This South America travel company is an excellent vacation planner. They listened to my request and produced an itinerary that was perfect. It was physically challenging for us, but there was enough free time built in to recover and to regroup.
We cannot heap enough praises in the folks in Guatemala who provided the walking tours of Antigua and the Mayan temple sites that were so magnificent.
I have three recommendations to make: Some system needs to be devised to calculate tips for the drivers and the guides who spent hours with us. When you pay a lump sum for the whole 10 day vacation, it is difficult to calculate the a 10% or 15% or 20% tip for any one small segment. What is 15% of ???. Every time I asked the question, what is a generous tip for your service, I got the same unhelpful answer; 'Whatever you want'. By the way, there are not many ATMs in Guatemala and Hotels do not like to make change.
At Lake Atitlan it is well known that in the afternoon there is enough wind to create severe white caps. We were picked up at 2:00 pm and for two Octogenarians it was a bit difficult to climb onto a rocking boat. Once on board, we discovered that the captain (lanchero) did not speak English and we could not discuss or influence the itinerary. We finally managed to explain that we would prefer to be back on Terra Firma, but by now it was too rough to dock anywhere and so we simply cruised along the shore for an hour or so until we found a quiet harbor. We were met there by the owner of the boat (these are very sturdy, dry and well built boats by the way) who spoke English and who treated is very graciously and got us back to the Hotel Atitlan on a Chuck Chuck. We still don't know what was supposed to have been on the itinerary and what we might have seen. But the boat ride was fun in any case.
All drivers and guides invariably showed up promptly and were very professional. The one exception was on the last morning, when we waited at the San Ignacio Hotel in Belize to be driven to the Airport. After an hour of waiting, the Hotel provided us with a driver and we got to the airport on time.
Our vacation was very memorable, sprinkled with just the right amount of uncertainty and excitement to make it one of the better ones for us. Guatemala in particular is a very nice country to visit, and our travel agency did a fine job.
Guatemala was always on our horizon as a destination, as we are fascinated by Mayan architecture and history. So Tikal and Yaxha and Sacnab were some of the special highlights. But we were totally enamored by Antigua and Lake Atitlan, two destinations that were spectacular. Antigua has a bustling municipal market and there is a long list of good restaurants. There is much to learn about this ancient and picturesque city. And the people were very friendly and helpful. You can easily get along with a little Spanish and a grin.
Lake Atitlan is very, very beautiful and even though we gave up on the boat ride, we enjoyed ourselves very much. A special bonus was the presence of some 15 young women, vying for Miss Guatemala, who were at the hotel for a Photo Shoot for more than a day.
The trip across the border to Belize was a head scratcher. Why did we have to drag our luggage across the border and load it back into the same vehicle for the rest of the five mile drive to the San Ignacio Resort Hotel. This was a wonderful and plush hotel and a perfect location for a well deserved rest and to side trip to Xunantunich May Ruins just up the road. The food was good, the wine was decent, and the atmosphere perfect for relaxing and reading.
I'd take a lot of American dollars with me (small bills) as that seems to be the preferred method for tips. Could the agency supply a list of fees and amounts paid to drivers and tour guides, so it is possible to calculate tips?
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