I recently spent over 23 hours aboard an Amtrak train from Florida to New York on the Silver Star. Here’s what it is like now that flexible dining is improved and the new Viewliner II cars are in service.
If you know me at all or read my “About Me”, you know that Amtrak is my best friend. Because I don’t fly, I have to hop onto an Amtrak overnight train from Florida to New York to get almost anywhere in the U.S.
In this article, you’ll find everything you need to know to take an Amtrak train from Florida to New York. Or New York to Florida!
Travel along with me, a long-time Amtrak fanatic, to see what it’s really like to stay and sleep in a 23-square-foot roomette aboard Amtrak Silver Star from Florida to New York.
Taking an Amtrak Overnight Train From Florida to New York
To get to New York from Florida, there’s either the Amtrak Silver Star or Silver Meteor.
Because the Amtrak Silver Star arrives into New York City in the evening, I planned an overnight stay at Fairfield Inn and Suites.
This small hotel is right across the street from the new Moynihan Train Hall. Very convenient.
With an overnight if you’re continuing westbound, you should have some time to tour and explore the new Moynihan Train hall.
Here’s What It’s Like to Spend 23 Hours on Amtrak
Starting from the very beginning in Central Florida.
6:00 PM – I arrived early at the small but busy Amtrak station in the heart of downtown Winter Park, Florida. I’ve tried the Orlando and Kissimmee train stations and prefer the one in Winter Park. It’s also more convenient to rent a car here, if you’re headed to Port Canaveral for a cruise.
My overnight train was scheduled to arrive into Winter Park on time at 7:41pm. I checked-in with the station agent and handed her my large suitcase for checked baggage.
With my small wheeled carry-on bag in tow, I walked across the street to Park Avenue for a coffee, eye always on the clock.
7:15 PM – I checked the Amtrak app Train Status every 10 minutes. I get nervous in case the train arrived early so I headed back to the station.
It’s a little scary because if the train arrives early, there’s no way to cross the train tracks to board the train.
7:30 PM – The Amtrak station agent announced the arrival of our train. All the waiting passengers scattered to their designated boarding points along the platform, careful not to get too close to the yellow line.
Coach passengers, bound for various destinations, stood at different places along the platform. Sleeping car passengers, like me, had our own area to congregate.
There were only four of us in sleepers compared to at least twenty-five coach passengers.
Amtrak makes twenty-four station stops along the way from Florida to New York City. It was anyone’s guess who was going where.
7:41 PM – Amtrak’s Silver Star made its rumbling approach into Winter Park. From the distant first blast of the train whistle to the slow grinding halt, everyone on the platform felt the energy.
Who doesn’t get excited to get on a train? I should know…I’m one of them!
7:50 PM – My train car attendant checked my ticket, hoisted my small overnight suitcase onto the train and carried it into my roomette. I neatly set it where it always goes; on a ledge next to the oversized seat.
As you can see below, the new Viewliner II roomette is quite different. There is still a sink but no toilet in the room. You have to use one of the public bathrooms in your car.
Tucked away into my little compartment, I said a quiet goodbye to Winter Park. Within a few minutes we traveled from bustling urban sprawl to pastoral rural Florida.
Another Amtrak overnight train ride from Florida was under way.
Dinner in the Dining Car? Not This Trip
A couple of years before the pandemic, in 2018, Amtrak’s president (from Delta Airlines no less) decided that a proper meal on Amtrak was a waste of money, so within weeks, the dining cars on both Florida trains were gone.
On this train from Florida, whether in coach or a sleeper, were stuck with a narrow selection of microwaved meals or snacks from only one café car.
Imagine just one café car for three sleeper cars and at least four coach cars. Several hundred people needing food and drink. The queues were a one hour long wait. What an idiotic idea. That concept didn’t last very long.
Silver Star Dining Finally Resumes…Sort Of
Amtrak’s Traditional Dining with meals cooked in the galley and tables adorned with tablecloths, plates and silverware have returned. But only on long-distance westbound Amtrak trains.
However, the two Amtrak trains to Florida and New York (Silver Star and Silver Meteor) now have what’s called, “Flexible Dining.”
What is Amtrak “Flexible Dining”?
Flexible Dining is Amtrak’s current solution to improved dining. With the new Flexible Dining menu, there are two options for where you can eat your meal.
You can choose to have your meals in your cozy room or sit in a booth in the bare-bones dining car where meals can be ordered and eaten.
