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“First time on the train”

Ranked #54 of 451 Transportation in California
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Owner description: This Amtrak route goes from Seattle, WA., to Los Angeles.
Reviewed September 27, 2012

When planning our trip to Seattle to see a football game we thought about the Seattle traffic and parking and decided that since we had always wanted to take a train trip across the country that this would be a good way to try the train on a shorter route.
We all know that flying has become such a nightmare and taking the train was the exact opposite.
We were greated in Eugene Oregon by truly nice employees. Nobody treated us like potential criminals, no body searches, no charge for luggage. Wow, I am liking this already.
Taking the train isn't the fastest way to travel but it is probably the most stress free. The gentle chug chug chug was pretty soothing and really relaxing.
We took the Cascade to Seattle and it has wifi and we came back on the Coast Starlight and it had no wifi. That was kind of dissapointing.
The Coast Starlight was a much bigger train with sleeper cars, dining car and an observation deck. There is so much leg room and the seat has an ottoman of sorts so you can get pretty cozy.
I have heard that the train is never on time that it can be running hours late and that there can be a lot of delays but we got lucky I guess because we just clipped along and made every stop right on time.
The only clitch. There was an announcement that the hostess would come through the cars and take lunch reservations. We never saw her. Maybe we were in the bathroom, I don't know. We really wanted to eat in the dining car but settled for a microwaved burger that wasn't too bad, but I wanted to have the dining car experience.
I thought the train was comfortable, the employes very nice and it was so easy at all points. Traveling by train in our experience was a wonderful stress free way to travel.
Do I still want to go across the country by train? With a sleeper car definetly. It is not a fast way to travel but you actually get to see the country as you pass through it.

2  Thank cozette
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Amtrak O, Public Relations Manager at Amtrak Coast Starlight, responded to this reviewResponded October 1, 2012

Dear cozette,
We're so glad you enjoyed your recent Amtrak experience. We appreciate you sharing your experience with us, and we look forward to having you onboard in the future for a cross-country trip.

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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Reviewed September 25, 2012

My four year old son is crazy about trains. Rather than fly back from a recent trip up north, we decided instead to take the Coast Starlight from Oakland to Burbank Airport. Because he had to nap, I decided to get a roomlette, which was well worth the price. It gave us some privacy, and a place to retreat to if he got fussy. The room was small, but comfortable, especially considering the space they are giving you on airplanes these days. The trip was also the perfect length for him (9 to 9), since he could wander around, watch movies on my lap top, read, nap, eat and shift activities whenever his attention span shifted. Our porter was very friendly, gave my son a glow stick when we departed in the dark, and helped me get an early reservation for lunch (thereby sparing his dining mates from a meltdown from a tired and hungry kid). 1/2 the roomlettes face the ocean, and 1/2 face the interior-- we got an interior roomlette which I didn't mind given that I'd done the coast starlight before....my son could have cared less about an ocean view.

Where the trip was lacking was the dining car. Meals are included for sleeper passengers except for alcohol. The food isn't anything to write home about but it's edible and they have choice for kids (hot dogs, pizza, kraft mac & cheese)...understandable given it's being cooked on a moving train. But the service staff was surly. I got rolling eyes when I changed part of my order. They served everyone else's drinks except my son and then took 10 minutes to bring it to him. They served everyone else's dessert except my son (who was 1/2 falling asleep at lunch) and then took 15 minutes to bring him his (prepackaged) ice cream. Their announcements calling people in were curt and they repeatedly complained about being short staffed. Also, the lunch reservation system doesn't make sense....you ability to pick up time depends on the luck of the draw, even if you have a special need (such as being diabetic or having a toddler that needs to nap). Since there were 2 of us, we had to share our table with two dinner companions, the arrangement for lunch of which was something out of an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel (a charming older recent widower, my 4 year old, a friendly professional woman on a business trip who was expecting her second child, and myself). Dinner was shared with 2 nice Korean women who didn't speak much English. Would have made more sense to put us with the other young toddler who was seated with an elderly retired couple. In short, my recommendation to them is they really need to 1) do something about their staff and giving service with a smile (the Parlor car attendant by contrast was very friendly and helpful), and 2) work out their system to allow adjustments for people with special needs (asking a child under 5 to lunch at 2:30 is simply not reasonable particularly when at noon they seat a group of 25 from Norway traveling together). I understand the need for rolling seating given the kitchen limitations (1/2 the dining room was empty at any one time), but the code of the west is no way to run a dining room.

A few other notes to travelers. The wifi in the parlor car was not up to snuff...was hoping to connect into work but the bandwidth being taken up by the ipad users made it impossible and signal is blocked when passing military bases. The seating in the parlor car lounge is limited...8 chairs and some people show up early in the morning and just camp out there all day. The dining menu in the parlor car dining room is more limited but it seems to help the kitchen and the attendant in that car was more friendly. Didn't see anyone use the theatre while we were there, but we didn't go to movie show times since there weren't any kid choices. The name "coast" starlight is misleading...large portions of the ride are spent in the interior. Didn't get to partake of the wine and cheese reception but it's a nice time to mingle with fellow passengers.

All in all, though, given my son's enthusiasm for trains, and given the hassels of flying these days, I'd still recommend this trip for trainophiles. It was an incredible journey, and notwithstanding the surly dining car, most of the employees we met on the trip provided incredible service, and went out of their way to make my child feel welcome. We'll be back, hopefully soon.

1  Thank gretayesinia
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Amtrak O, Public Relations Manager at Amtrak Coast Starlight, responded to this reviewResponded September 27, 2012

Dear gretayesinia,
We're so glad your son enjoyed his first Amtrak experience. We apologize for any trouble in the dining car. Thank you for sharing your feedback, and we can't wait to see you onboard again.

