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Author: tpreminger

Joined: 5/14/2011
Posts: 46
Trips Taken: 5
Traveler Since: 1999

November 14, 2013

Just returned from a cruise on the Provence and not for the first time it struck me that PDs need to be reminded that we are senior citizens.  While most of us are fully capable of meeting the physical requirements of a trip, the truth is we see and hear a little less well with each passing year.  

On my recent trip, the PD director gave out directions quickly, didn't like to repeat herself, and was amazed if we didn't get it the first time she said something.

In many ways the PD was very competent and she organized activities for us to fill the EXCESSIVE amount of free time we had in Paris.  Whether she did this on her own or it's a ploy to make us think PDs go the "extra mile" doesn't matter.  We all appreciated the opportunity to ride the metro together and visit areas that weren't on the itinerary.

But there was  grumbling among my fellow travelers regarding not hearing or understanding directions.   Pointing to a bridge and saying " O'ver dhere is the bus stop to get back to your hotel." while the tour bus is moving, left most people confused.  Circling a site on a map where the type is very small doesn't help much either.  Trying to figure out which is the front of a building the size of a city block  with entrances on 4 sides to try and find a specific bus can be frustrating.

 A number of travelers had trouble finding their way back to the hotel after being dropped off to visit the Louvre or other museum.  Directions provided for a site I wanted to visit were incorrect.  I happen to run into a person who spoke English (rare in France) who sent me down the correct street.  

However, few people were willing to tell the PD that they didn't understand, couldn't hear, or follow the directions provided. It's a pet peeve of mine that people complain but aren't willing to try and fix the problem.  I was not so timid and the PD and I didn't have the best relationship.  

While most PDs do an excellent job,  an awareness course on the reality of dealing with people 60+ is , IMO, badly needed. 

 

 

 

 

Author: singsling

Joined: 6/23/2010
Posts: 239
Trips Taken: 11
Traveler Since: 1995

November 14, 2013

Thanks for this post.  We have had almost all (except 1) great PD's.  But some of them do talk too fast for seniors to grasp what was said., It's not only the PD's, but people in USA, stores,  on the telephone, etc.  Young people seem to run sentences and words together and forget most of patients they call are seniors and have some hearing loss.  In the case of our trips, the PD has an accent we are not familiar with.  If we have trouble understanding what was said by a US young person, I sure do have a problem understanding a person with an accent.  I don't mean to sound ungrateful for the services of the PD, but talking a little slower would help.  Especially like giving directions.  Pointing as exact streets, directions, etc. is important for us.  If we couldn't figure it out from what was said and a map given to us, we just didn't go out.  On our Norway and Lapland Hurtigruten cruise, we had a PD who started the first two words in a loud voice but gradually got so low even the first row couldn't understand her.  Several of us talked about it, because we wondered if it was us or her.  Someone asked her to use her whisper or a mic in a room, but she refused.  She said she never had a problem and knew her voice carried so it must be us.  She continued to alienate all of her group because she did not speak so we could hear and understand.  She ruined my trip completely as far as communicating with her.  The rest of the tour/cruise was fantastic.

Author: arnold

Joined: 10/20/2010
Posts: 15
Trips Taken: 8
Traveler Since: 2004

November 15, 2013

 

 I question the assumption that all GCT travelers are seniors.  While many of us are aware, from past experience, that seniors and retirees make up a large percentage of  GCT groups,  I have been on  GCT trips that included teenagers, young adults,  and folks in their forties and fifties.  Nowhere in the current GCT advertising do I see the term "seniors';  the only language that I can find implying  sensitivity to an older crowd is their term "careful pacing".

While I too,  have wished that my PD's  had done more or less of this or that,  I  realize that they have a tremendous responsibility  and must constantly make choices that benefit the whole group.  I am sorry that some posters feel they've missed out due to the insensitivity of a PD. 

 

Author: singsling

Joined: 6/23/2010
Posts: 239
Trips Taken: 11
Traveler Since: 1995

November 15, 2013

Arnold,

In 11 trips, river cruise, small ship cruise, land tours, we, too, have had young people teens to mid 50's on some of these tours, from the 80+ grandmother with a 22 year old granddaughter, to the doctor and family with middle age children with some of their grandchildren, parties of 6 or 7 family members.  These age groups have not been on most of our trips, only on a few of the trips.

