Travel Forum

Our Travel Forum was created to provide you with the opportunity to connect with other travelers who share your passion for travel. Sign into "My Account" and you’ll be able to write reviews, share your travel experiences, and post questions for other travelers. Not yet registered? It’s simple to create an account, membership is free, and it only takes a moment to join. Once you do, you’ll be able to write reviews, share your travel experiences, and post questions for other travelers. If you have a specific customer service or quality assurance question, please contact our Traveler Support Team by calling 1-800-221-0814. We value the contributions of our travelers. Please familiarize yourself with the guidelines for participation before you begin.

Author: svncontinents

Joined: 11/25/2011
Posts: 230
Trips Taken: 12
Traveler Since: 2007

June 15, 2012

 We recently returned from the Grand Circle Trip to Spain and Portugal, and we were most disappointed with the trip, in particular the number and duration of the bathroom stops.  We noted that on some tours, we spent almost as much time in the lavatory as on the tour itself.  This shortened the time we could spend at each location, and made for a somewhat unpleasant experience.

We don't mean to imply that these convenience stops should be restricted; only to imply that the length of the included tours should be extended.  We discovered that virtually every tour got us back to the hotel after a half-day.  Very likely because the local guide was only contracted for so long, and that was that.  In many cases, it resulted in a lot of free time, which we were disappointed that was not filled better than it was.  We must say that our program director made attempts to do this by taking us on walks in the late afternoon, but these were limited to the venues around our hotel.  Grand Circle would have better served the needs of the group buy extending the length of the included tour, thus permitting us to spend a bit of time at each stop.We spent a total of 8 minutes at the Place de L'Espania, a wonderful and impressive site, yet spend over 30 minutes in each of two bathroom stops during the same tour.

As a consequence, we felt the trip was lacking, and as ten time Grand Circle travelers, were quite disappointed with the company.  They could have done much better with this trip. Our recommendation to Grand circle:  Spend less time in the bathroom and more time at the sites.

Author: luisa

Joined: 3/13/2010
Posts: 470
Trips Taken: 8
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

June 16, 2012

My guess is that the 30 minute bathroom breaks are because there are often long lines for the ladies rooms. Every GCT trip that I've taken women outnumber men 3-1 and the men are wandering around while several women are still in line. 

The 30 minutes also depends on how long people have been sitting on the bus. In Turkey, we had very long bus rides and most were happy to have  time to walk around and/or get a snack, coffee or a cold drink.

I agree that an eight minute visit to the Plaza Espana is ridiculous; I can't imagine why there was so little time there.

Author: donaldjudy68

Joined: 8/6/2011
Posts: 14
Trips Taken: 4
Traveler Since: 2011

June 16, 2012

We've only been on the Turkey trip, but of course the woman's line is always long. In the states to. We started using the men's bathroom when they were done to speed things up.  I didn't mind the stops as there were shops to look around etc.  On one stop in central Turkey there was an out door market so I skipped the bathroom and went over to that.  Knowing we were stopping again in a couple hours was good.  Don't forget:  Woman's bathrooms were probably designed by a MAN!

Author: luisa

Joined: 3/13/2010
Posts: 470
Trips Taken: 8
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

June 16, 2012

On my Turkey trip there were a couple of stops with good shopping ops, one with fresh figs and an assortment of Turkish Delight, another with bakery goods. 

One day when we were getting close to  break time, the PD asked what kind of stop we wanted and a man shouted out "One with NO shopping."

Author: svncontinents

Joined: 11/25/2011
Posts: 230
Trips Taken: 12
Traveler Since: 2007

June 16, 2012

 We had posted this not to solicit potential explanations as to why the comfort stops were so long; we're aware that there are frequently longer lines at women's facilities, and also that local stops may not necessarily have the number of commodes required for large numbers of individuals.  Nor did we mean to give the impression that Grand Circle should someway restrict the length and number of convenience stops.  Our post went more towards the actual itinerary of the included tours that Grand Circle provides.

It is well known that Grand Circle gives the program directors quite detained itineraries for each of the included tours, which include the duration of the tour.  Surely, Grand Circle is aware, or certainly should be of the need for convenience stops and the length of time required for same.  That said, each of the included tours should be extended to provide for adequate convenience stops as well as for time at the sites visited.  If that requires extending the tour from a rushed half day to a full day, then so be it.  We had noticed that this only occurs on Grand Circle trours and not OAT trips.  Perhaps it is because of the smaller groups which require shorter convenience stops, but given that, the experience of the tour should not be abridged.  Grand Circle has an obligation to do better.  That's just an observation with a constructive criticism, of which, we hope, Grand Circle takes note.  We will certainly include that suggestion on our evaluation of this trip, when and if they send us one.

