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Trip Report/Review: ClubAcela Lounge at Washington Union Station

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Old Dec 12, 13, 10:39 am
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Trip Report/Review: ClubAcela Lounge at Washington Union Station

If anyone is interested, the full post with all images, proper formatting etc. can be found here: Weekend Blitz -- Amtrak Acela First Class: ClubAcela Lounge at Union Station Washington, D.C.

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I took my first train trip on Amtrak's Acela a few weeks ago from Washington, DC Union Station (WAS) to New York Penn Station (NYP). Because I had a First class ticket (Acela only has either Business Class & First Class), I was able to check out the ClubAcela lounge in Washington while I was waiting for my train.


You'll need to present some credentials to make it past the doors to the luxury that lies beyond. Here are the ways to get into the Lounge:

  • Access included with First Class tickets on the "high-speed" Acela train or those traveling in sleeper cars
  • Those with Select Plus/Executive status (top level Amtrak Guest Rewards status)
  • Members of United Club
  • Use a ClubAcela single day pass (you can redeem 5k points to get a 5-pack of passes)

You'll notice that ClubAcela passes cannot be purchased. If you don't have any of the credentials listed above, your best bet at getting in is to find a way to redeem points for the 5 pack of passes (ex: transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points to Amtrak).


My first impression was that the lounge is very dated feeling. Apart from the 2-3 flat panel TVs that were slapped on the wall, it looks like nothing has changed in this place in the past 2 decades. In fact, I felt as if I were transported the set of a taping of Boy Meets World in the 1990s.


Just like most airline lounges, no outside food or drinks are allowed in because "light snacks" are provided. Those "light snacks," you ask? It'll be your choice of either mini-packs of Goldfish or mini-packs of pretzels.


If you're looking for the bar with complimentary drinks, you'll be looking for a while. On par with the awesome food spread is a beverage corner that couldn't even compete with the worst of office building break rooms. There's a choice of serve-yourself fountain drinks, water or coffee. The one plus is that the coffee machine made espresso drinks and wasn't half bad. So far, that's one point for Amtrak.


OK, enough ranting about the Amtrak lounge. The good: it's a quiet place to sit and relax while waiting for your train. The outside terminal really is loud and full of hustle and bustle (moreso than an airport), so it's nice to be able to retreat to a semi-private area.

But really, how can this compete with the airlines' lounges? Amtrak makes most of its money in the Northeast corridor and specifically on the Acela routes (Washington-New York-Boston) by catering to high-margin business travelers. The competing form of travel is air travel. While there are a range of pros and cons to each form of travel (train claims to be quicker door-to-door, no pesky TSA to deal with etc...), how can Amtrak think it's competing if its lounge, which all of its best customers have access to on every trip, is so much worse than a Delta SkyClub or United Club? I would think they could make just a few changes to the overall travel experience and have people choosing train travel over air more and more.

If anyone is interested, the full post with all images, proper formatting etc. can be found here: Weekend Blitz -- Amtrak Acela First Class: ClubAcela Lounge at Union Station Washington, D.C.

----------------------------

BOTTOM LINE: ClubAcela is kind of depressing and rather pathetic. The food and beverage options are extremely limited. While it's a decent place to wait for your train in peace and quiet, there's a reason it's empty--it's not a place you'd want to hang out for too long.
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Old Dec 12, 13, 10:44 am
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Extra points for the poster advertising the now defunct Baltimore Grand Prix near the drink machines
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Old Dec 12, 13, 12:00 pm
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I was in the DC C.A. Sunday morning 12/8, 10:30-11:00 AM (FC on #2252 11:00am dep).

Things I noticed.

People can't clean up after themselves. 1/2 filled soda and coffee cups laying around, newspapers on the floor. Granted, a cleaning lady came around and picked up, but travelers should take more responsibility. And this was a Sunday with limited morning use. They could use more trash receptacles in the back section of the room.

In a perfect world, lounge amenities and train amenities would both be great, but given limited funds, I prefer Amtrak improve the onboard experience, and not the station. After all, one thing we like about train travel is NOT having to arrive two hours prior to departure.

Times I've used the lounges between trains (in DC, CHI, PDX), connection times afforded me the ability to explore downtown. So from the lounge, I mostly wanted clean restrooms and secure baggage stowage. Which I was happy with in all three locations.

Steve
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Old Dec 12, 13, 5:05 pm
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Originally Posted by ne52 View Post
Extra points for the poster advertising the now defunct Baltimore Grand Prix near the drink machines
These photos may well date back to the time frame of the Baltimore Grand Prix.

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Old Dec 12, 13, 5:36 pm
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Originally Posted by ne52 View Post
Extra points for the poster advertising the now defunct Baltimore Grand Prix near the drink machines
Originally Posted by AGR Insider View Post
These photos may well date back to the time frame of the Baltimore Grand Prix.

Anthony
I took these pictures Sep 24, 2013, about 3 weeks after the Grand Prix--so yeah, still way out of date.
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Old Dec 12, 13, 8:48 pm
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Originally Posted by jmgriffin View Post
I took these pictures Sep 24, 2013, about 3 weeks after the Grand Prix
Originally Posted by jmgriffin
I took my first train trip on Amtrak's Acela a few weeks ago
"A few weeks ago" = 11 weeks ago?

In any case, please rest assured that the offending poster was removed not long after your visit. In fact, I personally visited the lounge tonight at 9:00 to check on the state of that poster frame to ensure that no other expired poster or sign is now in its place.