My enjoyment of a trip is quickly lost if the program director is not sensitive to the seniors who have hearing loss, who, with hearing aids still cannot make out what the PD or local guide is saying if  they speak in soft tones, soft high pitched tones, and move their head away from the whisper mic.  And, I also don't feel comfortable with PD;s who are first off the bus and immediately start walking while not waiting for the bus to empty out.  It takes time for the first passenger to pick up their purses/cameras, step down slowly the first step, turn to get to the deeper step, then the last step, and on to the street/curb.  By this time the people behind are ready but can't move forward (or down the back door steps) until the first passengers are down.  By this time a PD is half a block away, wondering why we are so slow.  That is what the first poster is discussing.  And I agree with the poster..  Just my view, too. 

I'd like to add this quote from:  GCT>Community>People and Culture:

"For many years, Grand Circle Travel was based in New York City where it served members of AARP until 1982 (Grand Circle Travel now serves all mature Americans). "

 

Having said all this, I have enjoyed all our PD's except one, and they have all been more than excellent except the one. 

Author: tpreminger

Joined: 5/14/2011
Posts: 46
Trips Taken: 5
Traveler Since: 1999

November 16, 2013

Young people is not the issue. There were several under 40s on my last trip who were accompaning a parent.

Research GCT/OAT and reviewers always have a "caters to senior market" or similar statement in the text  Look at the photographs in the catalogs and websites.  You'll see people 50+  As pointed out above, GCT was originally owned by AARP.

But the issue I'm trying to put before GCT/OAT is that they need to provide regular updates to their PD that seniors may need extra time and reminders. That directions to sites, restaurants, etc. need to be provided in a clear manner AND the PD needs to ask..."do you understand or do you need me to write it out."  Have the person repeat the directions or something similar...without attitude.  

That taking travelers on a "vicinity walk" in the dark, in a neighborhood filled with construction, after an 8 hour bus ride , with the Whispers crackling, and expecting them to remember the name of a stop or shop the next day is ridiculous.

Accent can also be part of the problem, English as a 2nd or 3rd language+ speakers can sound haughty or critical because their native language uses a different tonal range than English.

Most importantly, travelers need to speak out.  GCT/OAT depends on us. Our dollars and willingness to return year after year or more frequently is what keeps the companies going.

My THANKS to the two posters who support my stand and I hope others will, too.   While GCT/OAT provides good value in the cost of a trip. Some of that value is lost when the PD leaves travelers confused, lost, or annoyed.

 

 

 

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

November 16, 2013

Because I suffer from hearing loss, I am very aware that I do not hear what is being said on all occasions.  Especially, when the speaker does not speak clearly.  Especially, when the speaker is not facing me or is speaking to my back.  Especially, when the speaker has any kind of accent, whether regional or foreign.  I have trouble understanding members of my husband's family over the phone, and they are from the midwest.  I know I am not alone in this.

GCT markets its tours to the senior population.  Any travelers younger are usually accompanying seniors.  The picture of a couple in their twenties or thirties choosing to travel on a GCT tour is mind-boggling.  They might pick the same locations, but they would go with a younger group.

So I agree with the original poster (lpreminger?) and with Singsling.  GCT has to make sure that the PDs understand our limitations.  We can't move as fast, and we can't hear as well.  But we're entitled to get the most out of the tours we take.

Author: captainlarry

Joined: 4/24/2010
Posts: 405
Trips Taken: 10
Traveler Since: 2002

November 16, 2013

Grand Circle’s Vision: We help change people’s lives

We will strive to be the world leader in international travel, adventure and discovery for American Travelers over 50—providing impactful and intercultural experience that significantly improve the quality of their lives.

Author: avalarue

Joined: 3/10/2010
Posts: 68
Trips Taken: 8
Traveler Since: 2008

November 16, 2013

We had one PD, I think in France, who would spell some words that she felt we might not understand or hear correctly. At first it was annoying, but as time went by, it became a real help in understanding her directions.

