Transit Adventures

Home From Cape Cod in High-Speed Luxury: The Provincetown IV to Acela Express First Class

Today is my day to head home from this Downeaster to the CapeFlyer Trip in High Speed Luxury: the Bay State Ferry Company’s Provincetown High Speed Ferry leaving at 3:00pm to the last Acela Express train of the evening, leaving at 5:20 using an upgrade coupon for first class travel. The day begins with an amusing moment in the morning. Other folks are arriving to visit my Aunt by ferry in Provincetown and I think that their losing their minds with a 3:30pm arrival time while the ferry I’ve planned my trip home around leaves at 3:00pm, and they just run one boat. I don’t realize until this morning as we figure out logistics and I finally google and find the listing for the other ferry company. It turns out that there are two high-speed ferry companies running the Boston — Provincetown market! I do quickly do a price comparison and notice that they both have the ferry company I’ve booked is one dollar more $54 verus $53 for me and the same $48 price for my senior grandmother. They leave from the same dock in Provincetown but arrive in different places in Boston. Our ferry is at the World Trade Center that should be an easy walk into South Station (or I’ll pay for the Silver Line if I’m in a real time crunch).

The Ferry Ride:

We leave Wellfleet by car at about 1:35 to start driving north to Provincetown. There isn’t any traffic until we turn off of Route 6 to go down to Commercial Street (the heart of Provincetown) and where the town dock is where the ferry leaves from. There cops directing the backed up traffic and one tells us where to turn and to make sure we tell his buddy at the next intersection to let us turn since were dropping off at the ferry. The next cop doesn’t want us to turn left (the downtown parking lots are all full on this grey afternoon) but when we tell him were dropping off at the town dock he agrees to let us turn left. We get to the dock at about 2:15. I first hop out of the car and pick up our tickets (two cardboard tickets that the agent writes the date and time on the stub-off with a sharpie) at the beginning of the dock. Then we drive out to the end of it where the ferries depart from and get dropped off. I leave my grandmother at the dock with our luggage and walk back the length of the pier to buy a Berger and some clam chowder for both of us for a light late lunch. I then join her in the line of passengers lining up for the ferry, as it arrives at about 2:40 to discharge just arriving passengers.

We Board at 2:50 through two gangways up to doors onto the Brand New Provincetown IV (launched just a few weeks before!). I realize my camera has died (I spaced on recharging it) and we head upstairs to sit out on the upper deck. By the time I go back downstairs to try and find an outlet, the indoor deck is so crowded I don’t bother looking for an outlet that I assume exists somewhere.

  • 3:00pm – We get un-tied and start pulling away from the dock for an on-time departure
  • 3:02 – The horn, to officially indicate were leaving the dock
  • 3:04 – We slowly leave the pier with the safety announcement finishing with “We’ll get you back to Boston as fast as we can safely”
  • 3:06 – Out of the port with yachts and sailboats and hear the jets of the catamaran engines firing up. We speed up, leaving the cape and head across Buzzards Bay.
  • 3:20 – Pass the competitor ferry, Boston Harbor Cruise’s Salacia, going towards Provincetown, another person visiting my Aunt on the Cape are aboard this ferry, were too far away to wave. Cape Cod fades off into the distance.
  • 3:40 – See land near Plymouth, that has another ferry would be the closest place to arrive in but were staying way wide of it as we head north up the coast towards Boston.
  • 4:12 – A light house
  • 4:26 – Pass Hull, much closer to land and Boston Light passing houses.

The final 20 minutes of the cruise are extremely scenic between islands that shelter Boston Harbor, (it’s container port is quite small) some old forts and even the end of the runways at Logan Airport. I’m quite mad at myself for forgetting to charge my camera.

We arrive. There is a little water taxi, just a small motor boat without any sort of deck or shelter and a sign on it that says Logan Airport: $10. They announce this connecting tiny boat over the ferry’s PA system and my grandmother decides to connect to it to reach the airport. We pull up to the dock and have the benefit of disembarking through two gangways again, at 4:45 I’m at the dock, giving a quick goodbye to my grandmother who is flying back to Syracuse at about 7:15.

Acela Express 2175 – First Class Home: Fast Until Slow at Metro-North territory 
I google the distance to South Station and find out its a mile away. I’m debating taking the Silver Line since I need to still stop in the ClubAcela to upgrade my Acela trip but decide a nice fast walk is perfect. I have a very good faster walk out of the Seaport area and across the bridge over the little inlet and down to South Station. I enter and go straight into the ClubAcela getting there at 5:00pm.

The ClubAcela agent is the same friendly women as two days ago when I left South Station to head for the Cape. She says “Weren’t you here the other day.” I say yes, I had an excellent time on Cape Cod. I have two vouches, my last one from Select Status from last year and a current Select+ one. I realize that the Select one expired at the end of July and the agent says “Don’t worry about it, it only expired two weeks ago,” excellent 4 more to try and use up (or give away) before the beginning of next March. She also asks me for ID this time (the agents at the couple of times I’ve gotten tickets in the New York Club Haven’t).

