GLENDSIDE, PENNSYLVANIA -- I'm a travel agent who always take the tour prior to taking a group on a tour, namely, The 9 Day Classic South America (Buenos Aires, Iguassu Falls, Rio de Janeiro) with Gate 1 Travel. I checked Gate 1 Travel references, and Gate 1 Travel is a member of USTOA, as if Gate 1 Travel should be more reputable than other tour operators who aren't members of USTOA. I'm a very conscientious travel agent because I was a consumer of travel before I was a travel agent, and I have had some bad past experiences with tour operators. Also, I think the U.S. Government should regulate tour operators like the airlines, etc.
I have some questions and suggestions that you should ask your travel agent(s) before they book your travel. You can contact me at **. I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to resolve the problem with Gate 1 Travel because one member of the group travelled with me on the 9 Day Classic South America trip. We met up with 9 other American tourists that were also booked on Gate 1 Travel's 9 Day Classic South America tour. When I returned from the 9 Day Classic South America tour, I wouldn't recommend any of Gate 1 Travel's trips.
As you read my formal complaint to Gate 1 Travel, you will find the nightmare that we endured on the 9 Day Classic South America trip that Gate 1 was unwilling to acknowledged and/or compensate. The following is my formal complaint to Gate 1 Travel: "I'm still traumatised by what happened to me directly and indirectly while I was on the 9 Day Classic South America tour booked by Gate 1. Also, I'm traumatised by what happened directly and indirectly to the other travelers in the group that were booked also by Gate 1.
I've prioritized the incidents that were most traumatic to me and the other Gate 1's travelers.
(1) ** didn't give Varig Brazil Airlines at the time of booking ** United Airlines Mileage Plus. ** assured me that he would give Varig Brazil Airlines our United Airlines Mileage Plus at the time of booking. He didn't provide the service that he promised.
(2) ** and I discussed on several occasion the itinerary to Buenos Aires, Argentina. Also, ** emailed me a tentative itinerary to Buenos Aires, Argentina, and his tentative itinerary didn't show a stop-over in Sao Pablo, Brazil. Also, he never once stated that Varig Brazil Airlines flies to Sao Pablo, Brazil before going to Buenos Aires, Argentina requiring passengers to de-plane in Sao Pablo, Brazil to catch a connecting flight to Buenos Aires, Argentina.
(3) **, tour guide, daughter who was waiting for us at the Buenos Aires, Argentina airport didn't make herself accessible with a sign indicating that she was there to pick us at the airport. **'s daughter had a little sign in front of her chest that we couldn't see. ** and myself were wondering around in the Buenos Aires Airport with our luggage trying to find the person that should have had a large sign with our names on it in the very front row so that we could see it. If it wasn't for one of the other Gate 1's travelers who came looking for us, we would have never been picked up at the Buenos Aires Airport.
(4) One of the desk clerks, **, at the Hotel Park Chateau Kempinski, Buenos Aires, Argentina was very rude and had an attitude when he was asked by one of Gate 1 guest about converting money that ** had to intervened.
(5) There was a lack of continuity between the tour guides in each country. Other tour operators, i.e. America Automobile Association, Tauck Agency, etc. has one tour guide that stays with the group from the beginning to the end of the tour even if the tour is in two or more countries. This is the first tour that I have been on that the travelers were always waiting for the tour guides and/or the transportation was late. There was a lack of service and accountability.
(6) Day 5, Tuesday Iguassu Falls on the border of Argentina. There was a lot of confusion. The bus was late to the Iguassu Falls. We started out with **, but she left us with **. ** was a nightmare. ** didn't tell us that we would need our raincoat and/or umbrella for the tour through Iguassu Falls. After ** left us at the Iguassu Falls with ** and when we got inside the Iguassu Falls, ** tells us that we can purchase a raincoat because we would get wet. We asked ** why didn't he tell us before we were inside the Iguassu Falls because we all had raincoats and umbrellas in our suitcase on the bus.
