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Maglev

California, Here I Come!

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San Francisco is my wife's and my favorite city. I planned a trip for us with a full moon for our night on the train to San Jose, and got tickets to the San Francisco Ballet just before the end of the season.

 

We started our adventure by flying from Orcas Island to Boeing Field in Seattle. In the previous week, one of our local ferries had experienced a bent propellor and another had generator problems, so it was nice to start our trip with no stress from ferries (not to mention no dealing with traffic on I-5). We stayed at our favorite Edgewater Hotel, in a third floor balcony room with a full view of Elliot Bay. Dinner at their Six Seven (for the pier number) Restaurant was excellent. The next morning, a cruise ship docked next door.

 

Our Bedroom on the Coast Starlight was #E in a Superliner II, on the proper side for viewing Mount Shasta under the full moon. The room was in decent condition, and we had a good SCA who brought us extra pillows and a full bag of ice. The food and service in the Dining Car was typical, although there were no salads (due to an E. coli recall of Romaine). But alas, it was cloudy for viewing Mount Shasta...

 

We had a fantastic time in San Francisco, walking through the various neighborhoods. My wife wanted to see redwood trees, so we rented a car and drove to Muir Woods one day. I am no fan of city traffic and freeways, but we and everyone else survived without a scratch and it was thrilling to drive over the Golden Gate Bridge. I did not get to ride the Larkspur Ferry and SMART train. The Ballet was very good, although I find some contemporary music "challenging." We stayed in a 22nd-floor Tower room at the Fairmont Hotel on Nob Hill, and had great food and service.

 

I had booked a hotel room in Emeryville for us to use while waiting for the train, and it was a good thing because my wife had injured her knee getting out of taxis and rested in bed with an ice pack. The Hyatt House was fine, but we were disappointed in our dinner at the Hong Kong East Ocean Seafood Restaurant (although we had a beautiful view of sunset and the Golden Gate Bridge). It was a very easy walk to the Amtrak station. Our train was on-time leaving Oakland, but was then delayed almost an hour removing three cars. Right after we boarded, I went to the Cafe to buy drinks but it was just closing at 10:50 PM. Our Superliner II Bedroom #D had tilted arms on the chair, and tilted table and cup holders, plus the door on one of the cabinets fell off. Our SCA was okay, but the service in the Dining Car was uninspired (and there were still no salads, no steak, and a poor selection of alcohol).

 

We spent the night after arrival at the Edgewater again, and had the same cruise ship docked in front the next morning. The omelette we had in our room for breakfast was excellent, and we had a beautiful flight up to Orcas Island.

 

I'll post some photos separately...

Edited by Maglev

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Nice get-a-way😎, it's a shame when a LD Amtrak ride is the weak link in a trip!😥

 

The Starlight is becoming just another LD Train with Great Scenery.😣

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Ship docked outside our room at Edgewater Hotel:

 

post-12801-0-08132400-1525890317_thumb.jpg

 

Rainbow south of Eugene:

 

post-12801-0-03409700-1525890398_thumb.jpg

 

Views from Fairmont Hotel:

 

post-12801-0-60966800-1525890554_thumb.jpg

 

post-12801-0-78305600-1525890593_thumb.jpg

 

Muir Woods:

 

post-12801-0-30515700-1525890687_thumb.jpg

 

Mount Shasta from Northbound train:

 

post-12801-0-09761200-1525890727_thumb.jpg

 

Engineer change at Klamath Falls:

 

post-12801-0-36862900-1525890786_thumb.jpg

Edited by Maglev

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The train was definitely a high point of the trip for me and my wife, but things such as closing the Cafe ten minutes early right after a major station don't make sense to me from a customer service point of view.

 

I edited my first post--we took the Starlight to San Jose, obviously not San Francisco. I like doing that (instead of getting off at Emeryville or Oakland) because it gives you more time on the train to wake up and have breakfast. Also, the commuter train ride up to San Francisco is a treat for me. We met a friend at the station in San Jose and had lunch together at a Greek restaurant.

 

Here's a view of my excellent omelette at the Edgewater (the omelette I had on the train was awful, we skipped breakfast northbound):

 

post-12801-0-69061000-1525894637_thumb.jpg

Edited by Maglev

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Looked like a great getaway...and great photo's...especially liked your shot of the NCL Pearl...soon that pier will home port NCL's newest ship, the Bliss. :cool:

Thanks for posting!

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I second MRD's post. Very cool to have that cruise ship right outside your window. Sounds like you had a lot of fun!

