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Anyone ever flunk out of a Grand Circle tour?

Anyone ever flunk out of a Grand Circle tour?

Old Jun 11th, 2014, 06:35 AM
  #41  
 
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I think this is a shame and there is no excuse if the issues were fully discussed with them in advance, before booking.

However, as I understand it, they were NOT telling the OP what she could or could not do on her own, they were saying that if she uses the group tour for transportation, etc., but then just declines one of the walks or something, they are still responsible if she is with them to start and end. Legally, I kind of understand that, although it's too bad there isn't some flexibility.
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Old Jun 11th, 2014, 06:48 AM
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It is very unfortunate what is happening to you. If you can get GCT to refund the 2nd tour you booked then that is what I would do. You can arrange your own independent tours.

I just read the GCT contract and the liability portion of it and here is what it states:

"The responsibility of Company in connection with your tour is strictly limited. Company makes no warranty, either express or implied, regarding the suitability, safety, insurance or other aspects of any Supplier and any transportation, tours, services, products or facilities provided by Suppliers. We are not liable for any claim for loss, damage, injury, death, misrepresentation, delay, inconvenience or disappointment, arising from any action by a Supplier, including but not limited to any negligent or willful act or failure to act of any Supplier or of any other third party. We will not be liable to you for any claim unless the occurrence was due to our own gross negligence or willful fault."

GCT is just the tour operator and the guides are independent contractors so I think that what is happening to you are the tour guide's actions. She probably has not even discussed this with GCT.
You really need to go through GCT on this problem and not deal with the tour guide. I would definitely contact GCT after you get home and reiterate what happened to you and the way the guide treated you. I feel that GCT should know that you had this bad experience.

I do not think she can tell you that you can't do Pompeii on your own either if she doesn't want you in her group. I would not have any further contact w/ the guide. Is their another leader or assistant with the group? The only thing you would need to be concerned about is making sure you get back to your hotel on time. I have done Pompeii and I have very bad knees. The terrain is very uneven but not impossible to do. You would just need to be careful when walking about. Pompeii was one of the major reasons we booked our cruise and there would have been no way I was not going to see Pompeii. If you can get a taxi to Pompeii then there are private tour guides at the entrance you could book (think they are not that expensive) and tour w/ him/her or see if you can join another private group doing a tour there.

Nothing is impossible and keep that in mind. We are all wishing the best for you. Never say Never and stay away from that tour guide!
Perhaps you might give us the name of that guide so no one else has to have the awful experience you are having.
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Old Jun 11th, 2014, 07:12 AM
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Remember that the tour director is an independent contractor who likely cannot obligate the tour company to refund anything. Any promise of a refund must come from the company itself. If you opt for a partial refund, insist on any agreement in writing from them. The Tour Director's promise is probably worthless in this case.
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Old Jun 11th, 2014, 07:32 AM
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What a nightmare. I am so, so sorry for your troubles with GCT and this tour director. As many others have said, there seems to be a horrific lack of communication between the sales office and the operators on the ground in Europe. This td sounds very unprofessional; you should not be subjected to what sounds like classic bullying in addition to very real physical issues with the tour. And you really have to make a connection back to the office before accepting any so-called refund offered verbally, this td has no real authority from what I read. But your physical issues do sound rather serious, and I wonder whether staying in Europe for a second tour with this group is the right decision. From your other threads it sounds like you have prepaid train tickets in Italy between the tours, can you manage on your own, with the luggage? Best wishes, but again, you must contact GCT.
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Old Jun 11th, 2014, 08:09 AM
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This is truly a nightmare and very hard to believe a tour director could be so wantonly cruel. What about the others on the tour? Are they allowing this behavior without protest. If so, shame on them for not manning up.

I was solo on a Collette tour to Northern Europe just before having knee replacements (several years back) and bringing up the rear on the walking segments, but someone (always one of the women) would wait up for me or glance back to make sure I wasn't too far behind. The tour director was very kind and he kept an eye out for me.

Then there was my solo Go Ahead tour to Paris and Provence two years ago, where out of a group of forty two were on walkers and one very overweight disabled gentleman actually drove a scooter. The tour director spent much of the time attending these three. She actually got members of the tour to help assemble and store the scooter each time we boarded the bus or train. We weren't pleased about being put upon in this way but took it in stride. The tour company should have done the right thing by providing a second tour director but I'm sure it was a matter of dollars.

I can't imagine what the makeup of this group is, to be so ungenerous and aloof to your issues. Yes, get a refund statement in writing and dump these creepy people!
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Old Jun 11th, 2014, 08:12 AM
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Unfortunate that the OP is having a rough time; sounds like she'd been looking forward to something much different.

