TOLEDO, OHIO -- Read the fine print when you make a purchase because they will NOT refund your money if you're in coach. They only offer an eVoucher. No money returned. We booked a first class private room for our return home and they only gave us a percentage of our refund. Not our entire purchase cost. Another thing is DON'T BOTHER WITH THE INSURANCE... They advertised the travel insurance and made it seem that if you had a change in plans that the policy would cover this BUT when we called they said "Due to Amtrak's policy on refunds we do not cover the difference of the refund. We ONLY cover if your bag was lost damaged or stolen." THAT WAS IT!!!
$18 added on to our ticket price for what a possible lost bag so that was money given for nothing. This was very frustrating and a rip off. We canceled our plans almost a month in advance. It wasn't like it was days beforehand either... Took the insurance out due to having 4 kids and life is always changing... WOULD NOT recommend using this company unless you are 100% positive that you are able to make the trip. BAD BUSINESS POLICY!!! They know that travel plans change and life happens with the type of business this is you would think they would be more accommodating. DISAPPOINTED IN THEIR CUSTOMER SERVICE!!!
SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA -- I regularly take the coaster train locally, which runs same route as the Amtrak (San Diego to Oceanside). I missed the coaster train so I called Amtrak customer service. They told me that I could get in the Amtrak since they are the same route and the Amtrak takes coaster customers all the time. After I get in, the conductor tells me that they are wrong. I call customer service in front of conductor and different person answers. Customer service states that conductor was right and I get kicked out of the train. This embarrassing event would have been prevented if customer service would have provided me the correct information in the first place.
FLORIDA -- My family and I took a (one-time) trip on "nasty" Amtrak from West Palm Beach to Maryland for a wedding. Amtrak lost one of our suitcases. I filled out a baggage claim form, didn't hear anything from them so I called the next day. They said they found it and I could come pick it up. I asked if they could deliver it because I have no way to pick it up... I'm out of town, no vehicle and we're getting ready for a wedding, and the train station is about 40 minutes away. They said that I would have to pick up the luggage from the station and Customer Relations told me I'm lucky they don't charge storage fee.
PORTLAND, OREGON -- The sales representative was a coward. Instead of telling me I purchased a ticket that was nonrefundable regardless if someone died or not, he lead me to believe that E vouchers were able to be used like cash for the train but you can only use it for purchasing tickets. I will uber to Seattle before I ever give Amtrak another red cent.
WASHINGTON, DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA -- My luggage was left in Chicago. They delivered it to me on the next day, but my bag was torn. I called them, and they said that I should go back there and fill out a form. When I went back there, another employee said that I should mail them. I did it, and they do not answer any email, or call me.
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS -- Our third AMTRAK trip to Chicago. 1st was Southwest Chief, 2nd was Empire Builder and last was California Zephyr. The first 2 were good experiences for my granddaughter to see the country. We always book a sleeping car and enjoy seating in the dining room with other people. There are always delays on Amtrak due to the whole rail ownership thing and we expect that. The Zephyr from Emeryville was no exception. It was late by 4 hours including 1 hour standing in the sun after the station guy told us to all go out and line up because the train would arrive in 5 minutes.
Once on board, it was past noon, so they said no lunch would be served. As a sleeping car passenger I figured they would provide free food from the snack bar, but no dice - we had to pay. Then we had a dinner reservation at 8 pm and waited and waited and waited until at 9 pm - they announced the dining room was closed. Quickly bought more microwave stuff at the snack bar. Next morning I jokingly asked the waitress if we were owed 2 lunches and 2 dinners - got a Mike Tyson response. Proceeded along and the scenery is great across the Sierras and Rockies. More delays due to flooding in Iowa and had to switch tracks, which meant waiting for a different train crew.
Finally on the last night they said they were out of food and our dinner was an Oliver Twist bowl of soup. I wondered what happened to all those lunches that were never served the first day - maybe packed up by the crew for the home freezer? Anyway we finally arrived in Chicago 13 hours behind schedule which created a whole host of other issues with hotel and rental car reservations. I love trains, but that crew based out of Chicago seemed to hate their jobs, the work and everyone they met - they only want the paycheck.
UTICA, NEW YORK -- Took the Lake Shore Limited from Utica, NY to Chicago IL. Train was late but less than an hour. No biggie. Rode coach. Seats were fine and roomy for a non-superliner. Did not get much sleep but was pretty wound up anyway. Bathrooms were a little dirty but did not smell awful. Staff was fine, no problems. Enjoyed that leg just fine. Got into Chicago roughly on time. Once I found the Amtrak waiting area at the station I was fine but a rather confusing station. Wait for Southwest Chief was about 5 hours but that's the schedule and it's a once a day train and I was well aware that would be case. Comfortable waiting area but could use more restrooms.
