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Author: lyn

Joined: 3/14/2010
Posts: 35
Traveler Since: 2004

February 22, 2014

I received a letter from GCT yesterday informing me that beverages such as beer and soft drinks and the usual wine will now be offered during lunch and dinner on the ship.  Perhaps a nice idea for those who drink those beverages.  I am wondering what the extra cost will be. In the past beer and soft drinks were for purchase only. This applies to all 2015 departures. Drinks and beverages for all!!

Also, as I have read on this site, gratuites will now be included for local guides and motorcoach drivers ( and on most trip extensions and optional tours) for 2015 departures.  GCT is making these changes because of feedback from travelers.  I am wondering how many people asked for this change.  Was it 20 people, 50 people or hundreds of people?  I did not request such a change on any of our trip evaluations.  I did get the email asking my opinion on this tipping policy and I did respond to that.  Again, I wonder how much the price of trips will increase. By the way, we do tip any and all service workers on our trips, this will just be a new way of doing business.

Also, the letter indicated that GCT is the only travel company to provide expert, resident Program Directors on their trips.  Does that mean that Viking, Vantage, Uniworld etc. does not ptovide Program Directors?  We have done 7 river cruises ( number 8 coming up ) and we have been very pleased with all of our Program Directors.  The advantage of a Program Director is why we choose GCT .  I have noticed the surge of TV commercials that Viking is putting out, but without a PD those trips could be a challenge.

We plan to keep traveling and to enjoy any destination that sounds interesting.  Happy travels to all.

Author: rac4nd

Joined: 6/27/2011
Posts: 6
Traveler Since: 2009

February 22, 2014

 tips-after the survey they said I think 65% favored tips included and the cost would average about $37 per traveler.

Author: janice!

Joined: 3/18/2010
Posts: 274
Countries Visited:


Traveler Since: 1999

February 22, 2014

In regard to the claim that GCT is the only travel company to provide expert, resident Program Directors on their trips I have seen this in several catalogs and brochures from them. Frankly, I don't believe it. I have been on three Vantage trips, all with Program Managers who were equivalent to and as competent as any of the GCT Program Directors on my trips with them.

Author: wattsed

Joined: 3/30/2010
Posts: 136
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

February 22, 2014

 I have been with three other companies that have provided a PD (on the Nile, Rhine, Volga, and Yangtze) so I also doubt that statement...Their claim may hinge on the term "resident" however as I have no idea if the PDs I had on the other cruises were "resident"!

Author: nanaandpapa

Joined: 3/30/2011
Posts: 486
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 22, 2014

 I believe that Vantage has changed their policy this year, It seems that they are going to a cruise director and a concierge and puting more onto the local guides. Click HERE for a discussion on Cruise Critic on this. We have always got  great service from all of the PDs, but it is a luxury to have one that is your primary contact for the duration of the trip.

Author: janice!

Joined: 3/18/2010
Posts: 274
Countries Visited:


Traveler Since: 1999

February 22, 2014

To me, the term "resident" is somewhat meaningless. On my first GCT trip, The Best of Eastern Europe, our PD was a resident of Poland which was just one of the four countries we toured. He was excellent but certainly not a resident of every country. Then there was the PD for my GCT Guadalajara trip who was a resident of Mexico and the worst tour leader I've endured in 50 Years of group travel. 

Author: svncontinents

Joined: 11/25/2011
Posts: 230
Traveler Since: 2007

February 23, 2014

In the world of marketing, semantics is often the legitimizer of claims.  We suspect that the claim hinges on the term 'resident,' as indicated by wattsed.  Since language is imprecise anyway, the claim is cleverly crafted so it is left to you to assume what it means, hoping that your assumption will be taken as a competitive edge in their favor.

So the term 'resident' is not irrelevant; in fact, we believe that it is the insertion of that word which permits Grand Circle to truthfully make the claim.  Regardless, what difference does it make?  It is evident that clients are happy with their PD's and the service they provided, and consequently the additional claim is meaningless and adds nothing to the actual experience and service received. 

Author: ray.

Joined: 4/14/2010
Posts: 9
Traveler Since: 2002

February 23, 2014

GCT calls them 'Program Directors' and OAT calls them Trip Leaders, others call them  'Managers'. So technically GCT is the 'only' one that have PD.

