Pros: The sailboat was beautiful. The itinerary was mostly good.
Cons: Disorganized Program Managers. Did not meet my expectations for the expensive Deluxe Presidents Tour.
We went on the Vantage President's Cruise Tour - Italy & Treasures of the Adriatic. It included 10 days on the Royal Clipper ( a four mast, 200 passenger sailboat ), 1 night in Venice and 3 nights in Stresa. Note that Vantage chartered the entire sailboat.This wasn't the worst trip I have ever taken, but for $8,000 a person for a 14 day tour I had much higher expectation. In 2008, we went on the President's Cruise Tour in Asia, which exceeded our expectations. I could have gotten a lot more for my money if I had booked directly with Royal Clipper. The Vantage Program Managers were poorly coordinated with the ship personnel. If we had booked directly through the Royal Clipper it would have been more enjoyable as well as cheaper.
When we arrived at the sailboat we had to wait in line for one hour to board. Vantage had all the buses arrive at once. When we complained to the Royal Clipper people about this they blamed Vantage. They said they expected the bus arrivals to be staggered.
Vantage did not properly describe the level of fitness required. The brochure said the was dining in the "three level dining room" and "advanced technology, and comforts found aboard the finest modern yachts". But no mention that there wasn't an elevator, or that the sailboat had four decks that could only be accessed by stairs. In most of the ports tenders (holding about 40 people) were required to disembark. This is much harder on a rocking sailboat than on a large cruise boat. There was a lot of walking required even on the bus tours. Many of the passengers had difficulty walking and climbing stairs. There were people who only left their cabins to eat. Out of almost 200 passengers, over six were injured getting off the tenders and one person had to be hospitalized. The sailboat staff said this rarely happens on their other cruises because the people who book are younger and more fit. Considering that Vantage generally does cater to older travelers they really needed to emphasize from the beginning that this would be a more difficult trip that the usual Vantage tour.
There was a lack or coordination between the ship crew and the Vantage Program Managers. Activities on board the sailboat were scheduled for times that all the passengers were off the sailboat on included Vantage tours. So we missed one of the two days we could climb the mast, attend lectures, and kayak. There were also conflicts between the sailboat's printed schedule and the Vantage posted one. After the first port talk given by the sailboat's social director the Vantage program managers did all the port talks. The social director did a much better job on the talk. The Program Mangers told us we would be passing Stromboli Volcano (an active volcano) in the early morning. We actually passed it at 11 PM the night before and many people missed seeing it. We saw eruptions that were clearly visible at night. We were told that Venice was spectaculer to see when arriving from the sea at dawn, but sailboat arrived 30 minutes before dawn, so we saw nothing.
Vantage and the cruise ship crew responded well and made an extra stop to take a seriously ill passenger off the sailboat to the hospital. Unfortunately he died anyway.
On the one day left for mast climbing a Vantage program manager cut in line and took a turn before all the guests had their turn climbing the mast. There was a limited time for this activity but the sailboat crew extended the time when the last passengers became upset because he couldn't go up. By then there was one less crew member supervising and the passenger made the climb without having properly fastened his safety belt. A crew member had to climb down to him while he was half way up the mast to fix the belt.
We were not able to land in Capri due to rough weather. Vantage had an included half-day bus tour there. They made this up to us by having a one hour 15 minute walking tour in another port. Not exactly a fair switch.
The land tours were all run by Vantage. In the Vantage brochure there wasn't any mention about optional land tours while on the sailboat. It appeared that everything was included. When we got the documentation for the trip it said we could take the optional tours through the cruise line. A few week before we left, we got a letter describing the Vantage optional tours. These were the only land tours that were available to us. Some of the tours in the cruise line literature had better itineraries than the Vantage tours. There were also more options.
My expectations for land tour was small groups and/or ear phones to hear the tour leader. We had groups of 35 to 40 people with no ear phones during the land tours, in crowded ports, so we didn't hear any of the commentary from the local guides.
The tour buses were usually full. The seats were not luxury. Some had inadequate leg room This was especially annoying on the 5 hour trip from Venice to Stresa.
We did not do all the things that the tour descriptions said we would do on some of the tours.
At the hotel in Venice, Vantage again brought a large group to the hotel at once. People waited up to 1/2 hour for their room keys. Our luggage was taken from the Customs area at about 9 AM and was to be delivered directly to our room. Some was. But at 4 PM ( nine hours latter) we went down to the lobby to get the rest of it.
In Venice we took the Gondola and dinner tour for $169 a person. For that price we was expecting 2 people to a gondola and a good dinner. They filled the gondolas with 6 people and dinner was at a cafe type restaurant with bad food. The only bad food I ate anywhere in Italy. Also they didn't order enough gondolas and we had to wait about 20 minutes for 2 more to arrive. The 20 minutes included the program manager and the gondola vendor counting us numerous times and arguing so we did have entertainment.
The hotel in Stresa was in an old historic building and it was lovely. But there was a huge difference in the quality of the rooms some quests got. Some of the rooms were 2 room suites with large balconies overlooking the lake. Our assigned room was very small, without a balcony and a view of the a tar roof. We all paid the same amount. This was annoying.
There were other mishaps, some of them beyond Vantage's control. When you travel there are always going to be some things that don't work out as planned. But on this trip it seemed to be one thing after another another. We have gone with other tour companies that are a lot less expensive and had better experiences..