Morocco: Group Tours A&K vs. Gate 1

I am considering a trip to Morocco. Of the itineraries and companies that I have reviewed, only two stand out,  Abercrombie and Kent  Splendors of Morocco and Gate 1 Kaleidoscope of Morocco

Types of Tours

Abercombie and Kent is a high-end tour company and Gate 1 is a low-end or budget tour company.  How will I compare these apples and oranges?

High-End Tours Mid-Range Low-End Tours
Group Size 25 20-40 50
Examples Tauck, A&K, Travoca Gate 1 Discovery, Insight Vacations Gate 1, Colette Vacations
Meals 75% 50% 25%
Sightseeing 100% 70% 25-50%
Tips All except to group leader 75% prepare to add more Usually not included
Accommodations ***** **** ***

Comparing the Itinerary

The Splendours of Morocco tour and the Kaleidoscope of Morocco tour are very similar.  To understand the differences I created a spreadsheet to compare them day by day.  The Gate 1 tour, Kaleidoscope of Morocco, moves at a slower pace and you see less.

   A & K Gate 1
Day 1 Arrive Casablanca, Morocco Arrive in Casablanca, where, after clearing customs and immigration, you are transferred to your hotel. Settle in and spend the rest of the day at leisure in this romantic city, its exotic setting the inspiration for the eponymous, 1942 Humphrey Bogart film. Gather tonight for a special cocktail reception. Arrive in Casablanca and transfer to your hotel in Rabat where you have the rest of the day at leisure to explore the capital city of Morocco. This evening, enjoy a complimentary welcome Moroccan mint tea with an orientation meeting with your Tour Manager
Day 2 Rabat| Ancient Traditions, Rich Heritage Begin the day exploring the port city of Casablanca, Morocco’s largest metropolis and its industrial hub. Visit the stunning Hassan II Mosque, which accommodates up to 25,000 worshippers; its minaret stands as the tallest religious structure in the world. Then, travel to the Moorish city of Rabat, capital of Morocco, to visit the Mohammed V Mausoleum, dedicated to Mohammed V, the founder of modern Morocco and grandfather of the current king. View the Mauresque-style Hassan Tower and Oudaya Kasbah, along with its scenic Andalusian garden. Continue to Fez for a special welcome dinner hosted by Abercrombie & Kent. This morning, enjoy a city tour of Rabat, Morocco’s capital and second-largest city. Rabat, which means “Fortified Place” displays all of the fine architecture one might expect to see. View the Royal Palace and the ancient ruins of Chellah, a city that traces its origins to the Carthaginians and Phoenicians. Visit also the Oudaya Kasbah, and the Hassan Tower. Spend the afternoon at leisure
Day 3  Fez | Timeless Medieval City Explore Fez el-Bali (Old Fez), the cultural heart of Morocco. Founded in the eighth century by Moulay Idriss I, this imperial capital was a renowned center of medieval learning. Stroll the labyrinthine old quarter, with its 9,000 narrow lanes, alleys and souks, on a Market Visit of exceeding authenticity. Watching local craftsmen in action, working with bronze and pottery, makes for an engaging artisan visit as well. Next, proceed to the intricately detailed 14th-century Karaouine — one of the oldest, still-functioning universities in the world, and Nejjarine Square. You also see the Royal Palace, madrasas and mellah (Jewish quarter) in Fez el-Jadid. Today, depart for Fez. En route, stop and visit the ancient ruins of the Roman city of Volubilis where you will get a chance to see the wonderfully preserved original mosaics, Roman Road, and city layout. As you travel through the Moroccan countryside, pass by the Holy City of Moulay Idriss for a photo opportunity. Upon your arrival in Fez, enjoy a breathtaking view of the ancient city of Fez from a hill overlooking the medina. Take a short bus tour of the imperial city conducted by your Tour Manager on the way to the hotel. This evening, enjoy a special dinner hosted by a local family and learn about Moroccan culture and traditions
