The leisurely 27-hour ride from Pretoria to Cape Town was a wonderful alternative to the Johannesburg Cape Town flight. It helped me recover from the 48-hour trip from the U.S. and related jet lag, providing hours of down time and the unhurried opportunity to enjoy the scenery, read or just relax. Although it was possible to make calls using the in-room phones or mobile phone, many passengers took advantage of the opportunity to relax making few or no calls.
The Blue Train mystique, the aura of luxury and history attached to one of the world’s most famous trains, is part of the attraction for first timers and repeat guests. For others it’s the many perks included in the fare such as a private departure and arrival lounges at the train stations; spacious private suite; three meals a day; snacks, drinks including house wines and alcoholic beverages; a butler per train car to service the suite and look after guests; and an excursion to the diamond city of Kimberley during the trip.
One of my favorite features was the opportunity the train ride offered travelers to meet each other in a convivial environment. I met several couples on board. We shared meals, drinks, differing points of view, recommendations for local attractions and many fine moments. Making new friends and exchanging quality moments is, after all, what exceptional travel and The Blue Train are all about.
Executive Chef Dicky Swanepoeh
Executive Director Dorcas Ledwaba
Handicapped Access Yes, there was one handicapped-accessible suite available aboard the train
Length Of Stay 27 hours
Owned-Managed Spoornet, a Division of Transnet Limited (South African government)
Size During our train ride, there were 74 suites accommodating 64 passenger in 18 cars and a staff of 27 including one butler per train car.
Train Director Lawrence Phalcathi
Year Opened-Renovated The Blue Train began operations in 1946. The most recent renovations took place in 2003
Mine was the last suite in the last passenger car. Behind it were the staff cars. Although staff often walked by my cabin on their way to and from work, they were quiet. The only annoying noises were from the passengers in the two other cabins in the train car. They left their cabin doors open and yelled to each other across the divide. Several times they walked up and down the hallway talking so loudly at each other that I could hear them clearly with my cabin door closed. After I mentioned the disruptions to Jan, our train car butler, during a break, they stopped.
The inner walls were wood and the outer area was taken up in large part by a double pane window (couldn’t be open). The patterned carpet was blue and burgundy. There was a full length mirror by the bathroom door. Next to the entrance to the suite there was a small closet with hanging space, an electronic safe and a drawer. Above it there was a Samsung 24” remote controlled television with movie selections. There were small night tables with drawers and counter space on either side of the wood wall in the rear of the cabin.
Although I had several weeks’ worth of luggage, I was able to fit the suitcases in a corner. There was also storage space above the interior wall. For passengers with more luggage than they could fit in their cabin, it was possible to store extra luggage elsewhere on the train.
While I was at dinner, the suite was reorganized for night use. The sofa, foot rests, pillows and armchair disappeared and the table was folded against the wall. In their place there was an inviting bed with delicate white linen. The Blue Train logo was embroidered on the duvet cover
For dinner we sampled the Springbok Loin “De Aar,” thinly sliced smoked springbok with calamata olive tepanade and pickled sun-dried tomatoes appetizer. The main courses we tried were Grilled Salmon “Nocab,” salmon wrapped in bacon served over fennel with cream and lemon; Ostrich Fillet “Oudtshoorn,” pan-fried ostrich in a cabernet sauce served with cubed thyme potatoes; and Breast of Chicken “Wine Route,” a de-boned breast of chicken, filled with an asparagus and gorgonzola mousse and served on pan-fried greens. For dessert we tried the Chocolate “Grand Marnier,” a chocolate spring roll with strawberry compote flavored with orange liqueur.
The breakfast buffet included fruit juices, yogurt, fruit platter, apple muesli, prunes and oranges in herb syrup with honeyed yogurt, and cereals. Hot made to order options were scrambled eggs wrapped in smoked salmon; eggs and omelets to order with bacon, mushrooms and tomatoes; Champagne Sausages; Hot Field Mushrooms on Toast; croissants and assorted breads.
There were a number of complimentary wine and beverage options including sparking wines. Our waiter, Peter Mfikde, was attentive.
Our affable chef, who had been working with The Blue Train for 15 years, whipped up delicious and artfully presented dishes and snacks.
Facilities There was a restaurant for guests, and an on board boutique selling specially-designed jewelry and apparel. There was a Lounge Car and Club Car where guests gathered for drinks and conversation, each with a bar. Smoking was a permitted in the Club Car only.
There were also synthetic and silk scarves in a see through leopard print, and Blue Train themed ties, cuff links, playing cards, navy blue polo shirts and light blue shirts. The shop was open by appointment from 10:30 a.m. to 17:30 p.m. on our first day and from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. the following day.
Cell phones were not allowed in the public areas. Smoking was only allowed in the Club Car.
Passengers usually visit the Kimberley Open Mine Museum which includes the famous Big Hole during the single stop between Pretoria and Cape Town. During our trip the museum was closed for renovations. Instead of the museum we were invited to the De Beers Mine and Rhodes Boardroom.
Route Pretoria to Cape Town
Date Of Review November 2006
Ease Of Reserving A Room Though we inquired months in advance, our first choices of dates were unavailable. As a result, it was necessary for us to rearrange our entire flight schedule and hotel reservations. Advance planning is advisable to secure desired dates.
Reviewers Article and photographs by Elena del Valle
Service Staff were considerate and polite. They all dressed in handsome uniforms. Peter Mfikde, our waiter, Jan my suite butler, the bar staff and chef were solicitous and able.
Would You Ride It Again? Yes
- The Blue Train
- Pretoria to Cape Town
- Minaar Street
- South Africa
- +27 123 348 459
- + 27 123 348 464
- +1 305-864-4569
- South Africa:
- The Blue Train
- +27 12 334-8459