Is an overnight train a fun experience?

Jul 20th, 2005, 05:41 AM
Original Poster
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Is an overnight train a fun experience?

Hi everyone,

I am trying to decide how to get from Barcelona to Seville with my boyfriend next month and I think an overnight train ride (in a private Grand Class double with shower, toilet, dinner, and breakfast included) would be a fun, adventurous, and romantic experience. He would prefer to fly and says that I have a wrong impression of an overnight train ride. Does anyone have a thought on this?

HMD99 is offline  
Jul 20th, 2005, 05:52 AM
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Depends on your outlook - pre-determined attitude tend to be self-fulfilling. that said i'd consider this deluxe type of compartment would be very nice - dinner on the train. If you live in US you can save money by buying Spanish night trains thru RailEurope and not in Spain. For example the Gran Clase double is about $25 p.p. cheaper than on the RENFE site. ($138 p.p. thru RailEurope; RailEurope charges a $15 handling fee plus a mailing fee - i always go thru BETS (800-441-2387), a RailEurope agent who doesn't charge RE's mailing fee and are Spanish rail experts. Check for prices in Euros in Spain - maybe there are some special offers i've missed but for regular fare it appears RailEurope is quite a bit cheaper. These trains can fill up in advance so reserve early.
PalQ is offline  
Jul 20th, 2005, 05:55 AM
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We took an overnight train from Paris to Venice, and slept in 2nd class. We shared a cabin with a teacher and his wife. The teacher was escorting a class of high school kids to Genoa for a field trip. We had a great time talking with them, as the kids were from a smaller town outside Paris that apparently doesn't get many Americans coming through. They tried their English out on us, and we butchered French for them. There was plenty of eye rolling and laughter.

I'm sure the first-class accommodations would be nice, but I wonder how many hours on the train you'd be spending. If it's a night deal, you might as well take the train since it would spare you finding another hotel room, and would be romantic...we had dinner on our train ride, and it was really fun, and the service was above the usual Amtrak experience you get in a dining car in the Western states at least.

Good luck deciding!

jules4je7 is offline  
Jul 20th, 2005, 06:01 AM
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We took an overnight train from Paris to Berlin last September in a private double with all amenities and enjoyed it greatly. There wasn't a dining car so we brought our own food, champagne and wine! It wasn't cheap but we didn't have to pay for a hotel room or hassle with two airports.
Marija is offline  
Jul 20th, 2005, 06:20 AM
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It all depends on what you enjoy, how you feel about being in control of your vacation and your idea of romantic. I'm with him - I hate being "trapped" anywhere and long train rides are hell for me. Too uncomfortable, too boring, no chance to go and explore something that looks interesting - give me a car every time.

(But then I would never take a cruise either and would be happier if I were the one flying the plane - but I don't have any choice on that one.)
nytraveler is offline  
Jul 20th, 2005, 06:25 AM
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See the bottom of my trip report for our recent (May 2005) experience in a 1st class 2 bed compartment... MISERABLE. We're both young and normally laid back but it really was terrible.
TexasAggie is offline  
Jul 20th, 2005, 06:32 AM
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I have had several great trips on an overnight train. I really enjoy it! That said, I would ONLY go with a first class private cabin. And wouldn't it do it more than 1x week. Yes I *do* think it is <romantic>. The route we were on didn't have a dining car so we took on our own picnic dinner with plenty of wine. One time we boarded at midnight so a meal wasn't needed.

Since your boyfriend says you have <a wrong impression>, has he been on an overnight train before himself???