Author: nanaandpapa

Joined: 3/30/2011
Posts: 445
Trips Taken: 15
Countries Visited:

Aruba, Austria, Australia, Bermuda, Belgium, Botswana, Canada, China, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Rep., Egypt, England, Fiji, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Luxembourg, Mexico, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Russia, South Africa, Spain, St. Marten (fr), St. Martin (nd), Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, USA, Vatican, Zimbabwe

Traveler Since: 2002

June 16, 2012

 I don't know if this comes into play here, but the EU has very strict rules regulating driving time and duration of driver rest times, monitored by onboard data recorders in the bus.  In France we had occasions that everyone was on the bus and ready to go, including the driver, from a bathroom stop, but we had to wait for a certain minumum time to even start the engine. Also, there was one day, where the driver was willing to go out of his way to drop people off on the way back to the hotel, but he had to have the bus parked for the night with the engine turned off by a certain time. His hotel and the bus parking was not at our hotel. To do the drop off, he had to drop everyone else off, with our agreement, a block from the hotel, to avoid congestion at the hotel. The fines on the bus driver are significant. This, of course, is in the interest of safety. See the EU Regulations. It is also possible but not very likely that the bus company has more restrictive regulations.

I do agree that the itinerary should be planned to not restrict interesting stops to too short a time, but, on some days of long driving some attractions may have to be missed, in order to give more time to others.

 

Author: svncontinents

Joined: 11/25/2011
Posts: 230
Trips Taken: 12
Traveler Since: 2007

June 16, 2012

We're well aware of EU regulations regarding rest stops for drivers, but even in consideration of that, that explanation is additional reason to support, rather than diminish our comments regarding the length of rest stops as a portion of the length of tours, and argues additionally in favor of increasing the length of the included tours.  Surely, Grand Circle is well aware of the regulations, and has obviously elected to shorten their clients' experience of included tours in favor of using the excuse of required rest stops.  Not a prudent decision in our view.

We have heard at a recent traveler celebration that Grand Circle is reducing their land tours in favor of the OAT trour, where there is overlap and were led to believe that ultimately the land tours under the Grand Circle brand will be severely reduced or severely eliminated in favor of OAT.  Grand Circle appears to be emphasizing their river cruises under that brand, as evidenced by their change of name to "Grand Circle Cruise Line."  Not a bad thing in our view, as we have generally found the OAT experience to be superior, for a number of reasons, the length of rest stops being but one.  But that's another matter, which has been discussed elsewhere, and somewhat repeatedly. 

We have taken ten trips, Grand Circle and OAT combined, and have another OAT trip booked to Nepal for 2013, and likely will be concentrating on trhe OAT brand for the immediate future.  We will consider looking elsewhere for land trips to venues not covered by OAT, rather than take a Grand Circle land trip, given our disappointment with their apparent lack of interest in increasing the experience of travelers.

Author: nanaandpapa

Joined: 3/30/2011
Posts: 445
Trips Taken: 15
Countries Visited:

Aruba, Austria, Australia, Bermuda, Belgium, Botswana, Canada, China, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Rep., Egypt, England, Fiji, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Luxembourg, Mexico, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Russia, South Africa, Spain, St. Marten (fr), St. Martin (nd), Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, USA, Vatican, Zimbabwe

Traveler Since: 2002

June 16, 2012

 I've never seen Grand Circle do 2 bathroom stops on a half day city tour, which is what this seems to be, Usually, while at one of the planned stops, they direct you to the restrooms, in case you need them. These usually, however, are just overview tours to give you the lay of the land so that you can use the rest of your stay constructively, This sounds like a poor PD. GCT trips, however, are generally at a more relaxed pace that OAT trips, allowing people free time to explore on their own or to take some downtime.

Author: candmj

Joined: 9/30/2011
Posts: 10
Trips Taken: 8
Traveler Since: 1997

June 16, 2012

We took the Spain & Portugal trip three weeks before "svncontinents".  We had a great tour leader (Judy) and a great group of fellow travelers.  The review posted by svncontinents under "Trip Reviews" does not match our experience.  

