Aboard American Orient Express

The American Orient Express, a privately owned luxury train that begins its second season of transcontinental trips between Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., on March 23, is introducing three new trips this year: a five-night tour of "The Great Southwest"; a nine-night music festival/opera train that will include performances at the Aspen Music Festival and Santa Fe opera, and a seven-night tour of "National Parks of the West."

The train has six sleepers, two dining cars where meals are served on china and crystal, two club cars (pictured above) and an observation/parlor car that served for 20 years on the New York Central's 20th Century Limited. All the cars, which date from the 1940s and '50s, were rebuilt and refurbished in 1989 but are turn-of-the-century style. Interior decor includes mahogany paneling, embossed leather, inlaid woods and original oil paintings.

Traveling in such style comes at a price: Fares on the transcontinental journeys (the first eastbound journey is scheduled to leave Los Angeles March 30) start at $4,990 per person, based on double occupancy.

Although the names are almost the same, the American Orient Express has no ties with the Venice-Simplon Orient Express, which travels between London and Venice. The American train is owned by the Swiss company Reiseburo Mittelhurgau, which also owns the Nostalgic Istanbul Orient Express, and is represented in the United States by T.C.S. Expeditions in Seattle. Tickets and reservations: (800) 727-7477.

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