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Author: dmlucey

Joined: 2/1/2014
Posts: 6
Trips Taken: 4
Traveler Since: 2008

February 12, 2014

I am a newby at GCT travel, but a veteran of OAT trips.  I just booked a river boat cruise (Rhine & Moselle) for October and have a few questions for anyone who has traveled with both OAT and GCT.

Generally, how do the two obviously diverse experiences compare?  How do the larger GCT tour groups handle themselves in contrast with the smaller OAT groups?  Is there a perceptible "travel sophistication" difference between GCT and OAT customers? (The GCT travel hndbook certainly seems to be written for less experienced travelers.)

Any and all enlightening comments will be much appreciated.  Thanks in advance.

Author: nanaandpapa

Joined: 3/30/2011
Posts: 495
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

February 12, 2014

 We have done 11 GCT trips and 4, with one more booked, OAT trips. The travelersare very much the same, but, with GCT you will find a slightly higher average age and some people not mobile enough for many of the OAT trips. Group size is the biggest difference. Some itineraries that work well with 16 just would not work with 40. The venues would be overwhelmed by 40 imstead of 16. The river cruises probably have a slightly older average age than the GCT land tours, as you might have some people that just want to enjoy the cruise and not do much ashore. You will fund many active travelers on these trips as well, looking to go beyond the planned itieraries, and the PDs will accomodate this. The GCT pace is a bit more relaxed, with more opportunities to choose down time, an optional, or explore on your own.

Author: sealionlady

Joined: 8/1/2010
Posts: 125
Trips Taken: 13
Traveler Since: 2001

February 13, 2014

 I'm a 12 times OAT/GCT traveler (my 13th trip will be in May, "Jewels of Bohemia", with OAT).  I began with "Real Afforable Peru", which I loved, then "Amazon River Cruise", "Route of the Maya", "Safari Serengeti", and then ..... Morocco.  It was on that trip that I realized my tastes had changed.  I wanted trips with lots of free time to pursue my own interests, limited bus rides or in-country air travel, and, frankly, locations near cities or towns.  My May 2013 GCT trip, "Spain's Cultural Capitals", is a perfect example of my current ideal.  

I can't say the other travellers vary much from OAT to GCT; it's usually a mixed bag, and that's a good thing.  On both types of trips there have been experienced travelers, "newbies", annoying people, nice people.  I usually travel solo and almost never "buddy up" ..... I don't want to bore anyone with my passion for museums and cathedals.  I've found on my four river cruises that some people will leave the ship only for the guided tours and then head back to relax in the lounge ..... others will hang out in the towns until the boat sails ..... whatever works!   It really pays on these trips to study and prepare in advance.

I've never had a problem with the larger number on GCT trips and it may even be an advantage; in smaller groups you can get cliques or even a "hijacking" effect, where the guide will start to make modifications to suit a vocal few. 

As to the guides, I don't see any difference in quality.  The best guide I ever had was in Spain last year ..... one of the worst was on the OAT Amazon River Cruise.  

So ..... to me it just doesn't matter so long as the trip meets my criteria.  I've enjoyed trips with OAT and with Grand Circle and I plan to travel with both in the future. 

 

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

February 13, 2014
We have taken 6 GCT and 3 OAT trips with our 4th OAT trip booked for this spring. I would agree with the previous post the thing that makes them the most different are age and mobility of the travelers and the group size. The OAT travelers tend to be younger and more mobile, but there will also be those who are less mobile who will sit out some of the more taxing activities. Group size makes a big difference in how well the group bonds and gets to know each other and help each other out. Some of the best trips we have had for group bonding have been GCT trips to Turkey and China where the group size was about 20. The smaller group size however can also lead to clicks that negatively impact the group dynamic. I have only seen this happen on one OAT trip where 2 ladies traveling together were kind of shunned by the larger group. With the larger GCT tours small groups with common interest and mobility tend to form and do things together.

Author: dmlucey

Joined: 2/1/2014
Posts: 6
Trips Taken: 4
Traveler Since: 2008

February 13, 2014

Thanks for the replies so far.  Please keep 'em coming.

My wife and I have traveled extensively in Europe on our own.  We both speak German (with varying degrees of fluency) and know some parts of Germany pretty well (Uncle Sam stationed me there for quite a while), so we sort of hope to use the river boat as a floating hotel and - if appropriate - do a good bit of our own exploring during at least some of the port calls.  From what I have read so far, this looks quite possible.

I still wonder why GCT's Travel Handbook is so "Dick and Jane," though.

Author: rogerdawhip

Joined: 6/22/2010
Posts: 16
Trips Taken: 22
Countries Visited:

OAT trips taken: Egypt, China, Ireland, Guatemala, Thailand, Peru and Adriatic Cruise. Nine GCT river cruises: Great Rivers(3 times), Rhine& Mosel (2 times), Eastern Europe to the Black Sea, Rhone River, Holland & Belgium, Seine. Other: Russian river cruise twice.

