Grand Circle Travel
347 Congress Street, Boston, MAConsumerAffairs Unaccredited Brand
I went on the pre-trip to Japan for this tour. When it was time to leave Japan and fly to China I was informed that I would not be flying on the same fight with everyone else who was on the pre-trip. I would be flying by myself. The tour director said she had contacted the airline and GCT but was unable to get my flight changed. I had booked this trip a year in advance so I'm not sure how this happened. Plus, I was traveling with a friend so I believed that we would be flying on the same flights throughout the trip. The day of the flight I was put on a municipal bus with a driver who did not speak English so I had to make sure I was dropped off at the correct terminal, check-in for the flight and navigate through the airport by myself in a country where few spoke English. When we arrived in China I had to go through immigration alone which was very unnerving. If there had been a problem with my Visa I would have been on my own.
After the trip I noted this situation in the survey GCT requests everyone fill out. I waited a few weeks but did not receive a call from them. When I called GCT they said they did not think it was a problem because I was a seasoned traveler. Even seasoned travelers can have problems with their Visa or navigating a foreign airport. The reason I paid to travel with GCT (this was my 6th trip) was to be with a group, not travel alone. The very least they could have done is gotten a driver who spoke English to take me to the airport. When it was all said and done they gave me a $100 certificate towards another GCT trip. My trip for this year was already paid in full so I could not use the certificate towards that trip. When I asked if they could give me a check they said no but the certificate was good for 3 years.
I have taken 14 trips with Grand Circle/Overseas Adventure Travel and have spent thousands of dollars on their travel insurance through Trip Mate. I never used the insurance until after my last trip, which left me in pain as a result of cramped airline seating. (I'm 6'5".) I had trip number 15 reserved but decided not to take it. I canceled nearly a year before the trip was to take place, and all I was requesting was a refund of $300 for the cancellation penalty. (The trip insurance alone, which I also forfeited, cost almost as much.)
After waiting nearly three months for a response I learned I'd get a travel voucher for $300 to use on my next trip in the event. I want to cram myself into an airplane for another trip. Grand Circle and Overseas Adventure Travel have some really good trips, but based on my experience, I'd decline their travel insurance. It's expensive and not worth much.
I have taken three trips with Grand Circle and they have all been excellent. Anything out of the ordinary they make exceptional special accommodations. Exceeding my expectations. I am typically the youngest person on the trip. All of these complaints I attribute to angry old farts who have nothing better to do than complain. They are looking for something for nothing. Get a life!!!
When I booked a trip through OAT to Morocco for Sept. 2017, I was told that in order to take the trip, I also had to take the 5 day post-trip extension to Essaouira, so I was quite surprised on the tour to find that only half of the people were required to take the post-trip. The guide and the main tour were for the most part good, but the extension was a waste of time and money with a very unsatisfactory guide, poor hotels in Essaouira and Casablanca, and much longer than necessary bus rides, despite our pleas to go direct to Casablanca, as we only had two hours to explore. On the way to the Casablanca hotel, we were told by our guide we were the last group to stay at that hotel because of the bar next door.
The yelling in the street, car noise and honking went on until 4:30 a.m., and we had airport pickups at 6:15 a.m., so no sleep before our long day of traveling home. The main tour is advertised as 16 days, but the post-trip overlapped by 2 days, so it was not. I also booked following a friend's recommendation and was told I would get a $100 credit that could be used for optional tours on the trip. On returning home and asking for a refund for the very unsatisfactory post-trip, I was told the credit could not be used for optional tours, only for a future tour. I was offered the original $100 credit for a future trip. Never gonna happen! Don't recommend them!
My friend and I used GCT for our recent trip to Australia and New Zealand. We contracted bed bugs in the first hotel that we stayed in (DoubleTree, Cairns). Upon our return to the States, we called GCT and requested some form of compensation (We had to do laundry, pay for medication, etc.). The company ignored our concerns, would not take ownership of our travel struggles and denied any compensation. I will NEVER use this tour company again. They are not focused on client experiences. Do not go on a GCT tour.
