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Chicago to New Orleans Train


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#21 manchacrr

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Posted 27 August 2017 - 11:45 PM

Hello.

 

My family and I will be traveling from Chicago to New Orleans next month on Amtrak.  It is the first time we have ever even been on an Amtrak train.  We did book the family bedroom.  Some of my excitement for the trip has been tempered by the most recent reviews I have read - mostly that it is a really rough track after Memphis and that the chef has been replaced my microwaveable meals.  So I was hoping to get some answers/advice:

 

  1. How is the food?  How is the ride?
  2. Even though we booked with our reward points, our meals should still be included, right?  Both the dining car and cafe car?  Are non alcoholic drinks included as well?
  3. How does the whole dining reservation thing work?
  4. Is there a limit on how much bottled water you get?  I ask because we will need some to mix up formula for our baby.
  5. How are the blankets and pillows?  Should we bring our own?
  6. I would love to upgrade to a superliner bedroom suite.  Is that realistic?  If so, how would I go about that and how much might it be?
  7. You tip your attendant right?  Before or after the trip?  I once heard tip up front to ensure good service. Not that its guaranteed.  
  8. How early do you need to arrive at the station?  It is a 2 hours before airport type of thing?
  9. Can you bring a small cooler with ice?  For baby food, milk, etc.
  10. Any advice and what we should bring/do to make it an enjoyable experience or just in general.

Thanks in advance for your help.  I like to be prepared!

 

1. Food is alright onboard the CONO. Dinner is better northbound as it has the full menu as opposed to the express menu for the dinner southbound.

   Southbound: There will be no reservations for dinner due to the late (8:05pm) departure from Chicago. Dinner (limited menu) will be served in the dining car upon departure from Chicago. Breakfast usually begins at about 6:00am and will be                                served until about 8:30am. Lunch is served from about 11:00am until around 1:00pm.

   Northbound: There is no lunch service as the train departs New Orleans at 1:45pm. Dinner is by reservations only and will have 3-4 seatings starting at around 5:30pm. Breakfast (limited menu) is served from 6:00am until the train departs                                   Kankakee at around 7:15am.

 

2. All meals are included with your ticket in the dining car only. Snacks and food from the cafe/lounge car and alcoholic drinks are not included.

 

3. As stated above, no reservations at dinner due to the late departure from Chicago. Just get on board and go to the dining car. Northbound, reservations are made for dinner. An attendant will come through the train to take your reservations.

 

4. It is usually two bottles per room, but you may ask the car attendant for more.

 

5. See Sarah Z's post above for a picture of the beds. The mattress is a bit thin, but otherwise comfortable. The pillows are comfortable, but I usually bring a couple of my own for extra comfort.

 

6. Call the Amtrak hotline (1-800-872-7245) and speak to an agent about upgrading to a bedroom suite. It will most likely be cheaper in advance and more likely to be available.

 

7. I usually tip $10/day for good service when I get off the train.

 

8. With a station as large and as busy as Chicago, I would arrive at least 1-2 hours ahead of time and relax in the Metropolitan Lounge until boarding. Sleeper passengers get priority boarding from the lounge.

 

9. Yes, you can bring a small cooler with you if need be.

 

10. Once you are on board, just relax and enjoy the ride. After breakfast in the morning, go to the sightseer lounge and enjoy the scenery from the panoramic wrap-around windows. Just in case the train is late upon arrival in New Orleans, do not make any reservations for anything for at least one hour after scheduled arrival.


Routes Traveled:
Amtrak: City of New Orleans, Crescent, Empire Builder, California Zephyr, Southwest Chief, Sunset Limited, Coast Starlight, Gulf Coast Limited (Retired), Cascades, Capitol Limited, Northeast Regional, Adirondack, Vermonter, Acela Express, Downeaster, Cardinal, Maple Leaf, Texas Eagle, Wolverine, Silver Star, Silver Meteor, Pennsylvanian, Lake Shore Limited

VIA Rail: Canadian, Ocean, Corridor (Montreal-Toronto)


#22 Metra Electric Rider

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Posted 28 August 2017 - 01:16 PM

Just OBTW, I paced the CONO on US-51 & I-55 for a time today between LaPlace and Ponchatoula, LA.  Some day I'll have to ride that train just to see what it's like to look out the window and see nothing but swamp. 

