Amtrak Roomette Review - The Lakeshore Limited (ORD)
This is a trip I've wanted to take for some time -- ever since I saw North by Northwest as a kid.
I love trains - and have experienced some of the most glamorous ones – the Orient Express and The Canadian. Last week, I travelled from New York City to Chicago on the famed Lakeshore Limited in a roomette. Here is my review:
I have to say, this is not the most fab lounge in the world - but it was a welcome respite from the regular 'horrors' of Penn Station. The club had free wifi, coffee and water. Don't expect international airline lounge amenities in this facility though - you will be disappointed.
The best parts of the lounge were the sparkling bathrooms. The regular, public restrooms at Penn are something right out of Dante's Inferno, so it was a luxury to experience clean commodes!
Amtrak offered priority boarding to Sleeper Class passengers. We were met at the Club Acela and personally escorted to the train. This was a nice touch, as it avoided the huge surge (mob) of people that crowd the platform and stairs during regular boarding.
There are two (basic) types of sleepers on the Lakeshore Limited. I selected a "Roomette" for this trip. This one is perfect for a single traveller on an overnight journey. However, I am not sure I would use this for two people, as it could get crowded and the toilet is right out in the open!
On the bright side, there is a storage space above the seats that easily fits a big suite case - or two roll-a-boards. The compartment comes with a sink and toilet that both hide away into the staircase (to the upper bunk).
I was actually relieved with the amount of space, as I had expected this roomette to be far tighter.
There was plenty of light. The windows were huge. And at night, there were ceiling, wall and seat lamps. Four vents in the cabin ensured there was plenty of fresh air as well- -which was welcomed as the windows did not open.
The seats were big - and comfortable. They also reclined if needed - -and each had a huge pillow for power naps. There were drink holders and a small card table (big enough for a cocktail - but not quite the right size for a laptop.)
The sink actually folded into the wall which was brilliant.
When I was ready to go to bed, the porter came in and magically transformed my sitting compartment into a sleeper. And he did it in less than a minute. I was very impressed! He folded down the seats until they connected, and over that he placed a mattress pad – forming a lower bunk. The bed felt more comfortable and wider than anything I have experienced in the air. It was easy to fall asleep for a full 8 hours!
Eating on trains is always a highlight! It's a great way to meet other passengers as they always pair you up during meals. The food on the Lakeshore was included in a Sleeper Class ticket. There was a choice of fish, beef and two pastas -- all of which looked amazing. However, don't expect it to be über glam. The meals were heated up (not cooked) onboard - and served on plastic plates. Nevertheless, the salmon I had was super tender and tasty -- a perfect accompaniment to my Chardonnay!
I only wish this train had a bar or observation car. These only appear on the longer transcontinental routes.
The Lakeshore Limited left New York at 4PM - and made its way up the Hudson. I was lucky enough to be on the river side, which had absolutely spectacular scenery. Unfortunately, I didn't get any good pictures as it was raining - and the windows were covered in water!
After the Hudson, the train continued to Albany - -where it was coupled with some additional cars from Boston. As the sun set - - we made our way to up to Buffalo, where we picked up more passengers.
Next, the train made its way west to Chicago - arriving at 10AM the following day.
This was a fantastic trip - and a real surprise. I thought the roomette was going to be uncomfortable and cramped – but I was wrong. Additionally, I loved the scenery along the way. I would definitely book this again for a short trip to Chicago.