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Crescent/CONO/Cardinal June Triangle Trip

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cpotisch

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Hello all!

We are about to book a June trip to and from New Orleans on #19, #58, and #50. It will be me, my mom, and my grandparents in two Roomettes on the Crescent to New Orleans, then three days (four nights) down there, after which GPs will fly home, and me and mom will catch the CONO and Cardinal back home via Chicago. This will be my first time taking the Crescent overnight and my first time on the the CONO and Cardinal at all.

Itinerary is:

6/19: NYP-NOL on the Crescent - me, mom, and grandparents, two Roomettes

6/24: NOL-CHI on the CONO - me and mom, one Roomette (grandparents fly straight home)

6:25: CHI-NYP on the Cardinal - me and mom, one Roomette

My questions:

  • Is there any scenery or any scenic stretches that we should look for on the Crescent? Since the four of us will have two Roomettes (hopefully in 1910) across from each other, we will be able to see everything on each side of the train, but it would still be nice to know in advance what to look for and what side of the train it will be on.


  • I am not optimistic about the views (or food) on the CONO, but is there a particular side of the train that is even slightly prettier or less-ugly? We are hoping for a lower-level Roomette in the full/revenue sleeper. Obviously it being a Superliner really limits the predictability of the car orientation, but is there a slight tendency in the way its oriented and therefore whether an odd room (11 or 13) or even room (12 or 14) would be preferable?


  • Just to make sure I don’t end up in the Trans-Dorm (since it’s directly behind the locomotive), what are the car numbers of the T-D and full sleeper?


  • I know that the Cardinal is by far the most scenic of these three trains, so is there a preferred side of the train (I’m thinking about New River Gorge)? The fact that there’s one sleeper and it’s always oriented vestibule-first (with odd Roomettes on the right and even Roomettes on the left) makes choosing the room way more precise than that of the CONO.


  • I’m veering away from trains now, but any advice on what in particular to do in New Orleans? The four of us will be arriving on the Crescent the evening of 6/20, and leaving  6/24 (me and mom by train, GPs by plane). So in those 3 1/2 days, what should we make sure we see and eat? This will be my first time ever in New Orleans, and their first time in many years. Bear in mind that we’ll be with an 80 and 88 year old, so we won’t be able to do that much walking, and that we all have sweet tooths, so any place that offers particularly good “sweet treats” is definitely of interest. The streetcars and Cafe Du Monde are already on our list, BTW.


  • Any decently nice, reasonably priced, and conveniently located hotels worth noting? Doesn’t need to be super cheap and definitely doesn’t need to be fancy. Just a pleasant, convenient, and comfortable place to spend four nights.


  • General tips or thoughts about the trains and trip? This is for my grandmother’s 80th birthday, and will be her first time on an overnight train (my grandfather’s second time).
     
Thank you so much in advance for any help!  :)  
 

tricia

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In New Orleans, the National World War II Museum might be a good choice, particularly given your grandparents' age. It's a couple of blocks from a Charles Ave. streetcar stop, IIRC.

And for lodging, you might consider a rented condo--possibly more comfortable and less expensive than multiple hotel rooms.
 

greatcats

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The views along the water and through swAmy areas north of NO toward Hammond are kind of cool.  I enjoyed the rural areas and small towns that we passed through in Mississippi.   The food was OK, except for the price tag, as I was a coach passengers.  I was on the westbound Cardinal in May and liked the rural routing in Indiana,,but you will go through there at night.  West Virginia and VA are gorgeous.  Have not been the Crescent in recent years.  The approach to New Orleans over Lake Ponchartrain is probably the highlight.  Dinner after leaving  DC with a sunset over the Blue Ridge has something to say for it 
 
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I be taking the Cardinal except I be going West Bound this Spring. I'm just a tiny bit weary about it, because the Cardinal uses one engine and travels long distance with all the recent engine  failures. Especially sense I went ahead a paid for business class to see what the Cardinals about.  But I shouldn't let that concern trouble me.
 

cpotisch

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I be taking the Cardinal except I be going West Bound this Spring. I'm just a tiny bit weary about it, because the Cardinal uses one engine and travels long distance with all the recent engine  failures. Especially sense I went ahead a paid for business class to see what the Cardinals about.  But I shouldn't let that concern trouble me.
I REALLY wouldn't worry about engine failures. You tend to have engine failures in extreme temperatures or when the train is especially long/heavy for the power of the locomotive. The Cardinal is tiny and does not go through extreme temps. I'm really sure you'd be fine. :)
 

cpotisch

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Okay, so we are booked!

We had called a few days ago to reserve those fares for a week, and now we called again and booked it. The agent was incredibly friendly and helpful, and was able to put us in opposing Roomettes in 1910 on the Crescent, in a lower-level (odd-numbered) Roomette on the CONO, and a right side Roomette on the Card (apparently the side we want).

