Amtrak Coast Starlight Day 1
We got up at around 3:45 AM to shower and get ready for our 5:30AM Amtrak Thruway Bus
from Pacific Central Station
in Vancouver to Seattle’s King Street Station to connect with the Coast Starlight
Train 11 to Los Angeles. Once we were ready, we headed downstairs to checkout and then the agent came out and flagged down a taxi for us.
The taxi driver put our luggage in the trunk and after a short hello, we were off to the station. We arrived at Pacific Central Station about 4 minutes till 5AM. I paid the $9.50 CAD rounded up to $10.00 + $2.00 tip for the ride from the Sheraton Wall Center
to the Station. Once the taxi fare was settled, the driver unloaded the trunk and we headed inside.
Inside the station, one of the security guards who was working this morning, directed us to grab a US Customs form and then pointed us to the section of the station where all of the busses depart from. My parents and I headed to the bus section after thanking the security guard for her help.
After waiting for about 15 minutes, another security guard came into the station and announced boarding for the 5:30AM Amtrak Bus to Seattle. We headed out to bus stand 6 which was where our bus was waiting. The driver took our bags and then told me that there was customs forms behind the driver’s seat if we needed it and also that he would be coming through before departing to scan our tickets. After acknowledging that I understood, my parents and I headed up into the bus and found ourselves seats.
Our bus departed exactly on time and on our way to Seattle made two stops, one in Richmond and one in Surrey to pick up passengers. After a quick 5 minute drive from the finally pickup stop, we arrived at the border check, where everyone had to get off the bus with their belongings including the luggage in the hold and go through immigration and customs check.
Our bus was the only one here at this time, but another bus arrived behind us while we were going through immigration. While there were about 5 people ahead of us, it took a bit of time because couple of those 5 people had extra QA session with the immigration officer. Not sure why, put one of them was sent to the cashier which I’m guessing she had to pay some sort of fee or fine.
The immigration officer called us up and after a few basic questions, like how long were we in Canada and if we were brining back any food items, he handed back our passports and cleared us through. After a quick bio break inside the immigration facility, everyone was back on the bus and we were on the 5 freeway heading down to Seattle. My parents slept and I kept going in and out of sleep because the bus was getting too warm. It rained A LOT during our ride down to Seattle and our bus driver drove like a pro. I mean I could hear the rain beating down on the bus.
We arrived at King Street Station 5 minutes before 9AM. After collecting our bags and tipping the driver, we headed into the station which was already crowded with passengers for the Coast Starlight
. Unlike at LA Union Station or at other stations that we’ve began our trip on via Amtrak, at Seattle King Street Station
, everyone has to get in line, a separate line for coach and another one for sleeping car passengers. About 25 minutes before scheduled departure, the conductors arrived and began scanning tickets and then giving out seat checks or room checks to passengers. Then we got in line again at Gate 4 and after another 10 minutes of waiting, we were allowed to board the Coast Starlight
There was a sign on the platform directing sleeping car passengers to the right after entering the platform. My parents and I found our sleeping car 2130, and headed upstairs to roomette 5 and 6. Having been in a roomette before, I already knew the best way to store my stuff to maximize space and after boarding had slowed down to a trickle, I headed downstairs to do some picture taking.
Our train was too long for the platform so in order to board the coach passengers in the last car, the train pulled forward just enough for the last car to be on the platform before finishing boarding. We pulled out of the platform on time from what I remember and we kicked back and relaxed for the 30+ hour ride down to Los Angeles.
A short while after leaving Seattle, Shawn, who is the LSA in the dining car made announcements regarding lunch reservations. He started taking reservations at the very first sleeping car so by the time he arrived at our roomettes
, the earliest time available was at 1PM. The options for eating in the Pacific Parlour Car
was all reserved and not available by the time our turn had arrived.
While waiting for lunch, I went over to the Pacific Parlor Car
and ordered two Moscow Mules, one for my dad and one for myself. The Moscow Mules are $14.50 each and comes in a copper looking mug which you can keep as a souvenir. The drink tasted fine but at $14.50 I thought the cost was a bit steep.
The dining car was running behind schedule for lunch and Shawn was making announcements telling people not to show up until their reservation is called over the intercom and also to come into the diner and wait at the door until you are seated. 1PM reservations was finally called and my parents and I headed over to the dining car and waited at the door as we were instructed to do so over and over again.
