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:
- How is the food? How is the ride?
- 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?
- How does the whole dining reservation thing work?
- 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.
- How are the blankets and pillows? Should we bring our own?
- 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?
- You tip your attendant right? Before or after the trip? I once heard tip up front to ensure good service. Not that its guaranteed.
- How early do you need to arrive at the station? It is a 2 hours before airport type of thing?
- Can you bring a small cooler with ice? For baby food, milk, etc.
- 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.