Monday, January 3, 2011

Aboard the Acela

Due to snowcumstances, Dave and I found ourselves catching the 7:15am Acela train in our efforts to get to Atlantic City for New Years.
Making this departure time involved taking the 5:45am commuter rail from Salem to North Station.  Dave doesn't do too well with extremely early wake-up calls, so I pretty much had this scene on my hands for most of our high-speed journey down the Northeast Corridor.
I really didn't mind my long-snoozing boyfriend because I found myself well entertained with documenting the trip and checking out the amenities.
We rode in one of the Business Class cars that was adjoined with the Cafe Acela car.  Being the first stop at South Station, we scored one of the seats with a full table.  If you cannot grab one of these, you will still have access to a tray table (similar to those found in airplanes).  I was also thrilled to find out that I had access to two electrical outlets right at my seat.  I happily plugged in my laptop and connected to the free Wi-Fi on board.
If you are taking the train from start to finish, you will be onboard for a total of 7 hours and will depart at Union Station in Washington DC (WAS).  Union Station is the 15th stop, after service to the following:

  • Boston - Back Bay (BBY)
  • Westwood, MA - Route 128 (RTE)
  • Providence, RI (PVD)
  • New London, CT (NLC)
  • New Haven, CT (NHV)
  • Stamford, CT (STM)
  • New York, NY - Penn Station (NYP)
  • Newark, NJ (NWK)
  • Iselin, NJ - Metropark (MET)
  • Trenton, NJ (TRE)
  • Philadelphia, PA - 39th Street Station (PHL)
  • Wilmington, DE (WIL)
  • Baltimore, MD - Penn Station (BAL)
  • BWI Airport, MD (BWI)

At Penn Station in NYC, the crew switches over and the cafe is closed for a short while.  Thus, right before we stopped, I grabbed myself a Diet Pepsi and Dave a water.  I noted that the cafe serves cocktails, wine and a variety of beers.  If it weren't ~10am, I would have started my New Years celebration early!
Instead, I snapped a few pictures of the NYC skyline as we approached the tunnel that would take us to Penn Station.
Our stop at Penn Station was the longest in duration (perhaps ~10 minutes) likely due to the crew changeover.  The rest of the stops along the way were quick, lasting maybe all of 2-3 minutes.  Dave was awake at this point and we started having mini photoshoots.
My big smile was reflective of how much I liked taking this high-speed train.  Even though I fly quite a bit, I'm really not a fan of being 5 miles up in the air.  I have a hard time shaking the anxiety that comes with take off and landing, and this train option saves me the worry lines.

Before we knew it, our 5-hour journey came to an end. Since Curt and Diana were our rides to Atlantic City, our departure station was Wilmington, DE.  We could have stopped one stop earlier at Philadelphia's 30th Street Station, but it was an easier and more direct pick-up if we took the next stop.
After giving big hugs to our friends and setting off on the road to Atlantic City, I mused about the Acela some more.  If you're planning a trip to NYC, an Acela will get you there in 3 hours and 30 minutes. If you think about it, a flight from BOS to Laguardia or JFK will only take you a little less than an hour, but you have to be to the airport a full hour ahead of time and go through the hassle of security.  Also, a cab from the airports to Midtown will cost you ~$55.  The Acela will put you right there in the midst of everything.  Even if you're going further than NYC, I might consider taking the Acela as well for the same reasons.

A few final tips for you:

  • If you visit the Amtrak web site, you will see that your search results will also include Northeast Regional options.  Be aware that the Northeast Regional trains are not as fast.  In the instance of going to Wilmington, a Northeast Regional train would take one an hour longer.  Also, if there happen to be delays, the Northeast Regional trains must give priority to the Acela's.  Lastly, the Northeast Regional trains do not have Wi-Fi.
  • Use your AAA membership when you make your reservations!  You will earn 10% on weekend Acela fares and 10% on all Northeast Regional fares.
  • Make sure to check out the Weekly Specials before you book.  They are listed from Tuesday through Friday and are valid for travel on any day except Fridays and Sundays. 

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