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» RAILforum » Passenger Trains » Amtrak » Info Needed: New Orleans to West Coast and Return

   
Author Topic: Info Needed: New Orleans to West Coast and Return
Dixie Flyer
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In May we will be taking #58(8) from New Orleans to Chicago, then #03(9) to Los Angeles, followed by #14(11) to Seattle. After a couple of days and nights there, we will depart on #08(14) for Chicago followed by #59(16). We have bedrooms all the way.

I would like to take advantage of the expertise of this Forum for information on some of my concerns. All ideas and advice will be welcome.

First, what is a good mid-price range hotel in Seattle, preferably near the Train Station? Keep in mind that neither my friend nor I have much stamina for walking. We will take taxis whenever necessary. Since we will be leaving Seattle in the late afternoon, is there a place to check bags at the station earlier that day? Also give me ideas on things to do in Seattle. I spent a long weekend there about 15 years ago. I do remember that the seafood was great.

Second, (and this is especially addressed to Ms. Sojourner) when you took the CONO southbound on your recent trip, were you allowed to board as a first class passenger an hour earlier than coach passengers so you could have dinner at a civilized hour?

Third, on the SWC, the CS, and the EB, we are in Car C/0330, Car E/1430, and Car D/0830, respectively. If I remember correctly Car XX30 is next to the transition car, and thus the furtherest (fartherest?) away from the diner. So my question is: How many sleepers are typically on the SWC, the CS, and the EB in May?

Fourth, since the SWC is usually early or on time to Los Angeles, the 2 hour connection to the CS seems fairly safe. If, however, the connection time should be significantly less, is it necessary to go into LAUPT before boarding the CS?

--------------------
Richard T.

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amtraxmaniac
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The SWC is typically 2 sleepers plus the transition dorm. The CS sometimes will have 3 sleepers.

I believe boarding the CS requires you to go into LAUS to obtain a boarding pass. So, yes, you will likely have to go into the station. I've experienced three scenarios on that connection: 1. Ridiculously early arrival of the SWC with a 3+hour layover to the CS. 2. A late arrival of the SWC, but plenty of time to connected (about 45 minutes). 3. A missed connection followed by a bustitution to the San Joaquin. Either way, you won't end up stuck in LA. Worse case scenario is you miss the Central Coast portion of the CS.

Its been several years since I was in Seattle, but I remember staying at a Best Western near Pikes Place. It was an older hotel, but seemed to be in a touristy location.

The XX30 car would be the forwardmost sleeper behind the transition dorm.

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a meyer
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I have only stayed at a few hotels in Seattle the last several years, but I liked the Bestwestern Pioneer Square (I believe it may be the one mentioned above). It is a short walk from the King Street Station. If the CS isn't early, it will be dark, in which case it is a short taxi ride and there seemed to be quite a few taxis waiting at the station.
It appears the price goes up and a two night requirement prevails when the baseball or football teams are in town, but I think your dates will avoid that.
I remember a few restaurants near the hotel and at lunch time some sandwich and pizza type restaurants.

I have also stayed at a Holiday Inn Express not too far from the space needle for a reasonable price, but this will require a taxi from the station. IMO the surroundings didn't seem as nice.

In regards to the CONO out of Chicago, last June I remember arriving atleast an hour early for boarding the train for dinner a little before 7:00PM (hour earlier than departure).

Andy

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mr williams
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If you have booked the trip as one entire journey without layovers you should be issued with all your tickets and boarding passes etc at the point of origin, so if the SWC is late you can go straight to the CS without having to check-in again. As pointed out, if it is very late you will be bussed to Bakersfield to catch the CS at Sacramento but that really is unlikely and you shouldn't miss the coastal run from Santa Barbara to Grover Beach which is astounding (I first did it seven years ago next month and by co-incidence was looking at the photos last night!)
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royaltrain
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My experience on the Chief and the Coast Starlight, is that the 30 car is immediately in front of the diner and that the 31 or 32 car are the farthest away, which is the prime reason that I always try to obtain a bedroom in the 30 car.

As for a boarding pass in Los Angeles, I know Amtrak makes a station announcement that they would like passengers to check in and obtain this pass, but in fact it is not enforced as I always board without obtaining it.

