I have just returned from my Brightline trip, from Orlando (MCO) to West Palm Beach (WPB) and back. I was visiting a long-time friend and former college roommate of mine, who I don't get to see that often, due to him living in Florida and me living in New Jersey.
My train was at 8:3something am. Got there about a half hour before. The Mary Mary bar is pretty good. Prices are a bit elevated for some items, and are definitely a good price for others. Depends on what you get.
Boarding started 10 minutes before, ended 5 minutes before departure. Train left on time.
The train going from MCO down to WPB was PACKED. I was in the last passenger train (Coach 4), which wasn't that full, but the other Coaches looked jam-packed. Looked like a lot of families were taking the train to go to the coast.
The ride from MCO to WPB was just over 2 hours, and was pretty pleasant. Great views. Arrived shortly before 11am, about a 2 hour and 15 minutes trip.
The train was supposed to leave WPB for MCO at 5:59pm. The train did not arrive at the WPB station until 6:05pm, but the Brightline employees made sure that everyone was ready to board before the train arrived, and we left the station at 6:09. Not a big delay whatsoever, especially when I am used to MTA and NJT delays. The train going back to MCO wasn't as filled as the morning one I took was, but there were a fair amount of people in each car - just sparsely populated among the seats of the coach. I assume the morning train from WPB and points south to MCO will be packed, but I won't know that, since I will be preparing to fly back to New Jersey tomorrow.
We arrived at the station at the stated arrival time on my ticket, despite the 10-minute delay. Not sure how that math adds up, but I am not complaining. TMI, but it was quite interesting to go #1 and #2 on a train going 130MPH.
Complaints / Areas for Improvement
I don't have much at all, honestly. First and foremost, the cost is a lot. From MCO to WPB, the starting price was $69 when I was going to book ahead of time. Due to some last-minute rescheduling between my friend and I that was not reserved until yesterday afternoon, I booked the tickets to and from really late, and round trip, it cost me $220. A lot of money! But I got to see my friend, and I got to ride Brightline, something I have been meaning to do for almost ten years, back when this project was just starting to be built back in 2014. So you know what? It was worth it.
Lastly, the seats aren't the most comfortable if you are trying to sleep. If you are working or aren't tired, they are fine, but if you're trying to get some shut-eye on the train, good luck.
Brightline is definitely worth the convenience and the comfort, over driving or flying between Orlando and WPB/points south, but the cost is definitely steeper than I had initially planned for. I would recommend that you plan your trip at least a few days ahead of time to get the best prices.
The service, the atmosphere, the comfort, the timing, all of it was downright impeccable, and puts the NJT/MTA/Amtrak we are used to up north to shame. Amtrak between Orlando and WPB was only 20something dollars, but would have taken over 5 hours!
I expect Brightline will continue to do nothing but the best and be an innovator in passenger rail, something that the United States so desperately needs.