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I have just canceled a trip with Grand Circle that is 15 MONTHS in the future. I put down $1200, $700 of which went to "insurance." Today I learn I am out $700 out of $1200. Trip Mate, the insurer, will only refund me $300 out of $700! And GC keeps $300 out of the $500 balance. In the end, I will be refunded $200 from GC and $300 from Trip Mate. I receive no consideration for having traveled twice with GC and, again, for canceling more than a year out. I am about to book with Avalon Waterways. Their trip insurance is $379 and fully refundable. Guess whom I will now patronize. Grand Circle tours are decent and program directors do the best they can. But this horrendous level of "customer service" negates any positives. Buyer Beware!
We are so unhappy with GRAND CIRCLE/OA the way they handled the Cuba cancellation. We took our full refund from them as we will go with another group for our next travel adventure. Hurricane Irma was September 9, and I was reading all sorts of warnings not to travel to Cuba -- the Miami Herald and the State Department. OAT did not communicate with us until they canceled the trip September 18. We were to leave on the 26th. Several of us were calling and were told "we are working with this on a day to day basis. I wrote support several times but no answer. I wonder if on a day to day basis, they were looking at the photos and devastation I was looking at. Now they will only credit our VISA account with our refund. As of 9/20 we do not have our refund.
There was much grumbling at the news that the riverboat Aria had developed a major problem and we would be transferred to buses and hotels for the remainder of the trip. I had my doubts about traveling to Eastern Europe in the height of summer. I don't do well in hot weather and should have let my instinct rule instead of being guided into a cheaper cruise that smarter people would have avoided at that time of year.
I mostly want in this review to give extremely high marks for the four tour directors who spent at least one completely sleepless night and maybe two arranging for our care once it became obvious that the ship could not be repaired. International travel is loaded with possible obstacles and disappointments. Most of us on Grand Circle are mature people whose backgrounds have a list of setbacks. We should know by now to take them in stride and not take personally when interruptions occur. Stuff happens! Make the best of what is there for you.
The remainder of the trip was not as enjoyable as it would have been had we been able to continue as planned. Grand Circle refunded us 25% of the cost of the interrupted portion of the trip. In addition, they give us generous vouchers for use in a future trip, one of which I have already booked. It's unfortunate that the weather was terribly hot, and it's unfortunate that the ship's generators couldn't handle the power load that caused two of the three generators to fail. In future, I'll limit my European travel to spring and fall, and if the boat breaks again, I'll take advantage of the open bar and getting to see places that I would not have seen from the ship. And may I remember to take my own advice and stay flexible and to meet each travel challenge with an open mind.
Trip up to Belgrade was fine. In Belgrade 2 of the 3 generators blew due to extreme heat. This shouldn't have happened if the ship was in good condition which it wasn't being 17 years old. Ship couldn't be fixed so had to be bused to Bucharest. Between the heat and being drag through the country was not what we paid for. GCT needs to fix their ships or replace them. They are all too old and this could happen.
This is a great company to go places with IF you can get booked! Once on the road we had no complaints; we traveled both by river cruise and land trips. They are a great value but the booking process they do themselves is no longer working. They should consider outsourcing to a company that has tight controls and can offer some level of customer service, there is no recourse if someone in the call center fouls up like: confirming the start date of a trip in error, sending out advertising for trips that are not available, and advising customers in error who are coordinating single space with doubles. Buyer beware! Do not let time pass when booking travel with this company. Do it all on the day the catalog comes!
The United Kingdom has a lot of nice things to offer- beautiful scenery & architecture, fascinating history & historical sites, quaint villages, bustling big cities. The Grand Circle Tour Directors are always knowledgeable, personable, and manage the groups well. But be prepared - the UK facilities and services are quite different from continental Europe. Hotels don't have air conditioning. This might be okay if the hotel windows opened - but they don't! Or just open 1-2" - insufficient to get fresh air. So the rooms are stuffy. Beds have heavy duvet covers, but no cover sheets, so you cover yourself with more heat - or nothing. Most hotels don't have safe boxes, minibars or fridges, don't have in-room explanation of hotel services, pen and paper, any North American TV channels, or provide bottled water. Most rooms did have DIY tea/coffee service.
