Tour Tale: Five Ways Absence Made Her Heart Grow Fonder
|"This was my first non-Rick Steves tour. It is also my last!"|
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Hi Gang at Europe Through the Back Door!
I've just returned from an 11-day Mediterranean cruise (Turkey, Greece, Israel). I've taken three Rick Steves tours previously (Best of Europe in 14 Days, Italy, and France) and this was my first non-Rick Steves tour. It is also my last! I wanted to let you know how much I appreciate Rick Steves tours over all others. Here are my Top five reasons you guys rock:
#1 – Small Groups. Wow, what a difference traveling with only 24-28 people makes. This tour had 48 people and it was a disaster.
#2 – The Buddy System. Ok, this may seem a weird one, but I love that on the first day of the tour we meet as a group and choose a stranger to be our "buddy" for the tour. We ensure that this person is always on the bus or at the venue so that the tour director doesn't constantly have to count heads. With 48 people spread over 2 busses, having the leader count heads was such a time waster. Plus we get to meet new people. We just didn't have that kind of camaraderie with this group.
#3 – Tour Guides Who Are Really Tour Guides. We had a "tour guide" who really was nothing more than a lecturer for our days at sea. He was, absolutely, an intelligent man and a good lecturer, but he didn't really care about the needs of the tour members, and when the ship lost my luggage at our disembarkation point, he couldn't have cared less and did nothing to help me. Luckily I had an excellent local Turkish guide who helped me navigate the ship and port authorities and drove me back to the port when my luggage was found. I've had 3 excellent guides for my Rick Steves tours, and their love for the countries they guide in, the people they work with, the history they are living through, and the people on the tours is so evident and makes the trip all that much more special.
#4 – Free Time! Being herded through site after site without any free time in the towns (yes, there was free time on the ship, but it's not the same) was frustrating. I love spending time in the towns and getting to meet the people. I realize part of this is the limitation of a cruise, but it just served to remind me why I love land tours.
#5 – The Price You Quote is the Price I Pay. I thought that when I paid "in full" to this tour company that I'd paid "in full." Not so. They found a few ways to get a few more dollars (well, $420 per person more) at every opportunity. And they tried the "we reserve the right to increase prices by up to 25% if the dollar exchange rate against the Euro goes beyond $1.55 USD to 1 Euro." Funny, the only "Euro" country we traveled to was Greece. It was just so deceptive and slimy — something I NEVER have to worry about with Rick Steves.
In Short: Your Organization Rocks. I have enjoyed every tour I've taken with you, and am already eyeing the 2012 Turkey trips (I LOVE Turkey and can't wait to get back). The value for money is outstanding, and I know I'll always have a great time and excellent memories. I've been trying to send business your way, and hope that many of my acquaintances take the opportunity to travel with you. They will not regret it.
Thanks again for your commitment to exceptional travel experiences!
— Marla in Bellevue, WA
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