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Chrissy-Mickey

Mouseketeer
Joined
Oct 23, 2016
Got my Travel & Leisure magazine this week with the annual "World's Best" awards. Classic Journeys, one of companies we've discussed on this thread, was named #1 tour operator. Thomson Family rounded out the top 10. The rest were ones I'd never heard of.
If you don't mind, please share the whole top 10 of tour operators. I would love to see it.
 

LuckyBelle1

Earning My Ears
Joined
Sep 17, 2015
We just finished our second trip with Thomson Family with our family (2 adults and 3 teens aged 13, 13 and 15), and it cemented our positive view of the company. We did the Thailand trip -Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Phuket/Krabi - and cannot say enough good things. It was a great mix of history, culture, and lots of activity (hiking, biking, ziplining, kayaking, snorkeling, swimming). We were a large group for Thomson - nineteen people with 10 kids ranging in age from 7 to eighteen - but it was a great group and our 3 guides kept everything moving seamlessly. For the most part we were split into 3 groups for transport in either boats or minivans which helped keep things moving which was important because we packed a lot in! The itinerary was very well-planned and very well-paced, and the meals and hotels were all great. And I felt like it was a really good value for the money (my husband actually expressed surprise at how little we paid in light of everything the trip offered). Already trying to figure out what our next Thomson trip will be. Happy to answer any questions if people have them.
 
  • LuckyBelle1

    Earning My Ears
    Joined
    Sep 17, 2015
    The hotels in each of three locations were great, although definitely not as high end as ABD would use. We were at the Anantara Riverside in Bangkok which was beautiful and very well-located on the river, but it was not the Mandarin or the Peninsula which was fine with our family. I will say the breakfast at the Anantara was insanely good - even better than the Table Bay in South Africa where we stayed with ABD which had heretofore been the best breakfast ever. In Chiang Mai we were at the Rati Lanna which was a beautiful hotel in a beautiful spot on the river (and the spa was amazing). The only downside of the Rati Lanna was that it was a little bit outside the old town and not very pedestrian friendly. But we were so busy while in Chiang Mai that it really didn't matter, and when we wanted to go somewhere, tuk tuks were easily available and very inexpensive (and fun!). In Phuket/Krabi we actually stayed on an island between the two at the Paradise Koh Yao. The resort was remote, but it fit perfectly into the activities we did and we loved the location. It was not "rustic" by an stretch, but it was slightly more basic because of the remote locale. It had a great pool, insane beach and other fun activities (my daughter and I did batik painting our last morning and it was an unexpectedly special experience).

    The food was good and plentiful. Thomson definitely includes more meals than ABD which we like, and the meals were for the most part really good. The lunch our first day in Bangkok is one that they should probably rethink, but other than that we had no complaints except that they should add a western meal in somewhere because 10 days of even really good Thai food is too much Thai food! Meals were mostly family style and the food was well-prepared and plentiful if a bit repetitive. In Bangkok we ate at the hotel (it was a lavish seafood buffet with a traditional Thai show), and because of the location we did the same at the beach (it was a different buffet each night on the beach which was very nice). In Chaing Mai I was really impressed that they picked beautiful and interesting restaurants each night, including dinner one night at an 80 year old historic restaurant on the river with more traditional Thai offerings which was very memorable. Soft drinks and specialty drinks were generally included and alcohol was included at several dinners as well.

    Our guides were very, very good. They were knowledgeable, organized, fun and willing to do anything for you. They were all Thai natives and we enjoyed getting to know them, and found their personal insights into life in Thailand to be one of the best parts of the trip. With 3 guides, we felt more than taken care of, but I should note that we tend not to need lots of attention. I did make a couple of requests - I went back to the hotel early one day, and asked for help going back to the night market in Chiang Mai one evening and both times the guides did more than I would have asked to accommodate my requests. The only place I think our guides were not quite as good as some of the ABD guides we have had (Korey comes to mind) was in what I would call "storytelling" - imparting information at the right level of detail and making it come alive for all members of our family. In many instances our guides did that very well, but on our day in Bangkok I felt like our temple visits could have been more impactful if information had been delivered in a less detailed/matter of fact way. But in fairness, that was a tough day - it was hot, it was crowded and it is not an easy topic to impart to a group that mostly had no background knowledge. On the whole I was very satisfied with our guides. Also, I note that in Thailand there are significant limitations on non-native tour guides, and I wonder if that is why ABD has not entered the Thai market yet as any non-Thai guides would be required by law to be tour managers and not tour guides.
     
