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Trip Report Trafalgar 2014 European Delight tour review

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Profile: I think it is important to understand who are the travelers that writing the review. There are no two opinions the same. My wife and I are healthy, fit, active adults in early fifties living in US. We like active vacations and exploration on our own. We have done bus tours, cruises and self-exploration many times before. At first, I was terrified to go to Italy because I am celiac (gluten-free). I was amazed how aware Italians were about different dietary requirements. Everywhere we went (thanks to Bernie) I had gluten-free meal catered for me. I have shared some of my meals with my wife and she admitted many times that my meal was better than everyone else. So if you have dietary limitations, don’t be afraid. This is twenty first century

Trafalgar Corporate: Be aware of Trafalgar SCAM. They deceives customers with false marketing and advertisements on their website. They use to have main page advertising trips starting at $127 dollar per day. I don’t see it anymore. They also remove ability to leave feedback directly on their site. This trip is listed as 14 days trip. This is really a 10 trip. It starts on day 3. You are dropped off in London on day 12 and you are on your own. You handle your own luggage in London; you check into the hotel on your own and whatever you do in London, you pay for it. The only thing that is paid by Trafalgar is two nights hotel in London. Your tour directory hugs you in the hotel lobby and takes off. So if you are shopping around and comparing trips based on the length of the trip, read small prints and explore in details entire itinerary. When we compare this trip to Trafalgar competition (Globus and others) we were comparing days, itinerary and price.
This trip is from their “cost saver” portfolio, but be aware hardly anything is included in this trip. If you are planning not to buy any optional excursions, walk away. You will be wasting a lot of money (see my comments below)

Driver and tour director: Honestly, we were skeptical about the whole bus tour experience (past experience / Internet reviews). We have done our research prior to the tour and read some terrifying stories about rude tour directors and careless drivers. Our experience on this tour was totally different. Imagine perfect Italian gentlemen, always perfectly groomed, perfectly dressed wearing shiny shoes, ironed dress shirt and most of the times wearing tie; always polite, courteous and professional. That is our driver - Angelo. Old-stile Italian, he really was an angel. Our driving experience was trouble-free and pleasant. Our luggage was handled with upmost care, always on time and perfect. Angelo was very helpful at local destinations as well giving handy tips and advises. Our tour director Bernie was a lot of fun. He made our trip very memorable. Besides his obsession with Swiss cows, his other obsession was perfect planning and attention to details. Short of unreasonably early wake-ups (anywhere between 5:30 and 6:45 AM) everything else was perfectly organized. Our included and optional excisions were perfectly planned and connected to each other. We have never been on a tour where we hardly had to wait for anything (excursions, admissions, etc.) Kudos to Bernie for that. He was very knowledgeable about history of the regions. He was funny and made this trip very rewarding. Our tour was full (52 people) from all over the world and we had great group of people. Everyone was well organized. We had fun group and didn’t have any troubles during the tour.

