My parents and I got up around 3:45 AM after the alarm on my iPhone went off, to shower and get ready for our 5:30AM Amtrak Thruway Bus from Vancouver’s Pacific Central Station to Seattle’s King Street Station. From Seattle, we are scheduled to connect with Amtrak Coast Starlight, Train 11 to Los Angeles Union Station. Once we were ready and our bags were packed, we headed downstairs to the south tower front desk to checkout. The front desk agent who was working alone this morning, confirmed our charges and emailed the final folio to my email address on file. She then came outside and flagged down one of the taxis waiting in the taxi line for us.
The taxi driver put our three bags in the trunk and after a short greeting with the driver, we were off to the station. We arrived at Pacific Central Station about 4 minutes till 5AM. I paid the taxi driver $9.50 CAD rounded up to $10.00 CAD + $2.00 CAD tip for the ride from the Sheraton Wall Center to the Station. Once the taxi fare was paid, the taxi driver unloaded our bags from the trunk and we headed inside the station building after thanking the driver for the ride.Inside the station building, one of the security guards who was working this morning, directed us to grab a US Customs Form from the stack of custom forms on a table and then she pointed us to the section of Pacific Central Station where all of the busses including the Amtrak Thruway Bus departs from. My parents and I walked over to the bus section after thanking the security guard for her help and we found ourselves a seat to wait until boarding time for our bus to Seattle. After waiting for about 15 minutes, another security guard came into the station and announced boarding for the 5:30AM Amtrak Thruway Bus to Seattle. We headed out to bus stand number 6 which was where our bus was sitting and waiting. The driver of the bus came out and began taking passenger bags and stowing them in the baggage hold. Before letting passengers board, the bus driver told each passenger that there were US Customs Forms behind the driver’s seat if anyone needed them. And finally the driver also informed everyone boarding that he would be coming through the bus before departing to scan our tickets. After acknowledging that I understood when our turn arrived, my parents and I headed up into the bus and found ourselves seats.
Our Amtrak Thruway Bus number 8911 departed exactly on time and on our way to the US Border Crossing, our bus made two stops. One in Richmond BC at the Sandman Signature Hotel and one in Surrey BC at the Pacific Inn Hotel to pick up additional passengers. After a quick 5 minute drive from the Surrey BC pickup location, we arrived at the US Border Check, where everyone had to get off the bus with their belongings including the luggage in the hold and go through immigration and customs check with a US CBP Officer.
Amtrak Thruway Bus number 8911 was the only one here at the bus inspection area when we arrived, but another bus arrived behind us while passengers from 8911 were going through immigration. While there were about 5 people ahead of us, it took a bit of time because couple of those 5 people ahead of us had extra long question and answer session with the CBP Officer. I’m not sure why, but one of the passengers ahead of us was sent to the cashier which I am guessing she had to pay some sort of fee or fine.The CBP Officer called us up and after a few basic questions, like how long were we in Canada and if we were brining back any food items, he handed back our passports and cleared us through. After a quick bio break inside the immigration facility, everyone was back on the bus and we were on the 5 freeway heading down to Seattle. My parents slept and I kept dozing in and out of sleep because the bus was too warm. During our southbound journey, it rained A LOT but our bus driver drove like a pro. I mean I could hear the rain pounding down on the bus and echoing into the cabin. We arrived at King Street Station 5 minutes before 9AM. After collecting our bags from the bus driver and tipping him, we headed into King Street Station which was already crowded with passengers for the Coast Starlight. Unlike at LA Union Station or at other Amtrak stations that we’ve began our trip at, at Seattle King Street Station, everyone has to get in line, a separate line for coach and another one for sleeping car passengers to have ones tickets scanned by the conductor. About 25 minutes before scheduled departure, the conductors arrived and began scanning tickets and then gave out seat checks or room checks to passengers traveling in the sleeping cars. After finishing with the conductor, sleeping car passengers all got in line again at Gate 4 and after another 10 minutes of waiting, an Amtrak employee arrived and we were allowed to board the Coast Starlight Train 11. There was a sign on the platform directing sleeping car passengers to the right after entering the platform via Gate 4. My parents and I found our sleeping car 2130, and headed upstairs to roomettes 5 and 6. Having been in a roomette before, I already knew the best way to store my stuff to maximize space and after boarding had slowed down to a trickle, I headed downstairs to do some picture taking of the train and King Street Station.
