I rarely post about Amtrak and having recently written a pretty negative review about the California Zephyr it's only fair to redress the balance and give praise where praise is due when things go well.
This was a pretty unique trip in that due to bridge replacement works taking place in Ventura the Coast Starlight was diverted via an alternative route that took us over (or is that through?) the Tehachapi Pass from Mojave to Bakersfield and then up the central valley through Fresno and then over the Altamont Pass back to Oakland.
Compared to my last two Amtrak trips this one was fantastic. We had an excellent sleeping car attendant who was on the ball from the minute we boarded - very customer focused, friendly, professional, informative, checked on each sleeper passenger individually, made a very thorough announcement before departure covering everything from meal times, to safety, to tipping etc.
Our roomette was spotless. Compared to our previous two trips there was no comparison - this was clean, we had bottled waters, there was a safety card and a timetable.
We ate in the Parlor Car for both lunch and dinner. We were only going to Oakland (our first stop as we were diverted so didn't go along the coast to Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and so on) so didn't sleep on board nor did we have breakfast. Compared to another post on here we found the service and the quality of the food to be very good indeed. Our server was friendly, professional and looked after all the diners very well in spite of being the only staff member in the Parlor Car.
We had sandwiches for lunch (one chicken salad, one ham and cheese) and both were pretty tasty and accompanied by a pasta salad which had a kick and the obligatory pickle! Dinner was a choice of chicken Alfredo pasta and a lamb shank. Both were excellent - the lamb literally falling off the bone!
The Parlor Car is a very nice and exclusive alternative to the lounge car. Yes, it's a little tired and past its heyday but the Coast Starlight is the only train where you can experience it. It is, however, worth checking that the Parlor Car will be in the train consist as apparently it's sometimes pulled for maintenance or only operates on certain days.
If I was to rate Amtrak this would be 5/5 for this trip. We were 20 minutes late arriving into Oakland which considering the detour wasn't bad at all. We had an excellent journey with good food, some decent wine, great scenery and staff who were clearly enjoying their job. As I said in my last post it's the staff who make or break a journey and this time they really made it. It was good to see that Amtrak still has some high calibre, motivated employees who care about their passengers and who go the extra mile to provide excellent service.
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