Hi, I have enjoyed this thread as I can identify with so much.
We have been on 3 GCT trips and I just can't say enough good things. So far, all of our trips have been in Europe. And we plan on taking at least 5 more with them in Europe. The reason I want to see Europe before seeing all of the US is the plane ride...We are in our 60's and the ride to and from Europe is brutal. Not much better to Hawaii and Alaska (We are in Memphis). I figure when we are in our mid to late 70's we may be able to handle 3, 4 or even 6 hours trips, but not 10, 12 and more. Coming home recently from Venice, it was a 17 hour day in the air and airports. Last year was about the same coming home from Moscow.
On our recent trip to Italy, we had vastly different hotels. The reason was explained to us as location, location, location. In the smaller towns/villages we had much nicer hotels. In Florence and Venice, the rooms were less than perfect, but were in great locations which was good because of so much to see. All the rooms were clean, though--I would be appalled if they weren't.
We went to Alaska with Royal Caribbean in 2010. But we went on a land tour (small group) with them riding a train from Fairbanks to Anchorage before embarking the ship. We enjoyed that more than the cruise. We went to Hawaii in 2011 and used Pride of America as our floating hotel. We arranged all of our tours on our own and rented cars on each island. Good way to see the Islands!
In addition, we went on 2 other large cruses in 2010 and 2012. Like some of you, we don't care to do that again. (The Alaska and Hawaii cruising was great, but they were both land intensive.) We enjoy the smaller group touring so much more. Our first 2 trips with GCT were river cruises and we want to do more of those :)
Lastly, thank you for the USAA insurance suggestion. We have a USAA credit card and never thought of getting travel insurance through them.