By the way, during your September visit, did you notice the excellent, brand new conference room furniture in our two Washington, DC ClubAcela conference rooms (free for use by any lounge guest)? Unlike the airline lounges, we do not charge for their use. Any ClubAcela guest may call the lounge in advance to make a free reservation for a meeting in any of the four cities. This is a very high value, underutilized benefit that Amtrak offers to business travelers. The phone numbers for our ClubAcela locations are on the Amtrak.com station lounges page.


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Old Dec 12, 13, 8:51 pm
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I use the lounge weekly, and calling it dated is an understatement. The food and beverage are also quite lacking. Business travelers eat Goldfish? How about something with some nutritive value? Same can be said about the NYP lounge.
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Old Dec 12, 13, 8:55 pm
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Originally Posted by vatraveler View Post
I use the lounge weekly, and calling it dated is an understatement. The food and beverage are also quite lacking. Business travelers eat Goldfish? How about something with some nutritive value? Same can be said about the NYP lounge.
Duly noted -- there was a recent trial of Terra chips in the DC ClubAcela, but for some reason they have not returned. Each ClubAcela location is independently managed by its host station, and they make the decisions about which food and drinks to order. I have been working with DC station management to explore the possibility of alternative food options. If you have particular preferences or suggestions for the DC lounge provisions, feel free to write a letter and drop it off at the front desk next time -- the agent can pass it along to one of the station managers for consideration.

Anthony
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Old Dec 12, 13, 9:06 pm
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Originally Posted by AGR Insider View Post
Duly noted -- there was a recent trial of Terra chips in the DC ClubAcela, but for some reason they have not returned. Each ClubAcela location is independently managed by its host station, and they make the decisions about which food and drinks to order. I have been working with DC station management to explore the possibility of alternative food options. If you have particular preferences or suggestions for the DC lounge provisions, feel free to write a letter and drop it off at the front desk next time -- the agent can pass it along to one of the station managers for consideration.

Anthony
Thanks for the quick response. Will do. Don't know if it's realistic, but fresh fruit/veggies and some cheese would be nice.
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Old Dec 12, 13, 9:56 pm
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Originally Posted by vatraveler View Post
Don't know if it's realistic, but fresh fruit/veggies and some cheese would be nice.
I would prefer that they just drop the silly rule that outside food & drink can not be brought in.
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Old Dec 12, 13, 10:50 pm
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Originally Posted by CKinMD View Post
I would prefer that they just drop the silly rule that outside food & drink can not be brought in.
I agree, it's Always Been Done this Way isn't a Valid Business Policy!! You can Bring Food and Drink into the Lounges in Chicago and New York! Unfortunately Some people are Pigs but there are Cleaning People who Try to keep the Lounges Tidy for Lounge Patrons and Most of the Attendants do a Good Job also!

I Agree that Healthier Snacks Should Be Provided and Bottled Water is Also Not a Bad Idea! In the Case of the New York and Chicago Lounges, the Attendants Could Fill the Snack Baskets More Often, they are Often Empty When there are Large Crowds in the Lounge!
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Old Nov 20, 14, 3:28 pm
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Originally Posted by jimhudson View Post
I agree, it's Always Been Done this Way isn't a Valid Business Policy!! You can Bring Food and Drink into the Lounges in Chicago and New York! Unfortunately Some people are Pigs but there are Cleaning People who Try to keep the Lounges Tidy for Lounge Patrons and Most of the Attendants do a Good Job also!

I Agree that Healthier Snacks Should Be Provided and Bottled Water is Also Not a Bad Idea! In the Case of the New York and Chicago Lounges, the Attendants Could Fill the Snack Baskets More Often, they are Often Empty When there are Large Crowds in the Lounge!
Originally Posted by CKinMD View Post
I would prefer that they just drop the silly rule that outside food & drink can not be brought in.
Originally Posted by vatraveler View Post
Thanks for the quick response. Will do. Don't know if it's realistic, but fresh fruit/veggies and some cheese would be nice.
Mainly curious in following up on this thread, has the lounge at Washington Union Station improved their snack offerings? Maybe someone can offer a recent report? Also curious to see if outside food is still banned?

Thanks.
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Old Nov 22, 14, 1:11 pm
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Originally Posted by jmgriffin View Post
Mainly curious in following up on this thread, has the lounge at Washington Union Station improved their snack offerings? Maybe someone can offer a recent report? Also curious to see if outside food is still banned?

Thanks.
I was last there in October, and the snack offerings were still limited to packaged pastries at breakfast, pretzels and Goldfish the rest of the day. Every now and then, I've seen the NYP lounge offer some of those Food Should Taste Good tortilla chips; they would make a decent addition at WAS.

One thing that had changed: The alcove with the historic posters of trains was blocked off temporarily for some construction.

To be clear, while the ClubAcela could be vastly improved in WAS (having actual windows, as at BOS, would be swell), as a quiet place to grab a cup of coffee and get some work done before boarding the train apart from the usual endless line, it's fine.
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Old Nov 22, 14, 11:35 pm
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How many guests can be brought in with a United Club card?

(found my answer - 2)

Last edited by zaccaggie; Nov 22, 14 at 11:42 pm Reason: try searching the amtrak site first
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Old Nov 23, 14, 10:06 am
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Originally Posted by DCA writer View Post
To be clear, while the ClubAcela could be vastly improved in WAS (having actual windows, as at BOS, would be swell), as a quiet place to grab a cup of coffee and get some work done before boarding the train apart from the usual endless line, it's fine.
I don't care if ClubAcela is a musty underground dungeon with water dripping from exposed pipes, as long as they offer pre-boarding and ticketing help, I am perfectly content.
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