- The Blue Train now offers business charters for anything from dinner to a multi-day trip across the country.
- That business dinner will set you back R4,900* a head, and a five-day trip between Pretoria and Port Elizabeth starts at around R60,000 per person for 40 people.
- We walked the train as it was being prepared for a trip, and poked into all the nooks and crannies.
- This is what we saw.
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.
The train is basically infinitely long, or that is what it looks like.
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.
The observation car, right at the end of the train, is huge.
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 glass is dual-glazed – with motorised blinds between the panes.
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.
There are, of course, also plenty of power points everywhere.
Running, say, a laptops-on-the-table conference, will be no challenge. Nor will keeping your Instagram device charged at all times.
This is still a travelling machine, though, and in places that shows.
The succulents on every table are real, even though they look too healthy at first glance...
... and the flowers are also real.
Dinner trips are fine and well, but you need at least one night aboard to really appreciate the Blue Train.
In case you missed that, the linen is monogrammed.
The en-suite bathrooms come with either a shower...
... or a three-quarter-sized bath.
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.
The fittings are golden (naturally)...
... and there are all the usual soaps and things you’d expect from a luxury hotel.
Each cabin has a personal thermostat.
And then there are the old-world touches, such as the leather-clad slide-out writing side table.
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.
The lounge car also seems huge when empty of people...
.. and offers lots of booze (and espresso, if you are that way inclined).
The four-seater tables in the lounge car are big enough for breakaway meetings – or a Settlers of Catan game board.
The glass and silverware is all pristine...
... and the salt and pepper shakers are always full.
Desert offers at least one thing you can’t pronounce.
The smoking lounge is the last stop at the front of the train...
...and smells, surprisingly, tantalisingly of cigars rather than stale cigarette smoke.
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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