Consumer Complaints and Reviews
My experience with OAT while in Lima, Peru was jilted into an unpleasant reality when only six hours into the trip, my purse was stolen while dining with our group at La Panka Restaurant. While having our lunch, the tour guide asked me to learn a new dance that he knew as a native Peruvian. I was hesitant, but decided to be polite. As a reflective person, I thought it strange that he wanted to teach me a new dance during lunch and while local dancers were performing on a stage not far from us. The rest of our group of twelve were all seated at our table but when I returned, my purse was missing from the seat where I left it. Many in my group helped search for the missing purse to no avail. Stolen were my purse, passport, credit cards, phone, and cash. It was a flash of thinking and feeling like I had been set up. There were surveillance cameras but the tour guide was unable to get any information and did not follow up on this as he said he would.
I travel often and although I know unfortunate events happen, but OAT was not at all supportive throughout the travel claim process, as I did purchase the additional insurance for $699. I missed two days with the group and was by myself in Lima until I could go through the process to purchase a new temporary passport. The American Embassy in Lima had very few employees who spoke English. It was a harrowing experience over-all and as of April 3, I am still waiting for answers from Trip Mate Travel Ins. Company. I spoke with representatives and a supervisor at OAT and it is clear that they take no responsibility. They keep repeating that the Trip Leader has excellent reviews and they doubt highly that he had anything to do with the theft.
I can not help but feel differently and will never forget how awful it is to be in a place where one is at the mercy of others. OAT advertises as budget friendly; however I could have traveled with National Geographic or another well known travel company simply because of the additional expenses incurred due to theft in Lima.
We have traveled with OAT and are very happy! We have traveled to Africa, Costa Rica, Machu Picchu & Galapagos - with a pre-trip to Peruvian Amazonas. Every time we enjoyed our guides and the places we stayed. Last trip was to Cuba in November 2016! Another trip we really enjoyed! Looking forward to more with our friends! Next is Ancient Kingdoms of The South East Asia! One of the things we really enjoy is the donations to schools and communities we visit! I am surprised at the negative reviews and they mostly relate to some small insurance refund or a misunderstanding! That should not be the only criteria for bashing a great and philanthropic organization!
There are so many opportunities here for hardworking and excellent people. At the same time, we don’t tolerate subpar work/unprofessionalism. I had purchased the travel insurance. My mother is 94 and in the pre-hospice program. She had two heart related surgeries in 2015. When I booked the trip she was pending Medicaid and we were expecting Caregivers to arrive shortly. The Medicaid was delayed and as of the date of my canceling this trip the caregiver status was not guaranteed. Although I have provided medical documentation, the travel insurance, Tripmate has denied my claim. They did not deny my claim until February but have issued me a travel voucher which I am not able to use due to my mother's health. Due to my mother's declining health the travel voucher is a mute point even though it is suppose to be good for one year.
The travel voucher has been dated to expire in November even though the insurance company took 6 months to make the decision. I have gotten nowhere with the insurance company and have not been able to get in touch with OAT as no one appears to answer the phone. I would never recommend this company to anyone ever. The insurance they sell is worthless and OAT doesn't seem to be concern at the least with their customers.
In December 2016 I signed up with OAT for my first travel adventure alone, as my husband has become permanently physically and mentally disabled. This was a big deal for me and I put myself into the trusted hands (based on recommendations) of OAT. They signed me up for TripMate for $599 and this was paid up front with my deposit. Because I trusted OAT, I didn't personally check out this company. BIG mistake. My husband and I have travelled extensively before and had such good experiences with travel insurance, I didn't realize that this bad behavior was possible - and especially marketed by OAT. I agree with the previous reviewer - Shame on OAT!
Long story short, my husband has had another health episode that makes leaving the country right now ill advised. No problem - I have insurance right? WRONG! After finally getting through to them, trying to open a claim, giving them my info and then committed 2 typos that required multiple call backs before I could even get to the claim - I downloaded the 5 PAGE document required - with multiple doctor's signatures and a signed release form for all of my husband's medical records! And mind you, I have already paid TripMate, non refundable $599 for essentially nothing. My entire claim was to recover $300. And it could take me weeks to get this all submitted, and after reading these reviews I see it is hopeless. OAT - you've lost a customer. At least until you sever ties with this sham.
