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Author: suitcase

Joined: 6/6/2011
Posts: 5
Countries Visited:

Have lived and traveled in Hawaii, Alaska, Japan and the Azores. Have also visited Hong Kong, Thailand, Germany, Holland, England, Scotland, Greece, Costa Rica. Panama, Guatemala, Belize, Peru, Tanzania and various places in Mexico and Canada. Have also done the Morocco Sahara Odyssey, Ultimate Africa, Namibia, Croatia and Slovenia.

Traveler Since: 2008

May 16, 2012

I am considering the Tuscany/Amalfy Trip but have questions re: the pace and terrain on the walking portions.  Feedback please on if the Trip Leader & local guides "speedwalk" or take a more leisurely pace to allow for truly enjoying the surroundings.  Had a bad experience on the Croatia trip last year in this regard.  Second question is if there is much up hill walking.  I have problems with shortness of breath going up hills especially if the pace is rapid.  Any feedback will be appreciated.

Author: pauline

Joined: 3/9/2010
Posts: 958
Countries Visited:

England, Scotland, Ireland, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Malta, Israel, Australia, New Zealand, China, Mexico, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Canada, Russia, Ukraine

Traveler Since: 1999

May 16, 2012

No Program Director or guide "speedwalks" on a GCT trip.  The tours are geared to those of us who are not into running races when we're on a tour.  I can say that Tuscany is very hilly, but you won't be climbing those hills.  This is an extended stay tour.  You stay in one place and take side trips and then move to another place and take more side trips.  When I took it several years ago, it was Sorrento and Montecatini Terme.  I don't think they use the latter now.  One place I found a little difficult was walking downhill in Siena into the Plaka.  But that was a matter of balance, not breathing.

It's a great trip!

Author: luisa

Joined: 3/13/2010
Posts: 511
Countries Visited:

Bahamas, Cayman Islands, Canada, Mexico, Spain, France, Monoco, Croatia, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Egypt, Morocco, Chile, Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji

Traveler Since: 2006

May 17, 2012

I don't think GCT trip leaders "speedwalk" either. However, I've been on two trips where there were people who couldn't keep up with the group and in one case, the PD considered sending one home. And there was a post several months ago from someone who was sent home.

You mention a bad experience in Croatia; were there others who felt that the pace was too fast?

 

 

Author: pauline

Joined: 3/9/2010
Posts: 958
Countries Visited:

England, Scotland, Ireland, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Malta, Israel, Australia, New Zealand, China, Mexico, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Canada, Russia, Ukraine

Traveler Since: 1999

May 17, 2012

Was that Croatia trip GCT or OAT.  There is a difference in how strenuous the trips are.  I, for one, am not fit enough to make the effort for an OAT trip.  But I do manage the GCT trips, although I sometimes opt out of something with a lot of stairs.  There have been people using canes or, occasionally, walkers (but those not all the time).  Sometimes, I use a cane but only when the surface is very rough and I need it to give me confidence, not for support.

When I went to Malta when it was the base trip (2005 or 2006), there were two sisters traveling in the group who were both in their 80s.  Walked with canes and moved slowly.  My friend used a cane (later had a hip replacement), and I used one for what turned out to be only bursitis.  One couple traveling with a single friend constantly complained about the pace of the trip.  We had to wait here, had to walk slowly there, etc.  Actually said, so that everyone could hear, that they didn't know why GCT accepted travelers who needed canes.  In Mdina, we were waiting to get into something and, while we were, people began to arrive to attend a wedding ceremony in the cathedral.  The rest of us were fascinated seeing the aristocracy arriving in limos or walking in, in all their finery.  These people complained.  When I wrote my evaluation, I mentioned their attitude and suggested that GCT take their comments with a whole salt shaker.

So if you are concerned that you might be sent home because you couldn't keep up, any GCT PD would not be quick to do that.  Living in the Boston area, I have direct contact with some of the staff and I have been told that I'm correct in believing OAT is not for me.  Not so, for GCT.

