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Author: franl24fan

Joined: 3/11/2014
Posts: 13
GCT Trips Taken: 1
OAT Trips Taken: 0

March 17, 2014

Interested in getting to know others that are booked on this tour. This will be my first GCT tour and I have some concerns that I hope more experienced folks can help me with. Thanks

Author: nanaandpapa

Joined: 3/30/2011
Posts: 514
GCT Trips Taken: 12
OAT Trips Taken: 4
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

March 17, 2014

Fran,

It's been 10 years, May 2004, since we took this trip, but we would be glad to try to answer any questions or concerns that you might have. It was a great trip with magnificent scenary. We covered a great deal of territory with some long days of driving, but, if you want to see this part on the continent, it is the best way to do it.

Author: captainlarry

Joined: 4/24/2010
Posts: 429
GCT Trips Taken: 10
OAT Trips Taken: 0
Traveler Since: 2002

March 17, 2014

My experience was also earlier in the summer, May 27 - June 14, 2008. I expect that your tour will encounter much warmer weather. Even when we went the time spent at Lake Powell was quite warm. You can probably translate that to HOT for your tour. I haven't looked at the brochure recently but I can assume that it is giving your correct information. As above, I will suggest that you ask any questions you have and we will endeavor to answer them.

Author: janice!

Joined: 3/18/2010
Posts: 277
GCT Trips Taken: 7
OAT Trips Taken: 0
Traveler Since: 1999

March 17, 2014

In case you haven't seen the reviews written by previous travelers, you can find them here.

Author: captainlarry

Joined: 4/24/2010
Posts: 429
GCT Trips Taken: 10
OAT Trips Taken: 0
Traveler Since: 2002

March 17, 2014

Sorry. I was thinking about the wrong National Park tour. I took the Northwest National Parks tour June 15 - July 1, 2012. You will have warmer weather than we encountered, but you will spend enough time at higher elevations and higher latitudes to require some fairly worm clothing. If the reviews mentioned above don't answer your questions, post them here and we'll give you the benefit of whatever knowledge we have.

Author: franl24fan

Joined: 3/11/2014
Posts: 13
GCT Trips Taken: 1
OAT Trips Taken: 0

March 17, 2014

Thanks to everyone. My final payment date is coming up soon and I am getting ready to commit to the tour by booking airfare etc. I spoke to GCT earlier today because I am very concerned that at least 2 of the hotels listed have terrible reviews on trip advisor. The GCT rep tried to tell me that those reviews are not reliable, but I have used that site for 10 years and when almost all of the reviews say the same thing, and the recommend percentage is only 59%, I have found it to be reliable. Yet GCT classifies these hotels as first class. The rep did not seem to be inclined to pass on my concerns to whoever is organizing the trip. Previous reviews on GCT site all mentioned issues with the buses used, so again I am concerned about this on a trip that is so heavy on bus time.

For those of you who have taken other GCT trips, do they try to respond to poor reviews by participants, or is it pretty much take it or leave it??  I've been on  a lot of Elder Hostel tours (they don't have one that does this itinerary) and you can see how they change hotels from one year to the next, I assume in response to reviews. 

Another question I had was about the luggage, am I absolutely limited to one suitcase or can I bring another  small one down to the bus myself (it won't fit in the bus overheads). If  not I'll try & see if the base hotel in Seattle can store it for me. 

I was really hoping that this would be the first of many GCT tours since there is no solo surcharge. When I travel I can be flexible, but if I can't sleep at night and am  in a really run down motel I get cranky :-) 

 

 

Author: nanaandpapa

Joined: 3/30/2011
Posts: 514
GCT Trips Taken: 12
OAT Trips Taken: 4
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

March 18, 2014

Going from memory, I believe that  our trip 10 years ago and the current trip only have 3 hotels in common. The Red Lion in Spokane was comfortable, had a decent restaurant, a swimming pool and was right on the river walk. Other than that there was really nothing in the area. It was really just o place to sleep on the long drive from Seattle to to Glacier National Park. The Mount Royal in Banff was a comfortable hotel in the center of this walking friendly town. I don't remember specificx. Nancy Greens Cahilty lodge was fairly nondecript as far as the hotel was concerned, but it had a very good restaurant with a friendly staff and a great ounge with very friendly people, It was an out of season ski lodge. Which hotels were the poor ratings, so I can try to comment on what our accomodations were in that area. Some of these areas have limited accomodations without going to extremely high priced establishments. I usually check tripadvisor on our trips, but take it with a grain of salt, as I will frequemly find totally conflicting ratings, based on individual tastes. For the most part you spent little time in the hotels. I don't really remember much about the bus. I beleive that it had a toilet, but, in generally it is infrequently used as there are adequate rest stops. The driver was great and worked very well with the Bill Spiller, our Program Director.

