Which tour company for China?

Old Nov 9th, 2002, 03:10 PM
  #1  
Monica
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Which tour company for China?

Greetings fellow fodorites! I'm starting some research to a trip to China for next year. My cousin and her friend are booked on Grand Circle Tours (GCT) for May 2003. I'm on their waiting list for May, but thought I should see about other travel companies. I understand that GCT caters to those over 50, but takes anyone over 18. I'm 41 and plan to travel alone (if I can't on the same trip as my cousin) and would like to go with a tour group with various ages. I've been doing some reading here and see that Smartours and ChinaFocus are highly recommended.

Does anyone have comments as to age groups with these companies as well as how many people are in a tour group? I'm NOT knocking those over 50. I have traveled with my cousin -60- and my Mom -71 several times. I just don't want to be the only one in my age group.


 
Old Nov 9th, 2002, 04:09 PM
  #2  
cruiser
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Do not consider Pacific Delight
 
Old Nov 9th, 2002, 06:54 PM
  #3  
;betty
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
I just got back from a Ritz tour to China. I would not recommend them. Although I had heard that most tours include "shopping opportunities", the tour guide took us to "factory" after "factory" in remote areas (so we could not escape) for 2 to 4 hours a day. We were herded quickly through each sight (never spending more than 45 minutes) so the guide could take us to the next shop and leave us there for hours. I can't believe I spent thousands of dollars to see the inside of stores. Although I have written several complaint letters to the company, I have received no reply at all. So much for how Ritz Tours treats its customers.
 
Old Nov 9th, 2002, 07:02 PM
  #4  
Joe
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
On the contrary, we had an excellent tour of Classical China with Pacific Delight; excellent food, good hotels, manageable size group, outstanding guides and very responsive to our needs and desires. It was the only tour we have ever taken (we travel independently), but it was a very satisfying one. Judging by the comments on this Board, there are many who feel the same way about Pacific Delight Tours.
 
Old Nov 9th, 2002, 07:12 PM
  #5  
Jill
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
GCT is the parent company of Overseas Adventure Travel (OAT) We went to China last year with them and were very pleased. There were 10 people in our group and ages ranged from 21 - 70. You might want to check them out: www.oattravel.com
 
Old Nov 9th, 2002, 07:21 PM
  #6  
LEANNA
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
I also think Pacific Delight is super. I'd rate them right along Maupintour...and that is a good rating. We had 9 on our tour of china but most were older. However...I"m 59 and was BEHIND a lady 84 who beat me up the stairs on one of the day stops along the Yangtze!! Our tour guide Lee was fantastic. He took perfect care of all of us!!!!
 
Old Nov 9th, 2002, 08:09 PM
  #7  
Monica
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Thanks all for your information. I might be interested in Smartours because they have a trip where I can add a 4-day trip to Bangkok - I know most do, but this schedule has the number of days I can travel. If I do the GCT, then I couldn't add the extension. I would love! to see Bangkok!

I did see OAT's web site and like the fact that it's a small group. It does talk about more simple accommodations, i., for Tibet: "not what you are accustomed to...may encounter occasional hot water problems...


 
Old Nov 10th, 2002, 08:53 AM
  #8  
Brenda
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
We just returned from a Ritz Tour also. We took the Majestic Yangtze River, downstream, plus Amazing Thailand 24 day tour (Tour Code OADT) and have nothing but praise for this tour company. Our overall tour guide, David Ke, was superb. We "endured" some factory tours also but not for 2-4 hours. We enjoyed watching the process of making silk from the silkworm on up and the making of cloisonne, etcetera. These added to our tour. There was one that we did not enjoy, in Bangkok, but our guide had us transported back to the hotel with no problem and other members of our group enjoyed staying on. Overall, Ritz Tours treated us beautifully. Our hotels were wonderful, the food was great, our cruise on the Yangtze on Victoria V was the best. Our guide did everything he could to make EVERYONE happy. The ages in our group were from 28 to 65. Our group's size was 19.
 
Old Nov 10th, 2002, 09:29 AM
  #9  
Monica
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Brenda, what happened in Bangkok? I'm looking at one tour that will include Bangkok?
 
Old Nov 10th, 2002, 12:26 PM
  #10  
Leslie
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Monica, I am also considering the same tour that you're looking at, but in November 2003. Both Smartours and Friendly Planet offer the same tour at the same price. I'm leaning towards booking through Friendly Planet, because for an extra $100, I can fly from NYC instead of LA. Smartours doesn't offer this as an option.

Does anyone has any feedback about Korean Air? I've read mixed reviews.
 
Old Nov 10th, 2002, 02:12 PM
  #11  
Monica
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Leslie, my husband's a pilot and I asked him about Korean Air. He said they have a good safety record. Beyond that I don't really care. For me, safety comes first!

I'll have to check out Friendly Planet if I can't fly from Dulles (as an add on). I'll be calling them tomorrow.

Will you be traveling alone? Is November a good month to visit China? I'm asking because I won't know until tomorrow if May is still available.
 