I am writing to let you know of the experience I have had with your agency and how it ruined my retirement trip. First of all I was working with Sarah who eventuality left your agency to start her own business. I was then switched over to Cheri ** and no information was given to her from Sarah. Only the information I had kept. We pretty much had to start all over again. I not only found this to be a pain in the ass but totally unprofessional. My trip was to travel to Australia and New Zealand from November 22nd to January 30th. After spending much time with Cheri over which places to go, she then mentioned the bus passes since I did not wish to drive because they drive on the other side of the road and sooner or later I would have an accident. She told me it was a 'hop on hop off' bus ride which gave me the impression that it would be easy and convenient. This was not the case.
First of all she never told me the bus schedule until the last day I saw her and that was the last thing she said to me. Because it was the off season the bus only ran on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Causing me to stay 2-3 days longer than necessary where ever I went, wasting time and money. She should have told me this before selling me the bus pass. After less than 3 weeks I was so fed up I went back home. She also should have advised me about the heat and that I would have been better off going in February not November. I hold her responsible for ruining my trip. In all fairness she should reimburse me for the bus passes and spending over $600.00 in costs for changing my flight schedules. I know this will never happen, she will keep her job and I am out a lot of money and a ruined vacation.
You should teach your employees to be professional in informing the people who are trusting you with the money they are investing in their vacations. I am planning another vacation. To see the mountain gorillas in Rwanda. And you better believe I am not going to waste anymore time and money on your agency. I have already told a number of my friends to stay away from your business.
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I have taken about 41 trips with Grand Circle Travel and OAT. 3 were the worst trips ever - Australia and New Zealand was a nightmare because of the people in the group and an inadequate tour director. Costa Rica and Guatemala was bad because the tour guide in Guatemala kept trying to get money from us to feed kids. I just went to Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Russia on May 20. I had signed up to go to the ballet in Russia but because of problems with our tour director that day I wasn't able to go. We were supposed to meet at the coat check at 4:30 and our tour director and the group never showed up.
When they were about to close the Hermitage Museum where we were, I went to a shop and asked them to call our hotel so I could find out where our tour group was. Our tour director was not in her room so I took a cab back to the hotel where we were staying and got there at 6:30 which was time to leave. Our tour director suggested I have a sandwich and go - forgetting I am gluten intolerant and I would want to change into something other than jeans to go to the ballet and I was so aggravated I didn't go. OAT called me too about paying the fee for the ballet and I told them I wouldn't as I didn't go. They called again yesterday and said because they couldn't give 24 hour advance notice they had to pay and expected me to pay. I did and wish I hadn't.
The trip was good but the airlines OAT chose were horrible. I missed my flight to Germany and had to stay in a hotel at San Francisco International airport. Same thing happened flying from St. Petersburg to Germany and I had to stay in a hotel at the airport. The airline insisted I had to buy a new ticket and because of the language difference it wasn't clear why but I paid $440 for a new ticket and they charged me for both my checked bag and carry on. The total for all of this was about $800 and I filed a claim with Trip Mate and have heard nothing. I will never travel with OAT again and I will pester them to get the money from the tour director as it was her fault I missed the ballet. And now I will pester Trip Mate like OAT pestered me.
I booked a trip on OAT and gave a $350 deposit. The agent I spoke with advised me to purchase an insurance policy with their recommended company, Trip Mate. I was assured that if I needed to cancel I would get my deposit back for ANY reason. I did have to cancel but it seems that the reasons Trip Mate lists are so outrageous that nothing I can say will fit. OAT returned $50 of my deposit and said I needed to file a claim with Trip Mate, which I did. Trip Mate and OAT both refuse to return my money, not for the insurance, which I realize I lost $599, but for the balance of my deposit.
