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Feeling Stressed? Try Belmond Royal Scotsman’s New Spa Car

13 Jan

rs_spa2-copy It was already fabulous. But next season takes it up a notch.

Guests of the Belmond Royal Scostman can enjoy increased pampering: a massage, facial or “mani-pedi” in the luxury train’s new “Bamford Haybarn Spa Car.”

When its season opens April 17, the Scottish luxury train will join India’s Deccan Odyssey in being the world’s only premiere trains offering onboard spa facilities.

The Society of International Railway Travelers is thrilled to celebrate this new car by offering new guests, traveling in April, July and August (and who book by March 17) a complimentary £150 per cabin spa credit.

Although Belmond says the spa should be able to accommodate guests’ reservations on board, IRT advises clients to make their spa requests with IRT when they book.

The Bamford wellness brand uses nature for its inspiration, it says. The British company is renowned for its botanical skincare collections and holistic treatments.

rs_spa1-copyThe Bamford Signature Facial is an 85-minute ritual that aims to restore, rejuvenate and repair the skin, with everything from facial reflexology to deep tissue back massage and ancient yogic breathing.

The massage focuses on Shiatsu pressure points with hot stones to release tension and promote deep relaxation.

The Haybarn Spa car’s two relaxing single treatment rooms boast picture windows looking out onto the beautiful Scottish countryside. (But you can have the curtains closed of course!)

The new car also boasts 2 new sleeping compartments — one with two twin beds and the other with a  double bed. This boosts the train’s capacity from 36 to 40.

rs_spa3-copyThe Belmond Royal Scotsman offers two 7-night itineraries departing from Edinburgh and a number of shorter itineraries. Here is a list.

Guests travel past sweeping glens, towering peaks and black-mirrored lochs across the Scottish Highlands.My favorite: The Grand Northwestern.  An IRT client favorite is the Grand Tour of England, Scotland and Wales.

We think it truly feels like a fine country home on wheels. It has exquisitely appointed en-suite cabins with personal steward service.

Authentic (and fabulous) Scottish dishes complement the Highland experience. We love the congenial dining car with the longer tables.

Best of all — in the minds of IRT staff  and guests — is the observation car, with its outdoor viewing platform at the rear.

Inside, the atmosphere is luxuriously intimate, with with the tiny bar offering an impressive collection of fine Scottish whiskies — I counted 50+ on my last trip —all included in the price of the tour.

See our award-winning Belmond Royal Scotsman video here.

For more information or to book, contact The Society of International Railway Travelers: (800) 478-4881, (502) 897-1725, or

Your 2017 Luxury Rail Planning Guide: A Train for All Seasons!

23 Dec


To our friends worldwide: Greetings!

A luxury train tour makes a great gift. Below is a ‘curated list’ of client and staff favorites:

Eastern & Oriental Express: Bangkok-Singapore

Golden Eagle: Russian Winter Wonderland
Deccan Odyssey: Delhi-Mumbai

Blue Train: Cape Town-Pretoria-Kruger Nat’l Park 

Al-Andalus: Tour of Southern Spain
Golden Eagle: Heart of Persia

Golden Eagle: Trans-Siberian Express 

Belmond Andean Explorer: Peru by Luxury Rail 

Belmond Royal Scotsman: Grand Tour of England, Scotland & Wales

Belmond Grand Hibernian: Grand Tour of Ireland 

Golden Eagle Danube Express: Sicilian Odyssey
Venice Simplon-Orient-Express (VSOE): Istanbul-Venice

Rovos Rail: Cape Town to Dar es Salaam
VSOE: Venice-Vienna-Paris-London

Kyushu Seven Stars: Deluxe Japan Rail Journey 

G. Eagle Danube Express: New Year’s in Vienna

For more information, or to book:


or call (800) 478-4881 (US & Canada) or (502) 897-1725 (everywhere else)


IRT’s Angela Walker Honored With Dream Africa Study Tour

22 Dec

Elephants are just one of the myriad species Angela will spot on her South Africa adventure.  IRT Photo by Rachel Hardy.

Great news for IRT — and for all of our guests heading to South Africa!

Our own Angela Walker travels to South Africa this March, where she’ll enjoy some of the country’s best hotels, restaurants, safaris, gardens, tours — plus round-trip air on South African Airways. It’s all part of our grand design to serve you better.


Angela Walker, IRT Vice President, enjoys dinner on India’s Maharajas’ Express. IRT Photo

Our Virtuoso luxury consortium chose Angela, IRT’s Vice President and senior luxury travel advisor, for one of just nine spots — out of 120 applicants — to participate in this exclusive study tour for luxury travel advisors, sponsored by South African Tourism.

It’s a huge honor for Angela and our agency.

“I’m excited and flattered to be chosen,” Angela said. “South Africa’s always been on my travel wish list. And of course this will give me lots of ideas for planning the perfect pre- and post-tour hotels, dining and activities for our guests on Society of IRT’s January, 2018 journey to South Africa.”