  • Calfan

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Aug 31, 2009
    Here is the link:
    I haven’t booked directly through them, but Mountain Sobek (#7) ran the Nat Geo hiking trips I did in England and Ireland (England Coast to Coast with @CaliforniaGirl09 and Hiking the Emerald Isle with my DH). Both were fantastic trips.
     

    Cousin Orville

    Inventor of Air Cooling
    Joined
    Aug 27, 2000
    I thought I'd share my recent experiences in planning our Morocco trip in hopes it may help others. As many of you know, we do a mix of ABD, some trips on our own, and trips organized by other travel specialists. We recently finished trips in Jordan, Israel and Portugal and have Peru/Bolivia planned for next year. All these were planned by travel specialists. We had a trip to Morocco planned for later this year by Heritage Tours. It was Conde Nast's recommended travel specialist for Morocco. They were ranked #3 in Travel and Leisure's 2017 Tour Operators. Ranked #1 by National Geographic best trips 2019 for their Egypt trip. They've completely stopped communicating with us, and there are other reviews online within the last month that are echoing similar problems - inability to contact, guests getting calls directly from hotels saying reservations haven't been paid, money lost, etc. Basically that's our experience too. The trip was pricey - longer in days, but similar in price to the Japan ABD. It was very luxury oriented. We had put a significant amount of money down (thankfully not the whole thing yet) and are now working through insurance to try to recover the money. It could have been worse. We could have paid for the whole thing and arrived in Morocco with nothing. I can't even imagine how stressful that would have been. Anyway, I'll report back once the dust settles.
     

    BluesTraveler

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Jul 23, 2015
    I thought I'd share my recent experiences in planning our Morocco trip in hopes it may help others. As many of you know, we do a mix of ABD, some trips on our own, and trips organized by other travel specialists. We recently finished trips in Jordan, Israel and Portugal and have Peru/Bolivia planned for next year. All these were planned by travel specialists. We had a trip to Morocco planned for later this year by Heritage Tours. It was Conde Nast's recommended travel specialist for Morocco. They were ranked #3 in Travel and Leisure's 2017 Tour Operators. Ranked #1 by National Geographic best trips 2019 for their Egypt trip. They've completely stopped communicating with us, and there are other reviews online within the last month that are echoing similar problems - inability to contact, guests getting calls directly from hotels saying reservations haven't been paid, money lost, etc. Basically that's our experience too. The trip was pricey - longer in days, but similar in price to the Japan ABD. It was very luxury oriented. We had put a significant amount of money down (thankfully not the whole thing yet) and are now working through insurance to try to recover the money. It could have been worse. We could have paid for the whole thing and arrived in Morocco with nothing. I can't even imagine how stressful that would have been. Anyway, I'll report back once the dust settles.
    OMG. What a nightmare for you. I am so sorry. Had you already bought plane tickets? This has been my hesitation in going with Thompson Family since they require check payments (or a 3% surcharge for cc) - at least if you are able to pay by credit card, you're covered somewhat.
     
  • sayhello

    Have Camera, Will Travel
    Joined
    Oct 28, 2006
    I thought I'd share my recent experiences in planning our Morocco trip in hopes it may help others. As many of you know, we do a mix of ABD, some trips on our own, and trips organized by other travel specialists. We recently finished trips in Jordan, Israel and Portugal and have Peru/Bolivia planned for next year. All these were planned by travel specialists. We had a trip to Morocco planned for later this year by Heritage Tours. It was Conde Nast's recommended travel specialist for Morocco. They were ranked #3 in Travel and Leisure's 2017 Tour Operators. Ranked #1 by National Geographic best trips 2019 for their Egypt trip. They've completely stopped communicating with us, and there are other reviews online within the last month that are echoing similar problems - inability to contact, guests getting calls directly from hotels saying reservations haven't been paid, money lost, etc. Basically that's our experience too. The trip was pricey - longer in days, but similar in price to the Japan ABD. It was very luxury oriented. We had put a significant amount of money down (thankfully not the whole thing yet) and are now working through insurance to try to recover the money. It could have been worse. We could have paid for the whole thing and arrived in Morocco with nothing. I can't even imagine how stressful that would have been. Anyway, I'll report back once the dust settles.
    That is just awful! I wonder what happened? How do you go from a top rated company to dead silence? I'm glad it wasn't worse than it was, and that your insurance covers default by your operator. Are you going to try & rework the trip elsewhere, or just move on to the next trip?

    Sayhello
     

    carpenta

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jan 26, 2010
    Sorry to hear about your horrible problem. Hope it works out for you and the family. Like you stated it could have been worse and been abandoned while in country. Good luck.
     

    laceltris3

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Oct 23, 2013
    I think that is the nightmare for everyone here.

