Posted in General Travel

Review of our Trafalgar Tours Part 1 of 2

A Review and analysis of two Different Trafalgar Tours.

Let’s start with a Review of our first Trafalgar trip in 2015, we chose Best of Italy. It was a Country Explorer trip in order to see as much of Italy as possible.

A Country Explorer Trip is listed by Trafalgar as “One Country done In Depth.” “With less distance to cover, you’ll be able to focus on exploring a country or region within on a deeper level. You’ll see the iconic, but go where other travelers don’t go and some places many locals don’t even know about.”

It was great traveling from Rome south to Sorrento, visiting Capri, Amalfi and Pompeii before heading back north to Assisi, Venice, Lake Como, Florence, and then circling back to Rome. We made stops in Verona, Milan, Siena, Pisa and Monte Cassino. We really did get a good “flavor” of Italy and which areas we liked best.

The guided tours and included sights were perfect for us and there was no pressure with the Optional Experiences. If you did not take one, you were still able to do other things independently.    This let us chose only those optionals meaningful to us, and we were able to stay on budget.  We visited Villa San Michele on the Isle of Capri instead of taking the Optional Experience of a boat trip around the island and took in the Uffizi Museum in Florence while the rest shopped for leather goods.

I loved the quiet days in Lake Como where we could recharge a bit. We had plenty of time away from the group to relax together exploring at our own pace. Those days were right in the middle so we got a 2nd wind for the remainder of the trip. Bonus!

I would Rate that trip Overall as a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️. We got exactly what we asked for, had a fabulous Tour Director (Federica Ercolani), and although the trip was structured we still had room to do our own thing.

I would give ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ to the Locations we visited.   We got to see so many important and diverse areas of Italy.  It gave us an appreciation for the country and an idea of where we need to focus our future visits.

For included activities ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ For a grand Be my Guest dinner in Sorrento, Amazing guided tours and included sites like the Colleseum in Rome, The Vatican Museum and St. Peters Basilica, Castle Sforza Milan, The David in Florence and our trip to Assisi.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ For Optional Experiences.  They were all perfect!  A wonderful drive up the Amalfi Coast with free time to explore, a cruise on Lake Como with a stop and free time on the Island of Bellagio, Gondola Rides and a trip to Burano in Venice.  There was NO pressure to take them all, no guilting us that we were missing something important and she was glad to help us with tickets to the Uffizi or where to get a bus ticket on Capri.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ for Hotels. Every hotel on that trip was great and in central locations which made self exploration easy to do. In Venice we were able to just go out the door of our hotel at the end of our tour activities and take a stroll across the bridges and explore the shops and trattorias.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Tour Director  Who wouldn’t love Federica Ercolani!  She is the true Italian woman.  Her looks, hand gestures, and lust for life added so much to our trip.  She was fun loving and knowledgeable and we loved every minute we spent in her care.  I loved it when she would give my husband the arched eyebrow look to call him into check when he was being chatty or not paying attention.  No words….just that look.  Too funny!

I was so impressed that I started planning our next trip about a year later.

  • Castello del Trebbio Experience
  • Michaelangelo’s The David
  • Be My Guest: Sorrento

Here is a Review of Our recent Trafalgar Tour: European Marvel a 14 Day Discoveries Trip covering 7 Countries in Europe

A Discoveries Tour is listed by Trafalgar as a trip that will “Tick of multiple countries in one amazing adventure” to “Make the most of your time in Europe and see what makes this continent so magical

For this trip we started in London, crossed the English Channel visiting Brugges and staying in Belgium. From there we cruised down the Rhine in Germany, stayed over in Heidelberg, lunches in Munich and continued on to Innsbruck Austria. We then visited Salzburg before settling into Vienna for 2 nights. A big drive day took us to Venice Italy for 2 nights before visiting Verona and Milan and spending the night in Varese. Next we crossed into Switzerland staying in Lucerne before another big bus day to Paris France to finish things up.

We definitely got a taste of all these countries, but the approximate 4000 km trip was very fast paced. Our Tour Director kept us on track stating that he was trying to “Maximize our Experience.” It was a bit grueling at times with daily wake up calls for 5:30 am, days jam packed with activities, and I was so exhausted every night I literally fell into bed. The Tour Director reminded us when we were weary, “This is what you wanted to do.”

