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How to Choose Amtrak Sleeping Accommodations on Overnight Trains


As a long-time Amtrak enthusiast, I’ve traveled all across the country and stayed in all the different sleeping accommodations.  To help you know the difference between a roomette and a bedroom, and a Viewliner or Superliner, read on.  Here are the various Amtrak sleeping accommodations found aboard their long-haul, overnight train trips. 

Amtrak Sleeping Accommodation
Taking a “fresh air” break next to my assigned sleeper car.

Amtrak Sleeping Accommodations

As a committed non-flyer, I needed to know how to choose between the different types of Amtrak sleeping accommodations.  First, there’s the two different actual trains.  

There are two types of Amtrak sleeping cars in the fleet: Superliner and Viewliner. The difference between the Superliner and Viewliner is that the Superliner features two levels of private accommodations in each car while Viewliner accommodations are on one single level.

READ MORE: 29 Best Tips for Taking an Amtrak Overnight Train

Difference Between an Amtrak Roomette and Bedroom

There are two types of Amtrak sleeping accommodations: a roomette and a bedroom.  While both have full-length beds, they are really two different entities.

Amtrak Superliner Deluxe Bedroom with bathroom
Amtrak Superliner deluxe bedroom with private bathroom, aboard the Sunset Limited.

Amtrak Viewliner 

Viewliner trains operate mainly along the Eastern Seaboard.  Because of its lower height, Viewliner trains can fit into the many tunnels along this route. There are a few Viewliner trains on the east coast that travel westbound as far as Chicago and south to Louisiana.  Their sleeping car accommodations are always sold out well in advance.

RELATED:  How to Pre-Book and Purchase Parking at Amtrak Stations

Viewliner train routes:

  • Cardinal – Overnight between Washington, DC and Chicago
  • Crescent– Overnight between New Orleans and New York City
  • Lake Shore Limited – Overnight between New York City and Chicago.
  • Silver Meteor – Overnight between New York City and Miami, Florida
  • Silver Star – Overnight between New York City and Tampa
Amtrak roomette
Viewliner roomette at bedtime.

The Viewliner is a one-level train and offers three types of sleeping compartments to accommodate up to two or more passengers.

  • Roomette.  It sleeps one or two passengers, bunkbed style. On the Viewliner, every Roomette has a toilet and fold-down sink. 
  • Bedroom.  Sometimes called a Deluxe Bedroom, it features a wider lower berth than the Roomette, plus the upper berth.  It also has a full private bathroom. The Bedroom sleeps two adults and maybe a very small child sharing the lower level bed with an adult. Two bedrooms can combine with adjoining door to become a bedroom suite that will comfortably sleep four people.
  • Wheel Chair Accessible Bedroom.   This larger sleeping accommodation holds two passengers, bunkbed style.  The ensuite bathroom allows for a wheel chair to easily maneuver around and into the shower. 

Viewliner Roomette at a glance

A Viewliner roomette has a picture window with two wide, reclining seats that face each other.  In the middle of the seats is a pull-up table that unfolds. There’s also an upper bunk with its own window and basket for reading glasses, etc.  

Right next to one of the seats is the “bathroom”. This consists of a fold-out sink with hot and cold spigots, a mirror, a rack for soap, tooth brush and wash cloth.  There is a small luggage storage bin up and across from the upper bunk.

An Amtrak Silver Star roomette. You still get bottled water, juice and coffee...just no proper dinner.
Amtrak Silver Star roomette. That’s the toilet with the pink lid cover.

The toilet is right there next to one of the seats.  If you’re traveling solo, it’s no big deal.  If two people are traveling in a roomette and modesty prevails, one person may choose to step outside while the other, well…you know.

Privacy curtains at the sliding door have Velcro fasteners and there’s a flip-over lock for the door.  There are two electric sockets with 120v, close enough to be able to charge your laptop while working on the pull-up table.  

Viewliner Accessible Bedroom with bathroom

There is one accessible bedroom per car.  If you need assistance to get up the two steps into the train, Amtrak has a lift for wheelchairs directly onto the train.  Reservations are encouraged. 

Amtrak accessible bedroom
Viewliner accessible bedroom with full bathroom facilities.

Can You Lock the Door If You Leave Your Sleeper?

Unlike in Europe with keycards for entry, Amtrak sleeping accommodations have no lock on the outside.

When you leave your compartment to go to the Dining Car, Café/Lounge Car, Observation Lounge, or simply to step off at a stop to stretch your legs, your compartment is unlocked.

The good news is that your car attendant seems to know who does and does not have a reservation for a sleeper and keeps an eye out for trespassers.  Europeans, used to having their compartment locked when they leave it, are usually a little flustered at first. But it all works out fine.

New Viewliner II Sleeping Cars

At the end of 2020 and moving ahead, Amtrak is gradually introducing new Viewliner cars, the first new cars in over 25 years.  The new Amtrak Viewliner roomettes do not have their own toilet.  Instead, there are two community bathrooms per car.  For twelve roomettes. 

As of the beginning of 2021, only the Silver Meteor and Silver Star have one new Viewliner II car in the train consist. Stay tuned for updates.  

Related:  Overnight trains between New York City and Miami

Amtrak coffee station in sleeping car
Amtrak coffee station in sleeping car.  Gone of course during COVID-19. Let’s hope it returns.