    I hope you get your money back and can salvage your plans, but there is no remedy for your lost time.
     

    CaliforniaGirl09

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Dec 4, 2009
    The hotels in each of three locations were great, although definitely not as high end as ABD would use. We were at the Anantara Riverside in Bangkok which was beautiful and very well-located on the river, but it was not the Mandarin or the Peninsula which was fine with our family. I will say the breakfast at the Anantara was insanely good - even better than the Table Bay in South Africa where we stayed with ABD which had heretofore been the best breakfast ever. In Chiang Mai we were at the Rati Lanna which was a beautiful hotel in a beautiful spot on the river (and the spa was amazing). The only downside of the Rati Lanna was that it was a little bit outside the old town and not very pedestrian friendly. But we were so busy while in Chiang Mai that it really didn't matter, and when we wanted to go somewhere, tuk tuks were easily available and very inexpensive (and fun!). In Phuket/Krabi we actually stayed on an island between the two at the Paradise Koh Yao. The resort was remote, but it fit perfectly into the activities we did and we loved the location. It was not "rustic" by an stretch, but it was slightly more basic because of the remote locale. It had a great pool, insane beach and other fun activities (my daughter and I did batik painting our last morning and it was an unexpectedly special experience).

    The food was good and plentiful. Thomson definitely includes more meals than ABD which we like, and the meals were for the most part really good. The lunch our first day in Bangkok is one that they should probably rethink, but other than that we had no complaints except that they should add a western meal in somewhere because 10 days of even really good Thai food is too much Thai food! Meals were mostly family style and the food was well-prepared and plentiful if a bit repetitive. In Bangkok we ate at the hotel (it was a lavish seafood buffet with a traditional Thai show), and because of the location we did the same at the beach (it was a different buffet each night on the beach which was very nice). In Chaing Mai I was really impressed that they picked beautiful and interesting restaurants each night, including dinner one night at an 80 year old historic restaurant on the river with more traditional Thai offerings which was very memorable. Soft drinks and specialty drinks were generally included and alcohol was included at several dinners as well.

    Our guides were very, very good. They were knowledgeable, organized, fun and willing to do anything for you. They were all Thai natives and we enjoyed getting to know them, and found their personal insights into life in Thailand to be one of the best parts of the trip. With 3 guides, we felt more than taken care of, but I should note that we tend not to need lots of attention. I did make a couple of requests - I went back to the hotel early one day, and asked for help going back to the night market in Chiang Mai one evening and both times the guides did more than I would have asked to accommodate my requests. The only place I think our guides were not quite as good as some of the ABD guides we have had (Korey comes to mind) was in what I would call "storytelling" - imparting information at the right level of detail and making it come alive for all members of our family. In many instances our guides did that very well, but on our day in Bangkok I felt like our temple visits could have been more impactful if information had been delivered in a less detailed/matter of fact way. But in fairness, that was a tough day - it was hot, it was crowded and it is not an easy topic to impart to a group that mostly had no background knowledge. On the whole I was very satisfied with our guides. Also, I note that in Thailand there are significant limitations on non-native tour guides, and I wonder if that is why ABD has not entered the Thai market yet as any non-Thai guides would be required by law to be tour managers and not tour guides.
    Thanks so much for the great detail. Sounds like a really fun trip and very interesting about the guides in Thailand. That could definitely explain it.

    I haven’t booked directly through them, but Mountain Sobek (#7) ran the Nat Geo hiking trips I did in England and Ireland (England Coast to Coast with @CaliforniaGirl09 and Hiking the Emerald Isle with my DH). Both were fantastic trips.
    Great memory on the tour company, and yes, they were awesome. I'm intrigued by Classic Journeys as i've heard about them so much and now here they are at #1. I'll have to try to search this thread and see if I can find any review. I know a lot of people have asked about them, but I can't remember whether anyone has actually traveled with them. I did some general searching on reviews and definitely read some negative ones.

    I thought I'd share my recent experiences in planning our Morocco trip in hopes it may help others. As many of you know, we do a mix of ABD, some trips on our own, and trips organized by other travel specialists. We recently finished trips in Jordan, Israel and Portugal and have Peru/Bolivia planned for next year. All these were planned by travel specialists. We had a trip to Morocco planned for later this year by Heritage Tours. It was Conde Nast's recommended travel specialist for Morocco. They were ranked #3 in Travel and Leisure's 2017 Tour Operators. Ranked #1 by National Geographic best trips 2019 for their Egypt trip. They've completely stopped communicating with us, and there are other reviews online within the last month that are echoing similar problems - inability to contact, guests getting calls directly from hotels saying reservations haven't been paid, money lost, etc. Basically that's our experience too. The trip was pricey - longer in days, but similar in price to the Japan ABD. It was very luxury oriented. We had put a significant amount of money down (thankfully not the whole thing yet) and are now working through insurance to try to recover the money. It could have been worse. We could have paid for the whole thing and arrived in Morocco with nothing. I can't even imagine how stressful that would have been. Anyway, I'll report back once the dust settles.
    Oh my goodness, how horrible! I'm so sorry you are having to deal with all this. I hope it doesn't end up on being too much of a headache to get your sunk costs back.
     

