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 travellers 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 travellers 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.
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 travellers 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 October 1 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.
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!!
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.