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Mark W

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Mark W

Mark W

USA

May152011

Tour/Activity

Private Half Day Tour to Madaba and Mount Nebo

Amman, Jordan

My Rating
4 star rating: Recommended

My Review

The "private" aspect of the tour is that a driver takes you from your hotel to the site and back, and pays entry into the site. There you join one of the frequent small group tours between the visitor center and the baptism sites and Jordan River.

Our shuttle bus stopped along the road to look at the Tell a-Kharrar/Elijah's hill site from a distance and thru the bus windows for a couple minutes. No one was let off the bus, let alone go actually visit the site.

Then we continued on to the baptism site area, where we had the better part of the hour to walk through that area with a very informative guide.

I would have given this just 3 stars given the poor handling of the Elijah's Hill area, but I think most people come here for the baptism/Jordan River sites and will be satisfied with how that portion was handled.

May012011

Tour/Activity

Private Tour: Desert Castle Tour of Eastern Jordan from Amman

Amman, Jordan

My Rating
5 star rating: Highly Recommended

My Review

For this tour, a driver takes you from your hotel out to the three sites and pays admission. You're generally on your own to tour the actual sites (guides can be hired, but you really don't need them).

My driver was prompt, spoke English well, and I enjoyed the conversation with him along the way. He did tour the sites with me, though technically he wasn't a guide. I had plenty of time at each site - I actually got 5 hours for the price of 4.

I suspect that the differing reviews depend on the luck of the draw with the driver. In any event, the sites themselves are worth spending the morning visiting, and it's a chance to see a different side of Jordan.

And where else are you going to get a picture showing the distances to the Saudi Arabia and Iraq borders?

Apr272011

Tour/Activity

Cape Sounion and Temple of Poseidon Half-Day Trip from Athens

Athens, Greece

My Rating
5 star rating: Highly Recommended

My Review

This was a very good way to cap off my trip to Greece. It's a pretty drive along the coast to get to the site, and the site itself is quite pretty. Our guide was good, spoke English well, and gave us plenty of time at the site after descriptions for taking photos and exploring the site. A sunny day would have been better, but that's not the tour's fault.

Apr252011

Tour/Activity

2-Day Trip to Delphi and Meteora from Athens

Athens, Greece

My Rating
5 star rating: Highly Recommended

My Review

This was a great tour. We got a solid visit at Delphi. I did not stick with the guide, but explored the site on my own, though, or I would have only seen half of it. The museum is not included for folks going to Meteora, so in that sense the visit was rushed, but that was expected. We also stopped at Thermopolis, famous for the Spartan 300 battle vs the Persians.

Our hotel near Meteora was nice and the food good, but it was well outside of town, a bit disappointing as I had planned to explore Kalambaka when we got there. Instead I took a walk thru the nearby village of Theopetra, not at all touristy, a sample of a real Greek village.

Morning we toured two of the monasteries of Meteora. Nicely paced, plenty of time, stops for views, etc. Fantastic, spectacular site, even with overcast skies.

Lunch in town then back to Athens.

Check the map - it is a long drive, so you will spend plenty of time on the bus between Athens and Meteora, but there's some spectacular scenery in places, and it was a chance to see parts of Greece I otherwise would have missed.

All in all a very good tour.

Apr212011

Tour/Activity

Hydra, Poros and Egina Day Cruise from Athens

Athens, Greece

My Rating
4 star rating: Recommended

My Review

The itinerary is subject to change depending on various conditions. Keep that in mind.

For the day of my tour, Hydra and Aegina were great stops, and we had plenty of time to see them. Hydra was especially beautiful, and was a highlight of my visit to Greece. On the other hand we only had about 15 minutes off the boat at Poros. Sunny weather, but strong winds produced waves that slowed down the boat so Poros was where we made up the time. Poros was disappointing in that regard, but the three stops were worth while, and we did get several close-up pretty views of Poros from the boat.

There is a lot of time on the boat, but that is to be expected if you check the map. Treat this as a pretty boat ride and a sampling of three Greek island villages, and you'll feel that you got your money's worth.

The onboard boat services, though, were unfortunate. The bathroom got dirty early and stayed that way. Groups of 2-3 would fully occupy tables for 4, so seating was a bit tight. Lunch was served late (4PM) to my group, lunch service was rude (and a large obnoxious group from some convention didn't help - acted like they owned the boat), and lunch beverages cost extra. The snack counter had limited choices and was high-priced (e.g., equiv $4.50 for a can of cola).

I suggest bringing your own food/beverages, or picking something up on the island stops instead, especially if you have any sort of dietary issues - or just want to eat lunch when you're hungry. That way you can focus on the great sites rather than the meal.

Jul062009

Tour/Activity

Normandy D-Day Battlefields and Beaches Day Trip

Paris, France

My Rating
5 star rating: Highly Recommended

My Review
The trip provides a solid introduction to the Normandy Beach sites, and delivered as advertised, accompanied by a good, informative guide. Keep in mind that as a day trip out of Paris, it's a good three hour drive both ways, and the remaining time is divided across five stops, so the stops indeed feel a bit rushed. That's why I call it an introduction. A good introduction, but an introduction nonetheless. British and Canadian tourists might be a bit disappointed with the emphasis on American troop landing sites.

Jun162009

Tour/Activity

Heidiland and Liechtenstein Tour from Zurich: Two Countries in One Day

Zurich, Switzerland

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

My Review
The tour tries to do too much in the time allotted, so it really didn't do any of it well. The Zurich portion was superficial, covering little more than Fraumunster Church and a college campus. They can't take the bus through the streets of the Old City. A photo op view of the city center from the campus involved the bus driving slowly past a narrow gap in some trees - no getting off to use the viewpoint there. We had a very fast walk through Rapperswil followed by lunch. None of the advertised time at our leisure there, unless that was lunch. Our stop in Vaduz was just 45 minutes. I would have liked enough time to make even just a basic visit to its post office, the highlight of Vaduz, as suggested in the description. The Heidiland stop was about right. The walk from the bus to the village was a bit more than some folks expected, though it's not difficult. The scenery along the drive was gorgeous. The guide's commentary was limited on Rapperswil and Vaduz but generally good for the rest of the trip. If you want to see Zurich, this really wasn't a good tour. The tour would have been much better if it took the Zurich time and divided that between our Rapperswil and Vaduz stops.

Aug302007

Tour/Activity

Royal Castles of Neuschwanstein and Linderhof Day Tour from Munich

Munich, Germany

My Rating
4 star rating: Recommended

My Review
The tour was generally well done, and our guide was informative, with the right touch of humor. Rainy weather was a downer, but that obviously was beyond the tour company's control. The only weakness was that we spent less time at Linderhof than was indicated in the tour description. That may have been because of the rain, but it meant I was pretty rushed in trying to get my photos.

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