Tour Ratings

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Jan 8th, 2011, 06:56 PM
  #1
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Tour Ratings

Hi. Just wondering if anyone has an opinion about the Grand European Tours (AARP). We just received a brochure and are seriously considering the 9-day Italian Intermezzo (Rome, Venice, Florence) package. The BBB rate it highly but there are other sites that complain of too many stops at souvenir "stands." I cannot seem to find "ratings" by Fodor - having just joined the site. Any help? Thanks, Sandy
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Jan 8th, 2011, 07:27 PM
  #2
 
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The majority of participants on this site prefer to travel independently and enjoy planning their own trip rather than taking tours--thus the reason you may not have found info about your particular tour. Still, some people here have taken tours and may be able to advise you. Here's a link for anyone who's interested:

http://www.getours.com/tours/int.html

Just at a quick glance, it is a 9 day tour, but Day 1 is the travel day from the US, Day 2 is arrival day in Rome, and Day 9 is early morning departure day from Rome. This just leaves 6.5 days to see Rome, Florence, and Venice, which does not seem like enough time to me. Also a good part of Day 4 will be on the bus traveling from Rome to Venice.

Often the key feature of tours is the location of the hotels--less expensive tours use hotels that are not as central as may be preferred. The hotels for this tour seem to be a mixed bag as far as location goes, though the accommodations themselves seem fine.
- The first hotel in Rome, Hotel Romanico Palace, isn't that badly located. If you hoped to walk to sights from there, you may find it a long walk.
- In Venice, the Hotel Sant' Elena is one with which I am familiar since my friend used to stay there when it was a convent. At least it is in Venice proper and not on the mainland or Lido, though it is about as far from things as it can be and still be in Venice. It is a quiet residential neighborhood which is interesting to me but may not be a priority for a first-time visitor with so little time.
- In Florence, Hotel Londra is the most centrally located of all the hotel choices, on a busy street near the main train station.
- Your hotel for your last night in Rome, Sheraton Rome, is on the side of a highway outside the city near EUR.
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Jan 8th, 2011, 08:28 PM
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Do they have any tours that don't require backtracking (fly into Venice and out of Rome)?
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Jan 8th, 2011, 09:05 PM
  #4
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I appreciate the replies.

ellenm: I saw that Day 1 was a travel day and wondered at their counting it as a "day" at all. I did not know anything about the location of the hotels so that's is valuable information. I know nothing about the accommodations of the hotels, either.

kybourbon: excellent question. Why the doubling back?

Thanks so much for bringing those issues to light.
Sandy
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Jan 8th, 2011, 09:47 PM
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"ellenm: I saw that Day 1 was a travel day and wondered at their counting it as a "day" at all. "

Almost ALL tours count travel days as 'tour days' (even those days spent sleepless 33,000 feet above the Atlantic)
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Jan 9th, 2011, 10:35 AM
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As Ellen pointed out, most of us plan our own trips, book our own hotels, trains, museums, tours. This itinerary would be very easy for you to do. Fly into Venice and out of Rome (called open jaw, use the multi-city function if you search fares on websites such as Expedia). Take the train Venice/Florence (2 hours, 42€) and Florence/Rome (1 1/2 hours, 44€).

Actual costs of sights visited:
Vatican Museum guided tour (including St. Peter's) 36€ (booked directly with the Vatican). You can also book admission only for 15€ and rent an audio guide (7€)

Accademia Museum 6.50€ (10€ if there is a special exhibit) + 4€ booking fee (advance purchase directly with the museum).

Colosseum 12€ entry fee (good for two days), English guided tour is 4€ (daily starting at: 10.15 am, 11.15 am, 12.30 pm, 03.00 pm,
04.15 pm, 05.15 pm) or you can rent an audio guide (4€)

I find the listings on the tour itinerary a bit misleading when you compare it with the itinerary page. When you look at what sites are included, you need to understand "tour speak". "See" means walk by, drive by, boat by. "Visit" means you actually enter the site. It's not clear that any sites in Venice are actually entered.

Day 3: I don't think it's realistic to visit St. Peter's and the Colosseum in one morning (day 3 says you will have the afternoon free). They must be very short visits.
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Jan 9th, 2011, 12:16 PM
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Tours aren't really rated. And most people here are independent travelers.

To do those 3 cities in 9 days is a real rush and IMHO all tours have way too many stops to buy tscotckes that no one really wants - as well as way too many 7 am starts.

And yes, tours are always 2 days off - they count the days of departure form the US and departure from Europe - neither of which is useful.

If I were to do into Venice, then to florence then to Rome and home - I would think 10 days on the ground (what a tour would call 13 days) is the minimum amount needed to see the basics.
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