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HillsideStation
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On a number of trips to Seattle I've tried to stay at the Best Western in Pioneer Square, only to be advised there is/was a minimum stay of two days required. As I was connecting to/from EB and CS I opted for the Hampton Inn/Suites a couple of miles north of the station. There is a fabulous food mart around the corner where you can purchse excellent take away meals of all types for very moderate cost.
Best regards,
Rodger

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sojourner
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I have stayed four times (coming and going to Canada) in Seattle's Best Western Pioneer Square, based on recommendations from others here. Twice were just a one-night stay, and I was not advised of any two-night minimum, so perhaps this also depends on the day of the week? At any rate, it was an OK older hotel with good location for the train station, good prices, and included breakfast. I walked from King St Station in the day by myself when arriving and departing on the EB and departing on a Cascades and even once at night when I arrived from Vancouver with a friend (around 10:30PM) and there weren't as many taxis as usual and other passengers grabbed them. When I came myself from Vancouver at night, I took a taxi. It was a very low fare but since I took the driver out of his line and other fares would have done him better, I gave him a better-than-normal tip. If I had heavy luggage, I would also take a taxi (although the streets around here are not too hilly, the way they are elsewhere in Seattle). Also, I would definitely take a taxi my first time, esp if arriving at night.

Some of the streets around Pioneer Square are a bit seedy--this part of Seattle is, after all, the original Skid Row. Nevertheless, I did not feel unsafe, and the hotel really was decently priced and convenient, not just for the train but also for catching buses to many places in the city. However, as you are staying a couple of days in Seattle, you may prefer to stay elsewhere; I just don't know.

Whatever you do, be sure to get out of the Pioneer Square area for some of your sightseeing. The first time I was there I did not like Seattle because I did not see enough of it! The second time I loved it. (Better weather helped too, of course.) I will post with a couple restaurants and other sightseeing suggestions further down in this strand when I have time to look them up.

With regard to the southbound CONO, we did board somewhat earlier, though I don't know that it was the full hour as promised. We also went into the dining car before the train left; probably by then it was about 7:30. However, I don't think we really began dinner much before the train pulled out! The train had only one sleeper, and no observation car. The "cross-country diner," as it is called, was strangely set up with some inward facing seats, but we arrived early enough to be seated at the more regular ones--still, the tables were further from the seats than normal in this to me somewhat goofy new set up. Staff was very nice, and the dinner was a lot of fun for me because it was my first time on the City of New Orleans. I ordered the seafood gumbo and it was good, but spicy as Cajun-ish things are so it's a matter of taste (and may be hard for some people to digest). The bourbon pecan pie was delicious! I even had a drink (gin and tonic), which I rarely do. My friend and I sat with another couple (from Natchez MS) and they had wine and we all really had a grand ole time. It wasn't too busy (it was a week night). Naturally at some point (actually, I'm pretty sure it was in Kankakee!) I began singing "City of New Orleans."

If the late dinner on the southbound CONO seems uncivilized (actually I think it's very civilized in some countries, but it is certainly bad for my digestion!), if you have time between trains (as you usually do with the EB), why not leave your luggage at the Metropolitan Lounge in Chicago's Union Station and consider dinner in Chicago? By the time you get to your southbound trip on the CONO, you are likely to be sick of Amtrak food anyway. BUT even if you dine beforehand, you may still want to go in to the diner for the fun of it, and have a drink and next to nothing to eat (and maybe the pecan pie--I sure hope that pie is as good as it was for me. With Amtrak, you never know).

Other than the CONO, all of the other trains you mention have always had more than one sleeper when I've been on them. I believe the number of sleepers varies with the season, but in May I don't think they would have just one on the western trains. Of course, on the EB, you will pick up any Portland sleeper (as well as the observation car) only when the two trains link together in the middle of the night in Spokane.

Union Station in Los Angeles is pretty nice and worth seeing, so I wouldn't hurry to my train unless you have to! Also, there is a historic Spanish area right across the street very nice and worth seeing, even briefly--has a Mission and all! While there is as yet (foolishly!) no special lounge for sleeper passengers in general, for those catching the northbound Coast Starlight, there is a restaurant not yet open at that time of morning that is apparently used as a special lounge. I don't know that you can leave your luggage there, and the left luggage in LA Union Station can be a problem (and they charge, even sleeper passengers), so if you do want to leave luggage, my advice is, ask a Red Cap. It will be free, other than the tip you give him. And he will put you on your train when you come back too.

I gather the Coast Starlight is now considered Amtrak's premiere sleeper train. The parlor cars are supposed to be very nice . . . I hope yours is! When I was on one a few years, I enjoyed it, but the a/c didn't work properly!