And not only that, but that phone agent actually somehow screwed up and was able to apply a single companion coupon to me and mom's entire round-trip ticket (supposed to only work for one-ways), which gave us the value of three companion coupons for just two! So those two companion coupons ended up saving us something like $600 on the whole, entirely low-bucket, trip.

And not only that, but 6/19 is my last day of school...and my birthday.

You ever have something happen in such an overwhelmingly perfect way that you're just totally dumbstruck? Well this is one of those somethings. :)
 
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NativeSon5859

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North Georgia scenery on the Crescent around Toccoa is very nice. Be sure to be up for that. Also the stretch from ATL to BHM has nice views...some mountains in the distance, a nice river crossing, plenty of small towns, and a mountain tunnel! South of BHM, mostly forests until just outside of NOL, where you’ll hopefully get to experience the crossing of Lake Pontchartrain on the 6-mile trestle in daylight. I’ve crossed it by train for over 30 years and it never gets old.

On the CONO, I would say the right side is slightly better. You get full view of the lake in between NO and Hammond, you get to see the Jackson skyline, and in the morning, you should get an amazing view of Chicago from the St.Charles Air Line.

Add the Steamboat Natchez to your list while in NOLA - a nice ride down the river.
 

cpotisch

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On the CONO, I would say the right side is slightly better. You get full view of the lake in between NO and Hammond, you get to see the Jackson skyline, and in the morning, you should get an amazing view of Chicago from the St.Charles Air Line.
Thank you so much. Any guess as to what way the sleeper may be oriented?
 

NativeSon5859

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Thank you so much. Any guess as to what way the sleeper may be oriented?
I want to say they’ve been different nearly every time I’ve been on the train in the past year.

Last time it was really screwed up because I was in the transdorm but they subbed a regular sleeper for it so my room number (19) didn’t exist. I ended up being like 10 feet from the locomotive and I didn’t sleep lol
 

JRR

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If you are going to do one thing in Nawlins, it should be the WW II Museum. That said there is lots to do there!
 

FrensicPic

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Thank you so much. Any guess as to what way the sleeper may be oriented?
Last October, we were on the northbound CONO out of NOL. We were in bedroom E which was on the west side of the train. Lake P was on the east side. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the Louisiana and Mississippi scenery regardless of side of train. The following morning, I enjoyed the rural Illinois scenery...small towns separated by farmland.
 
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On the Cardinal eastbound, the New River Gorge will be on the right side of the train. (On the left side is a lot of hillsides and abandoned coke ovens...)

The Business Class car immediately ahead of the sleeper(s) is a converted café car, and the lounge tables can be used by sleeper car passengers, if your roomette is on the wrong side. I would recommend getting a table early, like right after CHW.
 

cpotisch

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Last October, we were on the northbound CONO out of NOL. We were in bedroom E which was on the west side of the train. Lake P was on the east side. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the Louisiana and Mississippi scenery regardless of side of train. The following morning, I enjoyed the rural Illinois scenery...small towns separated by farmland.
I sort of just fully internalized that we'll almost certainly be in the SSL for most of the trip anyway, so the side our room is on really doesn't matter anyway. I am so glad to hear that there is some very nice scenery. :)
 

cpotisch

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So funny story: I noticed earlier today that somehow, my grandparents' ticket on the Crescent got screwed up and was actually for June 20th; not the 19th.  :eek:hboy: I guess at some point in the process of Amtrak holding the fares for us, applying the coupons, coordinating and changing rooms, and so on, they screwed up the date. I also wonder if the fact that since the Crescent is train 19/20 and we are traveling on the 19th, could have played a role in the screw up.

Whatever the reason, I had to call and have it sorted out ASAP. Fortunately USA-RAIL doesn't seem to be too busy around noon on a Tuesday, so I only had to wait like 10 seconds for an agent to pick up (this was the case for all FIVE calls I had to make). So I explained the situation and asked the agent to *modify* the reservation to the 19th, and he informed me that there is a 25% cancellation fee. I pointed out that Amtrak explicitly lacks a change fee, and that the price was the same on the 19th as it was on the 20th (so there shouldn't be any kind of premium for that day), but he was convinced that we'd have to pay $83 or something. I then turned down his offer to "transfer [me] to Customer Relations to try and have them change the policy". So I called USA-RAIL back, and this time, it was literally 20 seconds from the agent went picking up the phone, to having the ticket changed to the 19th at no cost whatsoever.

