Ultimately we were happy with our trip, but dissatisfied with the service.When I do not receive an itemized receipt I am expecting to be up charged, but as a trade off I am expecting for the expertise of the company to take care of me in ways that I could not do myself without experience. There were a lot of mistakes caught before the trip and during, which should not have happened.
It seemed far to often that our itinerary was simply copy and pasted from someone else's that was made in the past. They gave me recommendations in my itinerary to visit sites that I had already seen earlier in the trip. They also said they booked cabs when they really didn't and I had to use the emergency email line to get things straightened.
While the excursions were very wonderful, lack of planning and information minimized how great they could have been. The whiskey tour that was arranged for us was booked too late so we had to rush through the end of the tour so we can purchase extra tastings. We were also not informed there was a museum in the distillery that we could have arrived earlier to see. A footnote about this would have been sufficient. This would also have been useful for notifying us that the tasting was cash only. In the case of the sake tasting that was arranged, we did not know we could go on the factory tour while it was in operation. Due to this part of the trip booked on Sunday the factory was closed and we missed a great opportunity. Other parts of the schedule could have easily been moved for us to enjoy these experiences.
The company did connect us with great tour guides that helped in many ways. The hotel recommendations were all fantastic. From the rooms to the food, I would go back to all the hotels I visited.
The tour guides were excellent. Both as translators and giving recommendations of things to see that allowed us to see the most while dealing with less crowds to enhance the experience. We had a knife village tour arranged for us, which was a fantastic experience. We got to personally go through the process of making our own kitchen knifes that we got to take home as a great souvenir.
If I could do this trip again, I would not use this company. If you have a rather large budget and only a vague sense of what you want to do in the country you are visiting then this company could be useful for you. I was a pretty blank slate when I was directed to them and they did fill in alot of the holes I had. Ultimately you could arrange the same trip yourself for a significant less amount of money.
From an itinerary standpoint, I would have rearranged tours to maximize what I could see at those sites ( especially due to hours of operation) I would have also traveled more on the first day by going from the airport and then to Kyoto. I was too tired my first day from the 13 hour time zone difference to want to do much in Tokyo. Due to the speed of travel within Japan is so great, I would have pushed forward upon arriving in Japan in order to lessen my commute on my home journey by wrapping up my trip in Tokyo.
We're glad to hear that you enjoyed your time in Japan and that your experience was enhanced by your tour guides. We take pride in the fact that we're connected to the best guides in the industry and strongly believe that a guide can make or break a trip. In Japan, we also have a vast array of interactive and experiential activities such as the knife making workshop which always present a fun way to break up the classic sightseeing.
As you mentioned, the value of working with a travel company all starts with the pre-trip planning in which case our Specialists take the time to learn about your travel style and trip priorities. With extensive and firsthand knowledge about Japan, our Specialists then create custom-designed itineraries that are tailored to your interests and provide suggestions for lesser-known destinations or unique activities. After booking our Travel Specialists remain on-hand to assist with any last minute travel questions as well as throughout the course of your trip should anything come up while traveling. Our info-packs are an essential component of making our travelers' experiences in Japan as smooth as possible, and each is tailored to the specific trip with day by day explanations of inclusions, train times, meeting points, as well as a cultural, etiquette, language information, and suggestions for each location visited. There are, of course, some generic travel guides components included in our info-packs as these books are on average 50 pages in length (or more!) and are a great resource during any free time.
Thanks again for traveling with us!
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