Ireland Escorted Tours

Sep 2nd, 2007, 07:23 PM
  #1  
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Ireland Escorted Tours

6 of us plan to tour Ireland in 2008. My husband and I always prefer to travel independently, but the other 2 couples prefer an escorted tour. What company, if any, do you recommend?


alcorjd is offline  
Sep 2nd, 2007, 10:49 PM
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Kinda felt I had to reply to this one. Here is my background: both parents came from Co. Roscommon. I've been going to Ireland since I was 16 (a long time ago!!). I've been in love with Ireland ever since. I went back at age 17 and then after that could not afford to go back until 1984. It would be another while again until I could go back.... 1988 (to take my fathers ashes back) then 1995, 2001 (my dh and I bringing 8 friends with us), 2003 (mother's 80 bd), 2005-Spring with dh, 2005-Oct. with 2 girlfriends, 2006 by myself, and 2007-Spring our introductory tour of CIE tours, and now, in 2 weeks our own custom tour using CIE tours!!
Saying all that to tell you that I am/we are "just get in the car and drive" folks...not tour people!!!! But, we thought we'd get a bunch of friends and family together and bring them to Ireland this year. We ended up with 28 folks (with only 5 of us related, and a few friends and acquaintences, and some folks I've never met!!!) and the only way to do that is with a tour. CIE does custom tours so I planned the itineray myself with things I wanted them to see and things I have not done either yet.
The CIE buses are beautiful and the drivers make your life easy and you do get to see alot since you don't get the green bush blur (being up higher than a car). I still am not a "tour only" person but even if you just do it once you will learn alot (you're learning about Ireland as you are going down the road with tales, stories, information from the driver/guide). However, if you are strictly B&B people tours do stop at hotels. Also, you would have to get a good sized car with luggage for all 6 of you...and that makes the driving hard. Just some things to think about.
I spent a lot of time planning in 2001 when we brought those 8 friends with us making our group 10..so, we needed 5 rooms at each B&B. We also had to have one bigger car and one smaller one. My husband being an experienced Ireland driver by then drove the biggger car.
Anyway, I've only experiened CIE and will just go on our 2nd tour in 2 weeks...I will post my report when we get back...hope this helps.
Shadow
Shadow is offline  
Sep 3rd, 2007, 07:26 AM
  #3  
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Shadow-thank you! This is exactly the advice I had hoped to receive! I will email your comments to our small group and eagerly await your next post when you return from your trip!

Again--thank you.

Joan
alcorjd is offline  
Sep 3rd, 2007, 10:06 AM
  #4  
 
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Last year I planned a trip for my extended family (group of 10).

We hired a private driver/guide thru Discover Ireland Tours. It was a great experience. You can read about our trip and see pictures by clicking my name and searching for ireland trip pictures and short or long trip report.

What was great with only 10 people we were able to go places a large bus cannot go. We stayed mostly in B&B's. It was very personal. They were very flexible and we chose how long we stayed at sites as well as making several pub and photo stops along the way. This was truly the best of both worlds and our price was the same as a friend paid on a CIE tour (which she did enjoy).

They can plan for you but that is my thing so I pretty much planned it and they arranged everything.

We have traveled to Ireland and other parts of Europe on our own but found this just as enjoyable...especially for a small group.
chip is offline  
Sep 3rd, 2007, 03:09 PM
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Chip: your idea is a good one for this group of 6. I read your trip report and your trip sounded wonderful!
I had not thought of it until you brought it up but I agree on the private/driver guide since they only have 6.
Alcorjd...look into this, good idea!!
Shadow
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Sep 11th, 2007, 01:03 PM
  #6  
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Thank you, Chip! And Shadow!

I've emailed your blog to the other two couples.

Joan
alcorjd is offline  
Sep 11th, 2007, 05:53 PM
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I suggest you avoid the big bus tours. Even if you pay more per person, I think you will see more and do more with your own small tour.

