An interesting way to travel between Seattle in the USA and Vancouver in Canada is on the Amtrak Cascades train service. This takes approximately four hours and there is one train in the morning and one in the evening.
Online research showed that sitting on the left hand side of the train when heading northbound promised the best views. Our group of 11 people were hoping we would be seated well for this.
You can book a maximum of 8 tickets online, so I telephoned Amtrak in the United States to book all 11 of us. My group is from all over Europe so kudos to the agent who spelled everything correctly. Since it was an international service, Passport details were required so I had a week to call back to get these added and pay for the tickets.
A week later I called back and got the slowest person in the world. It took 25 minutes to add the details and would have been quicker had the agent not made the odd error here and there. Once done, my credit card was charged the $42 per seat and we were good to go.
Checking In Baggage
We arrived at the station in the morning to put our bags into bag storage before heading out for the day. Our train was scheduled for 7pm and we had to be out of our Airbnb so this was a necessity. Much to our pleasure, we were able to check-in that early in the morning which was a bit of a score. No bags to take around and no $10 fee per bag for bag storage. A total win!
Checking In The People
Around 6:15pm there was a huge line for the Coach check-in. I did some running around looking for red caps, but there were none to be seen. I decided to chance it, so I left my friends in line and went to the Business Class check-in line.
A guy came by and scanned the e-tickets of the few people in front then got to me. I mentioned “we are a group of 11” and he smiled and said to wait on the other side with the group, so I gestured to everyone and they left the line quickly and formed a phalanx around me.
Shortly after this, the roving check-in guy came back and checked all our Passports, commenting on how international we were. I asked politely if we could be seated on the left of the train for the views and he said he would see what he could do.
Not too long after we were issued our pink seating assignments and sat down to wait for the train. It is a shame seating can’t be selected at the time of booking, but luckily everything worked out for us.
Amtrak Cascades to Vancouver
Boarding the train commenced before I expected it to, so we queued at our gate and found our seats pretty quickly. While the train interiors are definitely dated, they were nevertheless quite comfortable.
Our Cascades service departed on time and literally minutes later we were enjoying the views. A conductor came through not long after we left to check our pink tickets and we were on our way.
How About Those Views?
Some of us had seats on the left hand side, some of us on the right hand side. To be fair, you can see across to the right very well. The only issue was that the emergency exit windows tend to be on the blocks of four seats and the windows need replacing as the glass isn’t quite as clear as the others.
The glass issue wasn’t a show stopper and we had amazing views for the first two and a bit hours through to sunset. We had also brought some wine and beer along with us, so we were enjoying the trip immensely.
The toilets on the Amtrak Cascades are at the end of each carriage and ours was pretty much one step from my seat. Train toilets can be quite a scary thing, but these were reasonably clean.
Seeing the word ‘Faucet’ was interesting as it’s not a word we would use in English in Australia, the UK or Ireland. I know the word from old 1960s American sitcoms that I would have seen in repeats as a kid, so it was cool to see it still in use here.
Amtrak Cascades Buffet Car
Eventually we ran out of wine as we really didn’t bring very much, so we decided to hit the buffet car. Half bottles of wine are priced at $15.50 and you can choose Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Merlot. $15.50 is highway robbery but beggars can’t be choosers!
Soft drinks and water were $2.25, domestic beer is $5.50 and spirits $7.25. When it comes to food, Mac & Cheese is $6.50, Cheeseburgers are $6.50, Hot Dogs are $5.00, Chips are $2.25 among other things. There is a pretty extensive selection including Sandwiches, Bagels, Cookies, Cheese Trays and more. I thought it was particularly pricey indeed.
Immigration and Arrival
When you cross over into Canada the crew come through with Canadian immigration cards which you need to complete. On arrival, you’re advised your luggage will be on the platform, so you just find it and take it along with you. Arrival sees the Business Class carriages at the rear of the train opened first. I had read that from there it was car by car opened back to front.
Alas, we were in the very front car, so expected to wait some time. I had asked to be in a rear carriage so we could get off quickly and into the Canadian immigration line, but that wasn’t to be. That said, our carriage was opened straight after Business Class, so we lucked out completely. After finding our bags, we sailed through Canadian immigration and went hunting for taxis to our Airbnb.
From my perspective, Amtrak Cascades is the perfect way to travel between Seattle and Vancouver. Yes, it takes four hours whereas driving would take about two and a half to three hours, but look at those views! The freeway doesn’t hug the coast like the railway line, so this is far better and far more relaxing.
All the Amtrak staff we encountered were extremely friendly and obliging to us and to be fair we couldn’t have asked for better service. It’s entirely possible our car was opened early as I had asked to be seated in a rear carriage. I thoroughly recommend taking this train if you get a chance.
Have you ever travelled on Amtrak or used the Amtrak Cascades service? Thank you for reading and if you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.