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Author: tomnat

Joined: 6/4/2010
Posts: 83
Trips Taken: 19
Traveler Since: 2004

March 15, 2013

After we paid for our 2 last trips, GCT has replaced important optionals: Pyrogovo Open-Air Museum on our 2012 Kiev pre-trip to Russia Revealed, and Pompei & Naples on our next 2013 Amalfi pre-trip to Discover Sicily.

The Kiev replacement was so bad, we & some others complained and got our money back. For our upcoming Almalfi pre-trip, Pompei & Naples has been replaced with Capri without the Blue Grotto, both for $130. Note, GCT Foundation supports Pompei, and it is still part of the Tuscany & Amalfi trip.

GCT did not notify us (15 trips Inner Circle) of these changes which were made last fall after we paid last Aug. If we had not checked GCT's site recently, we would not have found out until we received the printed itinerary 2 weeks before departure. Some travelers, who do not save a copy of the web itinerary they paid for, would get their surprise in the group meeting after arrival. This "Bait & Switch" policy creates bad blood/tips between Program Directors & the GCT travellers, who expect the itinerary they paid for.

When we called GCT again today, the call center person said that it was still Capri and said that there was a note in our file for the "Program Director to resolve". He also referred us to GCT's Terms & Conditions!

Let us know, what you think about GCT's "Bait & Switch" policy or itinerary changes that affected you!

A recent forum post complained about big changes to a Panama trip, but at least GCT apparently sent a letter/email notifying them of the changes.

We do appreciate GCT's forum/reviews for Q&A and feedback.

 

Author: luisa

Joined: 3/13/2010
Posts: 538
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. Ireland

Traveler Since: 2006

March 16, 2013

I think that when changes are made on optionals, which are extra  costs, the company should notify you and give you the opportunity to decide whether you want to do the replacement or get a refund.

On this one I think I would skip Capri and try to find way to do Pompeii on my own; they are vastly different.

The company makes it clear that there could be changes to the itinerary and hotels but paid up optionals should not be included in that policy.

Author: franniepat

Joined: 3/11/2010
Posts: 50
Trips Taken: 10
Countries Visited:

Ireland, France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Austria, Portugal, Costa Rica, Peru, Bolivia, Columbia, Mexico, Alaska, Canada, Western US parks.

Traveler Since: 2008

March 16, 2013

I wouldn't pay for optionals ahead of arrival on the tour. You pay to your tour director. Did you mean extensions?

Author: luisa

Joined: 3/13/2010
Posts: 538
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. Ireland

Traveler Since: 2006

March 17, 2013

The OP is referring to an optional on an extension. I don't know why they would have to pay in advance either. I've paid for optionals when on the main trip and at least once, on the post-trip extension. Occasionally, there is something special, maybe a balloon ride or an optional that requires a flight, that you need to pay for in advance, but I don't see why adance payment would be required in this instance.

Whether it's the main trip or the extension, GCT should offer a refund if the optional is changed to something that doesn't interest you.

Author: tomnat

Joined: 6/4/2010
Posts: 83
Trips Taken: 19
Traveler Since: 2004

March 17, 2013

The "Pre-Paid" referred to the base trip, extensions (pre & post trip), airfare, insurance, etc. under the "Good Buy"plans, not the "Optional Tours". Sorry about the confusion. We have not pre-paid for optionals on any of our GCT/OAT trips.

We do most optionals, since we want to Discover/experience everything new of interest to us and do not expect to return to a locale on a future trip. However, we like GCT/OAT's optional concept, since they allow people to tailor their trips to their interests, abilities & finances. We do most of our trips with GCT/OAT because we like new experiences, e.g. UNESCO sites, school & home visits, history lectures by locals, nature, local food & restaurants, etc.

We do not like GCT changing the base or optional itinerary, after we have paid for the trip. We think changing the itinerary without notification is "Bait & Switch" and frankly beneath Harriet & Allan's cultivated integrity image. 

We were excited about Pompei & Naples & Ukraine's Pyrogovo open air museum optionals,which were key reasons for paying for these pre-trips. Both rate as "Must Sees" in the guide books that GCT urges us to research, before booking a trip. As others & we have discussed on this forum Capri is not Pompei for us. 

Author: pauline

Joined: 3/9/2010
Posts: 970
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

March 17, 2013

What did you see instead of Pyrogovo open air museum, which I found fascinating in 2010?

And I agree that Capri is not a substitute for Pompei.

Author: janice!

Joined: 3/18/2010
Posts: 277
Trips Taken: 7
Traveler Since: 1999

March 17, 2013

I had a similar experience three years ago on the Dubrovnik and Beyond trip. One of the reasons that some of us chose the pre-trip was because it included an optional excursion to Montenegro. There was no notice that the excursion would not be part of the pre-trip until after we arrived and received an agenda from our guide. The Montenegro excursion was moved to the main trip and another optional was added to the pre-trip. As it turned out, I was very glad I had chosen the pre-trip because I had arrived before the volcano eruption which delayed many in our group by as much as five days.

