We recently went on a trip on the Amtrak Coast Starlight (Portland to LA and back) and we stayed in a "roomette". I had some difficulty knowing exactly what to expect - I knew the roomette would be small, but I was trying to figure out exactly how small, since we are 2 adults and a baby and would need to have a few things onboard with us. The images on the Amtrak site don't really give you the whole picture (literally). I found this film on YouTube which was very helpful, but in hindsight, I don't think it gave me the detail I was looking for. There are many other YouTube videos, so you might try those too. This one was the longest so I assumed the most detailed.
I searched online for other reviews, but found few and with very little detail. Therefore I decided to post my own review...
If you are planning to travel by roomette, watch the YouTube clip and then continue reading.
We traveled about 26-28 hours each way by roomette, during relatively decent weather (we did see snow in southern Oregon on the way back from LA, but it did not impact the travel). Traveling were: my husband who is a bit over 6 feet tall, myself at 5'2", and our 5-month old baby who we brought on board in her infant car seat/carrier. We arrived at the station about an hour early, which was overkill, and checked 3 pieces of luggage and the baby stroller. There was no line and no hassle. We simply handed our bags across the counter after showing our boarding passes, and received a claim check in return. The baggage handler did warn us that the luggage compartments were dirty, so she was concerned that the stroller would be dirty upon our arrival. It was not dirty when we retrieved it (either time), but if you are concerned about dirt then you'll want to bring your own big plastic bag to put your stroller (or whatever) in, because they don't provide one like they do at the airport.
We were then told where to wait for the train, and that was it. There was no metal detector, or removing of shoes, or being yelled at about taking liquids on board. No pat downs. No looking sideways at our carry-on luggage.
Regarding initial boarding and luggage storage:
When the train approached we went to our designated spot. We were waiting alone, since everyone else was boarding in the coach cars at the other end of the train. When the train arrived, an attendant came out who greeted us by name, to my surprise. He told us to go up the stairs, and where exactly to find our room. Each train car has 2 levels. The stairs between levels are very steep and narrow, and kind of spiral - you're going to make a lot of turns in the stairwell as you go up. I'd read a review where a girl mentioned she was having trouble getting her luggage up the stairs and around all the corners, and was annoyed that the attendant wasn't helping her. In a conversation with our attendant later, we found out that the sleeping car attendants are not required to assist with carry-on luggage, and so most of them do not offer, and many will refuse when asked. However, keep in mind that each sleeping car has a luggage storage area on the lower level at the base of the stairs. You can drop things off there if you don't need them right away. The area is not secure, of course, so be careful what you choose to store there. Also, the attendant advised us that sometimes the storage area gets too full, so not to bank on the idea of storing things there. My advice to travelers is that it's pretty safe to bank on it. The storage area isn't huge, it's just a couple of shelves. It's similar to the luggage storage that you see on airport shuttle buses. Each sleeping car has 14 roomettes, and I think 7 or so larger bedrooms. If the car is filled to capacity, I could see where the luggage storage might be quite full, but odds are you could make it work or just find room in the storage area in another sleeping car if you are polite and discreet. This is assuming you even need to store luggage outside of your room. You may find the roomette actually does have room enough for your carry-on.
Speaking of the narrow stairwell, every walkway on an Amtrak train is narrow. If you are very overweight you may have some trouble navigating the train. Also keep in mind that the hallways are only wide enough for one person, but they are for 2-way traffic. Just getting from your room to the dining car or the bathroom will probably require you to step aside to allow someone approaching you to pass.
Inside the closet, there is a small shelf at the top with towels and toiletries provided by Amtrak.
Back to the room description. There is a lot of storage room underneath each seat. I wasn't sure of that after watching the video, so I was glad to find this out on board. The area is about 10 inches tall and goes all the way back under each seat. We stored the diaper bag under one seat and could have easily stored more. The only thing to keep in mind is that the under-seat storage is difficult to get to when the lower seats are converted into a bed. I would recommend getting out what you need before you convert the seats into the bed for the night.
Additional storage can be found on hooks on the wall and the closet. In the YouTube video, you see that the wall over the little stairs has a mirror. Well, one of the trains we rode on had the mirror, the other one did not. Instead of the mirror, there was a wall hook. The wall was wide enough there to hold the large backpack. We hung up the small backpack on a hook next to the other seat.
Meals (excluding alcohol) are free if you are in the sleeper car. The train line that we were on (
There will probably also be a cafe or snack bar available in the sightseer car or something similar. It is probably not free for sleepers, though I'm not sure.
Breakfast is served only until about 9 or 9:30. Listen for last call, if you're a late riser.
Regarding the amenities:
If you're a champagne drinker (cheap stuff), the attendant will serve all the sleeper passengers champagne upon arrival, or after lunch.