I booked a trip to Morocco. I was led to believe that I would have a direct flight. I was then booked on a one stop flight and told that I would have to pay the difference. I wanted to add a pre-trip excursion. It was now not available. Their representatives would tell me what they thought I wanted to hear. The information was untrue and misleading. I cancelled the trip but was told that I would forfeit $300 per person. This is unfair considering that the reason for cancellation was due to their misinformation.
I have just read the complaints several individuals have written below and find them rather typical of older inexperienced travelers. My wife and I have taken OAT trips to China & Tibet, Baltic States & Russia and most recently to Turkey and also a Grand Circle trip to Spain & Portugal. We have had nothing but great experiences, very good hotel accommodations and excellent & knowledgeable guides. We have encountered these miserable older inexperienced complainers on every trip. Don't listen to them or take any credence in their complaints! They are the types that complain about everything on the trip and don't take the time to enjoy the adventure to a foreign country, its people, its food or its history!
On 11/27/15, I called OAT to reserve a trip to Machu Picchu and the Galapagos for 3/12/16. I was informed that this particular trip required booking the pre-trip to the Amazons. I did not want the extra week nor spend the extra $1,000 but was persuaded by the salesperson plus I really wanted that time frame. When I received the list of fellow travelers, there was only 8 for the pre-trip and 5 joining us for the MP portion. Each of the five said a mandatory pre-trip was not even mentioned. When I returned home I called OAT and expressed my dissatisfaction and anger about that practice. I got nothing except a "Sorry but that was company policy to fill trips." The rep did say this was a gray area but it would not be changed. I was offered $100 travel credit to soothe my feelings and I told her to forget it because I would never use it because I would not travel with them. She could have cared less, so much for customer service!!!
I took the OAT ultimate Africa (arrive Jo'burg 7/04/15 and depart 7/19/15) and I injured myself by tripping the duffle bag. The visit to the Chobe Medical Center in Kasane, Botswana costed me US$65. The doctor found I had broken ankle but I continued the trip since I could walk despite of pain. I did have surgery after returning to the US. I sent my claim of $65 to the Trip Mate. After I went through all procedure which Trip Mate requested I still not received any compensation of my claim of $65. The OAT does not try to help to resolve my problem. I think it is very poor customer service. Other than that the African safari and the guide was wonderful.
Complaints about OAT: In May, 2015 I took a trip to Machu Picchu and the Galapagos. Everything about the trip was very well organized and I believe everyone in our group had a similar positive experience. However as a Canadian I was treated in a very unusual way. From the time I registered and paid my deposit I suddenly seemed to have become an American, albeit without going through Immigration or applying for, or receiving, a Green Card. For the real reasons known only to OAT or Grand Circle, I was shown as living at the Head Offices address in Boston. If that was not weird enough, I was travelling with a friend from London, and during the trip I met another Canadian and a Swiss woman and we all had our place of residence changed to exactly the same Boston address! All of this was done without our permission or agreement.
It is my opinion that such an arbitrary and insulting action probably negated the contract we, the travelers, had with OAT as what we provided as our true and legal address was dismissed as irrelevant and another one substituted. Now, why would any company treat its customers in such a cavalier way? Their explanations are interesting. I have written three times and demanded a WRITTEN answer and the only one I got after the first note was that OAT could not handle non-US addresses or postal codes! I have told them in the strongest possible language that I do not believe them and that I have my suspicions as to what they are up to.
After the second and third notes I had phone messages from various employees suggesting that they had the answer to my questions and that I should call them back to discuss. When I returned the call after hours I’d say if the answer is the same as before don’t call me back as I am not interested in repeated rubbish answers and guess what, I hear no more. The question as to why any company would deliberately change registration information, but only for non US residents, would seem to be connected to how the company records and reports its income to its shareholders or to a statutory body like the IRS. By changing my address the money received from me, and other non US residents, shows as US sourced and not Foreign sourced. If this is true it could be a serious problem.