So I thanked him and hung up, only then remembering that I now once again had to change it to a different Roomette (from some randomly assigned room in car 1911). So I called back and asked if they could be switched to room X in 1910, to which the agent informed me that I "would have to pay the higher fare" to switch room numbers. I have absolutely no idea what "higher fare" he was talking about, since this guy completely didn't care when I pointed out that the price was still the exact same as what we had paid (which still wouldn't matter anyway when just changing room numbers), but he still wouldn't budge or explain further. So I hung up and called AGAIN, and this time got a super nice lady who happily switched it to the room I wanted at no fee. I saw that I received the new e-ticket, thanked her a billion times, and finally hung up...only to notice half a second too late that though I received another e-ticket, the room number actually hadn't changed at all (just another emailing of the same old ticket). I called them for the FIFTH AND FINAL TIME, went through the whole spiel again, and finally this agent actually seriously legitimately switched the room that what we wanted.

So it all worked out in the end, and I'm grateful for that, but it still never ceases to amaze me just how many Amtrak phone agents have no idea what they're talking about. :unsure:
 

bratkinson

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cpotisch - your story of agent roulette (non-)success is pretty much par for the course.  It's luck of the draw whether you get a good one or a bad one.  I think I'm about 35% lucky at getting a good one.
 

cpotisch

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cpotisch - your story of agent roulette (non-)success is pretty much par for the course.  It's luck of the draw whether you get a good one or a bad one.  I think I'm about 35% lucky at getting a good one.
Oh I know. I have learned that the hard (and time consuming) way many times over the years. It's gotten pretty tedious.  :unsure:
 
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Shanghai

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I don't doubt anything that has been said in this post regarding Amtrak's telephone support.

I have called numerous times to book travel, to change reservations and to cancel reservations

and in every case, I had competent and friendly agents that got the job done.  I have experienced

long (10-15 minute) call holding times, but once I reached an agent, everything wen t well.  I usually

login to  my email so I'm able to view my e-ticket or email while I'm still on the phone.
 

iplaybass

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HUACA has been a part of making/changing transportation reservations for a long time. It's my #1 strategy when I'm trying to get American Airlines to book something that isn't a point and click on the website. Not sure that it's just Amtrak.
 

cpotisch

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HUACA has been a part of making/changing transportation reservations for a long time. It's my #1 strategy when I'm trying to get American Airlines to book something that isn't a point and click on the website. Not sure that it's just Amtrak.
What’s HUACA?
 
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cpotisch

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So we actually just shifted the trip back a couple days to give a bit of wiggle room on my birthday and end of school and such. So it's NYP-NOL on 6/21, NOL-CHI on 6/26, and CHI-NYP on 6/27. It definitely would have been cool to start the trip on my actual birthday, but this way I'll be able to actually relax and appreciate the end of school and have a birthday dinner with my whole family. I did try to upgrade to a Bedroom on the CONO, since the room itself seemed to be only $50 more for a 20 hour ride, but it turns out that companion coupons only work for Roomettes. I had noticed this online, but thought it was just a glitch with Arrow and that the agent wouldn't have that issue, but I was wrong. I was skeptical when the agent said that at first, but came to accept it upon hearing her read from the agents' official companion coupon restrictions list that it doesn't work for Accessible/Family/Bedrooms. Figures that Amtrak has their own set of different, private coupon restrictions that for some reason isn't visible to customers (she said as such). Sigh.
 
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F900ElCapitan

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So we actually just shifted the trip back a couple days to give a bit of wiggle room on my birthday and end of school and such. So it's NYP-NOL on 6/21, NOL-CHI on 6/26, and CHI-NYP on 6/27. It definitely would have been cool to start the trip on my actual birthday, but this way I'll be able to actually relax and appreciate the end of school and have a birthday dinner with my whole family. I did try to upgrade to a Bedroom on the CONO, since the room itself seemed to be only $50 more for a 20 hour ride, but it turns out that companion coupons only work for Roomettes. I had noticed this online, but thought it was just a glitch with Arrow and that the agent wouldn't have that issue, but I was wrong. I was skeptical when the agent said that at first, but came to accept it upon hearing her read from the agents' official companion coupon restrictions list that it doesn't work for Accessible/Family/Bedrooms. Figures that Amtrak has their own set of different, private coupon restrictions that for some reason isn't visible to customers (she said as such). Sigh.
Very interesting, thanks for posting that cpotisch! Amtrak and Arrow are just bizarre, and I really wish someone with common sense could step up and fix a lot of this.

Good luck on your trip, I’m sure you’ll keep us posted on how it goes!!
 

cpotisch

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Very interesting, thanks for posting that cpotisch! Amtrak and Arrow are just bizarre, and I really wish someone with common sense could step up and fix a lot of this.

Good luck on your trip, I’m sure you’ll keep us posted on how it goes!!
Thank you! I will make sure to keep you all posted once the trip starts. :)
 
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