India and Nepal via Tauck or Gate 1

TajMahaldawnRecently, I spent an hour looking for group tours to India and Nepal. I could only find two, a BBC Earth Trip through Tauck and a Discovery Tour via Gate 1.

Theses are two very different trips.

The Tours

The Tauck tour BBC Earth Journey of Northern India & Nepal is 17 days. The cost is from $10,640 pp, double occupancy, plus air.  This seems to be one of Tauck’s most popular trips as it is always sold out. The tagline is that it immerses you in the Earth Journeys experience, featuring custom-made BBC Earth on-tour film vignettes and when the opportunity arises, the use of field equipment. There are game-viewing safaris in search of the elusive tiger, a flight over the landscapes of Mt. Everest, a visit to a Buddhist monastery in Kathmandu, and visits to the wonders of Northern India.

My question was can I have a similar experience for a fraction of the Tauck trip price.

The Gate 1 tour, Incredible India and Nepal, is 19 days. The cost is from $3500 pp based on double occupancy, airfare not included.  This trip has no tagline. It is a tour focused on the Wonders of Northern India and Nepal. Unlike Tauck, there are additional expenses for optional tours and meals.  This journey includes stops in Pokhara and Samode, neither place is usual for itineraries to Nepal or Northern India.

Comparing the Tours

I am not going to spend time comparing things we already know. The hotels, meals, and transportation methods will be better on Tauck.  They use five-star hotels and cater to a mainly North American clientele. However, I decided to create a spreadsheet and really look at the differences in these trips day by day.
Capture india 44

 

The spreadsheet helped me to decide that I do not like how the Gate 1 tour is organized, you change hotels ten times.  This is exhausting and for someone like me, it means something might be left or lost.

Also, while I have read Pokhara is a pretty place, I have also read there is nothing to do. Bhaktapur is a preferred stop in Nepal for me.

I am also confused about the purpose of the stop in Samode.  According to Gate 1, you are to join a village jeep safari.  Safari to me means hunting. Therefore, a  village jeep safari to have a glimpse of the village life followed by lunch at a hotel seems dumb.

The Tauck tour is also rigorous but it changes hotels less, eight times.  Also, the tour is consistent with the theme,  you go on two safaris of animals, you are contained by the theme from BBC Earth.

I think the Tauck Tour is a better tour.  It is more comprehensive.  The Gate 1 tour does not make sense to me.

 

 

Advertisements

Can Oprah Revitalize Holland America?

Moroccan Allure On Sale!

I have written several articles about Gate 1 travel to Morocco and have usually found their tours to be a deal.

15DMorocco17-l

This week, Gate 1’s Moroccan Allure, a 15-day Discovery Tour, is on sale for  $2299 including airfare.

Package Includes

  • Small groups of maximum 22 travelers guaranteed
  • Round trip international flights New York-Casablanca, Casablanca-New York. Other departure cities available.
  • Airline taxes & fuel surcharges
  • 13 nights in First Class accommodations
    • 2 nights Rabat
    • 2 nights Fez
    • 1 night Erfoud
    • 1 night Sahara Tented Camps
    • 1 night Ait Ben Haddou
    • 3 nights Marrakesh
    • 2 nights Essaouira
    • 1 night Casablanca
  • Hotel porterage
  • All transfers and sightseeing per itinerary in modern air-conditioned vehicles
  • 27 meals: 13 breakfasts, 6 lunches & 8 dinners (including a home hosted dinner and welcome & farewell dinners)
  • Bottled water during sightseeing excursions
  • Services of local English-speaking tour manager throughout
  • Comprehensive, guided sightseeing and entrance fees per itinerary
  • Active itinerary with unique cultural features

Tour Highlights

  • Thanks to our small group size, we can get to the heart of our destination, visit places that other tours miss and get to know the locals.
  • Explore the remarkably preserved Volubilis, once a major African outpost of the Roman Empire.
  • Join a Fez family for a dinner of home-cooked fare in their dining room.
  • Meet the women of the Argan Oil Cooperative and see how they extract nutritive oil from this nut.
  • Camp in the Sahara under an endless canopy of desert stars.
  • Explore Ait Ben Haddou, an ancient desert village on an old caravan route.
  • Marvel at the circus atmosphere of Marrakesh’s Djemaa el Fnaa Square, bustling with acrobats, performers and snake charmers.
  • Stroll the inviting medina in seaside Essaouira, bustling with crafts shops and fish mongers.