Author: captainlarry

Joined: 4/24/2010
Posts: 386
Traveler Since: 2002

May 17, 2012

When we were in Sorrento and Tuscany with GCT in 2007, we had one member of the group, I'll call her "Hope", who was just marginally mobile. The first couple of days the Program Director paced the walking tours to accommodate Hope. But we were running out of day before we ran out of venues. I was having some difficulty walking myself but I could keep up with the group very well. A few of the "fitter" members of the group devised a plan to cover for Hope and to let the rest of the group move at the pace necessary to see everything. As i recall, a couple would stay with Hope while the rest went on with the PD. At some point where the group stopped, another couple would go back to walk with Hope while the first couple caught up with the group. The two couples traded duties for the whole of the tour. The plan worked well in Pisa, Lucca, and Florence, but it was an absolute necessity in Sienna. There, Hope never did catch up with the group except in the cathedral, and there only because the Archbishop's mass ran long and we all had to wait in the rain for the cathedral to open. I'm sure that Hope appreciated the concern for her shown by the two couples, but I doubt she really understood what a sacrifice they actually made for her. Each couple missed at least half of the tour guide's narrative and caught a fleeting glimpse of some venues the rest of us got to study in some detail.

Now, I'm very happy that Hope got to experience the Amalfi Coast and Tuscany. And the couples who assisted her got a couple of extra "stars in their crowns". The PD was ready to counsel Hope about her participation, to the point of suggesting that she go home. The kindness of the two couples kept that from being carried out.

We came home at the end of the tour. Hope went on for the extension in Venice. I hvae no idea how that worked out. I guess the real key concept here is must the tour be run at the pace of the slowest member? And if that is the case, should there be some measure of stamna and agility applied before selling the tour? We go into a GCT tour with our eyes open. It's not built for young persons. It's not built for triathletes. It is built for reasonably fit (for 70s and 80s) and healthy individuals who are able to walk a couple of miles everyday at a reasonable pace. If Hope took a Rhine River cruise, I assume she did not make the climb to Marksburg Castle. That is a freightening prospect!

Author: pauline

Joined: 3/9/2010
Posts: 958
Countries Visited:

England, Scotland, Ireland, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Malta, Israel, Australia, New Zealand, China, Mexico, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Canada, Russia, Ukraine

Traveler Since: 1999

May 18, 2012

Oh my, Captain Larry!  "Hope" was a good name.  No, someone like that should not be traveling solo.  She should have had a companion that could help her along, without involving other people.  No matter how generous they were.

The two sisters I mentioned didn't hold up the group and didn't move any slower than the rest of us.  They just didn't, and neither did my friend and I, move fast enough to satisfy that party of three who went racing along ahead of everybody, including the local guide, thereby missing a lot of the commentary.  Every time we stopped for an explanation of something, they were fidgeting (come on, let's go!).  There's a time to move fast to catch a bus or train.  And there's a time to slow down, enjoy things, and smell the roses!

After Malta, some of us took a post-trip to Taormina for a few days before returning to Malta for the last night.  I don't know where those three were headed, but the two sisters were doing a break-away to Paris and Lyon on their own.

Author: captainlarry

Joined: 4/24/2010
Posts: 386
Traveler Since: 2002

May 18, 2012

Pauline, I think just about every tour group has one or more individuals who want to rewrite the program. For me, they are easier to ignore. I think the best example of how a person like that should handle the situation was demonstrated in Malta by, let's call him "Ed". Ed was a very fit 75-year-old and traveling solo. While we were in Sicily Ed did most of the evolutions with the group, but branched out on his own from time to time. In Malta Ed used the tour for lodging and a couple of meals. His "touring" was nearly all independent. He purchased the all-day bus pass for a couple of days and just rode around the island. When he saw something interesting he got off and explored it, and then caught the next bus. We rather enjoyed comparing notes with Ed in the evening, hearing about what he discovered on his own and telling him what the tour group did. Ed did not in any way try to "speed up" the group. He just knew that the pace of the main tour would not hold his interest so he did his own thing.

Author: luisa

Joined: 3/13/2010
Posts: 511
Countries Visited:

Bahamas, Cayman Islands, Canada, Mexico, Spain, France, Monoco, Croatia, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Egypt, Morocco, Chile, Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji

Traveler Since: 2006

May 18, 2012

Captain Larry, That's a great story about the couples helping Hope. However, the GCT trip that I referred to had a group of  fit, active people in their 50s and 60s, who had bonded on the pre-trip extension. They resented having to wait for the slower person I'll call Ann, and I think pressured the young PD into conferring with Grand Circle. There were a couple of us who hung back and walked with the woman, but there were always 30-some people ahead of us pacing or waiting on the bus to move on. The PD found a way to work around (taxis or advising Ann to skip an excursion where there were a lot of stairs, hills, etc) so she wasn't sent home, but it was considered. I wish we'd had a group like yours, it would have made for a pleasanter trip.

