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Author: grammyflo

Joined: 3/15/2010
Posts: 148
Trips Taken: 12
Traveler Since: 2002

November 02, 2011

Couldnt agree with you more, captainlarry.  We are running out of trips to take with GCT and still love them, but I think it may be time in history to turn inward to our own Country which could use alot of influx of jobs and money that are not 'shovel ready'.  With no aspersion cast on GCT, could it be they get better 'deals' overseas than in our own country?  We have traveled to the National Parks with GCT and have been awed by the beauty in our own USA.  My husband can no longer drive long, long trips and we would love to discover America on either a bus tour, railroad, etc.  The bus driver we had at the National Parks, Ralph, was better than any program director GCT could have provided us.

I am very comfortable going with GCT anywhere and this wish list of all of us is still something we can dream about until it becomes feasible and cost effective.  Just sayin'..............................

 

Author: captainlarry

Joined: 4/24/2010
Posts: 345
Trips Taken: 10
Traveler Since: 2002

November 09, 2011

I feel it is only fair that I report on the results of further in-depth research on the GCT and YMT trips to the northwest USA and southwestern Canada. The travel and the lodging evaluation shows the two to be almost identical. GCT gets an edge (in my opinion) for having three cases of two nights in the same hotel and one case of three nights. YMT gets an edge for an included train ride and ferry ride. GCT gets an edge for the available extensions (but I did cost comparisons as if the extensions were not being taken). GCT gets an edge for (I assume) having a guide (program director) plus a driver while with YMT the driver is the giude. When I added to the YMT price the value of the meals included by GCT, YMT is still cheaper but by a much smaller margin.

The jury is still out, but leaning toward GCT.

Author: nanaandpapa

Joined: 3/30/2011
Posts: 443
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

November 09, 2011

We have taken both the "America's Majestic National Parks" and "Northwest National Parks". In both cases there was a separate driver and program director. Also, in both cases, the driver was an excellent guide and the program director and driver worked together to make the trips outstanding. They varied the trip from the planned agenda when it was appropriate. Just a couple of examples: On the "Northwest National Parks",  the Maligne Lake cruise was not operating on our planned date, but they had launched the boats that morning, so after tracking the situation by phone, we got the cruise anyway, and different arrangements were made for dinner. Also on that trip, the driver indicated that there was frequently wildlife if we deviated from the normal routing. In no time we we surounded by mountain goats. On the America National Park trip, the driver noted that there was a rodeo in Cody when we were there. They called ahead and booked tickets, so this was an optional tour, just for the cost of the tickets with transpotation provided. The driver in both cases provided addtional information and commentary on each tour.

 

Jack and Ann Donoghue

Author: waysidetraveler

Joined: 2/4/2012
Posts: 1
Trips Taken: 0

February 03, 2012

Setting up a tour of any kind is a very tricky business.  I drove tour buses mostly in the western states for various tour operators and after several seasons I began to see that many considerations play into a tour that distinguishes a great tour from a so so tour.  Planning a route most often has to do with availability of good hotel rooms in the right places at the right times.  I have driven for tours that occasionally had some very long days just to position the group at the next site on a timely basis.    I have driven for tour operators that had designed a very fast paced tour on a limited budget.  Many Brits will sign on for such tours and they are on a limited budget of their own.  But you will not see long days in a bus seat on Tauck or Globus and other quality tours.  Tour planning is really a tough business in the western states as their is only so many hotel rooms in a moderate price range that can be blocked by an operator for a tour season.  

Pacing the tour is a real tour quality issue.  A younger crowd can take a faster paced tour, but I saw mostly older people on these tours and it was just punishment to subject an older group to a fast paced tour.  A forum is a great place to find out such things about various tours.  But to me at least the tour planner is the most important person in the design of a great tour.  Sitting down with a highway map to calculate the driving times denotes an amature planner.  He or she will have to drive that route to fully appreciate the what is really needed to make the tour a pleasant trip.  So asking GCT to host new and interesting tours is great feedback.  Just realize that many obstacles have to be surmounted before a great new tour can be offered.  It would not surprise me if GCT has tour planners constantly looking for ways to host new and exciting tours.  But it is a difficult challenge to come up with a great tour with many other tour operators already established and using many of the hotel rooms that GCT would also need.

