New dining options (flex dining) effective October 1, 2019

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IndyLions

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I will reiterate again that my recent Contemporary Dining round trip on a completely booked CL was very well organized and involved no lines and no people standing around waiting for food.

By having the SCA ask for a meal time - and take the order - the food was hot and ready for the diners at the appointed time in a carry bag. My guess is most customers found an open table in the CCC and ate their food there. A few took it back to their room, and in a few cases the SCA delivered it to their room for them.

There was a lot of pleasant conversation going on at tables, mostly with individual parties and a couple of mixed parties.

There were no unhappy faces I saw - but I did have a couple of conversations with people disappointed that full diner service was lacking. I informed them to contact their congressman in an effort to repeal the law(s) on the books governing Amtrak food service.

So I feel that the on board personnel have managed to come up with a system that optimizes an experience with very limited potential.

The original plan (as I understood it) of “show up in the CCC and eat any time you want” created a poor experience based on the limited staff’s inherent inability to react to surges in demand.

That’s the approach they still take for breakfast - but that is a serve yourself Hampton Inn style format.
 

PVD

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Even with the full service diner, breakfast was first come first served, not by reservation...
 

the_traveler

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I just booked a short trip on the SM for December 2. There is NO indication anywhere that there WILL NOT be a Dining Car - in fact just the opposite. (I am going coach.)

There is nothing mentioned on the website that says something like: “Effective _____ there will be no Dining Car meal service”.
 

flitcraft

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I just booked a short trip on the SM for December 2. There is NO indication anywhere that there WILL NOT be a Dining Car - in fact just the opposite. (I am going coach.)

There is nothing mentioned on the website that says something like: “Effective _____ there will be no Dining Car meal service”.
Based on how the retirement of the Pacific Parlour Car was handled, I wouldn't put any stock in that. In that case, they actually still had the date when the Parlour Car was set to return for the spring listed, and then at the last minute, they canceled it. I would not expect to see a notification on the website of a downgrade in meal service; count yourself lucky if the dining car remains, but don't count on it.
 

lordsigma

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The original contemporary dining changes on the Lake Shore and Capitol Limited were announced ahead of time to ticket holders.....so far Amtrak has not even publicly announced that changes are coming - only the heads up they gave to the Rail Passengers Association - everything else has been rumors flying around - let alone the details of what the expanded contemporary dining is going to look like. I'd have thought Amtrak would give at least 60 days notice on this change but that isn't going to happen now. They are running out of time to give passengers with tickets reasonable notice of these changes. Perhaps there are delays in finalizing the operational details and possibly fighting with the union going on. I wonder if the changes will end up getting delayed?
 

Winecliff Station

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The original contemporary dining changes on the Lake Shore and Capitol Limited were announced ahead of time to ticket holders.....so far Amtrak has not even publicly announced that changes are coming - only the heads up they gave to the Rail Passengers Association - everything else has been rumors flying around - let alone the details of what the expanded contemporary dining is going to look like. I'd have thought Amtrak would give at least 60 days notice on this change but that isn't going to happen now. They are running out of time to give passengers with tickets reasonable notice of these changes. Perhaps there are delays in finalizing the operational details and possibly fighting with the union going on. I wonder if the changes will end up getting delayed?
I am thinking maybe they will give enough notice for the cheapest refundable tickets to be canceled without penalty? I am not sure what the time frame is on that.
 

dlagrua

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Rather than throw the box away, just don't take it if you don't want it. They're not forcing you to take it. Sheesh.
That's correct no one is forcing me to take the boxed meal but I did give it a try. After a couple of bites it went in the garbage. Amtrak can do better than the high fat, high sugar, high salt crap that they are now giving sleeper passengers. On a rare first class flight to Seattle last March, the meal was acceptable. For lunch they served a shrimp salad plate with spinach and a balsamic dressing. On the way back we caught a hot breakfast on our flight. Here is what airline food is like:

These meals are decent quality and not the fodder that Amtrak is trying to shove upon us. Its also served on your table with a white table cloth on a China plate with silverware, glasses and ceramic coffee mugs. I wouldn't be complaining if this was the food on the LSL and CL but it isn't
 

Devil's Advocate

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From where I live the furthest major city in the lower 48 is Seattle. I can reach Seattle in four hours via nonstop domestic flight. I don't need a meal on a four hour trip. That same trip on Amtrak can take up to one hundred and eleven hours one way at double the cost of a first class flight. On a trip that long I need meals, selection, flavor, and freshness. There is a reason Amtrak can and should be held to a different standard.
 

dlagrua

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That’s a lovely stock photo but this is what Delta Domestic first class food is really like...
Our serving was like the food in the photo, perhaps not presented in the impeccable fashion as illustrated but both myself and my wife felt that it was a good meal both ways. IMO, your photo shows better food than on Amtrak CL/LSL. If Amtrak served it like this it would be a huge improvement. Did you not like your food serving better than the boxed Amtrak meal?
We will be going back to Seattle on family business on Sept 22nd. This time I will be sure to take actual photos of the food to show everyone but we will be flying American this time so who knows?
 

crescent-zephyr

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I can’t compare to the Amtrak boxed meals because I haven’t had them yet. (Not a total boycott, but certainly I have less desire to ride those trains currently).

Who did you fly with to Seattle?