Generally, GCT tours are easier than OAT's but that is not always the case and I think it does have to do with the PD. I took OAT's Morocco and Egypt tours and think they were slower paced than GCT's Australia/NZ/Fiji, where we had a high-energy trip leader and the city walks on the Costa del Sol trip were faster paced than other trips; I didn't have a problem but a couple of people did and one woman fell in Seville.

I think we need to assess each trip and carefully read the fitness requirements.

 

Author: pauline

Joined: 3/9/2010
Posts: 958
Countries Visited:

England, Scotland, Ireland, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Malta, Israel, Australia, New Zealand, China, Mexico, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Canada, Russia, Ukraine

Traveler Since: 1999

May 18, 2012

On The Tuscany trip I took a few years ago, 2004 or 2005, one woman fell getting off the bus at our lunch break.  She didn't actually fall down, but there was enough of a trauma that x-rays showed an ankle fracture.  She was traveling with her husband and his recently widowed sister.  According to the insurance, the couple could have been sent home, but the sister would have to either remain on the trip or pay her own way back.  So they continued on the trip, and she was in a walking cast.  She moved a little more slowly than before and didn't do some of the more strenuous things, but she managed quite well.  Of course, she had the help of two relatives.  But nobody complained about a slightly slower pace.

From Luisa's story, Ann was traveling solo and was under the disadvantage of being with a group who were mostly unsympathetic.  I'm glad I never was in a situation like that.  I travel to enjoy myself.  If something looks too difficult, I don't do it.  If a stairway is steep, I consider how it will be coming down.  That's a balance issue, and if I'm apprehensive I stay on the ground.

My next trip is the UK in July.  I won't go up on the Eye.  I won't go down in the underground; I didn't in Moscow either.  My next booked trip is a river one, Paris to Normandy, and if I can manage one the year after, it will be Romance of the Rhine and Mosel.  After that, who knows?

Author: walshcs

Joined: 1/25/2011
Posts: 82
Countries Visited:

Costa Rica, Ireland, Italy, the Canadian Maritimes incl. Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and PEI, Montreal (Quebec), Guatemala, and many USA cities incl. NYC, Chicago, New Orleans, Washington DC, Portland Oregon, the Oregon coast, Maine coast, parts of Florida. I took a 10 day tour to Costa Rica where I was especially thrilled to experience the tropical plants, birds, volcanos, and met the friendly Ticos. I did Ireland in Depth with GCT Oct. 2011 and it was an inspiring, beautiful, and meaningful experience to finally visit the land of my Irish ancestors. Completed the Tuscany & the Amalfi Coast with the pre-trip to Venice April 21, 2012 and it was a travel dream fulfilled. I booked Guatemala with Tikal, Antigua and Atitlan for January 2013 and had a wonderful adventure discovering modern day Maya culture and learning about ancient Maya city states with my visit to Tikal. Very excited that OAT has brought back the trip to Japan and I leave on that tour Nov. 4, 2013 with the pre-trip to Tokyo. Now I finally have the resources to pursue my "bucket list" of foreign travel and the freedom to chart my own life's course. Ask questions that will satisfy your requirements/interests in a travel buddy. Looking forward to meeting you here and maybe in the world. Warm regards, Cate I'll post a photo when I remember to bring one from home. (Only have internet at work for now.)

Traveler Since: 2011

July 26, 2012

Dear Suitcase,

I took the Tuscany & the Amalfi coast tour this April so its fresh in my mind. First...its a wonderful trip with an excellent itinerary and 2 "bases" from which to take day trips; first in a modern town in Tuscany and then in Sorrento. Our PD and local guides did not rush us...we walked at a comfortable pace.

It is important to keep in mind that to enjoy the  towns in Tuscany you need to be able to walk up and down the "hilly" streets in Assisi, Sienna, Cortona, etc..Sorrento and the town of Amalfi are mostly on level ground so that would be comfortable walking for you. We had about 4 women on our trip who were mindful about which day trips and situations might be more challenging for them, and I only remember two-three times in the entire trip when a couple of them opted out because of walking conditions. If you can take little breaks to catch your breath while visiting the hill towns, I think you could manage this trip ok.

Whatever you decide, best wishes.

Cate 

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