Amtrak’s Silver Star service offers access to Florida’s Gulf Coast from the Northeastern Seaboard.
Amtrak run a number of trains on the Atlantic Coast Service on the eastern seaboard; namely the Amtrak Silver Star (Train 91 and 92) and Silver Meteor (Train 97 and 98) between New York and Miami.
Another service, the Palmetto goes from New York to Savannah in Georgia (it used to go all the way to Tampa).
If you wish to travel with your car, then there is also the Auto Train which operates between Lorton just outside Washington DC and Sanford near Orlando.
The Silver Star takes a similar route to the Silver Meteor but it takes a more westerly route through the Carolinas and detours to Tampa on the Gulf Coast
The Silver Star runs one service a day in each direction with journey times of over 30 hours covering 1522 miles (2449 kms).
Train 91 operates the southbound service leaving New York at 11:02 a.m. each day and arriving in Miami at 5:58 p.m. the next day.
Amongst the stops are Philadelphia, Washington DC and then on through Virginia, North and South Carolina including Charleston, Savannah in Georgia and then Jacksonville, Orlando and Tampa in Florida.
The northbound train 92 leaves Miami at 11:50 a.m. and arrives in New York at 6:50 p.m. the following day.
Stops in Florida are Jacksonville, Palatka, DeLand, Winter Park, Orlando, Kissimmee, Lakeland, Tampa, Lakeland, Winter Haven, Sebring, Okeechobee, West Palm Beach, Delray Beach, Deerfield Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Hollywood and Miami.
A number of destinations in Northern Central Florida and the Gulf Coast south of Tampa are catered for by a Thruway motorcoach service (see below).
To see the full list, check out the list of Amtrak stations in Florida including Thruway connections.
Seating and sleeping cars
All seats must be reserved and the cheapest ticket is a Coach Seat in one of the Amfleet coaches which is a bit like a typical Business Class airline seat, which reclines with a fold down tray and individual reading lamp.
It you want a bit more privacy and to sleep in a bed then there is a choice of a Viewliner Roomette or Viewliner Bedroom.
The Viewliner Roomette is designed for one or two passengers with two comfortable reclining seats facing each other by a large picture window. At night the seats convert into a bed and a second upper berth with its own picture window folds down from the wall. The cabin also includes a washbasin and a toilet (not enclosed), a garment rack, fold-down table and climate control. Public showers are located nearby.
The Viewliner Bedroom is similar to the Roomette but can accommodate three passengers at a pinch (two sharing the lower berth). Most of the facilities are the same as the Roomette, but the lower berth converts from a two seater sofa and the room also has an enclosed toilet and private shower and a separate armchair.
Two Viewliner Bedrooms can be combined to make a Viewliner Bedroom Suite.
The Viewliner Accessible Bedroom has space for wheelchair storage and can also accommodate three passengers at a pinch. A large sofa seating three converts into the lower berth and is suitable for a passenger with a mobility impairment. A second upper berth is suitable for a companion. There is also a wheelchair accessible toilet in the cabin and meals can be served in the cabin is required.
Dining & Entertainment
The Silver Star has a full-service Dining Car and a Lounge. Hot meals are prepared for breakfast, lunch and dinner for both Coach and First Class passengers.
Breakfast menus include a variety of hot and cold entrees, such as pancakes, omelettes, cooked-to-order eggs or a continental breakfast. For lunch, choose from burgers, sandwiches, pizzas and salads. At dinner time, menu items include New York strip steak, catfish, chicken, pasta and other entrees plus a selection of wines and desserts.
Coffee, tea, milk or juice is included in the price of the main entree for all meals and there is a separate children’s menu.
You can watch movies in the Lounge (headphones can be purchased onboard) or grab a sandwich, snack and a beverage.
Note that the Silver Star is a strictly no smoking service. Passengers wishing to smoke may smoke on some station platforms during stops but listen out for the “All Aboard” announcements.
With a Viewliner ticket you are given First Class status and all your meals are included in the price of the ticket as well as fresh towels and bedlinen, soap and shower amenities, turn-down service, bottled water and a wake-up service with coffee, tea, juice and daily newspaper.
With a First Class ticket you also have access to the Club Acela® lounges in New York, Philadelphia and Washington plus the private waiting area at Miami station.
Thruway connections provide a co-ordinated train/motor coach service with connections at the Amtrak station.
On the Silver Star service, from Jacksonville you can connect to Waldo, Gainesville, Ocala, The Villages, Wild Wood and Dade City, from Tampa to St. Petersburg, Bradenton, Sarasota, Port Charlotte and Fort Myers on the Gulf Coast and from DeLand to Daytona Beach on the Atlantic Coast.
Each passenger is entitled to bring aboard up to two pieces of carry-on baggage (weight limit of 50 lbs per bag and maximum size of 28 x 22 x 14 inches) excluding personal items such as briefcases, purses, laptops, and infant items such as strollers, diaper bags and car seats.
At most stations, you can also check in up to three pieces of luggage at no charge (weight limit of 50 lbs per bag and maximum size of 36 x 36 x 36 inches). An additional three pieces can be checked in with a charge of $10.00 per bag.
Look out for the official Red Caps to help you with your baggage when arriving at the station (not available at all stations).
The Palmetto follows the same route as the Silver Star but these days it only goes as far as Savannah, Georgia.
It offers Business Class Service, including a complimentary non-alcoholic beverage service, newspapers and audio/video entertainment, priority boarding and other amenities.