AESU smooth recovery

Seeing the news item titled “Carmen in its Natural Settings” (Dec. ’03, pg. 21) prompted us to contact AESU, or American European Services Unlimited (3922 Hickory Ave., Baltimore, MD 21211; phone 800/638-7640 or visit, to learn more about it.

The cost for the package (three nights each in Madrid and Seville, three performances in Seville, half-day sightseeing in Madrid, train fare, one dinner and airport transfers) was high at $3,472 per person, but we signed on because of the unique opportunity to see “Carmen” in Seville. We decided to add a night in Madrid for $200 and three days in Barcelona for $240 per night.

Three weeks before the Sept. 6-17, ’04, trip, I read in The New York Times that the festival was postponed because conductor Loren Mazel needed eye surgery. We were chagrined. Now what?

I quickly sent an e-mail to Heather at AESU. Within 24 hours I had an e-mail back with three options: 1) Delay the trip until September ’05, when the festival was rescheduled. As an incentive, this option included a 50% refund of the land package on arrival in Seville. 2) Sign up for any other AESU trip valued at up to 110% of the Spanish trip. 3) Go to Spain as planned on Sept. 6 with a substitute performance, some added meals and tours plus $300 per person cash back. We chose option three.

Our flight to Madrid on Iberia Air was delayed by 22 hours. AESU assured us that we would still be met upon our late arrival and that the hotel room in Madrid would be available to us at that time (5 a.m.). We were met and the room was available.

Once in Madrid, we learned that only three of us had chosen this tour option. AESU honored their commitment and assigned a full-time person to host us in Seville and Madrid.

The performances were top-notch: the Prague Chamber Orchestra with cellist Mstislav Rostropovich as soloist, Flamenco in Fórum with Antonio Canales and a flute/harp recital on the grounds of the Alcazar. All the seats were excellent.

The extra meals included a dinner at Casa Botin, the oldest restaurant in Spain, and great tapas. The hotels, Emperador in Madrid, Sevilla Center in Seville and Rivoli Ramblas in Barcelona, were excellent. Rivoli Ramblas was especially well located for touring Barcelona.

Our tour guide, Eva Seco, was excellent. She can be reached directly at or call 0034-6366-81985.

I would highly recommend AESU. They handled these adverse conditions quickly and efficiently and gave us far more than they had to contractually.

New York, NY