The UK food is generally not appealing. Though surrounded by water you will not get seafood meals except for traditional fish & chips which is fresh cod (not a flavorful fish no matter how you prepare it). You will see many sheep in the UK but lamb was never on our menu. Buffet breakfasts were scarce on fresh fruit and offerings were repeated - bangers & mashed, beans, grilled tomatoes, pre-fried eggs. Wines, beer, ales were NOT served with GCT meals. When you want to pee in the UK don't look for a washroom, bathroom, or WC - look for a sign for "toilet" (not to be confused with "To-Let" which will get you an apartment rental).
Travel between stops includes long bus rides often on narrow winding back roads. It would be scenic except that tall vegetation borders the roadway and often obstructs the viewing. The road through the Cotswolds to the west coast was "one that all of the coach drivers don't like" so we were told. That was because it was dangerous - it curved, up and down, involved frequent braking and stopping to allow oncoming vehicles to pass, and took over an hour to our destination. You get glimpses of the countryside but the large bus windows have a reflective material which flashes sunlight and shadow that bounce and reflect making viewing a challenge. The Grand Circle groups are large, about 35 people, so be prepared for movement at the pace of the slowest individual. Potty stops are well-timed but stretch out because of the age and size of the group. At our ages everyone has to pee at every opportunity!
The weather in the UK is variable so it's a gamble whether you will get good or bad. Ours was generally lousy - first hot, then rainy, overcast, dismal. No fault of Grand Circle but about half of our group also got sick with colds and/or flu so that detracted from everyone's enjoyment of the trip. In my opinion this trip tries to cover too much geography in single trip. It results in many short stops and some long coach rides. I think that the trip would be more enjoyable if split into two separate trips - one in London, southern England, and Wales and a second one covering northern England and Scotland. If there had been an OAT offering for a similar UK trip we would've chosen that because of the smaller groups, more vigorous itinerary, and greater ease of group movement but OAT has nothing in the UK. I would recommend this trip but advise future travelers.
I had traveled a few trips with OAT/GCT -- no more. Marketing has changed. They focus on no charge for single supplements, at the cost of travel couples. And now they offer certain discounts-flight, last minute, etc. But, they charge extra for "optional tours", that should be included. What a disgrace-no effective discount is then experienced -- in fact it is more costly.
I received a brochure with several promotions on it. Along with the number of days (16) and the price ($2695) it stated: "With FREE international airfare from ANY U.S. city -- a savings of $1000-$1300 per person -- on September-November departures." When I called I was informed that this not mean $2695 on departures from September to November but only for November. The attendant stated that the brochure was poorly worded. I maintain that it is deceptive. I did not book a cruise.
I have taken many trips with Grand Circle Travel and the sister companies of GCCL and OAT and have loved every one. I am recently back from the "Italy: Tuscany, the Alps & the Riviera" tour. Very professional and their motto is "learning and discovery". Tips for local guides and bus drivers and waiters on included meals are included in the tour price - you only tip the Program Director and maids in the hotels. I have never had a bad experience in a hotel or with their office staff or tour staff. No single supplements except on the river cruises, and you can request a same-sex roommate. They work with you on the air arrangements, and have options if you want to go in early or stay late at the beginning or end of a trip. I feel they are a good value for the money.
I have taken nine trips with Grand Circle Travel and Overseas Adventure Travel. Each one has been fabulous, with outstanding accommodations and unparalleled tour leaders. I could go with more expensive companies, but I can't imagine getting anything better or enjoying anything more than I do with GCT and OAT. Another benefit of traveling with this moderately priced company is the fellow travelers. They are by and large schoolteachers, a lovely and educated group to spend time with. There are many single women as well as couples, and everyone blends and mixes and are inclusive and polite and considerate.
