Dining and Dashing

The five-star Royal Livingstone Hotel in Zambia recently began running the Royal Livingstone Express, an antique train that serves a six-course dinner as it glides through the Zambezi Valley. Visitors to the hotel, or others in the Valley, can enjoy a rich landscape, incredible wildlife and a spectacular sunset from the comfort of the train while enjoying a gourmet meal.

royal livingstone express train

The Royal Livingstone Express travels along the historic Mulobezi line.

“With the length of stay of our guests being on average three or more nights per visit, we felt we needed to add another dining offering, which would prove as memorable as dinner under the Monkey Tree or in The Dining Room at The Royal Livingstone Hotel,” recalls Joanne Gorman, general manager operations at Sun International Zambia, the parent company of the Royal Livingstone Hotel. “When Bushtracks approached us with the idea of a joint venture in the form of a steam train, we were intrigued immediately, as the romance and nostalgia of steam travel fit in so well with the colonial refinement of The Royal Livingstone Hotel.”

Old-Fashioned Luxury
“The train’s objective,” Gorman continues, “is to enhance our guests’ experience in Zambia, and offer an off-site dining experience, which echoes the luxury and comfort of the resort.” To that end, the train is no ultra-modern silver bullet, but an elegant antique model that had been displayed in the 1924 British Empire Exhibition in London and later pulled logging carriages. As the Royal Livingstone Express, the locomotive now consists of two dining cars (which can seat 92 guests), a kitchen car, a lounge car and a panoramic observation car. The dining car features individual lamps, crystal glassware, silver cutlery and damask linens, all designed to create an aura of old-fashioned luxury. “We wanted The Royal Livingstone Express to almost be an extension of The Royal Livingstone Hotel,” Gorman says, “and provide a complete experience—gracious hospitality, good food and wine, breathtaking scenery, the nostalgia and history of steam travel and a piece of Zambian history (some of the carriage windows still have RR for Rhodesian Railways engraved on the glass). The locomotive dates back to 1922 and travels along the historic Mulobezi line.”

royal livingstone express train dining car

The dining cars are appointed with such amenities as damask linen and fine crystal.

The excursion, which is available Wednesdays through Saturdays, costs $150 per passenger (children also pay full price), and includes all wine, beer and soda, as well as the six-course dinner prepared by Royal Livingstone Hotel chefs. The train’s 12-mile course runs through the Mosi-Oa-Tunya National Park and over the Sinde River, giving the passengers ample opportunity to see vistas and wildlife not visible from their hotel.

Gorman says that guests of the hotel, and of other hotels in the area, have been taking advantage of the service, and responding with strong enthusiasm. “The ambiance and entire experience receives superb feedback, and the service and food receive accolades daily,” she says. “We believe The Royal Livingstone Express adds another unique attraction to the region, which, together with the Victoria Falls, will become a ‘must.’”

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