Amtrak has some great train journeys in the United States and the Coast Starlight is no exception. This takes around 34 hours to get from Los Angeles to Seattle, with plenty of views along the way to make it worthwhile.
I once took the California Zephyr from Chicago to Emeryville (San Francisco) in 51 hours and really enjoyed it, so I was looking forward to giving this one a go. This time I would be travelling with a friend of mine rather than on my own which added to the fun.
When I booked the tickets in March 2021 for travel in January 2022, the Superliner Roomette came to $592 in total. That includes all meals, wine with dinner, water and soft drinks. There are actually a few different classes on the train.
Naturally there is Coach seating, more spacious Business Class seating and then the sleepers. Sleepers are the Roomettes (the smallest and cheapest with shared bathroom facilities), Bedrooms (double the size, with their own restroom, sink and shower) and Family Bedrooms.
Prices have shot up considerably since I booked and travelled. The Roomette has gone up to $925 for two people, which is over $300 more than I paid. Bedrooms are an eye watering $1,786 while Family Bedrooms are $1,310 for the entire journey.
All sleeping car passengers have lounge access before travel. We spent a short time in the Amtrak Metropolitan Lounge at Los Angeles Union Station before heading down to the train.
On The Platform
We were led pied piper style through Union Station in Los Angeles to the platform. The train had not yet arrived, but we were instructed where to stand and told it would soon back in.
Back in the train did and we headed for Superliner Roomette 2 in Car 1430. This was the first one at the top of the stairs, which proved to be quite convenient in many respects.
Space is at a premium when there are two people in the Superliner Roomette. Small bags fit under the seats, while larger cases such as an airline style carry on will be left downstairs by the door. Seats are decked out in blue and white and haven’t changed one bit since I last travelled in 2006.
Huge comfortable pillows are on each seat and the seats are wide and comfortable. Everything you need is available, including individual climate control. Announcements were made that people were to wear masks at all times except when actively eating and drinking, though once in our Roomette we could ditch the masks too.
The Amtrak Long Distance Menu
Heading from Los Angeles to Seattle, you get Lunch, Dinner, Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner when travelling in a sleeper. The menu is the same across all the Amtrak long distance trains.
Before each meal service, the crew make an announcement and then come through asking what time you would like to dine. They also offered room service if you wished, but we elected to eat in the dining car each time.
Coast Starlight Dining Car
The dining car on the Coast Starlight features tables that seat four on each side of the carriage. Presumably due to the light load and pandemic, my friend and I sat together each time with no-one else. When I took the California Zephyr in days past, there were always four at the table and you got new companions each time.
The dining car is beside the sleeping cars. On the other side is business class, the observation car and then coach. Staff generally hang out in the dining car between meals, so that prevents any interlopers from heading into the sleepers.
Lunch, Day 1 and the Café
Not too long after we got going, it was time to have some lunch. My friend elected to have the Caesar Salad, while I went for the Natural Angus Burger. Not sure about the plastic plates, but the food was good and it was served swiftly.
The Observation Car is also where the Café is, located underneath. We had a snack and a drink straight after boarding as we were hungry (I had the Blue Corn Vegan Tamale – passable) and ended up spending a good bit of money down there on drinks and snacks throughout the journey.
Fresh Air Stops and Business Class
Certain stops along the way were designated fresh air stops. This meant there was time to get off the train if you wanted to, which we did a couple of times, once in San Luis Obispo and again in Portland.
Business Class passengers had no sleeping accommodation but large seats with a lot of space. It looked quite comfortable, and would make sense on shorter journeys. Some people did overnight in them too, so there is that.
The Observation Car and Business Class Toilets
Seating in the Observation Car consists of a couple of tables at one end, then seats running down each side facing the windows. The windows also curve into the roof, so you can see plenty.
The nearest bathrooms, as the American people call them, are in the business class carriage next door. They are not quite as nice as the ones in the sleeping cars, but they do the job.
A Coast Starlight Dinner
Dinner is a three course extravaganza with wine included and once again we sat at the same table as before. Other drinks are available for purchase, of course.
I had the lobster crab cake, flatiron steak and the torte and found it to be very delicious all round. Great food and a wonderful server who was particularly bubbly and worked hard throughout.
The “Noisy” Australian People
Even though we slid our Roomette door closed, we were asked once to “calm down” as someone had complained they could hear us. Of course, we politely quietened down and later went back to the observation lounge. Meanwhile our attendant had made up our beds, unlocking the top bunk, putting together the bottom bunk and all the bedding.
About 11:30pm it was time for bed and literally as I was climbing into my bunk, our attendant came by to announce someone had complained again that we were too noisy. He apologised the next morning, saying we were right next to a retired couple who had “gone to bed about five hours before you” (so, about 6pm!) and usually it wouldn’t have been a problem – we just got unlucky. Apparently they’d also complained about the people on the other side of them. Fair enough! It was no big deal.
Breakfast, Lunch and The End
One thing I will say, it’s not easy getting down from the top bunk, putting more clothes on and going to the bathroom in the middle of the night. There is very little space when everything is in bed mode, so just hope you don’t need to go. Anyway, we were up for breakfast and headed off to the dining car.
Breakfast did not go down well, as I chose the wrong thing and barely ate any of it. The Continental Breakfast looked far more appetising, but I was hardly going to send my choice back. By lunch time I was hungry and the chili was lovely.
Throughout the day we sat around alternately in our Roomette or in the Observation Car. Dinner was early on the last day due to the fact we would be disembarking around 7:50pm. My friend decided we wouldn’t have dinner and I agreed. Silly!!
We ended up arriving on time at King Street Station, disembarked, fist bumped our sleeping car attendant, collected luggage and headed off to our hotel, the W Seattle.
The Amtrak Coast Starlight train is a pretty nice way to travel. The on board staff were very friendly and accommodating, apart from one squawking battleaxe who screamed at my friend to put on his mask about two seconds after he’d removed it to take a sip of water.
My previous experience in the Superliner Roomette was on my own, and I remember it being spacious. It is quite different when travelling with someone else, and when in bed mode, it is positively cramped. Even so, it provides a comfortable place to enjoy the journey when not elsewhere on the train.
Food options were fine and the overall quality was pretty good. While the plastic plates were naff, everything else was okay. The staff seemed genuinely upset that we were not joining them for dinner on the final night.
Favourite announcement? “Wear your masks at all times, except when ACTIVELY eating or drinking… it doesn’t take you two hours to drink a bottle of water, so replace your mask between sips!” You could sense that the staff were over the mask mandate and having to enforce it. All in all, it was an enjoyable journey.
Have you travelled on the Coast Starlight train or any Amtrak long distance train before? What was it like? Thank you for reading and if you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.
Featured image by Steve Wilson via Wikimedia Commons.