The trip was outstanding overall given Croatia's natural beauty and intrinsic interest as a destination to my group. The travel company's performance was mixed, and I'd rate it average overall on balance. Once problems were raised and identified, the company did a good job in rectifying issues and trying to improve the situation. Their hotel choices and itinerary suggestions were good (although one hotel supposedly "double booked," and therefore we were relegated to different quarters). We had some issues with a bus breakdown on the highway, not enough space for all passengers and luggage on certain buses, and a lack of adequate baggage handling services. I believe that by devoting more personal attention on the ground and in the pre-planning stages most problems would have been avoided. The company is very much an e-mail and cell phone type of operation that doesn't cultivate what I would call the "personal touch.".
We were on a family "Roots Tour" of sorts, so our day with relatives in the Zagreb suburbs (totally arranged privately) was the highlight. Everyone enjoyed our free day in Hvar (other than the crowded Catamaran trip to get back and forth), and Dubrovnik was, of course, spectacular (if swarming with Cruise boat visitors). The Dubrovnik Hotel in Zagreb received accolades. All in all, the arranged itinerary, accommodations, and meals were fine, but virtually everyone's favorite meal came in privately arranged events.
I would definitely ask all the traveler's to purchase their own airline tickets after giving them flight numbers, etc. and opt for just a "land portion" excursion beginning at arrival at Zagreb airport. I stressed ahead of time to the travel company all of our requirements and the nature of our group and my own levels of expectation, but never felt we were seen as anything more than another "unit" of travelers to be processed through a well-oiled, existing system. Arguably, I should have perhaps sought out a more personalized, local travel service where I could have sat down and discussed things face-to-face.
Travel Company's Comments:
I have had a few communications with this client after his trip and addressed all of the issues he also brought up in his review. Please see his last response below after my email to him where I addressed all of the issues. At the end of the day the problems that occurred were all unfortunately out of our control but I still took responsibility. The big issues were the bus breaking down, the flight seating which was selected by the airlines and the double booking at the hotel. In all cases we did all in our power to remedy the situation but of course he did not mention this. For the change of the hotel, as compensation we provided 2 free dinners for the group, an additional walking tour and musical performance. In the end of new hotel we put them in was actually an upgrade. When the bus broke down it was due to the quick action of our staff on the ground that the group was only delayed one hour when it could have been a lot worse. I work with the client myself through the process and I believe that he received plenty of personal attention, more than most.
Here is the client's last response to my email:
"I appreciated the time you took to respond to my observations, as well as the relevancy of your comments. In focusing on a few problematic issues, I realize I've taken for granted the many positive aspects that made the trip such a success overall. I daresay virtually every member of our group would describe the Croatia trip as their "trip of a lifetime" despite any glitches."
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