  For a trip this spring I originally tried to put together a great ferry ride along the Alaskan coast.  I could not make the kind of connections I wanted to make the trip interesting.  One interesting angle was to fly to Anchorage, change planes for a flight out to Dutch Harbor so I could take the ferry back to mainland Alaska.  I could not make good ferry connections to the inland passage stops via ferry.  I would most likely have to fly.  Bus travel is not well developed as there is no overwhelming demand for public bus travel.  Finally, I threw in the towel on the Alaskan Ferry idea.  Next I looked for an interesting small ship cruise on the Great Lakes and or along the East Coast.  

 I found one operator that looks interesting.  Blounts Small Ship Adventures has several ship tours one of which does the Great Lakes and a series of old canals to the Hudson river past New York City and on to their home port at Warren, RI.  Not cheap.  And the reviews are mixed, but their boats are sea worthy....not just converted canal barges.  That appeals more to me than a river cruise up the Mississipi River and its tributaries.  I think the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence Sea Way offer the best small boat cruise opportunities at this time.  There is room for cruise development in that area.  Maybe GCT will look into it.  It seems Blount is working that area for all its worth.  I think they are astute planners.

Author: captainlarry

Joined: 4/24/2010
Posts: 345
Trips Taken: 10
Traveler Since: 2002

February 04, 2012

Welcome aboard, WaySideTraveler. You present a new perspective on the subject. I have taken two tours of the Rocky Mountain National Parks with two different tour companies, Grand Circle Travel and Saga Holidays. They were very similar but they did a few things differently. I enjoyed both greatly.

But I can certainly understand many of your comments. A "for instance": We left Rapid City, SD, bound for Denver. We made a rest stop on the SD - Wyoming border. Our coach driver got rather upset when he saw another tour bus pass by the rest stop without stopping. He said that meant we would not be able to have lunch at the location he had in mind since the other bus would get there first and fill up the restaurant. He was right. We went on to the next town and got some food but it was not quite the same.

On that tour (Saga) we had a very experienced coach driver. We had a program director who was leading her first tour in the area. She spent the time between stops reading the tour guides so that she could stay a step ahead of the tourists. The driver, having covered the same territory many times with different companies, had a much better handle on what was coming up next. The combination of the two, driver and PD, made for a very enjoyable tour for the tourists.

I have also traveled (not Rocky Mountains) with YMT Vacations. They use the driver as the tour guide and it is usually satisfactory. But some of the logistic concerns handled by a program director become a distraction when the driver is doing both. I think Grand Circle does a great job of selecting the drivers and program directors. That's why I now have booked my ninth trip with GCT.

Author: walshcs

Joined: 1/25/2011
Posts: 71
Trips Taken: 3
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

February 09, 2012

For Captainlarry and others who would like to see GCT do more domestic tour offerings:

I agree with most everything that has been said by others on this topic and I understand that Grand Circle wants to focus on what they feel they can do best, so an alternative company is CARAVAN. Someone else mentioned taking several of Caravan's USA trips with good results.

I would like to offer that this modest company does an EXCELLENT job with tour directors, very competitive pricing, beautiful hotels overall, and worthwhile, interesting, comprehensive itineraries. Part of their price secret is VOLUME...they have good relationships with their suppliers, such as hotels, because they have many departures each year for the same trips. They include everything, no extra charge for optionals, which I like.

I'm not on their payroll either...I have been very satisfied with Caravan myself incl. my 10 day trip to Costa Rica with them and I intend to do many of their USA offerings as they are much less expensive than companies like Collette or Globus for USA tours.

I remain loyal to GCT for my foreign travel...leaving on the Tuscany & Amalfi Coast trip April 21, 2012 and I can't wait!

Happy Trails, Cate

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