Was on the Lake Shore Limited westbound last week. Had a pleasant ride and we arrived about 20 minutes early. I enjoyed being able to sit in the "sleeper/lounge" (aka Viewliner II Diner) post-dinner to get some work done for the evening. I did tell the attendant that I was more than happy to leave if things filled up. A nice tip kept him happy with good service, and me staying put. The Viewliner II Diner, I feel at least, is a really nice car for sightseeing, relaxing, conversing, eating, and getting work done. So it is a real NICE perk and amenity for sleeper car passengers. Why more don't use it, but rather stay couped up in their rooms, is beyond me. Was first to arrive at 6:30 am in the morning when it opened up.
The Flex Meals - horrible dinner (the worst flex meal I've had), breakfast was ok, but I had the continental - breakfast sandwich, oatmeal, yogurt.
There were a total of FOUR attendants in the Diner during the WHOLE trip doing service..... Sometimes I've seen two LSA's in the Viewliner II Diner, but never four! No way were four even needed, and no they were not in training. I've seen that before when about to be LSAs were going through training. Hopefully that MAYBE this is the start of ramping up staffing so traditional dining can return to the Lake Shore Limited, as it needs to as it is still a heavily travelled train. I was surprised about how busy and nearly sold out the Lake Shore Limited actually was at the end of October!
The Viewliner I Sleepers are completely showing their age. They've not aged well at all. All of the LD fleet is in need of a heavy refresh, especially the sleepers. This has got to be the longest period of time that there's not been some sort of aggressive refresh program going on. Even though Amtrak has announced a refresh program, have not ridden any cars that have been.
The Viewliner II sleepers are nice, but of the three Viewliner Sleepers in our Lake Shore Limited consist - all three sleepers were a Viewliner I. Typically a Viewliner II Sleeper was carried as on of the NYC section sleepers, or the Boston sleeper. Not sure where Amtrak is running the Viewliner II Sleepers these days. All of them should be in service, with Viewliner I's as backup/reserve.
Overall, good trip, but over-priced considering aged/rundown sleeping accommodations and food provided.
I do think that Amtrak could - for the Lake Shore Limited - and other LD trains try and create a three tier level of LD service:
1) Basic Coach Class
2) Touring / Business Class - with access to the Diner
3) Sleeper Class
The 2x1 seating is VERY marketable, as are the Viewliner II Diners.....use them towards Amtrak's advantage in pricing. Sleeper Class is just getting out of sight with pricing, but no added value.