Author: tomnat

Joined: 6/4/2010
Posts: 83
Trips Taken: 19
Traveler Since: 2004

March 17, 2013

Instead of Pyrogovo, we went to a Cossack Village museum near Kiev, and then drove to an included lunch not in the village. No folk music was at the lunch as advertised. The Cossack Village was new replicas of buildings like Disney EpCot, with a young lady quide & no craftsman. They were training for a Cossack horse show, but that was not included or discussed by the guide.

"Pyrogovo open-air museum with lunch & folk music" was the optional described in the GCT paper ad, when we booked the trip in 2011. Pyrogovo per 2011 Lonely Planet was 1 of 17 top Ukraine experiences is 7 miles from Kiev.

Per Lonely Planet (since we did not go)  "quaint 17th-20th century wooden churches, cottages,  farmsteads & windmills are divided into 7 villages representing regional areas of Ukraine. So in just 1 afternoon, you can journey from the architecture of eastern to western to southern Ukraine. In summer, workers enact different village roles, carving wood, making pottery, doing embroidery, and driving horses & carts. There are restuarants, pubs & stalls..."

I just checked GCT's 2013 description of this optional here, and it is ambiguous- somewhere between our very disappoining Cossack only village & Pyrogovo; so new customers might be still disappointed. Note that in 2013 lunch & music are not included in this optional.

Our conclusion is that accountants are driving GCT: pennywise & pound foolish! Let us know if the Pyrogovo you experienced match the Lonely Planet description.

Author: jl.anderson

Joined: 3/17/2010
Posts: 71
Trips Taken: 5
Countries Visited:

With OAT/GCT: China, Peru, Ecuador, Ukraine, Russia, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe, South Africa plus 40+ more countries on my own.

Traveler Since: 2007

March 17, 2013

 Hello TomNat:

Although this does not answer why GCT is changing itineraries (optionals or not) after they are paid for, if you are still going on the Amalfi extension and still want to get to Pompei, you can easily do so on your own on the free day.  I believe you are staying in Sorrento.  From there it is an easy train ride to Pompei, hire a guide on the spot or do your own self guided tour (my preference) or arrange for someone in advance.  Rick Steves' Italy guidebooks provide lots of great information about this.  Pompei is fascinating.

Ciao,

Judy

Author: luisa

Joined: 3/13/2010
Posts: 538
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. Ireland

Traveler Since: 2006

March 18, 2013

I'm happy to see Judy's post, I knew thought I'd seen something before about taking a train to Pompeii. Frankly, I'd rather do that and hire a guide or get a good book, than do it with the group. You can ask a lot of questions and move at your own pace.

I did not visit Pompeii when I in Naples but did go to the wonderful Archeology Museum.

Author: pauline

Joined: 3/9/2010
Posts: 970
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

March 18, 2013

Whatever village we visited in Kiev in 2010, it seemed to be authentic and not a reproduction.  There were people there who were not part of tour groups and something going on in the church.  A christening, I believe.  But we were told it was a Cossack village.

I've been to Pompei twice.  The first time was in 1954, and I was recovering from dysentery and couldn't take much in.  The second time was on the Tuscany and Amalfi Coast tour, and it was really unbelievable!  So much to see.  And so much was preserved by the lava.  If I could do only one thing, I'd choose Pompei over Capri.

Author: gaynell

Joined: 8/12/2010
Posts: 144
Trips Taken: 12
Traveler Since: 2005

March 18, 2013

Another option is to contact the hotel where you will be staying and ask if they, or a local tour operator, have a one day tour to Pompeii available. I did that last time I was in Italy, and it worked out well. It was an all day tour that included lunch and a visit to the ruins.

I also like Judy's idea of taking the train, and hiring a local guide or guiding yourself with the help of Rick Steves.  You can check his Italy book out of the library and copy the pages on Pompeii, or buy the book and take it apart, using the sections for the areas where you will be going.

It isn't necessary to miss Pompeii just because an optional tour has been arbitrarily changed.  You can manage this on your own, and it is definitely worth seeing.

Author: grandcircle

Joined: 3/5/2010
Posts: 271
Trips Taken: 0

March 18, 2013

Hello Everybody -

Thank you for your comments. 

Tomnat, we apologize for not being able to offer the Pompeii optional tour you were looking forward to taking. From time to time, we do need to change our Optional Tour offerings from what is initially advertised.  These changes usually involve circumstances beyond our control or lack of interest.  In this particular case, we have had very low interest in Pompeii (surprisingly); therefore, we are no longer offering it.  However, it is easy to visit to Pompeii during your free time in Sorrento. 

Somebody will be contacting you offline to discuss how this can be arranged for you.

Kind Regards,

Michelle

GCCL/GCT Forum Moderator

Author: tomnat

Joined: 6/4/2010
Posts: 83
Trips Taken: 19
Traveler Since: 2004

March 18, 2013

Thanks for all your suggestions including GCT. We look forward to talking to GCT about the deleted Pompei optional one more time, but more importantly about GCT's policy of changing intineraries without notifying those customers who have already booked.

