Christmas Markets - Grand Circle Tours

Old Jun 23rd, 2005, 04:57 AM
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Christmas Markets - Grand Circle Tours

I am looking at at Grand Circle Christmas market small boat tour in December. It is ten nights on the boat, from Basel Switzerland to Amsterdam. All meals included, plus the noted sightseeing. The price, including airfare, is $1495.00 from Detroit.

It *looks* like an exceptional price, considering I am looking at spending about $950.00 per ticket for anyplace in Europe we are looking to travel to (September rates).

Does anyone have experience with this tour company, or this particular trip?

Thanks very much.

Dave Zemens
Rochester, Michigan
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Old Jun 23rd, 2005, 05:15 AM
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I have no experience with that tour or that part of Europe. I have a very bright, culturally curious, elderly (~80) friend who has been on several Grand Circle tours and was very pleased with them all. I went on a tour to Turkey with Overseas Adventure Travel (OAT), which is the small-group "active travel" branch of Grand Circle. The tour was an exceptionally good value--amazing for the price actually--with beautifully planned itinerary, good small hotels, excellent guide, enjoyable gulet cruise, interesting village home stay, etc. However, customer service before the trip was horrible, once I had paid, making me totally lose faith in the company. (I had to deal with them becaue I had a knee injury 6 weeks before departure and it was touch and go re whether I could improve well enough soon enough take the trip, so needed details re the terrain and the hikes, etc., to make a decision). They were absurdly difficult to reach, requiring hold times up to an hour, with limited hours, and then were unhelpful, uninformed, and rather cavalier and uncaring once I got through. (The sales people had been helpful and reasonably well informed, but different people handle service for people who have already booked a trip.)

I think it is risky booking with this company because of their poor customer service, their history of bumping people off a tour the last moment, etc. But by all accounts, including my own experience with the OAT tour to Turkey, they do a fine job with the actual tours and offer huge value for the price.
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Old Jun 23rd, 2005, 06:29 AM
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We just came back from a Croatia/Slovenia tour with Grand Circle and found the price to be good and the quality of the hotels to be excellent. There were people on our trip who have used GCT as much as 30 times. That says a great deal.
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Old Jun 23rd, 2005, 08:55 AM
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I'm taking a December Christmas markets cruise with GCT, along with 3 friends who have been on a number of other tours by the same company. So far everything sounds just fine, and customer service has been good. The prices are very good.
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Old Jun 23rd, 2005, 10:33 AM
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It sounds like fun...a few comments about a couple of the specific Christmas markets you might see...the one in Baden-Baden is small and there's not too much of interest. But it's in a pretty setting near the casino and last Christmas we found a few stands selling attractive handmade beeswax candles at good prices.
Dusseldorf's market is surprisingly good and you will find lots of original items--many of the stallholders are students or grads of Dusseldorf's excellent arts school. The old town is lively and fun.
I don't know about Basel's Christmas market, but while you are on the Marktplatz (the main square in the old town), two places you should definitely check out are the two-level food hall in the Globus department store and the Schiesser chocolate store. The Globus food hall (ground floor and basement) is fabulous and you will find an array of tempting items there for gifts or for yourself. Schiesser is a boutique chocolate maker and there chocolate is some of the best in Switzerland (meaning some of the best in the world). Go to:
http://www.confiserie-schiesser.ch/ (german only, but you can swan around the web site and look at the photos if you don't understand German)
By the way, at many of the stands selling gluhwein or bier, you can buy the glass for a euro or two...makes a nice souvenir. And while in the German markets, be sure to buy yourself some warm, freshly roasted sugared almonds and snack away as you explore.
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Old Jun 23rd, 2005, 01:08 PM
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Just be aware that this company has a policy which allows them to bump you off a tour at the last minute.
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Old Jul 4th, 2005, 07:49 AM
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Can anyone comment about the short amount of dayllight in December and how that might impact a small river cruise? Are there enough lights on the various river sights to make the extra darkness a good feature for a Christmas market trip?
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Old Aug 27th, 2005, 06:18 AM
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underhill:

I just booked a December trip. Can you send me an email if you have a chance and we can see if we are perhaps on the same trip?

Dave
[email protected]
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Old Aug 27th, 2005, 08:26 AM
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Just sent you a message, Dave.
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Old Aug 27th, 2005, 12:03 PM
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We're on different cruises.
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Old Aug 27th, 2005, 09:27 PM
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We've done Grand Circle tours since
,and found that they were great
value and their native leaders are
extraordinary. Did a Christmas Markets
with GCT from Vienna to Munich which
was great, no complaints whatsoever.
Following year did Basel to Amsterdam with Vantage (owned by GCT owner's
brother and slightly more expensive and
slightly more luxurious)and that was even better. We took the optional pre-
trip in Lucerne (beautiful place)to get over jet lag and that was sensational and with a marvellous leader.I'd take GCt or Vantage over Viking. but boat travel if you're over 55 is the way to go,and all three of these (all have web
sites) are very good value and fun,
plus unpack and forget luggage for
a while and just have fun. Meggity
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Old Aug 27th, 2005, 11:51 PM
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Depending on the weather it can starts to get dark between 4.30/5.30.
Be prepared for some rain, maybe even a little snow, during nights it can freeze.
So best is dress is layers.
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