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Personal experience: the pros and cons of traveling on a luxury train in the USA

Monica Humphreys, a journalist, spoke about her two-day $1500 luxury train ride across the US Southwest and explained why she won't repeat it, reports Insider.

Photo: IStock

Stepping onto the red carpet, Monica boarded the Rocky Mountaineer train with a backpack, an iced latte, and big expectations.

Last May, she boarded the Rocky Mountaineer in Denver, Colorado, bound for Moab, Utah.

“This will be my first major rail trip in the US and also one of the most expensive trips I have ever booked. My individual ticket for a two-day trip costs $1465, although I bought a ticket on sale for $1052,” Monica said at the time.

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Rocky Mountaineer considered one of the most luxurious trains in the world. The railroad operates three routes from Western Canada, and last year launched its first U.S. route between Moab and Denver.

“When I booked a two-day trip, I was enticed by glass domes, quality food and endless alcohol. I admire the company's commitment to appreciating the scenery that the train passed by: each car had a conductor who told about the history of the region. Also, the Rocky Mountaineer advertises itself as a “daylight-only train,” so I stayed overnight at a hotel in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, which was included in the train ticket,” Monica said.

On the whole, in her opinion, the promise of luxury lived up to expectations, but when she got off the train, she thought that the trip could not justify the cost of it.

“For me, the Rocky Mountaineer is likely to be a once in a lifetime ride,” Monica said.

“My ride on the Rocky Mountaineer was unforgettable. I met new people, heard fascinating stories and saw grand landscapes,” she added.

When the train arrived in Moab, she wasn't sure if she would book another one of the train routes. “While the scenery was awe inspiring and the customer service was top notch, I don't think I can justify the price,” she said. – Many elements of the two-day trip were filled with luxury. Throughout the two days, I noticed thoughtful details that made the trip easy.”

“Flowers were waiting for passengers when boarding the train, my luggage was delivered and waiting for me in my hotel room at the end of the day, and the panoramic windows sparkled without a single speck,” the girl added.

“All the train staff told interesting stories and it was the best customer service I have ever experienced while traveling. But I wish I had more time to appreciate and enjoy the scenery instead of speeding by,” Monica said. “When we crossed the border between the states of Colorado and Utah, the conductor of our train, who was the guide for most of the way, excitedly told us to get our phones and get ready for the photo shoot. In just a few moments, our guide said that we would pass a staircase carved into the rusty red mountains of La Salle, which were created by the Utah people hundreds of years ago.”

Monica saw the stairs for a split second, and all the travelers quickly started checking to see if their photos were blurry.

“When the train passed by, I couldn't help but feel a little disappointed: I wanted to admire the stairs for more than a few moments,” said Monica. “That feeling was the theme of my train ride as we passed historic tunnels, mesmerizing views and powerful rivers. It seemed to me that I see nature, but do not feel it. As I sat in the leather chair and sipped prosecco, I realized that I would rather be walking, sweating and snacking on fast food.”

She noted that she found out too late that she could not be the target traveler for these excursions.

“I am at a point in my life where adventure in the wilderness is where I find joy. I would rather be in nature than look at it from a glass domed window,” says Monika.

She added that she is at a point in her life where exploring the wild makes her happy, and she is also at a point where $1000 is a lot of money.

“Spending more than $1000 on a two-day train ride that doesn't include return travel costs would be impossible if I didn't write a trip report for my job,” she said.

The remaining five days of her stay in Utah cost just over $2100, including food, lodging, national park entrance fees, entertainment, gas, and car rental.

During those five days off the train, Monica thought about the fact that she drove 1120 km across the state and learned more than a dozen pit stops. She stayed in hospitable castles in Utah's Little Switzerland and ate at famous Moab eateries.

She noted that if she decides to book another train ride to the West, she will consider Amtrak. According to the Amtrak website, a similar journey from Denver to Green River, Utah, about an hour north of Moab, will cost passengers $50 for a seat on the bus and about $418 for a private compartment.

She suggests that riding the Amtrak will feel less like a vacation and more like a commute, but Monica isn't sure the amenities of the Rocky Mountaineer, while far more luxurious than the Amtrak, were worth the significant price difference.

She also thinks that some elements of the trip didn't go well.

“While the Rocky Mountaineer was a luxury ride, I found some aspects fell short of my expectations,” says Monica. The railway company advertises an open observation deck. In anticipation of the trip, I imagined myself enjoying it with the wind in my hair, making conversation with other travelers and enjoying the sunshine under the open sky. But when I got on the train and started looking for a platform, I was disappointed. The open space was a small area between the cars, with only enough space for two people, and the views were more limited than from the glass-domed cars.”

“There is very little seating on the train, and our carriages are carefully designed to make the best use of the space,” a spokesperson for Rocky Mountaineer said in an email. “Our guests tell us that they appreciate the outdoor observation deck as it gives them the opportunity to get some fresh air, take photos and view the scenery from a different vantage point.”

Monica's expectations also fell short when it came to her vegetarian options. When she booked her trip, she had a choice between Asian Vegetarian, Diabetic, Gluten Free, Low Fat, Lactose Free, Vegan, and Vegetarian Lacto-Ovo options. With so many options, she assumed she would enjoy a hearty vegetarian meal.

“Unfortunately, the reality was a bit dim. No vegetarian food was listed for lunch on the first day, so I was served a large version of the salad that everyone ate as an appetizer. The next day, I appreciated that my cook on the train prepared a dish for me, but I was hoping for something more than what was served to me, ”she said.

“Our onboard team does their best to accommodate dietary preferences where possible. Space in the train caboose is limited, so when we know everything in advance, we have the opportunity to work with our team of cooks to bring additional food options on board,” the spokesman said. – On the route you traveled, there are usually two options on the menu. Vegetarian dishes are supplied and prepared in addition to the standard menu and may vary depending on the freshest dishes the culinary team can provide.”

You may be interested in: top New York news, stories of our immigrants, and helpful tips about life in the Big Apple - read it all on ForumDaily New York.

“I probably won't be riding the Rocky Mountaineer anytime soon, but that doesn't mean it wasn't an epic journey,” says Monica. “While I disembarked from the Rocky Mountaineer not sure if I would book another trip, the train ride rekindled my love for the American west and left me with unforgettable memories. And the other travelers on this train agree with me.”

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