Flexible Dining Only for Sleeping Car Passengers
Complimentary for Sleeping Car customers, Amtrak offers their flexible dining service on several trains. This includes:
- A menu with hot, ready-to-serve choices for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
- A selection of wine, beer and spirits (the first one is complimentary),
- Unlimited soft drinks throughout the journey
- Flexible dining times without the need for reservations
If you reserved a coach seat, there’s a full-service Café Car available for all passengers to purchase meals, snacks and beverages.
Amtrak Flexible Dining Menu
8:00 PM – I knew that our sleeping car attendant was busy running back and forth to the galley to our car, so I was patient for my dinner. I can look out the window for hours, day or night.
Finally, I heard the knock on my door signaling that the attendant had my dinner. My little pop-up table was ready for action.
I was hungry so all the components to my meal were appreciated. Including the complimentary bottle of wine.
This is the Atlantic Salmon and Shrimp with Brown Rice and veg. A side salad, dinner roll with butter and a Manifesto Blonde Brownie rounded out my dinner.
Entrées are prepared in ovens and delivered with tin foil covers, remarkably still hot.
Because I watch my sodium intake, I sort of scraped off some of the sauce and ate about 2/3 of the dinner. But that was fine. I love Manifesto brownies so that made dinner a complete success.
Was it restaurant quality? No. But it was eons better than those microwaved meals from 2018.
9:30 PM – First Fresh Air Break – Jacksonville
In Jacksonville, there’s about a 20-minute layover. A lot of people leave the train and quite a few board here.
Smokers can step off the train and do their thing.
Even if the train is running late, I always try to walk the length of the train back and forth several times to stretch my legs.
I’ve counted 35 steps per length of the train car. If there are 10 cars, the length walked each way is about 350 steps and so on.
If you’re going to be mostly sitting on the train, if you don’t have mobility issues, it’s always good to get outside and walk a bit.
9:50 PM – The conductor yells, “‘Board” and everyone scrambles to their respective car door to hop onboard. The train doesn’t wait for stragglers.
Earlier, when my car attendant asked what time I would like my bed turned down, I asked for as soon as we leave Jacksonville.
Overnight in an Amtrak Roomette
Promptly at 10 PM, Charles knocked on my door. I stepped out into the hallway so he would have enough space to fold out my bed.
The two chairs slid out from the bottom to meet and convert to an almost twin-sized bed. What a thrill it was (it really was!) to see new linens, feel new thicker pillows and especially to have an actual soft blanket.
Just a short while ago Amtrak had dark blue blankets were nearly Army-issue quality. In winter, I’d have to ask for two of them.
Not anymore. This is definitely a major improvement; new thicker mattresses, soft blankets, smooth linens and comfortable pillows.
I like that the blankets are individually wrapped. Several years ago that you never knew if your army-issue blue blanket was clean or not.
My bed turned down, an extra pillow added (at my request), shades closed and the tiny reading light above my bed lent a welcoming glow to the room.
Kindle in hand, I read for a while, and always peeked out from behind the shades to see where we had stopped. As the passengers stepped off the train, hugs were the norm as families and friends were reunited.
Shades closed again, I went to sleep somewhere around midnight.
The motion of the train doesn’t bother me at all. I’ve heard people say that they fall asleep on an airplane before it takes off. I can do that on the train.
Good Morning From…
7:00 AM – Southern Pines, North Carolina. It was a quiet ride along the tracks, and I slept great. Even though the train makes stops during the night, I didn’t notice it.
Of course I couldn’t help but “play” the music and lyrics to that old Carolina song over and over in my head. Oh well, it goes with the territory.
8:00 AM – Time to eat again. For coach passengers, it’s either pay-as-you-go in the Café care or brown bag it with food from home.
For sleeping car passengers, the Flexible Dining breakfast selection is minimal, but covers all the bases.
It had been 2 long pandemic years since I last rode Amtrak and I looked forward to what has always been called, “Railroad French Toast.”
So much so that I brought a small bottle of real maple syrup from home just for this special breakfast. As with dinner, I’d eat in my roomette rather than in the bare-bones and cold dining car.
As always, there’s the piping hot “train” coffee. Years ago, Amtrak coffee was so strong it didn’t even need a cup. Now it’s mellowed a bit and your cup doesn’t stay empty for too long.
I also pack a bunch of Starbuck’s Via Decaf packs. If I’m on caffeine overload, I just ask for hot water.
Turns out, these are the same ones that Amtrak now serves if you ask for decaf.
9:30 AM – By the time I returned to my room from picking up my pre-ordered breakfast, we were almost out of North Carolina. Edging into southern Virginia and only ten hours to New York.