Day 4 Full Day in Fez Enjoy a full day at leisure to bravely wander the old medina yourself or choose to take to guided optional tour where you will visit the many hidden treasures of the medina that only a Moroccan guide can know. Fez served as the capital of Morocco for more than 400 years and is home to the University of Al Karaouine, the oldest operating university in the world. It is particularly famous for its tanneries and the Fes el Bali Medina. A short visit to the surrounding leather shops give you the best view of the tanneries. View the Attarine Medersa, Moulay Idriss mausoleum, and visit the Nejjarine Fountains and Museum. Opportunities for shopping for authentic Moroccan carpets will be provided. Finally, view the exterior of the Royal Palace and walk through the famed Jewish quarter of the medina where you will visit a Synagogue. Though the city has endured periods of hardship, it has emerged more vibrant than ever, boasting its own distinctive culture, art, and even cuisine
Day 4/5 Erfoud | Desert Oasis Travel to small, desert-fringed Erfoud, pausing for lunch in Midelt en route and marveling at everyday life as you pass Berber villages, endless palm plantations and the majestic Atlas Mountains. Settle into your hotel, set amid dunes and lush vegetation, with the remainder of the day to spend at leisure. Gather for dinner this evening. This will be a long and rewarding touring day. After breakfast, depart for Erfoud via the montane cedar woods of the middle Atlas Mountains, passing by Ifrane, a charming ski resort, and Azrou, an important handicraft center. Continue to Erfoud via Errachidia and the lush Ziz Valley. Arrive to your Erfoud hotel in the early evening
Day 5/6  Merzouga | Saharan Desert Dunes This morning, discover the fortified desert town of Rissani. Continue to the desert dunes of Erg Chebbi by four-wheel-drive vehicle, where a reception with mint tea and pastries awaits at your nomadic tented camp. Erg Chebbi’s stunning dunes can reach up to 500 feet high, creating an otherworldly landscape. Experience it like a local on camel back. As the sun sets over the dunes, celebrate your unforgettable desert foray with a Scenic Sundowner. Return to your camp for a traditional meal before a campfire, along with distinctively Moroccan entertainment. Then, slumber in comfort as the sounds of the Sahara lull you to sleep. This morning, depart Erfoud to explore the small city of Rissani, on the edge of the Sahara. En route, stop at a fossil factory to learn more about this unique activity which is famous in the region. Then, you tour the lively souk and visit an 18th-century ksar. Next, discover the ancient ruins of Sijilmasa on the River Ziz, once a bustling Berber city and medieval trade depot. Return to Erfoud for an afternoon at leisure or join the optional tour of the Sahara, including a camel ride into the desert. Return after sunset for overnight
Day 6/7 Ouarzazate | Road of a Thousand Kasbahs Journey overland to Ouarzazate, once a stopping point for African traders traveling to the cities of Morocco and Europe. En route, absorb views of the High Atlas’ southern slopes, intersecting the Dades Valley’s flourishing crops, irrigation canals and palm trees. Travel along the “Road of a Thousand Kasbahs” and make a stop to visit an amazing, small private museum that houses exhibits showcasing local art, culture and history, before proceeding to Ouarzazate and your delightful oasis of a hotel. This morning, continue your journey to Tinghir via the Tinjdad Road. Stop to visit the magnificent Todgha canyons, which rise to a towering 800 feet. After a brief stop in the Dades Canyons, continue to Ouarzazate via the road of the thousand Kasbahs, and the Dades Valley, famous for its roses and the yearly Rose Festival. Arrive at the hotel in Ouarzazate later this evening
Day 7/8 Ouarzazate | Door of the Desert Begin the day by exploring Ouarzazate, a city originally built as a French garrison in the 1920s. Today, the city is a regional trade center, known for its pottery and carpets. See the Taourirt Kasbah, which now consists of simple clay houses and crenellated towers that are beautifully decorated with geometric motifs. Continue to elaborate Aït Benhaddou, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home of the region’s most exotic kasbahs, some of which have been featured in famous films, including Lawrence of Arabia and Gladiator. Enjoy a city tour of Ouarzazate, a desert city at the gates of the Sahara. Its strange name means “without noise” in the Berber language. Walk in the Taourirt village, which was constructed in the 12th century and still inhabited today. It was an important village located at the crossroads between the Sahara Desert and the north of Morocco. Your tour also includes the Kasbah Taourirt, an impressive structure that was built to house hundreds of people. You will have the opportunity to shop for special Moroccan souvenirs, such as pottery, jewelry and ceramics. Finally, visit Ait Ben Haddou, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This afternoon travel to Marrakesh via the highest road point in Morocco, the Tichka Pass, offering an impressive landscape in the heart of the Atlas Mountain range
