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Grand Circle Travel

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Grand Circle Travel, Trans Canada Rail Adventure
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Do NOT go through Grand Circle Travel (GCT) for your Canadian rail trip, or any other trip. We did so last September/October and were very disappointed; not only with the trip itself, but also with the response we received from GCT. After returning from our trip, we sent a letter to GCT with the following facts:

1) Our tour director did not have leadership skills needed for a successful tour. One person in our group thought he was the leader, and at one point during the tour became verbally abusive with us. Most of the time our group was confused as to what was next on our agenda (i.e., meeting time, meeting places, etc.) as the tour director was not clear in her communication. Sometimes she would change her mind and not communicate the changes to the whole group.

2) When we originally booked our tour, we were told Gold Leaf service was sold out, so opted for Red Leaf service. On the second day of the tour, another couple upgraded from Red Leaf to Gold Leaf, while no one else was given the upgrade option. The Red Leaf vs. Gold Leaf service separated the group as a whole. We felt like second class citizens in Red Leaf as Gold Leaf passengers tended to separate themselves from Red Leaf passengers for the rest of the tour. We believe that all GCT travelers should either travel Gold Leaf or Red Leaf to maintain the camaraderie of the group.

3) GCT’s policy regarding “exposure to controversial topics” should be reviewed. Due to this policy, our tour director had our Vancouver motor coach driver drive out of his way so we could see an abundance of drug users congregating in a park. We could do without these controversial topics while on vacation as we face many of these controversial issues at home. A vacation is a time to get away, relax, and enjoy.

4) We joined the optional excursion to Whistler at the wasteful cost of $95 each. The dog sled portion of this tour was very unauthentic. The dogs were restrained by an all-terrain vehicle that pulled a wagon, similar to a hay ride. The dogs also appeared to be underfed as their ribs were showing.

5) The Whistler excursion also included lunch. After arriving in Whistler, we were told only one restaurant was open to accept our $15 food voucher. The highest priced item on the menu of this restaurant was under $7. Consequently, we lost $8 of our food voucher.

6) GCT should institute a policy for passengers to rotate seats on the motor coach. This is a policy with other tour companies we have used in the past. This is fair and equitable as everyone gets a front seat view at least once. On this trip, the same passengers sat in the front section of the motor coach for the entire trip.

7) VIA Rail Canada was approximately 12 hours late departing Jasper, Alberta. GCT did not have a contingency plan in place for the train’s late arrival into Jasper. Our tour director made many phone calls to GCT for guidance. GCT decided to extend our tour of Jasper National Park that afternoon; however, after the tour, we spent approximately seven to eight hours in the Chateau Jasper hotel lobby. A few travelers were assigned hotel rooms due to their health. This was a nice gesture, but this gesture should have been afforded to everyone as we all paid around the same price for this tour. We finally boarded the train around 11:00 p.m. after a very exhausting day.

8) We booked this trip with another couple. Due to their health, they were assigned Car 213 on the VIA Rail, while we were assigned Car 216. The tour director’s reasoning was that 213 was closer to the dining car, which we felt was very reasonable. After the room assignments were handed out, the tour director told us that we would be in dining car B, while the other couple would be in dining car A. Although we do understand the bedroom assignments, we still are not quite sure why we couldn’t sit together during meals.

9) After spending the first night on the VIA Rail, the toilets stopped working in Car 216. VIA Rail employees were not sure when they could be repaired, so after smelling the urine stench for most of the day, we asked for another room. We were then moved to Car 222, even further away from our traveling companions in Car 213. In addition to the Car 216 toilets being inoperable for the entire trip, it should be noted that the bedrooms on the train were not clean as they were dusty and had dirt on the walls and in corners.

10) Due to the 12 hour delay of VIA Rail, we spent three nights instead of two nights on the train. Several times while on the train, the tour director informed us that we were missing all of the good scenery, as it was dark outside when traveling pass these scenic areas. It was very disappointing to have been told this several times. Additionally, we spent a night on the train that should have been spent at the Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel. We lost one night of luxury to another sleepless night on the train. During the night, the train was traveling at approximately 90 mph, and being in the back of the train in Car 222, we were whipped around causing sleepless nights.