But it’s also great for you, because Angela will be sampling the very best of South Africa, expanding her travel knowledge and experience to yet another continent. She will be forging relationships with the best travel partners in the region — relationships crucial to your travel satisfaction. (Click here to see her travel map to date.)


The One and Only, Cape Town, S. Africa

She’ll stay in such five-star hotels as Johannesburg’s Saxon Hotel, Villas & Spa and Cape Town’s Taj and the One & Only. She’ll test out a day in the Winelands and have lunch at the fabulous La Residence.

She’ll spend time at a luxury safari camp, visit Cape Point and even enjoy a Penguin’s Lunch (can’t wait to find out what that is!).

She’s scheduled to visit Cape Town’s elegant Ellerman House and tour its art collection.

“Since I am a huge animal lover, I am most looking forward to spotting game on safari in Kruger National Park. And seeing the penguins – my favorite animal – on my way to Cape Point.

“Then there’s the Winelands, the fabulous hotels, special meals and visits – it will be an incredible trip.”


The 12-room Leeu House is an exclusive and private five-star destination located in the scenic Franschhoek Valley. Angela will check it out — and discover if this is right for IRT clients.

When she returns home, she’ll report her findings here in Track 25. And then she will start designing our Rovos Rail African Collage program for South Africa for January, 2018.

Want to get on the early-bird, first notification list about “Angela’s Africa?” Click here. Or call (800) 478-4881; (502) 897-1725.

Here’s a partial listing of some of the things Angela will do and see (itinerary subject to change):

Again, to get on the early-bird, first notification list about January, 2018 “Angela’s Africa” tour, click here. Or call (800) 478-4881; (502) 897-1725.

New Luxury Trains, Itineraries Inspire at Virtuoso Travel Week

19 Aug

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.

IRT Secures Space on Japan’s Hard-to-Get Kyushu Seven Stars

29 Jul

Japan Sampling-3 copy (2)Want to ride the world’s most exclusive train?

You’re in luck.

The Society of International Railway Travelers® has secured prime space on the Cruise Train Seven Stars in Kyushu, a luxury train so exclusive the railroad holds lotteries to see who gets to ride.

Here’s what’s available:

October: 10 guests; November: 2 guests; December: 8 guests.

The Society’s 4-day, 3-night Seven Stars “land cruise” is part of a 9-day package tour of beautiful Kyushu, Japan’s southernmost island.

The tour also features the diminutive Sweet Train, which serves a light lunch and a series of beautifully prepared – and scrumptious – sweets that show off Kyushu’s incredible cuisine and agricultural products.

Interested? Don’t wait. We expect these spaces to sell quickly. Call us at (800) 478-4881 or (502) 897-1725. Or email us by clicking here.

To see the full itinerary, please click here.

To read my report on my Seven Stars ride last November, please click here. To read my comments on my Sweet Train experience, please click here.

Skip the Lottery: IRT Secures Cabins on Japan’s Seven Stars

18 Jun
Deluxe Suite A view (1)

The Seven Stars’ Deluxe Suite A. Photo courtesy of JR Kyushu

Big news: now you can step to the front of the line to secure a spot on Japan’s Cruise Train Seven Stars in Kyushu.

Since it began service in 2013, the Seven Stars has been so wildly popular that it’s held lotteries to see who gets to ride.

But the Society of International Railway Travelers® recently secured a total of 10 cabins for departures this October and December.

Details remain to be finalized, but we’re opening the gates for people to get on our “first notification” list. To do so at no obligation to you, please email us or call: (502) 897-1725 or (800) 478-4881.

• • •

When I test-rode Japan’s Seven Stars last November, little did I know that my reviews would create such demand.

The result? We created a one-off journey using both the Seven Stars train — newly named as one of our World’s Top 25 Trains® — and the adorable Sweet Train — both of which I highly recommended. The tour sold out in six weeks. Details of the journey are here.

Oita 2 (1)

JR Kyushu’s beloved “Sweet Train” Photo courtesy JR Kyushu

As the first travel agency in the Western Hemisphere to charter the Seven Stars, we are honored to be chosen by our friends at JR Kyushu to book a limited amount of space.

Besides passage on the Seven Stars and Sweet Train, our package includes all transfers, hotels and sightseeing. You can take this as one couple — or take it as a group of friends.

We will have an English-speaking guide with you all days except when you are on the  Seven Stars and Sweet Train. On those days, the English-speaking staff on board the trains will take excellent care of you.

We are working out all details and pricing now. But please get back to us as soon as possible to get on our “first notice” list for these departures. We will send you the complete itinerary and pricing when they become available.


Dinner in the Seven Stars’ elegant diner. IRT Photo by Owen Hardy

Note that if you want the longer Japan journey that we offer on our sold-out trip, we can certainly organize that for you, too.

