Despite the best laid plans, a perfectly pleasant vacation can suddenly turn disastrous–just ask the more than 3,100 passengers on the Carnival Triumph cruise line.
Although disasters like the Triumph are rare, living through a vacation gone bad can be a scary thing, especially when lives and property are lost.
But, as I experienced myself, a travel mishap (on a much lesser scale), while upsetting can evolve into moments of surreal humor, build brand loyalty and provide fodder for a pretty great travel story.
I recently was on a trip when the luxury Blue Train caught fire in the middle of the South African desert. In my case, rather than “hell-like” unsanitary conditions and long food lines like on the Triumph, the biggest concern, as the 53 passengers were evacuated, was dwindling champagne reserves and whether we’d still have to wear suits and dresses to dinner. Welcome to travel disaster, first-class-style.
While watching coverage of the Carnival Triumph disaster, I thanked my lucky stars that our own trip hadn’t taken such a turn for the worse.
Palace on Wheels
The five-star Blue Train—named Africa’s Leading Luxury Train at the 2012 World Travel Awards—has been called a “can’t-miss travel experience” with an unblemished record for more than five decades. Known as a “palace on wheels,” the Blue Train runs once a week from Cape Town to Pretoria, just outside Johannesburg, South Africa. The 27-hour all-first-class journey features butler service, soundproofed sleeping compartments, en suite bathrooms (all with showers, many with tubs!), and two nightly dinner seatings requiring passengers to dress up in their finest: dresses for the ladies, jacket and tie for the gentlemen.
The waiters wear white gloves and blue and gold uniforms, there’s an afternoon tea, and the wood-paneled corridors tinkle with classical music. It’s a Downton Abbey-esque fairy tale, lulling you into such cozy bliss as the train snakes through the stunning South African countryside that the real world seems but a distant memory.
Never underestimate the importance of luck while traveling, however. What could have unraveled into tragedy as our train caught fire became a mild comedy of errors.