Will Brightline Dazzle from LA to LV? Does it from MIA to Orlando?

Sometimes you just need a change of venue. Currently living in Fort Lauderdale, my easy escapes without hopping on a plane are to West Palm Beach, Miami, Key West, and Orlando.

How To Escape

One thing that helps me get away very easily to three out of four of those destinations has been the Brightline. I’ve shared my train trips south to Miami and north to West Palm Beach in past posts and I was recently fortunate enough to try the train ride to Orlando, a route that just opened in the latter months of 2023.

Entrance to the Brightline Station at the Orlando Airport

Before I get into that Orlando trip, I think it’s important to look at Florida’s Brightline operations as it might be the wave of the future. It seems the U.S. Government is happy with Brightline and impressed about what they’ve done in Southern Florida, for in December 2023, Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg announced that Brightline was chosen as the company to run a high-speed train from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. Now, if you’ve been in a car for that journey, you know that you are going to see a lot of desert, often slowing or stopped traffic, and it’s not that really exciting via car, similar to the boring car ride north to Orlando.

Will the ride from LA to LV be worth it? Well, there’s no idea of the pricing so we will have to wait and see.


Secretary Pete Buttigieg also mentioned there would be more money coming to Florida to help with Brightline’s proposed Tampa to Orlando stretch.

Is Taking the Train Worth It?

But is the train ride to Orlando worth it? As mentioned in past posts, if I’m going to Miami for a night or two, then 1,000% yes, I’ll do the PREMIUM ticket, book in advance, and schedule in my included added amenity of Ubers on each end of the train ride, if the hotel is within 5 miles of the Miami station like my home is less than 5 miles from the Fort Lauderdale station (all Ubers booked simply within the Brightline app before the final ticket purchase). SMART business-class is cheaper, but does not provide access to the premium lounge, free food and drinks (wine and beer, too) in the lounge and in the premium car on the train, and does not include the 5-mile or less Ubers. The average Premium ticket prices from Fort Lauderdale to Miami or Fort Lauderdale to West Palm Beach are about $32 to $44 one way, depending on time of day and week and how far in advance you book. So for a $70-ish ticket which includes for me:

  • 4 Uber rides house to train, train to hotel, hotel to train, train to house),
  • 2 train tickets (back and forth),
  • food and beverages in the premium lounge twice and in the premium car twice.

With valet charges at Miami hotels from $45 to $65, a Brightline Premium ticket pays for itself. Business is fine too, but no food, drink, no Ubers, but Business about $10 to $24 per leg of the same trips. Pricing does change and there are some deals sent out by Brightline (will mention below).

Is Taking the Train to Orlando Worth It?


Okay… but what about the trip to Orlando on the Brightline? Should you park the car and go on the train instead?

The Train to Orlando – Either Smart/Business or Premium tickets are going to provide you with a very comfortable seat and overall experience on the train. I was happy with both levels of ticket as I did one type up and the other back. The cost? Premium was $149 a leg and Smart is $100 less at $49 each way. So $300 or $100 round trip, that is a difference in amenities and money to consider. Is the free food and beverages on train and in the Premium lounge worth the Premium addition of $200 (yes and a little bigger seat) and possibly the inclusion of Ubers on each end? Bags, carry-on or checked are often free or a $10 or $25 fee, depending on the leg for either ticket. You can play around with routes, tickets, pricing, etc over on gobrightline.com

But couldn’t I just fly? The cheapest flight option I found was a Spirit round trip flight from Fort Lauderdale to Orlando for $65 (no bags, no seat selection, no breathing).

I really enjoyed the train ride. The drive north is monotonous and you have to choose if you want to do the more direct two-laned Turnpike or the semi winding and wider 95 and both have messy areas where traffic does sometimes come to a stop. But with the train, someone else did the work, the views were great and at one point we reached 141 miles per hour, 5 miles per hour faster than I’ve been in a car so that was a new exciting personal land record for me.


The Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and Orlando stations are all beautiful with Miami and Orlando being the largest of the bunch. The Orlando station was an impressive building tied to the Orlando International Airport. I was out of the state when they opened the Orlando Station, but it was a true grand opening.

If you did watch the video, one thing they mentioned was that Brightline does not have transportation to and from the cruise lines or hotels, but if your cruise line or hotel services the Orlando Airport (MCO) then you’re all set. For me, I was headed to Celebration, Florida and I needed to do an Uber.

