Leading this renaissance is the Golden Eagle Danube Express with its recent addition of Superior Deluxe cabins, and a trio of pioneering journeys introduced to Golden Eagle Luxury Trains’ European programme in 2018.  New for next year is a grand tour of some of the world’s most scenic railways on the Grand Alpine Express, a trail-blazing passage through Sicily, and the epicurean Champagne Express. The latter returns company founder and former wine merchant, Tim Littler, back to his roots: it was following a hugely successful rail trip to Champagne in 1988, organised for a group of friends, that the business was born.

The Golden Eagle Danube Express was at the forefront of the revival of luxurious sleeper trains when it launched in 2015 with some of the finest rail accommodation available in Central Europe, including en suite accommodation suitable for extended touring. And the trend continues: this year saw the cabins of the Penzance-bound Night Riviera upgraded, and 2018 will see a £150 million revamp of the Caledonian Sleeper and the introduction of Grand Suites on the Orient Express.

NEW RAIL ADVENTURES FOR 2018 

Grand Alpine Express

Journeying from Budapest to Venice, expect dramatic alpine backdrops, beautiful lakes and some of the most scenic railways in the world on this new trip across Central Europe. From the classic capital cities of Budapest and Vienna, the Golden Eagle Danube Express ventures deep into the Austrian Tyrol visiting Innsbruck, passing through St. Anton and crossing Liechtenstein, before heading across the valleys of the Swiss Alps to Zurich.  The Italian Lake District is next, with a lunch stop at Lake Como and a meander along the shores of Lake Garda, as well as visits to Milan and Trieste. The train then loops into western Slovenia climbing through the Julian Alps towards picturesque Lake Bled and Ljubljana, before returning to Italy for the voyage’s end, Venice.

Weaving through tunnels, crossing viaducts and traversing mountain passes, journey highlights include climbing over the Semmering Pass, views of Lake Achen from a steam rack railway, and a scenic ascent up to the St Gotthard Pass. Off the train, enjoy a private concert at The House of Mozart featuring the Vienna Supreme Orchestra, a cellar visit to sample the Veneto region’s famous Soave wines in Verona, in addition to sightseeing stops in each of the cities visited. Price: from £7,495pp, including 4 nights’ hotel accommodation (2 in Budapest, 2 in Venice) and 6 nights’ on the Golden Eagle Danube Express. Departs: 22 June 2018.

Champagne Express

Indulge in gourmet cuisine and ancient culture whilst exploring some of the world’s finest wine producing regions on the Golden Eagle Danube Express’ new 12-day journey between Venice and Paris. Opt for the Westbound tour to combine the remarkable scenery of the French Riviera and the Route du Champagne with tours of the most prestigious wine cellars and exclusive tastings at Grand Marques champagne houses.  Anticipate Michelin-starred dinners, privileged access and champagne aplenty.

Spend two days in romantic Venice, then step aboard the gleaming hotel-on-wheels to head west (via Verona) towards France. After winding along the Cote d’Azur, arrive in fashionable Monte Carlo. From here, travel to Grasse to create a personal perfume at Parfumerie Fragonard, or take a tour of medieval St Paul de Vence with the opportunity to sample some of the Rhône Valley’s best bottles at a 14th century wine cellar. Further highlights en route to Champagne include: a private tasting at Chateau d’Esclans in Provence; exploring the winery and vineyards of Paul Jaboulet Ainé in the Rhône Valley; and a tutored tour of the prestigious cellars of the Drouhin family in Beaune, Burgundy. On arrival in Épernay, enjoy an exclusive visit to Hautvillers Abbey to learn about the history of Dom Pérignon before touring the prestigious Moët & Chandon estate. Journeying onwards to the Roman city of Reims, the tour of Champagne concludes with a visit to the awe-inspiring 13th century gothic cathedral and the cellars of Krug. A two-night stay in Paris is the fitting finale. Price: from £9,495pp, including 4 nights’ hotel accommodation (2 in Venice, 2 in Paris) and 7 nights’ on the Golden Eagle Danube Express. Departs: 4 October 2018.

Alternatively opt for the Eastbound journey which begins in Paris and includes all the Champagne highlights, but instead of travelling south through France, heads east into Germany to the Moselle Valley to explore the city of Trier and the winery at Traben-Trabach. After looping back into Alsace, the train heads south through Switzerland and over the St Gotthard Pass to Chiasso on the Italian border for a winery visit. Pisa, Florence (for Chianti tasting) and Verona (for a Soave winery visit) are on the menu ahead of arrival in Venice.

Sicilian Odyssey

Step aboard the Golden Eagle Danube Express in Venice for a 12-day passage south to Sicily taking in quiet Cremona, foodie Bologna, microstate San Marino, port-side Bari, and the crumbling ruins of Pompeii. Highlights along the way include the opportunity to visit the Ferrari factory at Marenello, sampling local wine at the foot of Mount Vesuvius, and a scenic route through the beautiful Parco Nazionale del Cilento. Upon reaching Italy’s southern tip, the hotel-on wheels boards one of the very few train ferries in the world for the short crossing to Sicily, where it is thought it will be the first luxury private train to tour the island.

The first stop is the bustling capital Palermo to enjoy a walking tour and concert, followed by a detour to Corleone to learn about the notorious Mafia families, made famous by Francis Ford Coppola's movie, The Godfather. The next five days are devoted to exploring Sicily’s cultural gems, among them: the impressive Greek ruins at Agrigento; picture-postcard pretty Ragusa; ancient Syracuse; the hilltop town of Caltagirone; and, the final stop, Taormina. There are plenty of special experiences to enjoy, too, from a boat ride around the island of Ortigia, a pastry cooking class in Catania and a guided tour of Mount Etna museum with a local volcanologist followed by local wine sampling on the mountain slopes. Price: from £9,495pp, including 4 nights’ hotel accommodation (2 in Venice, 2 in Taormina) and 7 nights’ on the Golden Eagle Danube Express. Departs: 17 September 2018.