Yes, there were a few days with long bus rides.  The stops were for two purposes: bathroom breaks and mandatory breaks for the bus driver -- and our tour leader explained this to us.  As far as spending only 8 minutes at the Plaza de Espana, svncontinents does not identify the location of this plaza.  In Madrid our group stopped for about 15 minutes at the Plaza de Espana there; and that's about all that was necessary to see the fountain, statue, and overlook of the Royal Palace.  At the Plaza de Espana in Seville, which is beautiful and well-worth seeing, we probably spent almost an hour there.

Three nights are spent at Torremolinos.  The day after arrival begins with a morning tour of Malaga.  Then there is about an hour ride to the home-hosted lunch up in the hills.  We arrived back on the Costa del Sol late in the afternoon.  The following day is either a free day or the optional tour to Morocco.  We took the optional tour to Morocco and during the bus ride back to Torremolinos, we stopped at La Linea to view Gibraltar.  If svncontinents had wished to spend the entire day in Gibraltar on her own, that could have been easily arranged on either day.  Most tour leaders would eagerly help to arrange such a trip.

As far as the free afternoon in Lisbon after the morning trip to Cascais and Sintra is concerned, our tour leader urged us to ride the #28 trolley.  She even took us to a place to buy the tickets.  Then she accompanied some from our group on the trolley ride around town.  

So, while svncontinents may have been disappointed, her experiences do not reflect those of many other travelers.   

Author: gaynell

Joined: 8/12/2010
Posts: 120
Trips Taken: 11
Traveler Since: 2005

June 17, 2012

Although the itineraries of most of our many OAT and Grand Circle trips have given us plenty of time to see the sights we were visiting, there have indeed been a few times when the schedule has been disappointing.

I recall a visit to the Rock Church in Helsinki.....I spent fourteen of the fifteen minutes we were there in the line for and in the ladies' room, and one minute standing and quickly looking at the lovely church.  I was very disappointed, and expressed my feelings to the tour director. He offered the idea that we could "go back later on our own" which was pretty impractical, given the schedule and time frame of our Helsinki visit. I still regret not having a good look at that church! 

This kind of thing doesn't happen often, fortunately, and we have never had it on an OAT trip, but it does happen now and then and it leaves a bad memory. I think that the more excellent guides take a good look at the restroom wait times, and adjust their visits accordingly, adding a bit more time for seeing the sights when the restroom lines are long.

If this kind of problem were common, of course I would seriously consider using another tour company. I am glad that, for us, it has been the exception rather than the rule.

 

Author: luisa

Joined: 3/13/2010
Posts: 470
Trips Taken: 8
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

June 17, 2012

"We had posted this not to solicit potential explanations as to why the comfort stops were so long;"

Since "Bathroom Stops on Grand Circle Land Trips" is the title of your thread, I think it's natural that people would comment on possible reasons for long bathroom stops.  Of course comfort stops for smaller groups are shorter (OAT 10-16 vs GCT 30 plus), 

It does sound like Grand Circle is not for you; I hope you find another land travel company with smaller groups that will suit you. Road Scholar might be a better fit.

Author: svncontinents

Joined: 11/25/2011
Posts: 230
Trips Taken: 12
Traveler Since: 2007

June 17, 2012

 We did not, but inc fact should have anticipated that other loyal customers would rise to the defense of Grand Circle after we posted our feelings about a Grand Circle trip.  After all, it's only natural that satisfied customers who have taken a number of Grand Circle trips would be fiercely loyal to the Company.  In fact, we have joined in such defenses in other venues as well.

But to ally you who fiercely defended the company, it would have behhved you, luisa especially, to have taken a look at our profile.  We have 10 Grand Circle/OAT trips under our belts, so we are not simply 'casual' customers of the company.  We have gtaken those trips precisely BECAUSE prior trips not only met and exceded our expectations, but also because we believed that we got the best value for the money, and were more than completely satisfied with the trio.   Very likely the same reasons most of those who rose to the dfense of the company in opposition to our post share.

But we would have expected that a bit more attention had been paid to our history.  As we said previously, we are not casual customers; we are long time customers, so when a long time customer posts something negative, a better response would be to evaluate those comments in context to the experience before one jumps to a defense.  Our comments, went essentially to policies of Grand Circle, which apparently were not even considered by various responders, who attempted to excuse Grand circle's actions as opposed to critically evaluating them.

