My friend and I took the Coast Starlight from Los Angeles, CA to Portland, OR in April 2014. Friends had taken it from Portland to LA a few months earlier and had a great time, but gave us a lot of "if we did it agains" that made our trip even better.
The night before we stayed at the Millennium Biltmore in LA. Little pricey, but includes a nice room, wonderful 'buffet' with wine and lots of substantial munchies (= dinner?) and a very good breakfast. Just hope the 'Big One' doesn't interupt your stay. Only a short Metro ride (Hint - take a trial run to learn how it works before you need to get somewhere in a hurry!).
They advised we book a sleeper with a bathroom - which means it is somewhat larger than sleepers without a bathroom. While not spacious at all, it was 'adequate'. The smaller sleepers would be REALLY tight. And the lower bunk is wide enough to sleep two comfortably. There's not much (any?) room to store suit cases so make them small or soft.
The food was 7.50337 on a scale 1 - 10. Pretty good! We quickly discovered the dining car menu options were greater than the parlor car, and liked being seated with two other people rather than at a table for two in the parlor car. We met a bunch of interesting people. Advise bringing your beverages (and snacks) aboard as the wine, for example. is $32/bottle.
We spent a lot of time in the Parlor car, with great big windows and 6 swiveling seats and a bar tender. Good place to meet folks.
The service was great. When we were looking to board the train a nice guy gave us cheery directions, and when we got aboard our friendly 'hostess' Bonny was right there to show us to our roomette. Throughout the trip everyone was efficient and pleasant.
The scenery was great - interesting, beautiful, and diverse. The 'coast' part of the trip is only a small portion - maybe 3 hrs - of the entire trip. But is beautiful, and at times you look out and see only water even if you look straight down! But the longer section through central CA was gorgeous too. It was getting dark as we left Oakland and light again just after we almost had passed Mt Shasta. From there the trip through the Siskiyous and Cascades was gorgeous.
As an added bonus, while traveling through the less spectacular urban areas, you will get to see some of the most amazingly cluttered, junked, trashed back yards unimaginable.
The train was also on time.
In summary - if you are looking for a laid back, scenic, pleasant trip, this is for you.
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