I’ve booked a BOS-NYP-NWK multi-city ticket to get an extra 100 AGR points for a PATH fare again. In the past an upgrade coupon apparently would upgrade all continuous segments but the agent apologizes that this is now longer the case, when I ask her. I never quite had a chance to take advantage of this policy. I guess I could have enjoyed a quick cocktail and peanuts going from New York to Newark (it would have made an amusing blog post), oh well. I grab some goldfish and something to drink as the agent processes my upgrade. It takes her two tries (including printing the incorrect tickets), she appoligizes but upgrading a multi-segment ticket is harder. It’s now about 5:07 when I ask the agent for the track assignment, she tells me its already posted. I apologize, its posted as Track 6 but the train isn’t listed as boarding yet. I leave the Club with a paper ticket for my upgraded segment and an exchange receipt showing that I paid $109 and had the entire amount exchanged.

I walk outside and find a long line of people waiting to walk down past the tiny opening in the corral that closes off the platform for track 6. There is a gate usher checking tickets and finds a confused passenger with a Regional ticket for the 5:35 train who I guess doesn’t understand this isn’t her track. She is sent out of the line. I walk the length of the platform seeing that First Class is at the front of today’s train and board through the front door behind the locomotive.

I sit down at a 1×1 table, the attendant comes (doesn’t check my ticket at the door this time, or folds it up into the magnetic seat check area), offers a mini water bottle and asks me if I need anything else. I decide to finally have an Amtrak provided cocktail and order a Gin and Tonic. It soon comes complete with a lime wedge before we leave South Station. This is the way to travel, the Bombay Sapphire Gin is quite good. No sign of the ramekins nuts to enough with it though. A police dog and its handler walks the train.
We leave at 5:21 with a double toot we leave the station. I notice the police dog is riding the train in the front vestibule.

At 5:26 we come to a stop at Back Bay, discharging one person and an animal, the police dog and its handler. The car fills up a bit more. We platform across from a Commuter Train and leave at 5:28.

  • 5:30 – Ruggels bypassed and a commuter train. My ears pop in a tunnel
  • 5:31 – Jackson Square, we pick up speed and I lose track of the Orange Line subway stops.
  • 5:32 – Forest Hills
  • 5:33 – Hyde Park
  • 5:34 – Readville

We slow down passing a field, Were coming into Route 128. At 5:36 we stop at Route 128-University Park Station. No mention of menus and dinner. I have a feeling their waiting until we have all left Boston.
We speed up to the nearly full speed section through the Commuter Rail Stations, I don’t try and keep track of them. The attendant comes with a menu, the two mains are Thai Chicken or a Salmon Guajillo with coconut sauce. The Thai Chicken is the obvious choice. I order and have my menu collected. No sign of the Tom Douglas Rub with Love Train Snacks.

  • 5:49 – Wrong rail to zoom past a commuter train and return to the proper track.
  • 5:51 – Slow down through South Attleboro to a more normal speed, then realize we’re in Rhode Island from a building with a 401 Area Code. The car is making an odd buzzing, the tilt system. The attendant finally comes through with the ramekins of nuts simply asking if we want Peanuts. I accept my ramekin.

At 5:57 I See the Providence Station and we arrive across from another northbound Acela, platforming across from its power car, no sign of the conductor. We leave at 5:59. We then get an automated announcement Welcoming us aboard Amtrak Acela Express and to have all tickets out for inspection.

Soon my chicken arrives and as soon as my food arrives is the conductor. She asks me for ID. I say the Scanner Randomly Selected me this time. She jokes with me “You Won.” We speed up on the fast section through Rhode Island An Acela spoon, Amtrak fork, steak knife. Dessert is another cream thing. The Chicken and noodles are good, but again the portion is to small. It comes with two packages of wrapped Carrs crackers that I don’t understand. Should there also be cheese? The dessert is a pleasant surprise (and not too heavy like the moose on my previous Acela trips) a Summerberry Parfait. One drink is enough for me when alone so I digress to water. I end up consuming two full glass bottles of Pierre and at least 3 bottles of the half-pint kind.

