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Aug052014

Tour/Activity

Skip the Line: Florence Accademia and Uffizi Gallery Tour

Florence, Italy

My Rating
2 star rating: It was OK, but could have been better

My Review

The stars on this trip belong exclusively to our tour guide Sylvia. She was great, informative, funny, and did the best she could on a busy day in the museums. Otherwise, this was a total bust. The "Skip the Line" part of the title is total false advertising as all we did was change from one line for individuals to another long line for groups. We finally entered the Accademia about 30-40 minutes AFTER our tour was supposed to start. I watched the Rick Steves video about Florence, and they must have closed the museum just for him. The day we were there it was a total mob scene and it was difficult to see anything up close, and assorted peole would just walk right in front of the guide as she was talking. Again, Sylvia did a great job of maneuvering us to the important sights. This may all have been due to the high season crowds.

We entered the Uffizi on time which was a welcome change from the Accademia, but there was still a large crowd at the late afternoon time when we were there. Again, Sylvia did a good job but was hampered by the crowds of people walking infront of her as she was talking to the group. These hordes of tourists, like us I admit, again made it difficult to spend any time admiring any one piece of art.

My advice: go in the winter when there are no crowds and you will have a much more fulfilling experience. Then maybe the "Skip the Line" will be accurate.

Aug032014

Tour/Activity

Pisa and the Leaning Tower Half-Day Trip from Florence

Florence, Italy

My Rating
3 star rating: Worth doing

My Review

The tour was fine. Nice bus ride from Florence to Pisa. Our guide Keiko did a wonderful job of explaining things along the highway to Pisa as well as the history of the region. Once at Pisa she guided us on the long walk (take comfortable shoes and prepare for a hike) from the bus parking area to the duomo and tower. There a local guide took over, and she did a great job of explaining the history of the area as well as the landmarks. Both guides made the trip quite worthwhile. The only drawback was the hordes of people visiting the area. It is summer and the high season - I will never visit these landmarks during the high season again. It is very difficult to see anything up close. Also, I would suggest that the tour price include admission to the buildings - it does not. You end up buying separate tickets (after standing in more lines) for the buildings and museum. We elected not to do that but instead took the extended walk around the town of Pisa with the local guide. It is both sad and a nuisance to pay separately for EVERY LITTLE THING.

Jul292014

Tour/Activity

Venice Food Tour: Cicchetti and Wine

Venice, Italy

My Rating
5 star rating: Highly Recommended

My Review

This was a great little tour of the wine and Cicchetti (little bites) places in Venice. Our guide, Roberto, was both knowledgeable and fun and gave us a lot of good information about the wine, city life, and city history. In fact, I really wish that we had taken this tour the first day we arrived, because it can teach you how to save a lot of money when eating out in Venice. I highly recommend this tour and Roberto. We ended up visiting five different places and were a little tipsy when it concluded - what fun!

Jul262014

Tour/Activity

Munich Segway Tour

Munich, Germany

My Rating
5 star rating: Highly Recommended

My Review

This was the best tour we took during our two week visit to Europe. Mat the guide is an expatriate Brit who was funny and interesting and guided us through some of the landmarks in Munich near the altstadt (old city). Not only was it informative about the early history of Munich, but also of the Nazi impact on the city and the effects of the war. But, this is the educational part of a tour that is also really a barrel of fun as you zip through Munich on a Segway. Learning to use it is a snap (it was our first time and we are both 58 years old), and riding it is a gas! We got some interesting looks from bystanders as we cruised down the streets, along the river, and through the park.

Definitely worth doing.

Jul252014

Tour/Activity

Salzburg Small Group Day Tour from Munich

Munich, Germany

My Rating
2 star rating: It was OK, but could have been better

My Review

This a not a bad tour of Salzburg and a way to spend a day with a side trip to Austria from Germany. You learn a little about Salzburg history and the guide will point out some sights to see during your free time. You will also see some of the sights from The Sound of Music such as the Mirabelle Gardens. However, this tour suffers from many of the weaknesses inherent to those run by the local tour operator.