OP is looking for suggestions; here's mine: I agree with those who say get whatever refund you can, then go travel on your own. It doesn't sound like the OP is well-suited to a group tour -- a group member who moves more slowly than everyone else <i>and</i> further slows things down for everyone else by taking many more photos than the others is not an ideal candidate for group travel.
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Old Jun 11th, 2014, 08:26 AM
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"It doesn't sound like the OP is well-suited to a group tour -- a group member who moves more slowly than everyone else and further slows things down for everyone else by taking many more photos than the others is not an ideal candidate for group travel."

And yes, this too. Not everyone is suited to group travel, and I think the OP is in this category. This does NOT excuse the horrible behavior on the part of the tour director. Again get the refund in writing, or in hand, regroup your head and let the caring people here help you save the rest of the trip. It can be done.

We took a small group tour, one week, 8 people, in Puglia this spring, largely because we knew the tour leader from another experience a few years back. Of the 8, one woman traveled with a walker, a fact she apparently did not mention to our friend the tour leader until a week before the trip. He told us that he was very distressed to learn of this, but in our case not only was the person very adaptive, but the leader never expressed any negativity to her, not matter what he thought privately. In situations that required a lot of walking or stairs, she excused herself and either went to a local museum or sat in a cafe. On a river cruise several years ago, they had a 'slow walker' group for every excursion. Since my DH has traveled with knee and hip problems, not yet at the 'slow walker' stage, we have a great deal of empathy for both the traveler and the tour leader.

Again, hoping the OP can salvage the trip and regain the dignity that this particular td seems intent on stripping away.
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Old Jun 11th, 2014, 09:25 AM
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Well, if you know that not only do you have to move more slowly than everyone else but also that you want to - to see things in more depth and take more time for photos etc - then I think a tour was a bad choice for you.

Tours are all based on moving fairly quickly and seeing things in a fairly superficial way - and getting to a lot of different places. You can't both get to a lot of different places AND see the places in depth in very limited time - there aren't enough hours in the day.

Although I could easily keep up with/outpace a tour there is no way I would do one - I want to see things in more depth than they do. I was on one package - that I got fro free - many years ago. There was a honeymoon couple in the group and they were late for everything. Not just starting in the am, but also taking too much time at rest stops, wandering away during visits of sights - and generally always keeping the bus waiting. It was simply unfair and inconsiderate. It got to the point on one day when they were late for the 3rd time that the bus left without them - only down the street and around the corner - but when they finally arrived the bus was gone. The guide went back and the bride was in hysterics since they though they had been left - as the guide had threatened several times. They were the bane of the whole group, making us late for meals and having to rush on the road.

Being on a tour means staying with the program. At a certain point it doesn't matter if you won't or you can't - you need to adapt to the predetermined schedule or inconvenience everyone else. The more I read what you are saying the more I think that you did anticipate this problem and just made a bad choice in thinking a tour could be modified.

So - I would write this off as a learning experience - you are not a "tour" person and should make your own arrangements based on what you want to see and how long to spend where. You really can't blame the guide if you want more time in a lot of places - the tour is just not set up to provide that - and it must keep moving to stay on schedule for the 30 or however many other members.
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Old Jun 11th, 2014, 10:40 AM
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We have never done tours, preferring to do it ourselves, but I would never consider taking one if I could not keep up with the pace.

As a matter of fact I cannot keep up with the pace, as I now have a lung problem that has cut my capacity down to less than 50%. I'm in pretty good health otherwise so I can go most places, climb any number of stairs, climb most hills at lower altitudes; but very slowly. I cannot let my muscle' demand for Oxygen get ahead of what the lungs can supply. I just have to move slowly and deliberately, and pause when necessary. Since there is always just us two, the only person inconvenienced is my angel of a wife who must wait for her shambling compatriot to catch up, or run ahead to see the sights on a hill too far while I sit in a cafe.

It can't help in your current predicament, but you need to borrow someone's wife for your next trip. It can't be mine, unfortunately, as she is fully booked.
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Old Jun 11th, 2014, 10:57 AM
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nytraveler has made some good points here.

About 12 years ago I tool a tour with Elderhostel to Moscow and St. Petershburg. It was 2 weeks with only 2 hotels and focused on the arts. It was fast paced--as all tours are--but we were only in 2 hotels (train between the two cities).

On that tour there was one woman--the youngest person on the tour--that held everyone else up all the time because she was shopping. Everyone on the tour hated hear because she was so self centered. She bought Russia.