You won’t have to win the lottery to ride the Seven Stars. If you call us and book, you already have!

• • •

Again, to be put on our “first notification” list to receive details about our Seven Stars / Sweet Train itinerary, please email us or call: (502) 897-1725 or (800) 478-4881. There is no obligation to you.


Belmond’s New Deluxe Sleeper Train To Be S. America’s First

7 Jun

Belmond Andean Explorer lounge car

South America’s first luxury sleeper train, the Belmond Andean Explorer, will dazzle the travel world beginning next May, the company says.

Running along one of the world’s highest rail routes, traversing the Peruvian Andes from Cusco to Lake Titicaca and Arequipa, the new luxury train will explore natural wonders and ancient kingdoms on one- and two-night journeys.

Want your name in the hat for a chance to experience the Belmond Andean Explorer next year?

Email The Society of International Railway Travelers®, and we’ll put you on our “first notification” list, at no obligation to you. Or call us at (800) 478-4881, (502) 897-1725.

Give us the names (as they appear on their passports) of those traveling, your postal address and a phone number where you best can be reached.

You’ll be  among the first to get details as they emerge.

• • •

“This truly is some of the most breathtaking and inspiring scenery in the world — traveling across the Peruvian Altiplano with the Andes in the background. It is astonishing,” says IRT’s President, Eleanor Flagler Hardy.

“Our guests already enjoy PeruRail’s Andean Explorer day train.  It is one of our World’s Top 25 Trains® – and has been for years. The 10-hour trip between Cusco and Puno was such a blast.

“Enjoying the journey all the way from Arequipa to Puno and on to Cusco is an amazing proposed routing.

“And combining with the Belmond Hiram Bingham to see Machu Picchu will be a fascinating itinerary. Bravo to Belmond for planning this!”


Artist rendering of bedroom in Belmond Andean Explorer.

The reverse itinerary, from Arequipa to Cusco, also will be possible, Belmond says.

Up to 68 guests will reside in en-suite cabins, according to an article in the Telegraph, with two double cabins; 20 twin cabins; and 12 bunk-bed cabins.

Cabins will be available in suite/double, twin and bunk bed configurations. Each will have its own en-suite toilet and shower.

Lounge Car
Belmond says the lounge car will include a baby grand piano, comfortable seating and picture windows through which guests can gaze at the majestic vistas drifting past. The lounge also will include a full bar.

Two Dining Cars
The fare in the restaurant cars will be fresh, colorful and seasonal, Belmond says. Dishes will incorporate locally sourced ingredients from the Peruvian Andes. The menus will be designed by chefs from the Belmond Hotel Monasterio in Cusco.

Observation Car
The rear car, meanwhile, will be the place to unwind, meet new friends and enjoy the views while sipping Pisco Sours from the bar. The car will include an open-air deck — one of the IRT Society’s favorite extras —  where travelers can breathe in the bracing Andean air.


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


Peruvian Highlands: Cusco-Lake Titicaca-Arequipa City (2 nights, 3 days)
The longest trip departs from Cusco, capital of the ancient Inca Empire, across the Altiplano towards Puno and the reflective beauty of Lake Titicaca. Guests will visit Sumbay Caves, where the Peruvian highlands’ first humans created their rock art, before reaching the volcanic ‘White City’ of Arequipa.

Andean Plains and Islands of Discovery: Arequipa City-Lake Titicaca-Cusco (2 nights, 2 days)
This trip departs as the sun sets on the baroque architecture of Arequipa. The train travels overnight towards Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world. It continues through deep valleys and over high mountains, where South American camelids graze on the wide-open plains and through the ‘big sky’ country of the Peruvian Altiplano.

Spirit of the Water: Cusco-Puno (1 night, 1 day)
Belmond describes this journey as “an overnight escape aboard the stylish carriages of Belmond Andean Explorer,” departing from Cusco, crossing the giant peaks and wide-open spaces of the highest plains of the Andes and ending at Lake Titicaca, birthplace of the Incas.

Andean Explorer

View from the current Andean Explorer train, en route to Puno from Cusco. IRT photo by Eleanor Hardy

Spirit of the Andes: Puno-Cusco (1 night, 1 day)
Guests on this trip travel along one of the most beautiful rail journeys in the world, Belmond says, across the highest plains of the Andes from Puno to Cusco.

The Telegraph said “trips will cost from $462 (£320) per person for the one-night Spirit of the Andes journey, inclusive of all meals, an open bar and scheduled excursions,” although IRT could not immediately confirm this with Belmond.

The train’s cars began their “luxury life” in Australia. Operating over Queensland Rail tracks, the Great South Pacific Express began running in 1996 before ceasing operations in 2003, according to a story dated Feb. 25 of this year in the Queensland Times. The equipment was shipped to Peru in May for refurbishment.

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