GCT pays much attention to the reviews. Yours should be waiting in your mail for you when your arrive home. It is quite detailed with questions on each hotel and on other activities on the trip. If a program director does not get very high ratings his/her future assignments are affected, to the point of not working for them again. We had one trip where we crossed paths with a group several days ahead of us on the itinerary that had complaints about the prior days itinerary. When we got to that day, the itinerary had been changed. The reason for the number of hotel changes may well be based on these ratings. 

You can definitely take a smaller luggage item. You just have to take it to and from the bus yourself, and they will put it in the luggage compartment. Your large suitcase will be picked up from and delivered to your room. Due to the long bus days, you should have a even smaller bag for items you need on the bus, as  they would prefer not to haveto retrieve items from under the bus during the day.For your travel handbook, including detailed luggage requirements click HERE.

You will generally find many solo travelers on these trips, largely because of the lack of a surcharge. I don't remember haw many were on this trip

Author: captainlarry

Joined: 4/24/2010
Posts: 429
GCT Trips Taken: 10
OAT Trips Taken: 0
Traveler Since: 2002

March 18, 2014

I agree with everything posted by nanaandpapa. I will expand a bit. The bus is a tour bus, almost exactly like the thousands of other tour buses you will see as you travel. It is reasonably comfortable and affords great visibility as you travel. You will get a bit butt-weary on some of the longer bus days, but only three were somewhat objectionable -- Seattle to Spokane, Jasper to Sun Peaks, and Sun Peaks to Vancouver. But there are ample breaks for rest stops and that allows you to stretch your legs. There is almost always something interesting to see at the rest stops as well.

My pholosophy of travel is "Set your expectations low. You're almost certain to be pleasantly surprised." To me a hotel, on a trip like this, is a place to sleep and eat breakfast. I don't care about other amenities. So I was satisfied with each of the hotels on this tour. They weren't five star, but then neither am I. The least desirable hotel on our trip was the one in Jasper, and it was certainly adequate. One nice thing about it was that the adjacent hotel, same ownership, had a coin op laundry that we had time to use. It was a long hike to downtown Jasper, but then there was very little to see when you got there.

I had never been to Glacier, Banff, and Jasper, so that was my main incentive for taking the tour. I was pleased with that aspect, and the rest of the tour was also pleasant. My recommendation is go, and don't worry about anything. From what I have read and experienced, there are only a handful of program directors used by GCT for this tour and they are all excellant. If something is not to your liking, and it is something that the PD can correct, he or she will do everything they can to make it right. Don't think you are being a "pest" by asking. That's what they expect.

Author: franl24fan

Joined: 3/11/2014
Posts: 13
GCT Trips Taken: 1
OAT Trips Taken: 0

March 18, 2014

Thanks for the input it is greatly appreciated. I'd better not put the name of the badly reviewed hotel on here, might get sued :-). I do discount trip adviser reviews that are not consistent, but in this case almost everyone of the last 30 or 40 reviews gave this motel a 1 or 2 star out of 5, the main complaints mentioned were the rooms being really dirty and the amount of noise throughout the night.  I guess what I don't understand is how GCT can call this motel First Class, to me that is very deceptive, if someone had not researched reviews and just checked in I would think they would be very upset. 

As to the buses, I saw a remark by GCT on the tour reviews page that they would look at better quality buses for 2014. Elderhostel has sometimes used older buses but most are pretty new and the seats are well padded for those long days -). (One time I was in a program where they used an old school bus, but we were only driving about 20 miles, fun part was that going up one hill at a scenic stop we all had to get out so the bus could chug its way up).

Glad for the info on the small suitcase. I like to have enough for one night in it so that I don't have to open up my big one every night, I can easily bring it down to the bus and take it up with me at night. My large suitcase will have plenty of room, and I usually only have about 38 pounds in it. And I do have small bag & backpack  to take on the bus. 

