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Murder on the Orient Express: Stunning Outside, Blah Inside

4 Dec
Murder on OE

20th Century Fox photo

Our phones are ringing off the hook.

Much of it’s due to the film remake of Agatha Christie’s 1934 who-done-it, “Murder on the Orient Express.” It opened in U.S. theaters Nov. 10.

The movie has been thoroughly reviewed by the general press, with major critics less than thrilled. If I were still a newspaper critic (which I was in a past life), I’d begin by saying it’s too long by at least 15-20 minutes.

The film is brilliant when the train exterior is center stage in the “mountains of Eastern Europe” (It was, in fact, shot entirely at a film studio outside London).

IRT Travelers on the VSOE.

IRT Travelers on the Train of Kings, the King of Trains.

Pulled by a magnificent steam engine, the train is bathed in blue and white moonlight, with the camera soaring down one mountain peak and up another, as if carried by an eagle (or a drone).

The film’s Orient Express glides around mountains, beset by flashing lightning bursts and menacing clouds, clinging precariously to cliffs, seemingly thousands of feet above steep gorges.

These panoramic scenes show luxury trains at their best—as almost otherworldly experiences, whose train-window views are incomparable and life-changing.

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Taking the perfect photo on the Belmond Royal Scotsman’s outdoor rear platform — another of our World’s Top 25 Trains. IRT photo by Eleanor Hardy

But inside—and unlike the real luxury trains we represent —the movie Orient Express falls flat. There’s hardly any fancy furniture or gleaming brass; no discernible marquetry. The cutlery looks utilitarian; the china and crystal are uninspiring.

While there are some Art Deco accents—vaguely “Lalique-ish” sconces resembling ice sculptures adorn the movie-train walls; along with convincingly retro luggage racks—the overall color scheme ranges from dull tweed to brown.

Conversely, you can’t beat the star-studded cast. Convincingly dressed in period costume, with Cole Porter’s “I Get a Kick Out of You” in the background, they are brash, mysterious, gaudy, sexy — and thoroughly awash in “guilty” looks.

But there isn’t much for them to do when Poirot’s not grilling them, aside from glancing suspiciously at one another. Mostly, they just look bored. (C’mon, folks, have some fun. You’re on a luxury train!)

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Ecuador’s Tren Crucero also boasts a rear, outdoor viewing platform. IRT Photo by Eleanor Hardy

And as far as accuracy goes, I’m dubious. In my 35 years of working in the luxury train world, I’ve never heard of a rear, open platform* on the original Orient Express in any of its iterations, as it’s shown in the film. (Please email me if you know otherwise.).

So go see “Murder on the Orient Express.” The “outdoor” train scenes alone are worth the price of admission.

But don’t commit the crime of not trying out a luxury train for yourself.

Check our list of The World’s Top 25 Trains, then  email us, or give us a call: (800) 478-4881 or (502) 897-1725.

*We at IRT love open, outdoor platforms. Among our “World’s Top 25 Trains®,” open-air platforms are available on Rovos Rail’s “The Pride of Africa,” the “Belmond Royal Scotsman,” the Bangkok-Singapore “Eastern & Oriental Express” (also a Belmond train), the “Rocky Mountaineer” in Canada, Peru’s “Belmond Andean Explorer” and “Belmond Hiram Bingham” and Ecuador’s “Tren Crucero.”

 

Golden Eagle Danube Express Introduces Snazzy New Bar Car

19 Feb
Bartender in GE Danube Express bar car

Bartender hard at work in the Golden Eagle Danube Express’ new bar car. Golden Eagle photo

The Golden Eagle Danube Express now boasts a stylish, new bar car — making travel on the train even more enjoyable. It began service late last season.

Unlike the luxury train’s former lounge car, the new car has an actual bar area, says Golden Eagle’s Ian Lomas.

“There is a piano central to the car and various types of seating arrangements — tables and chairs for two and four, plus sofas and bar stools.”

The car seats 30, Mr. Lomas says.

“That ties in with the size of the overall group on board the Danube Express, so it’s not much problem for guests to get seating. And not everyone is in the bar car at the same time.”

Enjoying music in the bar car.

IRT Society guest Jack Swanberg enjoys music in the Danube Express’ previous lounge car on last year’s Venice-Budapest “Balkan Odyssey” tour. IRT Photo by Angela Walker

 

Operating from its home base in Budapest, the GE Danube Express is a “supremely comfortable train,” says IRT Society President Eleanor Hardy, “And the lounge car always has been a big reason for its congenial ambiance.”

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The new GE Danube Express lounge car features tables for two and four, as well as sofas and bar stools. Golden Eagle photo

“But more seating and an actual bar will make a good thing even better.”

Ms. Hardy has ridden the Danube Express twice: from Istanbul to Budapest, and from Warsaw to Budapest.

“But what I’d really like to do is the Budapest-Venice trip, the Balkan Odyssey,” she says. “The itinerary fascinates me.”

The tour offers “so much in a relatively short amount of time — on some days visiting two countries,” said  IRT’s Angela Walker, who made the trip with a Society of International Railway Travelers group last year.

And the history of the region is fascinating, she says. Example: guests see the place where Archduke Ferdinand was assassinated — the event that ignited World War I.

Danube Express Bar Car Menu

Danube Express bar car menu. Most drinks are covered in the fare. Golden Eagle

The 12-day, 8-country Balkan Odyssey tour operates June 1-12 and July 4-15 this year. To download a complete itinerary in PDF format, please click here. To see the itinerary on the IRT society website, please click here.

Other Golden Eagle Danube Express tours include Central Europe & Transylvania and the Venice-Istanbul Balkan Explorer.

For more information, call our office at (800)478-4881, or (502) 897-1725. Email: tourdesk@irtssociety.com.

 

 

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