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“Coastal Beauty”

Ranked #52 of 453 Transportation in California
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Owner description: This Amtrak route goes from Seattle, WA., to Los Angeles.
Reviewed 30 October 2017

Our first Amtrak journey on the west coast started with a trip on train 14 Coast Starlight from LA to San Francisco. Having done the coastal drive over a dozen times and countless miles in airplane seats decided to cross this one off the bucket list. Decided to book a business class reservation because this was essentially a day trip. (We later rejoined this train after some days in San Francisco for the continued journey to Seattle.)

After arriving the previous day from the east coast we took a ride share to LA Union Station which in itself is an amazing place. And unlike many train stations we've been in we found LA to be clean and friendly.

If you are checking bags best to enter the station from the west entrance and go to the Amtrak ticket window. Our tickets included the Amtrak thruway bus from Oakland (Jack London station - OKJ) to San Francisco Fisherman's Wharf. In checking in the agent told us that we couldn't check bags to Fisherman's Wharf because it was an unstaffed location. While that would make perfect sense for an Amtrak train station ... the stop (along with two others in San Francisco) is served by the Amtrak bus (and the bus driver is the one who would be getting your bags for you). I changed our destination to the SFO trans bay terminal so we could check our bags and figured we could deal with the bags with the bus driver at the end of our journey.

We boarded a double-decker business class car and grabbed a seat on the upper level. In many ways this didn't seem much different than the east coast Amtrak trains (other than the double decker car). It was clean and quite spacious.

The highlight of this trip is the few hours along the pacific coast overlooking the ocean. If this is your interest you'll want to get seats on the west side of the train - which is the left side if the locomotives are in front of you.

Shortly after the train left LA we moved back a car to the domed observation car (above the cafe). Much more light in there and larger, more scenic windows. They also have a variety of seating - we took the seats that actually face the window on the west side.

One of the drawbacks of this car is there were a lot of people in there and a group of six women traveling together thought it was their local bar. Loud and obnoxious would be an understatement. Thankfully we think at some point someone said something to them and the noise abated a bit. The nice thing with the business class seating is you can move to a different car and take an unreserved seat there.

We had a great weather day and the views for much of the trip were amazing. Its so much better to be able to see things without having to be driving, stuck in traffic, etc.

There are quite a few stops along the way and a few of them you can even get off and stretch your legs. For the normal schedule though none of the stops are long enough to really get away from the train (which is actually highly unadvised).

The trip from LA to Oakland runs from ca 10:00 to 20:00 which means you need to consider lunch and dinner. There is a parlor car (which is only for people who have sleeping accomodations), a restaurant car for sit-down meals and a cafe car.

Reservations for the restaurant car are taken by one of the staff actually walking through the train - starting at the head of the train in the sleeping accomodations. By the time they got to us all reservations had been booked so they put us on a wait list and would call us by name. While they estimated we'd be able to get seated by 13:30 it actually ended up being about an hour later than that. Very frustrating. If we did this again I would give serious consideration to bringing on my own food for at least one meal.

The food was OK. While sleeping car passengers have food included business and coach class passengers do not. I found the pricing for what you get to be a bit high ...

Our arrival into Oakland's Jack London Station was a bit early. We disembarked and Amtrak staff directed us to the waiting Thurway Bus to take us to San Francisco. Our bags were transferred to the bus.

The first bus stop in San Francisco is the trans bay terminal (where Amtrak also has a staffed office). There I told the driver we had originally been booked to Fisherman's Wharf (the last stop) and he told me to stay on the bus and he'd get us our bags at our destination. Great Service! (The second bus stop is in the San Francisco financial district.)

All in all - this was a great journey and I'd give serious consideration for doing it again (maybe in the reverse direction).

Closing thought: in looking through other reviews I saw a lot of frustration with delays. Unfortunately this train (and most of the Amtrak routes) travel on railroads owned by other companies - typically freight railroads. Track work and other rail traffic can cause delays that are out of Amtrak's control. Passengers need to consider this when making reservations and other plans around their train travel.