We went on a Friday. Turns out that the palace on which the Mirabelle Gardens sit is open to the public every day except Friday because there are many weddings held there, so most of the palace is closed. The guide knew this, so why doesn't Radius tell you that in advance? Sloppy service in my book. It would be nice to know that so you could book a different day, if you wish.

The local tour operator takes you there and back on a train in second class. This becomes a cattle car with people and teenagers traveling in a uncontrolled, mass transit style, so there will be people standing in the aisles with their luggage or sitting all over the place stuffed in like sardines. There is no option to upgrade to the very affordable First Class which is capacity controlled.

Three hours free in Salzburg is more than enough time. We actually went back early to Munich to have dinner at a more reasonable time for us by taking a train one hour earlier. Otherwise, you do not get back until seven pm. We did this on our own - there is no option for this kind of flexibility.

If the tour guide ever told us her name, I must have missed it.

This is the second tour that we have taken with this particular local tour company, the other is the Neuschwanstein tour, and it suffers from the same issues. Unfortunately , they are the only ones available, so you have no other options. Just be forewarned. I've had better service from other Viator contractors on other tours (see: Munich Segway Tours).

Jul222014

Tour/Activity

Swiss Alps Day Trip from Zurich: Jungfraujoch and Bernese Oberland

Zurich, Switzerland

My Rating
5 star rating: Highly Recommended

My Review

I agree with all the other reviews. This is a well run tour with plenty of gorgeous scenery. Our guide, Valerie, was knowledgeable and kept the group on schedule which is important. As others have said, there is not much time in Interlaken, but that is OK because Interlaken is just a tourist trap for Swiss watch shoppers. We had plenty of time on the Jungfrau to explore and get lunch. There is no dinner stop on the trip back to Zurich, but we gad some snacks with us. Be sure to participate in the trip to the top because the views, if the weather is nice, are priceless.

For those who like Clint Eastwood movies, I will say that I felt like Dr. Jonathan Hemliock while standing at the base of the Eiger in Kleine Scheidegg. I could recall in my head the line by George Kennedy, "I knew there'd be death on that mountain", especially as we rode past the ice fields.

Well worth the money and time.

Jul212014

Tour/Activity

The Great Tour of Zurich

Zurich, Switzerland

My Rating
5 star rating: Highly Recommended

My Review

Our guide Peter was fun and knowledgeable, and this was a nice introduction to the city and lake area as our first day after the long overnight flight from the US. The boat ride back from Rapperswil was relaxing and scenic. Very nice and worth doing.

Incidentally, we saw Peter again the next day as he was running a Jungfrau tour that was slightly different from the one we were on, and he remembered us.

May152013

Tour/Activity

Ultimate Hoover Dam Tour

Las Vegas, Nevada

My Rating
4 star rating: Recommended

My Review

I signed up for this tour based on past reviews. Overall this tour was quite good and fun and worth the price paid. You are supposed to get an interior tour of the dam, but due to some sort of maintenance alert the dam was evacuated just after we entered it, so we were rushed back outside. I cannot hold that against the tour company as it was beyond their control, and our money for that portion of the tour was immediately refunded - good job! The view from the new bridge was awesome. Our driver Alan and guide Jason were knowledgeable and entertaining. The lunch at the diner at Boulder City has been way overhyped in other reviews, in my opinion. It is a nice, family-owned and operated place and I give them credit for the fact that, as a large group, we likely did not see them at their best. As noted in other reviews, the pies are excellent and served warm when appropriate. The slice is very large for the price and therefore constitutes quite a bargain compared to eating on The Strip. However; serving a large group all at once with orders phoned ahead carries significant difficulties for a little place like theirs. My burger would have been great had it not been served lukewarm with cold french fries, but the large iced sweet tea was very welcome on a hot day. Do not get me wrong - this is not a bad place and is cozy and quaint, and I'm sure the food would be excellent if ordered and served fresh. The chocolate factory visit really is not necessary - their prices are high and there is nothing special about the place other than you get to drive past Wayne Newton's estate on the way. But if you want some candy or ice cream to follow the lunch, it serves that purpose well. All in all, the tour is recommended, but I just cannot justify more than 4 stars.