Old Nov 10th, 2002, 02:14 PM
  #12  
Monica
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Noticed that Friendly Planet is the same as Smartours. What's the difference? Prices look the same.
 
Old Nov 10th, 2002, 02:20 PM
  #13  
betty
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Brenda, Well I guess it is the luck of the draw which tour guide you get. Ours obviously was much more interested in the commissions he got from the shops he took us to then to the enjoyment of our trip. (There were others on the tour that was equally disatisfied with the sight/shop ratio, and complained to the guide). But, since my letters to Ritz (requesting a reply) went unanswered, I assume Ritz Tours takes no responsibilty for its guides or cares nothing about customer satisfaction. That is not the type of company I would want to deal with again. There are plenty of others (Smartours for one) that I would tour with again.
 
Old Nov 10th, 2002, 02:48 PM
  #14  
Leslie
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Smartours and Friendly Planet are two different companies that sell the same tour. With Smartours you can only fly out of LA, but if you book with Friendly Planet you can either fly out of LA or NYC. Both companies combine their passengers into one group.

The only other difference is that with Smartours, you can pay the $200 deposit with your credit card and not incur the convenience fee. Friendly Planet requires a check for the $200 deposit. Both companies allow you to use a credit card to pay the balance, however, they both charge a $100 convenience fee.

Monica, I'll be making this trip with another Fodorite, but you're welcome to join us. We're planning to take the tour that leaves on November 7th.

November is a good month to travel. The only city where it will be cold is Beijing (similar temperature to DC, Boston, and NYC). I was told that by the time we arrive in Bangkok we'll be wearing shorts.

I did check out all of the hotels on the web, and they are either upper class 4 star or 5 star hotels, and all seem to be in central locations.

Thanks for the info on Korean Air.
 
Old Nov 10th, 2002, 02:59 PM
  #15  
Leslie
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Monica, I forgot to mention that if you book with Friendly Planet and fly out of NYC, add on another $100 to the base price.

Neither Friendly Planet nor Smartours arranges for the domestic air to LA (or NYC with Friendly Planet).
 
Old Nov 10th, 2002, 03:41 PM
  #16  
Monica
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Leslie, I looked at the hotels and all are the same with the exception of Hong kong. The one for F.P. is under "reconstruction" until Nov 03. Lobby, guestrooms, etc. are being revamped. You may want to check with F.P. and see if they'll be using another hotel.

Thanks for the November offer. I'll keep that in mind. I need to see what dates are still available.

Do they not do add-on fares from the DC area? If not I can get to NYC pretty easily, though I'd hate to add another flight to the itinerary.

And lastly, what is a convenience fee?
 
Old Nov 10th, 2002, 04:07 PM
  #17  
Leslie
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
A convenience fee is a nice way of saying that you can use your credit card, but you're going to be penalized for using it. These companies have to pay a service fee to Visa, MasterCard, etc., and they don't want to absorb the cost. Otherwise, they'd be adding in the service fee into the tour price.

I would be flying out of Boston, so I only inquired about that. The person I spoke to at Friendly Planet said that the only other departure point other than LA is NYC. I'd prefer not to fly to LA, because that would mean two additional overnights (outbound and inbound).

I was also told by both companies that they update their websites regularly and if a date is not available it will say "sold out", be crossed out, or just removed from the websites.
 
Old Nov 10th, 2002, 05:21 PM
  #18  
Monica
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Thanks Leslie for the clarification. That's what I figured it meant.

How does your flight go from Boston? I guess it makes a stop at one place then on to Seoul? I hope you don't mind all these questions. I know I'll get them answered tomorrow when I call both places.
 
Old Nov 10th, 2002, 06:00 PM
  #19  
Leslie
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Monica, I will have to get to JFK on my own nickle and arrange for the transportation on my own. The shuttles from Logan only fly to LaGuardia ($400 RT weekdays), and that would mean I'd then have to get myself from LaGuardia to JFK, which is an inconvenience. I'm thinking that I will take the Peter Pan bus from Boston to Hartford and then switch to one of the airport shuttles to JFK. The other option is to take the bus from Boston to NYC (Port Authority) and then take another bus or cab to JFK. And another option would be to take Amtrak from Boston to Penn Station, and then take a cab or bus to JFK.

Going isn't a problem because the Korean Air flight leaves late in the evening. The return is going to be a pain to organize, as I'll be exhausted from the flight. Right now I'm thinking of spending the night at one of the airport hotels, and then return to Boston the following morning.
 
Old Nov 10th, 2002, 07:59 PM
  #20  
Monica
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
What a pain that will be for you to get to JFK. I know that you can take a taxi from LGA to JFK for about $15 or so. My husband is a pilot (well, he got furloughed effective last week) for USAirways and normally flys the shuttle from DCA to LGA and sometimes BOS. If I still get flying priviledges, then I can fly to LGA and taxi over.
 

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Do Not Sell My Personal Information


All times are GMT -8. The time now is 10:17 PM.