Author: Vic Garcia
Date of Trip: April 2013
GO AHEAD TOURS
Amsterdam, Luxembourg & Brussels
“Good Tour with a Wide Variety of Activities and Great Walking”
We participated in the Go Ahead Tours (GAT) of Amsterdam, Luxembourg and Brussels between April 13 to 21 and then the Paris Post-Trip between April 22 to 25, 2013. Our group was made up of 42 individuals. Thomas K. was a very good Tour Director (TD) for this trip.
Our first night in Amsterdam we had a welcome dinner at the host hotel. We did not have an introductory meeting where the guidelines of the trip were discussed. There was also no individual introduction so we had not idea where people were from and how much they had traveled with GAT or other companies.
After dinner Thomas spoke to the 11 people who had chosen to go on the Paris Post-Trip. Two members told us they were going to Paris to meet their son and would not participate in any Post-Trip activities. We then found out that none of the optional activities would go as there were not 10 people, the number GAT requires for these optional excursions to go.
As we had been told before we left the USA that they were all going except one and we had paid in full, we were quite upset. We gave our GAT representative names (Sarah and Katherine) to Thomas. Unfortunately neither of these two GAT reps responded to him. Thomas promised us that he would look at helping us find similar tours. He worked very hard to help us find tours to Versailles, Giverny and the dinner and Seine night cruise. THANK YOU THOMAS – you were super.
The following morning we had a city tour with a local guide. He spoke seated at the front of bus but he was quite good and humorous. Unfortunately many people in the back of the bus talked loudly throughout the whole city tour and many could not fully hear and understand the presentation.
When Thomas took over, he stood at the front of the bus and faced us as he spoke. There was no noise or conversation from the back. I then spoke to Thomas and asked him to speak to the group about common courtesy to our guests and if he would ask a city guides to face the group when they spoke.
Thomas was exceptional in helping tour members see the cities on their own. People would ask him and he would try to help them out. This was very evident when tour members asked how to go to Ann Frank house. He worked the details, gave everyone instructions and had our excellent bus driver Michael drop those off by the house. FANTASTIC. The same was true in all the places we visited; he asked people what they wanted and then helped them get there.
Our Optional Canal Dinner Cruise in Amsterdam was quite nice but it could have been fantastic. We arrived on time but another group was seated before us and we were relegated to the back of the boat. The first problem was the seating arrangements. There were not enough seats for our group so many had to sit with four across while the other group only had three. We asked for more utensils and napkins and were not given any until dinner had been served and we had to ask again.
The noise level was quite high and we could not hear the captain give us the tour presentation. Many of us had ordered a particular dinner and were told that it was not available as the other group had first choice. Most ordered fish and were served beef and told there was no more fish. Lastly, the serving crew was very surly – they would not give us Cokes, coffee, or even extra napkins.
On our first full day in Luxembourg we left the hotel to select our seats on the bus at 8:20 for 9 AM departure. There were 9 people already on the sidewalk waiting. By 8:30 we had over half the group waiting. I spoke to Thomas and we discussed the problem of some tour members sitting in the same seats. He took the opportunity to speak to the group and overall they responded. Unfortunately some members sat in the front seat behind the driver 4 days in a row. And then they moved to the right side for two more days.
Two of the most positive aspects of this tour that we had not experienced in our Northern Spain trip with GAT were the variety of sights and the option to do a great deal of walking where those who chose not to walk were given the opportunity to be driven to the sight.
We had walking tours of Keukenhof Gardens outside of Amsterdam, Aalsmeer Flower Market, Delft, Maastricht all in the Netherlands. We had a guided walking tour of Luxembourg City, Château de Beaufort and then Echternach in Luxembourg. In Belgium we visited Bastonge, Waterloo Battlefield, Brussels and then Bruges. We also had the chance to see many wonderful sights including The Hague, Delft Porcelain production, Scheveningen Beach on the North Sea, the mountain towns of Luxembourg and the countryside of Belgium. It was great to have such a variety of activities on a trip.
I have not discussed the GAT hotels in this summary. Please check TripAdvisor.com for comments and evaluations. I wrote up a full assessment of each hotel. At best the hotels were mediocre to average. When hotels have at least three large tour groups checking in or going to breakfast at the same time there will be serious problems.
The negative issues I have discussed on this evaluation have been evident in all of our three GAT trips. I believe they are company issues and not the Tour Directors personal problems. These suggestions come from our own experience as tour guides in the Rocky Mountains of the USA and our experiences with 69 tour directors since 2001.