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The Venice Simplon-Orient-Express Returns to the Rails

By Sara Button

Jun 17, 2020

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The Venice Simplon-Orient-Express begins its 2020 service in July.

Courtesy of Belmond

The Venice Simplon-Orient-Express begins its 2020 service in July.

Europe’s most glamorous train plans to resume operations in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic—though it’s still unclear when travelers from the United States will be able to book a trip.

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Starting in August, the Belmond Venice Simplon-Orient-Express will return to the rails of continental Europe for 2020. The train runs a number of itineraries between Venice and London. Currently August 5 is the first available date to book; previously Belmond was hoping to restart service in July. Italy, where most of the train’s itineraries either depart from or arrive at, recently reopened to tourists from the EU and the United Kingdom; however, Americans won’t be able to ride until Italy changes its policy. 

The luxury train, which usually starts its annual travel season in March, consists of restored historic cars from the early 20th century. Carriages sport art deco details, and white-gloved stewards attend to passengers, who are encouraged to don their fanciest attire for multi-course dinners and evenings spent with fellow guests in the bar car. In other words, the Belmond Venice Simplon-Orient-Express is a time machine that whisks its patrons into a bygone era of travel. 

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, business will be almost as usual on the train, which already abides by strict health and cleaning standards. But guests who book a trip should be prepared for a few changes. 

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Perhaps the biggest change to the experience will be the number of guests onboard. According to a statement from Gary Franklin, Belmond’s Vice President of Trains and Cruises, only 88 guests will be allowed, as opposed to the typical 164. This will allow guests more space between each other during the two dinner seatings, as well as in common areas of the train. 

The interior of a grand suite on board the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express

Guests should also expect a more thorough check-in procedure. In addition to filling out a registration form, travelers will undergo a contactless temperature screening. If they have a fever that exceeds local health authorities’ recommendations, or other COVID-19-related symptoms, they’ll be asked to postpone their trip. (Belmond employees will also have temperature screenings before starting work.) Passengers exhibiting symptoms or a fever will receive care in a designated area away from other guests until the Belmond team is able to make arrangements for further travel and assistance. 

To accommodate for last-minute illness or travel disruption due to the pandemic, Belmond has adjusted its booking policies to allow for more flexible cancellations and rebookings should a guest become sick or need to change plans closer to their date of departure. 

This story was originally published on June 8, 2020; it was updated on June 17, 2020, to reflect current information.

>>Next: 11 Things I Wish I’d Known Before Going on the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express

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