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Gilbert B Norman
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Ms. Sojourner, here is X-ref to Railroad Net discussion regarding the Cross Country Cafe:

http://www.railroad.net/forums/viewtopic.php?f=46&t=60985

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RRRICH
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I believe the Pioneer Square Hotel has just recently (last 5 years or so) invoked the 2-night minimum -- in earlier years, I have stayed there several times for just one night.

Last year when my wife & I took our trip, we stayed at the Crowne Plaza in Seattle, which was pretty nice, and only about a 5-minute taxi ride from King Street (I believe we were off the Starlight, into the taxi, and at our hotel within 10 minutes!!)

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Geoff Mayo
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quote:
Originally posted by sojourner:
Union Station in Los Angeles is pretty nice and worth seeing, so I wouldn't hurry to my train unless you have to! Also, there is a historic Spanish area right across the street very nice and worth seeing, even briefly--has a Mission and all!

Isn't it Mexican rather than Spanish? I'm sure I had fajitas there! Olvera Street.

Geoff M.

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Geoff M.

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George Harris
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quote:
Originally posted by Geoff M:
quote:
Originally posted by sojourner:
Union Station in Los Angeles is pretty nice and worth seeing, so I wouldn't hurry to my train unless you have to! Also, there is a historic Spanish area right across the street very nice and worth seeing, even briefly--has a Mission and all!

Isn't it Mexican rather than Spanish? I'm sure I had fajitas there! Olvera Street.

Geoff M.

Quite ofter people in the US forget there is a difference. We need to remember that to confuse the Mexicans and the Spanish is on the same order as confusing the Americans and the British, or an American and Australian, if you get confused say between a Mexican and a Panamanian, or some such, thinking about an occasion years ago when a Panamanian coworker and I had lunch at a Mexican style restaurant.
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Geoff Mayo
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Or a British and an Australian. I remember meeting one American lady of "only just over the hill" vintage who was adamant that the two countries were neighbours (only New Zealand is the furthest major landmass from Britain).

I know Mexicans and Spanish speak 95% the same language but do you [collective you] really believe there is not much of a difference?!?! I guess, based on my first paragraph, perhaps so!

Indirectly this reminds me of an episode in an Italian restaurant in Amsterdam. When enquired of the waiter whether a particular dish came with a white sauce, which had an affirmative answer, I then received the dish with a distinctly red colour - I do not like tomato. I asked the waiter why it was red, whose reply was that it was indeed a white sauce - with tomato. One gives up with scenarios like that (luckily my companions were happy to swap).

Geoff M.

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Geoff M.

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Vicki
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I went to the website as if I was booking a room and a two night stay does not seem to be required, at least not all the time.

Best Western Pioneer Square Hotel
Seattle, WA, US


Check-In: April 24, 2009 - 3PM (15:00)
Check-Out: April 25, 2009 - 11AM (11:00)
Rooms: 1
Guests: 1
Reservation Amount:
Taxes & Fees: $ 159.99
$ 24.96*
Total Stay: $ 184.95 USD

Estimated Taxes & Fees Breakdown (additional charges may apply): Tax 15.6% - $24.96
*Taxes & Fees shown on this page are estimates based on information provided by the hotel, which may be incomplete. Additional Taxes & Fees may be charged by the hotel at the time of stay, please check with the hotel for details before booking.

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sojourner
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I stayed at the Best Western Pioneer Square within the last five years--I think first time was 2004 and second time was 2006. As far as I know, no two-night minimum when I was there. However, I certainly paid less than $159.99 a night. I think maybe it was $125 the second time, even less the first. I did get a Triple A discount--did you check for that, Vicki? And I would say, if you can get the Crowne Plaza for the same amount, that might be even nicer if you are staying a few days, if the location is up around Pike's Market or Pike Street there. Although it probably won't include breakfast--not that the breakfast was any big deal, just Continental. If you are up by Pike's Market there are all sorts of fooderies all over the place (including the original Starbucks, which I did NO go to, don't even like Starbuck's as much as Seattle's Finest or whatever it's called).

Geoff/George H: I think I was correct in this case when I said "Spanish" because I was talking about the historic area, with its Spanish mission (we don't call them Mexican missions) and old Spanish colonial buildings. This is the oldest part of Los Angeles and was settled by the Spanish. However, "Mexican" would certainly be correct if I had been talking about it as a neighborhood today--the people and shops in the area are now largely Mexican American, and the restaurants are certainly Mexican.