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Reviewed September 24, 2012

My husband and I took the Coast Starlight from LA to Portland. We had a roomette as we wanted to be able to lie down to sleep at night. We both had a good night's sleep. The meals were included in the price, which made it a good deal we thought. A truck ran into a bridge on our journey and we were initially delayed 2 hours while the engineer checked to see if it was safe for the train to go on it. That stuffed up the schedule - freight trains get priority so we had to stop in places and wait for them to pass. We were 6 hours late getting into Portland in the end, but had a wonderful journey. The scenery was beautiful, and we didn't have to concentrate on driving.

1  Thank Sharyn1958
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Amtrak O, Public Relations Manager at Amtrak Coast Starlight, responded to this reviewResponded September 27, 2012

Dear Sharyn1958,
Thank you for being understanding during any delays. We're glad you and your husband enjoyed traveling with us, especially all of the beautiful scenery. We hope to see you onboard again very soon.

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Reviewed September 23, 2012 via mobile

Yes a bourgy way to start the journey.."Champagne" (included)-on ice..glasses-fully compostable and down the hall from your private sleeper cabin with ensuite bathroom-it's not the Queen Mary but you didn't get frisked, x-rayed, cavity checked or screened and you can roll around listening to a jazzy version of la vie en rose sweetly playing in the background.
There's a wine and cheese tasting with a pair of decent Cabernets, a movie theater, endless scenery. I could get used to this..I'm a huge fan of training around and appreciate the slow comfortable vibe of the Coast Starlight. Food is well..a small step above meh domestic first class airline but they DO have Haagen Dazs and Kosher Hot Dogs :)
Oooo and smart people from the National Parks giving talks, diverse mix of travelers from all over the planet. It's fun it's slow and you get to see a lot of cows-but it sure beats the crab outta most air travel and car trips up and down the coast.
It's fun to get seated with strangers and share a meal or a glass of wine. It pushes the boundaries of the well bred
privileged traveler-they knoweth not what they miss.

3  Thank Challenger007
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Amtrak O, Public Relations Manager at Amtrak Coast Starlight, responded to this reviewResponded September 27, 2012

Dear Challenger007,
Thank you for taking the time to write a review. We're glad you enjoyed all of the amenities of traveling by train, and we hope to see you back onboard very soon.

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Reviewed September 17, 2012

We took the Coast Starlight from Los Angeles Union Station to Vancouver BC. In the travel party were my wife and three kids and we opted for the family bedroom. The train boarded on time at Los Angeles (on Saturday Sept 9) and we arrived a little early to Seattle (on Sunday Sept 10). Our bus from there to Vancouver departed on time but we did arrive at our final destination in Vancouver about an hour late. All in all - good on-time performance.

Now, on to more of the review: the family bedroom is actually quite large and was plenty big enough for the five of us (the kids are ages 11,9,5). The long couch-like seat spans the entire width of the car and there is another seat as well...plenty of sitting room. There are two fold out tables on both ends, there is a small closet to hang maybe 3 to 5 items, there are reading lights, ventilation vents, a nightlight, etc......all in all, nicely equiped, including having two windows, one on the left and one on the right. The night configuration of the room extends the couch into a rather large bed (plenty big enough for two adults), and then there are two pull-down bunks (one large enough for an adult and one large enough for a child or a shorter adult) and finally there is another bed that adjoins the large bed (large enough for a child or a shorter adult). In other words, my family of 2 adults and 3 kids had plenty of sleeping room and everything was generally comfortable! There are three nearby bathrooms and one nearby shower which works out fine, though the bathrooms were not kept as clean as they should have been during the trip. You have a sleeping car attendant that is there to help ready your room for night and offer assistance as needed. Our attendant was courteous and helpful. Now, the one problem with our room (and I think many sleeper accomodations)......the noise. Not noisy people, not the train horn, none of that. The noise of the train cars rubbing together (where they join each car both at the hitch down low and the walkway between cars up high). It was loud, unpleasant and annoying as all get out! Bring earplugs for sure! Better yet, Amtrak - please do some acoustic work to reduce that noise! Thanks! :)

OK - that was the worst part of the trip, everything else was really quite nice. The food in the dining car was actually quite tasty, no issues with it at all (and its included if you have a sleeper car). The service staff in the dining car are a but hurried and are only average at attention to detail (they mixed up things some), but overall - being provided table dining service with good food while looking out the window at amazing views, well, that is a nice experience! There is also a snack bar for more routine food and beverage purchases.

The Parlour Car is a classy place with its own bar, comfortable seating, wi-fi (that did not work consistently), and a wine and cheese tasting (free). Wow, what a great experience! They also show a couple of movies in a theater on the first floor of this car. What a great touch, my kids loved it and the seats are true theater style and quite comfortable. You can also dine in the Parlour Car if you prefer, though the menu is more limited than the dining car.

The Observation/Viewing Car was great, with expansive views and comfortable seating. There are guides that join along the California Coast that hilight the sights of the area - a great touch!

At some stops, there is enough time to step off for a few minutes to stretch out. The people on board are generally nice (and note that in the dining car, you will be seated with fellow passengers at your table......but don't worry, everyone my family dined with were very pleasant). The views are unbeatable.....truly amazing!

I have to say, it was a great experience and overall, Amtrak delivered with wonderful amenities and on-time performance.

1  Thank DarrenJonesOC
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Amtrak O, Public Relations Manager at Amtrak Coast Starlight, responded to this reviewResponded September 20, 2012

Dear DarrenJonesOC,
We're so excited to hear that your family enjoyed traveling with us. We're glad you found our sleeping car accommodations to be the perfect fit for your family, and that you enjoyed the views, dining, and more. Your comments are very important to us, and we hope to see the whole family back onboard soon.

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