How to Book

Book by April 17, 2017 and save $180 per person off our regular price. Lowest price reflects $180 promotional savings in addition to early Book By Savings. Promotion is not valid on existing reservations. To redeem the discounted savings, use promotional code DLDTMA180 at the time of booking. Click above to book or call 877-900-9777 to speak with one of our reservation specialists.

* The following additional fees are not included, where applicable: optional tours and gratuities for guides/tour managers. For more details, see our Terms & Conditions.

Should You Cruise To The ABC Islands?

I have ruminated about whether to cruise to the ABC Islands or visit them individually. I want to see as much as I can, but also have time to explore. A cruise seems great.  However, I feel that I might miss too much since I would only be in port for a small portion of each day. Torn, I decided to do some research.

What are the ABC Islands?

The ABC islands are Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao, which are Dutch settled islands in the Caribbean.  They lie near the Venezuelan coast and are also known as the “Leeward” islands.

Best_of_ABC_BRB_ARU_2016_7-27-15

Each island is famous for something different. Aruba is famous for its beaches. Bonaire is famous for first-rate scuba diving.  Curacao is famous for its nightlife. All are considered the sunniest islands in the Caribbean.

Cruising the ABC Islands

Many cruise lines have itineraries that include stops at all three islands. The cruises lines range from Seabourn to Pullmantour and almost every mainstream line in between.  Almost all leave these ports before 10 pm, which means passengers need to be on board by 8:30 pm or 9:30 pm.

For 2017, only one cruise line offers a notable exception to that schedule. On 14-night Caribbean sailings, the Celebrity Eclipse has an overnight stay in Aruba.

Aruba’s Beaches

All beaches in Aruba are public.   According to CondeNast Traveler, Palm Beach in Aruba is one of the 20 most beautiful beaches in the world.  While the beach is free, if you are not staying at a hotel an umbrella and a chair will cost you about $45 USD.  Be aware that 8 hotels line this beach. Therefore, if you are visiting for a day, it’s best to see if one of the hotels gives day passes. The hotels that surround this beach are Aruba Marriott, Bricknell Bay Beach Club, Divi Aruba Phoenix, Hilton Aruba, Holiday Inn Resort Aruba, Hyatt Regency Aruba, The Mill Resorts and Suites, Ritz Carlton Aruba. To get from the cruise dock to the beach, you will need to take a taxi or a bus.

Bonaire Scuba Diving

Famed as one of the best Caribbean dive destinations, Bonaire hosts amazing coral reefs and long forgotten shipwrecks. This is also one of the best places in the world to gain an initial scuba diving certification.  Cruise lines such as Royal Caribbean have shore excursions to introduce you to scuba diving while letting you enjoy the marine park. The highlights of such an excursion in Bonaire are as follows:

• Dive Training: Learn the fundamentals of scuba from a trained dive instructor, then practice in shallow open water.
• Marine Park Dive: Explore Bonaire’s exceptional reef habitats on a guided dive from shore, in shallow, waters.
• Caribbean Sea Life: See magnificently-hued tropical fish and other marine life in a protected coral reef environment

Curacao Night Life

Friday and Sunday night are the time to really enjoy Curaçao’s nightlife. It’s lively and unique mix of jazz lounges, salsa clubs, and casinos, are what makes this island popular. There is even a site called curacao party guide to help you plan your party time. Unfortunately, taking a cruise to this island will leave that unexplored due to early boarding times.

Decision

Although I am an avid cruiser, it just doesn’t make sense for me to take a cruise that stops at these three islands.  Bonaire is out because I don’t dive and ships leave Curacao too early to explore the nightlife.  I would only truly enjoy Aruba.  So, I decided to just travel to Aruba and stay at a hotel on Palm Beach.

In August, I will update you on that trip.

The True Cost of a Scrapbook Cruise

crafting cruises

This weekend a friend sent a link to Craftour and asked my opinion on their Scrapbook cruise.  So, I did some research.

Basically, Craftour is offering a 7-day cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas to the Mediterranean with pricing starting at $1899 for an inside cabin. The cruise is from September 3 – 10, 2017, which is shoulder season, the best time to go to the Mediterranean.

Is this a deal? How much does just scrapbooking in the Mediterranean cost?  How many hours would I be scrapbooking?

So, I set out to find answers to my questions.