We took an Insight tour one year and swore never again. There were numerous "commercial" stops at merchandising establishments where we were offered various drinks in hopes we would buy something.

The aspect of the tour that really irritated me however was all of the "optional" excursions. These were not included in the cost of the tour but were expensive add ons.

For example, we were stuck in a hotel well out from Tralee, Hotel Crazy Ass aka the Earl of Desmond. (More on that later.) We had an option. Ride the bus into town, pay for a musical of some sort, and take a taxi back, or sit around the hotel and do nothing.

The clincher for me came when we got to the Cliffs of Moher. We spent about 40 minutes there, which was just enough time to take a peak and then leave. The main reason for the abbreviated stop was that we had to get to Ennis one of those touristy castle dinners where I was called "My Lord" a lot. My reaction was just that: my Lord! The food at least was edible. Interesting that nobody bus tourists were present.

The Earl of Desmond was a interesting place to say although it was not what I would call a positive experience. The hotel itself is one of these purpose built concrete block uglies that harbor tour buses at night. (I counted 8.) First, we played "Turn on the lights." Each room had a master switch. Some lamps were turned off locally, while others were not. After we figured out that the master switch was turned off, we figured out how to turn the lamps on.

Second, we played "Flush the Toilet."
Usually such a task is relatively simple. In this case it was made complex because it took me several minutes to find the handle. I finished and started looking for the flushing mechanism. No switch was in view. No chain, no pedal, no sensor, no button.
Finally I found the handle: In the shower behind the opaque door.

Third we played "Say Good Night." The second night we were there, a wedding party broke up about 3 AM with long, loud "Good Nights" in the parking lot. One of the members of the tour group was a sheep rancher from New Zealand. She was about 6'3" and vigorous. Her husband was also a very strong fellow as evidenced by the fact that he was one of 4 guys who, on the Ring of Kerry, picked up a car and moved it over so the bus could get by. Well, the sheep rancheress suggested to the people in the parking lot that they should be quieter. (Shut the bloody ... up was the exact phrase.) This request touched off a discussion between the hotel and the parking lot couched in various accents: English, New Zealandish, Austrailian, Canadian, Scottish, Irish, Malaysian, even American.

The New Zealand lady offered one Irish fellow the opportunity to have his posterior dealt with rather unkindly. He had the good judgment to decline the opportunity.

Some of the other suggestions involving one's anatomy are too indelicate for a family board. Some of them were as funny as they were salacious.

In conclusion, I think you would be better advised to organize your own small tour, or drive it your self. Rail service in Ireland is not that great, and lugging trans Atlantic luggage around on a bus is not my idea of a good tour.
bob_brown is offline  
Sep 14th, 2007, 11:19 AM
  #8  
 
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we just returned from a CIE 10-day "Irish Explorers" tour. Our driver, Bill, was wonderful. What we weren't told, until we arrived, is that CIE booked two identical tours, same name and itinerary, for that week. so, because many of the places we were scheduled to visit couldn't accomodate both groups, we found ourselves backtracking a lot and had our time cut short at places because of it. The hotels were NOT of the quality advertised on their website. We loved Ireland and are glad that we visited the places on the tour but we were extremely disappointed with CIE's poor scheduling.
desdemona01 is offline  
Sep 17th, 2007, 05:23 PM
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Hmmm.. After reading Bob Brown's and Desdemona's tour descriptions, I think we should reconsider!! Desdemona, which was your tour company??
alcorjd is offline  
Sep 18th, 2007, 05:06 AM
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CIE. They came highly recommended from our travel agent, who is going to be copied on the letter we send to CIE regarding this booking fiasco. There were several people in our group who have taken tours through other companies and none had experienced this type of problem. I have no idea what CIE's answer will be (if we even get one) but this was very poor planning by a company who's job it is to plan!
desdemona01 is offline  
Sep 18th, 2007, 06:35 AM
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The Rick Steves tour sounds perfect for you. You are on your own for about half of the time. Your friends would have the security of the group while you would not feel stifled by the togetherness. They tend to stay in smaller places without other tour groups.

http://tours.ricksteves.com/tours08/...rl/code/IRE08/

Barbara_in_CT is offline  
Sep 19th, 2007, 03:58 AM
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I wish I would have asked the people staying at Loch Lein what tour group they were with. There were 14 people on this small but very sleek, luxurious looking mini coach.

