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Cosmos Best of Italy Tour

Old Jun 9th, 2012, 04:40 AM
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Cosmos Best of Italy Tour

25 yr old daughter and I are planning trip to Italy end of Sept. This is first trip for both of us to Europe. We felt tour would offer some safety and ease to reach many destinations rather than independent travel. Tour describes "local guides". Would we be better off arranging private tours in Rome, Milan, Florence, Venice? Trip includes additional excursions that sound valuable. We welcome all suggestions...we hope this adventure will prepare us for future "independent travel" trips to Europe,
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Old Jun 9th, 2012, 05:35 AM
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Everyone on this site is going to tell you to organise your own trip to the places you are really interested in seeing. It will be cheaper and far more satisfying. This forum gives healpful advice and info on the details once you get started.

"Headsets throughout the tour" is no way to travel.
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Old Jun 9th, 2012, 05:43 AM
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well maybe not everyone......I think an escorted tour esp. for a first trip to Italy is not a bad idea. I assume it will cover many of the "must sees" and will take alot of hassel out of arranging for tours / guides and waiting in line. It will not be very relaxing, be wary of the "optionals" as they will be pricey and many not worth it IMO (like an evening that includes a pricey dinner) Use that time to go off and explore a bit on your own. Do at least a little research on the places you are stopping, esp. those with free time so you will have an idea of some additional activities and to get used to exploring on your own. Get a feel for the areas that "sing" to you so NEXT time you can travel independently.
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Old Jun 9th, 2012, 06:19 AM
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It was a long time ago but I took this particular tour and it was OK but not great. The hotels were WAY out of the city so you almost have to take the optional excursions in order to see anything. Before you book this please find out where the hotels are. If they are too far away from the city then consider booking elsewhere.
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Old Jun 9th, 2012, 06:27 AM
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>

Totally untrue.

I both take tours and travel independently. There are reasons to do both. I understand your concern about traveling independently on your first trip. But there really is no need for concern.

There are essentially two ways to travel - either see a lot of places or see a lot of the places you visit. I can tell by your second sentence that you are looking for breadth, not depth.

Ask yourselves the following questions:

1. Why did you choose Cosmos? Did you look at any other tour companies/itineraries. If you choose Cosmos because of the price did you look at how many optional tours there are and how much each excursion costs?

2. Are you OK with spending lots of time on a bus rather than spending the time seeing the sights? Are you interested in all the locations the tour covers or would you rather focus on two or three cities/towns.

3. Have you located the hotels the tour uses? Are they in the central part of the cities/towns or on the outskirts where you're sitting in a hotel lobby in the evening rather than experiencing Italian cafes, gelati, or a taxi ride to see the sights all lit up at night.

I realize that many people take Cosmos trips and enjoy them but if you can afford it, please go with a better tour company, one that has more knowledgeable guides and offers a better selection of hotel or restaurant.
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Old Jun 9th, 2012, 07:38 AM
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The budget tour operators, such as Cosmos, offer many "optional" excursions that may be included in the tour price with other operators. Also, as noted above, they tend to use cheaper hotels that are outside the city center.

I would do a comparison of several tour operators that offer the same type of trip and see what sights are included and which ones are "optional." You might find that it is better to take the more expensive tour with more included sights.

We took a wonderful tour of Poland last year and all of the "local guides" were top notch. Again, much depends on the tour operator.
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Old Jun 9th, 2012, 07:39 AM
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Just me then.

I would say buy a guidebook if you don't know Italy, choose three places you are interested in, book three hotels and go from there. You can easily travel by train once in Italy but do consider arriving and leaving from different cities, eg Rome and Venice.
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Old Jun 9th, 2012, 07:48 AM
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Hi

We have just returned from the Cosmos Southern Italy tour. This was our third Cosmos tour. I recommend the company without hesitation. My only criticism of prior tours was food quality. However on this tour food was good (I know, I grew up in an Italian kitchen). Yes hotels may or may not be central. For eg. our hotels in Rome were not located in the historic centre but they were convenient to public transport. Check your brochure for the hotels used then Google them for info. Please remember that hotels are of a 3 star standard. If you want better quality hotels then you need to take a 5 star tour. I disagree with Adrienne about the quality of guides used. On the contrary they are extremely professional, locally sourced guides. These people know their stuff! You will have free time to yourselves so there's nothing stopping you organising additional excursions with guides and attractions of your choice. For eg. in Florence you will not have entrance to the Uffizi Gallery included in your tour. So I strongly recommend prebooking tickets if this is a must see for you. One final tip. Make sure that when booking your tour that it's for a Guaranteed Departure (GD) date. That means it goes ahead irrespective of numbers. Otherwise tour companies reserve the right to cancel if numbers are below the minimum. Check with your travel agent for GDs.
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Old Jun 9th, 2012, 09:49 AM
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If you feel you want the security of arrangements made for you for a first trip to europe that is a valid point of view. BUT, you need to understand tour speak so you know what you will be getting. This will be:

Very early starts - often bags have to be outside hotel room door at 7 am

Long days sitting on the bus

Not seeing things you expect. In tour speak a "view" means you see a sight outside the bus window as it drives past, a "stop" means that you get a 5 minute photo op outside the front of something - only a "visit" means you actually go inside - and then it may not be for very long.

