Take the bus with all the trap­pings of true lux­ury

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - TRAVEL - By Ed Perkins

“Lux­ury” and “Bus” don’t of­ten ap­pear to­gether, but lux­ury buses do, in fact, ex­ist. I found a dozen cur­rent op­er­a­tors around the coun­try.

To me, the deal breaker for a lux­ury bus is one-bytwo seat­ing, such as you find in do­mes­tic first class on re­gional planes. And that means 20 to 30 seats in a stan­dard in­ter­city bus that nor­mally holds 50 to 60 seats. Al­though many other bus com­pa­nies claim to of­fer “lux­ury” ser­vice with leather seats and such, they use the usual two-by-two seat­ing, which by my book is never “lux­ury.” True lux­ury bus ser­vices gen­er­ally of­fer some com­bi­na­tion of ad­di­tional on­board ser­vices:

■ A lava­tory

■ Wi-Fi and/or stream­ing video

■ Snack and bev­er­age ser­vice

■ An on­board at­ten­dant in ad­di­tion to the driver

■ Free checked bag­gage

Lux­ury buses typ­i­cally op­er­ate non­stop be­tween end­point ter­mi­nals, but some longer routes in­volve in­ter­me­di­ate stops. Most re­quire ad­vance reser­va­tions and most of­fer modest dis­counts for on­line pur­chase and round trips. Lux­ury bus ser­vices are all op­er­ated by in­de­pen­dent, small lines; Grey­hound and Me­gabus do not com­pete in this mar­ket.

1. New York City to Washington, D.C. Fre­quent bus ser­vice on in­de­pen­dent lines be­tween the New York and Washington metro ar­eas has been avail­able for more than a decade. In New York, most buses load and un­load near Penn Sta­tion, al­though a few also stop at other lo­ca­tions as well. In the Washington area, some serve down­town, typ­i­cally at DuPont Cir­cle, but oth­ers con­cen­trate on sub­ur­ban Mary­land and Vir­ginia stops. Short­est travel times start at four to four-and-ahalf hours; trips to/from more re­mote stops can add an hour or more.

Four lines op­er­ate lux­ury buses in the New YorkWash­ing­ton mar­ket: BestBus “Prime,” (bestbus.com/ pages/prime.aspx), Trip­per Bus “Elite,” (trip­per­bus.com), Vamoose Bus “Gold,” (va­moose­bus.com/ pages/gold.aspx), and Washington Deluxe “LUX” (washny.com/in­dex.php). One-way fares are ca­pac­ity con­trolled, start­ing at around $35 and go­ing as high as $75.

2. Other North­east. C&J Bus Lines (ridecj.com) con­nects Bos­ton and New York with sev­eral cities in east­ern Mas­sachusetts and New Hamp­shire. Con­cord Coach Lines (con­cord­coach­lines.com) con­nects New York with Portland, Maine, and Con­cord and Nashua, New Hamp­shire. Dart­mouth Coach (dart­mouth­coach.com) con­nects New York with Dart­mouth and Lebanon, New Hamp­shire. Hamp­ton Jit­ney (hamp­ton­jit­ney.com) con­nects New York with the posh east­ern Long Is­land cen­ters. Hamp­ton Lux­ury Liner (hamp­ton­lux­u­ry­liner.com) has done the same, but is cur­rently down for the win­ter. The pri­mary value propo­si­tion is com­fort­able trans­port in ar­eas with lit­tle or no Am­trak ser­vice and ei­ther no air­line ser­vice or in­con­ve­nient air­line sched­ules.

3. Florida. Red Coach (red­coachusa.com/the­ex­pe­ri­ence) op­er­ates “First Class” ser­vices link­ing At­lanta, Mi­ami, Or­lando and Tal­la­has­see. Most routes have no Am­trak ser­vice and only in­di­rect air ser­vice.

4. Texas. Von­lane (von­lane.com) op­er­ates a lux­ury bus net­work con­nect­ing Austin, Dal­las, Fort Worth, Hous­ton, San An­to­nio and Oklahoma City. Ap­par­ently, this ap­peals mainly to folks who don’t like to­day’s air­port has­sles or Southwest’s close-packed coach prod­uct.

5. Cal­i­for­nia. Al­though not strictly a lux­ury bus by my def­i­ni­tion, Cabin (ride­cabin.com) runs most­ly­daily overnight round trips be­tween San Fran­cisco and Santa Mon­ica with buses out­fit­ted with pri­vate sleep­ing com­part­ments — and no con­ven­tional seats. On­line graph­ics re­mind me of old-time Pullman up­per berths, with enough room to stretch out flat and lit­tle else. But the South­ern Pa­cific’s clas­sic overnight Lark all-sleeper train is long gone, so it’s the only game in town.

DREAMSTIME

A true lux­ury bus will have one-by-two seat­ing.

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