time.

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