Expectation, compared to Actual Experience, = Variance
Variances can be (F) Favorable or (U) Unfavorable
Our expectations were not met, but there were some really nice surprises.
Expectation: That a senior with recent knee surgery could get around the train fairly easily.
(U)Actual: The little stool that helps one mount that tall step between the dock and the train car door was missing. I managed to board with help from other passengers, train personnel, and my husband. Impressions: awkward, ungraceful, difficult and embarrassing.
Expectation: That it would be easy to get to our roomette.
(U) Actual: Before even trying the stairs, I learned that all roomettes like ours were on the upper deck. The staircase to the sleeper’s upper deck was narrow, twisting, with inadequate hand holds for pulling oneself upward, and with tall risers on the steps. Our room steward carried my luggage, my husband brought my cane and coat, and the passengers in back of us simply waited until I was UP. No embarrassment this time: only gratitude!
Expectation: That the roomette would not be too cramped.
(U) Actual: AMTRAK’s efficiency in packing people into limited space is amazing! This comes at the expense of comfort. The bathroom was a combo shower-toilet. It was less than three feet wide, and the little Plexiglas window to the niche didn’t keep the roll of tissue dry. The sink was in the living area and it made a loud moaning (rising to a screeching) sound when the water was on.
The closet was nice, but too tiny. The Climate Control knob twisted just fine but did not produce any noticeable change in room temperature. And Heaven help the passenger who wanted to move around the floor when the beds were deployed out from having been stowed against the wall!
(F) Actual: The beds weren’t bad, although my blanket wasn’t long enough. The very large picture windows were great. Our room steward’s service and personality were wonderful! He pampered us like honored guests, brought coffee, had a large stash of bottled water close to our room, and had a great sense of humor.
Expectation: We had no idea what to expect of the food , included in the ticket price, on the train.
(F) Actual: Really nice service in the dining car. The food choices included one each of several major meal categories, such as meat, seafood, vegetarian, Continental breakfast, cooked breakfast, and so forth. Spouser had duck with orange sauce for one dinner, and I had a fabulous curried shrimp dish. The other dinner featured darned good steaks. Nice array of dessert choices, really fresh salad ingredients, and so forth. When the train was delayed into mealtime, our steward scared up some unscheduled free sandwiches.
AMTRAK features community seating in the dining car. This means that you will probably share your table with fellow passengers, and that turned out to be a treat with really interesting people!
Expectation: WiFi and household electric receptacles would be available on the train.
(U) and (F) Actual: AMTRAK’s national advertising campaign promising WiFi was a little premature. Some trains have functional WiFi, but ours didn’t. However, we charged cell phones and Kindles in our room without incident.
Expectation: The train would be on time.
(U) Actual–but not their fault! Snow changes things. The first leg of the trip was on a bus connecting us to the train station in Los Angeles. The bus was late arriving, and the freeway got snowed in before we were ready to leave. We took a longer route around the high pass. The bus made a banging noise. The driver pulled off the road and found a floppy window latch—then duct taped it closed! The snow also messed up the train schedule at Union Station in Los Angeles. It didn’t snow on the way home, which helped a lot.
A couple of general things: AMTRAK isn’t making enough money to keep their trains spotless and completely repaired. Our sleeper cars (one each way) were once state of the art, but the years have taken their toll. This was mitigated by the outstanding service we got from the train personnel. I have no idea how they keep up with all the demands and keep their smiles going, but they do. My sore knee makes it hard to get to the upper deck, so I’ll check on other sleeper accommodations for the next trip.