Our southbound Coast Starlight was too long for the platform so in order to board the coach passengers in the last car, the train pulled forward just enough for the last car to be on the platform before finishing boarding rest of the coach passengers. Train 11 pulled out of the platform on time from what I remember and my parents and I kicked back and relaxed for the 30+ hour ride down to Los Angeles.Shortly after departure, our sleeping car attendant, who’s name I never got since he never introduced himself, came through the sleeping car with orange juice for anyone who wanted a cup. Fresh coffee was also available in the coffee and beverage station located near the stairs. After serving the orange juice, our sleeping car attendant came around with ice for anyone who wanted it. Two bottles of water were already in each roomette and more were available for the taking near the coffee station.
A short while after leaving Seattle, Shawn, who is the LSA in the dining car made announcements regarding lunch reservations. He started taking reservations at the very first sleeping car or very first depending on the orientation, so by the time he arrived at our roomettes, the earliest time available for lunch was at 1PM. The options for eating in the Parlour Car was all reserved and not available by the time Shawn arrived to take our reservations.While waiting for our lunch reservations, I went over to the Pacific Parlour Car, which is exclusively for sleeping car passengers and only available on the Coast Starlight, and ordered two Moscow Mules from the Coast Starlight Signature Cocktail Menu, one was for my dad and one for myself. The Moscow Mules were $14.50 each and comes in a copper looking mug which you can keep as a souvenir. The drink tasted fine but at $14.50 each I thought the cost was a bit steep for the strength.
The dining car was running behind schedule for lunch and Shawn was making announcements telling people not to show up at the dining car until their reservation time is called over the intercom and he also emphasized many time to come into the diner and wait at the door until the crew finds you a seat. 1PM lunch reservations were finally called and my parents and I headed over to the dining car and waited at the door as we were instructed to do so over and over again over the intercom by Shawn.We were seated together with a lady from Business Class who was traveling to Bakersfield after visiting Seattle for Christmas. Seating in the dinning car aboard Amtrak Trains are community seating and unless your traveling with 4 people in your group, chances of dining with a complete stranger is very high. Lucky for us, except for one gentleman on the Sunset Limited, all of our dinning car companions have been very pleasant. The waiter came by and handed the three of us our meal tickets to fill out our sleeping car number, our room number and then sign the bottom. Meals are included for sleeping car passengers so all we have to do is write out sleeping car info and sign. I ordered the Amtrak angus burger with cheese and bacon added. To drink, I went with a Diet Pepsi and a side salad to start. My dad ordered the same as me except he ordered a coffee on top of the Diet Pepsi. My mom ordered a Diet Pepsi, a salad to start and the steamed mussels main course.
When our waiter delivered the food, he forgot my salad, my mom’s soda was never delivered but instead she was given a bottled water. My dad got his Diet Pepsi but instead of the coffee, he was given a bottled water. The four of us looked at each other and laughed. Our waiter did not bring us any cups for the sodas as well so we had to ask for them and also my missing salad the next time we got the waiters attention. The poor man just seemed easily confused.At least our main courses did arrive correctly and as always, Amtrak does not disappoint with their burgers. Since no fryers are available on the train, all burgers and and sandwiches are served with kettle style potato chips. Once we were done with our main course, we had to flag down our waiter again to place orders for dessert. The three of us ordered the pecan tart which according to our dining companion said it was excellent when she had it on a different train. Since I love pecan pie, the choice was pretty clear. My mom ordered the cheese and fruit plate, which is a recently added dessert option aboard Amtrak trains.