Boarded Chief on time and was surprised how much room Superliner had in coach. If traveling with a companion I would have purchased sleeper but it's more than I was willing to spend traveling solo. Two outlets at every set of seats for electronics. Worked fine. The superliner cars in coach have 4 small and 1 handicap bathroom per unit. All were kept clean during trip and stocked well with soap, tissue and paper hand towels. One of the smaller bathrooms has a full-length mirror and a padded seat as a kind of changing room. Worked fine for sponge bath once a day and was able to wash hair in sink using paper cups (provided and kept stocked).
I did not use dining car as I packed a bunch of food and supplemented with lounge car chow. The staff on the Chief were all very professional and very nice. Chatted with some of them and none were rude. The lady running the lounge car food and drink was excellent and very informative. Lounge car afforded great views and was very clean. We did run into some heavy rain and the lounge car windows leaked but not bad and it was quickly spiffed up by train crew.
All in all, I had a great trip from Utica to LA. I hate flying and the return trip driving my buddies pickup truck was just awful compared to the train. Train travel may not be for everyone, I enjoy the ability to move around, meet new folks and use a bathroom whenever I wish. You won't be treated like royalty or pampered running coach on Amtrak but you can enjoy some great scenery and the unique experience of rail travel if you pack accordingly and expect a few bumps in the rail.
PALM SPRINGS, CALIFORNIA -- Amtrak arrived about 40 minutes late. It was the night-train, going from Palm Springs, CA to downtown Los Angeles. Many seats were occupied by people who appeared half-rotten already due to a long trip from Texas, either trying to sleep, or perhaps comatose due to smells from the bathrooms. I seated myself, and the trip through the twilight route to L. Angeles began. To my detriment, the a/c was blowing freezing air into the compartment, mixed with smells of perfume and feces. Thank goodness I was prepared for catastrophic circumstances and had my artic-weather jacket with me.
Despite the jacket, the freezing air activated my bladder soon, and I had to go to the (infamous) Amtrak-toilet. Apart from the fact that it requires acrobatic skills to pee while the train moves at high speed and one is thrown around and has to grab something so one does not bang at the walls or sink, the smells and dirt are so gross that the Amtrak-horror finds its ultimate crescendo. To be repeated fairly soon, thanks to arctic climate control settings.
By the time the train arrived in Los Angeles, I looked and felt like old, wrinkled newspaper dunk in a used toilet. Amtrak is not for the faint-hearted. If you can tolerate "train-abuse", Amtrak is for you. Though, by all fairness, I have seen worse. So, be prepared for a rough ride and be grateful for arriving at your destination in one piece. Military personnel may love Amtrak, especially those who served in Afghanistan or Iraq.
Would I do it again? ONLY if I had absolutely no other alternatives, and I'd have a disinfectant spray with me for the bathrooms. One more thing, sleeping (well) on a rolling train is pretty much impossible. Count on arriving at your destination as a zombie in desperate need for sleep.
CHICAGO, CALIFORNIA -- I take the California Zephyr two to three times a year from Sacramento, CA to Elko, NV to visit family. I've been doing this for the past ten years. On my most recent trip, leaving Sacramento on 1/19/2016, I found the service beyond friendly, to my surprise. From the car attendant to the dining car personnel.
When we arrived at my destination, Elko, NV, in which we were twenty minutes early the conductor called me a cab because he had the number on speed dial. He also gave directions to the station over the phone to a parent of young teenager that was waiting for her ride. On my return trip 1/25/2016 to Sacramento the personnel were just as congenial. I know that AMTRAK gets its share of complaints but here is something positive from a regular rider that has seen a change in attitude.
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS -- Last summer my wife and I rode the Amtrak "California Zephyr" from Chicago to Glenwood Springs, CO. We purchased round trip tickets for a Sleeping Car Bedroom at 1-800-USA-RAIL using a credit card. We had no problems buying the space and our boarding passes were waiting for us at Chicago Union Station. We asked for a room on the 2nd floor in one of 3 Sleeping Cars on the CZ, and that's exactly what we got. Meals in the formal Dining Car were included and the food was great.
We arrived at Glenwood Springs a bit late, we had already ordered lunch. We were shocked when, after we got off the train, our waitress ran out of the Dining Car with our hot lunches and cold drinks, forks, knives, etc., etc. We ate at a picnic table under a big tree at the beautifully restored depot. Our rental car arrived at the Depot and we had a great 4 days in the beautiful town, nestled in the mountains by a creek dotted with rafts and canoes.
Our return trip came all too soon, but the ride back was great, not a hassle, but a fun part of our vacation. The crew in our Sleeping Car and Dining Car were all friendly and helpful! We arrived back in Chicago "on time" (well 8 or 10 minutes early to be exact). We're planning a trip to L.A. this winter, on the Southwest Chief, in another sleeper. Hopefully we'll see some snow...even if it delays us a bit.