Avoid the Airport in the Pacific Northwest – Amtrak Cascades Review

When traveling on vacation do you have to trudge through crowded airports? Depending on where you are coming from and where you are going the answer is a qualified No.

We took a cruise from Los Angeles, California to Vancouver, British Columbia on the Royal Caribbean Vision of the Seas (Review here) and a one night cruise from Vancouver, British Columbia to Seattle, Washington on the Norwegian Cruise Lines Norwegian Star and had to get home to Portland, Oregon. Most people just go straight with taking a plane and don’t think about what their alternatives are. Well, In Washington and Oregon along the I-5 corridor one option is Amtrak’s Cascades.

Our choice, travel 45-60 minutes from the cruise terminal to SeaTac then spend 1-2 hours trudging through and around the airport, an hour and a half in the air, then another 30+ minutes waiting for our bags or travel 10 minutes to the Amtrak station, wait 15 minutes for our train, spend 3 and a half hours on the rail, grab our bags and go. When the time going by air is compared to the time going by rail it is almost a coin flip, while the actual travel time is longer by rail the additional time in airports and getting there outweighs the same actions by rail. So we opted to take the train, and we did not regret our choice and from now on when we need to get to Seattle from Portland we will always take the train.

The Amtrak Cascades travels a scenic route through the Pacific Northwest from Vancouver, British Columbia to Eugene, Oregon past Mount Saint Helens and over the Columbia Gorge. Amtrak Cascades service is financed and operated in partnership with the states of Oregon and Washington, giving residents and visitors to the Pacific Northwest a viable alternative to air travel.

The beauty of the option is where the train station is located in both Seattle and Portland, unlike airports, which are usually located in an out of the way location the train station is right downtown, this is true in almost every location that Amtrak goes to.

Once we debarked from the Norwegian Star we exited from the Seattle Cruise Terminal at Pier 66 and grabbed a taxi right in front. There was an “unofficial” porter working the cabs, a nice young man that appeared to be working just for tips helping people get cabs and their luggage loaded, I don’t know how the cruise lines and taxi drivers view these helpers but he did earn a tip helping us get quickly settled with a cab. The driver took us directly to the train station which was a 10 minute at most drive from the cruise terminal.

We checked our bags with Amtrak baggage handlers and waited for our train, shortly before the train arrived Amtrak personnel assigned us seats and the train arrived on time. When the train arrived everyone headed to their assigned cars in a leisurely pace. We boarded, found our seats, and were settled in a matter of minutes. The train then departed on time.

Each car has monitors in the ceiling that initially show where in the trains route you currently are, once the train passed the last Seattle/Tacoma Metro area stop they started a movie on this screen.

During the ride from Seattle to Portland I was able to use my cell phone to do business on the internet the entire trip, every seat had a power outlet to allow you to plug in your computer and work, which is definitely something you could not do on a plane.

At one point we walked from our car to the lounge car which serves offers food and beverages from the Pacific Northwest including meals, sandwiches, beers, and microbrews.

The trip was quiet and restful, we had incredible views and were able to relax for the full trip. Once we arrived in Portland we walked into Union Station to baggage claim and our bags were ready for us, out the front door and into our ride. The trip was much easier and enjoyable then any plane trip would have been.