I just got a survey about the phone call I had with the rep, I made the comment that I didn't feel he took my concerns seriously, especially considering this will be my first tour. He was eager to lock me into future tours though:-). 

Thanks to you I am feeling better about this tour so I guess I'd better get busy with booking air fare. I am tacking on a few days down at the Washington coast in Ocean Shores. have been to Seattle many times but never in the summer. 

Captain Larry, I see the US Navy seal. I was a Supply Corp officer for 6 years, stationed on a sub tender and managed a commissary. Wish I had stayed in for a career, long story why I had to leave after 6 years. 

I took early retirement 6 years ago  from county government at age 60, been doing a lot of travel since as a solo. Many cruises, many Elderhostel programs, and many independent trips on my own. A friend of mine encouraged me to try GCT so I am. If all goes well I want to do some land tours (Ireland and England/Wales/Scotland) and may even try a European river cruise. 

 

 

 

Author: nanaandpapa

Joined: 3/30/2011
Posts: 514
GCT Trips Taken: 12
OAT Trips Taken: 4
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

March 18, 2014

I can see your concerns with the bad ratings, particularly since they are more recent reviews. If these are reflected in the GCT reviews once they start the trips for the season in May, I would not be surprised if they changed hotels. As they have not had trips since last September some thing may have changed in management, causing the problem.

Author: captainlarry

Joined: 4/24/2010
Posts: 429
GCT Trips Taken: 10
OAT Trips Taken: 0
Traveler Since: 2002

March 18, 2014

Fran, I spent 27 years, combined active and reserve. Most of my active time was as a ship driver (SWO) and most of my reserve time was with Military Sealift Command, the logistics side of the house. The Military Sealift Command affiliation got me recalled to active duty for Desert Storm and I spent 7 months of 1991 in Saudi Arabia. It seems to me that there was another "Pork Chop" posting here some time ago, but it may have been on another forum. But I'm sure you will find your traveling companions on the GCT tour a very compatable group. Well, not all of them but the overwhelming majority. I did the Ireland in Depth tour last year and I have done a couple of European river cruises. If you search the forum you will find a lot of posts concerning almost every tour offered by GCT. I have not yet taken an OAT tour but those who have enthusiastically recommend them. You might find looking at the OAT forum informative as well.

Author: franl24fan

Joined: 3/11/2014
Posts: 13
GCT Trips Taken: 1
OAT Trips Taken: 0

March 18, 2014

The friend who encouraged me to try GCT ( he used to work with me) is a retired Ltcdr Supply Corps. He and his wife have done several river cruises and several land tours with GCT. It's humerous to me though that they have done very little traveling in the US, other than being stationed in Hawaii and San Diego 30 plus years ago. I first wanted to see as much of the US as possible and there are a few areas I still want to see. Love the national parks, Glacier is the last major park on my bucket list. I also love to travel in Canada, my grandparents are of Acadian descent.  I did a cruise in 2012 from London that finally satisfied my life long wish to go to the beaches of Normandy where my Dad was a seaman on an LST at D Day &  was severely injured. It was a very emotional time to walk on that beach, I collected some sand and brought it back to his grave. Wish he had been able to do that. I also went to the Arizona Memorial in 2009 and going again in May this year (cruising in the islands then back to Vancouver), that too was really emotional for a Navy vet. 

 

What trips do you have booked, maybe we'll run into each other on a GCT tour, or if you do Elderhostel (Road Scholar) programs.  

Author: captainlarry

Joined: 4/24/2010
Posts: 429
GCT Trips Taken: 10
OAT Trips Taken: 0
Traveler Since: 2002

March 18, 2014

I have never done Elderhostel and I have no future GCT trips planned at this time. We just recently returned from a 27-day trip to Malta that I planned and executed all on my own. My "blog" of the trip can be found here:

http://www.gct.com/legacy/community/travel-forum.aspx?g=posts&t=4935

GCT's Northwest National Parks tour, which I took in 2012, covers Glacier National Park as well as Banff and Jasper in Alberta. It's a tiring but very nice tour. We took it in mid June and that seemed to be a rally nice time for the tour.

Also in 2012 we took a cruise around the Hawaiian Islands on Norwegian Cruise Lines' Pride of America. We booked it through YMT Vacations, which we believe was better than booking directly with NCL. In spite of my naval background I really don't like open ocean cruising, so I preferred to fly to Honolulu, ride the ship from island to island, and fly back home. For me an ocean cruise (and a river cruise, for that matter) is comfortable and convenient transportation from port to port and not a destination in itself.