When you travel overseas, be it alone or with a group, you have to be flexible and have a sense of humor. If you're going to enjoy yourself, you have to relax and take things in stride. I think people who are disappointed with GCT and OAT haven't mastered that concept. I have also found Customer Service to be consistently efficient and pleasant. They are dependable and follow through with solving concerns and questions. Usually the solution/answer is offered on the first phone call. GCT/OAT is also responsive to travelers' suggestions. I am picky - very, very picky - and I have no complaints about GCT/OAT about anything, ever.
Terrible company. They have the highest staff turnover in the industry. Check them out on glassdoor. If you don't rate excellent on your survey, your guide will get the bullet. Our guide was fired because he got too many non-excellent scores even though everybody hated the nickel and dime hotel we were put up in. The guide was outstanding. The only satisfied customers are the spoiled Inner-Circle people (loyalty club) who are mostly in their 80s. Spend your money elsewhere.
We have travelled with several different travel agencies and in my opinion GCT offers the best value. I prefer OAT because of the smaller groups, but both take care of all the details that make travelling fun, such as having someone meet you at the airport and handling the transportation to and from the airport. I am convinced they have the best guides and that make all the difference in the travel experience. We have made around 30 trips with them and find them to always exceed our expectations. Of course with that many trips we have gotten some misinformation a time or two, but they have always been helpful and I would highly recommend travelling with either of them (GCT or OAT).
In a recent post to the ConsumerAffairs website, I criticized Grand Circle Travel for what I felt was then not living up to its advertised prices. As it turned out, the advertisement I received was missing a link which listed the dates that were not eligible for the free air offer. Last week I received a call from Grand Circle Quality Control to try to resolve our differences. The trip that I had originally requested was sold out so an alternate trip at a later date was offered in its place. The new trip was more expensive because it fell in the high season. Instead of the Free Air which I thought was available with the previous sailing, Grand Circle offered me Air from Denver at half price.
In addition, they honored the original price and I was given a cabin on deck 3 instead of deck 1 from the previous sailing. Overall I saved considerably more on this new trip than the original offer that, because of a glitch in my computer, I was unable to book. I am awarding Grand Circle 5 stars for their efforts to right a wrong.
I received an e-mail from Grand Circle Travel which inviting me to go on the Romance of the Rhine and Mosel taking advantage of "Free Air and Free Extension". The banner read "Fly free from any U.S. City, Reserve by 1/6/2017 and mention code SAVE DEC". Clicking on the announcement took me to a new page "2017 Romance of the Rhine & Mosel". On this page I selected Denver as my departure city and March to check available departure dates. I then selected "View Available Dates" and a new page appeared. On this page I selected March 15 which was very close to our anniversary date. I also selected Cantata Deck Category F. Pressing continue a new page appeared where I selected "I do not wish to select an extension at this time". The final page included a "Trip summary" which I had e-mailed to me.
To complete the reservation I was asked to call GCT's 800 number. The sales rep at GCT seemed unaware of the "Free Air + free extension" so after a long pause I was asked to email the offer to her. I was then told the offer wasn't available on this trip as GCT would not make any money on the trip. NOWHERE on any of the pages was there any indication that the trip was not available. I followed all the links provided starting with "Fly free from any city" to develop this anniversary trip.
I am extremely disappointed in GCT for what at least appears to be somewhere between "Bad faith" to "Bait and switch". Even if it was an error on GCT's part, great companies usually "bite the bullet", honor the advertisement and then correct the error. Because this offer has been available for some time now, I would find it hard to believe that such an error, if indeed it is one, would not have been corrected by now. Apparently, Grand Circle Travel IS NOT a great company to do business with. A letter of complaint sent to GCT was ignored by the company. Buyer beware.
I'm getting nervous about our planned trip to Spain. When we booked the tour, were told our flight was first to Munich, then onto Bilbao. The booking agent was so delighted to make sure we had the flights and seats we wanted. Today we get a flight itinerary showing the flight is into Amsterdam, then a layover of two full days and a night in Amsterdam! Not acceptable! We have absolutely no interest in visiting Amsterdam, nor do we want to have this forced on us. Wish me luck when I call, aka do battle? with GCT tomorrow.
