Silver Star New York City-Fort Lauderdale Roundtrip
March 23 - April 10, 2008
On Easter Sunday, I took my 92 year old Father-In-Law (Grandpa) on an ocean cruise departing from Fort Lauderdale, Florida. We live in New Jersey, so we had to get from NJ to FL for the cruise. The last time I took Grandpa on an airplane, it was quite difficult for him, so this time we decided to go by train (with some encouragement by me!!).
We took the Silver Star from New York Penn Station and had a bedroom. This was the first time in nearly sixty years that Grandpa had been on a train. I think he was a bit concerned about the train, but that concern quickly subsided. We drove him to the city where a Red Cap with a wheelchair met us and took Grandpa to the Acela Lounge. I checked the luggage and then joined him. The Red Cap said he would return to the lounge when it was time to board the train. We enjoyed the lounge.
At approximately 11:05am, the announcement came to board. The Red Cap came and wheeled Grandpa to the train. We were in Bedroom B, which faced the front direction of the train. We were off. Our sleeper attendant was very friendly and helpful as we settled-in. There were three sleeper cars and a baggage car plus the Dining Car and Lounge Car. I think there were four coach cars at the rear. When we reached Philadelphia, we decided to go to the Dining Car for lunch while the train was stopped. Grandpa walks slowly with a cane, so the movement of the train can cause him to lose balance. We had a nice lunch (roast beef and mashed potatoes) and returned to our accommodation when we were stopped in Baltimore.
We arrived in Washington DC where the engines were changed from electric to diesel. As we departed DC, we had a quick look at some of our famous buildings and memorials. At Alexandria, VA, we saw the Masonic Tower (Grandpa is a Mason) and many new buildings and apartment complexes. We enjoyed the scenery of Northern Virginia. As dinner time approached, Grandpa decided to eat in our room rather than walking to the Dining Car. Our attendant brought him a menu and then brought his dinner. He eats slowly, so he was able to enjoy his dinner at his own speed. I went to the Dining Car and had a nice dinner.
The trip down went well. We were about one hour behind schedule. As we passed from Jacksonville to Tampa, the ride was a bit rough. It was fun to see the orange groves in the Sebring area. The trees were loaded with oranges. We proceeded to Fort Lauderdale arriving about 6:00pm. The station was quite nice. A girl met us with a wheelchair and I collected the luggage and we were off to our hotel. The following morning, we boarded the Holland America ship Maasdam for a delightful two week cruise.
We arrived back to Fort Lauderdale on schedule. Due to the change in departure time for the Silver Star from 12:30pm to 10:30am, I changed our departure day to the day following our ship arrival as I did not think we could disembark and get to the train station in time for the train. We stayed one night in Fort Lauderdale, then took the train the following morning. Our trip back to New York was good. I think the sleeper car was an older model and appeared to be well used!! We were in Bedroom A, which had our back to the direction of the train. This made viewing the scenery less attractive than facing the direction of the train. Grandpa continued to take his meals in our room which our car attendant was happy to accommodate. When we arrived in Orlando, many people boarded the train. The sleepers were nearly full and we had several children as well. The food was the same menu that we had going down and was good. Service in the Dining Car was very good and at times, there were people waiting to eat.
We arrived in Jacksonville about one hour early and waited there until the proper time to depart. During the night, the train experienced an electrical problem that caused about a three hour delay. I awoke in Columbia, SC and it was still dark. I went to the Dining Car at 6:30am for breakfast. About noon, we stopped in Raleigh, NC where I detrained for a quick walk around. The weather would be a bit cooler at each stop going North. We continued northbound at normal speeds, but we were not able to make up much time. We were served an early dinner with a limited selection since we were running late. It was a nice gesture and I think everyone was happy to have dinner since it would be after 9:00pm before we reached New York. We arrived back in New York about 2 1/2 hours behind schedule.
It was a good trip and Grandpa enjoyed going by train. He said that we must again take the train when we take our next cruise. We did enjoy excellent service and good food and company on the Silver Star.