My worst travel disaster happened fortunately not during a cruise, but on the way home from one. I took a Royal Caribbean cruise to Mexico out of San Diego and living in Los Angeles, decided to take the Amtrak Pacific Surfliner train instead of driving. The train between Los Angeles and San Diego is normally a three-hour straight shot between the two cities.
My ride to San Diego
The ride on the Pacific Surfliner Amtrak train to San Diego was smooth. I bought my tickets online and the train left on time from Union Station. The ride was smooth, I hopped off in San Diego and walked across the street and boarded my cruise.
Coming home was a different story
After the cruise, we got off the ship by 9 a.m. and I made my way to the train station. I knew there was a 9:30 train but just didn’t make it in time. I waited at the station for 20 minutes then boarded the 10:30 train, anticipating a quick three-hour ride home.
We left the station on time and made it about 20 minutes then stopped dead on the tracks. We stopped in a residential area just north of San Diego called Pacific Beach. The view was lovely as there is a wall, then a row of beachfront homes, then the beach. After sitting on the tracks for two hours, they told us there was a problem with the train and would need to move us to a side track. But nothing happened and we sat for another two hours, until 3 p.m. The doors were locked and we were not in a station, there was no way to get off the train or to call someone to pick you up. A few people did call people and had to force the train doors open, then climb over the cinder block wall. A family did it and handed their baby, luggage, stroller and other gear over the wall to friends on the other side. We all laughed until we sat there another two hours.
With barely any information from the crew, the train eventually moved at 5 p.m., but just for an hour to San Juan Capistrano, where it sat again. And again, we stopped before the station not at it, with no access to leave the train. We sat there for three hours and again, some people who did leave had to almost escape from the train, force the door open and run across the tracks. When someone did, we would all cheer their success. The train ran out of food and drinks and the crew eventually hid, leaving the passengers to just sit and wait. We waited and after leaving San Diego at 10:30 a.m., we finally started moving again at about 6 p.m., never having found out what the real problem was.
The last straw
By 8 p.m. or so, we arrived at Anaheim station, one before Los Angeles, and about an hour away. The train remained stopped and after the normal stopping time in the previous stations, we all became very nervous again. The crew again disappeared and we knew there was another problem. We finally got a crew member to tell us the sad situation. Although the mechanical problems had been fixed, the crew operating the train had now reached their Federally-mandated time limits for being on the job. They were not allowed to drive the train the last hour to Los Angeles. He then told us the worst part, the new crew had been notified at their homes in Los Angeles, and would then have to make their way to Union Station (our destination!) to await the next southbound train to meet us in Anaheim to relieve the current crew. The whole process would take three to four hours. I am not making any of this up. At that point, I realized a cab ride to Los Angeles from Anaheim would be $200, which is $50 if we could get four people to share it. I started yelling out for people to share the cab with me and found them. We hailed a cab, they were there waiting at the Anaheim train station, and we took the cab back to Los Angeles, splitting the $220 cab fare.
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