And that is the first big drawback at this time – getting from the airport to somewhere else. If your hotel (or Disney) provides service from the airport, then you are good to go, but if not, that Uber ride may be $30 to $50 more to and from the airport and your final Orlando destination. And I should say “at this time”, because Brightline does have plans to go from the Orlando Airport to Tampa and that route should take the train closer to desired destinations. One article states:


Meanwhile, planning is underway for more westward growth across the state, with Brightline’s latest plan being a straight shot west from the airport, along Route 528. Here it will encounter the various tourist destinations of International Drive, in close vicinity to the Orange County Convention Center, Sea World, Universal Studios, and a new theme park that Universal Studios is building called Epic Universe. Universal has donated 13 acres and funding to encourage that alignment, and a station is intended at the convention center. Brightline will then veer to the southwest, following I-4 and skirting Disney property toward where the Disney station would have been, at Disney Springs. I-4 then continues all the way to Tampa on Florida’s Gulf Coast, which is also the hope. With plans to bring Brightline out there, continuing down the I-4 would have just made sense. – thebigbubblemiami.com

The Tampa leg would bring passengers closer and through Kissimmee and Celebration, lessening the need for further non-Brightline transportation costs. That’s needed in my mind as the joy of taking the train is a little deflated when you then need to plan more transportation options.

So my non-positives were that you need to justify the price against amenities and alternatives AND that the Orlando train station/airport was a little ways away from many final destinations. The only other negative is that it is a train, and a train runs on tracks, and sometimes things happen on those tracks. On my trip back, one of the bridges about 100 miles south was stuck in the up position, not allowing any of the trains to go anywhere. This delayed us by about an hour, but we were on a very comfortable train. There are some built in delay policies that almost kicked in during our stop on the tracks, but all was well. It was much better than being stuck on a highway during a delay and not knowing what was going on, I’ve been there, done that.

The Brightline is a good option for any destination as it removes the worry of dealing with any other Florida drivers on the highways as they are scary! It lessens other costs (parking, gas, Ubers, etc) depending on the ticket purchased.


But Wait, There’s More – Savings

Like any great business, there are always deals. And I love deals and reminders when they come into my mailbox and I don’t have to search for them. If you sign up for emails and deals, you might have seen where Brightline currently has a BOGO deal (buy one get one) for tickets to Orlando. Emails about a break on the cost of parking at stations or one about rides + shuttles to baseball and soccer games. Be sure to sign up for the eblasts and deals over at gobrightline.com/offers as it could save you a good amount of dollars or they may just be the incentive for you to try out the Brightline. 

Where to Stay


One of the caveats for me for taking the Brightline to any destination is that it is to help me get away for a night or two and included a stay at a hotel. Over Thanksgiving last fall was when I took my Brightline journey to Orlando, Meliá Orlando Celebration was picked as my lodging where I would enjoy the American Holiday. One of the things that swayed me to the Meliá was its inclusion of wellness in its approach to a great stay.

Meliá Orlando Celebration announced today that it has expanded its popular Wellness at Meliá Orlando offerings to hotel guests throughout with complimentary fitness classes, access to top-of-the-line exercise equipment and spa services.

Refresh and Recharge with Wellness at Meliá Orlando Enhanced Offerings 

Setting the new standard in wellness hospitality, Meliá Orlando Celebration will begin to offer all hotel guests access to a private Fitness Suite, equipped with a Peloton Bike and The Mirror. Peloton subscribers can stay on track toward their fitness goals as Meliá Orlando Celebration is a featured Pelo Buddy hotel. Guests can also participate in complimentary wellness classes and activities on property as well as the neighboring AdventHealth Wellness Center. A five-minute walk from the hotel, the AdventHealth Wellness Center provides indoor and therapeutic pools, group glasses, changing rooms with saunas, and steam baths, all free for guests. 

I was really impressed with the high ceilings in my room and the square footage of the room. The bathroom was massive and always kept clean. It is a great space that would hold a couple very nicely so by myself, I had a bountiful amount of space. And it did not feel like a hotel room, but more of my own apartment or suite.  With that kitchenette, I felt bad that I just used the fridge for leftovers, but the hot kettle was wonderful for helping me enjoy my complimentary teas (which I had replenished a couple of times). 

The resort was laid out very well with everything so close to one another that you didn’t need a golf cart to get around. What was nice too was that I could always find someone to help me if I needed it. Cleaning staff and other hotel staff were very visible. I didn’t have any needs to bring up, but if I did, I know I could find help in less than a minute. 


To be honest, in the past, I’ve poo pooed on the idea of trying to include some wellness activities during my hotel stays as I thought it would take away from other things, but for some mental reason, this time, the activities made the trip seem even joyfully longer.

Upgrading my stay, I booked one of the wellness suites with a little more amenities. Why not start the New Year’s Resolutions before the new year. Let’s get healthier and well! I did partake in a one-on-one stretch and relaxation course. Yes, it taught me that I have a long way to go, but my guide to relaxation and better moving went with my abilities, told me where I would be eventually, and that beginning the process and working on relaxation and stress will show results. It was a much more positive experience than my last pilates course I did on a trip, most definitely. 