Author: janice!

Joined: 3/18/2010
Posts: 274
Countries Visited:


Traveler Since: 1999

February 23, 2014

 Ray, you hit the nail on the head! That's the only way their claim could be considered truthful. And of course, they're resident as are we all residents of some place.

Author: rogerdawhip

Joined: 6/22/2010
Posts: 16
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. Other: Russian river cruise twice.

Traveler Since: 2001

February 23, 2014

Regarding the change in tipping policy....I voted against this because I do not want to tip the local guide and/or bus driver for tours I do not take. If you skip an optional or included tour you will still be paying the tip.

Author: captainlarry

Joined: 4/24/2010
Posts: 386
Traveler Since: 2002

February 23, 2014

Grtting back to the subject line of the post, when we took the Rhine and Mosel cruise in 2010 my First Mate, who does not drink wine but is almost addicted to diet cola, purchased the soft drink plan on the ship. I've been searcning the records and cannot find the exact number, but I think it cost maybe $3 a day. I seem to recall $28 for the 9 days of the cruise. They allowed soft drinks in lieu of wine at dinner anyway, but with the plan she could get the soft drink served at lunch as well. And she could go to the bar anytime it was open and get a cola. To make it even more of a bargain, they gave her one of the insulated alluminum cups, with GCT logo, that were selling in the ship store for $8.50. So it was really only about $2.25 a day she paid for unlimited soft drinks. They also had a plan for beer but it was more expensive.

That doesn't really help in determining how much the cost of the cruise will increase because of the added beverage service but at least it is an indication of what they thought soft drinks were worth in 2010.

Author: pauline

Joined: 3/9/2010
Posts: 958
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

February 23, 2014

I don't drink soft drinks.  So at lunch, I always had iced tea which was free or plain water .  At dinner, I had wine which was also free.  On some cruises, you got one glass free.  But on the Russia Revealed, it really depended on the table wait staff.  One asked for a room number.  On the Paris to Honfleur, the wait staff came around with one bottle of white and one of red several times to top off the glasses.

Author: noseycat

Joined: 5/18/2012
Posts: 48
Traveler Since: 2007

February 24, 2014
Given the total prices of trips, none of these costs seem substantial enough to worry about.

Author: halfpint

Joined: 9/25/2010
Posts: 48
Traveler Since: 1989

February 24, 2014

Addfing to the last post, I am a non drinker and of course have always been paying for the flowing wine at dinner, now hate to think I am paying for it at lunch also.  I occasionally would ask for a soft drink and it was given.  I also since I have repeated several trips, do not take a lot of the overpriced side trips so hate to think I will also be subsidizing their tips.  However so be it , still feel lucky to be able to travel and enjoy it, at age 85.  Have taken 27 of Grand Circle trips.  However the prices do keep going up and up (and what doesn't).  Have a good one!!!

Author: retirement

Joined: 7/30/2012
Posts: 11
Traveler Since: 2006

February 24, 2014

We are among those who are happy the tips are included.  Traveling with companies that included tips made life much easier.  Not to mention this ensures that the good guides and drivers get their fair tips.  In regards to those less deserving of tips, really have you had that many?  

Author: tpreminger

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

February 24, 2014

 I,too, have notice an increase in Viking ads.  I also noticed the number of COMPLAINTS regading Viking service when something goes wrong.  There are a number of sites to check consumer complaints and accolates for any tour company.

Anyone who did Europe last year knows the rivers were high, and often made it impossible to continue our journey along the waterway.   We got stuck in Lyon, but GCT make bus arranges, took us to a city not on the sea route, but easily accessible by bus and on into Paris.  Did we miss the ship, of course, but we got to where we were going with a bit if a side trip thrown in.

From the comments I've read about Viking they're not so gracious when things go wrong.  Read several comments about being stuck in port with no additional activities offered by the PD. No additional entertainment brought on Board.  

While anything can go wrong at any time on any curise line/tour company - how the company handles the changes is really what matters.  Last year we wound up the wrong city due to a snow storm, the company had tracked us, new where we were and made arrangements for us to get to a hotel.  The following days they made arrangements for us to join the rest of the gorup.

