The Golden Eagle Danube Express celebrated its new name — plus new itineraries stretching from Paris to Tehran and a host of luxury upgrades — May 2 at Budapest’s Nyugati Station.
No less than a member of British Royalty, Prince Michael of Kent, drove the steam engine for an inaugural run to the nearby Hungarian Railway Museum and Park. I was happy to join in the festivities and to review the train.
The former Danube Express’ golden moniker is more than a new name. The Budapest-based private train boasts a raft of luxury upgrades ranging from service and amenities to cuisine and off-train touring. “I have every confidence that this is an experience that will be shared in the years to come by many thousands of guests,” declared His Royal Highness to a crowd of dignitaries, press and travel executives in the Budapest station’s Royal Waiting Room.
After speaking of his passion for railway travel, the bewhiskered prince climbed into the cab of the Hungarian Railways’ ‘Buffalo’ class 424 steam locomotive. A Hungarian military brass band serenaded the passengers as they boarded the waiting train.
The Prince then drove “his” train out of the station.
The following day, Prince and Princess Michael joined a small group of passengers for the train’s inaugural overnight run to Venice. The journey included lunch on board, an excursion to Lake Balaton in Hungary, followed by dinner and drinks in the bar car, with a harpist entertaining. It was a brief glimpse into the experience many passengers will have on the newly operated train in the future.
The special journey celebrated the Danube Express’ management takeover by UK-based Golden Eagle Luxury trains. The company is best known for its Golden Eagle Trans-Siberian journeys in Russia and Central Asia as well as its ground-breaking luxury rail tours to Iran, begun last year.
The Golden Eagle Danube Express comprises five sleeping cars, a bar car and two dining cars. Four sleeping cars contain Deluxe cabins with two lower berths. One sleeping car has Heritage class cabins with upper and lower bunk-style berths. The spacious Deluxe cabins have private shower, sink and toilet. The bathrooms even boast towel warmers.
Heritage class cabins are budget-oriented —about a third of the size of the Deluxe. Toilets and showers are shared and located at the end of the car.
The upgraded train includes two 42-seat dining cars which serve delicious meals and wines. The lounge car accommodates 28. Drinks are served (and included in the fare) throughout the day while a pianist entertains.
Golden Eagle Luxury Trains offers a range of itineraries on its new train. Most remain within Europe, but the train makes journeys to Iran, which began last year.
Sample itineraries include the Balkan Odyssey (Budapest to Venice via Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, Bulgaria & Romania) and Balkan Explorer (Istanbul to Venice, traveling through nine countries in 12 days).
The journeys to Iran include Jewels of Persia (15 days from Budapest to Tehran, with several stops in Turkey and Iran) and Heart of Persia, which explores Iran in depth over 12 days. All tours are offered this year and in 2016.
Angela Walker is Vice President of Operations and Senior Luxury Travel Advisor. She has criss-crossed the world to review many of the World’s Top 25 Trains, in India, China, Scotland, Canada, Uzbekistan and Peru, to name a few countries, for The Society of International Railway Travelers, a Virtuoso travel agency.