Amtrak Viewliner and Superliner Bedrooms

If you can afford a bedroom, go for it.  With plenty of room for your luggage, two people can travel in comfort in an Amtrak bedroom.  As you enter the bedroom, there’s a fold-out, full-length sofa (a smidgen wider than a twin bed) that runs just about from the doorway to the window. Above it is a drop-down bunk bed.  

Across from the sofa is a petit sink and countertop, with room for your toiletries. Facial tissue is provided (in the roomette, too) as well as wash clothes, hand and bath towels and soap.

Amtrak Superliner Bedroom
Superliner bedroom.  Pretty much the same as on a Viewliner.  Except for compartment “C”.  Smaller than “A” and “B”.

Best of all, there’s a private bathroom with a shower.  It’s not big and the shower is above the toilet.  Make sure to securely close the door so water doesn’t leak out onto the carpet.  It’s really nice after an overnight train ride to arrive at your destination totally refreshed.

Amtrak superliner bedroom shower
This is the en suite bathroom in a bedroom compartment, on both Viewliner and Superliner. Bath amenities are on the ledge next to the towels.

Opposite the door to the tiny bathroom is a small fold-up chair with storage rack and hooks above it.  This makes it possible for two people to sit by the window facing each other.  The door locking system is the same as the roomette.

Public Shower room for roomette passengers

At one end of each sleeping car on a Viewliner is a public shower room.  Able to accommodate only one person at a time, your car attendant will have it stocked with fresh soap for each person and neatly folded towels.  There’s a laundry basket where you can toss your used towel and wash cloth.

Amtrak sleeping car public shower room
Every sleeper car has a shower room. The attendant has even made a pretty flower with the wash cloth.

Amtrak Superliner – Roomettes and Bedrooms

The second type of train consist that Amtrak uses for overnight, long-haul routes is the Superliner.  This is Amtrak’s iconic double-decker train and offers roomettes, bedrooms and accessible bedrooms.  It operates mainly everywhere else across the USA, west of the Mississippi.  It’s too tall to fit in the east coast tunnels. 

Amtrak Superliner Routes

  • California Zephyr – between Chicago and Emeryville, California
  • City of New Orleans – between Chicago and New Orleans
  • Coast Starlight – between Seattle and Los Angeles
  • Empire Builder – between Chicago and Portland/Seattle
  • Sunset Limited – between New Orleans and Los Angeles
  • SW Chief – between Chicago and Los Angeles
  • Texas Eagle – between Chicago and Los Angeles 

How the Superliner and Viewliner differ. As I mentioned earlier, onboard the Superliner, sleeping compartments are on two levels. The Viewliner is one level.  Roomettes on the Superliner do not have an ensuite sink or toilet, as they currently do on the Viewliner.

On the lower level of the Superliner you’ll find four roomettes plus a family bedroom at one end of the car and an accessible bedroom at the other end.  It’s on this level that there are three private bathrooms, each with sink and toilet and one separate shower room.  Paper towels are available or your can bring towels from your compartment if you’re just using the bathroom to wash your hands.

Upstairs on this train, you’ll find both roomettes and bedrooms.  The four Superliner bedroom sleepers have their own enclosed bathroom.  For the ten roomettes there is only one public bathroom on the upper level.  Occasionally, I’ve been in an upstairs roomette when there were two public bathrooms.  But it’s not the norm.

How to Choose a Superliner Roomette

If you want a roomette, how do you decide which level of the Superliner is best for you?

If you’re on the upper level, the train ride is quiet and amazingly smooth.  But, as I mentioned above, there is only one bathroom to share with nine or more other roomette passengers.

If you’re in a roomette on the lower level, you will feel the train movement and hear the clickety-clack of the wheels. But, on the lower level you have access to more bathrooms and the shower room.

For those who have difficulty walking, they may prefer the lower level to not have to climb the narrow staircase to the second level.  Very convenient if you’re on the train for two or three days across country.

What’s included with Amtrak Sleeping Accommodations

No matter which Amtrak train or sleeping accommodation you choose, all of your meals are included in the dining car for the entire journey.  Meals of the microwaveable type are once again offered aboard the Silver Star and Silver Meteor trains between Tampa/Miami and New York City. 

However, the traditional, table cloth dining car with meals cooked to order, is gone. Now you have microwaved “Flexible Dining” choices.  Basically, oversalted, chemical-rich meals. But they are tasty if you don’t think about it.

The company claims that because Millennials would rather be on their phone than sit and converse with strangers at a dining table, it was more cost effective to do away with the dining car. But I disagree and digress.

Also included when you purchase an accommodation are complimentary bottled water, coffee, tea and juice, turn down service by your room attendant, individual climate control, soap, towels and tissues.

Rather than sit in a chair on an overnight Amtrak train, opt for a sleeper.  You’ll never go back to sleeping in a coach seat again!  

If you find yourself in coach and want to upgrade if a sleeper is available, you can do so without a change fee.  It’s done either by phone to Amtrak (1-800-USA-RAIL) or on the Amtrak app.

NOTE:  As of this writing, AMTRAK is gradually introducing new Viewliner II cars into the existing Viewliner fleet.  The Silver Service routes between New York and Miami now have one new sleeper car per train consist. It’s a rolling project to replace all the 25-55-year old Viewliner sleepers with new ones. 

PIN FOR LATER!Amtrak arriving station Pinterest Pin



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