Just finished taking my family on the Auto Train for the first and last time. The train sounds good on their web site and we really thought it would be an alternative to driving, it's not.
First sign should have been the train from Sanford, FL to Lorton, VA was 2+ hours late getting into the station, so we were late leaving. We were also late arriving in FL because of "switches that don't work well in the rain" (think one of their engineer might want to look at that issue). But they are consistent, we were also 2 hours late getting back to VA, even though we left a half hour early. This time it was because of traffic on the tracks. Now I'm not a railroad engineer, but you'd think they would know if there was going to be "traffic" on the rails. Everyone we spoke with that had taken the train before said they arrived late, so perhaps you should not consider their stated arrival time, 8:30am as the truth, plan on an extra couple of hours on the train, each way.
Let's talk about the bathrooms. Bring a Hazmat suit. If the smell doesn't get you, the filth will. If you think Port O' Potties are great, you'll love the toilets on board. The first couple of hours they are usable, but after about 6 hours on the train you won't want to go near them. People were changing their seats because of the smell.
If you plan on using a laptop, good luck. There were three outlets available on the entire train, unless you wanted to sit in the bathroom to recharge your battery (as one passenger did for two hours). Once someone got an outlet, they were there for the night.
Lights are on all night, and there is constant travelling between cars by passengers to the lounge car, so forget a good nights sleep. While the reclining seats were comfortable (for the first 10 hours), you really needed two empty ones next to each other to spreadout for comfort (not possible on full train).
Food was standard microwave TV dinner variety, served with wine . Breakfast was continental style, bagels,muffins, juice & coffee. If you are not a party of 4 you will be sharing your table with strangers, even if the dining car is not full.
Although they indicate the train travels at 70 mph, you'll spend a considerable amount of time stopped or barely moving along, it makes the trip seem unbearably long.
If you hate your relatives, give them gift tickets on the Auto train. Do not expose anyone you care about to this adventure. We're tired, sleep deprived, but hopefully the anti-bacterial cream helpd ward off whatever lurked in the bathrooms. And it only cost us a little of $1,000 for the thrill, about $999 overpriced.