Traveler Since: 2001

February 13, 2014

I have been on 7 OAT and 14 GCT (12 River) trips.  The main difference I usually encounter is regarding the buses.  With the large GCT groups it take a very long time to load and unload the buses due to some travelers inabilities.  Also, the restroom stops take significantly longer with GCT for the same reasons.

Author: svncontinents

Joined: 11/25/2011
Posts: 230
Trips Taken: 13
Traveler Since: 2007

February 13, 2014

 We've taken 7 GCT trips( 5 River cruises, 2 land trips ), and 5 OAT trips, with one more GCT river cruise and one more OAT trip booked.  We concur with most of what has been said.  We find that among the clients who've traveled with both OAT and Grand Circle, little difference in age, physical mobility and attitude.  For those who are exclusiv e GCT travelers, we have found that the major difference is that GCT travelersare generally older, tend to be less mobile, and are somewhat less adventurous.  But those should not be taken as derrogatory comments; just our observed generalizations.  The clients who take GCT or OAT trips exclusively generally are looking for different experiences.

Grand Circle is extremely attentive to group size and has a very good way of making large groups small.  The boat is broken up into groups of no more than 40, and when you visit a particular venue, not every bus goes to exactly the same place at the same time.  Consequently no venue is overwhelmed by 140 people.  It's a good rotating system, and one of the PD's who is the PD in charge, supervises that to make sure that everyone sees everything and is on time.  Obviously, there's less flexability to stop and see something which serendipitously occurs with GCT than with OAT.  In fact, OAT is known for doing just that, to give their travelers the opportunity to see everything that can be seen.  

We have found that there's far more shopping stops on GCT trips than OAT, but where there is an overlap between a GCT and an OAT trip, the hotels may be larger and more luxurious for GCT than with OAT.  That's not to mean OAT hotels are sub-standard; far from it.  It's just the nature of the trip.  A smaller, more cozy hotel( where they are different ) just lends itself to the more adventurous nature of the trip.  However, a major difference between the two trips, which cannot be overcome or modified, is the length of the bathroom stops.  A group of 40 people just has to spend more time in the bathroom than a group of 16.  So that time comes out of the time you spend at the tourist attractions.  On a river cruise, that, IOV is not limiting, but on a land trip, we have found it is.  If GCT has a corresponding land trip to one from OAT, we'd take the OAT trip every time.

Regardless, you should not be concerned.  You'll find congenial travel companions regardless of which trip you take, and a well-run and enjoyable trip, with a company that stands behind you..   

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

February 13, 2014
I've done both OAT and GCT trips and agree with all of the above comments. I've traveled extensively independently, and like Sea lion lady, I don't "buddy up" but pursue my own interests during free time. I also love museums and art galleries and want to take my time to enjoy them. I like to explore cities and have an agenda before I leave for a trip. I've also booked breakaway to spend a few more days on my own in interesting cities. I agree about cliques forming on trips but an advantage of the GCT size is that it's easier to get away from annoying people and complainers. I've found most GCT travelers are well educated, sophisticated and have taken adventurous trips (a man on my Turkey trip had been to Antarctica and Tibet), but are now less mobile. However, I've been on GCT trips with young, active travelers who took the trip because they preferred the itinerary. I have no idea why the handbook is "Dick and Jane" but that doesn't mean the travelers are.

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

February 13, 2014
My previous post was broken into three or four paragraphs, but turned into one. I've edited a couple of times to be sure the paragraphs are there and they show in "Preview" but disappear again when I post. [There is a paragraph break here] Anyone else have this problem?

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

February 13, 2014
My paragraphs have also disappeared. Could be a bug in the new forum software. There are no more icons for paste and links and there is not auto spell check. The new software also seems to have fixed the paste but. Yesterday and many months before when I tried to past the web page locked up and I had to start over with the post.

Author: grandcircle

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

February 13, 2014

Hello Luisa & Porkchop55 -

I will be reaching out to you offline about the formatting issues you are experiencing.

Thank you for your patience & we apologize for the inconvenience.

Kind Regards,

Michelle

Web Community Manager

Author: nanaandpapa

Joined: 3/30/2011
Posts: 495
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

February 13, 2014

 The larger buses are not always a disadvantage. For tall people (6' and over), they are considerably mor comfortable than the 20 passenger buses frequently use by OAT, particularly on days with a lot of driving.

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

February 13, 2014

I have done a few OAT trips and then did a GCT last fall to Sicily. It was a fun trip, but the group size at times seemed too big and noisey for me.  I adjusted, although my next trip will be OAT again.

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