I must admit that I have not had great experiences with Amtrak previously. Most of my disappointments were on short haul trips along the eastern corridor. When I signed up to attend the NATJA (North American Travel Journalists Association) 25th anniversary conference in Oxnard California I was told that Amtrak would provide complimentary accommodations to Oxnard (an hour from Los Angeles) from anywhere in the US. Checking my Delta Sky Club account I found I had enough mileage for a trip to Seattle and then home from Los Angeles. The reason I picked Seattle was twofold: I had not been there for many years and my research showed that the Amtrak Coast Starlight train was purported to be their most scenic trip available. 35 hours from Seattle to Oxnard and a free roomette with meals included sold me.
In route daily between Seattle and Los Angeles, the Coast Starlight train passes through Portland Oregon, Sacramento, the San Francisco Bay Area, Santa Barbara and Los Angeles (almost 1,400 miles). We left at 9:30 AM on Sunday morning and arrived in Oxnard at 7PM the following night. There are the snow-covered peaks of the Cascade Range and Mount Shasta, lush forests, fertile valleys and long stretches of Pacific Ocean shoreline, including the world famous Pacific Coast Highway. The train features Super liner sleeping and dining car accommodations and spectacular views from the Pacific parlor car, available for sleeping car passengers. I ended up spending most of the day in the very comfortable swivel chairs in the aforementioned parlor car. They feature three types of luxurious seating, a full bar, food serving area, and a movie theater downstairs. These cars were built over 50 years ago and were then known as Santa Fe Hi-Level cars. I met many interesting people in the Pacific parlor car and shared several meals with them. I ate breakfast and lunch in there and dinners (three courses served hot and fresh) in the communal dining car where I was seated with three other people. Sleeping Car passengers received complimentary meals (with the exception of alcohol).
My roomette was 3’6″ x 6’6″ with the two reclining seats facing each other and a big picture window. At night it converted into a lower berth bed that was 2’4″ x 6’6″. The upper berth with steps was 2’0″ x 6’2″. I must admit to feeling a bit claustrophobic in the middle of the night and had to open the door for some fresh air. I would never have taken the upper birth, which was an inch from the ceiling. I did not mention that there were neither toilet facilities nor a washbasin in the roomettes. The larger bedrooms did feature a private lavatory and shower. Had I paid for the roomette the cost would have been- $116 plus $244 additional for the roomette (remember all meals were included plus the use of the parlor car). For a second person add an additional $116. One-way airfare from Seattle to Los Angeles would have been around $160. There was also free wireless Internet access, coffee, and an on-board movie theater. Roomettes were located on both upper and lower levels of the double-decker Super liner train cars. There was one bathroom on my upper deck and two plus a shower on the lower deck.
I am not sure if I would have enjoyed more than the one night in my roomette. All in all I had a great time and the people working on the train could not have been nicer or more helpful. For more information- www.amtrak.com.