In my correspondence with OAT I said I would never travel with them again if they did not change this practice. I could not get any definitive commitment as to when that might change. The fact is that if they do not want Canadians or other nationalities to travel with them they should state so. (The insurance cover, which is very expensive anyway is available only to US residents. This might be a hint that while they take money off foreigners they cannot handle the recording of it.) I have done OAT the courtesy of showing them this note before I post it in the Complaints section, with no response from them. Should I have any facts wrong I will make the necessary corrections. Their bizarre behavior certainly affected how I viewed the whole holiday and while I thought it was well planned and organized I should not have had my citizenship denigrated by faceless people. This was for us a recurring unexplained distraction.
LEFT STRANDED IN CAMBODIA AT 73 YRS OLD! They use their misconduct policy to kick me off the tour because of food poisoning. Keep in mind when using this company you are subject to their policies at your own risk. I felt it was important to let others know that this company will use their policies against you even if it means leaving you stranded in another country. When I signed up with them, I trusted them to keep me safe and guide me through an amazing experience. They instead gave me an experience that has now kept me from enjoying traveling in a way I never will again.
There are many safari organizations that do a much better job than OAT. Took the Africa trip 5 years ago and it was great. Took it again in June and it was poorly done. They overtaxed the resources on the ground and some things advertised did not happen. We did not get to the Okavango Delta, we did not get a whole day in Chobe National Park. We lost three days with hard uncomfortable travel from camp to camp and one camp was falling apart, was poorly maintained and needs to be closed for a complete revamp.
One place we stayed was more like a Mom and Pop motel in Arkansas than a safari camp in Botswana. They didn't even have their own jeeps and guides - they rent them from another camp. When we crossed the Zambezi River in very small outboard boats we did not even have life preservers - they jeopardized our safety. Some of the wildlife viewing was spectacular and in some places, especially Zambia, we saw very little.
Schedule were not done for us, the customers. They were designed for the guides. We were traveling during Africa's winter and got up very early each morning for game drives and were told every day that it was too cold to see wildlife; so we drove around in cold open jeeps with blankets, waiting for the sun to rise. OAT in Boston told us they could not give us specifics on which of their schedules we would take because, as they said, they were done at the last minute. The camp managers told me they had the schedule for all trips at the beginning of the year: another lost truth.
Made a reservation 4 weeks ago on China trip in May. Had to cancel due to lack of information that I need to walk 3 miles a day. I am 81. Paid a deposit of $2100. All they returned is $400. I have taken 7 trips with OAT. Will never take another. Be careful with this company.
When I arrived at the Berlin Tegel airport to begin the tour with OAT, a bad windstorm came in and the luggage from many flights could not be taken off the airplanes. We were told to leave the airport and the luggage would get to us, to leave the details of where we were staying. The tour leader told us not to worry, but after two days and no word, I insisted that we go back to the airport to find some information. There were six of us on the tour with no luggage. The tour leader said that he tried to call, but got a busy signal and that's all he could do. We demanded to be taken to the airport and he finally agreed. It was then that we learned that our information was not entered into their computer and so with insistence, he did that.
When we got to the hotel in Prague, the wonderful staff helped us track our bags and they found that my bag was delivered to Dresden, but the tour leader told them to send it back to Berlin because he thought he would have to pay for the transport. The manager at the Prague hotel explained to him that we had trip insurance and he would not have to pay.
I tried to reach the home office of OAT travel in Mass., but I could not find an email address. I finally emailed my children back in the US and asked them to contact OAT for me and tell them what was going on. They called and that was when I finally got an email from someone at their quality management department. I gave her email address to the other people who had no luggage, and she started working on tracking our bags.
Finally, two people got their bags along the path of our travels. She told me she located my bag, gave me the tracking numbers and said she was working on getting the bag to me. I asked the tour leader if he thought I would get the bag before the end of the trip and he was shocked and angry that I had contacted the home office. He had done nothing to help us, but report that he tried to call and got no answer.
Our last stop was Budapest and then I was ending the tour and flying on my own to London. I was not taking the post trip extension to Vienna. I asked the woman at the home office if my bag could be forwarded to me at my hotel in London and I was told that since I was no longer touring with OAT, that that was not possible. When I reminded her that my entire airline ticket, including the flight to London was booked through OAT, she finally agreed.
