Amtrak Silver Meteor 98 Roomette – Charleston to New York Penn Station
54 Hours in New York
We took a short, weekend-getaway-style trip to New York.
When I say short, I genuinely mean it. Total time gone was 54 hours: 27 hours spent in the city and 27 hours spent on a train going to/from.
I had been checking the cheapest/best way to get from Charleston, SC to New York off and on for the past week. Flights were around $450-500 Round Trip with one stop (in Atlanta or Charlotte), or $600+ for the non-stop into Newark or LaGuardia! A lot more than I wanted to spend. Even the trusty Spirit Air flight from Myrtle Beach into LaGuardia was close to $400 round-trip; couple that with the fact that the 6:30pm flight on Sunday night wasn’t available, and I ruled that option out, too.
OK, so other choices: use miles on either Delta or United. This would take 25,000 miles each and wouldn’t be a bad redemption (around 2 cents/mile) value given the price in $$ is so high– but, for just a weekend getaway trip, I didn’t consider this worth it. I mean those 50,000 miles could nearly get me a round trip to anywhere in Europe!
I had just recently learned about redeeming points on Amtrak. After doing some digging around, I found out that the value of these redemptions can be amazing! For example, you can transfer 15,000 Chase Rewards Points which will get you a “Roomette” Sleeper Car for a 1-zone trip. Have a look at the zone map here:
It becomes obvious that the time this is most valuable is on long, North-South trips since the same 15,000 points will get you from New York to Philadelphia or Boston to Miami! Same goes for a trip from El Paso to Seattle, just 15k points total for 2 people in a sleeper!
So, to analyze our options like this, we’ve got (for 2 people):
Pay cash: $1,000
Delta Points: 50,000
Cash Up, United Back: $500 + 25,000 points
Amtrak Up, Cash Back: 15,000 + $500 (OK, getting better)
Amtrak Round-trip: 30,000 points ($610 + $496 otherwise)
Added bonus of Amtrak: With sleeper car, meals in the dining car are provided. We were able to leave Charleston late but still get to New York early, avoiding an extra night in a hotel at $250+. When analyzing all the alternatives, the 30,000 points to get TWO people to/from New York was by far the best choice. Plus, just taking a trip on a train can be an adventure in and of itself.
The weekend started with a boat trip in Charleston, around the Harbor, onward to Shem Creek to enjoy the happy hour specials at Water’s Edge–host of the best happy hour in the area.
Somewhat mindful of the time and a few drinks later, we headed back to the marina. I looked up the train schedule and found that the Amtrak Silver Meteor #98 was running 45-60 mins late which meant that we might have a chance to make it. I told McCown to run home, pack a bag and meet me in 1 hour. I hurried back to my computer, transferred the 15,000 Chase Sapphire points to my Amtrak Guest Rewards account and quickly called Amtrak to book. I was working under the impression that you had to make reservations no later than 60 mins prior to scheduled departure time (9:23PM in our case). OK, so now we’re cutting it really close. I still can’t say for sure if that limit is myth or fact but I got everything booked around 8:21PM. We booked it to the train station and arrived with just a few minutes to spare before boarding the sleeper car.
AMTRAK SILVER METEOR TRAIN #98 — ROOMETTE SLEEPER CAR SERVICE:
These long-distance sleeper trains are configured with 3 sleeper cars. Each sleeper has 3 rooms & 12 “roomettes,” for a grand total of up to 45 rooms available per trip. Even with this in mind, the rooms often sell out!
We were greeted by our car’s attendant. It is his job to see to the comfort of all guests in his section. We received excellent service from our very attentive attendant.
A “roomette” is literally just that– a small cabin about the width of 2 seats. It’s literally just long enough for a 6 foot tall person to stretch out on a bed and can be somewhat cramped. It’s great for having more privacy than the main cabin since you’re able to completely close the blinds and door, secluding yourself from the other passengers on the train. Don’t plan on bringing much luggage into these rooms– there’s just enough room for each passenger to have a carry-on sized bag but no bigger. You’ll either have to check larger luggage or ask the attendant if there is other communal luggage storage.
Since we boarded the train around 10:15pm, the car attendant gave us just a few minutes to settle in but didn’t waste much time before asking us if we were ready for him to make the beds. I put him off a bit but it seemed as if he was ready to make the conversion. So, we took a quick walk to the dining car and explored the other cars and, about 10 minutes later, our room had been transformed.
The most awkward thing about the roomettes, by far, is the toilet/sink combo in the room. This makes for a pretty gross experience. And, the terrible news is that the nearest public restroom is in the coach car which in our case was 4 to 5 cars away. Makes for a pretty annoying walk just to use the restroom. We found ourselves sneaking into the empty sleeper rooms or other roomettes whenever possible.
After a surprisingly good night’s sleep, we woke up somewhere between Baltimore and Washington and headed over to the dining car.
When you’re traveling in one of the sleeper compartments, all meals are included –up to 3x a day, depending upon your boarding and departure times. In our case, we boarded at 10:15pm (well after the dinner hour), had breakfast and then arrived in New York by 11:30am (well before the lunch hour) so just 1 meal for us. The good news is that the sleep cabins always get priority seating but they cram people in 4 to a table, so be ready to make small talk with your table mate. We found the food to be much, much tastier than airplane food!
After the dining service, we had just a few more hours left and arrived at New York Penn Station at 10:59am–about 30 minutes ahead of schedule! And, just like that we were already in the city well before our scheduled arrival time–the airlines can’t compete with that!
BOTTOM LINE: For just 15k Chase Ultimate Rewards points, we had an excellent experience aboard Amtrak’s Viewliner Roomette. We slept very well, had great service from the attendant, waiter and kitchen staff–and made it to NYC all before our scheduled arrival time.