Monday, August 13, 2007

All Aboard Amtrak! The Party Train Is On The Tracks!

If you're willing to pay some big bucks and jump through a few hoops, Amtrak is trying to gin up new business by offering $100 in free alcohol to customers on some overnight trains. Giving the term "Silver Bullett" new meaning, the national passenger rail company is making the unusual offer to promote a new high-end service being offered on a trial basis for certain sleeper car trips. Members of Amtrak's guest rewards program, the railroad equivalent of frequent fliers, can get a $100 per person credit for alcohol between November and January. But there's some confusion about this and DiscoverInsanity is here to set the record straight.

The offer of free drinks comes on top of the dinner wine that is already included in the cost of a ticket for GrandLuxe trips on the California Zephyr, chugging between Chicago and San Francisco, the Southwest Chief between Chicago and Los Angeles, or the Silver Meteor between Washington, D.C., and Miami or Orlando, Florida. Christina Messa, vice president of marketing for GrandLuxe, said the drinks promotion is part of an effort to revive some of the luxury of old-fashioned, cross-country train trips and keep the drunks on the trains, not on the tracks!

At about $6 for a house wine or $7 for a top-shelf scotch, that credit could fuel a long ride. The credit would not go nearly as far for, say, a $250 bottle of Dom Perignon -- also available. So how does the deal work? Well, if you've got the big bucks, here's how you get the $100 useless credit...

1. Only those who are signed up for Amtrak’s loyalty program.

2. And only those who ride on specific departure dates November-January.

3. And only those who travel in GrandLuxe Limited cars on certain routes: Chicago-San Francisco, Chicago-L.A., Washington-Miami, Washington-Orlando.

4. And those who receive the drink credits will be spending them in the GrandLuxe Limited’s bar, where a glass of Glenlivet 1983 French Oak Finish is expected to command $40 a glass.

This program is for the mighty rich. You see, the GrandLuxe offers separate cars, with their own private dining and lounge sections, attached to regular Amtrak trains. Tickets for such trips range from $789 per person for a two-day, one night trip on the East Coast to $1,599 or higher for three days and two nights for travel to or from the West Coast. A GrandLuxe trip Chicago-L.A. on the Southwest Chief costs $1,599-$2,499 one way (per person double) during this promotion. The wonderful protect-our-rights group, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, questioned whether $100 in free alcohol was too much. "This sounds like a lot of credit toward possible overindulging," said MADD spokeswoman Misty Moyse. Look ladies, if you've got to be on a train for two days, at $40 for a glass of Glenlivet, and you aren't driving, then what's the big deal? Come on, there's much more to worry about than Grandpa and Grandma getting a wee bit tipsy on the train. Maybe it'll help them negotiate up that isle a little better!

Surely, Amtrak is hoping the promotion will attract repeat customers from the ranks of those who have the time and money for long-distance rail travel. If it doesn't work, then it will definitely help promote the use of alcohol in our country. And after being on the train for two freakin' days, the tracks make look like the ones in this picture but remember, you ain't driving the train anyway!

Capitan...take me drunk, I'm home.