When discussing using Amtrak to connect to cruise lines in Ft. Lauderdale, I saw that the southbound SS and SM arrive in most south Florida stops within an hour of each other. So I'm wondering if there could be more efficient scheduling for the SS and SM.
In terms of the schedules, the SS takes about three and a half hours more between NYP and MIA. The main difference route wise is the SS takes two "detours", one in North Carolina to serve Raleigh and one in Florida to serve Tampa. I think both detours are important but maybe instead of a fast train and a short train maybe they can have one train detour to serve Raleigh and the other to serve Tampa? Then you'd have two trains of approximately the same length rather than making the Star 3.5 hrs longer. Then, assuming the train that serves Tampa be the diner-less car (since they have more short distance passengers from Tampa to/from both Orlando and Miami) you then could let Raleigh have diner service. I'd rather not get too much into the diner debate here (there's other threads for that).
The SM takes 47 minutes (1:26-2:13pm) from Kissimmee to Winter Haven while the SS takes 2 hours, 51 minutes (10:44am-1:35pm). So if you take the two hours away from the SS and add two hours to the SM, you get arrival times in MIA around 4pm for the SS and around 8:40pm for the SM. The train would then arrive in Ft. Lauderdale around 3:17pm. Would that be enough time to make a 4pm cruise? Currently there's no train from the NEC that could allow you to get to Ft. Lauderdale in time to catch a 4pm cruise. I would probably then have the northbound SM leave MIA at the same time and arrive in the NEC two hours later (still plenty of time to connect to the CL and Richmond would be around 6:30am instead of 4:30am) and have the SS leave MIA two hours later to preserve the current northern times.
In reality, it is better IMHO for the first train to skip Tampa. That way if someone wants to take the first train to Tampa they can then take the first train to ORL and the second train between ORL and Tampa. Right now if you take the second train you have to take the dreaded bus to Tampa. Likewise, the northbound the first train should serve Tampa for the same reason.
The other suggestion I heard way back was switching the SM to leave NYP later so you can save a train set by turning the train in NYP the same day. That was the case a few years ago. If you think having the two trains serve South Florida around the same time is another time, that would be another way to do it.
Should we have one train do both detours or split the two detours? Any other suggestions to changing the schedules? Do they need to be changed at all? I'm not 100% sure they should be.