Which is For You – Gold Service or Platinum Service on The Ghan Train? Luxury train travel is popular in Australia. It is not just about getting on a…
Which is For You – Gold Service or Platinum Service on The Ghan Train?
Luxury train travel is popular in Australia. It is not just about getting on a train and going from A to B, but about the experience. On The Ghan (as with other luxury train travel in Australia), your journey can be completed in Gold Service or Platinum Service. But which service do you choose? Read on to learn about the similarities and differences between the two services from my unique first-hand experience as a solo traveller on The Ghan train.
In October 2022, I travelled on The Ghan from Adelaide to Darwin – a two-night train trip up the middle of Australia from the southern coast to the northern coast.
For the first half of the train trip from Adelaide to Alice Springs, I travelled Gold Service. In Alice Springs, I transferred to Platinum Service for the second half of the journey. Moving from one service to another halfway through the trip was not by design but was my only means of getting all the way from Adelaide to Darwin on The Ghan train on my desired travel date. However, it has allowed me to provide you with an exclusive first-hand comparison of The Ghan’s service levels – Gold Service and Platinum Service – and answer the question is Platinum Service value for money.
About The Ghan luxury train
The Ghan (operated by Journey Beyond) is a luxury passenger train service in Australia that travels weekly from Adelaide to Darwin (or reverse), covering 2,979 kilometres over two nights and three days. It is considered one of the world’s great train journeys as it travels through diverse landscapes from the southern to northern extremes of Australia – from cityscapes and outback towns to endless red desert and the tropics.
The train is almost one kilometre in length and accommodates 258 Gold Service beds and 25 Platinum Service beds.
The Ghan’s name pays homage to the Afghan camel drivers who helped explore Australia’s remote interior in the 19th century.
The Ghan Gold Service vs Platinum Service: price
I paid AUD2,875.00 for the Adelaide to Alice Springs section of the train journey in Gold Service. This cost included one night’s accommodation in a sole occupancy twin cabin, three meals and all beverages, and two Off Train Experiences.
Had I travelled with a friend or partner and shared a Gold Service twin cabin from Adelaide to Alice Springs, the fare would have been AUD1,595.00 per person.
My Platinum Service cost for the second half of the train trip from Alice Springs to Darwin was AUD5,115.00. This price included one night’s accommodation in a sole occupancy cabin, three meals and all beverages, and two Off Train Experiences.
Had I travelled with a friend or partner and shared a Platinum Service cabin from Alice Springs to Darwin, the fare would have been AUD2,895.00 per person.
Dining, Australian wines, beers, base spirits, and non-alcoholic drinks are all-inclusive for both service levels. However, with Platinum Service, you can have Bollinger Champagne served with your meals.
My Platinum Service fare on The Ghan was almost twice as much as that for Gold Service with identical inclusions of accommodation, meals, beverages, and Off Train Experiences. So, what did I get for my money in Platinum Service that warranted the additional cost? What are the differences between the services?
The Ghan Gold Service vs Platinum Service: cabin
My Gold Service cabin was a twin cabin, while my Platinum Service cabin was a double cabin, and I had sole occupancy in both cabins.
The Ghan’s cabins are as different in every way.
My Gold Service twin cabin was compact with a three-seater, firm lounge and sufficient leg room. The cabin converts to a bedroom at night with narrow bunk beds. As I was the sole person occupying my cabin, the Hospitality Attendant only made up the comfortable bottom bunk. My only fear was falling out of bed if I turned over. There is a ladder to assist you in accessing the top bunk.
Storage was limited to a small, narrow shelf and a cupboard where you could hang two or three items. Unlike the space provided in a riverboat cabin, unpacking was not viable. Depending on the size of your cabin bag, it may be stored under the lower bunk or on the shelf above the ensuite.
The cabin’s wood panelling was dark, and the furnishings looked tired and outdated. There were reading lights and a night light, sufficient power points, in-cabin music channels, and journey commentaries broadcasted in the cabins.
My Platinum Service double cabin was spacious, almost twice the size of the Gold Service twin cabin, and more modern in design.