    Cousin Orville

    Inventor of Air Cooling
    Joined
    Aug 27, 2000
    Yes, it was stories like these that made me keep our Disney add-on. So frustrating and certainly not a great customer experience.
    OMG. What a nightmare for you. I am so sorry. Had you already bought plane tickets? This has been my hesitation in going with Thompson Family since they require check payments (or a 3% surcharge for cc) - at least if you are able to pay by credit card, you're covered somewhat.
    Yes, we also have plane tickets. We're going to try to get the tickets refunded by insurance, but we'll see. I can at least pay a change fee and use them for a European trip.

    That is just awful! I wonder what happened? How do you go from a top rated company to dead silence? I'm glad it wasn't worse than it was, and that your insurance covers default by your operator. Are you going to try & rework the trip elsewhere, or just move on to the next trip?

    Sayhello
    I'm going to hold off from Morocco for now. Maybe ABD will offer a trip in the next couple of years. Not sure what we'll do instead. Maybe just stay home or head to Europe on our own for a week. Haven't figured that one out yet.

    Thanks so much for the great detail. Sounds like a really fun trip and very interesting about the guides in Thailand. That could definitely explain it.


    Great memory on the tour company, and yes, they were awesome. I'm intrigued by Classic Journeys as i've heard about them so much and now here they are at #1. I'll have to try to search this thread and see if I can find any review. I know a lot of people have asked about them, but I can't remember whether anyone has actually traveled with them. I did some general searching on reviews and definitely read some negative ones.


    Oh my goodness, how horrible! I'm so sorry you are having to deal with all this. I hope it doesn't end up on being too much of a headache to get your sunk costs back.
    Hopefully not. Insurance covers insolvent tour operators so hopefully there won't be any issues. I'll post back more specifics once I find out.
     

    *WDW*Groupie*

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Oct 2, 2006
    @Cousin Orville I am so sorry to hear about your experience with your Morocco trip. What a nightmare. Do you think they've filed for Chapter 11? What could lead to them to stop communicating with you? Please keep us updated and I will be hoping that things work out for you.
     

    DollyM

    Earning My Ears
    Joined
    Jul 30, 2015
    @Cousin Orville I am so sorry to hear about your experience with your Morocco trip. What a nightmare. Do you think they've filed for Chapter 11? What could lead to them to stop communicating with you? Please keep us updated and I will be hoping that things work out for you.
    This article seems relevant:

     

    Cousin Orville

    Inventor of Air Cooling
    Joined
    Aug 27, 2000
    @Cousin Orville I am so sorry to hear about your experience with your Morocco trip. What a nightmare. Do you think they've filed for Chapter 11? What could lead to them to stop communicating with you? Please keep us updated and I will be hoping that things work out for you.
    Thanks. I'll keep you posted. Looks like they did indeed go bankrupt.

    This article seems relevant:

    Holy cow, that's it! It says right in the article it's the parent company to Heritage Tours. Thank you! We'll send this to our insurance although they probably know already.

    From the article:
    "JG Worldwide, the New York public relations and travel company accused of bilking travelers, business partners and employees out of millions of dollars, has filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

    In its initial filing on July 24 in the federal bankruptcy court for the Southern District of New York, the company, which is the parent to Heritage Tours and Revealed America among others, said it has up to $10 million in debts and no assets to pay creditors."
     

    DollyM

    Earning My Ears
    Joined
    Jul 30, 2015
    Thanks. I'll keep you posted. Looks like they did indeed go bankrupt.



    Holy cow, that's it! It says right in the article it's the parent company to Heritage Tours. Thank you! We'll send this to our insurance although they probably know already.

    From the article:
    "JG Worldwide, the New York public relations and travel company accused of bilking travelers, business partners and employees out of millions of dollars, has filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

    In its initial filing on July 24 in the federal bankruptcy court for the Southern District of New York, the company, which is the parent to Heritage Tours and Revealed America among others, said it has up to $10 million in debts and no assets to pay creditors."
    I hope it helps!
     


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