Brightline Train Review: Premium vs Smart Class Between Orlando & Miami

by joeheg

Until recently, for locals, the trip between Orlando and Miami consisted of a drive on the Florida Turnpike or I-95. The only reason you’d fly to Miami would be if you were connecting to an international flight, but even then you’d rather drive to avoid any possible flight cancellations.

However, with the introduction of the Brightline train, traveling between central and south Florida has become much more convenient and comfortable.

When we took our most recent Virgin Voyages cruise on the Scarlet Lady from Miami, we chose to take the train instead of driving. We wanted to get the full experience, so we booked the Premium cabin on our trip to Miami and Smart Fare (a.k.a. economy) tickets for the trip home.

Here are our feelings about the Brightline Train service between Orlando and South Florida and if we’d take it again instead of driving.

Departing from Orlando

The Brightline station in Orlando is connected to Terminal C at Orlando International Airport. We could have parked at the Terminal C garage, but chose to park at our usual off-airport lot, since it would cost less. The parking shuttle dropped us off at the departure level of the airport, which meant a long walk to the train station through the parking lot.

a parking garage with yellow poles

Level 4 of parking garage, as soon from Terminal C. The APM/train building is ALLLL the way on the other end of the garage (left side center of photo). Passenger’s path to walk is one row down,

When the walkway between the train station and the terminal building is completed, this walk will be slightly shorter and, thankfully, indoors.

a construction site with several pillars

Brightline Orlando Station

The Brightline Station in Orlando is very stylish, with plenty of natural light. It looks wonderful, just like the rest of the new Terminal C complex.

a large entrance to a building
Since we had purchased Premium tickets for this leg of the trip, we had access to the Premium Lounge at the Orlando Station.

a entrance to a building with a glass wall and a sign

Premium Class

There’s only one platform in use at the Orlando station, so there was no chance of going the wrong way. We headed to the first car, which is the Premium car.

a yellow and white train

We had reserved a four-seat table for the trip as we were cruising with our pandemic travel buddies, Norman and Samantha. We found out that Brightline had reassigned Sharon’s and my seats because we booked our tickets separately from Norm and Sam. We were no longer seated together but no one claimed the seats across from Norm and Sam, so we were able to sit together, anyway.

The biggest perks of Premium Class travel are a slightly larger seat and free food and drinks. You also get a free checked bag which is a $25 value.

Here’s the meal we received on the train. It wasn’t very good and we were glad that we filled up on snacks in the lounge.

food on a tray

The three-hour ride to Miami went by quickly. By the time we finished our food, we were halfway there. I managed to get some work done on the trip, as the train provided free Wi-Fi, which was fast enough to upload pictures to the website.


The bathrooms on the train were large and well maintained throughout the journey.

a bathroom with a mirror and sink

Arriving in South Florida

Eventually, we were approaching Fort Lauderdale. I knew this meant the ride was almost over, as we’d previously rode Brightline between Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach.

a sign on the ceiling

Arriving in Miami was easy, as Brightline Station is in the middle of the city. We called for an Uber to take us to our hotel, which was less than a 10-minute drive.

Smart Class To Orlando

After our cruise, we took an Uber from the Port to the Miami Brightline Station.

Since we booked Smart Fare class for the ride home, we didn’t have access to the lounge. Fortunately, there are ample places to sit at the station and wait for the train.

Seating in Smart Fare class is very similar to Premium Class. The seats are somewhat smaller but still very comfortable.

a pair of beige seats in a train

Like the ride to Miami, we booked a four-seat table for the ride home. This time there was no seating assignment snafu.

a table in a train

After experiencing both cabins, I don’t think it’s worth spending extra just for a better seat in Premium Class. The cost of Premium seats was $150 each, while the SMART fare was $60. However, we had to pay an additional $25 for a checked bag with the SMART fare, which is included in the Premium Fare. This cut into the price difference somewhat.

Despite the free food and beverages, lounge access, and slightly larger seats, the extra $70 is still not really worth it.

Final Thought

We’re sold on taking the Brightline Train to Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach. While it’s not much faster than driving, you’re not the one behind the wheel. The drive between Orlando and Miami on the Florida Turnpike is exceedingly boring. Many stretches of road last miles between exits, with nothing but flat land on both sides. Not to mention that the road closes if there’s a major accident, leaving cars stuck on the highway for hours.

Sitting in comfort on a train where you can walk about, go to the bathroom, or have a drink or two if you choose is a much more appealing way to get between the two areas. In addition, Brightline is adding a stop in Cocoa, which will allow passengers from Orlando and Miami access to the cruise ships leaving from Port Canaveral.

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Shirley Monson March 28, 2024 - 1:21 pm

I flew to Orlando from Seattle because I’d never been to Florida before, and I rode Brightline to West Palm Beach (where I spent two nights) and back to Orlando. I thought it would be an easy way to see some of the state in comfort without driving, and it mostly was…. I chose Premium for the trip down and checked one bag for free so I could enjoy the Premium lounge less encumbered. It was very nice, and the delicious food provided my breakfast. Then the included food on the train was my lunch. (Though not excellent, I thought it was okay.) My only complaint was the windows in the Premium car had a type of built-in screen that kind of obscured the view! On the way back to Orlando I’d purchased the Smart fare, so I brought both my bags on board with me. The waiting area was still nice, but the food was expensive. I also didn’t purchase any food on board. But to my delight, the windows were clear in the regular car, so I enjoyed the views much more than I had in the Premium car.

joeheg March 28, 2024 - 1:41 pm

We also didn’t like the window wrap on the premium car.


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