In Moscow, I began to go "off tour" at times because there were things I wanted to see that were not included and I was not interested in, say, going back to the hotel to take a rest. The first time the tour director was quite concerned, but I explained to her that I had a map and knew some Russian. I met her at the meeting point (I believe I skipped dinner as a result). After I met her the first time and caused no worries or problems, she had no problems when I left to do my own thing at time. I always told her where I was going and when I would be back. By the time we got to St. Petershurg a few others were doing it as well to, say, have more time at The Hermitage (I stayed for the day--not 3 hours--and forfeited whatever the group did that afternoon).

If you leave a tour to do your own thing, you are responsible for getting yourself back to the group. If you don't the tour will not wait for you. You need to know that. It is as if you left a cruise ship to do a private tour. The cruise ship will not wait for you if you are late. If you are with one of their sponsored excursions, they do wait.

My experience now is not with taking group tours--it is with running them. It is a very difficult job. On student tours, the kids often pay no attention, stay up all night partying and then sleep on the bus missing the countryside and anything they might see out the window. Students do not complain, but the chaperones do because they think the tour should be built around their needs.

Then you deal with the older people with limited mobility. If I am doing Washington, DC, they end up sitting on the bus because Washington requires a lot of walking. When I see a group with people with walkers and canes, I groan. Some cause a lot of problems, but most don't. The ones who know their limitations do what they can do and that's that. The others I have to tell that I can't do anything about their problems. Everything is accessible in DC, but it does not mean that accessible means easy. You might have to have someone do a long walk around pushing a wheelchair to get to where there is a ramp. In Europe often accessibility is limited because they built the parking lot after the castle was already at the top of the hill and you must walk up. I should add that my experience running tours has been entirely within the United States and Canada (mostly East Coast but I have worked national parks out west as well).

As I mentioned in my previous post on this thread, you need to know your limitations. I don't know who said what to whom, but, if you signed onto the tour, you signed onto the itinerary and presumably read the details about where you were going and how much walking would be required.

I close with this: I have some mobility problems but they are not always obvious to others; it's basically just age. I am older than I was in Russia. I do not take group tours anymore myself, as I do not like the regimentation. If I want to sleep in, I sleep in. I take longer trips so I do not feel rushed. I will, however, take day tours with a guide. A few years back I was in Cappadocia, Turkey. I was on a tour where my hiking boots caused problems. By the end of the tour we had done a lot of walking and there was a 12 story climb to some painted church at the top of a hill that was very steep. There were no handrails. I realized I would slow the group up as I was not exactly an agile bunny rabbit. So, I told the guide, I was going to take a pass on the climb and sit down because I was afraid of falling on the way down (Down is much more dangerous than up!). I sat down. Maybe 2 minutes later a guy from another group had to be helped down as he had turned his ankle. Seeing that, I knew I made the right decision--and I did not hold up the group.

As I said before, people with limited mobility who want a group tour are often more comfortable on cruises or river boat tours. As for me I start out on a 2 month long trip based on home exchanges shortly. I arranged everything myself. It was a lot of work up front and my trip folder for this one is 6 inches thick. When you travel with a group, the tour company does everything for you. It's a balance and mine is to go independently. Yours may be different.
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Old Jun 11th, 2014, 11:11 AM
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If the itineraries posted above are yours, it seems this tour is nearly at the end, and you have your next 10 days planned. The second tour looks much less stressful with no places like Pompeii or Siena, so if you can deal with the rest of this one and recoup a bit on your own, I think I would consider going ahead with the other one. If it were lots of hill towns, etc. I would not, but in cities, you can take a break if you need to and go out on your own more easily. Look at that itinerary carefully before deciding if you want to give it up.

Good luck and I hope you can do the rest of the trip and have a happy time to remember and wipe out the bad taste of this part of the trip.
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Old Jun 11th, 2014, 01:24 PM
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People on tours complain all the time--most often about the stamina required, food or the location of accommodations (often on the exterior of big cities where you are sort of a prisoner of the tour company's agenda because there is nothing to do on your own. I had one group stay at a hotel in Denver where a strip club was across the street. Tour companies book hotels sometimes without ever looking at them (probably NOT true of Grand Circle which is one of the better companies).

Tour companies will not pay much attention to all the complaints because they get them all the time. To prevent you being one of the complainers, know that your stamina is up to the itinerary you have chosen before you go. Read those brochures and disclaimers carefully.

