On the off chance this damn caronavirus won’t last forever, I’ve started thinking about where I would go and what I would do the next time I travel. I’m thinking Europe and that means jumping off from the East Coast. I’ve even come up with a rough itinerary, but instead of specific dates, the schedule says “Day One, Day two, Day Three, etc.
I’m still tentatively planning to take these trains, starting from and returning to the West Coast:
Seattle to Chicago on the Empire Builder, connecting to the Lake Shore Limited to Boston.
Two weeks in Europe—specific travel plans TBD—and return to the U.S. by flying into Washington.
Washington, DC to New Orleans on the Crescent; New Orleans to Los Angeles on the Sunset Limited.
That schedule would include a total of 19 meals—five breakfasts, eight lunches and six dinners.
But—and this is why I’m hesitating—if Amtrak does what I fear they are going to do, there may not be an actual dining car on those long-distance trains. Instead of community dining with other passengers, those 19 meals would be handed to me in a lounge car or delivered to my roomette in a damn cardboard box!
And so I am actually considering—and I would never have thought this possible six months ago—skipping Amtrak in one or maybe even both directions and using the time and money saved to (1) upgrade to First Class for the trans-continental flights or (2) to Business Class for the trans-Atlantic flights, or (3) gain another six days in Europe for more sightseeing, dining and traveling.
This, I think, is what Amtrak’s new poo-bah, William Flynn, doesn’t understand: the traditional dining car experience is that important to me and to many thousands of Amtrak’s best customers. It means being seated at a table with other passengers . . . reviewing the various selections and placing our orders from an actual menu, conversation with fellow passengers sharing our table, and lingering over dessert and coffee. If Amtrak cannot or will not provide that experience, I’m not sure they can count on me as a loyal customer in the future.
How loyal? At least 300,000 miles loyal . . . and counting. Maybe.