Author: pauline

Joined: 3/9/2010
Posts: 973
GCT Trips Taken: 11
OAT Trips Taken: 0
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

March 18, 2014

With regard to Trip Advisor reviews, you should treat them as you would other reviews.  If they have posted other reviews, check them out.  If you know the other places they are reviewing, see how their opinions agree with yours.  A lot of reviewers are willing to be contacted through TA to expand on what they wrote.  If they're not, I would take their opinions with a lot of salt. 

Author: ginirn

Joined: 5/2/2012
Posts: 19
GCT Trips Taken: 2
OAT Trips Taken: 0
Countries Visited:

US including Hawaii. Ireland twice.

Traveler Since: 2013

March 19, 2014

I understand your concern regarding a poorly reviewed hotel.  I was in exactly the same situation last year - taking my first GCT trip and checking out the hotels found the one normally used for the first night had abysmal reviews.  As a first timer one is concerned about everything.  I read all the reviews I could find regarding the company itself for months and months before even  making that first reservation.  Of course there were both good and bad but I wanted to make a informed decision.  Until you have personal experience you always feel uncertain.  I did post my concerns here and was reassured.  Like you I was told it's only one night etc, etc.  That may be but it you get bedbugs or food poisoning or get mugged in the hall it's is more than that.  And I just cannot stand a dirty hotel.  It is completely inacceptable.  

 As it turned out we stayed in a completely different hotel - a new one for GCT.  The staff seemed very anxious to please us and appreciated the business.  On the other hand the Rome hotel was a slightly different story.  It was an older, historic hotel that GCT had used in the past but stopped due to complaints of noise from the outside.  We were the first group to use it after they had upgraded to windows to abate the noise.  I loved the hotel itself.  It was elegant.  The fly in the ointment was the staff at the front desk who were rude and less than accomodating, not just to us but everyone.  The tour director was really annoyed with them and I am sure reported back about it.  And of course I spoke to the issue on the post trip review.  I really do think the company takes the reviews and reports to heart.  Money is always a factor but if people express negative experiences that is a bigger hit to the pocketbook.

I hope you have a good experience.  Please post after you return.

 

Author: franl24fan

Joined: 3/11/2014
Posts: 13
GCT Trips Taken: 1
OAT Trips Taken: 0

March 19, 2014

Thanks everyone for your reassurances. I think if the GCT rep had said something like - " I hear your concern, perhaps the motel has changed ownership or something else has caused the quality to go down,  let me have someone look into it and get back to you,"  They surely have local folks in the tour areas that could have done a quick look. Instead he just discounted the reviews and made me feel like I didn't know what I was talking about. This may be my first GCT tour, but I've done 20 or so with Elderhostel and travel extensively on my own, I know how to read reviews and what to ignore in one. But many reviews over the last few months that mention filthy rooms and lots of noise should not be ignored. As some of you said, they may change the hotels before our trip (although the itinerary may not reflect it). I would have thought GCT would have appreciated someone bringing up a potential issue well before the season, so they could investigate and make a change if needed, rather than wait until the first tours go out and their reviews are negative. Oh well. I will go on this tour and have a great time, if there are issues that come up that can't be addressed by the tour leader, then I will write an honest review when I get back. And then decide if I want to do a GCT tour in the future. 

Author: captainlarry

Joined: 4/24/2010
Posts: 429
GCT Trips Taken: 10
OAT Trips Taken: 0
Traveler Since: 2002

March 19, 2014

Well, Fran, I looked up the tour on the web site, looked at the accommodations listed, and read the first 10 reviews. Wow! Either those people took a different tour than I did or their expectations were much, much higher than mine!

About the hotels -- only three on the main tour and the Victoria hotel on the extension are the same as when I took the tour in 2012. The Victoria Marriott Inner Harbour Hotel is very nice and very conveniently located. They couldn't have done much better, I think.

The Red Lion River Inn in Spokane was good but not great. The breakfast was a little weak there, but tolerable. The location, along the River Walk Park, is as good as you could hope for. The Mount Royal Hotel in Banff is old and tired, but...what is the word? Quaint? It is very conveniently located. The breakfast venue was crowded but the food was good. It was just kind of hard to get to. Nancy Greene's Cahilty Lodge in Sun Peaks is a ski lodge and you will be there out of season. It is comfortable. You can see the whole town in ten minutes and you will not run into any crowds. We saw a black bear eating dandelions on one of the ski slopes just behind the hotel.