We have traveled with several tour companies and have never experienced anything as deplorable as our GCT tour. For the reasons outlined above, we attempted to get some type of compensation from GCT, but were only offered a $200 voucher to use on a future GCT trip.

Needless to say, we were quite disappointed with GCT and have decided not to travel with Grand Circle Travel (GCT) again as this was a very expensive trip with very little compensation offered for such an awful experience.
     
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cindiloowho on 2006-06-22:
GCT has a history of bad customer relations. Search on "Grand Circle Travel complaints", etc. We had a terrible experience with them on a supposed river cruise in late Apr/May. While we were aware that the Danube was flooding and had concerns, when we called to get information or ask about ability to cancel, we were told that 'things were as scheduled' and 'other boats were on the river', no word of any trouble, and we would proceed as advertised in the itinery. When we arrived in Bucherest, we were informed that it was going to be a 'bus' trip until further notice. We (at least 130 of us) were herded on busses and drug all over EAstern Europe, sometimes for 12 hours a day, with few stops, scarce toilets and very primitive conditions. Several older and infirm folks had a rough time of it;we were never given any explanations or information, and the Travel Leaders were very evasive. Some folks got very ill, and at least one developed a deep vein thrombosis and possible embolism from the long days on cramped busses. We feel that we should have been warned of the possibility of a deviation, especially in light of the fact that the tour groups ahead of us had not spent one night on the river, except to sleep in the rooms of the boat, as no boats left the dock since Apr. 2. We are in a current dispute with GCT, as well as many other folks ad there is a possibility of a class action suit. lesson learned, find out as much about a company as y ou can before you embark on a journey and give them money (incidentally,GCT has a policy of offering a 'discount' if you pay in cash or by check...probably to avoid hassles with disgruntled folks' credit card companies).
gwimby on 2007-07-06:
Hiya. You are not alone dealing with Grand Circle. Read my posting about a trip to Kenya and Tanzannia. Customer Satisfaction is not part of Grand Circle / Overseas Adventure Travel company policies. We are still trying to get some satisfaction from them and there responses have been terrible and often very condesending. We try to tell everyone who will listen to first look at there record with the Better Business Bureau. Our trip was very dissapointing and could have been fixed so easily had OAT Rep taken action.
Happy trails on your next trip.
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Unjust enrichment by Grand Circle Travel
Posted by on
BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS -- While it is recognized almost uniformly throughout the travel industry that in the event of a terrorist attack in a region, airlines, hotels and tour operators will allow changes and cancellation without penalty, I would like to relate what happened to four of us travelers with Grand Circle Travel of Boston, MA.

We were scheduled to leave on a Grand Circle Travel trip to Bali and Angkor Wat on a 23 day trip October 3, 2005. Total cost for the four of us was $10,484.60. On Oct. 1, 2005 terrorists bombed three restaurants in Bali, killing 27 and wounding 125. The major bombing was right up the street from the resort at which we were to stay. We then became aware that the State Department had issued a travel warning months before advising “U.S. citizens to defer all non-essential travel to the country (Bali, Indonesia).” At no time had Grand Circle Travel informed us that a travel warning was in effect for Bali.

The President of Indonesia on October1 advised that more attacks were possible. The Australian Foreign Office issued a bulletin that said, “Australians in Indonesia who are concerned for their safety should consider departing.” All this information was readily available on the internet. Because of these travel warnings we cancelled our trip that day, Oct. 1, 2005, and requested Grand Circle Travel (GCT) to reroute us to a safer location such as Thailand so we could enjoy the Angkor Wat portion of the trip. They refused to make any changes and told us GCT considered it safe to go. There were no supervisors on duty the entire weekend. On Monday our GCT head clerk directed us to return our tickets which had been issued by Cathay Pacific Airways for the air and resort portions and he told us they would work out an appropriate refund. On Oct. 3, 2005, we returned our 4 tickets which showed a face value of $8,641.40.