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Locations visited.  Indeed it was what we wanted and chose to do! This pace of trip is not for the unfit or those looking to relax or sleep in. But it was the only way to see that much in the time we had. By maintaining our tight schedule, we managed to get everything we were promised to see into this 14 day trip.

For Included Activities ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ The Guided Tours were very informative and the included sites like the Lion Monument in Lucerne and Eiffel Tower in Paris were awesome. The Be My Guest Dinner was only fair for me and the hotel meals were also just fair.

Optional Experiences ⭐️⭐️⭐️ The Optional Experiences were pretty pricey for this trip compared to our previous trip and there was a lot more pressure to Take them all.  We took 2 more Optionals than we planned to bumping us slightly over what we budgeted for these items.  Our Tour Director really knew how to market these as the Best Experiences available to us in an area.  We really felt like we HAD to take those optionals. Actually the night we didn’t spend 139 Euros per person on a show in France, we found some peaceful time to have a relaxed 3 course dinner at a nearby Bistro and take a walk along the Seine at dusk.  One of the optionals we didn’t plan to do was a concert in Vienna for 99 Euros each.   It was a nice show, but the food was pretty fancy and Mark left hungry.   The other Dinner show in Vienna and the dinner show in Switzerland were very fun and had great food.

For Hotels ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ My favorite hotel on this trip was a stunning Palace in Varese, Italy.  The Tour Director joked about the hotel from the movie the Shining.  When we arrived, I knew why.  It was like stepping back in time.  Beautifully preserved hidden gem on the mountain with an inviting garden courtyard, great staff and a must see bar.  My least favorite hotel was the NG Laguna in Venice.  The location was off the island not really near anything at all.  The hotel was middle of the road for quality and just an ok dining experience.  We also had a wonky old hotel in Germany with bad a/c and a very uncomfortable bed.  But there were some amazing hotels like the Renaissance in Vienna which had a very funky and unique style and the Sofitel in Brussels. Our hotel in London was very nice, but still under construction in some areas and there was a very strong perfumey scent all through it that made my husband sneeze the whole time.

Tour Director  3.75 ⭐️  Emile Wiegand Brus was our Dutch Tour Director.  He had an amazing wealth of knowledge to share with us as we traveled between stops on the bus.  This information really connected the regions and helped us understand the places we visited.  He could sometimes be playful and joke, and often brought us local treats to enjoy on the bus from the places we visited.  I love that he drew a great cartoon in my travel journal.  He could tell you the best places to find/try whatever you wanted to during your rare free time and they were always spot on.

What drops him to 3.75  is that he wasn’t really friendly or approachable a lot of the time.  He could be curt if you asked questions and often was impatient.   Feeling those things without demonstrating them is a big part of the Tour Director job.  We decided after a few days that it was best to just not ask him any questions.  They are supposed to be your support person that you feel safe with, trust and can count on to help you enjoy your experience.

3.5 ⭐️ My Overall Rating for this trip

 I have no regrets travelling with Trafalgar.  I think given the jam packed itinerary and all the logistics of the 2nd trip, a Group Tour was the only way to go.  The fact that they prearrange times for you to enter into busy attractions saves you so much time otherwise wasted waiting in lines.  Everything is planned out seemlessly.  I would certainly consider and or reccommend Trafalgar to people wanting to do this type of vacation.  Also for those who are either travelling alone or are first time travelers in Europe that would feel more safe and comfortable on a Group Tour. I  love not having to worry about any of the logistics other than my own flights.  All the transportation, hotels, breakfasts and half of the dinners are taken care of.  I think they are a great value. However, they need to leave space for people to explore independently and not feel “forced”to choose costly optional experiences to enjoy their trip.

I may  take a Trafalgar trip to Scotland, Ireland and Wales somewhere down the road.  Planning extra time to visit London and make up for the day we lost there because of our travel issues.

That being said, after 2 trips to Europe, I feel fairly confident that next time we go we will plan our own itinerary that allows us to take a little more time in the places that we discovered on or first two exploration trips.  Europe has a pretty amazing train system and I now feel brave enough to take some chances with my own transportation, hotels and meals.  The rest will just fall into place!

Since this is pretty long for one of my Blog posts….stay tuned for part 2 where I will share reviews from some of my fellow travel friends.