We were seated together with a lady from Business Class that was traveling to Bakersfield after visiting Seattle. Seating in the dinning car aboard Amtrak Trains are community seating and unless your traveling with 4 people in your group, changes of dining with a complete strainer is very high. Lucky for us, except one gentleman on the Sunset Limited, all of our dinning car companions have been very pleasant.
I ordered the Amtrak angus steak burger with cheese and bacon added. To drink, I went with a Diet Pepsi and a side salad to start. My dad ordered the same as me except he ordered a coffee on top of the Diet Pepsi. My mom ordered a Diet Pepsi, a salad to start and the steamed mussels main course.
When our waiter delivered the food, he forgot my salad, my mom’s soda was never delivered but instead she was given a bottled water. My dad got his Diet Pepsi but instead of the coffee, he was given a bottled water. The four of us looked at each other and laughed. Our waiter did not bring us any cups for the sodas as well so we had to ask for them and my missing salad the next time we got his attention. The poor man just seemed easily confused.
At least our main courses did arrive correctly and as always, Amtrak does not disappoint with their burgers. Since no fryers are available on the train, all burgers and and sandwiches are served with kettle style potato chips. Once we were done with our main course, we had to flag down our waiter again to place orders for dessert. The four of us all ordered the pecan tart which according to our dining companion said it was excellent when she had it on a different train. Since I love pecan pie, the choice was pretty clear. (Mom had the cheese and fruit plate)
We excused ourselves from the table and headed back to our roomettes once we were finished with our lunch. While we were having lunch, our train pulled into Portland Union Station where people got off but also more people got on. Shawn made an announcement over the intercom apologizing to the sleeping car passengers that they would not be able to get lunch in the dining car and also to the coach passengers who they were not able to accommodate. Sleeping car passengers who boarded in Portland were entitled to lunch, which is included in their ticket price but for whatever reason only the dining car crew knows, shut down the dining car without accommodating at least the sleeping car passengers that had just boarded.
Shawn came through the sleeping cars again, thing time taking dinner reservations. He started first this time from our sleeping car and we were able to get a 6PM dinner reservation. While waiting for dinner, we killed time in our roomette napping, browsing the internet on our iPhones and about 30 minutes before our dinner reservation, I went to the Parlor Car and bought a bottle of white wine, which Veronica, the Pacific Parlour Car
attendant, put in a ice bucket and filled it with ice for me to keep the Chardonnay nice and chilled.
I poured three glasses for my parents and myself and left the bucket in my roomette before heading to the dining car when the 6PM reservation was called by Shawn. For dinner, we were seated with a lady who was heading back home to Glenn Wood Springs. She would be connecting on the California Zephyr in Sacramento in the morning. She was a pleasant lady and we had a nice dinner conversation with her.
For dinner, the whole table ordered Amtrak’s version of the Surf and Turf which included the Amtrak’s Signature Steak along with a scallop and shrimp cake. The entree is served with a choice of rice, mashed potatoes, or a baked potato and green beans. The steak comes with a side or mushroom bernaise sauce which was way too salty. The steak was good as always and the the seafood cake was ok but definitely full of more fillers and seafood. My parents and I started off with a side salad and bread but our dining companion only had a dinner roll. Diet sodas for everyone during dinner.
Once our plates were cleared away, dessert was offered. I went with the Greek Yogurt Cheesecake this time since I didn’t want another heavy and rich dessert like the pecan tart I had for lunch. We all finished and departed the table together after wishing each other a safe journey home.
After lounging around my roomette after dinner, I headed downstairs to the communal shower to shower up and change clothes before bed. No one was using the shower so I went inside locked the door and showered while trying to stabilize myself while the train was rocking back and forth. It’s a bit tight but bigger than the private showers inside the deluxe bedrooms. It’s a bit hard to prevent the shower door from literally hitting your ... on your way out of the shower and into the small dressing area.
At 10 minutes before 10PM, I called our sleeping car attendant to come over and convert my roomette
into sleeping mode. Since I was the only in roomette 5, only the lower seats were converted and the upper bunk remained stowed. I closed the door to my roomette got ready for bed and while sitting in bed, I used the small tray table to start writing this trip report.
When our train arrived in Klamath Falls Oregon, I went downstairs to walk around a bit and take pictures before heading back up to my roomette to continue writing. Little before midnight, I put away the iPad, shut off all the lights and went to bed.
More pictures from southbound Amtrak Coast Starlight
Train 11 in a Roomette