As for hiring your own guides in the cities - that is throwing money out the window - since unless you get a very upscale guide they will do exactly the same tour as the Globus one does.

Do consider:

Location of hotel (outside of town means you are stuck there at night)

Meals (if a lot besides breakfast are included you will find americanized versions of Italian food with no choices and beverges at extra charges)

Do compare the various tour companies offering carefully - since generally with a tour you are lucky if yuo get what you pay for - and basic ones can be quite disappointing. (Also be aware that hotel * levels in europe often do not mean the same thing as you would expect in a hotel in the US.)

Elderly friends of my mom do Tauck tours - since they don't want to cope with luggage etc any longer - but this gives them a slower tour, better/more central hotels, and the few included meals tend to be more local. Although her friends generally do their own meals except when not possible. BUT - the costs are much higher.
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Old Jun 9th, 2012, 01:13 PM
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Tours can be great for first timers.

However, if you have not already booked that tour, I would look carefully at others, only because I feel that particular one tries to cover way too much ground. Much of your precious time and money is spent sitting on a bus rather than actually seeing what is wonderful about Italy.

It has you riding three or four hours to stop for an hour of sightseeing, then another hour or two to get someplace, just in time for dinner and bed. Try to find a tour that gives a little more time in fewer places and doesn't have you making "drive by" kind of quick stops, like going through Milan to the lakes and through Verona to Venice. Sure, those places are interesting, but there are so many interesting places everywhere you go, that you could stay days in each place and not drive three or fours hours just to spend an hour looking at one thing. Better to spend an hour driving and six or seven hours sight seeing.

Try to find a tour that puts you in hotels in the specific city, rather than "the area."

That being said, if you have already booked it, you can get guide books, check out the location of your hotels, figure out local transport and see what things you could see/do from there. There is always something interesting to do/see.

Some guides on tours I have taken have been outstanding, others not - toss up. I probably would not book separate if one is being included. I would, however, do lots of reading ahead of time so you know what you are seeing.

I would not book any of the tour's excursions. Try to figure out how to do it on your own. You can always post your exact tour and hotel locations, and excursions offered, here and someone can help you with how to do those things on your own. It is very, very rare that you could not easily do the same excursion on your own for much, much less money and no stops at factories where they will try to sell you things. Not always, but often the excursions are half sales and half sightseeing and cost 4 to 10 times what you could do it for yourself. Personal experience speaking.
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Old Jun 9th, 2012, 02:30 PM
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>>>Tour describes "local guides">>Trip includes additional excursions that sound valuable.
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Old Jun 9th, 2012, 07:36 PM
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THANK YOU SO MUCH for your responses. We plan to secure trip this Monday with travel agent. Cosmo Italy's Best... We are less interested in hotel...more interested in adventure and cities on tour...figure "bus" time as recovery moments. We'd prefer to arrange tours rather then excursions...but uncertain how times will fall out...hotels listed on tours meet our needs and have public access but hotels are open to change according to our agent. She states hotels will be confirmed 3 weeks prior to trip. More interested in things to do then hotel. Open to continued suggestions!
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Old Jun 9th, 2012, 08:38 PM
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Since you have not yet booked this tour, I strongly suggest you hold off for a few more days and really look at it more closely.

They are not recovery "moments." They are recovery "hours." You will have plenty of time to "recover" at night. You don't need recovery "hours" on a bus because you will not have seen or done enough to recover from anything on some days. Some of your sight-seeing will be to recover from sitting on a bus.

You are interested in the cities, but you will have so little time in some of them, that you truly will not have time to experience much of that city.

Hotels, I don't care as much about as some, but they do make a difference.

As to tours versus excursions, many times, you do not need a tour, and finding or doing something yourself will give you much more a sense of a place than a guide holding your hand every step. Also, you will for sure never have an "adventure" if you are on arranged tours.

I am speaking form actual experience. I have taken bus tours twice of Italy, plus one to France and one to Spain. I have also been to Italy a dozen times on my own.

This is not to be mean. I like tours and hope you have a great experience. I am not saying, "Don't take a tour," only that this one IMHO is not that good. You can do better.