As long time customers familiary with Grand Circle's trips andpolicies, we felt that this trip shortchanged the clients, and was not up to the usual Grand Circle experiences that we had come to know and appreciate as a result of our ten prior trips.  It is regrettable that no poster who replied, luisa in particular who suggested that Grand Circle is not us, either understood our background or knowledge of Grand Circle from past practice and experience.

As long time customers, who BTW, have another pending trip to Nepal booked, we issue our criticisms not to be excused, but to be taken constructively so the company can improve to provide us with the experiences that we, as long time clients have compe to appreciate, and that new clients would want.  We had written a long letter to International Travel News last year regarding the lack of Grand Circle/OAT in failing to provide for any advance notice about the extremely dusty conditions in the Kenya/Tanzania trip during the dry season.  Guess what is now in all their handbooks for this trip?

In short, everyone who replied to our post should have considered the source.  Long time customers, such as ourselves, look for the company to correct the problems, even more so, because we are long time customers and have taken many trips and know what experiences clients SHOULD have, but didn't on a particular trip.  Our motivation is to remain with Grand Circle, but not to blindly, present the position that the company can do no wrong and everything is wonderful.  It usually is, but sometimes it is not.  This was one of those times.

And so, luisa, in particular, Grand Circle is INDEED for us, but we want the level of the trip to be consistent with our expections that our prior EXPERIENCES have demonstrated, and that this one did not.

 

Author: kba

Joined: 6/19/2010
Posts: 65
Trips Taken: 5
Traveler Since: 2009

June 17, 2012

To Svncontinents:

This is generally a pleasant forum with everyone trying to be supportive. Lusia actively particpates in the forum as do you.  Perhaps I missed something but I did not find Luisa's remarks offensive and I am disappointed in the fingerpointing. 

Author: svncontinents

Joined: 11/25/2011
Posts: 230
Trips Taken: 12
Traveler Since: 2007

June 17, 2012

 Pleasant forums tend to become unpleasant when people begin to tell other people what is good for them, which is what luisa did in her post.  since the post was not directed to you, kimarmondo, we can understand that you did not find it offensive.  but would you have taken the same position the remarks were directed to you?  Doubtful, in our humble opinion.  Fact remains, luisa, also in our humble opinion did not take much cognizance of the fact that we have significant Grand Cricle trips under our belts, and obviously, given that, have made a decision that Grand Circle is indeed for us.  But that doesn't mean that we forfeit the right to state that in some instances, Grand Circle is not up to snuff.  This was one such time.  And like the criticism that we made regarding the "Best of Kenya and Tanzania trip, which was taken and acted upon by Grand Circle, which now, as a result, better prepares clients taking that trip, we had similar hopes for this one.    In fact, we would opine that Grand Circle takes the views of its solid customer base very seriously, knowing that long time customers have the committment to the company.

In short, it's good to support the company that we all have supported for a long time.  but what better support than to give criticism which will make subsequent trips better for clients?  Simply jumping to the defense out of loyalty does not achieve that goal.  Grand Circle needs more, not fewer of their loyal customers to tell them what aspects of a trip were not up to snuff. 

Author: pauline

Joined: 3/9/2010
Posts: 889
Trips Taken: 11
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

June 17, 2012

I was going to let this all pass, since I have other things on my mind right now.   But I can't pass up what amounts to a personal attack on Luisa.  You stated your opinions, and Luisa stated hers.  A member since 2007 is really not a long-term member, no matter how many trips you have taken during those 4 or 5 years.

Whether we agree with each other or not, we try to be courteous and non-condescending.  We are, most of us, well educated and experienced travelers.  We don't need to be talked down to, whether the topic is insurance or visas or bathroom stops.

Just sayin'

Pauline

 

Author: wattsed

Joined: 3/30/2010
Posts: 126
Trips Taken: 2
Countries Visited:

All seven continents, 113 countries and all states except Hawaii and Idaho.Plus some interesting places that are not countries such as The zores, Falkland Islands, South Georgia, etc.

Traveler Since: 2010

June 17, 2012

to quote svncontinents:   "Pleasant forums tend to become unpleasnat when other people begin to tell other people what is good for them"   Isn't that like the kettle calling the pot black?   On this and other forums you continue to tell other people to get their visas in advance in spite of the fact that some are so simple to aquire on arrival and where probably more than 50% elect to get the visa on arrival anyway--My experience in Turkey, Zambia, Zimbabwe and other places show that I have been through the visa line before the luggage is ready....-oh, I get it, yours is advice rather than "telling"---It also appears that you had one unpleaant experience with a one-time "wait" time and one out of ten for some type of  wait time is a pretty good average in my opinion---I am sure you have NEVER caused anyone to wait because of something you did or did not do...   I agree that on the one trip it was below GTC standards if you were short-changed with time at a venue---That is a different matter and should not have happened; however, others on this trip or a similar trip, based on the posts, did not experience similar treatment...

