The Blue Train Experience

Staff member: Lorinda // Trip date: Jun 2009

I arrived to Pretoria train station at 7.30am on June 1st 2009. The Blue Train departure lounge is well signed with arrows to direct you so it's very easy to find. Right away as I approached the lounge some butlers came up and asked me my name and greeted me, taking care of my luggage and ushering me into the lounge. The lounge is very spacious and comfortable. Once given my boarding pass, I was directed to a snack bar where there were many delicious snacks on offer such as mini quiches, pastries and meats as well as tea, coffee and any other beverages, as well as alcoholic beverages. The staff were all extremely helpful, friendly and welcoming which added to the excitement of beginning this amazing journey.

In the pre departure lounge the food and beverage manager also came over and personally introduced himself to every group of guests, explaining to us the meal times and what was on offer, and reminding us that we can fill our plates and drinks as much as we like! Also we were given a reminder that all meals and beverages are included, other than French champagne or caviar which all passengers are advised to pre-arrange if they wish to do so, at an additional charge.

At approximately 8.30am we began the boarding process. The train manager and the staff stood in a row in front of us all, and the train manager called out our suite numbers as our butlers' ushered us to our rooms. Our luggage was already waiting for us in the suites when we arrived on board. We also had a plate of fresh fruits, mineral waters and some chocolates awaiting our arrival. The train then departed Pretoria station and we began the journey down south.

There are 2 Blue Train sets. The first train accommodates 74 guests in 37 suites. The second accommodates 58 guests in 29 suites and features a conference or observation car at the back of the train. I was on board the first train, so we did not have the observation car. However the lounge car is fantastic and has panoramic windows, so it did not affect the journey at all. Diamonds and other souvenirs are available for purchase on board, guests can see the train manager if they wish to enquire.

The butler then came back into my suite right after the train departed and introduced himself, giving a card with his contact number on it and assured me he was there for any of my needs, no matter what they were. An announcement also came on from the train manager again welcoming us and reminding us when the brunch sitting would take place later that morning. I then ordered a snack and champagne and sat back and enjoyed the beginning of this luxurious ride. Brunch was then announced to begin at 11:30 am until 1pm. The trains may have 2 sittings for brunch and dinner service, but as the train was not full there was only one sitting for meal times. I arrived into the dining car and was ushered to my own table. There were 3 options available for each course, this being a 3 course brunch menu as well as tea and coffee and cake. I opted for the smoked salmon entrée and the chicken main with the Cream Brule and Chocolate Cannelloni desert. The food was divine!

After another couple of hours on board, relaxing and enjoying the views afternoon tea was available in the dining lounge from 3pm. A large variety of cakes, sandwiches and treats were available along with drinks. The lounge was spacious and comfortable with large viewing windows. I also enjoyed some yummy cocktails and enjoyed mingling with the fellow passengers. I was also given a tour of the train by the train manager where showed me a luxury suite. The main difference with the luxury suites is the bed is bigger, the actual suite is more spacious and it also features a bigger bathroom. On each of the two train sets there are two luxury coaches, with three suites per coach. They feature twin or double-bed suites and offer deep, long baths for slow, luxuriant soaking. The suites extend the choice of radio and movie channels even further by including a private digital entertainment centre and an inviting selection of music CDs and big-screen movies on DVD. There are nine De Luxe coaches on the first train and eight on the train with the conference car. The De Luxe coaches have four suites per coach; one suite with a bath and the others with showers. The De Luxe suites feature either twin beds with a shower, or double beds with a bathtub and handheld shower.

Both suites have a wardrobe, all linen, towels and bathroom amenities. The telephone in each suite allows guests to contact the train manager or butler 24 hours a day. Should guests wish to make external calls, local or international calls, the staff will gladly assist them to do so at a nominal fee. Fax facilities are also available. Room service snacks and beverages are also available at all times. There is also a limited on board laundry and valet service available. Safes are in all rooms for any valuables to be locked away. When guests are at dinner service their butler will kindly convert the day time seating in the suite into twin or double bedding. After returning from breakfast the following morning the bedding will be converted back to the seating arrangement.

We were running a little behind schedule as we were supposed to arrive into Kimberley station at 5pm, however we did not arrive until about 6pm. As we were pulling in the train manager announced for us to look out of the window, where an amazing sight of thousands of pink flamingos against the beautiful blood red African sunset. It was stunning. We were still fortunate enough for the tour to the Kimberley hole and mine museum to go ahead, as this is not a guaranteed tour. We were ushered onto a tour bus and taken to the Kimberley hole and museum. It was already quite dark when we arrived as it was winter and were behind schedule, however we could still see the hole and its depth. Then we were taken on a tour of the diamond museum which was an interesting experience. For security reasons no photos were allowed to be taken. We also enjoyed a movie about the history of diamond mining in South Africa.

Back at Kimberley station we were greeted at the station with a glass of sherry in a Blue Train glass which we were allowed to keep as a souvenir. We had an hour or so to refresh ourselves for dinner. Dinner was served in the dining car from 7.30pm, guests are invited to come to the dining car at their leisure from this time. The food was superb. The menu again was a 3 course. Entrée, main and desert as well as soup. Again we were given 3 choices for each course and the food was absolutely amazing. The waiters provided fantastic 5 star service always ensuring all guests were satisfied. Dinner is an elegant affair and women are expected to dress elegantly and men with suit and tie.

After dinner guests are invited to the lounge for drinks and relaxing and to mingle with other passengers. I was also fortunate enough for the train manager to upgrade my room to a double. I slept amazingly well on board, it was extremely comfortable. When I awoke in the morning I was quite astonished to see that the scenery had become completely different, full of rolling green hills and even snow capped mountains. It was absolutely stunning, and such a difference from the dry African outback we saw on day one of the journey.

Breakfast was served in the morning from 7am and a large range of eggs, bacon, omelets, French toast, muesli, cakes and pastries were on offer. Guests are invited to eat as much as they like. I then enjoyed the last few hours of this memorable journey. Coming into Cape Town there were many African Townships along the way, as well as more of the beautiful backdrop of the African land. The train manager ensured we all had a transfer to meet us at the end, or otherwise he arranged for a taxi to collect us, again everything was arranged for us and nothing was too much trouble for the staff.

The train arrived into Cape Town at approximately 1pm. Our butler had taken care of our luggage and assisted with it for us until we were greeted by our taxi or transfer service. It was then time to re enter the real world again. I can honestly say I had a most amazing time on the Blue Train. The staff, the train and its facilities and the service as well as the scenery was all fantastic! What a memorable journey. It really was the trip of a lifetime!

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