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Author: jjones1

Joined: 12/8/2013
Posts: 1

December 08, 2013

I've just had a notice that the group size of our upcoming trip to Australia and New Zealand has been increased to 10% over the advertised group size.  This feels a bit like "bait and switch" to me.  The group was already large -- and GCT asked us to change the date of our trip which we agreed to do.

 

Author: jmk63

Joined: 6/15/2013
Posts: 4
Trips Taken: 8
Traveler Since: 2001

December 08, 2013

 Happened to me too on my upcoming trip to Tuscany and the Amalfi Coast. I understand GCT's need to contain costs, but we are already having to pay for many more meals than we used to. However, what really concerns me is that this new increase in number of people on the trip (42) was done AFTER I had already signed up and paid for the trip, thinking that there would be fewer people on the tour. That "surprise" doesn't seem customer friendly to me.  

Author: dvshepard

Joined: 3/16/2012
Posts: 1
Trips Taken: 8
Traveler Since: 2009

December 08, 2013

I agree with previous post about adding additional travelers (38 - 42) on the 2014 Tuscany & Amalfi Coast in 2014. 38 travelers were about the upper limited for us on land-based trips so not sure what we'll do in the future. This definitely opens the door for us to look at other travel companies since a key reason we liked traveling with Grand Circle / OAT was the limited size of the group. Also, when we booked our 2014 trip last February we were not told about the size of the group increasing until December 2013.  

Author: sealionlady

Joined: 8/1/2010
Posts: 109
Trips Taken: 13
Traveler Since: 2001

December 09, 2013

 When they increase the size of the group or change the dates, are you given the opportunity to cancel?   By that I mean, have all your money returned, even if you had not purchased travel insurance.   

Having a date changed could really be a problem!

 

Author: kba

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

December 09, 2013

Oh my.....I hope this isn't a future trend.  There is no way I can comfortably change dates as I still work and have to schedule well in advance.  Additionally, increasing the size is not acceptable. 

Author: pauline

Joined: 3/9/2010
Posts: 953
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

December 09, 2013

Twice, I've had dates changed and both times it was up to me to accept.  Although I can't remember now if I would have received my money back if I didn't find the change acceptable.  The first time was Ireland in Depth in 2011, and that was because of a difficulty with some of the hotels (they said).  The second time was England, Scotland and Wales in 2012, because the original date had to cancel the Scottish Highlands extension.  That one, I had to cancel myself at the last minute because if a covered reason.

But the number of people remained at 38 or fewer.  Which I find just the right number for trips like the European land trips.

Author: jl.anderson

Joined: 3/17/2010
Posts: 64
Trips Taken: 5
Countries Visited:

OAT/GCT: China, Peru, Ecuador, Ukraine, Russia, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda; 35+ more countries

Traveler Since: 2007

December 09, 2013

Here's the quote under frequently answered questions:

"Depending on your trip, Grand Circle Cruise Line groups number 25-47 travelers, while Grand Circle Land Tour groups number no more than 42 travelers."

Are you saying that GCT changed the policy to increase the number of travelers AFTER you signed up OR are you saying that GCT increased the number of travelers to 46 (10% over the advertised number of 42)?

 

 

Author: captainlarry

Joined: 4/24/2010
Posts: 381
Trips Taken: 10
Traveler Since: 2002

December 10, 2013

 For most of the actual touring, 38, 40, 44 -- doesn't really matter, as long as Whispers are being employed. There are a few venues where even 35 is overwhelming to the site. And when you arrive at the same time as half a dozen other tour coaches the same size or larger, it gets a bit painful.

The real concern, from my point of view, is getting off of and back onto the coach. With 35 passengers it takes 20 minutes, maybe 15 if there is a useable back door. I know that the timing of the tour takes into account the amount of time spent de-coaching and re-coaching, but increasing the number of passengers means even less time for touring and, especially, longer rest stops.

That said, I won't let the size of the group deter me from taking a tour I really want. But it might be the turning point on a marginal tour.

 

 

Author: pauline

Joined: 3/9/2010
Posts: 953
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

December 10, 2013

Those buses are built to hold 50 passengers, so even with 42 there's a lot of extra space.  And they'd have to have a back door; it may be a safety law.  I don't remember it taking 15 or 20 minutes to unload.  Providing, of course, that the people in front of the back door get off by the front door and the people behind the back door use that one. 

Author: franniepat

Joined: 3/11/2010
Posts: 49
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

December 10, 2013

Just got an official letter today notifying my trip to Spain's Cultural Capitals for next December and already paid for is increasing max number to 42 from 38. The reason is to keep from increasing costs, which travelers indicate is their number one priority.  Hope those spots include more singles!

Author: arnold

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

December 11, 2013

 Having been on trips with anywhere from 28-44 travelers,  my feeling is that the expression"the more the merrier" does not apply.  Group travel is an exercise in hurry up and wait, which many of us happily tolerate  for a variety of reasons,  not the least of which is fellowship. Nevertheless,  I feel that increasing group size will significantly detract from  the comfort and mobility of the group and from the overall enjoyment of the experience.   

Captain Larry's example of "coaching and de-coaching",  is a case in point.  With the few extra seats many of us share to hold our back-packs,  day-packs,  jackets, canes, shopping bags, etc,  being taken up by additional passengers,  our "stuff" will have to go into overhead bins.   De-coaching will become more like the horror that is de-planing.  And,  yes,  I believe that it can take 15 minutes.

While moving around in the open air may be minimally impacted,  think about  queuing up at each and every place we stop:   comfort stations,  snack and  souvenir checkouts,  passport checks,  scenic overlooks and photo ops,  group dinners,  the breakfast bar.  Whatever we've been programmed to wait for will require waiting even longer.  