The delta food is fine, certainly better than the downgraded city of New Orleans food that I had. But not nearly as good as the majority of Amtrak dining car meals I’ve had.
 

scrollmaster

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We have a trip Oct 11-12 MER→NYP on Crescent and scheduled to return NYP→MER Nov 1-2 bedroom both ways.
Wondering are we going to have normal dining I paid for months ago or reduced crap?
 

jis

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I have had some remarkably good food on US domestic trans-continental First Class. For example, here is the Tandoori Chicken item that I selected to have on United on a IAH - SEA flight in December last year.

IMG_5720.jpg
 

pennyk

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We have a trip Oct 11-12 MER→NYP on Crescent and scheduled to return NYP→MER Nov 1-2 bedroom both ways.
Wondering are we going to have normal dining I paid for months ago or reduced crap?
You will not have traditional dining on your trip, unless something changes between now and then. Contemporary dining on the Crescent begins on October 1st.
 

jis

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Makes sense since it serves the NEC crowd ...
And of course neither the LSL or the Capitol serves the NEC crowd. And the next round of Contemporary Dining is slated for the Crescent and the Silver Meteor which also don't serve the NEC crowd. o_O

Where do people get these silly ideas?
 

Devil's Advocate

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I had some of the best airline food I'd ever eaten a few months ago on Japan Airlines. The portions weren't huge but the quality and preparation vastly exceeded my expectations. That was in intercontinental business class, but the cost of the ticket was similar to long distance sleeper service on Amtrak, so in theory it should still be possible to do things right even today.
 
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crescent-zephyr

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I have had some remarkably good food on US domestic trans-continental First Class. For example, here is the Tandoori Chicken item that I selected to have on United on a IAH - SEA flight in December last year.

View attachment 14671
That looks pretty similar in quality to what I had on delta. The salad looks a little better just cause spinach is classier than iceberg. I’d rather have Amtrak dining car food that’s for sure.
 

scrollmaster

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You will not have traditional dining on your trip, unless something changes between now and then. Contemporary dining on the Crescent begins on October 1st.
These tickets were purchased in January and traditional dining was shown on their menus and charged for. Really ticks me off and if this trip for wife and I which includes 10 day cruise NYC to Quebec City and tour of QC, Montreal & Niagra Falls before returning to NYC and home I would cancel but would need another place to live if I did that at this point. I will not schedule another Amtrak again though if this is what they will be offering.
 

pennyk

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These tickets were purchased in January and traditional dining was shown on their menus and charged for. Really ticks me off and if this trip for wife and I which includes 10 day cruise NYC to Quebec City and tour of QC, Montreal & Niagra Falls before returning to NYC and home I would cancel but would need another place to live if I did that at this point. I will not schedule another Amtrak again though if this is what they will be offering.
I wish I could offer a solution for you. I had made many reservations made prior to the announcement for times after October 1 on the Silver Meteor. I have not tried to cancel because I still want to travel. I understand that the menu offerings will be different (improved?) than the meals currently offered on the the CL and LSL.
 

seat38a

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IMG_6686 by B H, on Flickr

I've had better fish in the air than on Amtrak. I could have done without the sauce but the turbot was tender and buttery. Had it last month.
 

flitcraft

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Domestic first class food on US airlines has gotten better in the past couple of years, as airlines fight for high-financial-value business. Amtrak has no competition, unfortunately, so, as Lily Tomlin used to say about the phone company, "We don't care because we don't have to."

I've only had Contemporary Dining once, on last summer's trip on the CL. I wasn't favorably impressed--the Mediterranean beef was only marginally better than Amstew, and breakfast was what you'd expect if Motel 6 had a buffet breakfast service. At least at breakfast there was no waste--if you didn't want something, you didn't take it. Dinner was overpackaged and one-size-fits-all, so there was a lot of waste of food and packaging. Though the woven bag was nice--and I still use it for grocery shopping.
 

seat38a

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Domestic first class food on US airlines has gotten better in the past couple of years, as airlines fight for high-financial-value business. Amtrak has no competition, unfortunately, so, as Lily Tomlin used to say about the phone company, "We don't care because we don't have to."

I've only had Contemporary Dining once, on last summer's trip on the CL. I wasn't favorably impressed--the Mediterranean beef was only marginally better than Amstew, and breakfast was what you'd expect if Motel 6 had a buffet breakfast service. At least at breakfast there was no waste--if you didn't want something, you didn't take it. Dinner was overpackaged and one-size-fits-all, so there was a lot of waste of food and packaging. Though the woven bag was nice--and I still use it for grocery shopping.
I think Amtrak should offer eggs for breakfast. Here is how United does it at LAX United Club. They offer two types of egg salad along with a do it yourself deviled eggs. At first, I thought having traditional and avocado egg salad for breakfast was odd, but it works! At least with cold egg dishes, Amtrak doesn't have to prepare it and everyone gets some protein at breakfast. I've stayed at couple of Holiday Inn Express's before SPG merged with Marriott and increased their footprint, and even they manage to offer eggs in the morning. Personally, I'd prefer the cold egg/hardboiled over the nuked omelettes.

IMG_5448 by B H, on Flickr
IMG_5449 by B H, on Flickr
IMG_5451 by B H, on Flickr
 

crescent-zephyr

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Holiday inn express offers hot eggs and either hot sausage or bacon, hot oatmeal, hot cinnamon rolls, pancakes from a machine, and maybe hot waffles as well.

Hampton Inn offers 2-3 hot Items (I usually see scrambled eggs, potatoes and either sausage or bacon... a couple other options rotate around too) and then make your own waffles and a pot of oatmeal.
 
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