Author: luisa

Joined: 3/13/2010
Posts: 470
Trips Taken: 8
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

June 18, 2012

I'm sorry if I offended anyone, it was not my intention, nor was it to tell anyone what to do. My post was in response to the following statement that you would be looking elsewhere for land trips. I suggested Road Scholar because it seems to be popular with  many travelers.

svn continents: "We will consider looking elsewhere for land trips to venues not covered by OAT, rather than take a Grand Circle land trip, given our disappointment with their apparent lack of interest in increasing the experience of travelers."

 

Author: svncontinents

Joined: 11/25/2011
Posts: 230
Trips Taken: 12
Traveler Since: 2007

June 18, 2012

As a final comment to luisa, we ask:  do you really see no difference between our giving advice on vias and your "advice" telling us whom we would be better off traveling with?  Because they are quite different.  Grand Circle and OAT strongly recommend, as a matter of company policy, getting visas in advance, and discussion regarding that topic is fair game, because it addresses company policy, appropriate for this dedicated forum.  But your "advice" to us had nothing to do with company policy, but instead was suggesting to us with whom we should travel.  If we had wanted your "advice, we would have asked for it.  So you see, it is hardly the "pot calling the kettle black," because we have never told anyone what personal  decisions they should make when those decisions had nothing to do with the effect on company policy.   We trust now that you see the distinction. 

As far as you post quoting us that we sould look elsewhere if OAT did not have land trips, and your recommendation, we thank you for it, but it would have been better if you had kept your "recommendation" to yourself until we had asked for it.  We are quite well traveled, and in fact have more trips with the company under our belt than you,  And we choose to continue to travel with Grand Circle because we are well satisfied, for the most part, so our criticisms go more towards making sure that Grand Circle continues to provide the travel experience that we and likely new clients would want, which is what kept us us, and very likely you, returning for additional trips.

So this forum is indeed for that, and let's keep it that way.  "Suggesting" to us what companies we would, or may prefer to travel with has nothing to do with Grand Circle, and has no place on this forum, unless requested.  We trust that you understand that.  Your comments clearly annoyed us, however, we accept your apology from your last post. 

Author: pauline

Joined: 3/9/2010
Posts: 889
Trips Taken: 11
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

June 18, 2012

I don't think Luisa had anything to apologize for.  The fact that she did shows she has a nicer nature than some people, including me.  Nor did she mention pots and kettles.

Sorry, guys, I'm find this thread and several others quite objectionable and not what we're used to.

Pauline

Author: wattsed

Joined: 3/30/2010
Posts: 126
Trips Taken: 2
Countries Visited:

All seven continents, 113 countries and all states except Hawaii and Idaho.Plus some interesting places that are not countries such as The zores, Falkland Islands, South Georgia, etc.

Traveler Since: 2010

June 18, 2012

I see no difference in your self serving statement as to what is "advice" and what is "sujggestions" and has validitty in fact...bottom line, you suggested that everyone should get the visa in advance and to not do so put everyone else in at peril and, in effect, was disrespectful to eveyone else...You seem to lord overyone else  your "extensive" travels, especially with GCT and OAT---and I can quote some of your own offensive comments in respomse to some of the posts but I will not lower myself to do so....I will be willing to bet that many people on this forum, including myself, have traveled more extensively than you and has more extensive travel experience than you (maybe not with GCT/OAT but overall)  .You say you accepedt lusia's apology but if you read the rest of your post, you, in effect did not....It does not take a genius to analyze the obvious!!!
 

You cannot Post or Reply, please sign in

Rules of Use:
Be Relevant

Please stick to the topic of travel when posting in our Forum. Stay on the relevant topic and do not disrupt a discussion in progress. If you have a specific customer service question or issue, please contact our Traveler Support Team by calling 1-800-221-0814.

Be Respectful

Use of any inappropriate language, personal attacks, and hate speech are not permitted. Respect others’ opinions and suggestions.

Be Mindful of Privacy Issues

Please do not post the personal information of other members (full names, e-mail addresses, phone numbers, etc).

Help us help you

Please click on the ‘Report Abuse’ button if you see an inappropriate posting.