I spent $9,000 for just one night on Europe's leading luxury train. Here are 5 reasons it's worth the splurge — and one why it isn't.

Left: A navy blue train with a red carpet in front of the door. Right: A close-up of the author in a train cabin with a blue robe on
Business Insider's travel reporter splurged on an overnight ride on one of the world's most luxurious trains.Joey Hadden/Business Insider
  • The Venice Simplon-Orient-Express is a famous luxury sleeper train in Europe.

  • I recently booked a one-night ride in the lowest tier of accommodation, a $9,000 cabin.

  • Feeling like royalty in a swanky train was worth it, but the lack of some amenities was not.

The Venice Simplon-Orient-Express is the epitome of luxury, overnight train travel.

The elegant train line operates 60 routes through 17 European cities from Amsterdam to Istanbul. It is comprised entirely of vintage cars that were once hitched onto the original, iconic Orient Express fleet that traversed Europe in the 1920s and 1930s. Back then, it was renowned for luxury and sophistication, drawing wealthy and celebrity clientele, according to Smithsonian Magazine.

Today, it still exudes a similar opulent air, and with starting prices to match. Overnight cabins range from $9,000 to $26,000 per night, depending on the tier of accommodation, according to the company's website.

I recently splurged on a $9,000 ticket to ride in the train's cheapest option, the historic cabin, from Paris to Venice, Italy, in 30 hours.

For the most part, I found that the experience was worth the splurge. I'd never felt so regal in my life, from the moment I stepped on board to the second I reluctantly disembarked at the end of my journey. But some standard amenities were missing for me, given the high price.

Here's a breakdown of why the overnight trip was — and wasn't —worth $9,000.

The Venice Simplon-Orient-Express is one of the most luxurious trains on the planet.

A navy blue train parked at a platform with mountains in the background
The Venice Simplon-Orient-EExpress stopped in Italy.Joey Hadden/Business Insider

The Venice Simplon-Orient-Express is essentially a moving luxury hotel.

Inside the sleeper train's historic carriages, I found cabins and suites, as well as restaurants, a bar, and a boutique.

The vibe on board was as lavish as the train itself. During my ride, guests adhered to a dress code in communal cars forbidding sneakers, jeans, shorts, and T-shirts.

Instead, guests were required to dress in smart casual attire, such as a blazer, at all times, and I only spotted one guest in a T-shirt at one lunch service.

At night for dinner service, the train encouraged passengers to wear their most formal outfits, from suits and ties to evening gowns, according to a document I received outlining policies before my trip.

On board, I got the VIP treatment, from red-carpet entrances to in-cabin steward service.

A navy blue train stopped at a platform with a red carpet in front of the door and mountains in the background
Stewards roll out a red carpet for guests.Joey Hadden/Business Insider

If I could put a price tag on feeling like a queen for 30 hours, it would be $9,000 because of this trip.

Train staff made guests like me feel like royalty from the moment I embarked. The stewards rolled out the red carpet every time a passenger entered or exited the train.

On board, every staff member pleasantly greeted me each time we crossed paths, which I typically find awkward in narrow train corridors. However, in this instance, I was delighted that they remembered my name after meeting me once and referred to me as "Joey" or "Ms. Hadden" throughout the trip.

In my cabin, a steward was available at the touch of a button to bring beverages and snacks like afternoon tea and pastries.

Extravagant artwork and furnishings thoughtfully decorated each carriage.

Inside a train dining car with velvet, beige seats, a warm-colored carpet, and tables with white cloths, dishes, and silverware
Inside a dining car on board the luxury train.Joey Hadden/Business Insider

As a passenger, no carriage on this train took me out of the luxury experience.

Each was thoughtfully decorated, and I felt transported back to the roaring 1920s. Intricately detailed artwork lined the walls of the train's three restaurants and the bar car, and all had velvet furnishings, lavish silverware, and vintage-inspired lighting.

Feeling wrapped in luxury from car to car while never running out of spectacular things to look at made the trip worth the price for me.