I finally got my luggage three weeks later, when I was in London. When I arrived home, there was a survey form from OAT for me to fill out about the trip. There was also one for Trip Mate travel insurance to file a claim for what I had to buy. A few days later, I received a call from someone at OAT wanting to discuss the survey form I filled out. He had me on the phone for forty five minutes and I told him how poorly trained and lacking people skills I thought the trip leader was and how miserable the trip was.
In the end, he offered me $250 towards a future trip with OAT. I asked him why I should ever book with them again considering the lack of cooperation I've had during this trip. I also told him that there were enough other companies that I would go through before I ever booked with them again. To add even more stress to the entire mess, the insurance company did not even cover the walking shoes I had to buy, claiming that they would only reimburse $250 and therefore they would not cover the cost of the shoes. I have already discouraged two people from booking a trip with OAT because of the experience I had.
I read some of the review, "18 Complaints about OAT". Wow is all I can say. I have been on three trips so far, and soon going on my fourth. I LOVE OAT. They meet you at the airport. The manage your baggage from the get go. They wine and dine you. They take you places most travel companies don't. The pricing is better than most companies. Only 16 people in a group! As for the single supplement not being fair, it is the ONLY company that doesn't charge single people a fee for being single! It is so nice! I went to Ireland, and all the B&B's charged me 40 Euros and my couple friends paid 65 Euros for two people. I have done the Peru trip, Tuscany and Umbria and Greece/Croatia and soon going to Sicily, and I think OAT is one of the best travel companies around.
I've been on two trips with OAT with several years between them. Both trips were excellent. The guides were amazingly knowledgeable about history, culture, religion, and every aspect of the trip. The hotels were good, home visits wonderful, and both trips exceeded our expectations. We invited a friend to go to Turkey with us and she loved it also.
I own my own company and I was horrified to learn of my Aunt's best friend that used the Overseas Adventure Travel company to go to Nepal this year. The treatment her friend received during a horrific time was appalling. The follow-up experience after she and her son finally got home to the USA was even more disconcerting. Regardless of the extenuating circumstances of the earthquake that leveled that country, being left behind without this tour group was so unprofessional. The reason people hire Tour Groups when traveling outside of the United States is so they are safe. Not only did the tour guide leave them stranded they also had their travel visas and documents required to travel. After five days of anguish and using their own money were they able to get out of Nepal but to finally arrive in Chicago. They had to make other arrangements to finally get home to Colorado.
Upon their arrival to Colorado they had made numerous attempts to contact Overseas Adventure Travel to inquire about being left behind and this company has made no effort whatsoever to resolve this situation. This company should not be allowed to take people's money to travel. They are a disgrace to other independent companies.
Oat's advertising states "Enjoy FREE Single Supplements on all of our Land and Small Ship Adventures and trip extensions." Therefore, if you travel as a couple, your effective cost is much more per person than a single, since two people get the same room as a single (yet pay twice as much). OAT does not give any benefit or discount to the Couples. It is clear that OAT caters to singles and penalizes Couples.
I have read with dismay the negative reviews here about Overseas Adventure Travel. I have no way of knowing the whole story about these negative stories but people do not go online to give compliments, usually just complain so it can seem to skew the overall impression that is given about a particular company. I have traveled with OAT 11 times and Grand Circle Cruise Lines (same company) 1 time and have never had a bad experience with customer service personnel, air travel, trip leaders or in-country experiences. It does not mean that issues did not come up but they were dealt with in a quick and professional manner.
One of the things I have learned is that you have to be flexible to do adventure travel and stuff does happen often beyond the control of the company such a major weather changes, insurrection in a country (happened to me in Thailand), transit strikes, etc. Most travelers do not read the fine print or may not buy travel insurance. It is not reasonable if you make your own travel arrangements and flights are delayed they are responsible for making any financial loss up to you. They are also not responsible for meeting you at the airport if you do your own arrangements.
On a trip to Morocco, my United flight was delayed departing D.C. and I got to NY with not much time to make my flight to Morocco. An OAT rep. met me as I departed the plane and got me to the airport terminal I needed to get to to make the flight. Without her, I would not have made the flight. My luggage did not make it, but I got in several days later at the Morocco airport.