The other hotels listed are different from where we stayed on the trip. It is a lot of hours and miles on the bus, but with fairly frequent stops. Our bus was quite comfortable and, yes, debarkation and embarkation was slow. But plenty of time was allowed and you've got to expect that situation. The reviewers must have been comparing to European tour buses when they complained of only one door. I think that in the USA and, I believe, Canada, tour buses can legally have only one door. I'm not certain of that but I'm sure I heard that somewhere.

The only "domestic" tour to compare was the Majestic National Parks tour I took in 2008. I can hardly distinguish, in my memories, between the two. Both had a lot of bus time. the accommodations were comparable. I was probably more exhausted at the end of the Majestic National Parks tour, but I think it was a day or two longer.

I think it was interesting that two reviewers from the same tour had such divergent opinions about the Program Director. One complained of the amount of talking -- no quiet time. That's what PDs do. We had Cory Greenlee and she was very good, but, yes, she did talk constantly. But it was nearly all of interest and added to our enjoyment of the tour.

Hope this was not too boring. Go, enjoy, and remember, don't set your expections too high and you will be pleasantly surprised.

Author: franl24fan

Joined: 3/11/2014
Posts: 13
GCT Trips Taken: 1
OAT Trips Taken: 0

April 09, 2014

Update to the hotel issue and questions I had on travel insurance 

I called GCT with questions on the travel insurance (on river cruises it seems to be excessively high). After a lot of back & forth calls and emails I think I now understand that I can hold off buying the insurance until closer to final payment. that just means pre existing conditions are not covered, and that does not seem to be a big risk for me. I'd rather do that than pay $700 for the insurance when I put down a deposit. If I transfer to another program or cruise everything would be credited over, if I totally cancel I'd forfeit $300 plus the travel insurance payment, but if it was for a covered reason I could then claim those amounts under the insurance. If I just cancel because I changed my mind, I'd be out the $300 and the insurance premium. I am going to look into other insurance companies, such as the ones that cover my other cruises. 

As we were talking the rep asked if I had any questions on my upcoming tour, so I told her what had happened when I called previously, she agreed the response I got was unacceptable. She looked up the itinerary and there is a notation that the hotel in question has been dropped and another hotel , she told me the name, (which has excellent ratings) is being substituted :-) It won't show up on line, I'd just see the change a few weeks before when I got my packet. However, since I was concerned to the point of almost cancelling, she told me to call back in early June when the new hotel should be official. That will be after final payment, but after reading everyone's comments on here  I had decided not to cancel and just put up with the dumpy place and then slam them on the post tour review. The rep encouraged me to be honest in my review, with as much detail as possible. That is no problem, I always keep a daily journal on my trips with high points & low points, makes writing an accurate review easier and is more balanced.

So someone at GCT did look into my concern, although they didn't notify me, which would have been better customer service. I have my air fare booked, hotel booked for the night before program and night program ends (not at GCT hotel, it is way too expensive). So after I get back from my Hawaiian cruise I can start my count down for this one. If all goes well on it, I will probably book the Ireland land tour for next year. And maybe a river cruise.

Author: captainlarry

Joined: 4/24/2010
Posts: 429
GCT Trips Taken: 10
OAT Trips Taken: 0
Traveler Since: 2002

April 09, 2014

BZ, Fran.

Not trying to talk you out of using the insurance booked through GCT, but for comparison you might want to go to www.insuremytrip.com and look at what they have available. They do not sell insurance, but are a brokerage offering many different types of travel insurance, and from the Rolls Royce to the Yugo. And they present the information in such a way as to make it easy to compare plans. Just a thought.

Author: franl24fan

Joined: 3/11/2014
Posts: 13
GCT Trips Taken: 1
OAT Trips Taken: 0

April 09, 2014

Thanks Capn, I'll look at that. I can also get quotes from the travel insurance that USAA uses and AAA also. The insurance on this NW Parks tour was $352, whereas Elderhostel for equivalent tour pricing would have been half, and refundable less $25 fee. I felt pressured to make a decision within the 14 day window, which I now know I can choose to wait.  For a river cruise of $3500 or so it is $700, which just seems very excessive (same amount as my single surcharge). 

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