We excused ourselves from the table and headed back to our roomettes once we were finished with our lunch. While we were having lunch, our train pulled into Portland Union Station where people got off but also more people got on. Shawn made an announcement over the intercom apologizing to the sleeping car passengers that had just boarded in Portland that they would not be able to get lunch in the dining car and also apologized to the coach passengers who they were not able to accommodate. Sleeping car passengers who boarded in Portland were entitled to lunch, which is included in their ticket price but for whatever reason which only the dining car crew knows, the dining car crew shut down the dining car without accommodating at least the sleeping car passengers that had just boarded.Shawn came through the sleeping cars again taking dinner reservations but this time, he started taking dinner reservations starting from our sleeping car working forward/back. We were able to get a 6PM dinner reservation slot and before heading to the next roomette, Shawn handed me a slip with our dinner reservation time written on it. While waiting for dinner, we killed time in our roomette napping, browsing the internet on our iPhones and about 30 minutes before our dinner reservation, I went to the Pacific Parlour Car and bought a bottle of white wine, which Veronica, the Pacific Parlour Car attendant, put in a ice bucket and filled it with ice for me to keep the Chardonnay nice and chilled.
I poured three glasses for my parents and myself and left the bucket in my roomette before heading to the dining car when the 6PM reservation was called by Shawn. For dinner, we were seated with a lady who was heading back home to Glennwood Springs Colorado. She said that she would be connecting on the California Zephyr in Sacramento in the morning which would take her to her Glennwood Springs after a night aboard the California Zephyr. She was a pleasant lady and we had a nice dinner conversation with her.For dinner, the whole table ordered Amtrak’s version of the Surf and Turf which included the Amtrak’s Signature Steak along with a scallop and shrimp cake. The entree is served with a choice of rice, mashed potatoes, or a baked potato and green beans. The steak comes with a side of mushroom bernaise sauce which was way too salty. The steak was good as always and the the seafood cake was ok but definitely full of more fillers and seafood. My parents and I started off with a side salad and bread but our dining companion only had a dinner roll. Diet sodas was ordered by everyone at our table during dinner. Once our plates were cleared away, dessert was offered. I went with the Greek Yogurt Cheesecake this time since I didn’t want another heavy and rich dessert like the pecan tart I had for lunch. After everyone finished, we all departed the table together after wishing each other a safe journey home and a Happy New Year. After lounging around my roomette after dinner, I headed downstairs to the communal shower to shower and change clothes before bed. No one was using the shower so I went inside locked the door and showered while trying to stabilize myself while the train was rocking back and forth. It’s a bit tight but bigger than the private showers inside the deluxe bedrooms. It’s a bit hard to prevent the shower door from literally hitting your ass on your way out of the shower and into the small dressing area but having a shower to use is much better than not having one to use for couple of days. At about 10 minutes before 10PM, I called our sleeping car attendant to come over and convert my roomette into sleeping mode. Since I was the only in roomette 5, only the lower seats were converted and the upper bunk remained stowed. I closed the door and curtains to my roomette and got ready for bed. While not quite ready to turn in for the night, I used the small tray table to start writing this trip report, while sitting on top of the sheets and blanket. When our train arrived in to Klamath Falls Oregon, I went downstairs to walk around a bit and take pictures before heading back up to my roomette and continue writing this trip report on my iPad Pro. A little before midnight, I put away the iPad, shut off all the lights but kept the curtains on the windows open and went to bed. Because the door to the Pacific Parlour Car and our sleeping car was open the whole trip, because I’m guessing the doors were broken, I was awoken multiple times by the sound coming from the outside which were generated by train equipment such as the brakes and the wheels. Also, one of the metal floor panels in between the two cars was loose so anytime someone stepped on the loose piece, a loud metal slapping sound would wake me up. I tossed and turned a bit because of the noise but eventually I did fall asleep and did feel refreshed in the morning even with all of the nuisances mentioned above.