Mar272013

Tour/Activity

Sydney Airport Private Departure Transfer

Sydney, Australia

My Rating
5 star rating: Highly Recommended

My Review

Worked out perfectly. Nice car, timely service, friendly driver. He was waiting for us when we stepped out of the hotel. Excellent service.

Mar202013

Tour/Activity

Private Departure Transfer: Hotel to Melbourne Airports

Melbourne, Australia

My Rating
5 star rating: Highly Recommended

My Review

Great driver, timely service, smooth transfer. Would definitely use again. Nice car and was waiting for us when we stepped out of the hotel.

Mar182013

Tour/Activity

Melbourne City Afternoon Tour

Melbourne, Australia

My Rating
5 star rating: Highly Recommended

My Review

Nice coach and friendly, knowledgeable driver. Saw everything we needed to in the city and then a trip through the suburbs to a mountain eucalyptus forest. Saw and fed the cockatoos, and then a photo op at a mountain overlook of Melbourne. Overall a nice tour.

Mar172013

Tour/Activity

Phillip Island Penguin Small Group Eco Tour from Melbourne

Melbourne, Australia

My Rating
5 star rating: Highly Recommended

My Review

Knowledgeable driver and friendly. The trip to the chocolate factory and the winery was just to fill time and really not that worthwhile. However, the koala preserve was fun and we could have used more time there (and less at the chocolate factory). The penguin parade is not really that - it varies day-to-day on how many penguins will actually come ashore. Be sure to get the tickets for the penguin plus viewing platform as I think the general admission folks were disappointed that evening. These birds are really small and you need to be as close as you can get.

Mar162013

Tour/Activity

Great Ocean Road Day Trip Adventure from Melbourne

Melbourne, Australia

My Rating
5 star rating: Highly Recommended

My Review

A good trip, gorgeous scenery, and the bus driver/tour guide was very knowledgeable. The coach was comfortable. Be prepared for a long day, and a relatively boring 3 hour drive back to MEL at the end of the day. Bring an mp3 player, iPad, or something for entertainment.

Mar152013

Tour/Activity

Private Arrival Transfer: Melbourne Airports to Hotel

Melbourne, Australia

My Rating
5 star rating: Highly Recommended

My Review

Excellent service with nice car, driver waiting as we emerged from customs, and friendly. Would definitely use again.

Jul112012

Tour/Activity

Neuschwanstein Castle Small Group Day Tour from Munich

Munich, Germany

My Rating
2 star rating: It was OK, but could have been better

My Review

Five stars for castle, zero stars for transportation. Beware - you ride second class on the train which means no a/c, idiots sitting by the windows who will not open them, and a mad dash when the train doors open to get on and to sit together as a family since seats are neither assigned NOR reserved. There may even be too many people for the train. The guide did a good job explaining the history up to the castle, then the in-castle guides took over. The time in the castle is relatively short - about 30 minutes. Not much time for lunch either after arriving in Fussen before heading up to castle. Ample time to wander the beautiful grounds after the in-castle tour though. My advice - book a different tour using an air-conditioned bus with reserved seating and your day will be both more comfortable and less stressful as you will not be in a scrambling mob to get a seat on the train. I would definitely not do this particular tour again, but would go back to see the castle again in a heartbeat.

Jul092012

Tour/Activity

Munich Airport Private Arrival Transfer

Munich, Germany

My Rating
5 star rating: Highly Recommended

My Review

Clean, professional, English-speaking driver met us as we exited the baggage hall. Our driver gave us some good explanations of the sights as we drove to our hotel, and some basic German lessons. Nice clean Mercedes van with ample room (family of four). Competitive price. Was well worth not driving after being so jet-lagged upon arrival. I would recommend this to anyone. These people did a great job. I booked my return to the airport using my tour operator instead of Viator and got a grumpy driver who spoke little English with a rickety Peugot minivan- big difference. Viator does it right.

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