I experienced dining at its finest with Michelin-starred, three-course menus.

A scallop appetizer on a white plate with gold trimmings
A scallop entrée on board the train.Joey Hadden/Business Insider

On board the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, I had some of the most amazing food I'd ever tasted.

Though the train had three dining cars, they all served the same prix fixe menus and á la carte offerings created by Michelin-starred chef Jean Imbert, which changed for each meal service.

I had elevated dishes with a variety of textures — scrambled eggs and caviar, scallops, lobster, sweet potato gnocchi, and scampi ravioli, to name a few.

Each course had a fantastic mix of ingredients that tasted so fresh. This is because produce and proteins are picked up from local grocers just before each ride, the train manager, Pascal Deyrolle, told Business Insider.

At night, the communal cars come to life with live music and an aura of specialness.

A banjo player and a trombone player perform in an old-fashioned dining car on a train.
Nighttime on the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express sleeper train felt magical to one Business Insider reporter.Joey Hadden/Business Insider

Even just one night on the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express felt like an extravagantly special event.

As guests dressed up in suits, ties, and sparkling gowns, musicians marched through each car to give an intimate performance, and I had a front-row seat as a trombone wailed in front of my table.

To me, it felt like being at a fancy wedding or a prom.

Ultimately, it felt like everyone was trying to make the most of the once-in-a-lifetime experience. And that brought forth an all-encompassing feeling of joy.

Passengers told me they were celebrating birthdays and wedding anniversaries, making it a special night for all.

At bedtime, I retired to a vintage cabin with a comfortable bed and luxe sheets.

Two views of historic train cabins with wooden interiors fixed for one bed (L) and two (R)
The cabin couches transform into one bunk (L) or two (R).Joey Hadden/Business Insider

In my experience, no train bed is more comfortable than those on the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express. In the past, I've struggled to sleep in stiff train bunks on standard overnight routes in the US and Europe.

But this time on the luxury train, I booked a historic cabin, the lowest tier of accommodation where passengers get a 36-square-foot space with a pullout table with a stool, a vanity with a washbasin, and a plush couch that transforms into two beds.

Compared to other train bunks I've slept on that are typically stiff, this felt like a real mattress, thanks to a comfy pad placed on top of the couch.

The bedding was also top-tier. The sheets felt smooth against my skin, there were two thick, soft blankets, and the pillow was dense enough to keep my neck comfortable. You can't put a price on a good night's rest on a sleeper train, but I suppose it's $9,000.

But for $9,000, you won't get to take a shower.

The author stands in front of a vanity of her train cabin with wooden finishes in a blue robe. There's a suit hanging on the left and a lamp on the right.
On the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express overnight train, Business Insider's reporter didn't have access to a shower.Joey Hadden/Business Insider

There was only one way the ride didn't impress me. I paid $9,000 and didn't have my own bathroom.

Going into the trip, I knew that my accommodation didn't include a private bathroom — those are reserved for the suites and grand suites, where starting prices range from $13,000 to $26,000 per night, according to the company's website.

But I didn't realize how much lacking one would take me out of the luxury experience.

Not having a toilet meant I had to use the shared restroom at the end of my sleeping car, which had just a toilet and a sink. This was especially inconvenient when I had to tiptoe through the narrow corridor in the middle of the night — and when I had to wait my turn, as the toilet was for everyone in the carriage.

I also didn't realize that I wouldn't have access to any shower on board the train at all, as the company's website only specified that there would be a shared toilet, and I incorrectly assumed it would be a full washroom.

The Venice Simplon-Orient-Express didn't respond to a request for comment from Business Insider about why some cabins and cars don't include showers.

However, I would guess it's because the cabins are preserved original models from the 1920s, according to a media fact sheet obtained by BI, and a shower wouldn't fit in the limited space.

While I can appreciate the history, there was nothing luxurious about sliding into clean sheets at night without washing up.

Aside from this hiccup, the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express is certainly worth the price of admission for those looking for a one-of-a-kind luxury experience. Just plan to upgrade to a suite for a proper rinse.

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