The times that I may have gotten confused or behind were more often than not my own fault, for stopping to take a photo or just dawdling. I think the responsibility is equally shared.

Author: ngbg

Joined: 6/10/2010
Posts: 2
Trips Taken: 6
Traveler Since: 2006

November 17, 2013

I'd like to mention the PDs who took the time to find a shady spot where we could perch on a seat or ledge before begining their lectures.  Much appreciated.

Author: grandcircle

Joined: 3/5/2010
Posts: 269
Trips Taken: 0

November 20, 2013

Hello Everybody -

Thank you for your comments.  This thread about your experiences with our Program Directors has been shared with our Management Team.

We understand that it isn't always easy to hear your Program Director when you are traveling with a group and/or walking through crowded areas.  Because of traveler feedback around this, we instituted Whispers on all of our GCT and GCCL programs.  However, we have since received additional feedback around the quality of the Whispers. So, we are currently reviewing several options to upgrade the equipment for our 2014 trips. 

Kind Regards,
Michelle
GCT/GCCL Forum Moderator

Author: bev.clark@verizo...

Joined: 3/3/2014
Posts: 2

April 19, 2014

As of March 2014 some of same issues continue.

PD on recent trip to Italy was insensitive to varying abilities to walk long distances.  The 5 people on canes were given no consideration and always lagged behind, missing information.  The PD always walked with the fastest walkers, oblivious to the struggles of others.  When asked if we couldn't have a little time to sit just to recover, we were told there would be plenty of time to sit at the end of the day - not much help for people who just needed to catch their breath.

That having been said, this PD was knowledgable, organized and funny, but definitely needs some training in dealing with people over 70 (80% of our group)!  When asked if he could slow down the pace during walks, he replied, "maybe you should not have come on this trip!"

Author: tedlieber

Joined: 3/15/2014
Posts: 9
Trips Taken: 7
Traveler Since: 2010

April 19, 2014

This is a sensitive and complicated issue. I agree that the Program Director cited above for the Italy trip seems to have been somewhat blunt and undiplomatic. But, It has been clear from comments on this forum and through direct observation that signficant numbers of clients book GCT tours (and even some OAT tours) whose physical abilities do not meet the stated trip requirements. I think Program Directors need to be sensitive, and they need to pace the activities to match the stated trip requirements. But when the infirmities of one or more clients detracts from the enjoyment of qualified participants or threatens the successful accompishment of trip objectives, the Program Director needs to take decisive action. This can include anything from barring the unqualified participant from a specific activity to sending the unqualified participant home. Before I book a tour (and even after booking), I continually check the trip description, reviews, and forum comments to evaluate my ability to handle the demands of the trip.

Author: janice!

Joined: 3/18/2010
Posts: 277
Trips Taken: 7
Countries Visited:

many

Traveler Since: 1999

April 19, 2014

Here's what I found for the Tuscany and Almalfi Coast trip:

  • This trip features a fair amount of walking, often uphill, over uneven, unpaved, or cobbled surfaces as you travel in Italy. You should be able to walk two to three miles unassisted over the course of each day.
  • For your comfort and safety, we recommend this program only to individuals in good physical condition. If you have difficulty walking or are wheelchair-bound, please consult our Travel Counselors for guidance.

Note that nothing is said about the pace of walking nor do I recall it being specified for any of the GCT trips. I think it's possible that the people using canes would have been able to manage the walking as descirbed if the pace was slower and inter-mixed with rest periods. Even though they they use canes, they may consider themselves to be in good physical condition.

Author: rkauzlarich

Joined: 3/13/2010
Posts: 33
Trips Taken: 9
Traveler Since: 2009

April 20, 2014

We, too, have had wonderful Trip Leaders (Program Directors) who were sensitive to the needs of the group.  The company is indeed known as a travel company for the mature crowd.  We have been on a few trips with "20-somethings" (parts of an intergenerational group).They seemed to know that they were on Grandma and Grandpa's trip and expected things to run at Grandma and Grandpa's pace.  When things got too slow for them, they broke off on their own.  Having said that, there are physical guidelines/ requirements for each trip that the seniors need to consider before booking something that they can not handle.

