Pros: Well organized Luggage efficiently handled Wonderful compatible group of people on our tour.
Cons: No choice in excursions Some got standard rooms instead of deluxe
My husband and I just completed an Insight Italian Escapade tour to celebrate our upcoming 40th anniversary. We chose the tour for the Itinerary, group size (40), spacious bus, hotels and excursions offered.
The 12 day trip was amazing despite temperatures that sometimes hit 32 degrees C . We could never have seen as much on a self planned trip. Italy is truly beautiful.
The coach was comfortable despite a few complaints about the air conditioning, we were fine and driver was skilled and courteous and a good singer too!
We saw all the promised sites although at a few stops we had to make a choice of a quick lunch or a quick tour as there wasn't quite enough time for doing both comfortably.
In regard to excursions our tour guide told us that she had chosen what excursions we would have!so the choice we had was to do it or not!
Most of the excursions were well worth the money as they included lovely meals with impeccable service and entertainment. A few were not - we opted out of the Capri extension and were glad we did. The Venice by night was questionable since the promised music in a cafe on St. Mark's was replaced with an extra free drink.
What surprised me most was that our director said she made arrangements for our tour only 6 weeks before we arrived. Early on she warned us that hotels were 20% overbooked in Italy and that all rooms would be different and not to discuss our rooms amongst ourselves- we were to learn the significance of this later in the trip.
All was well until 1/2 hour before our arrival in Lake Maggiore and a planned stay at the Simplon Hotel, which was to be the highlight of my trip. It was announced that per the 20% overbooking there would be a last minute change - we would be staying at the Bristol Hotel. As we passed the Simplon hotel she commented that it was very " low key" and that we would enjoy the Bristol.
I was crushed- but the Bristol hotel proved to be lovely except for a disappointing room location, - shared a room with another couple - or it seemed that way, as the room had a divider that wasn't sealed completely and we could hear conversations as if they were in the same room. We had a narrow view of the wall and pool roof while others in our group had balconies with garden and lake views.
The food was very good, service was a bit surly, food was served from large trays and I was almost burned on two occasions by a waiter pushing a tray in my face while serving the person next to me.
Many of us were amazed that the kitchen staff could prepare a meal for 40 people (quick change in hotel location) with such short notice. The Globus and Trafalgar tour was following us and staying at many of the same hotels!
In Venice we were told that we would either hate or love the Continental hotel - I did not hear anyone professing their love for it! Very poor rooms one couple couldn't even open the window. I don't think anyone had a view of the Grand canal- so what's the point! better across the street with a nice room.
The biggest disappointment in regard to the hotel room came at the Corallo hotel in Sorrento.
We were the last to receive our keys and were assigned room 666; our director said she had stayed in that room and it would be fine. The room was in the attic with a 4' x 3' window ocean view but the roof overhang below totally obstructed any view to the terraces below, the room was clean with a king sized bed and cramped but modern bath. Later when admiring the view from the public terrace at this amazing hotel we noticed others from our tour lounging on the patios outside their rooms with a wonderful view of the ocean and terraces. Our director was also staying on the 6th floor- I wonder.... there was a lovely room at the end of the floor with French doors and a large terrace!!
We saw an amazing number of places and things in 12 days great itinerary. Every bed was comfortable and clean- the Continental in Venice was a bit below the others.
Not everyone on the tour had the same type of room - some standard while others deluxe with as much as 70euro in cost difference. I do not feel we got what we paid for. Our director told us early on not to compare rooms so I should have been suspicious.
No choice for excursions - very misleading from the info in the brochures. Not quite enough time at some locations. Visits to Murano glass, leather making, woodworking seemed more to direct large groups to their business than to get us the best prices- felt like patronage to me as often items would be cheaper in other stores.
Staff in some hotels had a surly attitude as witnessed by a waiter who splashed myself, the person sitting next to me and the area around my plate with hot soup and made no attempt to apologize.
Contracts with hotels are made for 5 years and I think this contributes to the lack of respect for tour members- when attempting to take our breakfast plate to a table on the patio or terrace we were rudely told -"Insight NO" and ushered to the inside dinning room, making us feel like second class tourists! The patios and terraces are to be seen but not used by Insight tour members!
We paid for our trip in full in November but we were sent the final information about 4 weeks before departure.
We could not get any compensation for airport transfers since our arrival and departure times did not coincide with the tours pick up and delivery times ( which we did not know before hand) costing us an extra 70 Euro.
Our tour guide Terri was very personable and knowledgeable but a bit condescending especially when a change in plans was announced. Changes were quickly sloughed off as minor and of no importance- easy to say when the company had our money for 9 months. I found that attitude a bit insulting.
In general the trip was amazing - The best hotel rooms were the more modern rooms where I think there was more equality in room quality.
Plan to spend at least $1000.00 more for excursions for two.
I was a bit surprised that the cheaper tour companies, Globus, Trafalgar and Contiki were often at the same excursions and hotels. I am not sure that the extra we paid was worth it, as the base economy of many hotels seems to rely heavily on the tour group. I would compare in detail the experiences of those who had used other tour companies before booking with Insight again.