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Author: etq2000

Joined: 7/14/2012
Posts: 1
Traveler Since: 2003

July 14, 2012

For many years I have traveled from the east coast (New York City) to California, never setting foot on the so called "flyover states". I heard about the beauty and uniqueness of the central part of our country and felt it was time to see it personally. The slogan, "See America First" came to mind. Also, after having spent tourist dollars overseas, many to countries that really don't like America that much, I thought that keeping some of my hard earned money in the U.S.A. was a fine idea. Thus, my wife Ronnie and I booked  GCT's "Americas Majestic National Parks" for June, 2012.

Our expectations were exceeded.The mid-western part of America is truly remarkable, the GCT itinerary was nicely planned and our Program Director, Leah Morrison, combined a good knowledge of the area, professionalism, a sense of humor and a relaxed atmosphere. Our bus driver Ray, was competent, extremely safety conscious and stocked a bottomless supply of Tootsie pops to keep the tourists happy.

Traveling with others from different parts of the U.S.A., Ohio, Florida, California, etc.,  is always interesting. We had a fine group. If you haven't seen the central part of America and want to keep some tourist dollars in the good 'ol U.S.A. I recommend this trip!

 

 

 

 

Author: wattsed

Joined: 3/30/2010
Posts: 136
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

July 15, 2012

Thanks for the report...my wife and I are in the same boat so to speak and we have almost run out of places to visit outsite the States---while I have been in every state except two, Idaho and Hawaii, we have not  made some of these visits as extensive as we would have wished..I think the time is now and your post is a reminder that there are some great places in the good ol, USA to see as well...Again, thanks for your feedback and suggestions..

Author: captainlarry

Joined: 4/24/2010
Posts: 394
Traveler Since: 2002

July 15, 2012

I did GCT's Majestic National Parks tour in 2008. I did a nearly identical tour provided by another company, Saga Holidays, nine years earlier. It is a magnificient tour. The scenery is spectacular. It is about 3,000 miles on a bus, but spread over enough days so that few are objectionable. Maybe in another five years I'll want to do it again. It was somewhat similar to the Northwest National Parks tour I just completed. Mountains are great to visit, but I don't want to live there.

Oh, yes. The tour also passes through enough of the state of Idaho to claim that state as having been visited.

Author: wattsed

Joined: 3/30/2010
Posts: 136
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

July 15, 2012

O.k. Captian, I will have to sign up just so I can claim Idaho (Seems like a bit of cheating but only those on the bus will know for sure and they will  want to claim Idaho also!!!)...I was on detail to the Government of the Virgin Islands and lived on St. Thomas and St. Croix for a 25 month streach and then after returning to the states returned for another six months at a later time ---there is a great difference in  visiting a small island for a couple weeks but after several months it starts to wear thin!---that is why I had no desire to go to Hawaii unlil rather recently as friends have moved there...I will make it probably next year

Author: svncontinents

Joined: 11/25/2011
Posts: 230
Traveler Since: 2007

July 15, 2012

 We took the trip in 2010 as a consolation because we were unable to take our planned trip to Holland and Belgium because of the Iceland volcano eruption.  We probably would have taken the trip eventually anyway, for much the same reasons as watsed articulated.  We concur that the scenery is magnificent, and the grandeur of the country spectacular.  However, as a trip itself, we felt that it was one of the few Grand Circle trips that did not give us the best value for the money spent.  We can elaborate if anyone wants.  And we say this as repeat Grand Circle/OAT clients with 10 trips.

Author: wattsed

Joined: 3/30/2010
Posts: 136
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

July 15, 2012

7-C---since, in my mind at least,  I have more or less decided to do this trip I would like, in a general way, your thoughts on why it is not the best value....Would you recommend something else??..I have done trips with many other providers over the past 20 years but I only discovered OAT/GCT   fairly recently..Until that time I thought I was getting value for my money with the others but since I have completed a couple trips with OAT/GCT , looking back, I do not feel that way any longer...A friend long ago told me about GCT and a trip he took to Egypt  but I did not do any real research but looked only at their prices and, basically, wrote them off as a "cut rate" outfit,...I was at a military reunion in Las Vegas and was in a converation  with a woman who  had completed a total of 17 tours with OAT/GCT and had two more planned...That (and the fact she told me if I would only mention her name I would get an additional $100 off of my fare) convienced me to try them...Wow, had I met her much earlier, I would have saved lots of green stuff over the years!!

Author: svncontinents

Joined: 11/25/2011
Posts: 230
Traveler Since: 2007

July 15, 2012

watsed, our basis for our comments is the fact that we've taken numerous Grand Circle/OAT trips, and we felt that this particular trip did not give us the value for our money as had most of our other trips.  First reason is that it included far fewer meals than other trips we had taken with the company.  Second, we felt that their itinerary left something to be desired.  In particular, they took us to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, instead of the far more impressive, in our opinions, the South Rim that most other tour companies do.  When we visited Monument valley, the 'visit' was stopping at the side of the public highway and viewing a couple of the monuments in the distance, when for a total of $2.00per person, the bus could have actually gone into the valley, and toured all the monuments both afar and up close.  We felt that was being penny-wise and pound foolish.

We did find the accommodations more than adequate, and the PD, in the usualy Grand Circle/OAT fashion to be excellent.  The optional excursion to the Slot Canyon was worth the money, in our opinion, because of the different natural geography and the photographs we got in portions of the canyon with different colors and intensities.  We didn't have a lot of photraphers on our trip, and a number of people didn't think that trip worth it, but we did for the reasons mentioned.  The trip to Mesa Verde was a trip into ancient architecture, and we were most impressed.  You have to walk down and back up, being the only drawback.  But we felt that worth it.  Grand Circle originally had another trip rafting down the Snake River, which they cancelled, however, we, as did a number of people went anyway.  We are seasoned class three canoeists, and we weren't too impressed with the water, but a number of people on our raft were, and we suppose that this trip was for the benefit of those people.  We did get to see a number of bald eagles and other wildlife, which the steersman pointed out.  We don't know why Grand Circle cancelled the optional, nor do we know if its been reinstated, but we would recommend it. 