  • 6:11 – Zoom past Wickford Junction on its diesel stub track.
  • 6:14 – Kingston. I notice the display is wrong and says the next station is Providence. There is an eery silence of silverware and dishes and no other noise as the car enjoys its dinner. I’m sitting facing forward at the very front of the car, the two people beyond me have ordered the same Chicken dish I don’t actual get to see what the other food options look like.
  • 6:25 – Bypass Westerly, Rhode Island
  • 6:27 – See the ocean off in the distance and then water and plenty of boats as we enter Connecticut. Dinner took me across Rhode Island! Another Acela passes going northbound.
  • 6:31 – Mystic we pass
  • 6:37 – We slow down, a Regional passes as we get to the grade crossings of New London. The sign is now correct and says “Next Station New Haven.”
  • 6:38 – Slow down to cross the Thames River.
  • 6:40 – Now pass the grade crossings of New London with the ferry dock. We pass the new short high level platform for the couple of Acelas that stop here.
  • 6:42 – Another bridge and a boat goes under us. We slowly pass some MOW equipment.
  • 6:47 – Shore Line East and the beach as we regain speed.
  • 6:50 – See a family in swimsuits.
  • 6:57 – Slow down and stop briefly in a field and then regain speed over one of the bridges, I think for boat traffic.
  • 6:59 – Another Shore Line East train and the blur through Old Saybrook
  • 7:02 – Pass a Shore Line East Station under construction that will have two platforms, Westbrook I think.
  • 7:13 – The attendant comes by and I decide to be honest with him and tell him that I’m still hungry. I give him a bit of a laugh and he tells me the only thing he can think of to give me is some more peanuts. (As in the Rub with Love Train Snacks). I say that would be perfect (Quite honestly, I’m not quite hungry enough for another full Acela meal like on my last trip, but am curious to see this attendants response) but the nuts should be perfect.
  • 7:19 – Pass the junk yard of this trip.
  • 7:22 – Slowly go through New Haven-State Street.
  • We arrive in New Haven at 7:24, 4 minutes early on track 1, the closest track to the station. I decide to step off the train in the dusk and notice that the new train information system is on but simply saying Welcome to Union Station. That Solari board is in danger if not removed. We leave at 7:29 with the same automated ‘Welcome Aboard’ announcement.
  • 7:33 – West Haven, all the lights are on, it nearly looks open except for two port-a-jons in the parking lot, it’s opening date is less than a week away, SundayAugust 18th. The ride becomes the usual slowness of the New Haven Line.
  • 7:38 – Slowly go through Milford with the jerkiness of lacking a tilting mechanism.
  • 7:47 – Pass the bus loop and go through the Bridgeport Station and then the Bluefish Stadium who are playing a game with fairly empty stands.
  • 7:52 – Past Fairfield Metro with the temporary platform since two of the four tracks are closed.
  • 7:54 – Fairfield, I notice that an odd buzzing noise I’ve noticed before when the tilting mechanism was on is now gone but the train makes more jerky noises.
  • 8:04 – Go frustratingly slow through South Norwalk on the platform track. I see the Danbury Shuttle sitting on its siding.
  • 8:13 – The announcement that were just a few moments away from Stamford and we very slowly arrive, again crawling because Metro-North/CDOT unfortunately own and dispatch this railroad.

We finally arrive in Stamford at 8:17, 9 minutes late. We leave at 8:18 hearing the automated announcement and that were still 45 minutes away from arriving in New York-Penn Station.

  • 8:24 – Slowly cross the beautiful bridge at Riverside. The train continues heading south very slowly.
  • 8:33 – Crawl through Port Chester, I’m back in New York State. I feel like were behind a Metro-North train but I notice the unintelligent signs say Delays, something must be going on for Metro-North
  • 8:36 – Rye, making slightly better speed. I do check and see an advisory that: “New Haven Line Customers continue to experience scattered Eastbound delays of 10 to 15 minutes due to earlier congestion in the Bronx. Please listen for announcements at your station.” At least its not just Acela that’s delayed. We finally regain decent speed in the slow jerky Metro-North territory.
  • 8:44 – We get the announcement that the cafe car is now closed and will remain closed until we depart Penn Station as we crawl through New Rochelle, the signs saying Good Service. Were nearly off of Metro-North!
  • 8:50 – Pass Party City at the southern end of Westchester. and finally speed up on Amtrak owned trackage entering the Hell Gate Line.
  • 8:51 – I hear the noises of the tilt system reengaging, were allowed to use it again since we’ve left Metro-North, plus the buzzing returns.
  • 8:52 – Cross the Hutchinson River and see Co-Op City.
  • 8:59 – Over the Hell Gate Bridge, time to start packing up. No sign of hot towels.
  • 9:01 – We arrive in Queens.
  • 9:02-Over the Astoria Subway Station. The tilt system is making a really annoying high-pitched buzzing noise.
  • 9:07-Pass the digging site for East Side Access
  • 9:08-Get the about to arrive in Penn Station announcement. We dive underground. They announce a 9:15 departure to continue to DC
  • 9:09-Ears pop in the East River Tubes. No hot towels today!

At 9:13 we Arrive on track 13, an LIRR platform, 8th Avenue concourse time! We’re right in front of the staircase to the West End Concourse. A Red Cap is Standing there telling passengers to walk down the platform for an escalator. Its up there onto West End Concourse, the excellent back entrance that the LIRR built to only its platforms and off to the subway I now need to remember 13 and higher to the West End Concourse. I swipe onto the A train at 9:15.

The subway gods are not with me today. A crowded A train finally arrives at 9:25. I’m on the elevator at 181 Street at 9:50.

The total travel time from Provincetown to Penn Station New York just over 6 hours, should have been under 6. Google Claims its a 5 hour and 5 minute drive without traffic (in prespective it took my aunt’s family over 7 hours to drive to Wellfleet because of all the traffic). A much more relaxing ride too!