During the day, the Platinum Service double cabin was set up as a private lounge, having a comfortable lounge with cushions, a moveable table, and two ottomans. However, the cabin could no longer be described as spacious if the ottomans (stored under the table) were being utilised. At night, the Hospitality Attendant turned the lounge room into a bedroom with a luxurious double bed.
As with my Gold Service twin cabin, there were sufficient power points, in-cabin music channels, and journey commentaries broadcasted in the cabins. While unpacking was still not viable, there was more storage space in my Platinum Service cabin.
The private ensuite for both services warrants a separate mention.
The Gold Service ensuite was compact. It was, in truth, a toilet, shower, and handbasin in a closet. A curtain pulled around the showerhead prevents the toilet and basin from getting wet. Having said that, I did find it manageable, but you would never get two people in there.
The Platinum Service cabin had a full-sized ensuite; in fact, it was larger than my ensuite at home.
Both services provide complimentary Australian Appelles Apothecary toiletries. However, the bottles were larger in Platinum Service.
The Platinum Service cabin deserves the reputation of being luxurious. The Gold Service cabin, on the other hand, in my opinion, does not warrant a luxury label. Think XPT sleeper cabin without the bathroom closet!
Gold Service also offers single cabins, and Platinum Service has twin cabin options. However, I have not provided any details on these cabin types because I do not have first-hand knowledge of them.
The Ghan Gold Service vs Platinum Service: security
You can lock the cabin door when inside your Gold Service cabin. However, it is not possible to lock the door when you leave the cabin.
Platinum Service cabins are lockable inside and out with hotel-like key-card access.
Both services have in-cabin safes.
The Ghan Gold Service vs Platinum Service: lounge and restaurant
The Ghan has a dedicated lounge carriage (the Outback Explorer Lounge) and an exclusive restaurant carriage (the Queen Adelaide Restaurant) for Gold Service passengers.
The exclusive lounge and restaurant (the Platinum Club) for Platinum Service passengers were combined in the same carriage. The restaurant area comprised two-thirds of the carriage, leaving minimal space for lounge chairs to socialise with other passengers.
Gold Service’s Outback Explorer Lounge was the social hub of the train, and I found it to be more conducive to meeting and chatting with fellow passengers. Strangers played cards and board games, shared stories, and made new friends.
On the other hand, the setup of the Platinum Club carriage did not encourage passenger socialisation. If four people were chatting in the lounge area of the restaurant carriage, there was no space for anyone else, which I found quite isolating.
The Ghan Gold Service vs Platinum Service: meals
As mentioned above, all meals are included in the cost price.
Both Gold Service and Platinum Service provide hearty breakfasts and two-course lunches. However, Gold Service dinners are three-course affairs, whilst Platinum Service delivers four-course dinners. Did I really need that fourth course? Platinum Service also offers its guests an in-cabin continental breakfast on request.
I preferred the meals in Gold Service. I am conservative in my eating and enjoyed Gold Service’s choices. Unfortunately, I found the Platinum Service menus challenging. Not only could I not pronounce many menu items, but I found it challenging to decide what to eat because I did not know what I was ordering.
The Ghan Gold Service vs Platinum Service: off train experiences
Off Train Experiences included river cruises, cultural encounters, indigenous rock art tours, camel rides, and helicopter flights. All Off Train Experiences, including upgrade options, were available for all passengers regardless of service level.
The Ghan Gold Service vs Platinum Service: Hospitality Attendant
There is no denying the Hospitality Attendants on The Ghan perform multiple tasks. One minute they are directing you to your carriage at embarkation, assisting with luggage, or explaining the train’s operation and noting your selections for Off Train Experiences. The next time you see your Hospitality Assistant, they are serving your meals in the restaurant, drinks in the lounge, or accompanying you on off-train experiences.
I found the Hospitality Attendant in Platinum Service more attentive than that in Gold Service.
In Gold Service, the Hospitality Attendant introduced herself soon after I boarded. She explained the layout of my cabin and how the restaurant organises meals, noted my food allergy, and wrote down my selections for Off Train Experiences. Then I never saw her again except in the restaurant serving meals. Turndown service occurs while you are eating dinner. Luckily, I did not need her!
