Grand Circle Travel, Trans Canada Rail Adventure
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.