Someone mentioned Whispers, which  have been a wonderful addition to group touring,  but wouldn't it  also be nice to be able to make eye contact with the local guide,  observe her gestures and expressions,  and be close enough to pose a question,  the Whisper  being only a one-way device.   How many folks,  if standing 20 feet away in a crowd,   will simply  suppress the need for that bit of information?

Also,  wouldn't it also be preferable to stand in front of the scene,  or painting,  or local craft the guide is expounding upon,  rather than inching ahead by degrees long after she has moved onto something else?  And THEN,  finally,  to  be frustrated upon discovering you have a question about it as she moves on to another topic?    

Call me a Grinch,  but I think increasing group size is a BAD idea,  and a probable deal-breaker for me as regards future travel with GCT. 

Author: travelann

Joined: 3/12/2010
Posts: 44
Trips Taken: 7
Traveler Since: 2010

December 12, 2013

Amen, Arnold !!  I agree with everything you said. I probably won't be taking any more land tours. The buses are too crowded with 42-44 people. And, you can't count on having a big 50 seat bus. Too many times the buses have broken unuseable seats

Author: grandcircle

Joined: 3/5/2010
Posts: 263
Trips Taken: 0

December 12, 2013

Thank you for your comments.

First, we apologize for any confusion on how we communicated our change in group size to you. We were unclear about group size for Grand Circle land tours in our 2014 marketing materials and are in the process of updating them.

In 2013, we offered a smaller group size in effort to improve your on-site experience. After a year of reviewing post trip survey results, we learned that smaller group size did not improve overall quality of the trips. However, value was and continues to be one of the most important factors for you when choosing a trip. In order to maintain the value you expect from GCT, we decided to increase the group size slightly. Even though there will be 2 to 4 more travelers in your group, we will still be using larger coaches and whispers. When you are on tour, you should still feel like a traveler rather than part of a large tour group.

Regarding trip changes or cancellations, we may need to consolidate or cancel departure dates due to circumstances beyond our control; low enrollment; etc.. We do our best to avoid these situations. If we do need to change or cancel a departure date, we approach these situations with respect for our travelers' schedules.  Again, we apologize for any inconvenience anyone has experienced with a date change.

Thank you we appreciate and value your feedback.

Annmarie

Forum Moderator

Author: sealionlady

Joined: 8/1/2010
Posts: 109
Trips Taken: 13
Traveler Since: 2001

December 12, 2013

"Regarding trip changes or cancellations, we may need to consolidate or cancel departure dates due to circumstances beyond our control; low enrollment; etc.. We do our best to avoid these situations. If we do need to change or cancel a departure date, we approach these situations with respect for our travelers' schedules."

What does this mean? How does GCT  "approach with respect"?  Do you refund the money paid if a date is changed? Allow a year for re-booking the trip?  Allow switching to another trip?  I worry about this because I often have only specific dates when I can be away.  

 

Author: wattsed

Joined: 3/30/2010
Posts: 134
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

December 12, 2013

A rather funny story about a change---My wife and I were booked on a river cruise from Budapest to the Black Sea; however, a week before the scheduled date, I received a call from OAT telling me that that trip had been cancelled.  I was told if I agreed to take the same trip that left a couple weeks later but going in reverse direction, we would be upgraded to a higher cabin category at no cost. I agreed to their offer but Imagine my surprise when a few days later I got a corrected invoice in the mail with an $800 upgrade fee.  Fortunately, a quick call to customer service resolved it in less than a minute! 

Author: tpreminger

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

December 13, 2013
 

 When it comes to cruises group size can be misleading.

 For example, the marketing materials may say max. 40 in a group - but the ship holds 120 + passengers. So you have three groups of 40.  And while there may be 3 buses, it's 120 people all headed to the same local tours at the same time.  

120 heading for the dining room, lounge,  and trying to share 5 copies of a newspaper, etc.You may be assigned a group, the other people are around all the time.  While this is not necessarily a negative for some, it is for others.

After experiencing the 120 person mega-group, I now check the number of cabins available on a ship to be able to determine the maximum number it can hold.  For me smaller groups do matter.

A word about buses, you can't count on 50 seat accommodations.  On my last trip every local tour had a different size bus.  Some provided extra room, others did not.

Author: nanaandpapa

Joined: 3/30/2011
Posts: 486
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

December 13, 2013

 It is only in the past year or two that GCT listed the maximum group size as 38. prior to that, it was 40 or 42. We have actually had a one GCT trip with 14 (China) and another with 23 (America's Majestic National parks). Many times, or cruises with 3 or 4 busses, they break up the routing of the busses, so that they don't all arrive at an attraction at the same time. We have never had a bus that was full,  In fact, on most of the busses solo travelers have had a full seat to themselves.

Author: luisa

Joined: 3/13/2010
Posts: 511
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

December 15, 2013

 Jack is right, the group size had been 42 then dropped to 38, so those who took trips before 2012 were likely in groups of 42. I remember a service rep telling me though, that a lot of customers requested smaller groups, so I think it's interesting that the decision to go back to 42 was a result of reading the evaluations. 

Not all buses are the same size; it depends on the country. We had a large, roomy bus in Chile but were crammed in Australia. I don't remember them all having back doors either. 

 

Author: wattsed

Joined: 3/30/2010
Posts: 134
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

December 15, 2013

All traveler evaluations said "the more the merrier" or "just jam them all in here, it is more cozy that way!"---yea, right!!   Somebody's nose is growing!

Author: arnold

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

December 15, 2013

Wattsed:

My impression on reading the GCT post was similar to yours.I have filled out several traveler evaluations and can't recall any specific question as to whether I would have preferred more or fewer fellow travelers.  Clearly,  it is an "interpretation"  by GCT,  but based on what input,  I can't guess.  

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