Notwithstanding, none of us purchased raincoats, and we all got wet at the Iguassu Falls. I and some of Gate 1 guests came down with a severe cold as a result of getting wet at the Iguassu Falls. It is the small things that count when providing first class service. ** had to be asked to get us maps of the Iguassu Falls from the information booth, ** was on his cell phone most of the time while he was supposed to be escorting us; ** chained smoke even none of smoke; ** instructed us to sit in the sun to wait for ** when he left us at the Iguassu Falls. We didn't get third class service from **. ** wasn't professional at all.
(7) Rio Othon Palace, Rio De Janeiro, Brazil is in the heart of Copacabana Beach. Gate 1 didn't forewarn us that Copacabana Beach has a lot of crime. Conversely, Ipanema Beach doesn't have as much crime. Also, most of the Americans stay on Ipanema Beach. a. One of Gate 1's guest and his daughter was almost mugged outside the front entrance of Rio Othon Palace by some Brazilian's young men. b. One of Gate 1's guest was accosted by a prostitute outside the front entrance of Rio Othon Palace Hotel.
c. Twelve of Gate 1's guests decided to walk to the flea market across the street from the Rio Othon Palace Hotel approximately after 10:30 pm after removing and leaving all our jewelry and accessories in the hotel safe. While we were waiting for the street light at the cross walk, about 50 Brazilian children between the ages of two and 12 circled us begging for money. Since I had already been mistaken as a Brazilian several times while I was in Rio, I started screaming at the Brazilian children in a couple of words that I knew in Portuguese because these Brazilian children were targeting Gate 1's white Americans trying to get into their pockets to grab their money and wallets.
Also, I noticed 100 feet away that the parents had encouraged their kids to go after the American tourists, and there was approximately another 50 kids standing around with their parents at the fence watching. The children took off, but well we're very traumatised by what had just happen. Your blond hair and blue eyed guests stated that they would never return to Brazil, and I don't blame them if I was blond and blue eyed too. Gate 1 has an office in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, and you know that it isn't safe on Copacabana Beach. Why didn't Gate 1 book us in a hotel on Ipanema Beach which is much safer? Why didn't Gate 1 tell us about the crime on Copacabana Beach?
d. While we were staying at the Rio Othon Palace, Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, one of the tourist at the hotel was mugged and robbed on Copacabana Beach while we were there. While the tourist was making a purchase across from Rio Othon Palace on Copacabana Beach when he took his money out to pay for the purchase, a gang of Brazilian men circled around him. They took over $250 Brazilian money and his hotel safety deposit key.
(e) While guest(s) at the Rio Othon Palace, we had to pay for ice; we were asked to go purchase towels across the street when we used the pool at Rio Othon Palace; we couldn't get an iron and iron board in our room; we were accused of using water, etc. from the non-locked mini-bar when we didn't get anything out of their mini-bar; etc. ** has a medical problem, and she needed ice on a daily basis. It took an act of God to get ice at Rio Othon Palace Hotel. Doesn't Gate 1 provide service for their clients who has medical needs, i.e. diabetics?
The Rio Othon Palace Hotel's staff had an attitude toward Americans. It was obvious that the staff at Rio Othon Palace Hotel don't like Americans. I was told that Rio Othon Palace Hotel is owned by a Brazilian, and isn't an international hotel. Why would you book Americans in a Brazilian hotel that only want our money, but don't want to provide us with American standard services?
(f) Gate 1 booked a Hindu couple on this tour that are vegetarians, but didn't provide vegetarian meals for them. I had ordered my own vegetarian meals on the returned flight to Miami, Florida on Varig Brazil that I gave to them. I think that it is very insensitive to book Hindu clients, and don't provide them with the service of vegetarian meals.
(g) Day 8, Friday ** left us again at the Brazilian barbecue with another one of Gate 1's staff. On the way back to Rio Othon Palace Hotel, Gate 1's guests on the bus asked the driver to drive pass the Xmas tree floating in the lagoon. According, to Gate 1's staff interpretation of what the driver said, "I don't have time," the driver lost about $75.00 - $100.00 U.S. Dollars in tips that evening.
Everyone on the bus was upset with the driver because it would have only taken him an additional 5 minutes to drive us to see the Xmas tree's lights. Again, a lack of service from Gate 1. There were some other incidents that happened while we were on the 9 Day Classic South America, but they were too numerous to mention.