Author: luisa

Joined: 3/13/2010
Posts: 529
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

April 20, 2014

I think the PD was inconsiderate. If the walk in question was after he'd observed the abilities of the group he could have said that it might be difficult for some and they should consider not doing it. Saying maybe you shouldn't be on the trip was callous, as was not giving them a few minutes of rest. I think he needs some sensitivity training.

Using a cane could be for a range of reasons: from a recent sprain to an aid for hills and cobblestone streets. One of the fastest walkers I've ever traveled with used a cane on the city walks as protection against a fall if he was distracted. I've brought a trekking pole with me on some trips to help with stairs and walking downhill, but I have no problem walking the required miles per day or keeping up with most participants.

My point is, and we've covered this before, the pace and fitness description for trips is too vague. I can tell right away where I fit when I look at a Road Scholar trip descriptions, easy, active, moderately challenging, challenging, etc. But I don't expect to see a change.

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

April 20, 2014

Luisa, we have discussed this before. 

And for those of us who have taken a number of these trips, we kind of interpret the descriptions in our own ways.  For me, my decision has been based on my last few GCT experiences and my present physical condition.  Since my friend and former traveling companion passed away in 2010, I have been traveling solo.  I can no longer do so on these trips.  I returned last evening from visiting friends in San Antonio.  I needed wheelchairs at every stop, from starting in Boston, changing in DFW, and arriving in San Antonio.  Airport people were very helpful, but that's what they do.  I don't know anyone who could afford to accompany me on a GCT trip that I could stand to room with.  As we get older, we get more picky.

So, I won't be taking any more trips, much as the decision pains me.  I know it's the right thing to do.  I will keep monitoring the forums and chime in if I feel I have anything to contribute.  It's been a wonderful fifteen years, traveling the world and meeting new people all the time.

 

Author: luisa

Joined: 3/13/2010
Posts: 529
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

April 20, 2014

Pauline,

I'm sorry to read that you've reached the decision to stop traveling -- at least as a solo. But there is a sliver of hope that someone might qualify as a traveling companion. I agree that we get pickier as we get older, but there may still be someone, perhaps a family member?

Your posts have always been helpful, so please continue to contribute to the forum. I think many people would miss hearing from you.

 

Author: loveydovey

Joined: 4/4/2014
Posts: 2
Trips Taken: 15
Traveler Since: 2002

April 20, 2014

I am a 80+ young senior , 15 trip GCT/OAT traveler. I have found that standing directly behind our PD I am able to hear better han facing her/him . GCT is the best travel company going.

Ron Dovey (515725)

Author: walshcs

Joined: 1/25/2011
Posts: 87
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

April 22, 2014

Dear Pauline,

Yes, please do continue to comment on the forum. You are one of my favorite/best travel advisors! Even when I don't write you directly I look forward to hearing what you have to share, and I also enjoy your candor, compassion for others, thoughtfulness, as well as your experienced take on travel matters.

I agree with Luisa...I am sorry to hear that you have decided to stop your "globe trotting" as it sounds like it has enriched your life. I am a young 67, very healthy, and in a previous part-time position, I accompanied travelers with disabilities including folks using wheelchairs. I don't mean that I think of you as "disabled"...just that if you want to discuss a future trip together, I would be pleased to assist you with any mobility needs. I seem to remember that most recently your focus was on small ship cruising as that was more convenient than coach travel trips. I haven't taken a small ship cruise yet as I don't want to pay a single suppliment.

If you want to know more about me...feel free to email and ask questions: pieintheskye32@gmail.com.

If your decision not to continue traveling is firm...I look forward to your posts here on the forum.

warm wishes,

cate

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

April 23, 2014

This also brings up the issue of  offering specific dates for trips as "leisure-paced", for those who, as one company puts it, "walked enough already" that could accommodate individuals who require some assistance or slower pace. They might enjoy the trip more and not feel PDs are not attending to their needs.

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