 

This is totally off topic, but I find it, not quite ironic, but interesting that the CONO and I-55 rejoin further south after the train goes under the very beginning of I-55 at McCormick place where they diverge on different routes.


SJ - Norra Stambanan, Nordvästra stambanan, Södra stambanan, Dalabanan

NSB- Bergensbanen, Kongsvingerbanen, Rørosbanen, Dovrebanen, Flåmsbana, Roa–Hønefossbanen

Amtrak - Floridian, San Francisco Zephyr, Southwest Limited, Illini, State House


#23 Traveler2017

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Posted 28 August 2017 - 01:28 PM

I would tip the SCA when retraining. If you tip beforehand, what is the incentive not to provide bad or non-existent service? (S/he already has your tip - you can't ask for it back!)

I'll point out that "tipping in advance" is called bribing.

 

Well I am from Chicago, so....  JK

 

Thanks for your replies everyone!  I'll check back to see if there are any more posts before the trip and submit a review when we get back in early October.


Edited by Traveler2017, 28 August 2017 - 01:34 PM.


#24 RSG

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Posted 28 August 2017 - 04:31 PM

 

  • Is there a limit on how much bottled water you get?  I ask because we will need some to mix up formula for our baby.
Thanks in advance for your help.  I like to be prepared!

 

4. It is usually two bottles per room, but you may ask the car attendant for more.

 

 

Family Bedrooms, if prepared according to standards, are stocked with four bottles of water. Unless a specific type of water is desired (eg, distilled), I would save the in-room water for formula mixing and bring additional water for regular consumption, just in case supplies on board are limited for whatever reason (it shouldn't happen on a single overnight train, but as with most things travel-related, it helps to be prepared). A small cooler or insulated diaper bag would also come in handy for bringing liquid items which may not be able to be provided or resupplied while on board.



#25 tonijustine

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Posted 28 August 2017 - 09:13 PM

I just rode the CONO from Champaign to Jackson last month. The breakfast in the diner left much to be desired. I had the chicken biscuit and the biscuit was frozen before being microwaved which made it oddly both hard and floppy. The lady next to me had eggs, which she said were good but looked questionable to me. They don't have french toast, so the best bet appeared to be the continental breakfast.

Dinner was a different story. I had the pork shanks and they were flavorful and tender. I would gladly eat it again. My dining companions had the jambalaya (or gumbo...can't remember which) amd enjoyed it.

I would take coloring books and crayons, cards and pack your patience!

#26 Traveler2017

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Posted 12 October 2017 - 02:00 PM

Hi everyone,

 

So we got back from our trip on Monday and all in all it went well.  On the way there the train left on time and got in about a half hour early.  The family bedroom was fine and I guess the food was ok but probably because I wasn't expecting much.  We brought extra water and snacks.  My daughter did start to get a bit antsy after breakfast.  The ride was very rocky and I woke up a few times thinking the train was going to go off the tracks - lol.  Our SCA was Rion and he was great.  On the way back, however, was a bit of a different story. We were scheduled to leave NOLA on October 8th but received an automated message on the 6th saying that the train was cancelled due to TS Nate.  I called customer service and they informed me that the train would be originating from Jackson, MS and that no alternate travel arrangements would be provided.  So we ended up leaving NOLA a day early :( and driving to Jackson, spending the night and getting on the train there.  After all that, Nate didn't even hit NOLA.  So I have contacted Amtrak to be compensated for the $75 Enterprise fee for having to leave the car in Jackson rather than NOLA and gas.  There is nothing, and I mean nothing, to do in Jackson.  Anyway, we got to the station (no lounge) and the train left on time and got into Chicago early as well. Our SCA was Kevin and he was nice too although we didn't have much interaction with him.  I didn't sleep well because of all the rocking.  On the plus side, we didn't have to check any of our baggage and just grabbed everything from luggage storage when we got in.

 

I would do another Amtrak trip depending on the route.  I wish they would upgrade the food and if you are traveling "first class" have actual first class diner and viewing car (and bathrooms).  If Amtrak wants more riders they need to up their service.  And although the CONO ran on time, they need to work on their delays on other lines.  Perhaps all wishful thinking....






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