They did not all know each other before the tour and they were all Americans.

I think they spent 3 nights at Loch Lein. Sept.5-7 If Loch Lein is any indication of the quality of their lodging, it must be a very nice tour.

I would think that you could e mail Annette and Paul at Loch Lein and they would know the name of the tour group.

I saw a similar coach parked outside of a B&B in Bunratty and wondered if it was them.
LindainOhio is offline  
Sep 20th, 2007, 07:29 PM
  #13  
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Thanks for your suggestions. The Rick Steves tour might be too strenuous for one of the couples; but we are investigating it. And I tried to email Loch Lein Country House, but ran into a "technical difficulty". Will try again!

Joan
alcorjd is offline  
Sep 22nd, 2007, 09:51 AM
  #14  
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The Loch Lein referred me to OAT--Overseas Adventure Travel--which operates small (14-16 people) tours. Their Ireland tour is quite intriguing. Has anyone heard about this company? I know it is a part of Grand Circle, which never appealed to me because of the large size of the tour groups.

Thanks!
alcorjd is offline  
Sep 22nd, 2007, 10:59 AM
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I have heard some negative feedback on OAT from some people whose tour was canceled because it did not fill up. They were not happy to have to scramble at the last moment. Mostly I have heard favorable things and know someone who did an OAT tour and loved it. All tours are subject to cancelation if you read the fine print. What time of year are you going?
IrishEyes is offline  
Sep 22nd, 2007, 11:15 AM
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Hello, do a text search on CIE tours. As I've posted several times before, they are run by the Irish government and you will get the most for your money as well as personable guides and good foods. They also do a bit off the beaten path. They are my favorite tour company even over the more expensively priced Tauck and Maupin. Again they are the best value for price paid, they get better discounts because they are run the the gov't tourism.
travelinwifey is offline  
Sep 22nd, 2007, 11:22 AM
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Ps, sorry about desdemona01's experience but I don't believe that is typical of the company. We've used them 3 times, 2 for Ireland and 1 England/Scotland/Wales. Travel time ends up being over one month on CIE tours. Other tour companies we've used include Tauck, Trafalgar (2), and Maupin.
travelinwifey is offline  
Sep 22nd, 2007, 11:25 AM
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I think that we need clarification about the position of CIE Tours.

CIE is owned by the government, but is not run by the government. It operates in a purely commercial manner, just like any other company offering tour packages, and gets no special treatment or abnormal discounts; that would be precluded by EU law. Within Ireland, it is the big operator with a lot of experience, and so might be able to secure better terms for its clients.

[As I live in Ireland, I have no reason to use tour operators to help me get around, and I have no commercial link with any operator. This has been a public service announcement.]
Padraig is offline  
Sep 22nd, 2007, 11:58 AM
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tee hee thanks Padring
travelinwifey is offline  
Sep 24th, 2007, 12:56 PM
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travelinwifey,
glad you've had good experiences with CIE, but you're lucky they've been good. Our driver/guide contacted them during our tour to let them know the deplorable situation with our Killarney accomodations and they ignored him. When we returned home I wrote a calm, detailed letter about our tour and sent it to both my travel agent and CIE. My travel agent called me immediately to get more details and then she wrote them, too. So far they've ignored both of us. I was afraid they'd come back and offer a voucher for future travel, which I don't think we'd ever do with them again, but they didn't even have the class to respond. It's been a lesson learned.
desdemona01 is offline  

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