The parlour car was an awesome amenity, but I understand that particular style of car is only available on the
Additional bench seating:
There is one shower in each sleeper car, located on the lower level. The towels provided were not very big. And you'll want to wear your shower shoes, so don't forget to pack those in your carry-on. The shower room contains the shower with a hand-held shower nozzle, and a changing area outside of the shower. There is a shelf and a big mirror and 2 electrical outlets. I think you can find video on YouTube if you need an image.
Each sleeper car contains one restroom on the upper level and 3 on the lower level. One of the restrooms on the lower level also has a baby changing table.
On one of our trips, our roomette was opposite the restroom. On the other trip, our room was on the same side of the train as the restroom. During this trip we could smell the restroom the entire time. I am not sure if it was because we were lined up with it and were somehow sharing air flow, or if it was a fluke and a problem with that particular car. I had overheard 2 attendants referring to a restroom problem in another car, so perhaps the same issue was in ours? At any rate, on a future trip we will request to occupy a room opposite the restroom, if at all possible. And we'll also bring our own air freshener, just in case.
Each sleeper car has 14 roomettes and I think 7 other types of bedrooms. There are 10 roomettes on the top and 4 on the bottom. The bunks run parallel with the direction of the train. In the bedroom suites that contain bathrooms, the bunks are perpendicular to the direction of the train. In the family bedroom that has 2 full length bunks and 2 little bunks for children, the adult bunks are perpendicular and the children's bunks are parallel. What this means is that you may get better sleep in the roomette, since the momentum of the train starting and stopping may not be as jarring as it would be if you were laying perpendicular to the direction of the train. This is what the sleeping car attendant told us, anyway. I'm not so sure, since the train does PLENTY of side to side rocking as well. If you are concerned about falling out of the top bunk, a safety net is provided that you can hook up after you get settled. The top bunk is slightly narrower than the bottom bunk. My husband took the top bunk and reported that his head touched one end of the room while his feet touched the other. I slept in the bottom bunk, with the baby sleeping in her car seat set up at the foot of the bottom bunk.
Coach seats have lights out and quiet rules after 10pm, so around that time you get a lot of announcements on the squawk box while everyone gets on to announce that this is their last announcement. If people are being loud in the hallway, you'll hear it even if your door is closed. If it persists, give 'em the stink eye.
I think the squawk box starts up again around 8am. It's kind of annoying if you're still trying to sleep.
My husband and I slept relatively well, though we're used to waking a lot since we have a baby. Other people reported sleeping well, others not well. It just depends on how picky you are, I guess. One passenger I spoke with said she slept lousy, but also complained that she barely fit into her roomette, and she was traveling solo! Which I think is just proof that it's all in your attitude.
Regarding privacy and security:
The rooms have doors that slide shut to offer some quiet and privacy. Curtains fasten to the wall with velcro all the way around. The curtains are good at blocking light in the morning.
You can lock your door from the inside, but not the outside. Therefore it is not advisable to travel with a ton of stuff, and certainly not valuables. The sleeping car attendants know who's who in their cars, so they keep a pretty good eye on things and we never felt a concern. But I did take my purse with me to all meals.
Regarding the service:
I would say that on our southbound trip we had gold star service, and on our northbound trip it was only silver star. I think this is a combination of the actual staff on board, as well as the fact that on the southbound trip the sleepers were virtually empty, and on the northbound trip they were sold out. On the gold star trip, not only did our attendant know our names, but the parlour car attendant did as well. Every time we went to dine she would greet us by name. She also really tried to go above and beyond to make sure everyone was having fun. The northbound crew seemed frazzled. The train was delayed 2 hours from it's initial station, and as I mentioned, the sleeper rooms were all sold out and I overhead the attendants saying there was waiting list in Coach of people who wanted to upgrade. The attendants also mentioned that this took them by surprise, though I'm not sure why. We did take one of our meals in our room on the northbound trip, and I must say our attendant did an outstanding job of cheerfully taking our orders and bringing us the meals, trying to think of all the little details we might need (lemon for the tea, etc).
A question I saw a couple times during my search for roomette reviews is whether the roomette can hold more than 2 people. It's a good question, because the Amtrak site itself only says it's "recommended" for 2 adults, but doesn't indicate that 2 adults is the maximum capacity. I was especially interested in this question myself, since we were 2 adults and a baby. The general answer on the forums was "no". Well, I disagree. If you are 3 adults who are small, creative, with a good attitude, and comfortable in very close quarters, you could pull off 3. At least. There was a family of 4 in the roomette across from ours. 2 adults, an infant, and a little girl about 6 years old. They had traveled this way at least once before, so they knew what they were doing. I guess they slept one adult and one kid in each bunk. They brought virtually no luggage into their room with them. During the day, they moved at least one adult and one kid into the parlour car all day.
Another passenger I spoke with mentioned that her elderly parents had once traveled by roomette, and since neither of them could manage to climb into the top bunk, they shared the bottom bunk by sleeping head to toe.