The purpose of my trip along with one of my clients was to do a site visit. There is no way that I would take my clients on the 9 Day Classic South America (Buenos Aires, Iguassu Falls, Rio de Janeiro). If I were to take any of my clients on this tour, I would no longer have any clients because of the way we were treated. Also, I don't feel comfortable using Gate 1 as a tour operator for any of my travel. This 9 Day Classic South America Tour was a nightmare, and I have been traumatised and stressed out about it.
I booked this package with Gate 1 Travel only because all of the Eastern Mediterranean cruises in which I was interested were sold out during the window we had available for the trip (June 20-30). My overall impression is that this is a "budget" tour at a "deluxe" price. Everything is vastly overrated.
Gate1's contract hotels are not anywhere close to 5 or 4 stars, as advertised. The best, the Royal Olympic in Athens, which is billed as 5 stars, had a single restaurant, not two as advertised, and that restaurant was closed for dinner on 2 of the 3 nights we stayed there; so we had to have dinner "poolside," which, because of the temperature, was definitely not my choice. Dinner selections were extremely limited, to essentially one entree per type (chicken, beef, veal, fish, etc.), hardly the mark of a 5-star hotel, and the prices were, in a word, outrageous ... Dinner with house wine for two came in at over 100 Euros in one case and nearly that amount in the other!
The remaining hotels are worth perhaps 1 star for the Europa in Olympia and 2 for the Amalia in Delphi, and a bare 3 for the Divani in Kalambaka. The Athens city tour was brief and rushed, included entirely too much "lecturing" by the tour guide in the hot Athens sun and the ferocious wind atop the Acropolis, while not allowing enough time for unhurried photographs, did not include a visit to the fabled National Archeological Museum. And the afternoon of the second day in Athens was basically wasted, because there would have been ample "at leisure" opportunities to explore the city on the previous (arrival) day, if our flight had arrived as scheduled (see below).
However, the first really serious turn-off came when, on June 23, we had to wait in the hot sun for 30 minutes after being dropped off by the hotel pick-up bus at a so-called bus "transfer point" waiting for the tour bus to Olympia... No seats, no shade, only standing room in the direct sun... Unacceptable!!!
The overland bus trips of up to 8 hours were incredibly long and boring, with few stops for sightseeing, and some of those included disguised "shopping" opportunities. Once at a major sightseeing destination, visits often seemed too short and hurried, and were scheduled during the midday heat, rather than early mornings or late afternoons. In the case of Olympia and Delphi, visits to air-conditioned museums were scheduled in the morning, while the heat was still bearable, and before the visits to the outdoor archeological sites, which were scheduled in the full midday heat. It would seem intelligent, considerate, and feasible to reverse the sequence in both cases.
The cruise ship, Louis Hellenic Cruises' M/V Aquamarine, was yet another story. It was billed as 3 stars, yet it was far inferior to ships on which I had taken multi-day river cruises on the Yang Tse in China and the Nile in Egypt. Although I paid for a cabin upgrade and thought I was getting a "superior" outside cabin, I have never been forced to live in anything so small, so sparse, so cheap-looking, and so inconvenient. The tiny portholes were partially painted over! The worst part was the bathroom ... the shower stall was almost too small to turn around in (and I am a quite "normal" 5'10", 172 lbs) ... flimsy, shabby, without even any bath soap or other amenities.
The in-cabin safe didn't work, or at least it didn't work for me. For the first two nights on the ship, there were diesel fumes in the cabin. After I complained to the tour director, they seemed no longer to be present on the 3rd night. The restaurants were also not satisfactory to me. The main restaurant, while attractively decorated and featuring white linens and formal place settings, served lukewarm food, and it was almost impossible to get the wine steward's attention.
The "Bistro/Pub" looked like a cheap version of a McDonald's, the food on the serving line was habitually cold, one orange juice dispenser did not work, and the only reason we used that facility rather than the main restaurant for breakfast was the ease and speed of self-service versus the incredibly slow service and directed seating in the main restaurant. Then came the shore excursions sold through the cruise ship!
