July 3, 2010
Over the 4th of July weekend, I took my daughter, her husband, and my 14 month old granddaughter to Portland, Maine. I purchased business class tickets form Woburn, Massachusetts to Portland for the three of us (tickets were not required for my granddaughter.
We left on Saturday morning and returned on Monday afternoon.
Woburn was the first stop for the Downeaster out of North Station in Boston. I was surprised to find that not only was the café car out of hot dogs by then, they had only one Italian sub sandwich. My daughter had a vegetable sub and graciously gave the Italian sub to me.
The trip was comfortable and was far better – and I mean REALLY far better – than driving up I-95 on a holiday weekend so any criticisms of the trip can really be overlooked unless one enjoys driving in heavy traffic.
We were about 20 minutes late getting in to Portland but it isn’t worth complaining about, the entire trip took about two hours and forty-five minutes.
We stayed at the Eastland Park Hotel in downtown Portland. They provide free shuttle service when you arrive and again when you leave.
On the trip back an announcement was made about a half hour before the train started boarding that a speed restriction had been set and therefore the train would be about 34 minutes to an hour late. The announcement let it be known that tickets could be refunded if anyone wanted to take alternate transportation. This might sound like an empty gesture but the transit center, where the train ends and originates, is also a terminal for buses. There is a shuttle bus to Logan Airport in Boston and to some other New England cities. The Jet Port, served by four or five major airlines, is also not far from the transit center so arranging other transportation on short notice is not out of the question.
I learned once the train departed that due to the oppressive heat the speed restriction was put in place by the owners of the railroad and not by Amtrak. It was a safety issue, enacted automatically once the temperature reaches a certain level.
The Downeaster is not a long distance train so you won’t find some of the amenities you might really want on a train trip. However, it was affordable ($106.00 business class for three adults) and saves the stress of driving on I-95, which can be very stressful. I would definitely do it again.