Overall, we had a good trip, once we actually got there (a day late). There were some major glitches which caused me to rate Zicasso lower than expected.
THE GOOD: 1) Almost all the hotels, tours, and transportation chosen for us were excellent. We really enjoyed our trip, except the air travel part which I'll get to below. 2)Our agent went way beyond expectations given that she had to reschedule the entire trip for a different month at the last minute, and helped us get reimbursed by our trip insurance. She is also helping again to do this with missed flights from the second trip dates. I would definitely recommend using this company to find good accommodations and tours.
THE BAD: 1) Using this service, you don't have access to the exact amounts you are paying for any one thing, and the arrangements are non-refundable. So, for instance, we wanted to change hotels in one city (because the one chosen for us did not have air conditioning), so we just paid for the different hotel with no way to cancel the first arrangement. Personally, I will probably not be using a service like this again for that reason; I like to have more control over things. 2) Our travel company's affiliates in New Zealand and Australia were unreachable at the times we needed them (they are not available nights or holidays), and they couldn't help at all with flight arrangements. The times we did call with questions, they were literally useless. 3) Several tours left at really early hours of the morning, and we had no option to get meals at a few of the places we stayed. We literally went without supper at Lake Tekapo due to everything closing at 8:00 pm and our observatory tour being at 9:45 pm. I would have appreciated a heads-up so I could have planned better for this.
THE UGLY: Qantas left us at the gate in Dallas and we had to pay out of pocket for tickets on Air New Zealand to the tune of $18000 in order not to have our vacation ruined. When this happened, it was late at night and nobody was available from the travel company to help us. To be fair, our agent tried to return one of my phone calls when the first flight earlier in the day got cancelled, but then we got on another flight and I had my phone off until we got to Dallas, by which time it was late and I'm not sure what she could have done anyway. I don't blame her, personally, but I do think there should be somebody to call 24/7. Finally, we got left at the gate again on the way back home, again due to Qantas. Our agent is again working to get us a refund, so I am very grateful for this.
Our favorite moments all had to do with wildlife -- glow worms at Waitamo Caves, koalas and wallabies at Featherdale, kiwis in Wellington, kangaroos near Melbourne, and of course the Penguin Parade on Phillip Island. The small group tours in vans that hold a max of 11 people made touring very enjoyable and special.
I would pack less. I would make sure to ask if the hotels are air conditioned. I would find out ahead of time what food is available at each mealtime. I would make my own flight arrangements that are refundable and NOT on Qantas and with at least 6 hours layover between flights and did I say NOT on Qantas?
TRAVEL COMPANY COMMENTS:
Thank you for taking the time to post your review, we sincerely appreciate your comments and feedback. It is always extremely disruptive when you trip starts with a significant airline delay like you experienced out of Houston resulting in missing your Qantas flight out of Dallas. Once your trip has commenced, the airline is in charge of the flights and will not permit the travel agent to make changes. The airline exercises full control over re-booking in the case of missed flights and also has the authority to book you on another airline (which the travel agent does not). With this in mind, the only course of action is to deal with the airport staff at the time of the issue, your agent would not have been able to make the rebooking actions American could. As you were traveling business class and American advised you there were no other business class seats available for several days, due to the peak December travel period, we understand you made the decision to purchase new tickets on a different airline to ensure you could still depart on your trip as planned. In this situation, Qantas would not normally allow a refund of their unused tickets but as a courtesy to you & our company they did authorize a refund in full of the unused flights and this has now been credited to your card as you are aware. I understand you are now working closely with your agent to submit a claim to the travel insurance company for the difference in price between the Qantas and the new Air New Zealand tickets you purchased and we are hopeful you will be reimbursed, the decision for this is in the hands of the travel insurance adjustor.
Regarding your comments for an itemized price breakdown, one of the reasons destination specialist travel companies such as our company offer a complete trip package, and do not provide a breakdown of trip component costs, is that we have private negotiated rates with the best accommodations, guides and transportation services. Our contracts stipulate that these negotiated rates are kept confidential and may only be offered as part of a trip package. Violating this can lead to a termination of the contract or damage the strong, long-standing relationships we have with our preferred partners. These relationships help us keep our pricing competitive, negotiate special value-added bonuses, clear availability issues and ensure our clients are given the best consideration and service. Similar to online pricing, many of the rates we confirm on your behalf have strict cancellation penalties in return for lower costs.
Our affiliate offices in Sydney & Auckland are contactable outside of business hours by an answering service, any calls are immediately passed on to the on-call agent and your call is returned as quickly as possible. They are our company's ground handling office and do not book airfares so they are unable to assist with this part of your trip, for airline issues we always recommend dealing with the airline and our company directly. I am sorry to hear you did not find our on-the-ground affiliates helpful when you did have the need to contact them but I believe they passed on the information to your agent who followed up immediately.
I am delighted to read you enjoyed your time in Australia & New Zealand and thank you for your kind comments regarding your travel agent's service.
Each review is written by a verified traveler who was matched by Zicasso to the reviewed agency. Traveler must have purchased and traveled.
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