First, they were vastly overpriced, even though the tour guides were generally competent and knowledgeable. But up to 59.95 Euros per person for a less than a half-day tour is simply too much for the experience, especially when that experience includes more disguised solicitations/opportunities to shop. In general, the escorted portions of the shore excursions were also limited and brief, with passengers left to "explore" on their own afterward. This was especially true on Rhodes, where we were literally rushed through the old city/citadel in about one hour. At least another hour should have been allotted for a guided tour of this World Heritage site.
Finally, our experience with Gate1's contract airline, Olympic Airlines! Our outbound flight (OA 412) was originally scheduled to leave JFK at 4:30 PM, on June 20. It finally took to the air at about 1:00 AM, on June 21 ... 8-1/2 hours late, causing us to miss at least a full afternoon of "at leisure" activities in Athens! Similarly, our return flight (OA 411) was scheduled to leave Athens at 11:25 AM, on June 30. It took off over 2 hours late, at about 1:35 PM, almost causing us to miss our connecting flight at JFK.
In fairness to the airline, I will note that we were provided a room at the JFK Holiday Inn and two meals on June 20. A word about our connecting flight at JFK (Delta 5619): The plane's air conditioning did not work, and we sat on the tarmac at JFK sweating for over 1 hour because the flight also was late taking off. To add insult to injury, the stewardess served lukewarm water; on request, she added some ice cubes! My advice: Avoid Gate1, if there are any other options!
My wife and I are very experienced travelers, having toured all over the world with several tour companies, and never had any significant problems. However on a recent tour of Morocco with GATE1 TRAVEL, it did not take us long to realize that the quality of their service was well below par:
1- Four days before the trip, they completely changed the itinerary of the tour, which rendered the airline reservations we had independently made totally unusable. If it weren't for the actions of our personal travel agent, we would have been in an impossible situation. Needless to say, we were very stressed when the trip started.
2- When we arrived at the airport in Casablanca, we could not find the person responsible for our hotel transfer. After looking for him all over the arrivals area, we decided to change enough money to buy a phone card, in order to call the local GATE1 TRAVEL office for instructions. It took three phone calls, and we were told by their incompetent office manager to take a taxi to the hotel. The whole fiasco wasted about three hours of our time, and when we arrived at the hotel, the tour of the city that was included in the package had just left. The hotel in Casablanca was very dirty and dreary.
3- At the end of the tour, we were supposed to return with the group to Casablanca. Instead, the tour guide told us that we would be dropped in Marakesh, where we could take a train to Casablanca on our own. We had bought an all inclusive tour from Casablanca to Casablanca, and warned him during the tour that his paperwork was incorrect. This cost us several days of arguments with the tour guide, and many calls to their incompetent office manager. In the end, we had to wake up at 2:30 in the morning to be able to catch our early morning flight in Casablanca.
Obviously, we were wrong in assuming that we would be well cared for when we bought an all inclusive tour. Not with GATE1 TRAVEL: they drop the ball and the customers are left holding the bag big time. Belatedly, we heard from other people that these fiascoes are commonplace with GATE1 TRAVEL. Once they collect your money, you are completely at their mercy. There are many good tour companies around, but GATE1 TRAVEL is NOT one of them.
We booked our 9 day Classic Ecuador and Amazon Adventure back in June 2014 for our Jan 20, 2015 departure. This is our first tour with Gate 1 Travel and we were looking forward to it. Suddenly we got an email on Oct 29, 2014 informing us that our tour flight schedule has been changed. In fact that is NOT the whole truth. Gate 1 changed our tour from 9 days to 8 days with the flight schedule change. We spoke to their customer service and explained to her that we booked 9 days and now it is only 8 days tour so they need to adjust our tour price because there is one day short from what we originally booked for.
On top of that they changed their flight schedule and now it costs us an extra hotel stay expense in Miami and they should compensate for that. Gate 1 Customer Service told us that she understood all that but she refused to take any responsibility or compensate us for anything. This is totally wrong! We were looking forward to the trip and now we feel that we have signed up with a very dishonest company and felt cheated. We are not sure what is really in the tour since they cannot even honor their itinerary. Can anyone help us?
Please understand that regardless of how the flights are reserved, schedules are dictated by the airlines and are subject to change. Regrettably, these changes are out of the control of Gate 1. With that said, please know that we are currently reviewing this matter and will be in contact.
