26.9.18

REDISCOVERING THE RAILS.

Condé Nast Traveler's Paul Rubio refers to Florida's Brightline as "super chic" and "the real deal."
For now, take our advice and spend the $15–$20 (depending on route length) to zip around South Florida at 79 mph on Brightline. It’s a fair price for a major respite from traffic, road rage, and crazy Florida drivers. And for visitors, it’s a steal compared to the $40-$65 rideshare it takes to get between Miami to Fort Lauderdale and a mega-bargain compared to the $100+ rideshare between Miami and West Palm Beach.
Yes, and the creature comforts put the other [Amtrak and commuter] Florida passenger train services to shame, plus you really shouldn't drink and drive.  But allowing fifteen minutes before train time to check in?  Somewhere Paul Reistrup is frowning.
The stations are easy to navigate (thanks in part to the prolific screens with train status updates), and if you arrive 15 minutes before scheduled departure, that should be more than enough time to board. Use the Brightline app to self-scan your digital boarding pass, speed through security—there’s no line—and settle into the pre-boarding lounge. Each seat in Brightline’s lounges serves as a charging station, so there’s no need to ever sit on the floor just to plug in. FYI: We already asked and that incredible scent that fills the stations and train cars is Brightline's grapefruit musk. (The signature new train smell is so lovely, Brightline is turning it into candles for purchase.)
Hmm, maybe buy some of those candles for operating sessions?

Then Standard Class gets an upgrade, or perhaps it's an endorsement.
You’ve got two main options with booking, ‘Smart’ and ‘Select,’ which basically amount to premium economy and business class, respectively (there’s no coach). If you book in the Smart class, you’ll still get access to comfy seats, free Wi-Fi, and the greater Brightline train experience. Unfortunately, there isn't a bar car onboard. Instead, friendly attendants pass by to offer beverages (alcoholic and non) and snacks for purchase (from gourmet chips to Larabars).

If you ask us, though, the Select service is worth the upgrade. It’ll cost $15-$20 more (depending on route length), which, yes, is double, but a small price for an extreme treat yo’ self journey. Before the ride, gain access to the station’s Brightline Select Lounge, which offers five fine wines and champagne—selections do change but during a recent trip our cups runneth over with Heidsieck & Co Monopole and Gérard Bertrand Côte des Roses rosé. There’s also a selection of craft beers, soft drinks, freshly squeezed OJ, and Illy coffee plus food choices throughout the day like freshly baked goods by local bakery Zak the Baker and imported Italian charcuterie and cheese in the later hours.
The run might be too short to warrant putting a staffed bar car on the train.  I mourn, though, at the loss of institutional memory of what a railway coach used to look like.  If your only frame of reference is a bus or airline seat, or the seating on commuter cars, yes, "Smart" looks like "premium economy."  Seventy years ago, reclining seats in coach looked like this.


That's the Nebraska Zephyr, with seating set up for a day train.  You really want roomy coach seats, consider the 44 or 48 or 52 seat cross-country coaches with leg-rest reclining seats.  But direct your attention to the forward bulkhead: yes, that's 82 mph being registered: we knew how to give Brightline a run for its money years ago.

That noted, the Select service gave Mr Rubio value for money.
When boarding the designated Select car, expect an attendant to welcome you by name, show you to your seat, and offer a cold towel. During the voyage, the complimentary food and drink carries on. Eat your way through some 20 different snack choices (from gummy bears to Kind bars), feast on heartier bento boxes (filled with goodies like hummus, crackers, and olives), and be sure to continue that endless pour (as long as you don't cause your own “disruption”).
Dang, that "bento box" puts Amtrak's balsa boxes to shame, doesn't it?

If you are in Southeast Florida, do give Brightline a try.

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