Grand Circle Travel Booted Out of BBB

Apr 6th, 2007, 01:59 PM
Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 191
We had a horrible experience with a Trafalgar tour - Best of Finland, Russia, and Estonia. We complained to our travel agent who passed on our complaints to Trafalgar. We never even thought of contacting the BBB. Note that in our many years of taking tours, this is the only tour that we felt the need to complain about. First of all we had the worst TD that we have ever had - he was not from any place in Eastern Europe and was completely unresponsive to complaints.

We were given a whopping 5% credit by Trafalgar to make up for our substandard hotels - to be used on another Trafalgar Tour, of course. Whoopie!!

That's when we decided to try other tour companies like GCT and OAT - which we are great fans of. The TDs are from the countries that we are visiting and the hotels have always been those promised in the brochure.

Below is the complaint that I posted on the Trafalgar bulletin board.

"Out of the 14 hotel nights, 8 nights - St. Petersburg, Novgorod, Moscow, and Minsk - were DOWNGRADED from the Trafalgar listing and the information sent to us with our tour documents just 3 weeks before the tour began, to CHEAPER and lower quality hotels. Since breakfast and dinner were included on those days, the quality of the meals, commensurate with the quality of the substituted hotels, was of poor quality, especially the dinners. Many of the people on our tour were angry about the substituted hotels.

At the substituted St. Petersburg Hotel in St. Petersburg, the meat served at dinners was tough, and unrecognizable in some cases. The buffet breakfast, while satisfactory, subjected us to hordes of people pushing and jostling in order to grab their food first. The rooms were very small.

After complaints to our tour guide about the quality of the food at the substituted St. Petersburg Hotel, he told us that things would improve at the other substituted hotels.

The substituted Intourist Hotel in Novgorod is listed as a TOURIST CLASS Hotel. The room was tiny, and run- down, and the shower was part of the minuscule bathroom, similar to that found on some cruise ships. When I complained about the awful room to our tour guide, he commented that he only promised that the food would improve. We were only served a continental breakfast in the morning at this hotel. The phone system was also sub-par at this hotel. We were awakened by the phone ringing at least two times during the night with noone on the phone. There was no internet available at this hotel. We also had to partially make our own beds at this hotel. There was a folded sheet that needed to be arranged properly by us in order to make the beds.

The substituted Hotel Cosmos in Moscow was a massive hotel. The rooms and food were satisfactory, though.

The substituted Hotel Orbita in Minsk was 3.5 km from the city, instead of the central higher quality Planeta Hotel that was promised by Trafalgar. Our room was run-down and very small. This hotel also did not have internet available. We were served a continental breakfast again. We were even warned by our tour director that if the buffet breakfast was being put out while we were having our continental breakfast, that we were not to touch the buffet breakfast, since it was not for us. We also had to partially make our own beds at this hotel. There was a folded sheet that needed to be arranged properly by us in order to make the beds.

All of the hotels that were as originally scheduled Helsinki, Vilnius, Riga, and Tallinn were excellent, including the food served.

Per the Trafalgar brochure: Substitute hotels may be used at certain times and will be of similar standard whenever possible. 8 nights out of 14 nights at downgraded hotels is unreasonable and excessive and certainly not up to the First Class standard that we paid for."
sandys is offline  
Apr 6th, 2007, 02:26 PM
Join Date: May 2003
Posts: 27
One more time re: OAT. Magnificent tours; outstanding guides; great concept..small groups, sensitive to the culture etc.we've been with them four times, including Egypt. Here's the one very maddening downside. They are absolutely non-responsive after you get back if you had a problem. A great big stonewall. No response to (polite) inquiries. They just don't respond.
I'd consider going with them again because the trip itself - and especially the in-country guides - are first rate. I'm not going to re hash the problem we had. It was worth a couple hundred bucks and if they had said "no" in their response, I would have forgotten it. It was just no answer and that includes Alan Lewis at the top.
billywayne is offline  
Apr 10th, 2007, 11:03 AM
Join Date: Nov 2006
Posts: 40
The BBB DOES list Globus' (non-member, no complaints), and Trafalgar Tours USA's (member, 3 complaints)over the last 36 mos. GCT had 99 complaints in 36 months and a suit filed by the state of MA. There is a reason their names keep popping up, and the primary criticism is their total lack of response to complaints. Perhaps if they had been more forthcoming in the 99 instances the issues could have been resolved more amicably. Before we booked with STI for our Egypt/Jordan trip, we checked out their record with BBB and learned they had not had a complaint filed against them. Again, it is not cheap to travel, so check, recheck and recheck before you go. Bad things can happen with any company, and good things can happen with any company, but consistent complaints such as those against GCT deserve to be aired and investigated.
mamaclark is offline  
Apr 10th, 2007, 11:13 AM
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 75,935
Yet now that they have been aired would not one expect GTC to be on their very best behavior for fear of a repeat in BBB action - or in this case getting reinstated in full grace?
PalenQ is online now  
Apr 10th, 2007, 12:23 PM
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 92
Author: Mildred
Date: 04/10/2007, 03:17 pm

I did not see things from a yr ago but did cancel a trip due to the last bill with scads of added costs.