On the Royal Caribbean site, the starting price for an inside cabin for this cruise is $1048 and a balcony is $1748.  Depending on the chosen stateroom category the cost of scrapbooking is $700 to $800.  crafting cruises2

The Craftour website does not discuss how scrapbook classes will be given. I sent an email of inquiry and quickly received a response that explained classes will be given each evening and on the sea day.

That doesn’t sound like fun to me.  I don’t want to return from a full day of sightseeing to sit in a room and scrapbook  from 8pm until 11pm.

On a cruise, when not in my room, I only drink and dance at night. I do not scrapbook.

In essence, I would pay  $750 for 1 day of scrapbooking. No Bueno. This is not a deal for me.

Captain Club Members Welcome the New Celebrity Edge

Celebrity EdgeYesterday, I received an official announcement at 3:13 pm that Celebrity’s newest ship, the Celebrity Edge,  is open for booking.   The email came from Celebrity titled, “Celebrity Edge revealed: Get your first inside look”.   Two hours later at 5:13 pm, I received an email from vacationstogo.com titled, “Celebrity Past Guest: New Ship Celebrity Edge Open for Sale!”.

If Celebrity is offering a deal for past guest or Captain Club members it is a secret to me. After checking the vacationtogo.com and the Celebrity site, it seems that everyone is receiving the same pricing.  As a Captain Club Elite member, this is very disappointing.

Anyway, this is the first cruise ship to be completely designed in 3-D and the Design Ambassador is Nate Berkus from the Oprah Show.

The  Celebrity Edge will debut in December 2018 with sailings to the Eastern or Western Caribbean from Fort Lauderdale. All open sailings are 7 nights and pricing starts at $999.

 

Luxury Group Tour Deals for Morocco

Weekly, I receive email announcements for discounts from several travel companies. As with most mail, some are worthy of mention but most are not.

Today, I received an announcement from Gate 1 with several discounted tours. Of particular interest to me is the discount for their Luxury Morocco trip but I have questions. Is this trip really luxury?  If not, is it still a good deal?

The Gate 1 Deal

Africa-Morocco-Imperial-Cities-(1024x460)11 Day Deluxe Morocco Luxury experience with 5-star hotels, private visits and personalized services$4349 from $3599

Lead Price Travel Date: Apr 24 ‘17
Promo Valid for Departures: April – December 2017

Package Includes

  • Flights New York-Casablanca, Marrakesh-New York. Other departure cities available.
  • Airline taxes & fuel surcharges
  • 9 nights accommodations in well-located 5-Star Luxury Hotels
  • All transfers
  • Maximum 24 passengers per tour
  • 21 meals: 9 breakfasts, 6 lunches with soft drinks, 6 dinners with wine
  • Bottled water daily
  • Welcome and Farewell receptions
  • Hotel porterage and complimentary in-room Wi-Fi
  • Comprehensive sightseeing with all entrance fees per itinerary
  • Tour manager throughout plus local guides in each city
  • Comfortable air-conditioned vehicles
  • Tips for restaurant staff, drivers, and local guides

How to Book

Book by March 13, 2017 and save $750 per person off our regular price. Lowest price reflects $750 promotional savings. Promotion is not valid on existing reservations. To redeem the discounted savings, use promotional code DLDXMA750 at the time of booking.

Is This Really Luxury?

All the hotels included in the trip are considered 5-star centrally located hotels. Meals included are not significantly lower than its direct competitor Tauck, which offers 43 meals instead of  Gate 1’s 41. Also, all tips and porterage are included.  So, yes this is a luxury tour.

Is This Trip A Deal?

I can’t decide if the problem I have with the tour is boredom or that it isn’t luxurious enough to me.  This trip is very similar to the offering from Tauck for Morocco it is basically the same itinerary and differs only with two hotel selections; Tauck chooses to stay at the Four Seasons in Casablanca and La Tour Hassan in Rabat.

Tauck is well respect, high-end and all-inclusive. However, I would not say this is their most imaginative or most luxurious trip.

In my opinion, Abercrombie and Kent does a far better job with their small group Morocco itinerary.

But the Abercrombie & Kent trip is $6995 plus airfare.

The cost of the Tauck trip is $5490 to $6490 depending on the date and does not include air.

If you like the itinerary for the Tauck Morocco trip, this Gate 1 Signature Collection Morocco trip is a Deal.