Platinum Service was a very different, more positive experience. My Hospitality Attendant still performed all the tasks of the Gold Service Hospitality Attendant. However, he was available and ensured my needs were met without being intrusive. Iced tea and biscuits waiting in my room upon my return from Off Train Experiences was a welcome addition. Would I have got this in Gold Service? Yes, if I had gone to the bar and ordered it, but in-cabin service did not exist.
The Ghan Gold Service vs Platinum Service: transfers
Journey Beyond does not provide transfer services for Gold Service passengers joining The Ghan in Adelaide or disembarking in Alice Springs. However, Gold Service does offer a complimentary shuttle bus service in Darwin to selected hotels in the city centre.
Complimentary private transfers are available for Platinum Service passengers at the beginning and end of their journey within 60 kilometres of the Adelaide, Alice Springs, and Darwin rail terminals. As it turned out, my Platinum Service transfer in Darwin was not private but a shared transfer with other Platinum Service passengers in a minivan.
The Ghan Gold Service vs Platinum Service: checked luggage allowance
The checked luggage allowance for Gold Service passengers is 60 kilograms for two bags, with a maximum of 30 kilograms per bag.
Platinum Service’s checked luggage allowance is 90 kilograms for three bags, with a maximum of 30 kilograms per bag.
Journey Beyond recommend you pack an overnight bag for use on the train.
The Ghan Gold Service vs Platinum Service: summary
There is no getting away from the fact The Ghan is very expensive, whichever service (Gold or Platinum) you decide on for your journey.
Platinum Service offers more luxurious and private cabins, with added amenities and a higher personal service level than Gold Service. But was it worth almost double the cost? In short, this solo traveller says no!
The Gold Service twin cabin was more than adequate, even with its closet ensuite.
On a two-night journey, I found Platinum Services’ additional amenities unnecessary and not worth the higher fare. However, everyone’s preferences are different, and you should choose the travel experience that aligns with your individual needs and desires. For me, Gold Service won out big time over Platinum Service.
- I did not want in-cabin breakfast but enjoyed eating breakfast with other passengers.
- I did not need an extra course for dinner.
- I was more than happy to forego champagne.
- Refreshments waiting for me in my cabin upon return from an Off Train Experience was a nice touch in Platinum Service. Nonetheless, I preferred having a refreshing drink after an Off Train Experience in the Gold Service lounge carriage, where I could chat about our shared experience with other passengers.
- I am not into taking a nightcap alone as I believe a nightcap is more enjoyable socially shared.
- I frequented the Outback Explorer Lounge, the social hub of Gold Service, but felt uncomfortable and intrusive in the Platinum Club. I found Platinum Service quite lonely.
I felt Platinum Service in-cabin amenities (breakfast, refreshments, and nightcaps) promoted social isolation – something I was not looking for. Quite the opposite! As a solo traveller, I enjoy social opportunities to meet new people.
I admit the inability to lock the door when leaving my Gold Service cabin caused some initial concern. However, locking my valuables in the in-cabin safe and in my bag if it was too large for the safe, for example, my camera, eased my disquiet.
I like my luxuries and attentive, discreet staff, but these were not worth the additional cost of Platinum Service on The Ghan.
The Ghan Gold Service vs Platinum Service: recommendation
The Ghan luxury train certainly offers an unforgettable experience in Australia, but it comes at a price.
Not everyone who reads this post will agree with me, but it is my judgement that The Ghan offers the same overall services regardless of cabin class. The answer to the question of “which service is better” will entirely depend on individual preferences and what you wish to gain from your train journey. However, in my considered opinion, Platinum Service was not value for money.
Without hesitation, I wholeheartedly recommend travelling Gold Service on The Ghan luxury train in Australia.
Disclaimer: This post contains no affiliate links. All views and opinions are my own and non-sponsored. All photos are my own and remain the copyright of Just Me Travel.
© Just Me Travel 2018-2023.
If you were planning to travel on The Ghan, which service – Gold or Platinum – would you book and why? I hope this post helps you make that choice. Leave a comment.
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Author’s Note: Please check the latest travel restrictions before planning any trip, and always follow government advice.