I do however understand a great deal more about posters who flew first class and loved trips or never had problems etc from their responses here. A huge learning experience from a few words. Thank you so much for posting. I applaud you bravery.

Mildred is offline  
Apr 10th, 2007, 09:48 PM
Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 191

We had a horrible experience with a Trafalgar tour, but never bothered to report it to the BBB. We did talk with our travel agent who was shocked at the substitutions of hotel rooms made on our tour, and the owner of the travel agency contacted Trafalgar about our experience. We received a whopping 5% credit from Trafalgar that could be used on another Trafalgar tour - extremely unsatisfactory!

We never even considered making a complaint to the BBB, especially since Trafalgar is not a US company. Instead, we no longer travel with Trafalgar and have switched to tours from GCT and OAT. Our experience with them has been excellent.
sandys is offline  
Apr 26th, 2007, 08:57 PM
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 26
Just returned from a trip to Eastern Europe with Grand Circle Travel. It was a wonderful trip. Probably the best tour director I have had with any group. There were 32 people on the trip and I was probably the only one that had not been on several other Grand Circle trips. They had nothing but good things to say about GCT. For many on this trip it was their 7th trip with GCT.
marymader is offline  
Apr 27th, 2007, 10:47 AM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 3,590
Hey...where did you go on your trip? We went there with GCT two years ago and it was great. Was your tour director Agnes by any chance/ Let's compare notes. I took slides, wrote a trip report, and organized a file (mostly for my beneift but we do travelogues, too). This was our 4th GCT and all were wonderful.

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Ozarksbill is offline  
Apr 27th, 2007, 11:13 AM
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 75,935
As oft the case when a company's PR problems are publicized they take urgent measures to shape up - this is why i would think GCT would be perfect now.
PalenQ is online now  
Apr 27th, 2007, 11:13 AM
Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 191
Ozarksbill. We went on the GCT Best of Eastern Europe tour last September. We also had Agnes as our tour director. She was fabulous - the best tour director that we have ever had. Before we booked with GCT, I had compared tours, and the GCT tour was much more to our liking than tours from other companies because the GCT tour spent 4 days in 3 of the cities and 3 days in the 4th city, giving us time for exploration on our own. And, the GCT tour was much better value for the money.
sandys is offline  
Apr 27th, 2007, 03:03 PM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 3,590
What you say is true...GCT offers a well guided tour for a good price. Agnes (who will not put up with nonesnse) is interesting because she gives much information with an added take having grown up in Communist Poland. There is a trainer here once on their Olympic team guy here who knew her uncle. His take on the present government is interesting. Nothing is black or white.

Anyway, GCT provides an educational element not all companies have and often encourage unusual places to visit.

Which place did you like best I might ask though don't like to do so under the present topic of GCT booted out of BBB (which isn't accurate anyway). If you do respond, you might consider a new title.

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Ozarksbill is offline  
Apr 27th, 2007, 04:20 PM
Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 191

We found that Agnes was extremely intelligent and knowledgable about the history of all three countries visited. We appreciated the educational aspect of the GCT tour also - lectures in each of the cities that we visited on politics and history. In Krakow she arranged to have a man who had been in a concentration camp talk to us about his experiences - he was a political prisoner, rather than a Jewish one.

Agnes went beyond the usual tour director duties, and arranged things for us that were in addition to the stated tour. I had asked her in Krakow if it would be possible, after the tour of the castle, to be dropped off in the old Jewish section of Krakow and then we would take a taxi back to the hotel. Her response was to have the bus take those who were interested on a bus tour of that area, about half of the tour group, including visits to an old synagogue and to Schindler's factory.

Also, she did not "push" the optionals. We tend to like to do our own thing after reaching a city, taking public transportation and doing a lot of walking.

We loved all four cities on the tour. Our very favorite was Krakow, since it was the least touristy. We found the main square of Prague to be wall-to-wall people, which took away from its ambience. We loved the castle districts of both Prague and Budapest. The highlight in Warsaw was the Resistance Museum, which was fantastic.
sandys is offline  

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