We have taken 23 tours with OAT and GCT and would not travel with anyone else. Several singles travel with us and a lot of them have not had to pay the supplement. River cruises are fantastic, there are no bad rooms and the meals are fantastic. Our air travel is booked by the company as soon as possible; if there are problems, GCT gives you the airline number and it is up to you to change to your liking. All guides speak English and we're all family by the end of the tours. I don't understand the bad reviews unless these people are expecting 6 Star trips for 3 Star prices.
Updated on 09/26/2017: We are taking our 24th trip with OAT and Grand Circle (mainly river cruises) this year: the ships are in excellent shape and kept spotless; it is an English speaking trip and the crew and guides all speak English and do everything they can to serve us. Vegetarian meals, ordering off the menu or ordering special meals are fantastic - as are the breakfast and lunch buffets. I just do not believe the negative reviews.
I have traveled with Grand Circle for years. 16 trips. I booked a Panama cruise specifying my United Frequent Flyer number and asking for a partner airline to get points. When I got my preliminary air itinerary, I called to ask if Delta was a partner. I was told no. I asked to change to a partner and was told that it would cost me $73 more. Now bear in mind this is September 2016 and my trip is not until July 2017. I talked to several customer service representatives who promised to call me back to see if the $73 can be waived. No one has called and it was been over a week.
Grand Circle treats its customers like crap. The trips are great but the company is abusive, non-responsible and GREEDY. Pure and simple, Grand Circle is greedy. More and more of us long time customers are discussing the greed and lies of Grand Circle during the trips. If there is ever a class action lawsuit, count me in. And please Harriet **, I don't want your personal, self absorbed rantings.
We are a couple in our mid-70's in good health. We are physically active people involved in many activities. We have enjoyed 20 excellent trips with Grand Circle from 2004 through 2015. In 2016 we had what felt like the trip from hell run by the devil itself. This was to have been my birthday celebration trip. On the second day (Sunday) I tripped on a raised cobblestone in the pavement and tumbled to my knees. I suffered no damage whatsoever either to my knees or my clothing, it was just embarrassing. I got up and went on thinking nothing of it.
The tour director, however, went berserk over it until she was distracted by another tour member who fainted and bloodied her head. That night the TD told me I should go home, that I was incapable to do the tour. Later she told my husband that he was unable and should go home (This seemed to be because he walks with an odd gait due to injury in a motor vehicle accident that occurred back in 1959). We both made it clear that we were not interested in leaving the tour and we did not agree that we were not able to continue. The next two days we were harangued repeatedly with messages that we were not wanted. The TD "turned us over to her Rome office" and I was harangued (Tuesday afternoon) with numerous phone calls from women whom I could not understand due to the language barrier and poor connections.
On Tuesday evening we were ordered to come down from our room and informed that we were no longer allowed on the trip, that we would leave for home the following morning, that our original flight home had been cancelled and a new flight arranged for the following morning. We were told that if we refused to go we would not be allowed on the trip, that we would be put out on the street with nowhere to stay and no tickets to get back home. At that threat, we felt we had to give in. We had hardly slept for three nights worrying about what was happening to our trip and the impossible to understand antagonism and hostility of the TD towards us. We were exhausted. We might have tried to go off on our own, making our travels private, but felt unable to do that given that we no longer would have tickets to get back home. Also we don't speak the language and had no experience with making our own travel arrangements in Italy and France.
We were hustled off to the airport where we got a flight to Amsterdam, but the agent said she had no tickets beyond that and we would have to get them in Amsterdam. In Amsterdam there were no tickets for us, no record we were told. I don't know how it was worked out but Delta and KLM made many phone calls on our behalf and finally got us on a plane to Detroit. In Detroit again there were ticket problems, but the agents got them resolved somehow. Two weeks later, at home, I received notice from Delta that it was time to do online check-in on our originally scheduled flight home. I contacted them, explaining that GCT had told us that they cancelled these tickets. Delta then kindly immediately refunded our "economy plus" seating fare we had paid although I don't believe they had to.