Also, it looks as if not many meals are included. That is good because you can try local restaurants. It will add considerably to your costs though, so take that into account. When you add the cost of meals and extra excursions, this tour, again IMHO, is no bargain.
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Old Jun 9th, 2012, 08:41 PM
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If you are fit and active I would suggest you look at Rick Steves' Italy tours. Centrally located accommodations are really important, and his tours guarantee these.
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Old Jun 10th, 2012, 03:38 AM
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I took a tour (thru AMEX) very similar to this about 15 years ago and yes there was a fair amount of time on the bus but it gave me a great overview of Italy. It gave me a great idea of places to return to and savor more slowly and some idea of what to expect when traveling on my own in Italy. I see the optionals are mostly meals - I would skip those unless you REALLY want more time with your tour buddies. Use the time to venture out on your own - you will most likely eat better and less expensively. You might want to book the tour to the Sistine Chapel.

And I also agree with Azzure, that a Rick Steves tour would probably be preferable - a smaller group and a bit more tuned to savoring the country but I know his tours are pricey!

But the Cosmos itinerary hits the must see's - the big three plus a lake visit, Ravenna and Assisi, all great places not really doable as day trips from the main cities. I think you will get a great overview of Italy - you will be tired when you get home but your head will be full of ideas for NEXT time!
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Old Jun 10th, 2012, 04:17 AM
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It sounds like you are pretty set on this, and as several replies have said, in some cases tours can be a decent idea. But just stop and consider that maybe you are underestimating yourselves and your ability to do this on your own. Most first timers are often worried about things like going through customs, how bad the language barrier will be, if they will get lost, how to know what to see, etc. But those things are NOT a problem - it's easy, really. This forum is so incredibly helpful - you can everything from general opinions on where you should go to specific, very detailed instructions on how to book a certain train ticket or which route to walk to get to a certain place, etc. And of course this isn't the only site.

With tours like the one you are considering you spend the little time you do actually 'sight-see' walking around in a large group, listening to a tour guide through earphones. You see the shoulders of the people in front of you and hear generic descriptions. It's really just barely better than staying home and watching travel videos on TV.

Have you read any reviews of tours - here's just the first couple I found just by googling it - http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic...our-Italy.html http://www.reviewcentre.com/reviews76932.html

Also, even though Cosmos is considered a budget option, it looks like it's around $2000 for 13 days - so $4000 for the two of you. You can do it for way way less, especially if you don't get luxury hotels (which you say you don't need, and you aren't going to get on that tour anyway).
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Old Jun 10th, 2012, 04:57 AM
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My grandparents FROM BOWIE ARIZONA made a 6 month tour of Europe on their own in the 1950's. This was before the multitude of guidebooks, the internet, mobile phones and the newspaper/magazine information so easily obtainable now.

Why would any fit, compos mentis person take a tour such as the one under discussion? To prepare for the next trip? It makes no sense at all.

Just my opinion but I am sticking to it.
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Old Jun 10th, 2012, 05:14 AM
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We APPRECIATE your replies!!! Now having second thoughts about tour. If you came to Michigan, you could barely get out of the airport without renting a car..."public transportation" a joke. Probably why budget Cosmos tour sounded affordable.. We have about 14+ days to travel on this "first" adventure. Is it possible for us to safely travel by bus or train from Rome to Florence, Milan, Venice, Perugia, Sorento and back to Rome without a car... booking sites and central hotels in advance? These are key locations listed on tour...or perhaps are we trying to eat an elephant. We are not interested in pricey foods or hotels...more into mingling and small sites but would hate to miss key sites in areas due to failing to connect. Don't want to "waste" time wondering where to go...an unfortunately, only speak English....
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Old Jun 10th, 2012, 05:37 AM
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>

Love this saying!!

Yes you are trying to eat an elephant. You have 6 cities to cover in 14 days. I'll go back to my original statement - do you want depth or breadth? Covering this much ground will exhaust you - again you will spend a lot of time packing and unpacking, seeing the inside of buses/trains.

Think about why you want to go to these cities. Make a list of things you want to see in each place and then determine how much time you'll need.

I suggest Rome - 5 days, Florence - 2 or 3 days, Venice - 3 days. Why Milan, Sorrento, Perugia? What draws you to these places? Just because ONE tour company goes to these places doesn't mean that you have to do this.

Again - if you do decide to do a tour then pick a good tour.
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Old Jun 10th, 2012, 06:00 AM
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If your issue is transportation - you should understand that getting to and fro thos places in Italy y train is both easy and inexpensive. For many of them (as in Rome and Florence) the trains may run as often as once an hour. You just buy a ticket/seat reservation (at the station or local travel agent) and get on the train.

And getting hotels in a central area - instead of at the end of hell and gone - means yuo can do much of yuor sightseeing on foot - or if you prefer, local bus or even taxi (not expensive unless you are taking long distance trips).

If you decide to take a tour fine - but I would balance out the costs of Globus plus optionals vs other tour providers tht can provide a better experience.
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