In the short span of time that I walked to and from the dining car, my room was already made up. The bed was stowed into the wall and chairs popped back up.
I ate all of my oven-heated Railroad French Toast!
Can You Take a Shower on Amtrak?
Yes you can!
In case someone feels the need to shower, there is a public shower room in each sleeper car. No one ever seems to use it and they’re alway clean.
On really long-haul trips, I’ll grab my shampoo, conditioner and rubber flip-flops and head over to the shower room. It’s challenging to take a shower on a train going 80 mph, but fun to try.
Each roomette has two electric outlets, so after your shower, you can use your hair dryer and charge your phone at the same time. Ooh. The simple things in life. Or bring a non-surge protector with multiple outlets.
Amtrak Dining and Meal Time Again
Before I knew it, the Dining Chief announced yet another meal; it was time for lunch. I closed up my laptop, slipped my shoes back on and made the “long” walk back to the dining car. Didn’t I just do this a few minutes ago?
I should mention that, unlike overnight accommodations on trains in Europe, Amtrak rooms do not lock from the outside. Of course you can lock yourself in at night.
While I have never had anything stolen when I’ve left my roomette or bedroom, it’s a good idea not to leave your computer or electronics out in plain sight.
I also always close my curtains that open to the hall so that no one can see in if I’m away.
1:00 PM – Rather than repeat what I wrote about the last two meals, I’ll quickly note that lunch was quite good. There’s a selection of hot and cold meals and sandwiches, a chef’s salad, soup and of course, dessert.
3:30 PM – By mid-afternoon we were well into Virginia. It’s amazing how close the train is to so many beautiful old homes in smaller towns.
Sometimes I try to imagine what it would be like to live in one of these quaint houses and watch the trains pass by ’round the clock.
The next major stop where we could leave the train to stretch would be Washington, D.C. One of my favorite longer stops.
Though both Amtrak trains from Florida take 19- to 23-hours, the day always seems to quickly pass.
Soon we were in Washington, D.C. En route, the train raced through Richmond,VA as well as a couple of university towns.
It’s interesting scenery, so I probably spent as much time looking out of my window as I did trying to write my notes for this story.
Amtrak Silver Star Route
The Amtrak Silver Star train route from Florida to New York is picturesque. It’s even more beautiful in winter. A dusting of snow and towns look like something in a gently shaken snow globe.
In any season, the train rolls past what looks like Norman Rockwell village scenes. Singularly lit little houses and colorful storefronts are so close you’d think you could touch them.
It’s almost like you were suddenly transported to the middle of a carefully assembled toy train set. It’s all too quaint.
6:00 PM – We were now running about three hours behind schedule. Our 3:04 PM arrival into Washington, D.C. meant getting to New York around 10 PM or so.
At least my hotel was right across the street from the new train station.
The fascinating thing about arriving into Washington is that the train engines are swapped. From Florida to Washington, the engine runs on diesel.
But from Washington to New York, Amtrak engines run on electricity. So it’s off with the diesel and on with the electric engine.
The job is tricky but these guys have it all figured out. I always watch the de-coupling of the diesel engine and watch in awe as the engineer ever so slowly backs the new engine to reconnect with the train. (Photo by Sherry Laskin / Cruise Maven)
Mechanics jump down to track level and secure the fittings. I should know the technical terms after all these years, but I don’t.
6:30 P.M. or thereabouts – The bellowing of ‘Board’ by the conductor and it was again a mad scramble to get onto the train.
Washington is perfect for a good walkabout on the platform but as soon as the new engine is connected, off you go!
On the way again with the scheduled arrival into New York even later. The original 7:00 P.M.-ish arrival into NYC was now closer to 11 P.M. Ugh.
A new and unfamiliar train station, finding the luggage carousel and the correct exit door for the hotel had me a little on edge.
The good news was that there would still be time for an early dinner. Usually on this Florida to New York train, there isn’t dinner service because of the 7:10 PM arrival.
But because we were late, the café car would be open for early dinner meal purchases. Also, I was hoping to get my “special” dinner that missed the train in Florida.
On this trip, I wanted to try the kosher meals. While I don’t keep kosher, after doing some due diligence with Amtrak Food Facts, I learned that the kosher meals have the least amount of sodium!
Can You Get Kosher Meals on Amtrak?
The answer is yes…but it’s tricky. You have to order a kosher meal at least 72-hours before departure day. Then hope that someone in Amtrak’s commissary (in major cities) remembers to load the kosher meal onto the train.
Unfortunately, since so few people know Amtrak offers kosher meals, quite often these prepared dinners are not loaded on the train.
