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Amtrak offers 2 different types of cars on their routes: The Amtrak Viewliner cars are typically run on Amtrak routes that include the Northeast Corridor, while the Amtrak Superliner cars run on most of the longhaul routes in the western United States.
Amtrak Superliner routes vs. Amtrak Viewliner routes
The Superliner is a double decker train, and as such is used mostly in the western United States. The Amtrak Viewliner routes are mostly those in the Northeast Corridor, from Washington DC up to Boston.
For a full listing of Amtrak Superliner routes and Amtrak Viewliner routes, check out Amtrak Viewliner Routes vs. Amtrak Superliner Routes
Amtrak Superliner vs. Amtrak Viewliner sleeping car accomodations
The Amtrak Viewliner cars are all just one level, and the sleeping car looks like this
Each car has 1 accessible bedroom (can only be booked over the phone), 2 Viewliner bedrooms (which can be booked together and opened up into a Bedroom Suite, and 12 roomettes, along with 2 shower / bathroom / changing rooms
The Amtrak Superliner cars are double decker, and the sleeping cars look like this:
You enter the car on the lower level. To one side you have a shower and 3 bathrooms (in pink) as well as the accessible bedroom. To the other side of the entrance on the lower level are a small luggage area, 4 roomettes and the family bedroom.
If you go upstairs, there are 10 roomettes and 5 bedrooms (2 of which can be combined together into a bedroom suite). I’ll point out that the picture makes it look like the roomettes on the lower level and upper level are different sizes but that is just an illusion of the picture – they’re all the same size.
- Roomettes – can fit 2 adults, and can be booked for 15,000 points for a 1 zone trip)
- Amtrak Viewliner and Amtrak Superliner bedrooms: Can fit 2 adults, but the lower berth is wider and so it can fit a 3rd person as well. The important thing that I learned is that if you’re using points, you can only book this for 2 people. These cost 25,000 points for a 1 zone trip
- Bedroom Suites: Since these are just 2 of the Amtrak Viewliner or Amtrak Superliner bedrooms, it can fit 4 people or 6 if you’re cozy. Again, if you’re using points, you can only use points for 4 people. These cost 50,000 points for a 1 zone trip
- Family Bedrooms: These are ONLY available on the Superliner cars, and fit 2 adults and 2 children. There is only 1 family bedroom per car, and it costs 25,000 points for a 1 zone trip
All point values come from the post about Maximizing your route on the Amtrak Zone Map
You can see a 3D tour with additional explanations (including daytime and nighttime views) and details for both of these sleeping car configuration at Amtrak’s site.
Booking Amtrak sleeper accommodations with points
For our recent Amtrak trip, we went from Ohio to Denver (1 zone) and spent 25,000 points for 2 family bedrooms each way. That was a total of 100,000 points, which was a pretty good redemption, since the cash price for the 8 of us was over $6500!!
8 of us fit perfectly into 2 family bedrooms, but the one thing that we ran into was the problem where the family bedrooms are only available on the Amtrak Superliner cars. The Cardinal that runs from Cincinnati to Chicago is run by an Amtrak Viewliner, and only runs 3 days a week, and at very inconvenient times (1:47 a.m. and 3:10 a.m.), which is why we ended up driving to Toledo to catch the Capitol Limited, which is run by an Amtrak Superliner.
Still, I could not find 2 family bedrooms for the entire route from Toledo to Denver on the dates we were looking at. So we ended up booking:
- 1 family bedroom from Toledo to Chicago, and from Chicago to Denver – 25,000 points. This was the easy one
- There was a family bedroom available on the California Zephyr from Chicago to Denver, but not from Toledo to Chicago. So for our 2nd bedroom we booked the family bedroom from Chicago to Denver and a Amtrak Superliner bedroom from Toledo to Chicago. The important thing to note, that I also mentioned above, is that even though the Superliner bedrooms can fit 3 people, if you’re booking with points, they will only credit you with 2 passengers
- So since we had 4 people in the family bedroom and 2 in the Amtrak Superliner bedroom, we had to pay the coach fare for 1 adult + 1 child from Toledo to Chicago, which ended up being about $60
I was nervous that this would be a problem since technically a coach passenger is not allowed to go back into the sleeper car sections, but it was no big deal – all 8 of us were able to hang out together without any issues. That portion of the trip was only about 5 hours before we got to Chicago and the Chicago Union Station Amtrak Metropolitan Lounge.
For our return we were able to have 2 Family Bedrooms for the whole route.
Navigating the Amtrak Superliner car
With the Amtrak Viewliner car, everything is all on one level, so navigating the train is fairly straight-forward – you just go back and forth through the hallway. With the Amtrak Superliner cars, you go between cars on the UPPER level. This was doubly confusing for us since the family bedrooms are on the LOWER level of each car. And since there is only 1 family bedroom in each sleeper car, that meant that in order to go between our 2 rooms, we had to go out of the room, up the stairs, into the next car, and then back down the stairs.
Also, I don’t know if this was a “me” problem or not, but I had the hardest time figuring out which way was front. More than once, while trying to go back to the “girls” sleeper car, I turned the wrong way and went into the wrong car. Luckily I never just walked into someone else’s room 🙂
On our train (which was a Superliner), the sleeper cars were all in the back of the train, followed by the dining car, the lounge car and then the coach seating cars.
Have you ridden an Amtrak Superliner or Amtrak Viewliner? What’s your opinion on the Amtrak Superliner vs Amtrak Viewliner?