We have since been told by Cathay Pacific that Grand Circle Travel, Boston, MA., returned our tickets to them, Cathay Pacific, and Grand Circle Travel received a complete refund less $75.00 per tickets administrative cost, for a total refund to Grand Circle $8,341.40. GCT’s only reply to us has been, “We sent the trip off as planned and since you cancelled you are not entitled to one cent of a refund.” The clerk that told us we could expect a refund is no longer an employee of GCT. Thus Grand Circle gained an unjust enrichment of our $10,484.60 because we followed the Travel Warning of the State Dept, the President of Indonesia and the Australian Government.

Grand Circle Travel had also collected $924.60 in taxes, fees, fuel surcharges and inspection fees from us which they refuse to return to us, and which they did not pay to the taxing authorities.

Best advice, try to learn something about the company you are about to do business with. I did recently and learned that Grand Circle had their membership in the Better Business Bureau of Massachusetts revoked on 10/27/05 because they did not “make diligent efforts to eliminate causes of customer complaints.” They have had over 100 complaints filed with the BBB. Furthermore, the Attorney General of Massachusetts recovered over $100,000.00 for Grand Circle Passengers for Sept. 11 post trip cancellations that Grand Circle had refused to refund. Let that be fair warning.

Carl Fischer, Sun City West, AZ.


     
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Diane1962 on 2006-05-06:
Did you buy the trip insurance? If so, you should be able to get something back.
gwimby on 2007-07-06:
Hiya. You are not alone dealing with Grand Circle. Read my posting about a trip to Kenya and Tanzannia. Customer Satisfaction is not part of Grand Circle / Overseas Adventure Travel company policies. We are still trying to get some satisfaction from them and there responses have been terrible and often very condesending. We try to tell everyone who will listen to first look at there record with the Better Business Bureau. Our trip was very dissapointing and could have been fixed so easily had OAT Rep taken action.
Happy trails on your next trip.
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DO NOT USE GRAND CIRCLE TOURS/GCT or Overseas Adventure Travel/OA
Posted by on
BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS -- If you want to save yourself a lot of aggravation DO NOT TRAVEL with this company. They treat their valued customers without any respect. They blamed a bad trip on me! They said the tour director could not handle me! This was on their Egypt and the Eternal Nile trip when the tour leader screamed at me in a hotel lobby berating me for ruining HER trip. I paid for the trip and she was unprofessional, blamed everything on the HQ in Boston and guess what? HQ sided with her! Why because 8 of 16 people responded with evaluations and 5 of those rated the leader excellent. Well that means 37% didn't and the other 50% probably didn't want to send in a negative rating. When asked who said I was a problem they would not respond.

I have made 6 trips with them and all have been delightful. I have been to all 7 continents and over 70 countries and have NEVER been treated so poorly and disrespectfully. Even the pre-trip in Jordan was great. After spending over $100,000 with them over the last 4 years this is how they treated me. No apology, no compensation.

Be warned - they don't care about their guests!! See http://gentle-hugs. livejournal.com/ for the full story.
     