This was the case from this train’s Miami departure. When I asked the conductor in Winter Park if my kosher meal was onboard, he asked the Dining Manager. The answer was, “No..,they forgot.”
I was told that in Washington, D.C., they’d make sure that a kosher meal was delivered along with the rest of the supplies.
And it worked! My kosher meal was indeed onboard for this last 5-hour segment to New York.
The kosher meals are two separate packages. Your room attendant and/or the galley chef may not have ever seen Amtrak’s kosher meal packages.
But there are two; one is cold with salad, roll, butter, and dessert. The second package is your main hot meal. It’s a good idea to mention the two-package dinner to your room attendant or the galley chef.
I was glad to have dinner. An 11:00 PM arrival into New York meant that it would be too late to get any food.
Ready to Arrive into New York
10:00 PM – Finally, the Silver Star was nearing New York. Florida seemed like eons ago.
It was time to organize and pack up my overnight gear. Over the years, I’ve learned to pack specifically for the train so repacking isn’t too difficult.
Stowing all my electronic stuff slows me down. Cords, chargers, phone, camera, batteries…all have to be put away.
If you’re wondering why I have my camera unpacked, it’s because I keep it at the ready to take photos from the train. My camera and my iPhone are always close at hand.
How to Take Photos From an Amtrak Train
I love taking photos and videos from the train. And it’s taken me a few years to get it done with success. It also helps to know the route, where specific landmarks are and be ready to get the photo.
If you are remotely interested in how to do this, just remember to be ready to shoot. Going 70 mph, you have to frame and shoot pretty fast. Lighting is also an issue as is the glaring reflection in the window.
I find it helps to sit in the chair that faces forward, (there are two chairs in a roomette). When you spot something coming up ahead, you quickly jump to the other chair that makes you sit backwards.
The angle of looking back at the glass window diminishes the glare or reflection so you can get a pretty good shot. That’s how I was able to get this shot of the Jefferson Memorial. I was also going from Florida to New York.
You must check for dirt spots on the window. I bring a small spray bottle of windex, (yes I do!) just for cleaning the glass.
It’s important to remember to turn off the lights in your roomette. You can also put the window curtain behind you, just like old-time photographers used to do.
Silver Star Arrives New York
10:45 PM – Our train began its descent under the Hudson River. This takes about 3-4 minutes in the one-way tunnel (built in 1910.)
The ascent begins, your ears pop and the train slows to a halt. My room attendant had already taken my suitcase to the exit door.
All I needed to do was a last-minute room check, grab my overnight pack and walk to the exit. For those with more luggage or needed assistance, Amtrak’s Red Cap service was offered.
This is a free service where you and your luggage are on small golf cart type conveyances, that transports you to the upstairs Train Hall.
As the train slowly came to a halt, the transom opened, the stairs unfolded and an extended arm from the attendant helped all of us alight from the train. Now to find my way upstairs to the new Moynihan Train Hall.
To get your bearings, Moynihan Train Hall is directly across the street from the original Penn Station. It opened for service on January 1, 2021.
For this one night, Fairfield Inn and Suites, directly across from the new train station, was perfect.
The next afternoon, I’d board the Lake Shore Limited for Chicago.
How Much is an Amtrak Ticket with Roomette From Florida to New York
For my Amtrak ticket from Florida to New York, I paid $546 plus a $20 tip for my room attendant. This included my roomette, bottled water and four meals.
The deluxe bedroom was double the price of a roomette. For a one-night trip, a roomette for me was fine.
Is Amtrak worth the time and money? I’d have to give a resounding “Yes!” Even though I don’t fly, I love to see all the places in the U.S. that you just can’t see on a road trip. And definitely not from 40,000′ in the air.
I always tell people that for me, my vacation begins the minute I set foot on a train. Yes, it’s a slower pace and at times frustrating when you arrive late.
But airlines cancel flights all the time. They also arrive late. And unless you’ve paid for Business or First Class, you’re crammed in like cattle in a pen.
RELATED AMTRAK READING FROM CRUISE MAVEN
- Complete Amtrak Guide to Plan Your Train Trip
- My 15 Best Tips for a First-Time on Amtrak
- How to Bring Your Dog on Amtrak
- Amtrak Coach Seats Travel Tips and Advice
I’m the editor and creator of CruiseMaven.com, a solo traveler cruising the world on waves and wheels, collecting recipes along the way. I hope my articles and photos entertain, advise and inspire you to travel the world without flying. Take a breath…stop for a local meal and a glass of wine along the way.