OAT has a maximum of 16 travelers and I have never had more than 16 and often less on one of their trips. Grand Circle Travel and small ship cruise lines can have 24 or in the case of some trips like Antarctica it could be 100 with multiple trip leaders. I have had a trip go with just 9 people out of 16 possible but it is not reasonable that if the number that signs up for a particular date is below the minimum needed that the trip will still go. They offer other dates but that may not work for some travelers. Flexibility is the key and read the fine print!
I recently attended an OAT/Grand Circle travel meeting in Sarasota, FL and 700 people attended to learn about changes and new trips in the coming year. I have met travelers who have taken 30 or more trips with this company and they would not be doing so if they were having negative experiences. I also have a friend who was at the tip of South America waiting to go to Antarctica in 2015 with Grand Circle, but a ship electrical problem and closing down the port because of bad weather in the Drake Passage ultimately cancelled the trip for 100 people. OAT/Grand Circle put them up for 3 more days, paid for them to get back to the US, gave them a full trip refund, and gave them a $1,000 credit to use for a future trip. Does that sound like the company being described in these reviews? Some of the things that make OAT/Grand Circle stand out are:
1. Free single supplements on land tours and partial credit now for some small ship adventures. I do not know any other company that does this! 2. If the price for the trip drops (it happened to me for Costa Rica), they immediately gave me a refund for the difference before the trip began. 3. Includes US airfare in the cost of the trip from the closest major airport to you. Also included is the cost of in-country airfare. Many companies do not have this in their advertised prices and you have to ask and add it in to find out the true cost of the trip. 4. Ability to set up a private adventure for 10 or more so that it would just be your group. 5. Applies 5% of the cost of the trip to a future trip over the next two years. 6. Give a free travel related gift before travel. 7. Grand Circle Foundation have given back hundreds of millions of dollars for schools, orphanages, wells, etc in the communities they visit around the world.
As I said, I am sure than some of these reviews had some legitimate complaints but some people are impossible to please and have unreasonable expectations when problems happen. Those people are better off served by another travel company. If you are going to do adventure travel, you have to be flexible and be reasonable in your expectations. OAT/Grand Circle is the finest travel company I have ever experienced, period!
OAT was purchased by Grand Circle Tours some years ago and has now adopted their policies for many administrative processes - which is why those who have traveled with them in the past have noticed a change. As for cancelling a trip - it must be for one of the reasons stated in the insurance policy. You generally have a few days to cancel the trip insurance and try another policy. Read it. Call and ask questions before you purchase it. I have had no issues with 3 different refunds from 3 different travel insurers given that I had medical situations and documentation. You cannot decide that you cannot go - a doctor must tell you that. It is the same as any other insurance - the insurance company always determines what is covered and what they will pay.
OAT is a third rate travel outfit. We stayed in second class hotels... some of them filthy. The group leader was ignorant and rude. I had to endure her horrible behavior to other members and endure personal attack against myself. The quality of the tour was at a third grade level. This tour is for the deaf, dumb and blind. Don't waste your money and time.
I have traveled with OAT one summer ago and had a wonderful experience. I was scheduled to travel with them again this summer. Unfortunately I had to cancel my trip. When I called OAT they walked me through the process of getting my refund. I cancelled in January, my trip is the middle of June. I was told when I called that I was out my 1200 in trip insurance and my 600 dollar deposit, but since I had purchased travel insurance through them, I would get my 600 dollar deposit back, all I had to do was file a claim. Per their instructions I filed the claim with Trip Mate.
A week later I find out my claim was denied. When I called to inquire I was told I was given a 600 dollar credit for another trip with OAT. I explained that OAT told me I would get my money back. They said file an appeal. I have and will wait to see what happens (On a side note when I called OAT to tell them of the denial they told me there was nothing they could do because it is not their decision. It is up to the Insurance Company which they have nothing to do with. I said "Funny, then why am I getting a 600 dollar travel voucher for your company if you two have nothing to do with each other?"). I will keep you posted and let you know if they make good on their word.
