While a 53-day train journey may evoke memories of intrigue and luxury on board the Orient Express that operated in the late 19-century across Europe, one enterprising British travel company is offering rail tickets to circumnavigate the globe in around eight weeks.
As you would expect for the $36,500 price tag, you will not be spending your time on the train cooped in cheap seats listening to other people yammering into their cell phones. The ticket offered by Great Rail Journeys is first class most of the way, crossing three continents in the kind of style you would associate with a golden age of rail travel — albeit without the top hats and tailcoats.
Neither oceans nor the Great Wall will get in the way of the round-the-world train trip. En route, passengers get to experience some of the world's most luxurious trains, including the Tsar's Gold Private Train from Mongolia, the Venice Simplon Orient-Express and the British Orient Express Pullman.
"We've got some pretty long journeys in our portfolio, but we've never done the full circumnavigation," Julian Appleyard of Great Rail Journeys said.
The itinerary is slated to begin in London on 18 May, 2015 and includes a trip to Monument Valley in the American Southwest. Passengers will fly to New York and then spend 20 days crossing North America by train.
They call in at Washington, Chicago and Denver and then sample a few classic rail rides such as Colorado's scenic Royal Gorge route and the steam-powered Durango & Silverton line. There is a side trip to the Grand Canyon, a sojourn in Los Angeles and a boat ride to San Francisco, where passengers take to the air once again to reach Shanghai.
The trip sticks firmly to the rails from then on, taking passengers from Xian, home of terra cotta warriors, to Beijing and then on to Russia via Mongolia. The journey links up with the epic Trans-Siberian line to reach Moscow before pressing on into Europe. After calling at Warsaw, Prague, Vienna, Innsbruck and Venice, it heads back to London.
Appleyard says the company had sold its first tickets but is planning to limit numbers to about 25 to "keep it fairly exclusive." "There is a huge number of people who are interested in rail as a method of travel," he said.
"This is quite clearly the longest and most expensive trip we've ever done so it's going to appeal to the wealthy and, at 53 days, people with time on their hands."
If 53 days sounds a little on the slow side, another company offers a similar journey in reverse, via Canada, that takes a mere 40 days. Ffestiniog Travel, based in Wales, charges $32,765 for its escorted tour starting 3 May. Or you could just catch a plane.