For me the test of a superior company is who they handle the goof, glitches and OH, NOs - that pop up along a journey.

I think it's always wise to read compliants and comments about tours on and off ther company website.

While I think hotel maid service and porterage tips should be included, I have very mixed feeling about the stip on guides many of whom were awful.  

Author: singsling

Joined: 6/23/2010
Posts: 232
Traveler Since: 1995

February 27, 2014

Regarding Program Directors/Trip Leaders/Tour Directors.

Our first river cruise was with Uniworld.  She was a "cruise director".  She did everything GCT's PD's do and more.  She was from Croatia, and most staff (admin, cabin, dining) was from Slovakia. The cruise was Hungary to Prague.

 On GCT's Amalfi Coast trip, we had a PD who was from Russia but spoke English and Italian. 

On our GCT Hamburg and River Elbe cruise, our PD was from Vienna but the cruise took us through east Germany and Poland. 

On our cruise Amsterdam to Frankfurt, PD was from Germany, but we spent at least 3 days in Netherlands.


So "resident" program director according to GCT is not exactly true.

We took a Worldwide Country Tours cruise/tour, and the Tour Director stayed with  us all day while traveling, and did not have many step on guides. 

We are taking a tour with successor of WWCT, Country Discoveries Travel, and we are having a DISCOVERIE representative, who I am told will accompany us on the buses along with step on guides.  A catalog from AAA I received on several companies (Trafalgar, Insight and ?)all say a program director accompanies the groups during the trip.

So,GCT does not capture the renown "resident" program director for itself, only in its mind.

Author: hootie

Joined: 3/7/2010
Posts: 126
Countries Visited:

China, Austria, Germany, Hungary, Slovakia, Poland, Serbia, Croatia, Romania, Transylvania, Bulgaria, Chech Republic, Slavakia, Bratislava, Egypt, Israel, Cyprus, Crete, Greece, Turkey, Istanbul, Italy, England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Estonia, Russia, Tahiti & French Polynesia/Society Islands, Hawaiian Islands, Bermuda, Alaska, Costa Rica, Mexico, United States, Panama Canal, Caribbean (extensively), Canada/Nova Scotia, Canary Islands, Gibralter, Spain, Portugal, Morocco, Vatican City, France, Holland, Belgium, Tasmania, Australia, New Zealand, Ukraine, Russia.

Traveler Since: 2001

February 28, 2014

CaptainLarry.../Soda package on river cruises???

Like your First Mate, I do not drink alcohol but enjoy my Pepsi/Coke, maybe a little too much.  I've taken advantage of a "beverage package" on many cruise ships, but I never knew they were available on GC's river cruises.  How did you find out about it on your 2010 trip on the Rhine & Mosel?  This is the first time I've heard it mentioned...anywhere...for GC.  We will be taking the Christmas Markets along the Elbe this year (along with pre & post stays) & I would be very interested in purchasing a soda plan while onboard. I'll have to call GC, however, they may be keeping ME in the dark as the amount/price of soda I consume may be what keeps the boat afloat!

Author: grandcircle

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

March 06, 2014

Hello All,

Wanted to take a moment and touch base regarding your comments about our Resident Program Directors.

We use the word "resident" to denote 2 features:

1. The Program Director permanently lives in the region you are visiting
2. The Program Director is with you throughout the main trip to provide you with the kind of help and insight that only someone familiar with the region and customs can give you.

As Nanaandpapa mentioned, other cruise companies have recently reduced their staff to traveler ratio. However, we will be maintaining our current staff to traveler ratios in order to offer you the personalized service you expect from Grand Circle.

Kind Regards,


Forum Moderator

Author: luisa

Joined: 3/13/2010
Posts: 511
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

March 07, 2014

My first group travel trip was with Road Scholar, The Art of Living, which was in Provence. Our trip leader was a wonderful French woman who lived in the area and was with us throughout the trip. She did everything that the OAT/GCT PDs have done on my trips with this company.

My second trip with Road Scholar was in Italy and our group leader was a young Italian woman. I don't know if having local leaders is  a RS policy, but all of the trip reviews that I've read mention the leader and they have been local residents.  

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