I had relatives visiting from Florida this past weekend (July 6-7). Since they used to live in CT, and had never gone to the Essex train/boat, they were really excited to do it. Well, great idea.....for Autumn, not July. CT got up to about 95 on Saturday and the train ride was much less than enjoyable. We went for the pricier tickets....$36 for first class (note: if you order 5 or more, you get the family discount, which brings the price down to $32 & change). The swivel seats are very nice, it's like a fabric covered wing chair on a swivel base. They had beverage service, which was great, any kind of soft drink or alcohol you would want, even champagne. I only wanted a soda, which would have been better with more ice, but they were running out of ice so they had to limit it for everyone. NO Air Conditioning on the train!! NO Fans on the train! And on a humid, sticky, unbearably hot day like last Saturday, basically NO Breeze on the train! Even when it was chugging along on the not so scenic route to the boat ride. The windows were open, of course, but they are small and offer no relief. There is a more open car, with huge windows, which would be better on this type of day. We arrived at the boat ramp and they hadn't unloaded the previous guests from the boat, so we waited.....in 90+degree heat, in the blazing sun, no shade, for about 15 minutes. Terrible. The least they could do it put up an awning or canopy or something; particularly for the seniors as they wait on this gravel surface in sweltering heat. On to the boat, finally! There is a lower area where the bar/food is, then a middle area, where you are also in the shade and have a pretty good view. Then, there is the top deck, where there is no seating, but a spectacular view of the CT river. Man, was it hot up there! Needless to say, very few people went up there. We sat in the middle area, which was pretty nice. Drinks were good on this little cruise; I recommend the pink lemonade. Amazingly, they have a very good, pretty roomy ladies rest room, with three stalls, on the lower level. They also had a nice young college guy who gives you a good narration about the area; he does this from middle level, so if you really want to be able to hear him & understand everything, sit there. Once that was over, we got off and got back on the train for the short return trip. I likened being on this train on this particular day to being a baked potato cooking in an oven...because that's just how it felt. I really think they can do more with several things here....the train depot area is pretty run down, they need to spruce that up a little. The snack "car" is so cute, but so, so small and again, on a hot day, difficult to enjoy. We were there about 1 pm before we boarded the train and they were out of some things on the menu. They serve cold pre-made sandwiches which you can have heated if you want. I had a cold turkey on wheat and it was good, simple but good. They have outdoor picnic tables & limited indoor seating. The gift shop was small but cute and the museum area was very entertaining and informative, but, again, on this day, so, so miserable to be in. There was ONE room that had A/C with some beautiful photos on the walls....many of us were huddled around this one A/C just looking for relief. All in all, I think on a cool Autumn day, this trip would have been much better. But, I also think they should do something about trying to cool down that 1st class train car for this kind of CT summer day. Install some "working" fans.....BTW, they DID have 2 fans in 1st class, mounted on the wall of the car near the entrance...but, according to the conductor, no, they don't work, they are antique fans, just for "show". Great, really helpful. So, to sum up, if you can pick an Autumn day, or a cooler summer day, that would be the way to go.
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