I traveled first class on an Amtrak Acela train and thought the perks were cool — but not worth the $270 price tag

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I traveled first class on an Amtrak Acela train and thought the perks were cool — but not worth the $270 price tag
  • I booked a first-class ticket on an Amtrak Acela traveling from New York City to Baltimore in 2022.
  • For $273, I got free meal service and access to the Metropolitan Lounge at NYC's Penn Station.

When traveling from NYC to Baltimore in 2022, I rode in first class on an Amtrak Acela train.

Acela is the train line's express route on the East Coast with only business and first-class seating.

Two weeks before my trip, I booked a standard Amtrak Acela ticket for $121 and spent an extra $152 to upgrade to first class.

While it was a pleasant, 3-hour trip, I didn't feel the perks — including lounge access, meal service, and more space — were worth an additional $152.

"Much like our airline peers, Amtrak pricing strategy is influenced by several factors — demand, departure, seasonality, route, city pair, class of service, and other market conditions," a representative for Amtrak told Business Insider.

Here's an overview of my ride, including all the first-class offerings I received — and why they ultimately weren't worth the added price.

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I got to NYC's Penn Station at around 8 a.m. for my 9 a.m. train to Baltimore on a Sunday morning.

I got to NYC's Penn Station at around 8 a.m. for my 9 a.m. train to Baltimore on a Sunday morning.
Inside the Moynihan Train Hall.Joey Hadden/Business Insider

It was my second time leaving from Moynihan Train Hall. I found the $1.6 billion expansion of Penn Station to be well-lit, clean, and easy to navigate.

Since I arrived early, I made my way to the Metropolitan Lounge on the second floor, where first-class passengers get in for free.

Since I arrived early, I made my way to the Metropolitan Lounge on the second floor, where first-class passengers get in for free.
A view of the lounge.Joey Hadden/Business Insider

Much like an airport lounge, the space is a quiet waiting area for select Amtrak customers with comfortable seats and free snacks and drinks.

First-class passengers get in for free on the day of their trip, and business-class passengers can pay $50 to access the club.

I thought the space was beautifully decorated and very clean. Only a couple of other people were there at the time of my visit.

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I made my way to the snacks and confirmed they were complimentary.

I made my way to the snacks and confirmed they were complimentary.
The snack counter in the lounge.Joey Hadden/Business Insider

I was surprised and overwhelmed by the wide selection, which included Kind bars, cookies, popcorn, chips, and candy. Looking back, I wish I asked for a few more treats.

There were also free beverages like coffee, iced tea, and citrus-infused water.

I ordered water, an iced coffee, and a Kind bar. The server gave me an extra one.

I ordered water, an iced coffee, and a Kind bar. The server gave me an extra one.
The author's refreshments in the lounge.Joey Hadden/Business Insider

As I was waiting for my train in the peaceful, comfy space with my free refreshments, I thought it was nice, but I wouldn't pay $50 for it.

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When it was time to board around 8:40 a.m., I found my gate easily and got on the train quickly.

When it was time to board around 8:40 a.m., I found my gate easily and got on the train quickly.
A first-class Amtrak Acela car.Joey Hadden/Business Insider

In first-class Acela cars, there are two seats on one side and one seat on the other. My assigned seat was in a single row.

I was thrilled when I found that my seat was in a single row because I had a little more space to myself.

I was thrilled when I found that my seat was in a single row because I had a little more space to myself.
The author's first-class seat.Joey Hadden/Business Insider

Before I sat down, I placed my backpack in the overhead bin to maximize legroom.

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The chairs were big, so I thought they'd be comfy, but they were stiffer than expected.

The chairs were big, so I thought they'd be comfy, but they were stiffer than expected.
The author tests the footrest.Joey Hadden/Business Insider

Below me, a footrest pulled out from the seat back chair. Next to my feet, there were two outlets to charge my devices.

While I didn't think the chair was that comfortable, I was grateful it could recline slightly by pushing this button.

While I didn't think the chair was that comfortable, I was grateful it could recline slightly by pushing this button.
Seat controls on the train.Joey Hadden/Business Insider

Similar to an airplane, a tray table pulled out from the back of the seat in front of me.

And above, I had access to two lights with two different settings, although I didn't use them since my trip was during the day.

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When the train began moving at 9 a.m., a train attendant brought me complimentary food and drink menus.

When the train began moving at 9 a.m., a train attendant brought me complimentary food and drink menus.
The first-class menu on Amtrak Acela.Joey Hadden/Business Insider

For breakfast, I could choose between four options, including an omelet or an empanada.

I went with a fresh fruit plate and orange juice.

I went with a fresh fruit plate and orange juice.
The author's fruit plate.Joey Hadden/Business Insider

The orange juice came out immediately with a glass of ice. The shakiness of the train made it rattle, causing me to worry it might spill.

Three minutes later, my meal came out, and I was surprised to find that it included a croissant, too.

The fruit tasted cold and fresh. Every piece was just as juicy and flavorful as the last. The croissant tasted a little less fresh to me, but it was still warm and tasty.

Overall, I was satisfied with my meal, but the combination of the service, the food, and the seat didn't feel like it was worth an additional $152 to me.

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The bathroom also seemed to be quite typical of a train bathroom in other classes, in my experience.

The bathroom also seemed to be quite typical of a train bathroom in other classes, in my experience.
The bathroom in the first-class car.Joey Hadden/Business Insider

I didn't notice any special, luxurious details that would make it feel more first-class.

Regardless, I was a fan of the big windows that provided awesome views of the cities, forests, and bodies of water between New York and Baltimore.

Regardless, I was a fan of the big windows that provided awesome views of the cities, forests, and bodies of water between New York and Baltimore.
A peek out the author's window during the ride.Joey Hadden/Business Insider

When I arrived in Baltimore, I was glad I got the chance to try the first-class experience. But next time, I'll save money and just book a regular ticket.

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