Mr Norman, I will check out the link right now; thank you.

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Henry Kisor
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Some time ago a ballplayer from the Dominican Republic (was it Sammy Sosa?) told a sportswriter he spoke seven languages. Asked what they were, he replied (if I remember right):

"Dominican, Mexican, Cuban, Guatemalan, Honduran, Argentinian, Colombian . . ."

According to the sportswriter, nobody in the dressing room laughed, even if nearly half of them were Latinos.

By that standard I speak five languages: American, British, Canadian, Australian and New Zealandish.

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Dixie Flyer
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Thanks for all the info about hotels in Seattle. We have reserved a Deluxe City View room with two double beds for $143.99 per night plus tax etc. at the Best Western Pioneer Square. That is the AAA, AARP, Senior rate. A 2-night stay was not required. We are, however, staying two nights, May 12 and 13.

More can be found about the Best Western Pioneer Square here. http://www.pioneersquare.com/

As to the location of the XX30 car, so far I have received two responses that are diametrically opposed. "amtraxmaniac" writes, "The XX30 car would be the forwardmost sleeper behind the transition dorm." On the other hand, "royaltrain" writes, "...the 30 car is immediately in front of the diner...." In the absence of any other comments, I emailed Chris Guenzler who replied, "The 330 Sleeper is next to the Diner." I assume that also applies to the 1430 and 0830 cars as well. Any comments.

It now appears that this thread is going off on a linguistic tangent. At least, there are no bagpipes or ponies yet.

--------------------
Richard T.

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George Harris
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quote:
Originally posted by Geoff M:
Or a British and an Australian. I remember meeting one American lady of "only just over the hill" vintage who was adamant that the two countries were neighbours (only New Zealand is the furthest major landmass from Britain).

Ah, the fun of the geographically challenged.

Funny, I would have never considered either Great Britian or New Zealand as "a major land mass" Fair sized islands, but not major land masses. Australia, yes, Europe, yes, but not GB or NZ. Was also funny to see the Aussies in Taiwan considering Taiwan as a place of no significance when it has more poeple that Australia and New Zealand combined.

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Mike Smith
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Dixie Flyer, The Pioneer has an adequate continental breakfast. When we stayed there, the cantaloupe was very tasty.

Also, Ivar's House of Clams is about a 4 block walk from the hotel and has excellent seafood for reasonable prices {$20 per person}. As an added bonus, you get to watch the ferries come and go while you dine.

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Vicki
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quote:
Originally posted by sojourner:
I certainly paid less than $159.99 a night. I think maybe it was $125 the second time, even less the first. I did get a Triple A discount--did you check for that, Vicki?

No, I didn't check for cheaper prices. I was just checking on the two night minimum question. And the price shown is not necessarily what will be charged when Dixie Flyer travels in May. Could be less, could be more. . .
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RRRICH
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We tried to book the Pioneer Square for one night on our trip last summer, but I was told (on line I think) that they required a 2-night minimum stay on that date, so we booked the Crowne Plaza instead. Maybe there was a ball game in town that day - I don't know.......
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rresor
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Off topic, but the discussion of "Mexican" vs. "Spanish" raises a pet peeve of mine. Here in the US we speak of "Hispanics" as if people from Mexico, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guatemala, El Salvador, and various South American countries were all the same. Well, they're not. "Hispanic" is about as good a descriptor as "European".

I fed the Chief Engineer of the Antofagasta & Bolivia Railway his first taco when he came to the US. He was very interested to try one; he'd only seen them on TV.

The national food of Argentina is pizza, followed by spaghetti with meatballs (50% of Argentines are of Italian descent). No tacos there either.

Finally, if you ask for a "tortilla" in Spain you'll get an omelette (made with eggs), and not a corn pancake.

Back on topic -- I've stayed at the Hampton Inn metioned in Seattle. Stick with the Crowne Plaza, if the Best Western isn't available.

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SilverStar092
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I also can confirm that Amtrak runs the xx30 car right beside the diner with xx31 one car from the diner. A few trains (often the CZ on past trips) have no xx30 car so xx31 is next to the diner. View liner trains have car xx10 next to the diner though the Lake Shore has recently dropped the xx10 car and will place xx11 beside the diner.

On a couple trips to LA, our connections were pretty tight so we stayed on the platform and didn't have to go into the station to check in. BTW, the Mexican area across the street is Olvera Street and it is a nice place to stroll, shop, or eat. Leaving luggage with redcaps is best at LAUS.

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