Tour had great guides and one letdown

I joined a 10-day “Imperial Cities” tour of Italy with Gate 1 Travel on Oct. 10, ’05. Our group of 26 had a superb tour guide, Ms. Flavia Sciubba (

Very personable, accommodating and charming, with a wonderful sense of humor, Ms. Sciubba is fully qualified to share her fantastic knowledge of Italy with international travelers. Her English is flawless. She is very cultured music-wise and art-wise and was scheduled to exhibit her modern paintings in Rome. A freelance guide, she is licensed to conduct tours all over Italy.

Gate 1 did a wonderful job with this tour, which covered Rome, Venice and Florence as well as Pisa, Assisi and Perugia. The hotels were excellent and centrally located, the food was very good, and the included sightseeing was very satisfactory. Besides Ms. Sciubba, we had local guides in each city, all of them excellent, particularly our Rome guide, Paolo, who is like a walking Rome encyclopedia.

The price of this tour, $2,700 per person, double occupancy, included daily buffet-style breakfast, four excellent dinners, comprehensive sightseeing in all cities, round-trip airfare (Alitalia) from New York’s JFK and airport-hotel transfers. Alitalia’s service was excellent; the food, service and punctuality left nothing to be desired.

The only problem we encountered was at the Rome airport upon our arrival. The conveyor belts at Leonardo da Vinci Airport move at a snail’s pace, and it took us one hour to retrieve our luggage. Due to this delay, we encountered nobody to transfer us to the hotel. We had to call the Gate 1 office in Rome, and they finally sent a car to pick us up.

When I referred this problem to Gate 1, I was told that they only wait one hour for passengers and after that it is up to the passengers to pay their own way into town.

This seems to me ridiculous. A taxi ride into Rome was quoted to us at €60 and, anyway, we had already paid for this transportation in what I do not think was a “cheap” tour price.

I spent about €5 trying to get through to their office in Rome, as the taxi number they had provided us with in case of an emergency was never answered; we only got a recording in Italian. The only “Information” desk I could find at the airport was not able to place outside calls to Rome, the lady so informed me, and I only had one-euro coins at hand (from a previous trip), each more than what was needed to place a call. Banks are now “automated” (at least at the airport), and no human being was in sight to exchange anything. The exchange places would not break down big notes into small change or coins — we tried all that first.

It seems to me the Gate 1 representative should check if the plane has arrived on time and find out why the passengers are not coming out of the Customs area. I am sure this is not the first instance in their long history that something like this has happened.

Our Alitalia plane came in right on time, at 11 a.m. We left the conveyor belt at about 11:50, went through Customs immediately and, in my reckoning, were still within the one-hour wait time frame.

All in all, I found Gate 1 very well organized and an excellent tour company. I would not hesitate to travel with them again.

New York, NY

    ITN mailed a copy of the above letter to Gate 1 Travel and received the following reply.

I was pleased to read that Ms. Ibanez did for the most part enjoy her tour with Gate 1 Travel.

With regard to her arrival transfer, she is correct. In accordance with our terms and policies, which all clients are made familiar with prior to travel, we can ask our transfer personnel to wait no longer than one hour for a transfer, after which the cost becomes too burdensome. It is then incumbent upon the passengers to find their own mode of transportation, retain their receipts and, upon return home, find the cause and remedy for the expense. Generally, the cause and remedy lie either with the airline or, if non-airline caused, then with the insurance carrier.

As we wish all our clients to be fully satisfied with our services, and as our business is built on good client relations, we wish to offer Ms. Ibanez a refund of the cost of the transfer, $25 per person, plus a credit of $50 per person which may be applied towards her next Gate 1 Travel escorted or guided tour to any of our destinations (valid through Dec. 31, 2007).

ILENE BRAUN, Vice President, Marketing & Sales, Gate 1 Travel, 101 Limekiln Pike, Glenside, PA 19038

    Ms. Ibanez told ITN that she appreciates Gate 1’s offer and they do not owe her any refund.