Grand Circle Travel (GCT) - not so grand

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Jan 27th, 2004, 12:12 PM
  #1
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Join Date: Jan 2004
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Grand Circle Travel (GCT) - not so grand

Grand Circle Travel (GCT) - not so grand

We travel a great deal and seldom complain, however my wife and I were extremely disappointed with the trip we just completed with GCT on December 20, 2003 to Egypt. Our major concerns are as follows:

1. Unhygienic practices aboard the riverboat M/S River Anuket. At the farewell cocktail party, I observed waiters who picked up used glasses of wine and put them back on the serving tray for other passengers to finish. There was a great deal of sickness among passengers on this trip including my wife and myself and there is no way of knowing what part this type of unhygienic practice played in the spread of the various illnesses passengers experienced. If this is indicative of the wait staff, who knows what was going on in the kitchen.

2. Incompetence of Grand Circle staff in handling our flight arrangements at JFK. Due to a major snowstorm in New York on December 6, we were unable to make it to
JFK. I phoned Grand Circle that evening and was assured we would be on the next Egypt Air plane out on Sunday, December 7. We arrived at JFK early in the morning of December 7 and were assured by the Grand Circle representative who was on-site that we had confirmed reservations on that flight. When we attempted to check our luggage and get our seat assignments, we were told that we did not have any reservations, that we could not check-in, and that the flight was overbooked. The Grand Circle representative was unable to find out anything definitive for several hours. We were told to stay there and wait to see what happens. There were no seats available in the terminal, and we had to stand for 4-5 hours milling around not knowing if we were going to be able to get on the plane. We also learned there would not be another plane to Egypt until Tuesday, but there was no guarantee that we would be on it. As the hours passed, it became more unlikely that we would be able to board the plane. I called the Grand Circle counseling number and tried to find out if I could use my return flight tickets to go back to Dallas the next day. The person I spoke to could only keep repeating that I had to make travel arrangements with Egypt Air. I told her that I was not going to sit in JFK for two more days if I could not get on the plane that evening; I simply wanted to know if I could use the tickets. The Grand Circle contact was totally unable to respond to this question and should not have been in a contact position. Finally, at the last minute, dozens of us were told we could get on the plane. We hurriedly got our boarding passes and checked our luggage. With all of the last-minute confusion, my checked luggage arrived with our plane in Egypt and my wife's luggage arrived 6 days later.

3. Failure to provide vital information in advertising material. Grand Circle should be fully aware that the Esna locks close for maintenance every December. However, there is nothing in their literature to advise clients of this. Other travel tour groups do provide this warning about traveling in December. Had we known that this was a distinct possibility and that we would have to be bussed several times because of the lock closure we would have booked the trip at a different time. Riding on a bus for hours with no bathroom is not the same as cruising on the Nile.

4. Wasting more time. After we completed a carpet factory/training facility tour, one couple made a major purchase that was apparently somewhat involved. As a result, 2 bus loads of people (as we were traveling in a convoy) had to sit on busses an additional 45 minutes while the one couple completed their purchase. Arrangements should have been made for the couple to get back on their own or to return to the carpet factory at another time rather than inconvenience 80 people.

There were several other annoyances, but I don?t need to belabor the point that this was a bad trip. We have been on other GCT trips that were good to excellent. However, as has been noted by travelers on other message boards, when things go wrong on a trip with GCT don?t expect much help or satisfaction. The day after we returned from Egypt I called Grand Circle and reported the above problems. The individual I spoke with said I should put my concerns in writing and send them to Grand Circle?s Quality Assurance Department which I did and was told I could expect a reply within 30 days. The 30 days has passed, and we have not had the courtesy of a response.

Egypt is a fascinating country but there must be a better way to see it.

Chances of going on another Grand Circle Travel trip; slim and none.

PhilHouse is offline  
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Jan 27th, 2004, 05:21 PM
  #2
 
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Sorry you had such a bad experience! I have only rarely taken "package" vacations, but in truth 1 out of 4 was an outrageously bad experience (like yours... how about you arrive in the Galapagos, and instead of a luxury catamaran for 7 nights there is a rusty old fishing boat for 3 nights...with the rest of the time in a pathetic motel on the 'wrong' island!), 2 out of four were misrepresented in part or in whole, and only 1 was a good experience/good value.
It confirms my bias that you do better on your own...if you or a travel agent have reservations directly with an airline, or hotel you typically can manage problems like the flights in a snowstorm. But when their is a tour operator between, heaven help you...No one is responsible, and it is always the fault of someone else...
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Jan 28th, 2004, 06:42 AM
  #3
sandi
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PhilHouse -
Saw this post on the Frommers Newsletter. It must have been pretty bad to have posted as such. Sorry to hear you had these problems.

And while GCT is generally received well, a friend who operates out of Egypt, does say that GCT gives her the most problems with scheduling, making changes, etc.

Maybe it's just Egypt the GCT has a problem with, but lack of cleanliness regardless which company, would also have me steaming!

As to the issue of "snow in NY in winter" - well there is 10" outside my window right now. Weather cannot be controlled, but having passengers not knowing if and when they would be departing - also unacceptable.

Though often many of us don't have a choice as to when to travel, your situation is a good reason "not" to travel in winter from a location with possible "winter weather" - NY, Boston, Chicago, Minneapolis, Detroit, Raleigh - "go south young man" - Likewise, during the summer you have to avoid Hurricane/Tornado areas of departure. It can be a crap-shoot!
 
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Jan 30th, 2004, 12:07 AM
  #4
 
Join Date: Jan 2004
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FYI - for anyone considering Nile cruises - the Esna locks generally close for maintainence in both December and June.

I have heard that some cruise lines - possibly Oberoi - have ships on either side of the locks and allow passengers to just switch boats to continue with the cruise.
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