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So many times, people will advise me that it is too expensive to travel on The Blue Train. It is expensive, of course, as that supreme level of luxury and comfort decidedly cannot come at giveaway prices. One has to be fair in making direct comparisons.
As a retired financial consultant, I decided, to do just that and had a quick look at comparable prices:
- 1 night for two persons sharing in a comparable five star hotel would cost upward of R14,000
- Business Class airline tickets (no comparable domestic first class flights) R7,000
- Gautrain R350
- Meals, snacks, drinks R9,000 at the very least
I have arrived at R30,350 without including all possible drinks, snacks, room service, etc. Already, this is just short of our own De Luxe ticket of March 2017, which had amounted to R31,000. Of course, on The Blue Train, all meals, drinks, snacks, high teas are included in the price!
Thinking back to our most enjoyable trip, I do not think that most equivalent hotels would have afforded us the same levels of comfort, superlative levels of service and memorable meals while offering us an ever-changing landscape, a pleasant interlude at Matjiesfontein or even delivered us in premium class style to Pretoria, from Cape Town, at the same price.
As there are no premium or even first class flights on domestic flights, The Blue Train does afford the most luxurious travel between the two capitals of South Africa possible, except for much more expensive charter flights using private jets. For the levels of sophistication we had experienced on The Blue Train, we still rate it as the very best hotel we had ever stayed over at.
Value for money it certainly is – I have made basic cost estimates and I am of the opinion that their tariffs are at least thirty percent lower than expected. Given the top service from each and every staff member, from making our reservations right to the end of our journey, we decided that we had the very best deal available in South Africa.
“Do they serve pudding after dinner?”
I looked at the lady, not sure how to react. Was this a joke, a trick question? Even so, I responded: “Either side.”
The Blue Train is where everything is included, it oozes with luxurious opulence. To even think that there won’t be dessert is, err, unthinkable.
People ask questions about The Blue Train when they learn that my wife and I had the privilege to travel on arguably the world’s best train. Let us investigate further, taking a blind friend with me.
Taking a blind friend on a short walking tour of The Blue Train, awarded the title of World’s Best Train eight times consecutively.
Our reservations were confirmed via email and we were also sent Guest Information Forms to complete and return to the friendly bookings officer. They ensure that they can contact your next-of-kin or anticipate medical conditions, food allergies, etc. Special dietary requirements are taken care of individually. Impressive efficiency.
A few days later, we made our way to The Blue Train Lounge where butlers awaited is, greeting us friendly, welcoming us to The Blue Train, while taking care of our luggage. A soft carpet bearing The Blue Train’s logo led us into the lounge, where we were registered at the Concierge Desk, by two very friendly and helpful ladies. We then were invited to take our seats in the plush lounge area, tastefully decorated.
A gentleman called Collen appeared and offered us coffee or juice, or we could have had some sparkling wine if we so desired. Soon, the ever friendly F&B Manager Leon came to greet us; we have met before as this wasn’t our first journey on The Blue Train. Also, Financial Manager of The Blue Train, Mr Francois Geldenhuys, came to greet us as also he was no stranger. Friendly faces, a hearty welcome. Africa is renowned for its hospitality; The Blue Train certainly is a window to the soul of Africa.
We were the first to arrive and had a second coffee while guests trickled in – our own group consisted of six guests including my wife and I. Our journey would be short as we were here to expose stakeholders from the tourism industry to the superlative service on board The Blue Train. Next to arrive was Siphelo Guwa, a videographer who agreed to film our journey – this also wasn’t his first experience of The Blue Train, having been part of a film production team on board this magnificent train some time prior. The social media marketing guru’s arrived next. They are Marinda Holtzhausen and Marius De Vos of Cape Town Bookings, who also own the contracts to market various regions of the Western Cape. Finally, Richard Valentine of the Fish Hoek Valley Museum joined our group. He is involved in promoting tourism in the South Peninsula and is an accredited tour guide as well.
By the time that all guests had arrived, we were formally welcomed to The Blue Train, by Train Manager Lethabo Vilikazi. She explained the “house rules” and then we were taken in groups by our assigned butlers to our suites. Our butler was Angela; she was our butler on our first journey as well and there was a good reunion with this impressive lady.
I made my way to the Observation Car at the rear, hoping to take video footage of our departure from Cape Town Station. Great was my surprise when I noticed that we were already under way. The movement of the train only became perceptible as speed gradually increased. Table Mountain, followed by Devil’s Peak, sailed past like silent ships on the ocean.
Of course, our group are all active on social media and we took to Instagram, Facebook and Twitter almost right away – and a little frenzy ensued. Before long, the shock and surprise of friends elsewhere made room for their inquiries: “How do we book to travel on The Blue Train?”
She gracefully wafted through the northern suburbs of greater Cape Town, found her way through the vineyards, orchards and dairy farms until we slipped past Simonsberg to the right, Paarl rock to our left, where wider spaces welcomed us with open arms as we skirted the edges of the Swartland, home to wheat and sheep farms. We passed a few Anglo-Boer War blockhouses and the wind turbines at Gouda, from where the train made her spectacular passage through the Nuwekloof en route to the Wamakers Valley and the Witzenberg range of Tulbagh, on to Wolseley where we soon crossed the Breede River, flanked by two more of the historical British blockhouses.
Guests indulged in an array of snacks and treats, to suite even the most discerning palate. Even so, it soon was time for brunch, something we sincerely enjoyed as Master Chef Bobbie Wessels and his team are renowned for performing magic in the kitchen. Already, a less opulent cousin of The Blue Train goes by the hashtag #GoodFoodTrain. What shall we call this delightful dining experience, progressing almost imperceptibly yet at 56 MPH across the southern reaches of Africa. I have thought of the title #GlamTrain but, then again, the timeless class of this train is more of an understated thoroughbred.
I will rather show you photos of our meals as words won’t do justice. My crumbed Camembert with Cranberry Sauce was followed by a hearty soup and then the main course arrived, beef sirloin hiding a little blue rock cheese surprise to tantalise the taste buds. During all this time, our eyes feasted on the beautiful Boland mountains, vineyards, we passed Sedgwicks, home of the famous Old Brown Sherry as well as no less than five different brandies. Wine cellars, horses, farmsteads passed us silently as we enjoyed our dessert – mine was a sticky toffee pudding with ice cream. All too soon, our journey came to and end at Worcester, where we were given lovely certificates of remembrance and a rather nice ballpoint pen each, with The Blue Train’s logo inscribed on it. We thanked and greeted Lethabo and David – he is the manager in charge of the bedroom suites.
Our magic carpet ride was over and we made our way back to #LoveCapeTown