anyone traveled with these folks?
thank you for your response
I am looking to book atour with them to africa, anyone have any comments on this tour company?
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Yes! It was a really really a good trip. I did the shorter Kenya trip, GREAT value for the money. Only regret is being we left from S.F. (and flew air Emerites which is fantastic) and had a layover in Dubai. Had a option to spend 3 extra days in Dubai and we didn't book it. When we decided to book, that portion of the trip was sold out. I would go back, using Friendly Planet in a wink of an eye!.
Be forwewarned!. very bumpy ride to the Masi Mara, and being so high, the air is thinner than you may be used to, so take it slowly.
After reading these and other reviews, and talking to friends who had taken Friendly Planet tours, my wife and I took the "Incredible Italy with Sorrento extension" tour in september 2012. It did not meet our expectations, and in retrospect I may have spent more time researching this company.
After returning from our tour, we emailed them everything below, but never heard anything back from them. I guess they thought that since they had our money, they didn't have to be concerned with us anymore.
1) Our biggest problem was that it was our understanding that this was going to be a Friendly Planet run tour. Only much later (within one week before departure) did we discover that there was a "bait and switch" - the tour was outsourced to another company (Central Holidays - we had never heard of them). Again, we had NO notification until our final papers arrived a few days before heading out. While this may be the "norm" in the industry, we believe it was deceptive to advertise this as a Friendly Planet tour and not clearly notify prospective customers that the tour may be operated by another company. If we wanted to book with Central Holidays, we would have researched that company, and booked directly with them.
-2) We were never picked up at the airport upon arrival in Venice Italy, at the start of the tour. Airport pickup was supposed to be included. This was also in direct contradiction to an email that we received from the reservation agent of Friendly Planet, in which we were told that we will "definitely" be picked up. We had to take a cab from the airport. The cab dropped us off at the outskirts of Venice city (since cars are not allowed in the city) at night. We had to carry four suitcases and other luggage over two large bridges. We missed the welcome dinner that first evening. We then got yelled at by tour director saying "someone was there waiting for us and we weren't there"; the next day after doing some investigating, the tour guide admitted that there was in fact no one at the airport to pick us up, apologized, and reimbursed us our cab fare. Not a good way to start the trip.
3) We specifically requested two beds in each room. There was only ONE bed in all of the rooms except last one.
4) We got one email from friendly planet for a change in the hotel in Rome before the trip started. Then while going to Rome, the tour director said on the bus that we would be staying at yet another hotel - very confusing as to where we needed to be. We asked the tour director about the email we received, and he was annoyed at us - he said to just stay with the "original" itinerary. Fortunately the original hotel did have our reservation. So why did we get the email notifying us of the room change?
5) Late transfer from hotel to airport. 4am to leave sorrento to get to naples for a 6:05am flight. Left at 4am - got there at 4:55 and long line at airpoirt for security - almost missed flight. Several people in our tour felt the same way and were discussing that on the ride to the airport.
6) One person in our group was vegetarian, and we specifically and clearly requested vegetarian options (including no fish). The vegetarian food was horrible or nonexistent at meals that were covered by the tour. One time the main course consisted of several small slices of cheese, another time it was just some lettuce.
7) We were told we would have to pay 15% surcharge if we used credit card to pay for excursions. Now why would that be??? We have never heard of any company charging 15% more to use credit cards over cash. Even with the credit card company merchant fees, it does NOT come to 15%.
8) During the tour, couldn't get clear information for plans for future days. For example, 2 days before leaving naples, I asked "what time will we leave for the airport" - i was told "don't worry, we'll deal with that later". I'm thinking OK.....that doesn't sound too comforting. Any information requested for several days out, we were told that we would have to wait to find out. We couldn't get information on how long the day would be, how many hours we would be out of the hotel, etc. Gave the impression that they were planning things at the last minute.
oh my goodness. I am so sorry for your awful experience!. What was Friendly Planet's response. I am glad I read your review and I will be more careful when I suggest Friendly Planet to others. Our only experience (to Africa for a Safari )was wonderful !. No frills, but just GREAT!. The value for experience was way beyond our expectations. Just goes to show you need more than one review!. We WERE planning to do a trip to Cuba and/or India with them but since they have not responded to your post, I am having second thoughts about them and.will read reviews about those trips. .
The tour manager you travel with can make or break the experience I've noticed.
I totally agree, but shouldn't the booking agency (whether it is Friendly Planet or "xyz" tour company be familiar with the country's local subcontractor? At least know management or have employees take a trip etc. with the subcontracted tour company?
In late January 2013, we spoke with Peggy Goldman, owner of Friendly Planet. She apologized, and said this was not characteristic of their company. They have put into place certain measures to avoid these problems from occurring again (e.g. - being left at the airport on arrival). They got rid of certain employees, and provided a small credit to us for future travel with their company. Good to know that progress was made in improving their service level.