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There was a constant parade of sea traffic to watch from our room at the Fairmont (more than Seattle). Here's a Princess cruise ship leaving that we had seen docked the day before:

 

post-12801-0-96586100-1526088982_thumb.jpg

 

 

 

 

Edited by Maglev

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Great shot! Looks like the Star Princess...I would need the date you were there to know for sure.... :)

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I just priced cruises on Norwegian Pearl, and for what we paid for two nights in a Bedroom on Amtrak, we could have taken a week-long cruise to Alaska in an inside cabin. Or, for what we paid for the whole trip on the train and at the Fairmont, we could have booked a suite on Norwegian Cruise Lines. In any case, I think the food and service would have been much better on the ship than on the train.

 

My wife has a key ring we bought on the Coast Starlight twelve years ago. It is inscribed, "Superior Service." Indeed, this is now just another train with great scenery--there is no pretense of extra service. But the whole concept of "Superior Service" implies that service is inferior on other trains. I miss the "Pacific Parlor Car," but maybe it is best if service levels are the same on all trains.

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I know it's a matter of perspective, but the cruise ship makes Alcatraz look tiny. :)

 

The Edgewater Hotel has been on my list for years. I'd love to stay there some day.

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I know it's a matter of perspective, but the cruise ship makes Alcatraz look tiny. :)

 

The Edgewater Hotel has been on my list for years. I'd love to stay there some day.

Save up your Money Sara!😉 Edited by Bob Dylan

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I just priced cruises on Norwegian Pearl, and for what we paid for two nights in a Bedroom on Amtrak, we could have taken a week-long cruise to Alaska in an inside cabin. Or, for what we paid for the whole trip on the train and at the Fairmont, we could have booked a suite on Norwegian Cruise Lines. In any case, I think the food and service would have been much better on the ship than on the train.

 

My wife has a key ring we bought on the Coast Starlight twelve years ago. It is inscribed, "Superior Service." Indeed, this is now just another train with great scenery--there is no pretense of extra service. But the whole concept of "Superior Service" implies that service is inferior on other trains. I miss the "Pacific Parlor Car," but maybe it is best if service levels are the same on all trains.

I liked when each train had its own special service and amenities, since it made each train unique. Now they all just feel the same. :(

Edited by cpotisch

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I don't mean to imply that OBS should not provide outstanding service. Many Amtrak employees are exemplary, such as our SCA on the southbound train. But my conjecture is that morale suffers and customer service takes a hit when employees feel that management does not support them. Removing chefs on the Capitol Limited and Lakeshore Limited is an example of a move that shows management does not support all employees.

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Interesting post and nice photos. My wife and I have ridden the Coast Starlight many times over the last 20 years and particularly enjoyed the "glory" days when the dining car menu featured local cuisine, the Pacific Parlour car featured wine tastings and local wines, and overall service was on the upswing. It has been a long trip downward, to standardized menus that don't change in either direction, the cancellation of the parlor car, and the reduction of amenities such as no flowers (even silk ones) in the diner. I still like traveling by train and, at the same time, I am disappointed that Amtrak has fallen so far. I am afraid of the trend toward box meals, for that could be a killer. Equally disconcerting is the age of the equipment being used, not enough maintenance, and no plan for replacing old cars with new ones. And sleeper prices continue to be pricey. But I remain a loyal customer and hope the trend changes. Long live the Coast Starlight!

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Completely different markets...cruise ships are not used as "transportation", they are strictly for vacationing. They would be better compared with theme resorts like Disneyland as competition, than Amtrak.

 

You cited the lower labor aspect of the foreign-flagged cruise ships. That certainly does help keep the costs of business down. But even US-flagged riverboats are growing in their operation, as expensive as they are, relatively.

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OBS labor costs and Operating personnel labor costs are high, that is a given. Operating can not be adjusted due to federal hours of service rules. Management's primary focus right now is cost reduction, so the Dining Car is an easy target since generally there are 4 or more crew assigned. Have the DC crews been aware of their vulnerability, yes, but they felt they would never be affected. Now that changes are in the works, crews are concerned. Personally, I have been through four major long term RIFs, one that went from 4000 to less than 1000. I told those around me to be smart, work harder than ever so you are valuable and not seen sitting back having given up. Also, be smart by investigating what would be needed to make a change, then do it. I survived all the RIFs by making myself valuable, maybe a specialty management needed. If you sit back and complain, worry, have a bad attitude, even with seniority, you are prime for furlough.

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Very much enjoyed that Maglev, some of the photos are fabulous too, thank you

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