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I was logging on to get the link the the OAT site to book a trip for next year and spotted this review site. SO sorry for the folks who have had a bad experience but need to say we've done 5 trips and every one of them has been outstanding. And the service complaints, wow, we've had great help from these guys. On virtually all our trips we've done some self hosted travel on either or both ends, and OAT has been able to make that work out much more economically than I could trying to stitch together the flights myself. OAT tends to provide experiences outside the normal travel agency, small groups, run by local folks, spending quality time with local folks. They have a nice balance of independent time on the trip with help sorting out what makes sense for you and your interests, abilities, and physical limitations. At this point I'd have to say I would not want to travel with any other travel company. 5 stars in my book.
As I am about to take my 13th trip with Overseas Adventure Travel (OAT) I am astounded by the number of whiny comments that seem to make OAT look like a bunch of boogers looking for any means possible to ruin one's travel plans. Come on folks, if OAT were that bad a travel company, how on earth could they have remained in business for this long a period?
Understanding that nobody or no company can be perfect, I have had NOTHING but excellent experiences during my SOON TO BE 13 TRIPS. OAT's team leaders are uniformly superb in their knowledge of their respective tour areas and all have exceptional communications skills. The trips are designed TO BE ADVENTUROUS, so if you're counting coup on whether your hotel is five stars or whether your fellow traveler has a two vanity bathroom and you don't, YOU'VE MISSED THE WHOLE POINT OF THEIR TOURS!! Perhaps you'd be better off with a Viking tour that costs twice as much or even a National Geographic Tour where you'll pay three or four times with the guarantee that they'll tuck you in and kiss your behind each and every night.
As for me, I'm a big boy and can handle the reality that a person who has traveled 43 times with OAT (yes, I actually did meet one of these folks) might and should get a bit better room than I. And as for travel insurance, I'm 71 and all I really need is airvac insurance that one purchases for a fraction of the price for a whole year. And air travel: hell I've been flying now for 51 years and have learned to take nothing for granted.
But OAT brings the richest of travel EXPERIENCES! From having mint tea in a Bedouin's camel hair tent, to cooking your own veal marsala in Sicily, to eating Mopani worms in a mud hut in Zimbabwe, it's all an adventure that one remembers for lifetime. If I wanted everything to be perfectly ordered and planned I'd stay home and be bored: get my drift??
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I have traveled with OAT almost every year since my first trip to Thailand in 2000. I have seen parts of the world that I would never have seen otherwise. A visit to an: orphanage, school, and a home hosted meal are standard for all of my trips....wonderful experiences that I would never have had without OAT. Ever been to the snake charmers village in India or a Masai village? The trip leaders are all local people that know their countries and are very willing to share their political / cultural insights, priceless.
Our trip leader Nelson in Patagonia made the comment that in his view there are two kinds of visitor to his country: (1) Tourists and (2) Travelers. OAT is for World Travelers and not tourists. World travelers can expect bumps in the road. It's just life. It's how well your trip leader copes with the unexpected that makes OAT a great way to see the world. OAT is not for everyone...some would like the Club-Med experience at the higher cost? Your choice, but mine will always be with OAT.
I have taken 10+ OAT trips and have been generally happy but have a few suggestions for those who are new to OAT:
1. I book ground only and make my own air reservations. The same goes for any pre- or post- stops. I keep the OAT reservation as simple as possible.
2. I have separate medical evacuation insurance and don't buy their insurance. (But note that evacuation insurance only covers mishaps during the trip, not before leaving.)
3. When getting on the phone with their rep I make these things clear right off the bat and cut off their sales attempts.
4. If I'm traveling with a friend we agree on a time and have the OAT rep conference in the other person. The single supps go very quickly and there is no guarantee that a space will be available even an hour later. So definitely book at the same time.
5. Particularly if you're interested in a free single supp, be aware that new trip dates are posted as earlier dates fill up, so keep checking. I'm going on the Prague trip in October and just noticed that a new date with 2 single supps has appeared.
6. The tour managers I've had have ranged from good to excellent and have generally found them to be hard working and helpful. When you buy into a group trip you give up a certain amount of independence and simply have to accept that. Also, the group leaders are not responsible for the reservation process or other policies coming out of the Boston HQ, but frequently bear the brunt of traveler complaints.
7. Many of the hotel have been very good, especially in Europe, but quite a few have left much to be desired either because they were shabby and badly in need of renovation or because they were poorly located. It's true that travelers with the most seniority get the best rooms, but this is no different than airlines giving upgrades to their best customers. As you take more trips you move up in the pecking order and also accumulate credits that can be applied to future trips.
I continue to travel with OAT because overall I'm satisfied.
I have traveled many times with this company, therefore I am sometimes given very good rooms in hotels. It always bothers me to hear people complain about the frequent travelers getting upgrades. Today Most US companies give their frequent customers perks. My grocery store gives me sale prices if I show them my frequent shopper cards. Airlines give their good customers early boarding, and sometimes reduced baggage fees. Hotels sometime give you a free stay after several visits, even Amazon has perks. Think about this before you complain about it. I always let them book my air and then I change or upgrade my seat. They have also changes routing if I requested.
My final comment about these reviews. Why do so many refer to the company as OATs when it is OAT. I am suspicious about these reviews. As for customer service, I’ve not had problems but many companies I deal with have phone waiting time. Also OAT always books my air, and I monitor it. You can make your own seat upgrades after, I do have a problem with the reviews, The call the company OATS but it is OAT. Why are there so many poor reviews with the wrong company name. Were they really written by the travelers.
