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Long Amtrak trips without a roomette or bedroom?

Phoenix, Arizona
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Long Amtrak trips without a roomette or bedroom?

Hi all,

I mentioned this in another thread, but would like add'l opinions. My husband and I are considering a long Amtrak trip, either the Coast Starlight, or maybe even the Empire Builder from Washington state heading East.

My question is, these routes don't appear to have any Business class seats/cars (we rode in this class from Seattle to Vancouver, and the seats were very nice). But would it be really uncomfortable on such a long route, riding in the Coach seats, or should we splurge on a roomette or bedroom? There are a couple of place where we may get off the train and stay a night, but on the longer stretches, what are anyone's thoughts on the comfort of the Coach seats and cars? We're leaning towards at least getting a roomette, though.

Thanks in advance!

Chicago, Illinois
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1. Re: Long Amtrak trips without a roomette or bedroom?

The Coast Starlight is one night (between Oakland and Klamath Falls) the rest of the trip is during daylight hours. The Empire Builder is two nights and almost three days across the Northern Great Plains. They are two very different trips. You are located in Phoenix. Do you want to travel to get to a destination or just to travel? It makes a difference. If you are taking Amtrak for the experience then forget the Empire Builder. If you need to take the Empire Builder between Portland OR &/or Seattle to Chicago then that is the reason to take that particular route. Amtrak's most scenic routes are the Coast Starlight from LA to Seattle, The California Zephyr from SF/EMY to Chicago and the Adirondack NYC to Montreal, and possibly the Southwest Chief from LA to Chicago. Amtrak has a Greyhound bus connection from Phoenix to the Southwest Chief at Flagstaff (145 miles/2.5hours). The Empire Builder is not scenic.

As for coach seats; The train you took from Seattle to Vancouver was a commuter train and yes there are business class seats on Amtrak's commuter trains. There is no such distinction on the long distance trains. All the chair cars have larger, reclining lounge chairs for riding and sleeping. They will do for one night if you must. www.amtrak.com/servlet/ContentServer… However you are sharing the car with 60 other people. Some of whom will be getting on and off during the night. There are three bathrooms per car, downstairs. Everything on the trip is a la carte.

The sleeper cars have 14 roomettes, 5 Bedrooms, a family room and a handicapped bedroom per car. You have your own space. All meals in the dining room are included with the sleeper car accommodation. You pay only for beverages above and beyond coffee, water, iced tea. You also have room for two small carry-on size bags in your bedroom and there is a luggage storage rack downstairs for a larger bag. The roomettes share four bathrooms and a shower. The deluxe bedrooms have en-suite bathroom/shower facilities. Every car, coach and/or sleeper, has a dedicated attendant. There is one other accommodation to take into account when choosing your route. The Coast Starlight is Amtrak's only train with a separate Sleeper Car lounge. The Pacific Parlour car is available to sleeping car passengers only. All other long distance trains (including the Coast Starlight) have an observations lounge/cafe open to all passengers. Rule of thumb: day trip = coach, 1 night = roomette, 2+ nights = deluxe bedroom. For scenery: The California Zephyr, The Coast Starlight, The Adirondack, The Southwest Chief.

Edited: 24 February 2011, 02:19
Chicago, Illinois
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2. Re: Long Amtrak trips without a roomette or bedroom?

May I make a suggestion? Spend three days in SF. Take a bedroom on the California Zephyr to Chicago (3 days). Spend three days here in Chicago before flying OR taking the Southwest Chief home through Flagstaff. ... a 10-14 day vacation depending on how you play it.

Phoenix, Arizona
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3. Re: Long Amtrak trips without a roomette or bedroom?

Thank you very much for the suggestions and tips! And, maybe I am saying the wrong route with 'Empire Builder' - I thought that was also the train that goes through Glacier Nat'l Park, from the Seattle area? That's the route I was thinking of going on, then thought it might be fun to go the rest of the way to Chicago, tour around Chicago a few days, and then fly home. We love trains, but also love to see things along the way.

As for where to start, we'd fly from (and back to) Phoenix to get to wherever the train will start and end, be it Los Angeles, Seattle, Chicago, or wherever.

I hadn't thought about the California Zephr, I'll check it out, thanks!

Chicago, Illinois
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4. Re: Long Amtrak trips without a roomette or bedroom?

Glacier Park is the only scenery on the Empire Builder. Going eastbound between the hours of 7:30 and 9:00 AM. At that you're only in the pine trees - there's nothing to see unless you get off at Whitefish or West Glacier and get into the park. Once the train leaves Browning MT there's nothing to see until St. Paul/Minneapolis MN. The Zephyr, on the other hand, traverses the Sierra Nevada on day 1, the Wasatch and Rocky Mountains on day 2 and Iowa, the Mississippi River into Illinois on day 3; arriving in Chicago mid afternoon. Download the schedules from Amtrak.com and take a look at the route maps. I wouldn't suggest a three day trip on the Empire Builder, for an hour and a half of skirting Glacier Park, as a vacation experience. As transport to Glacier Park, if that's your destination, it's a different story.

Edited: 24 February 2011, 06:12
Phoenix, Arizona
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5. Re: Long Amtrak trips without a roomette or bedroom?

Ok, thank you very much for the clarification. I saw some info on the Empire Builder lately, which is why I'm researching it now; to me it seemed like the train really went through the park with lots of views, etc. (Glacier Park is one of the areas we'd definitely get off and explore, though.) But, maybe we'll nix the Empire Builder idea.

And thanks also for the info on scenery for the rest of the EB route. I've just never even driven through that part of the country; it's the only part of the US I haven't visited yet. But, maybe a summer driving road trip is better for that area. The Zephyr sound more like what we're looking for in a train trip.

Have a great weekend!

East Tennessee
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6. Re: Long Amtrak trips without a roomette or bedroom?

Hummingbird- I must be in Seattle for a conference in July and I am considering taking the train that you are researching (the Empire Builder). I am interested in what final decisions that you made in light of the advice given. I am now considering travel back via Calf due to the advice.

To all, since I am traveling solo for the train out part of the trip, is the recommendation to secure a roomette? Is the roomette manageable for the Empire Builder trip out to Seattle? It sounds simply like a private small two seater room, which would be great for me.

Traveling back with my wife, should I get a roomette or a bedroom ( if available) or stick with a roomette?

Thanks to all for any advice. I have not traveled Amtrak since '93 on the Seattle to Portland segment. i welcome any and all advice dealing with any aspect of dealing with Amtrak.

Edited: 22 March 2011, 09:00
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7. Re: Long Amtrak trips without a roomette or bedroom?

Cheapseater ... yes, a roomette would be great for one. It is actually fine for 2, if you don't mind climbing into the top bunk.

The bedroom is larger, but someone still needs to climb into the top bunk. The bottom bunk is larger, but still not even a double (full) size.

We try to get 2 roomettes across from each other, and it's usually less expensive that the price of a bedroom.

Whatever you decide ... I hope you both have an enjoyable journey!

8. Re: Long Amtrak trips without a roomette or bedroom?

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