Land Cruise or Sea Cruise

Is taking a journey on Amtrak really like taking a voyage on a cruise ship?

Neither trip is likely to get you to your destination faster than a jet. But both are more about the journey. On Amtrak, you may get a feeling for the vastness of America, depending on your route. You might be surrounded by (amber) waves of grain rather than the briny sea. You pass through small towns and large cities, stopping at some for only a few minutes. Your route is determined by where the rails go.

At sea, only the depth of the water under your keel limits the route. You may be impressed by the vastness of the ocean, especially on a transoceanic cruise. Your stops are ports, where you go ashore and explore.

img_3011Today on my journey from Dallas to Chicago I am looking at the flat fields of Illinois that are waiting for spring planting. I slept through Arkansas, where we passed through my father’s small hometown in the middle of the night without stopping. You don’t miss much scenery while sleeping on a cruise ship.

If you think a cruise ship cabin is small, you should try a roomette on Amtrak. It is 3½ feet wide and 6½ feet long. Two reclining seats face each other and convert at night to a single bed. A drop-down upper berth can sleep a second person, but I suggest only a child or small adult.

img_2987Dining on Amtrak is similar to dining on a cruise ship, in that you are seated with other travelers in the dining room. It’s a good opportunity to meet people and learn why they take the train. The Amtrak menu is more limited, but the food is better than I expected. If you have booked sleeping accommodations, meals are included. Coach passengers can pay to eat in the dining car, choose from selections in the snack bar or bring their own food.

While Amtrak has WIFI on some of its routes, the long-distance journeys of the west are not among them. In fact, sometimes you don’t even have cellular service. Cruise ships have caught up to the times and offer both WIFI and cellular service, but at a steep price.

dsc00773Of course, there isn’t bingo or any other planned activity on the train. Some people gather in the observation car, particularly when the scenery is the main attraction. I am spending most of this leg of my journey isolated in my roomette, binge watching a download of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (thumb’s up) and writing. The observation car was the best place to see the Gateway Arch. I expect to spend more time socializing later, particularly through the Rockies and the Sierras.