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dan gordon on 2009-11-16:
since you give absolutely no information on what went wrong why should anyone listen to you. You need to give something. If your screaming at her because of something that she has no control over shame on you. I'm a tour guide and I can tell you that GCT does get its share of bad press but working for them isn't any joy. They take evaluations very seriously. Too many people blame the tour guides for everything from the weather to the bus condition and most everything else that can go wrong on a trip. You need to go with the flow and frankly you sound like a person that could make the best of groups hate you. Fortunaltely I've not had many terrible people.
dan gordon on 2009-11-16:
well I took the time to read your rambling ltr to the owner of OAT and you are I think a difficult person to keep happy. In your first page your upset because your arrived at midnite and didn't get your welcome drink, the van was too bumpy, and god forbid it didn't have cup holders, and you went on a desert Jeep ride in a pickup with no awnings. For a well seasoned experienced traveler, why would you go to a third world country and expect US standards. Its hard to find one thing to blame the guide but everything from a delayed flight, to a welcome briefing is the tour guides problem. I'd ban you from future travel. I'm sure your friends must really enjoy your travel rants. Most companies the do Jordan and Egypt hire outside companies to provide the guides and most likely the guides you had were independent with little or no connection to the Boston office. Sorry your expectations weren't met.
Skye on 2009-11-16:
Oh my goodness, what were they blaming you for?? Details would truly help.
Dorothy.FL on 2009-11-23:
The details are in the long letter to the company which is on the site shown. A professional would have recognized the late arrival, missed, meals, lack of sleep and adjusted her scheduled meeting for the group. Have a breakfast meeting instead of on in the lobby. I was not alone in my request.
I guess I didn't relate the information correctly enough. I couldn't care less about cup holders unless it is a 4 - 5 hour trip across the desert and you have to drink. We were all soaked. The driver said he has been asking for a different vehicle. And this part was for the owners to know and had NOTHING to do with the Nile cruise part. I thoroughly enjoyed Jordan even with the lousy transportation.
If anyone HATED me I sure wasn't aware of it. Half of the group started avoiding the leader and I hung with them because it just got to a pint of ridiculousness.
As far as a welcome drink - I don't drink!
I know for a fact that when the end came for tipping she got cursory amounts from half the people if anything.
The guide should have been more in touch with the group. When one lady asked if she and her husband could go up to their room for 10 minutes to freshen up, change their shoes and grab their camera, they were told a resounding NO. So we hurried to the Pyramids, they didn't have their camera and she didn't have proper walking shoes and we were run around them so fast that we had 45 minutes of down time before the bus left. Maybe she could have let the group stop along the way and not make it a race around the pyramid.

When we arrived back at the bus she was on her cell, which was common throughout.

Rather than wait for the transport vehicle she walked a mile to the entrance with all us little kids in tow. She didn't wait for those who chose to wait for the vehicle.

Gee what would 10 minutes have cost her. The group was willing to wait. Oh but SHE had an important date waiting for her.

I AM a seasoned traveler though on some vacations I do vacation and not Adventure. In all my trips, 7 continent, 70+ countries, I have NEVER come across such a disrespectful, disconnected and non-caring guide as this one.

Actually I am NOT a difficult person to please.
Gentle hugs to you all and happy travels.
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Injury on cruise
Posted by on
In August 2004 I was on a cruise booked with Grand Circle. In Germany we docked and a gangplank was put up. When descending the gangplank it gave way and dropped. I fell and several people fell on top of me. I had a dental bridge broken. The cost of repair was $3000. I have contacted Grand Circle by phone and mail as well as several attorneys. In spite of having a written report by a Grand Circle employee describing the accident, they have refused to compensate me for me out of pocket expenses. Attorneys have advised that the cost of suing would not be worth it and I am just out of luck.
     
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socal1 on 2005-07-30:
Your complaint leaves out a lot of details. Had you purchased insurance through the travel agency who booked it? If not, then I think your claim is against the actual cruise operator, rather than the agent used to book the cruise.
AZJEM on 2005-08-02:
I agree, it wouldn't be the travel agents fault, they did what they were paid to do. Book you a cruise. I can't believe the cruise line itself hasn't contacted you about your injuries. It is their responsibility to provide you with a safe access to and from the ship. I'd would also suggest you talk to a better attorny.
gwimby on 2007-07-06:
Hiya. You are not alone dealing with Grand Circle. Read my posting about a trip to Kenya and Tanzannia. Customer Satisfaction is not part of Grand Circle / Overseas Adventure Travel company policies. We are still trying to get some satisfaction from them and there responses have been terrible and often very condesending. We try to tell everyone who will listen to first look at there record with the Better Business Bureau. Our trip was very dissapointing and could have been fixed so easily had OAT Rep taken action.
Happy trails on your next trip.
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