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misguy

Vancouver to Seattle train

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We are on the May 27th sailing of the NCL Jewel from Seaward southbound ending in Vancouver.  Flights are much cheaper from Seattle, so I am booked out of Seattle the following day.  How is Amtrak as a choice to get from Vancouver to Seattle?

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I really like it, and since you have a flight the day after the logistics work (only the evening train can be taken on disembarkation day, arr. Seattle c.10pm, so it doesn't work at all for a same-day flight). Of all the ways to cross the border it's the most pleasant (CBP are at the train station, so you are  pre-cleared like at the airport but it's literally just your fellow train passengers being processed); the views are nice (closer to the shore than I5); it's cheap (book in advance for a Saver ticket and spend $34 or less pp); you can eat, drink, and wander about to stretch your legs while still moving; seats are comfier than any of the bus or plane options.

 

Depending on your flight time and comparative hotel costs in Vancouver & Seattle on your exact date the morning train next day could either save or cost money (whether you plan to sightsee in either/both cities is probably more of a factor in which train your decide to take). Southbound there's not really much of a difference in service timeliness between morning and evening: the morning northbound has over 5 hours padding to arrive before it heads back south in the evening; the evening northbound sits overnight in Vancouver so would have to be over 7 hours late before it would impact the southbound morning trip.

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When timing is right it is my favorite way to travel to and from BC. The views are lovely, although the PM train will be dark. In more than 30 years of using it every couple months I have never had a problem with it being late. I also LOVE that you don't have to stop again for customs. 

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Have done this train trip in both directions and agree with others that not only is it practical, the travel is actually enjoyable with good views during the daylight. Price is reasonable as well. We also have never found it to be more than a few minutes late.

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Is there any problem with the train accommodating large suitcases like we'll have for a cruise and several days in Vancouver?   Are there porters and a separate baggage car?

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Posted (edited)
11 hours ago, Kartgv said:

Is there any problem with the train accommodating large suitcases like we'll have for a cruise and several days in Vancouver?   Are there porters and a separate baggage car?

No and yes. Sounds like you are coming Northbound - which means no immigration before boarding (you'll do that in Vancouver on arrival) but you should still aim for at least an hour before the train is scheduled to check your bags. There's a hard cap of 45mins pre-departure for checking a bag onto the baggage car (and it's first-come, first-served for seats so if you want a waterside view you need to be there before at least half of your fellow pax anyway, so turning up an hour early gives a high chance for a good window seat).

 

In Vancouver, checked bags will be placed on the platform so you walk past them all on the way to see CBSA - if you can wheel them yourselves for the very short distance into the station just grab them and go, otherwise you will end up further back in the queue of folks to be processed if you wait for a porter on this end. It's still not bad as border crossings go - we've done this trip so many times we never bother about the window seats any more, and generally roll in just five minutes before departure northbound. This always puts us in the last carriage, so we have to wait for everyone else to get off the train before we are allowed to leave and start queuing for CBSA - and it's usually less than 30mins total from arrival time until we are back home (though we do live just 5 mins walk away). If you're Business Class you are the first carriage off, so even waiting for a porter will keep you ahead of all us plebes in the back 😉

 

If you're on a RT cruise and use the train again Southbound you need to be there at least an hour early again - same deal with seats and checked bags, but also because you preclear US immigration & customs before boarding. Amtrak officially advise an hour early for this, so again if you want to beat your fellow pax to the good side of the train you need to pad your arrival by ~15mins or so beyond that.

Edited by martincath

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Posted (edited)

Thank you martincath for excellent information.   We're actually looking at southbound - cruise north, then several days in Vancouver, then back to San Pedro where our car will be parked.     If we do the train, we might then spend another night or 2 in Seattle and then fly home.    

Edited by Kartgv

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No worries. Southbound I think the only detail I didn't cover is that Business Class doesn't get priority disembarkation southbound - at all the US stations it's just a regular train since it was cleared by CBP already, so all doors open on every carriage rather than being phased one-by-one. If you feel the price is worthwhile for the comfiness of the seats upgrade by all means, but the priority embarkation (separate, shorter queue) is offset by the seating still being first-come, first-served - so if you take advantage of the 'shortcut' to CBP screening you'll end up being sat on the land side of the train, and not even next to each other as it's a 2:1 seat config with the singles on the land side.

 

With your time in Vancouver post-cruise, you can take the morning train (while the 6:35am departure makes for a very early wakeup, breakfast on the train is very platable - oatmeal & brekky sammiches as well as cold options). This goes all the way to Eugene OR, so you could do some post-cruise in Portland by train (skipping Seattle) - or just take another train after some Seattle time (IIRC there are 5 daily trains between Seattle & Portland, 4 Cascades plus a Coast Starlight). PDX also has non-stops to LA, and while not as many as SEA it is a vastly superior airport in literally every aspect of the experience - if there is any US airport than can claim be to an enjoyable place to spend a few hours, PDX is it!

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