Here comes the Orient Express on sails

To make luxury cruising more sustainable, the Orient Express Silenseas will be equipped with an engine powered by liquefied natural gas.

Accor is extending Orient Express – a brand long synonymous with trains and hotels – into luxury cruising, announcing the forthcoming launch of the Orient Express Silenseas sailing ship.

At nearly 220m long, Accor said that the Silenseas will be the world’s largest sailing ship when it debuts in 2026. The ship is a joint venture between Accor and French shipbuilding company Chantiers de l’Atlantique.

The Orient Express Silenseas will have 54 suites, with most of them measuring an average of 230m. The ship’s top-tier accommodation will be a presidential suite with a private terrace.

The Silenseas will have two swimming pools, a pair of restaurants, a speakeasy bar, the Amphitheatre-Cabaret for entertainment and a private recording studio. Wellness programming, such as spa treatments and meditation sessions, will be on offer.

Architect Maxime d’Angeac is leading the design of the ship’s interiors. Stirling Design International is overseeing exterior architecture.

Accor said the Silenseas will have “a revolutionary technological design” called SolidSail, consisting of three rigid sails (each with a surface area of approximately 1,524m and three tilting masts that are more than 98m high.

According to Accor, the sails will be able to provide 100% of the propulsion in “suitable weather conditions”.

In addition, the ship will be equipped with an engine powered by liquefied natural gas. As part of efforts to move in an eco-friendly direction, Accor said it plans to switch the Silenseas to hydrogen energy once the technology becomes widely available to ocean passenger ships.

Accor, which acquired a 50% stake in the Orient Express name from French national rail company SNCF Group in 2017, is also planning to relaunch the Orient Express brand as a luxury hotel concept. (The hotel group now known as Belmond had previously used the Orient Express brand until 2014, when its licensing deal with SNCF expired.)

Accor plans to open its first Orient Express hotels in Rome and Venice in 2024. An Orient Express hotel in Riyadh is also in the pipeline.

Orient Express joins other hotel brands that are making high-profile forays into luxury cruising, joining Ritz-Carlton, Four Seasons and Aman Group.