The Blue Train is world-famous for its super-luxury style of rail safari, if you can foot the bill. Right now you can still book a luxury cabin for an overnight trip to Cape Town in December for R41,160 per couple; call it around 14 times what you would pay for plane tickets to get you there in a fraction of the time.
Now it is doing the same thing for business trips – or at least what its customers will try to convince accounting departments and the SA Revenue Service are business trips – as it markets itself to the meetings, incentives, conferences, and events (MICE) industry.
A business dining charter, circling Pretoria while eating a five-course meal – will set you back around R4,900* a head for 40 people. On the other end of the scale, a five-day trip from Pretoria to Port Elizabeth for R2.45 million, or around R60,000 per person.
While on that trip you can, of course, have a conference, thanks to a reconfiguration that turns the train's observation car into a passable boardroom.
But you're not paying R60,000 a head for a narrow conference table in a narrow room. We toured the train while it was parked at its Pretoria base to see what else it offers.
Here's what we found.
Because the transition between cars is so carefully camouflaged, the 19-car configuration of the Blue Train we see looks like one enormously long (but very thin) room.
There is so much glass that the glare would have been painful, were it not for the slight tint on the windows. Those windows hide other touches too that speak of the sheer luxury of this train.
It gets a little crowded when filled with a table, but for normal staring-out-the-window purposes, it will do just fine.
The dual-glazing explains how the air-conditioning could overmatch a mid-day summer Pretoria roasting. The internal shutters are activated by discreet switches, just in case the normal interior blinds aren’t good enough for your liking.
Running, say, a laptops-on-the-table conference, will be no challenge. Nor will keeping your Instagram device charged at all times.
If you get your choice, shoot for the bath. Although the shower cubicle is big by budget-hotel standards, there isn’t enough headroom to really get into a shower concert. The huge (relative for a train) bath is sure to be more fun.
Because you must, of course, write “wish you were here” postcards to everyone you know, to ensure they are properly jealous. We recommend a quill pen.
Because no “business meeting” is complete without an after-dinner cigar, as everyone knows.
* Correction: This article has been updated to reflect the correct approximate cost of R4,900 per person for a dinner charter, and to clarify that overnight trips run up to around R60,000 per person, but not per day.
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