Staff Review

Belmond Hotel Cipriani and the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express


26 Jul 2018

by The Kirker Team

Kirker Holidays

Having been at Kirker Holidays for almost 12 years now, I have been to Venice several times and enjoyed the hospitality of many of our hotels. This trip, however, was something special. I was lucky enough to recently accompany some of our top travel agents to Venice, enjoying two nights at the Belmond Hotel Cipriani and taking the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express back to London.

For a trip full of highlights, it is difficult to condense this into a blog, but I would guess it started on a rainy January night on the Southbank, where we had been invited to a screening of the recent Murder on the Orient Express film. In the back of my mind, was the question of whether art would imitate life. On this case, I was delighted to be disappointed.

Venice airport has undergone a recent renovation, making arriving on a sunny April day a much more pleasant experience. No matter how many times I travel by water taxi towards Piazza San Marco, it is always a delight to see Venice rise from the lagoon.

First stop was a well-deserved lunch at the Londra Palace. Our friend Alessandra is well known to all in the Kirker reservations team, and there was time to thank her for the attention given to a recent client of mine who took her extended family to the Londra to celebrate a special birthday. This really is a Kirker favourite for a reason.

Venice was in full swing, with the lagoon front teaming, so it was a delight to board the private launch of the Hotel Cipriani and take the short journey across the lagoon to the hotel. The term 'oasis of calm' is often used by hoteliers to cover the remoteness of their property. In the case of the Cipriani, it really does explain (if possible) the difference a 7 minute boat ride can make. From the private launch and path through the gardens - home to the hotel's pet tortoise - to the herb and vegetable gardens and incredibly spacious pool and sundeck, this hotel exudes the atmosphere of an 'oasis of calm'. There are no bad rooms at the Cipriani, only differing views. Standard rooms overlook the gardens, some of the most spacious in Venice; an upgrade to a water view really does remind you where you are. We were also lucky enough to enjoy a meal at 'Cips Club', the hotel's trattoria style restaurant on the waterfront. Even for those not staying at the Cipriani, it really is worthwhile making a dinner reservation here to see the sun set over San Marco.

A first for me was a trip to the beautiful island of Burano. Smaller than the more visited Murano (home of the glass factories), Burano is traditionally home to the lace industry, but for keen photographers this really is a must visit. Brightly painted fisherman's houses dot along the canals; these are in stark contrast to the grand palazzo buildings on the main island of Venice. Speak to the Kirker concierge for details of how best to visit Burano for the day.

Finally, after a last breakfast on the terrace of the Cipriani overlooking the lagoon, it was time to leave Venice. For most trips, this would mark the beginning of a jostle through security and some killing of time in duty free. For us, it was a 30 minute journey on a private water taxi to the main train station to board the Orient Express. The train itself, a perfect renovation of 1920s luxury, looks out of place standing next to the Italian intercity services. However, once on board you will forget about the exterior comparison as I was shown to my cabin, I sipped a glass of champagne and looked forward to the first of three exceptional meals. How they manage to produce such quality in their compact galley is beyond me, and remains one of the enigmas of the train experience. Certainly the memory of dining on salt-marsh lamb whilst travelling through the Dolomites with the sun glinting off the last of the winter's snow will certainly stay with me for some time to come.

One of the joys of train travel is that is takes the speed of modern living out of the equation. Having time to relax after lunch and before dinner as the mountains and meadows of Switzerland and France speed by is certainly something that is missing from air travel. Dinner is again an elegant affair, with most of my fellow passengers embracing the 1920s style whilst enjoying a pre-dinner drink in the bar carriage. By the time that I made my way back to my cabin, it has been transformed into a comfortable bed and any doubts I had about sleeping on a train were quickly quelled.

Morning arrived with a light continental breakfast as we passed through Paris and wound our way to Calais, bidding a sad farewell to the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express. The train doesn't leave the continent, so the journey from Folkestone back to London is made on board the equally traditional Pullman train, where my 'foodie' experience was topped off with afternoon tea (jam first, cream on top of course). I have never been a massive fan of London Victoria, but this arrival was particularly underwhelming...

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Our expert reservations team regularly travel to a wide range of destinations to explore new cities, visit hotels and to research museums, galleries and restaurants so that we can offer the most up-to-date advice and recommendations.


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