I think that is important because IF he has and didn't like it, I would take that into consideration. If he hasn't and is just blowin' smoke about what he thinks it is or isn't like on a the train, then I'd try to talk him into it.
suze is offline  
Jul 20th, 2005, 06:37 AM
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I'm a great believer in overnight trains but sleeping on them is no more "fun" than sleeping in a hotel. There is certainly some romance in being shown to your own private sleeping compartment by a uniformed steward who'll bring you drinks in the evening, then wake you with breakfast in the morning.
Flying will actually take more time because you'll spend half a day travelling. The big advantage of an overnight train is that you can spend a day sightseeing in one city, then go to bed and wake in another city for sightseeing the next day. If you fly regularly, then why should you want every journey to be the same?
The last time I got the overnight train from Barcelona to Sevilla, I just booked a couchette ("litera" in Spanish) and had a fascinating evening talking with the other passengers - two were German, but one of these was a student in England, and the other was Mexican. I'd imagine the Gran Clase compartments are pretty comfortable.
GeoffHamer is offline  
Jul 20th, 2005, 06:40 AM
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TexasAggie, I can't find your report. Maybe could you copy and paste the paragraph that tells about the overnight train on to this thread?

I'm curious what could have made it so miserable for you.
suze is offline  
Jul 20th, 2005, 06:50 AM
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The experience of overnight trains, however posh, varies massively. Things like the quality of the air conditioning, the frequency of points, and your partner's tolerance of a bed that's never going to be super king size all affect the experience, and aren't at all consistent.

You're confined to a small space for 8 hours or so and all these things can annoy you far more in a sleeper than in a normal train journey.

On even the best occasions, our experience has been that the earth doesn't move. But, when all about you is, it feels more like the earth moving than it would in the conventional hotel you'd be in otherwise. And Mrs F and I have always found overnight trains have been a lot more fun than the alternative. Mind you, she wouldn't be Mrs F today if she'd been the kind of stick in the mud who bridled at an overnight train. You can tell a lot about a partner from their attitude to trains, it's always seemed to me.

Ordinarily, I'd say the only way you'll find whether it was right for you would be to do it. But if MrHMD has got his mind set, he'll find something to prove he's right.

Which of course raises the question of what that tells you about him... But that's none of my business.
flanneruk is online now  
Jul 20th, 2005, 07:03 AM
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I've not done such a train trip in Europe and if his only experience has been something like the Auto Train on the east coast in the US, I can see where he might be coming from (we did it once -- did NOT have a compartment -- it was simply DREADFUL!!!!!) I wouldn't expect that to be the case with what you've described though and I'd sure be willing to try it. There are a lot of advantages, as pointed out, and depending on how long your trip is (one week? two?) I think it would be worth a try. Good luck!
uhoh_busted is offline  
Jul 20th, 2005, 07:39 AM
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Hi suze,

Here is the excerpt from my trip report. Hope it is helpful!!

We picked up our luggage about 9:45pm and made our way to the waiting lobby (an indoor area on the second floor with plastic chairs). We spent the time reading and people watching. Ladies beware – the Salerno train station is NOT an area that I would want to be in alone at night. We were approached twice by men asking for money and one completely drunk or high man came in and laid down on the floor and went to sleep. Our train was about 10 minutes late. We boarded a little after 11:50pm and hauled our weary selves and luggage through several compartments to the sleeper car. We had reserved a first class 2 bed private compartment for 120€ (special off the web, normal price is almost 160&euro. While normally a trooper I just about cried when I saw our room.

It was about half the size of my not-oversized closet at home. It was about 100-million degrees. There was literally not room for both DH and I to stand and we are thin people. The beds were the narrowest set of bunkbeds I have ever seen. Fortunately DH took over. He left me and the luggage in the hall and worked on getting the window open to cool the compartment off. That done, he sent me off to the bathroom to wash my face and get ready for bed while he maneuvered the luggage into the compartment. I had to laugh when I got back as the smallest suitcase ended up being carefully squeezed onto the foot of my bed since there was nowhere else to put it. We only had one medium-sized backpack and 2 suitcases both small enough to qualify as carry-on luggage but this room was miniscule. DH opted for the top bunk and I settled into the lower one, chuckling that we were REALLY glad we had not tried this last year on our honeymoon. "Goodnight honey, ‘night babe".