Travelers looking to further enhance their experience can stay in a Stay Well by Delos™ suite. Having partnered with global wellness leader Delos™ in 2021, Meliá Orlando Celebration launched 10 wellness suites designed to positively impact guests’ health and happiness. The suites feature products selected based on scientific research and technological advancements that are designed to help improve air quality, sleep patterns, mindfulness, and energy levels, as well as a refined cleaning protocol. Each suite includes the following:

  • A welcome and guided meditation from world-renowned interactive medicine and wellness pioneer Dr. Deepak Chopra
  • Mood-enhancing aromatherapy
  • Dawn simulation to wake you gradually and gently
  • Air purification that allows for crisp, clean air
  • Subtle night lighting that offers illumination without disrupting sleep
  • A soundscape machine that has been found to have a restorative effect following stress and attention fatigue
  • A vitamin-C shower infuser that reduces chlorine to leave hair and skin feeling softer and smoother
  • Award-winning Art of Tea products 
  • Surfacide air purifier to recycle airflow 

Meliá’s Restaurant – The Wilson

I also did take part in eating and drinking at the Wilson, a wonderful restaurant and bar in the center of the property. I do not think I’ve eaten at a hotel’s restaurant more than this one as the food was great, atmosphere was relaxed, and the politeness of guests and staff were refreshing. The food and the revolving complimentary drink schedule kept me coming back each day to sit at the bar, order an appetizer or two, and enjoy it all.  


And yes, I will repeat, the food was great. I’m not a big fish fan, but the tuna tacos and the tuna poke bowl were very much enjoyed. The tater tot bowl for breakfast, it was massive, and massively good. Those bread rolls for the Thanksgiving dinner, a surprise on how just toasting them gently elevated an already tasty item 10-fold. It’s those kind of touches, the personalities of the staff, the environment that was created, that’s what I will remember for some time. If I was once again in the area, I would definitely swing back to The Wilson for a beverage and a bite and some great conversation. And I think that is why most everyone there that I talked to were returning customers. I will be and am now one of those returning customers. 

For an additional charge, guests can indulge in guilt-free dining at the hotel’s signature restaurant, The Wilson where they can enjoy dishes such as the Tuna Poke Bowl ($22) with jasmine rice and avocado mousse or the Quinoa Bowl ($16) with tricolor quinoa and baby kale.

Enjoy Changing Seasonal Delights

What I also enjoyed was that the hotel is always on its toes it seems as they rotate their offerings, so if you’re looking to stay here, keep a look out on what they may have to offer seasonally or during your window of visitation. It was the holiday season when I was there and yes, the hotel wa a wintry festive wonderland in the heart of Orlando and added an ice skating rink to the parking lot.

Ice Skating Comes to Orlando with Glice Eco-Rink 

This coming fall, the hotel will be bringing holiday cheer to Orlando early, with the installment of an Eco-Rink. Starting October 15 to January 3, Meliá Orlando Celebration guests can enjoy the excitement of ice skating without the cold weather. Through a partnership with Glice, the hotel will install a 38’ x 38’ rink next to the main lobby entrance that requires no water, energy, or carbon emissions. A sustainable alternative to traditional ice rinks, Glice Eco-Rink uses synthetic ice panels for year-round family fun.  The rink will be open for hotel guests and members of the public from 4:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.



Hospitality Has Its Tells

Not only was the staff at Meilá and The Wilson friendly, talkative, wonderful, but I think I have talked to the biggest amount of complete strangers ever when there. There was this 75 and 80 year old couple that were dating, not living together, but up there on vacation and they both lives about 4 miles away from me in the Fort Lauderdale area.  There was the father, mother, and son vacationing from Wisconsin, the son was taking a course in online education and the father wanted to get into writing online. There was the couple from Plant City that was going through some tough emotional times, but were the most honest and kind people. There was the young pollster working on abortion rights in Florida on a date with a newly graduated beautiful young woman looking to be a script writer. And there were more individuals and couples I met for a brief chat or one that lasted what seemed like hours. 

Yes, I know all of what I said about chatter and meeting people is not all about the hotel, but yet it is. To have a space that induces relaxation like that, inspires communication, exudes a sense of welcome, I really loved that bar and it would be my local bar if I could have it as one. My room was my own bubble of relaxation, but if I needed to burst out of it and rejoin others or need help with anything, it all was just steps away. 

Thank you Meliá and The Wilson for a great holiday week, a recharge, a rest, and a renewal on meeting nice new people, something that we all need to do more of.

For more information, visit www.melia.com or call 407-964-7000, Toll-Free Direct: 1-866-404-6662. 


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