Throughout this ordeal I had kept detailed notes. I used these to write a letter of objection to GCT after we returned home. I sent a letter to Harriet Lewis receiving no response from her. After reading off some website complaints of others who have had terrible problems with GCT, I guess I should be grateful that at least we did now just receive a full refund of the money we paid GCT. The man I dealt with in the customer relations department was very courteous and I thought really tried to be helpful.
That does not negate what GCT did to us. I consider their behavior outrageous, abusive and also simply very poor business. They have thrown away two very good customers, people who once were outspoken to others about the good experiences they had with GCT. Our good will is gone as is our continued business. They are "out" the extra airfare to send us home, "out" the price of the trip and didn't have the common sense to follow through on cancelling the flights they said they cancelled. Total incompetence! What the dickens happened to what I think was once a good reputable company???
The wait times, routinely over half an hour to talk to a rep, needs attention. Of course payment calls go through a filter very fast. They need to be pushed to have an automatic callback system for all calls to show some respect for their customer's time and convenience.
We are in the middle of our tour as I type. There has been both good and bad on this trip which is our first experience with Grand Circle and with traveling abroad. Due to the monies we paid and the poor parts of our trip so far this will be our last tour with Grand Circle. Some parts of the tour have been entertaining and enjoyable with excellent service. Others have been disappointing with cheap meals and poor service. The rooms that we have stayed in so far are small and we are currently staying in a room with two twin beds.
One of our two "option" mini tours was very disappointing and the other had very good entertainment with poor service from the food servers. Sitting on the cramped tour bus in the back each time has been painful to say the least and been one of the main reasons not to participate in the "option" mini tours. A separate arrangement was made for golf for my husband and some others. They were told it would cost them $45.00 for 9 holes that would include everything and they had to pay $176.00 each. We are ages 58 and 64. Perhaps this type of traveling is just not for us.
I received an email from Grand Circle Travel advertising a cruise. I clicked on the link and noted the advertised price, under which was the notation "Single Supplement: $0". When I called to book the trip, the single supplement was $1,295. They claimed they made a mistake on the website. I claim it was the old bait-and-switch, enticing me to call in and buy something under false pretenses. They expressed no interest in honoring what they offered. I have traveled with them before; I will never do so again. Beware!!
On this trip we had 3 days in Prague at the Parkhotel which was outside of the city of Prague. Went on a bus trip the next day through the city of Prague with someone I could not understand. We were brought to the hotel. And we're on our own for the rest of time with no way to get back in the city, all we saw was the hotel and a small grocery store. We should had have a hotel in the city. But I guess that would have cut down their profit. Our rest stop was a gas station... That had about 50 little children also at the gas station. The rest of the trip did not get any better. The customer service you dealt with before the trip were not the best. I am sorry to say I did not like anything on this trip. I would advise if you want to take a Blue Danube trip you might try Viking.
I completed my third trip with GC last fall. I have to agree with the comments about sub standard rooms. As a single person I was given the worst room in most of the hotels. We changed hotels 5 times as we worked our way north from Italy. The first hotel room was in the back of the entire hotel (I needed my GPS to find it everyday) overlooking the gardener shack. The room was so small that one day when I overslept I had to order room service. The guy could not even get the cart into the room. My shower was the size of what would be in an RV. When I complained our guide did nothing for over 24 hrs. until I went to the front desk. They showed me another room which was much larger but it overlooked a metal fire escape and a brick wall so I decided to stay where I was. The rest of the travelers had lake views. Single people get the shaft. Esp when there is "free supplement". What a joke.
I have gone on a couple of trips with GCT and they have been fine, as both times we have an organized group of our own, so the tour went on as planned. Early this year, I booked a Danube River Cruise together with another couple for March 22nd, 2016, and paid in full including airfare before the deadline, which is 75 days before the trip. Around the first week of February, which is less than 45 days before the trip, they informed us that the trip has been cancelled even though we had already received all the travel documents from them. The reason for cancellation: insufficient travelers for that trip and they want to combine it with their April tour. Unfortunately, that is the only time we are available to take the trip. We could have booked another tour! GCT had totally disregard the interests of the customers and did not provide any compensation for the cancellation, either as a credit for future tour or whatever.