The room did eventually cool off enough for me to doze but we had to keep the window open meaning we heard every rattle between Salerno and Monterosso and especially every train that passed (WHOOSH) us on the opposite set of tracks.

TexasAggie is offline  
Jul 20th, 2005, 07:58 AM
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Please, when you talk about trains you shouldn't say Europe. I mean, the trains are VERY different from one country to another. Even inside the same country..they are different from one route to another. So experiences can't be compared.
The trains labelled "Trenhotel" in Spain are as good as sleeping on a train can be, in fact, some other companies in Europe have bought wagons made here.
But, it is very expensive, at least, for the prices we use to have in Spain.
So if you are doing it for "fun", just do it, I don't think you will regret. But on that route, plane is very much cheaper and if you are "light" sleepers maybe you won't be able to sleep (not because is not comfortable..just because it is a train, it is in motion).
kenderina is offline  
Jul 20th, 2005, 08:13 AM
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P.S. Our train was in Italy, however it was a first class compartment.
TexasAggie is offline  
Jul 20th, 2005, 08:14 AM
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I took the overnight train from Arth-Goldau to Rome in March. We had a two bed compartment. The room had bunk beds, a sink, mirror and a few things to freshen up. It even had an emergency toilet (I wouldn't have used it otherwise). We could lock the door from the inside. The compartment was recently renovated and very clean. There was a lot of room between the top and bottom bunk bed.

How did I sleep? Well, there wasn't too much rocking so that wasn't a problem. The worst was the sound of the brakes and when we stopped, sometimes people would be yelling outside (and this was during the night). I heard nothing from the neighboring compartments.

The breakfast was small: a cup of coffee and a piece of cake/bread (we weren't sure what it was).

It was a memorable experience but I wouldn't do it often.
kleeblatt is offline  
Jul 20th, 2005, 08:38 AM
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Hi HM,

Every now and then my Lady wife and I take a train instead of flying, because it is much more fun.

>....private Grand Class double ...<
Absolutely. If the BF still won't take the train, reconsider if his flaws are really outweighed by his virtues.

ira is offline  
Jul 20th, 2005, 08:45 AM
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If you fly (1:30 hr) you can expect to add 3-3:30 hr getting to/from airports, waiting for flights, etc.

That doesn't leave much of the day, while the train has a very convenient schedule and, as noted, saves the cost of a hotel for a night.

ira is offline  
Jul 20th, 2005, 08:57 AM
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I've only taken one overnight train, and our experience closely mirros Shuler's. Our train was the Artesia, from Paris to Rome, and taking it maximized our time in both cities. We had a 3-bunk sleeper (my 13-year-old son and I) but we paid for the 3rd bed so it would be ours exclusively. Very clean, and in November very comfortable, and the rocking motion was very soothing. What you're describing sounds much more luxurious and like the greatest of fun.

In terms of hours spent traveling, you will spend at least 6 hours on any flight of a duration of an hour or hour and a half. That is wasted time, IMO, and when you go by train you save the hotel that night.

My only concern would be the air-conditioning, if you are traveling in summer. A small, hot compartment wouldn't have much romantic charm for me.
kswl is offline  
Jul 20th, 2005, 09:04 AM
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Don't save is more expensive than a hotel , at least, for me The Grand Clase cabin is 135 euros per person. So it is 270 euros for a couple. You can flight that route for 70 euros each one..and have a nice 3 star (even a 4 ) for 70 euros a double. The only thing you save is time, because you travel in the night
Anyway, I've never done it. For a single it's even more expensive.
kenderina is offline  
Jul 20th, 2005, 09:14 AM
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Well you could take this train for as little as $69 thru Raileurope - including sleeping accommodation in a couchette and rail fare and save a night's sleeping - so low-budget travelers can save both time and money.
PalQ is offline  

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