PENNSYLVANIA -- I recently took a Gate1 Travel tour to Israel. It was a one-week tour, with a local guide assigned to us for the week. This guide was rude, disrespectful and obnoxious, to us in the group as well to people we encountered on the trip. He would SCOLD us for reading guidebooks while he was talking; would rush us through sites, "promising" to let us take photos, then herding us like cattle as soon as he was done talking; he admonished other, older members of the group, for lagging behind; he was dismissive about questions we asked, particularly if he didn't like them. He made bigoted, even racist remarks about other tourists; it was an awful experience.
I had found Gate1 on the internet and have now learned the hard way to check Consumer Reports before signing up blind. I complained to Gate1 Travel to at least alert them to changing the tour operator and for a refund for the costs of the guide, I never even received an apology. I strongly recommend against anyone using this tour company.
Customer service is awful. Tour guide treated Asians differently from whites on the trip. Also left many of us to starve instead of taking us to a restaurant since some of us had no idea where to go to eat in some cities. Had problems with one hotel and tour guide gave me an attitude rather than apologizing, demanding the hotel to apologize or attempting to solve the problem. My daughter bought me this trip as a present and I felt like it was a waste of thousands of dollars. I left the trip unsatisfied and angry. Don't go on this particular trip unless you are white or can speak the local languages. You will be treated like an outsider.
My boyfriend and I booked a land tour of Egypt before the political problems, giving Gate 1 a deposit of $400 each. After the violence erupted, we sent Gate 1 numerous requests to apply our deposits to a different tour or to give us a credit towards a future vacation, but Gate 1 will not make any accommodations whatsoever. With new riots nearly everyday in Cairo, including right in front of the hotel we were supposed to stay at, Gate 1 plans to run the tour in two weeks as scheduled. We had to walk away from our deposits.
I had been on two prior Gate 1 tours and, while they are fairly expensive relative to other tour operators, they are mostly well run. After my experience with the Cairo trip, though, I will no longer be a Gate 1 customer.
5851 SAN FELIPE, SUITE 500 HOUSTON, TX 77057, TEXAS -- I used Gate1 services to travel to Egypt and they overcharged me. They hid the fact that they are using a 3rd party service (VACATIONS TO GO) agent in USA who did the booking for me. I came to know later that I have been robbed almost 1500 $ extra compared to other agents. On top of that they have not given me any clear idea on the Visa requirements which led me to postpone the travel date (as I had to carry a Visa since I am traveling through Germany).
This led to losing 2 days of my 8 day package. Since I was paying almost 180$/day on the Shepherd hotel in Cairo, I called the travel guys and asked them to cancel 1 day stay and refund me the money. They agreed to it but when I reached Cairo, I found that they have not called them and hotel had already charged me the day stay. (The hotel would have refunded me the money if they had called.)
They promised an itinerary for us but they didn't follow the itinerary which forced us to stay in a hotel in a remote place in Cairo without any sight seeing. It was more an ordeal for us as we used to get a morning wake up call for almost 3 days in a row around 5:30 AM..
These people are real thieves who not only robbed my money but is very comfortable doing that. I am trying to dispute the charges but these people are very bad... even my credit card agency "The great AMERICAN EXPRESS" is unable to find a solution... but I am determined to fight..
CALIFORNIA -- My family wants to take my 76 year old dad on a GATE 1 TRAVEL Company trip to Italy. He has severe emphysema. We have asked to bring his wheelchair on the sight seeing bus, but they have refused on grounds that it is their company policy. We have been on the same tour before and understand the difficulties of wheelchairs in Europe. But he only needs it to relieve occasional stress and help him, not to hold up the tour group. We have offered compromises to space and other traveler courtesies, and have still been refused. Can they do this?
Also, my contact will not give me names of upper company administrators, President Director, Board members, etc. to appeal to. I think Gate 1 Travel is an American company... Can they discriminate / deny him a device needed for his health and welfare? SHOULD THE VICE PRESIDENT OF A COMPANY REFUSE SEVERAL TIMES TO GIVE THE NAMES OF HIGHER ADMINISTRATORS?