Siberia journey tops growing number of luxe rail products

When it comes to travel, there are few trips that actually
live up to the now overused, almost cliche term “iconic.” Those that do,
however, often involve luxury trains.

And what fits the definition of iconic better than the
Trans-Siberian Express, the longest rail line in the world?

Rocky Mountaineer CEO Steve Sammut talked about his company’s product and how it has evolved. Read More

As travelers increasingly seek the authentic, Golden Eagle
Luxury Trains recently unveiled its Trans-Siberian Winter Wonderland trip
between Moscow and Vladivostok on cars hauled entirely by steam.

The journey, which departs Feb. 25, follows the classic
trans-Siberian route that is used in the summer, winding for roughly 6,200
miles across eight time zones of frozen wilderness and pulled by no less than
20 steam locomotives.

While the company said the winter trip will be a first for
Golden Eagle, it’s just one example of the growing demand for luxury train

This year, for example, both Tauck and the Uniworld Boutique
River Cruise Collection have partnered with the company to offer packages in
Europe that include a few nights on the Golden Eagle Danube Express, which
travels through Italy, Vienna and Switzerland.

While most luxury train trips are in far-flung locales such
as South Africa, India and Peru, North America’s Rocky Mountaineer said it has
been seeing huge growth in demand in recent years for its train trips through
western Canada.

Founded 30 years ago by Peter Armstrong, Rocky Mountaineer
started with 1950s-era, single-level rail cars that carried 7,000 passengers a
year. Today, the company has 26 single-level and bilevel, glass-domed cars that
travel through Canada’s scenic Rocky Mountains and carry more than 100,000
guests a year, according to president and CEO Steve Sammut.

Unlike most other luxury rail lines, however, Rocky
Mountaineer’s trains don’t have sleeper cars. Guests disembark at night to stay
in different Canadian mountain towns. And the company offers a host of packages
in partnership with Alaska cruise lines, adventure operators and destinations
in Canada.

The new Golden Eagle trip through Russia is a 22-day passage
offering sleeper cabins with butlers, even an onboard doctor.

The winter trip will travel westbound from Vladivostok to
Moscow. The itinerary includes a visit to Sretensk, one of the most remote
towns in Siberia; a folk performance in the Old Believers Village at Ulan Ude;
and the opportunity to experience a traditional Russian banya (sauna) in
Irkutsk, which is known as the Paris of Siberia.

Other highlights include the neoclassical architecture of
Omsk; a visit to Yekaterinburg, known as the Great Divide between Europe and
Asia; a day in Kazan to discover the Kazan Kremlin, a Unesco World Heritage
Site; a stop at Ulyanovsk, the birthplace of Vladimir Lenin; and Lake Baikal,
the deepest lake in the world, which freezes over completely in winter and
provides a great spot for snowmobiling and dog sledding.

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