Day 8 Ouarzazate | On the Road to Marrakech Today, proceed to the fascinating “Red City” of Marrakech and settle into your luxurious hotel. Enjoy a Chef’s Table experience tonight at the hotel restaurant, when you meet with the chef to discuss the nuances and secrets of Moroccan cuisine.
Day 9 Marrakesh City Tour After breakfast, enjoy a morning tour of the city. Visit the Saadian Tombs, dating back to the 16th century, where Saadian royalty found their final resting place. Your tour also includes the Koutoubia Minaret, as well as the beautiful Bahia Palace. Finally, end the tour by walking through the medina, getting a chance to admire all of the different artisans performing their craft before arriving at the Jaama El Fna Square. Spend the afternoon at leisure or choose to take the optional tour where you will have a chance to watch couscous being made as well while enjoying a traditional lunch as well as visiting the Majorelle Gardens and the Marrakesh Museum. Tonight attend the optional dinner with horse-drawn carriage ride. Enjoy the ride through the lively streets of Marrakesh. and delight in the tastes of typical Moroccan fare while live music and an elegant belly dancing performance cap off the night
Day 9/10 Marrakech | Exploring the Red City Begin unearthing the secrets of Marrakech, starting in the medina, the old walled section of town and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Marvel at its architectural jewels, including the soaring Koutoubia minaret and Dar Si Said; housed in a palace, it is among the most beautiful of its kind in the world. Continue to the Bahia Palace, an exemplary specimen of privileged life in the 19th century. Visit Djemaa el-Fna, Marrakech’s main square, which is filled with orange juice stalls and vendors, along with fire-eaters, mime artists, snake charmers and street musicians performing at every turn. You may also wish to explore the city’s fabled, labyrinthine souks. Enjoy a full day at leisure in Marrakesh. See the bustling Medina, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and experience the vibrant street life of the city firsthand, or, perhaps join the optional tour to Essaouira, whose medina is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and an excellent example of a fortified North African town. Walk along the city’s ramparts just north of Moulay Hassan Square where local artists sell their paintings. Continue on to the Skala de la Ville, which is a fortification built along the cliffs that defended the city from sea attacks, but now provides visitors with an unparalleled view of the port and its bright colored fishing boats. Explore the many souks in the medina, including the spice and jewelry souks
Day 10 Marrakech | Historic Gardens Ride Like a Local this morning — by horse-drawn carriage — to Jardin Majorelle, a picturesque garden created by French painter Jacques Majorelle and later restored by design legend Yves Saint- Laurent. The remainder of the day is at leisure. Tonight, attend a special farewell dinner with entertainment by a local gnaoua band.
Day 11 Depart Marrakesh, Travel to Casablanca This morning, travel to Casablanca, the commercial heart of Morocco. Upon arrival, enjoy a half day sightseeing tour of Casablanca, which includes the exterior of the Hassan II Mosque and the Corniche seaside. Continue on a short drive through the residential areas of Casablanca to the city center to visit the Mohamed V Square, the Habous quarter and the Notre Dame de Lourdes Cathedral. Tonight, enjoy a Farewell Dinner at a local restaurant*

Costs

The Abercrombie & Kent tour is too similar to the  Gate 1 tour for me to pay 4x as much.

A&K Gate 1
Group Size 24 50
Costs $6,695 $1506  including optional tours
Meals 90% 48%
Sightseeing 100% 75%
Tips $150  (Tour Director) $228 (all tips)
Accommodations ***** ****
Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s