Sunday, November 30, 2014

Insight Vacations delivers...An overview of my trip

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This is MY personal overview of the trip.
No Tour Directors were hurt during the construction of this posting.
No names or addresses have been changed!
The quotes in BOLD ITALICS
have been taken from the Insight Vacations brochure.

Premium & luxury centrally situated hotels.
On this trip we stayed at:
 Dom Pedro in Lisbon,
 M'ar De Ar in Evora
Meila Seville in Seville
And yes they were!
Being centrally situated meant that if  I wanted to explore,
I was not restricted to relying on the coach.
This was most useful in Evora, where I was able to explore AND go for a run.
The hotels might vary from tour to tour,
but if these were an example of the quality that are chosen,
then guests will be in good hands.
If I have a comment, it was that there was no coffee/tea
available in  my room at the Melia Seville.
The Dom Pedro in Lisbon "wins" as my favourite room

Business class legroom on the coach
Having just flown business class on an international airline,
I can attest to this fact.
There was more than enough legroom for all the passengers on board.
This is because the coaches have been re-configured with reduced seating
Helder, our driver for the tour was punctual and professional throughout.
And even early in the morning he was sartorially elegant in a shirt and tie

Priority access
We never had to wait in a queue to access any of the places we visited.
That does make a group feel "special" when you able to walk straight in
This the Bone Chapel, Capela dos Ossos, in Evora
And all the bones are from deceased people,
not stage props!
To find out more about this "spooky" place:
Signature experiences
We got to visit a variety of "off-the-beaten-track" places.
One of my favourite was this ham factory.

Dine-around meal experiences.
This is an interesting concept for coach touring.
We got money for a taxi (the meal and tip had been prepaid) and a choice(in our case) of three restaurants
It allows the main group to then "break" into smaller entities
 and enjoy the meal with new found friends.
Our group dined at the San Marco in the Santa Cruz Quarter of Seville.
It used to be a bath house and that fact
combined with  the food and service made for a wonderful evening

Signature evenings
These can be party evenings, or on our trip, dinner at a fish restaurant.
We got there by ferry and returned by bus...
and had sea food in VAST quantities!

Smaller groups
There were 27 in our group, but to be fair we were all working journalists
The majority of the tours cater for less than 40 passengers

Extensive Wi-Fi availability
For working media this is a must.
But, as regular tourists want to remain connected,
this is a very important selling point.
The coach had wi-fi on board which was extremely stable most of the time.
OBVIOUSLY, when the coach is moving, it can become a problem.
But then it can be used during the convenience stops...

Hotel/dining tips
Often when you are working in a foreign currency
you are uncertain of what to leave as a gratuity.
To little or to much can cause problems.
On Insight Vacations tours this aspect is taken care of,
as the package you buy is inclusive

Luggage handling
On the last coach tour I did, we had to get our luggage to the bus.
On this trip, all we had to do was leave it outside our hotel room on departure morning.
Magically it would appear in the next hotel room.
The bags are tagged to correspond with each guest,
and a track can be kept that all the luggage is on-board the coach before it leaves.
We did have an instance where one of the journalists left her iPad at a hotel.
It was immediately sent on by courier and she was reunited with it the next day

Airport transfers
We were met at the airport by our coach.
And when it was time to leave,
we were returned to Seville Airport in similar style.

Concierge/Tour Director service...
What can I say about our Tour Director Toni?
A fine gentleman in every sense of the word.
Nothing was too much trouble and he always had a "little surprise" up his sleeve.
The tour that we were on is normally eight days,
unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, we had to do it in six.
That did not leave us as much "free" time as I would have liked.
Certainly in Seville, I would have likes to explore on my own.
But, as I said, this was because we had to lose two days.
Some of those who wanted to shop MADE time to do so.
That being said, I certainly never felt we were being rushed.
Toni was very relaxed about time...although he did keep an eye on it

City experts
In Lisbon, Laura set the benchmark for the rest of the trip.
I have to say that the other guides kept up that standard throughout our wanderings.
All of them were knowledgeable, passionate and entertaining.

John and Paul who made the trip "happen"...
We had the CEO of Insight Vacations, John Boulding with us for part of our trip.
This is what he had to share about his company:
Paul was there to see that everything ran like clockwork...and it did

MY rating...
This is not me "jumping" for joy.
It is Tom, one of my fellow passengers
who can do a mean John Wayne impersonation.
"Well, there you go Pilgrim"
All in all a well organised trip.
No stress and lots of fun and interesting things to do and see.
Before you asked, we were NOT given any special treatment.
The way that we experienced the trip
is the way that "regular" guests would.
2015 is going to be a signature year for the group.
I suggest that you head to their web site to see what they have planned!

To see the rest of the postings that I wrote while I was on the tour,

My travelling companions.
Justin, the Gnome, Kwand-hare
and the "travelling heart" from my daughter...

"Travel & Things" was an entrant in this competition.
Not a winner, but one of 24 travel Blogs that entered


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