12  Thank vb22
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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"parlor car"
in 116 reviews
"dining car"
in 212 reviews
"sleeper car"
in 77 reviews
"business class"
in 30 reviews
"union station"
in 49 reviews
"wine and cheese tasting"
in 19 reviews
"los angeles"
in 96 reviews
"puget sound"
in 14 reviews
"viewing car"
in 16 reviews
"sleeper passengers"
in 12 reviews
"santa barbara"
in 51 reviews
"top bunk"
in 26 reviews
"sleeping car passengers"
in 30 reviews
"coach seats"
in 20 reviews
"sleeper class"
in 7 reviews
"fellow passengers"
in 16 reviews
"small closet"
in 6 reviews

36 - 40 of 551 reviews

Reviewed 28 October 2017

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.

11  Thank Geordie405
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 27 October 2017

Took the Coast Starlight from Seattle to Los Angeles. The roomette was small and I expected that. Room for only one small piece of luggage, and a small closet to hang a few items in. The attendant was very friendly and helpful.

The Parlor car was old and did not exhibit the days of a bygone era. The brass was tarnished, windows not very clean and the swivel chairs did not reflect the original lounge chairs of the past. They were in my opinion very tacky.

Meals could be taken in the dinner or in the parlor car at one of the six tables.

Reservations needed to be made for either the parlor car or diner. Sleeping car passengers had the first choice. If one chooses the parlor car, the dinner menu limited to two entrees. The entree was served with a cold bun and a small salad, and two or three choices for dessert. The entrees were of course microwaved and the entrees certainly nothing to write home about. A pasta or lamb shank were the offerings. The pasta and the lamb shank were bland.

Breakfast offered about three choices. Juice, coffee, tea, and entree. Lunch a couple of selections, plus a beverage.

The last dinner service in the parlor was limited to one item, no cold bun or salad, and one dessert as they seem to have run out of food.

The first reservations for dinner in the diner were given to sleeping car passengers, then business class and finally coach. There was a larger selection of food available from the menu including a child's menu. The last dinner in the diner was filled reservations from sleeping car passengers so others were relegated to the cafe car which served pizza, hot dogs, and other junk food.

Most of the staff just did their job, some never smiled or said hello. The public address system was used by staff to communicate. This was annoying and should not be done. The staff should have cell phones to use instead.

All in all I am glad I tood the trip, but another Amtrak trip is not in my future.

5  Thank yvr1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 22 October 2017 via mobile

My spouse and I are currently stuck on this train. When it’s actually moving, the views are great in coastal California and most of Oregon, but delays plague this train like flies on poop.

For instance, the train left Los Angeles on time yesterday, we’ve been on the train for 29 hours now, and the train hasn’t even made it to Portland. We are on a track currently waiting for a track to be fixed. Who knows when it will be done? The staff on board is not exactly communicative and coy with answers to questions regarding delays. Currently the train is over an hour late as it is, so whatever plans we had for dinner in Seattle are over, which sucks because the food on this train is absolutely horrible. It’s free for a reason.

So far, there have been at least 5 hours of just sitting on tracks. So fun!!!

2  Thank vizmerch
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Reviewed 19 October 2017

Because I cannot fly, we decided to take the train to Oregon for a leisurely two+ week tour of Oregon (I can't sit for long road trips either.) We'd taken the train for the first time ever in May to Texas and enjoyed it a lot. This trip was just as good, as we once again booked a Sleeper Car. As Native Californians we've driven up and down California so many times we've lost count. This felt special, especially going by rail along the California Coast, as the rails are right at the end of the water several times. We loved it! It was also fun to try to determine exactly where we were when we reached areas all through our wonderful state. Is it a fast train like we've ridden in Europe? No. Is it still a good way to travel? Absolutely! The food was very good, and I love stretching out on the long sofa to read, nap, and watch the scenery. We saw areas we've never seen before and really loved the Klamath area. We disembarked in Eugene, began our slow drive up the beautiful Oregon Coast and back down the I-5. We were soooo fortunate to have Room Attendant Cindy, who should be cloned. She's the best! Hubby had caught a miserable cold in Astoria and we didn't want to give it to others, so Cindy brought all our meals to us, which was fantastic! We brought wine onboard and had it with our dinner, feeling absolutely decadent in our quiet room, eating very good steak dinners. Our train was two hours late getting home, which was the only downside to an otherwise wonderful experience. We'll take the train again for sure.

10  Thank Linda C
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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