Travel Experience: As I mentioned before, if you are not planning any optional excursions you will be very disappointed. This trip is designed around people who are taking all or most of excursions. If you read Trafalgar brochure the key words are “Sightseeing” and “Orientation”. Despite the fact that Trafalgar disclose these terms on their web site, most people either don’t read or don’t understand them. “Orientation” means 15-45 minutes bus ride around town (city), and if you want to see points of interest, you have to do it on your own. “Sightseeing” means 1 to 3 hours bus tour with stops, sightseeing and some local tours. If you look at this particular itinerary, there are only two “sightseeing”. Hotels were above average for Europe and most of them were 4 stars, but they were locates WAY OUTSIDE of main attractions. As example, the hotel in Venice was 45-50 minutes bus drive. Though most of the hotels were decent by European standards. So with that being said if you are taking optional excursions in a specific city, you are guaranteed all picks / drop offs and transportation during the day. If you are not taking optional excursions, you are left with free time and in most cases you are on your own with transportation (way to get to and from the hotel). Sometime you would be able to catch a tour bus in one direction, but plan to be on your own. Unless you have been at the destination city before and know exactly what you want to do, you are better off stick with the plan (optional excursions).
Taking all or most optional excursions will make this trip amazing and worth every penny (in our opinion), but will set you off quite a bit. If you choose all optional experience, it will cost you 771 euro (for our trip) or a bit over $1000 US dollars. All of a sudden your $2500 pp 14 days trip becomes $3500 pp 10 days trip.
We liked this trips itinerary because it was well balanced and not too intense. We spend two nights at every destination, which allowed us to unpack and not live off the suitcases. The combination of travel time (on the buss) and excursions was well balanced leaving you enjoying yourself, avoiding day-long driving and exhaustion from the information (long excursions). We had some time for self-exploration and personal time at every city. Intra-city itinerary was well designed and worth the stops. These smaller cities were real jewels that you normally won’t go on your own, but just enough for 3-5 hours stop, sightseeing and free time. Italy was beautiful, amazing and this tour coves three major cities you will really enjoy. It does not give you view of entire Italy, but for us was enough to see major attractions in major cities. Siena, Bologna and Verona that we visited in transit were amazing and worth stopping. In our opinion Lucerne was not worth spending day in the half, but it’s us. We have seen amazing mountains and lakes in our live. Outside of beautiful scenery, Lucerne was very expensive and not worth the money (IMHO). Paris tour was a joke. You can’t see Paris in day in the half. Perhaps Trafalgar should drop London from this tour and spend 2-3 days in Paris. Fortunately for us, we have been in Paris before, if you never been in Paris, this tour is poorly planed. Finally in London your best bet is to take hope-on, hope-off bus tour. It’s worth 29 euro pp and great way to see London highlights in one day.
If you are planning to take optional experience here is our opinion, for what it worth.
- Vatican museum tour is a must. You will not be able to see Vatican on your own. You will spend half a day in line, even with reservation. We zoomed in with no lines and were out by lunchtime.
- Intro to Rome – Piazza, Fountains, Pantheon was very nice, but not worth 33 euro (IMHO). However, again considering that bus takes you there and brings you back, it is your best bet to see something else in Rome.
- Michelangelo David in Florence tour is a must.
- Pisa and Tuscan Dinner is ABSOLUTE MUST. I know it’s expensive, but regardless whether you have been in Pisa or not, the dinner is once in a live-time experience. You will have 5-6 courses authentic Italian dinner on the vineyard eating locally harvested food and drinking locally made vine. We have never tasted olive oil that good and set ourselves on two bottles to bring home.
- Venetian Magic: Gondola & Grand canal Taxi is must see. You may be able to get Gondola for same price and cheaper on your own, but combination of gondola and taxi on the Grand Canal is a lifetime experience.
- Lagoon Cruise and Island Lunch was a long ride on the boat to island Burano. The food was delicious and one of a kind experience, but we didn’t have enough time tour this small gem island. This town is famous for handmade lace. This tour was not well planned (time-wise), but great experience.
- Swiss Alps – Mt Stanserhorn and Lake Cruise – your mileage may wary, but it was not worth the moneys for us. It was cloudy/rainy day. We got on the top of the mountain where you barely can see below. It was raining, cold and we were stuck there for 2 hours. But again we have seen most beautiful mountains of this world.
- Swiss Folklore Show and Fondue Lunch – WAY OVERPRISE proposition. Definitely is not worth the money. You can see Swiss folk on YouTube for free and get much better food for fraction of the cost, even in Switzerland.
- We didn’t do Seine cruise this time, but is not worth seeing (IMHO), especially if you are in Paris for only day in the half. Notre Dame is must see and if you never seen cabaret in Paris, you have to spend money for the dinner and the show at Nouvelle. It is once in a lifetime experience.

Overall we liked tour very much, but only because we were willing and able to spend extra money. I hope this review was helpful for any future travelers.

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