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I made the mistake of telling our tour leader that my husband had early stage Alzheimer's. Her immediate reaction was to say that OAT policy was to send people with this disease home if they were traveling alone -- he CLEARLY wasn't. She warned me that he would be my responsibility (which I already knew) and then suggested that it would be better for us to go home and she could arrange that. I thought this might be my husband's last chance to travel so I told her we would not go home. Throughout the trip, she harassed me, telling me every time I let him do something wrong, like accidentally pick up and eat someone else's box lunch - a mistake I could easily have made. He also "wandered" once when we got off a bus for a bathroom bank.
If wandering is looking around before you go in the bathroom, then I'm guilty and I bet a lot of other people are as well. To make matters worse, when I filled in the post-trip survey, I expressed my unhappiness with our treatment, I received a form letter that said they would work on the itinerary. In fact, I applauded the itinerary. The sad thing is that the trip would have been spectacular if I hadn't been so stressed about our tour guide, who seemed to be looking for mistakes. Fortunately, my husband had a wonderful trip because I didn't tell him what was going on behind the scenes AND I am certainly not aware of any hardship for our tour leader or for the other travelers.
The company's insurance is more expensive than purchasing by oneself. I went with the company policy figuring it would be more convenient if it became necessary to cancel my trip. However, this was NOT the case. In order to file a claim I was sent via the web to another site. I had to fill out all the information that OAT already had and submit it to a totally unaffiliated website. I got NO HELP from OAT. In addition, and as a warning, I booked this same trip a year ago and after paying in full and getting confirmed, I was "bumped off" less than 60 days from my departure date. No reason was given. I foolishly rebooked for this year, but due to an illness in the family I am now unable to take the trip. No one at OAT seems to care, nor do they offer any help. Chose another travel company!!
We have traveled with OAT four times (Spain/Portugal, Turkey, Morocco and "The Holy Land" and have been very pleased with the trips until our most recent trip to "The Holy Land". They arranged the air and said our VISA to Jordan and transfer to the hotel in Amman would be covered by OAT. Our flight to Amman was changed by Austrian airlines to a day earlier for reasons that were not clear. Because of this change we arrived in Amman the day before the official start of the tour and because of that OAT refused to pay the VISA fees or provide transfer to the hotel in Amman. Upon our return I had a long conversation with customer service and they remained intransigent citing bureaucratic rules. If I ever travel with them again I will book my own flights.
Sicily’s Ancient Landscapes & Timeless Traditions is my first trip to join OAT. On Day 3, our tour’s first real start date, I was surprised that despite having 1 whole day in Palermo and walking around for about 4-5 hours, we didn’t go inside any of the top attractions in Palermo, like Cappella Palatina/Palazzo Reale, etc., except for the Cathedral.
As such, on Day 4, I have decided to stay in Palermo, instead of joining the optional tour. On Day 5, the itinerary states that we are going to Segesta which mentions the 424 B.C. Doric temple which is the one and only attraction in the area. But guess what, we actually did not go there, but saw the temple a few kilometers away! For Syracuse, the tour does not go to the most important tourist site of Parco Archeologico della Neapolis (which includes Teatro Greco and Latomia del Paradiso/Ear of Dionysius). And even for Mt. Etna, the tour just stays on the lower part (1,900 meters) where no entrance fee is needed and does not go up to the top (2,920 meters) which is the real attraction, by taking the cable car and then the 4WD minibus.
In addition, we have this hypocritical guide – Viviana **! Having joined OAT the first time, I naturally asked Viviana why we didn’t visit these top sites. She then became so defensive and even retorted why I did not tell her beforehand when we were in Segesta that I would like to see the Doric Temple as she would have directed me to go on my own (as some other people in her previous tours did).
So on Day 8, I knew better and asked her if I could go to Archeologico della Neapolis on my own when we reach Syracuse. Again, she became so defensive and to make the story short, the next morning, she told me that I will be “dismissed” from our tour immediately as I was “spreading among my tourmates that this tour is bad”. Frankly, I was relieved - I ended up seeing much more places and top sites on my own in the remaining 7 days, (like in Mt Etna, I went to the top which you would know once you were up there that there is really not much to see below) but spent only less than 1/3 of what OAT refunded to me proportionately!
If you just want to go to Sicily so that you can say that you have been there, then this tour can be for you. Otherwise, if you want to see the real thing, this tour wastes a lot of your time (and money too) by having lots of cheap fillers - so-called cultural and local experiences, without going to the real top interesting sites, or in some cases, the tour might go, but you only get to see them from the outside or from a distance! What is the point?
I didn't keep track of all the iterations so the below is essentially a sampling of my frustration. Representatives presented themselves as knowledgeable but the information provided was simply wrong. In particular, they really have no clue about how upgrades work. We were upgrading our coach seats to business for the Africa safari trip. There was great initial confusion on the part of OAT about what could be upgraded, and for what cost. We were simply given incorrect information and ended up paying $600 more per person than promised. Still worth it to us. But the upgrade didn't include one of the 6 flight legs, a long one, for some reason.
i) "It will be done as soon as departure is within 3 months." (Nope.)
ii) "We'll take care of it as soon as the seats are released to us, when we're within 3 months." (Nope--never heard from OAT about this.)
iii) "The airline will upgrade some legs on a complimentary basis." (Really? When has an airline ever done this--and they didn't, of course.)
iv) "Call the airline." (And the airline of course won't touch these since they're through a travel agency.)
All the while listening to the same hold music with each painful OAT "hold". I think the representatives are happy to get you off the phone and move on to their next satisfied customer rather than bothering to know what they're talking about and actually solving a problem realistically. Dealing with their air desk is supposed to make the flight portion of the trip easy--not even close. With this experience and according to the other reviews, OAT may be losing some pretty frequent and relatively high-end travelers (such as ourselves).
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