In 2013, the Almalfi pre-trip went from 7 to 5 days with the Pompei & Naples optional included & Capri deleted. We booked & paid in Aug 2012; sometime in the fall GCT replaced Pompei & Naples optional with Capri without notifying us.

The Pompei optional when we booked was: "Your day begins with a tour of a local Pompei archaeological site, supported in part by GCT Foundation. After lunch in a local restaurant, you'll travel fo Naples for a guided tour of Naples Archaeological Museum. On your way back to the hotel in Sorrento, enjoy a panoramic drive through Naples and along the sparking Mediterranean coast."

We like this optional, since it included not just UNESCO site Pompei, but Naples' world class museum containing sculptures, paintings & mosaics from Pompei, as well as collections from100,000 BC, Greece, Rome, etc., and finally finished with a tour of Naples & coast to Sorrento.

We will see if we can replicate this inclusive optional on our own, which we find hard to believe became unpopular in fall 2012, since all its parts are still included in the base Tuscany & Amalfi tour, and it has had no negative comments in GCT reviews or this forum.

 

Author: porkchop55

Joined: 2/6/2011
Posts: 71
Trips Taken: 11
Countries Visited:

Vietnam, Cambodia, Great Britain, Israel, Italy, Spain, Turkey, France, Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland, Tunisia, China, Peru, Canada, Japan, Philippines, Thailand, Fiji, American Samoa, Australia, Taiwan, Singapore, South Korea

Traveler Since: 2004

March 19, 2013

 Tomnat,   We took the Tuscany & Amalfi tour in 2005 and  Pompei was included.  While there I noted that the train stops right by the front entrance to Pompei and in Serrento  the train station is near to all of the hotels, so you should have not problems getting there on your own.     

 

Another  option is to ask you TD to arrange for a van to take you there.   While in Serrento I wanted to go to  Paestum, so our  TD arranged for a  local company to provide a van and driver.   He took us to see Paestum and then to a lunch at a local farm the made  buffalo mozzarella, a specialty of the area.  They claim that Hannibal brought the buffalos to Italy.   I guess they did better in Italy  than the elephants.  Perhaps,  elephant mozzarella doesn’t taste to good so they got rid of them. J There were 7 or 8 of us who went to Paestum so if I remember right the cost of the van and driver ended up only be about 35 Euro each

Author: tomnat

Joined: 6/4/2010
Posts: 83
Trips Taken: 19
Traveler Since: 2004

March 30, 2013

Thank you, GCT moderator Michelle! GCT called over a week ago, and we had an open discussion about GCT changing an itinerary, and not notifying already booked customers.

GCT will not offer the Pompei, Naples Archaeological Museum & panoramic Naples full day optional tour, that was part of the intinerary that we booked Aug 2012. They are sticking with the Capri optional, which replaced Pompei & Naples sometime last fall.

GCT had no plausible excuse for changing the itinerary for booked customers, other than for quality, which did not make sense to us, since all parts of of this tour are still part of the Tuscany & Almalfi base trip.

GCT has been offering this optional for at least the last several years through 2012; so if it was unpopular why offer it for at least 4 months on the revised 2013 Discover Sicily Amalfi pre-trip?? Again, Pompei & Naples was not unpopular on this forum or in trip reviews.

We think GCT should not change advertised printed/web itineraries after accepting bookings, other than for quality or site availability issues. Then promptly notify those customers who have already booked. In our case, we might have cancelled the Amalfi pr-trip, and taken GCT's Tuscany & Amalfi trip in the future.

GCT Boston is checking with GCT Rome to try to replicate this tour for us. As we leave 4/22, we will are starting to check on our own. Thank you fellow travellers who have offered suggestions about doing this great optional without GCT. 

Author: franniepat

Joined: 3/11/2010
Posts: 50
Trips Taken: 10
Countries Visited:

Ireland, France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Austria, Portugal, Costa Rica, Peru, Bolivia, Columbia, Mexico, Alaska, Canada, Western US parks.

Traveler Since: 2008

March 31, 2013

Have been to Pompeii twice and lucky to have gotten the same excellent guide each time; however, this was with another tour company. If you make arrangements on your own, I would recommend the official guides at Pompeii-ours was so informative it made a great experience!

Author: grandcircle

Joined: 3/5/2010
Posts: 271
Trips Taken: 0

April 01, 2013

Hello Tomnat -

Thank you for checking back in - I am glad that you were able to speak with somebody.  I hope you have a wonderful time in Italy.

Buon Viaggio,

Michelle

GCT/GCCL Forum Moderator

Author: nowociju

Joined: 12/29/2012
Posts: 1
Trips Taken: 0

April 17, 2013

Just a heads up, GCT is changing the dates on upcoming trip to Eastern Europe..  They want you to book in advance, so when you make all your personal arrangments, the dates changed & now one is stuck jumping thru hoops.  GCT should have a quality control dept & NOT list anything & then change it.

 

Author: grandcircle

Joined: 3/5/2010
Posts: 271
Trips Taken: 0

April 17, 2013

Hello Nowociju -

Somebody will be following up with you with offline about your change.  We apologize for the inconvenience.

Kind Regards,

Michelle

GCCL/GCT Forum Moderator

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