To incorporte our suggestions would have indeed increased the price of the trip, but even still, it would have been below what competitors offer.  As far as your friend'scomments about Grand Circle being a 'cut-rate' company, without ever having taken a trip, we understand how he could make that judgment simply based on price.  But what he didn't know was that the size of Grand Circle, and the concommittant economies of scale, allow them to purchase in bulk at lower prices than others who lack their volume cannot do.  So Grand circle passes on the savings in costs to you.

We hope this clarifies our reservatons.  We've tried to be even-handed, as we like the company, and have two more upcoming trips booked with them.  It's not a bad trip; it just could have been better.

Author: wattsed

Joined: 3/30/2010
Posts: 136
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

July 16, 2012

7-c, thanks for your evaluation of the trip...I can understand why you were disappointed with some aspects of the trip especially the Monument Valley part and only the North Rim (I've been to the South Rim and I can't imagine not seeing it if it is called a Grand Canyon tour!)  Just a point of clarification, it was me not my friend who wrote them off without any research based simply on looking at pricing---he was pleased with his Egypt trip...Again, thanks for a very good evaluation of the trip and its shortcomings...

Author: travelgeek

Joined: 7/16/2012
Posts: 1
Traveler Since: 2008

July 16, 2012

I have not been on the GCT trip, but I have been to all these places on my own, including both the North Rim and the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.  Having driven from Zion and Bryce to the Grand Canyon, it makes a lot of sense to visit the North Rim between these wonderful National Parks and Page.

I much prefer the North Rim to the South Rim.  It is certainly less crowded and I prefer the views from the North Rim which is at a higher elevation than the South Rim providing a very different perspective.  You can see the river from various views much more readily than from the South Rim.  As the itinerary says, the views from the Lodge on the North Rim are specular.  Since you have seen the South Rim, I think you will be pleased that this tour takes you to the North Rim.

 

Author: wattsed

Joined: 3/30/2010
Posts: 136
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

July 16, 2012

Thanks for your input from a different point of view (no pun intended)---I guess that just goes to show what is either "good" or "bad" is different with each individual and you must know at least a little about a person's individual tastes to be able to truly evaluate their recommendations...I have been on several trips where a husband and wife totally disagree about whether the trip was worthwhile or not and would have given completely different evaluations...Thanks for your input---that is why this forum is useful as we usually get more than one idea on any particular  subject and sometimes even have a healthy debate on it!!

Author: svncontinents

Joined: 11/25/2011
Posts: 230
Traveler Since: 2007

July 16, 2012

Watsed-there you have a differing point of view from another's perspective.  We had visited the South Rim previously, as had you, and had anticipated the North Rim, because we hadn't been there.  When we did get there we were disappointed.  Maybe it was in comparison to the South Rim.  However, you can decide for yourself.

We like the company, obviously, as we've taken 10 trips with them.  Some of their trips, especially the OAT trips are super.  Hope you like this trip and hope that you travel with them to other venues.

Author: captainlarry

Joined: 4/24/2010
Posts: 394
Traveler Since: 2002

July 16, 2012

One aspect was nailed by bobbis. In 1999 on our tour with Saga Holidays we spent two nights at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. Actually, we stayed in Tusayan, AZ, just outside the park. The day we left the Grand Canyon bound for Cedar City, UT was the longest day we spent on the bus for the whole trip. Now from the South rim to Page (or Lake Powell Resort) is probably only about four hours on the bus, but if you're not spending the night the time for visiting would be very short. That's a rather convoluted way of saying that given GCT's itinerary the North Rim visit makes a lot of sense. Should they add another day and couple of hundred dollars to the trip? Probably. For anyone who has been to only the North Rim their visit to the Grand Canyon is really incomplete, I feel.

I did the float trip on the Snake in Jackson Hole twice. They advertise it as being a "gentle" rafting experience, with the one oarsman doing all the work. White water it ain't, and that was great with most of us. Once is probably enough but our friends who were with us on the GCT trip had not had the experience so we went with them. Last month a float trip on the Athabasca River in Jasper was offered as an option. We decided to not take it since it would have been very similar in all respects to what we had done before. In short, only about five people wanted the float trip so it was cancelled.

I agree that the slot canyon tour was probably the best optional on the trip and well worth the cost. Otherwise, the time at Lake Powell was a welcome respit from the bus travel and rather relaxing overall.

The time of year you take the Rocky Mountains tours is rather important. We went in July 1999 and early June 2008. We experienced a great deal of heat in July and a fair amount of cold in June. As an example the temperature at the rim of Bryce Canyon was near 90 F in 1999 and right around the freezing mark in 2008. In June 2008 there was still much snow in the Bighorn Mountains and Yellowstone. We watched Old Faithful in a hail storm. To get from our lodging to the dining hall at Yellowstone we had snow piled about ten feet deep on either side of the walkway.

You must prepare for the vagaries of the weather. In 1999 we had a delightful time in Zion National Park. Two days later, when we were in Salt Lake City, the monsoons hit southern Utah and Zion Canyon was flooded to the extent that the park was closed to visitors.

Having been on two very similar tours I am unlikely to do it again. But I can recommend it to anyone who has not done it, without reservation.

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