If the customer had cancelled the tour within 59-30 days of the tour date, they would have been charged 65% of the trip fee according to GCT's cancellation policy. However, GCT seems to feel free to cancel any tour at will without any recourse or compensation to the customers, which appears to be a one way street. They seem to expect the customer to commit to the payment after booking, but yet, they can cancel the trip as they wish. What kind of a company is this? Where is their customer service? I would not deal with this company again! Also, not only did they not refund the customer for their payment immediately after they cancelled their trip, they have to wait till Feb. 19th to issue the refund. What is this? They want to keep the money even though their trip has been cancelled.
I just returned from Burma Irrawaddy river cruise. I want to warn people about several upsetting practices which seem systemic and not just related to this cruise. They are not offering this trip any longer or I would go into more detail but will just state, if they offer it again, don't take it. One thing in general though, they make such a big deal about being single traveler friendly and it is a joke. Not only should they have offered free single supplement but they should have charged half or less if anyone would take the single room! All rooms on the ship were 25 sq ft except mine which was 10 sq ft. Smaller than my walk-in closet at home. Dark. No sliding doors or balcony like everyone else. Tiny tiny bathroom. And there were 5 staterooms unoccupied! They didn't have to give me that room. After complaint they did move me, but if this is the way they deal with single travelers, do you want to deal with them?
They charged me $1500 for airfare Bangkok round trip. I then saw it advertised for $882. They overcharged me. When I called, they said they just pick a number and that is what they charge irrespective of the actual cost! Too late to change for me so I paid about DOUBLE. To top things off, when I got on the trip, I found that most of the other passengers paid NO airfare. To top things off further, the flight arrangements were horrid. They left me sitting in Bangkok for 12 hours alone after all the other travelers were gone home. I called the airlines and there was space on the same flight 12 other passengers were on. Grand circle said they would change it for a $200 change fee. They never should have left a single elderly woman alone that way in the first place! I refused to pay it. Then they said I had to leave my hotel room! I was to sit in the lobby for 4 hours until a van came for me! I refused to leave my room.
They said I would have to pay a night myself, but in the end after I contacted Grand Circle headquarters, they did let me keep the room until van came. The only thing I can figure is they saved a few bucks on the fare to inconvenience me so. And just icing on the cake, they booked some cheaper class ticket so I could not get my frequent flyer miles! To say do not let them book your airfare for you seems unnecessary but DO NOT LET THEM BOOK YOUR AIRFARE!!! Actually, do you want to even deal with a company who is so grubby greedy???
In the next few weeks we will take a very much anticipated trip to Cuba using Grand Circle. Not our first GC or OAT trip and every one so far has been a 5 star event. What this is about is some of the "things" that we have learned so far. I questioned two things: 1. Why there is a luggage fee with this being a charter flight (and your total luggage weight limit is 44# )? I had spoken with Air Aruba the listed charter for the trip. They said that they didn't charge a baggage fee on charters. All part of the charter. So I asked why we had a separate baggage fee of $20 per person? This was for the whole trip and not each way. The poor guy I was talking to, I think thought like I did and was gone for extended conversations with others. All I got was that Air Aruba charged that fee. Nonsense, I had spoken with them minutes before the GC call. Nickel-diming. Increase the tour fee by $20 if the margin is that thin.
2. I also asked about the tipping for the guide which is $7-10 USD per person per day. Our tour has 20 people so the guide gets $1400-2000. I felt that was excessive for a Cuban when the average MONTHLY salary is around $20 USD. Felt it would upset the economy. Well, another long off the phone conversation and guess what? The guide isn't a Cuban who lives in Cuba. This is a Cuban-American (citizen) who lives in Little Havana (Miami).
I have never gone on one of their tours where the guide was not a native who lived in his/her country. I want a person who is living the day to day experience of a communist country, that is very poor, and about to be opened up to big economic changes. I'll never get to see that person, not in the close extended way that you do with a tour guide. I am very disappointed and upset with this GC nonsense. I will review the actual trip afterwards and maybe my perspective will have changed.
Grand Circle Travel Company Information
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