We had an even worse experience with OAT. We paid for a cruise in the Ukraine and about 2 weeks before it was supposed to leave we were notified by OAT that they had to cancel it because they never got permission from the Ukraine to travel there. Was OAT sorry, not in the least! To top it off, they wanted to keep the $9,000 we had paid to be applied to a future trip. We have never and will never travel with them again!
I am due to go on my 5th trip with OAT in two weeks. I decided to get on the site just to see some reviews. For a company this large, I was astounded to see only 11 reviews and all BAD. I now see why anyone I've recommended to this company has not signed on. Our tour guides have been great. Things have always gone pretty smoothly. We've stayed in really nice places, but I have to agree with the poor service coming from the home office. The right hand NEVER seems to know what the left hand is doing.
OAT is SO stringent, so petty and unmoving on some things I find it disgusting and a VERY poor business tactic. Even with someone doing as many trips as my sister and I have, they will not budge when it comes to giving that lousy little credit toward another trip if it falls just weeks after their designated expiration date. How in the hell can they expect the average person to be able to take two expensive trips in back to back years? Make the damn credit for more than one year or make it indefinite. They goad you with these tiny credits and then REFUSE to work with you to keep you as a customer.
I have written time and time again, called, gone direct to the Lewis' about the utter waste of postage, paper and redundant mailings and nothing changes. The cost of our trips go up, in part, due to the UNBELIEVABLE waste in mailings alone. Example - once signed on for a trip, wait until the time period for cancellation has expired before sending out the costly trip package. Just think of how many people cancel 24 hours after signing on for a trip, but OAT seems to be so needy for business, that they waste approx. $10 in mailing a welcome package which will be tossed away. WAIT until the time frame for cancellation has passed to mail anything to the client!!! Same goes for when you've done a few trips with them, you get your choice of a gift. Long story short, my sister and I should have received one jacket each, but due to their errors, we each received 3 or 4. Wrong colors, wrong sizes, wrong item, etc. At least 4 OAT employees have agreed with the utter waste of mailings.
So there is good about the company and the trips, but they have a LOT to learn about customer care and keeping customers. I agree, OAT shows NO concern when they cancel a trip. They could care less about the customer and how they have worked other things around an OAT trip only to have it cancelled. If just 4 people sign on for a trip, have done all their personal prep, paid for the trip and ins. then it should go as planned. OAT is NOT poor and I doubt many trips have just a few people going, so on those trips that do have a low number at least contact those few people and discuss it with them, don't make the decision without some kind of input from the client as to how this will affect them. Most people are willing to change unless they have other air plans, using miles, have paid for ins. with an outside company, etc.
TIPS: As for this new tipping plan OAT has, I would like to know how much they are tipping assistants on busses, baggage handlers, etc. I hope to God they give a decent tip each and every time. I have been on enough trips to see how utterly CHEAP Americans can be when it comes to tipping. If OAT recommends a $2 tip, by God that's all they will give or less. It is embarrassing to be with a group of Americans and actually see them STIFF on tips or give one that is nothing more than a slap in the face to the very deserving people working so hard to make your trip pleasurable. Most people on these trips have money and will buy $1,000 rugs, jewelry, etc. but are cheap, cheap, cheap when it comes to the service people.
In April 2011, my wife and I thoroughly enjoyed OAT's "Turkey's Magical Hideaways", with a pre-trip extension to Syria and a post-trip extension to "Nemrut and the Bible Lands". We were on the pre-trip in Syria, just as the Syrian opposition to President Bashir al Assad inched the country to the brink of civil war. Fortunately, our guide, Nabil **, was able to skirt any areas of conflict, and we completed the scheduled itinerary. This was our third time exploring Turkey, not counting the two years I spent there on assignment with the U.S. Air Force Medical Service Corps; but we felt there was still more of this country that we wanted to see and enjoy. So in 2013, we booked a return trip on OAT's "Turkey's Sacred Lands and Ancient Civilizations", with a scheduled departure of October 2014. Using OAT's "Good Buy" program, and including the cost of travel protection paid to OAT's travel insurance subsidiary, we prepaid the trip at a cost of approximately $12,000 for the two of us.
