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- This is part of the Around the World 2015 Mega Trip
- Etihad Business and First Class Lounge Washington DC
- Etihad Business Studio – IAD to AUH
- Review: Etihad Arrivals lounge and Etihad Chauffeur experience
- Grand Hyatt Dubai
- Hyatt Capital Gate Abu Dhabi
- Etihad Business and First Class Lounge Abu Dhabi, AUH
- Etihad Pearl Business Class – AUH to JNB
- Intercontinental Johannesburg Sandton Towers
- Blue Train Johannesburg to Cape Town
- Queen Victoria Cape Town
- Chitwa Chitwa Sabi Sands Luxury Game Reserve Kruger National Park
- Royal Chundu Zambezi River Lodge – Victoria Falls
- Intercontinental Johannesburg Airport
- Review: S(h)ongololo Lounge JNB
- Cathay Pacific Business Class – JNB to HKG to HND
- Ritz Carlton Tokyo
- Japan Airlines First Class Lounge Tokyo, NRT
- American Air Flagship First Class – NRT to LAX
Review: The Famous and Iconic Blue Train of South Africa – Pretoria to Cape Town
The Blue Train is a once in a lifetime, bucket list experience that I would encourage everyone to save up and make time to do. It is truly a SPECTACULAR display of service, hospitality, and ambience. It’s supreme luxury on rails.
There are two directions that you can enjoy the Blue Train year round: Cape Town to Pretoria and Pretoria to Cape Town. We had flown into Joburg on Etihad Pearl Business and stayed at the Intercontinental Sandton Towers the prior two nights, and were very excited to take the route from Pretoria to Cape Town! It traverses just under 1000 miles, leaves around 8:30am and arrives 28 hours later at noon in Cape Town. Seasonally there are trains that run to Hoedspruit. It’s a much shorter trip and you can read about them here.
Wanna feel VIP?
The greeting at Pretoria station upon arrival is nothing short of incredible. There is a smiling entourage of staff waiting to take your bags and check each party in individually. A red carpet leads you into a private waiting room where pre-departure coffee, biscuits, and tea are served. The best part of it is that it really, truly, honestly feels like they are excited to show you what’s in stow for your experience. It’s so refreshing to feel so welcomed and a part of something. At this point they segregate your baggage: what you’re taking with you and what will stow – the cabins aren’t large enough for all of your luggage, and one car on the train is purposed for luggage storage. It’s KEY to note that you have to have some dressy clothes for dinner. Suiting up is required for dinner.
After roughly 30 minutes it was time for boarding, and they call out each group individually based on the location of your cabin on the train. We happened to be at the very end of the train, which ended up being amazing as we were only a car away from the observation deck. There are two different categories of cabin on the train: Deluxe and Luxury. Each category then has two different setups: 2 twins or 1 double bed.
I couldn’t even try to contain my excitement. I was all aflutter with Blue Train spirit. This was my first luxury train ride and it was flipping awesome. We were in a De Luxe Suite coach and it was INCREDIBLE!!!!!!!
Shortly after settling into the cabin, a butler comes to greet you. Yes, a butler! Dressed to the nines – as is every staff member – and he introduces himself and asks what you might prefer for your meals – which are served through out the day. In fact, each car on the train has a cabin for the butler. So each butler is responsible for one car. The service is impeccable. He informed us that we were in the second sitting of high and tea and dinner. Here’s a look at our itinerary for the train and also for our side trip: the diamond mine of Kimberley.
A double room:
After getting settled in we headed back to the observation car. It’s amazing. Floor to ceiling windows, wood paneling, coffee, sweets, impeccable service make it just splendid to hang out in. In fact, we spent most of our free time in this car.
After having some coffee and eats we headed out to explore the rest of the train. It is spectacular.
Of the plethora of on board meals we will consume during our 28 hour journey, Brunch was first. Simon served us. He was my favorite on the train. He has a family that he’s supporting and he was just a really warm person: genuine, attentive, and took a lot of pride in his work. Quite a special person.
If you closed your eyes you’d think you were at a top restaurant in NYC
The food was sublime. Service impeccable. Ambience top notch. Seriously, Miles couldn’t stop eating. It was delicious.
Observation car. Relax. More Champagne. Rinse and Repeat. Then have High Tea!!!!
After Tea it was time to get out of our MINES!!!! 😉
A couple hours after high tea we were pulling into Kimberley station. The train was running slightly behind schedule and we were lucky to be able to tour the diamond mine at all. Sometimes, due to scheduling issues, the train can run significantly behind and the excursion is canceled. Luckily, we were able to tour it. The “Big Hole” as it’s nicknamed was created in 1871 by De Beers with the first dig. It removed over 22 million tons of dirt and continued to be excavated until 1914 yielding over 3000kg ( over 14.5 million karats) of diamonds. A very interesting and educational stop. In fact, right across the “Big Hole” from the viewing platform you can still see the De Beers offices. According to several news outlets De Beers has been seeking a suitor for the mine to sell to. Our guide told us that De Beers has held annual meetings at the mine’s regional offices for years.
After a little culture and education…it was time to EAT!!! Again.
Unfortunately I was either too excited to eat, or my now tight suit pants cut off blood flow but I forgot to take pictures of the dinner 🙁 It was delicious needless to say.
With a full belly, it was time to call it a night.
Earlier we had been thinking we’d hit up the smoking car for a Cuban cigar, but we were exhausted and turned in. Our cabin was beautifully converted into beds and the within minutes the rocking of the train put me right out.
Bright and early and to the Observation deck.
It is to be noted that upon waking up the terrain was significantly more impressive. It’s a little harrowing pulling out of the Pretoria station if I were to be honest. The tracks move right through the townships, which look like refugee camps amassed into sprawling shanty towns. It’s an odd feeling seeing this level of abject poverty while sitting in the lap of luxury. This is very common throughout the areas of South Africa that we toured, and had we had the option of reversing the trip, I think Cape Town to Pretoria would provide for a more spectacular view straight off the bat. I would note that seeing the townships is a reality check needed by everyone. The sights on this portion of the train are impressive.
After morning coffee and sights, it was Breakfast!
Miles wanted a little bit lighter fair and selected the continental breakfast =)
After breakfast…back to observation car.
The staff was incredible and just kept bringing us drinks. Pretty sure they were getting a kick out of giving us poolside style drinks in the back of the Blue Train before noon. Needless to say…we weren’t complaining. HAHA
Lunch is served
Because we were running late a lunch was served on the train. It was outstanding! In the end we arrived into Cape Town 3 hours late. I don’t think anyone in our group was complaining. It was super nice hanging out on the train and in fact…showering on a train is another box checked off the ole’ bucket list.
I was most impressed by the people. This is a running theme with South Africa. The people are amazing. happy, generous, and authentic. It was truly an experience I would recommend to everyone. In some ways it was sad to leave the train. We heard about Simon’s family and other various staff members drive to succeed, and all of this showed in a fantastic experience. We had the opportunity to talk with the Manager of the train, Herbert Prinsloo, and his upcoming trip to America. We really enjoyed hearing his perspective of the states, and also his journey as a man.
He embodied everything The Blue Train itself represents: class, prestige, and customer service.
My recommendation is to start saving now so that when the time comes to visit South Africa…The Blue Train is on your itinerary!
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