Tour directors all have stories, by the way, of children who book tours for parents with dementia so that they can have time off. Those people ALL get sent home at their expense. Tour directors are not babysitters. If you are in that position, do not even think of doing that--and it happens all the time. I have had it on my tours where I had to be constantly on the look out for the wanderer. Fortunately, when it happened it was a 3 day tour, but we almost lost the person several times. What made me really angry is that someone who knew this person (and her problems) organized the tour. She was supposed to be in charge of the group aside from the guiding. I was hired as the guide only and ended up having to watch the wanderer as well. Not a happy experience. The wanderer should never have been allowed on the trip.

Look, when people sign up for tours the tour company is not going to give you a physical. I am sorry, but looking from the perspective of someone who has managed group trips, I cannot be overly sympathetic to anyone who thinks the tour should be run around her personal needs. Lots of you jumped in to sympathize with the OP, but think about what the others on the tour and tour manager are going through trying to work with a person who was not "up to" the tour and over estimated what she could do. If you can't do the itinerary, do something else!
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Old Jun 11th, 2014, 01:24 PM
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Now we leave for Sorento tomorrow morning, but nothing else has been said. Today was a relatively easy day with a museum visit and an unguided visit to Cortona, so everybody was on their own. I figure it will help me to get the relocation at least, although it may also be a big mistake to delay. it is just so hard to give up the security of my known arrangements, lousy as they are, for the unknown.

And the offer of the refund was from headquarters over the phone which the td has repeated several times that they are sincere, but not for two days now.... if I don't chicken out, tomorrow I will broach the subject of exactly what I will be "allowed" to do and ask if they will still refund. She may laugh in my face. I am well aware there are plenty of tours to Capri,, Pompeii, etc., and one of my disappointments with this tour is the bus is too big to get us very close to the sites anyway. We even have to walk a significant distance each morning just to catch the bus.... As far as the td, she is one of their most popular, and I know she has to be faIr to the group I have though been surprised that once I was here in good faith and having asked many questions and honesty by me, her solution is mostly to tell me I am on my own or to go home, not acting like that is a big deal for me at all. It is.
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Old Jun 11th, 2014, 01:47 PM
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It sounds to me as though the td panicked a bit at the outset of the tour when she saw twoteachers' limitations. I also have no doubt that the salesperson who booked the tours did not pass on the detailed information twoteachers gave about her limitations to the td, thus putting both of them in a tight spot for the sake of completing the sale. To add to the perfect storm, twoteachers is an experienced traveler but not an experienced tour taker.

It's all well and good to say coulda shoulda, but hindsight isn't of much use when the person is already overseas and has her heart set on completing the tour. Nor is it compassionate to say, just go home.

That's how I see it, anyway.

I hope that the td has realized that twoteachers can make do during the rest of the tour and has decided to stop trying to send her away. It kind of sounds that way. Ideally, the tours can be completed with a minimum of further fuss.

twoteachers, I hope you can put aside all the unpleasantness, and enjoy your remaining time in Europe. Tours are rarely perfect, but you're there, and managing, and seeing some great sights.
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Old Jun 11th, 2014, 01:57 PM
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People buying tours from any large company are always given information as to what is physically expected. Unfortunately, many choose either not to read the information or grossly overestimate what they can do. Who said what to whom doesn't matter if the tour client did not read the small print.

I am sorry twoteachers' has had a bad experience, but those are the breaks.
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Old Jun 11th, 2014, 02:01 PM
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Excellent post NewbE. I've led a few tours ( my own small group tours company) and have had to deal with an occasional slow walker and even a lady that was suffering from dementia. I will say that as a TD you need to know how to cope with these problems and that most can be managed.

I've been on a few tours where the TD was not capable of dealing with anything other than the norm. A good TD can and should be able to cope and come to some resolution with most problems that arise.
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Old Jun 11th, 2014, 03:02 PM
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"And the offer of the refund was from headquarters over the phone which the td has repeated several times that they are sincere, but not for two days now...."

Did headquarters make this offer over the phone to you or the tour director? I would ask for this in writing, to you, via email, and not from the tour director. Do not ask her what you are 'allowed' to do, either. This needs to be negotiated with the company.

And really Lauren, could you either just show a little compassion, or just scroll on by. The OP asked for advice not a discourse on your perception of her physical issues. I think we all understand that there is a breakdown of both communication and physicality here.
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Old Jun 11th, 2014, 03:39 PM
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Thank you st- it HAD to be said!
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Old Jun 11th, 2014, 03:46 PM
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I think I did show compassion for both the tour client and the tour director. You are just hearing one side of a story.
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Old Jun 11th, 2014, 03:48 PM
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The tour director didn't ask for our help.
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