The itinerary for the scheduled 2014 "Sacred Lands" trip included travel and stops in Southeastern Turkey, along the border with Syria, and included Sanliurfa, Mt. Nemrut and Gaziantep, which is less than twenty kilometers from Aleppo, Syria. After ISIS began its barbaric campaign kidnapping and beheading Americans and others, and seizing large areas of Syria along the Turkish/Syrian border, we concluded that it was simply not safe to travel to that area at this time; and heeding published travel warnings, we decided to cancel trip.
Upon contacting OAT, we were told by our travel representative that the trip was "going as scheduled", and that their people in Turkey had reported no problems in the scheduled itinerary areas. This in spite of the fact that it was widely reported by U.S. news sources that ISIS fighters were moving freely between Syria and Turkey, and had detonated IEDs at village markets on the Turkish side of that porous border. We did note that future departures for this trip were listed on the OAT website as "Sold Out", which may be marketing-speak for "Cancelled". I would love to hear from any travelers who took the October departure, as to their experiences, and whether the trip adhered to the published itinerary.
We were adamant that we were simply not prepared to travel to that area at this time. After confiding that she herself would not travel to that area at this time, our travel representative advised that, if we did cancel the trip there would be a penalty of $6,000 or roughly 50% of the amount we had paid. The penalty amount would have to be appealed to and adjudicated by the travel insurance carrier, a GCT/OAT subsidiary. If the appeal was successful, we would be issued a voucher for future travel with GCT/OAT, rather than a refund.
The only alternative offered was to transfer our total payment to another GCT/OAT trip. This option, however, had to be exercised by the Spring of 2015. Ultimately, with greatly diminished enthusiasm, we elected to switch to the GCT "Romance of the Rhine and Mosel" river cruise in November 2014. The OAT response to this whole matter has made us question their level of commitment to us as returning travelers. Since 2007, except for our independent travel, we have given all of our "tour" travel business - a total of ten base trips and nine pre or post trip extensions to GCT/OAT. We have, additionally, encouraged ten traveling friends to use GCT/OAT as their preferred tour operator.
Prior to the unpleasantness regarding the cancellation of the 2014 "Sacred Lands" trip, we had booked and paid for GCT's "Bordeaux: Vineyards, Vintages and Chateaux" with a departure in the Fall of 2015. Beyond that trip, it will be less likely that we will view GCT/OAT as our preferred travel partner, as I feel our money, loyalty and recommendations over the years did not count for much, when we needed an expression of appreciation beyond that you would expect to be given to even a first-time customer/traveler.
THE WORST CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE EVER. My mother was so upset by her customer experience that she told me in tears that she wanted to cancel the trip - a once-in-a-lifetime trip that she has been excited about for months. Numerous customer service agents told her that they were working on an issue and would get back to her, including supervisor James ** - but none of them never did. When I called to find out what had happened, I received the exact same treatment - I was transferred, told that people would call me back, and the issue was never addressed. When I asked to speak to the manager of the supervisors, I was told I could not speak to them.
It's the same experience you get from a mega corporation like Verizon or CapitalOne, except you are paying them thousands of dollars to guide you through a foreign country. Save yourself time, exasperation and money, and RUN to another agency. They don't care enough about their customers to treat them well.
OAT headlines its web site main page with the phrase "never more than 10 a 16 travelers...guaranteed!" We haven taken two of their tours, one with 13 travelers, the other with 16. Last month we signed up for their "Patagonia, the wilderness beyond" tour in March 2015. We now discover the group will likely be 24 travelers, a 50% increase! We have already paid all of the money for the tour and airfare, and are feeling taken advantage of and cheated. More importantly, isn't this type of false advertising illegal?
I am angry with OAT Travel and they lost us as good customer and I will tell everyone about it. Emergency medical, they didn't postponed the trip, no money back, just because we didn't buy the travel protection from them??? That was our 5th trip! The rate I will give to them -0. Very, very bad :(
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