Advantages of higher tour category

By Robert Siebert
This item appears on page 37 of the September 2019 issue.

The subscriber’s letter titled “An Assessment of Costsaver’s ‘Cossack Explorer’” (July ’19, pg. 24) reminded me of a practice from which I’ve never deviated during my years of international travel.

Some tour companies have two categories of tours, including one that ostensibly has a considerably lower price tag. (In the editor’s note following the above-mentioned letter, a Costsaver representative noted that “Costsaver is a company focused on value” and that “Its sister company, Trafalgar, offers a different guided experience, aimed at bringing travelers closer to ‘the good life’ by deeply delving into destinations….”)

I’ve always selected the more expensive category of tour, since the hotels are each more likely to be located in the city center, affording me a realistic opportunity to independently experience sights that are not included in the tour’s itinerary.

Being on a glorified bus ride, where places of interest are pointed out but not visited, is something I’ve never had the misfortune of encountering.

The above-mentioned subscriber indicated that the only real sightseeing on her Costsaver tour was via optional excursions, which added significantly to the tour’s real cost. She also said the excursions were much too short.

A more expensive tour, with Trafalgar, would have included entry to more attractions as part of the standard tour fare, with more adequate time spent at each of them.

As an example of the difference in value between categories of tours, some travel companies offering lower-priced escorted tours in their catalogs have Italy tours that stay at hotels in the Mestre area of Venice, which, I believe, should be avoided at all costs.

All of my trips that have included Venice have featured hotels in Venice proper, either overlooking the Grand Canal or within a short walking distance of San Marco. I have never been to Mestre, but it is situated on the other end of a causeway leading into Venice.

Free time is precious and should not entail an expensive taxi ride if you decide to linger in a city, such as Venice, before returning to your hotel after the day’s scheduled touring. Also, each additional minute spent returning to your hotel results in a correspondingly smaller amount of time that could have been spent sightseeing in the city.

By the way, the only independent travel I would recommend on the Grand Canal while in Venice is aboard a vaporetto (water bus), in order to view, among other things, the Rialto Bridge and gondoliers plying their trade.

Jamaica, NY