We took the Amtrak Auto Train, after finishing our first winter as snowbirds. We figured this would ease the 2400 km journey from South Florida to Montreal. Unfortunately, in our case it did not work out.
The AutoTrain runs from Sanford, Florida (Orlando) to Lorton, Virginia (Washington). It departs at 4 p.m. and arrives at 9 a.m. (Non-stop). The fare (one way) was $370 for two adults and one compact car. We did not take a private compartment.
Dinner is included as part of the fare. It is served at a tables set with tablecloth, linen napkins and a rose. There are five choices for the main course (beef, fish, pastas, and chicken) and four dessert options. As well, there is unlimited table wine, iced tea, and tea or coffee.
Breakfast is also included. It consists of cold cereal, rolls with butter and jelly(no jam or peanut butter), fresh fruit, and tea, coffee or milk.
The lounge car offers 24 hour snacks, fruit, cookies and coffee. As well, they show a movie at 7 & 9 p.m.
The seats are large and recline quite a bit. They have a foot-rest, leg-rest, and a pillow. There is a fold down table, but there is so much leg space, that the table is too far away to use comfortably. There are two electrical outlets at each seat. There is no Wi-Fi.
There are five bathrooms per passenger car. Two are rather large (they each have an ante-room) and one is fully handicapped accessible. There is limited seating on the lower level. This is reserved for travellers who cannot access the stairs to the main passenger compartment.
There is the opportunity to meet fellow travellers.
We found it very difficult to sleep. There is no clickety-clack to lull you into dreamland. Why? Because the train is constantly speeding up and slowing down. As well, the rail bed is not nearly as smooth as many on which we have travelled. It is rather bumpy.
There are always some people who are chatting even though it is one o’clock in the morning; or worse, they are yakking on their mobile telephones.
The stairway to the upper level is very steep and very narrow. It is not possible for someone who has mobility problems or someone who is quite overweight to use the stairs.
You have to arrive 2.5 - 3 hours before departure and wait for up to two hours to have your car loaded and off-loaded, ie. five hours of nothing happening.
The station is 80 km from highway 95, PLUS 350 km from Fort Lauderdale
Train travel time (including waiting) is twenty-one hours to cover 1350 km.
It would have quicker for us to drive all the way. It still took us three days and two nights, with one of the nights being a sleepless one. It would have been cheaper to stay at a hotel for two nights and not try to use the train as a hotel. This includes restaurant meals, lodging and gasoline.
If you can sleep on the train, then it is worth it (because of less driving). Also to be noted, that fares fluctuate a great deal according to when you go. The train always carries a maximum of 300 cars - so once it is full, there is no more space. Space fills up quickly at peak travel times