The trip was fabulous We had a wonderful time and there were very few problems. The travel company passed off most of their coordination and "on the ground services" to sub-contractors in each of the areas we visited. The sub-contractors in general were stellar and the organization was relatively seamless. This did however leave us a bit up in the air as to who was responsible for what.
The planning for the trip was extensive and took a long time to get things resolved. It seemed that the company was unfamiliar with some of the areas we wanted to visit such as the galapagos and the Atacama desert. We also wanted to go on some side trips to visit a couple of observatories in Argentina and Chile. The reservations for the Argentinian one was left to us to resolve until we asked the company to take care of it, which they then did. They were also unaware that it was possible to rent a car in Mendoza area from one of the local folks who could deliver and pick-up the vehicle to our hotel. We had to make those arrangements.
We asked for small or private tours in the Atacama (6-10) and instead ended up in buses which contained 12-15 (every seat full bus) for the first tour, over 20 for the second tour and over 30 (every seat full) for the third tour....definitley not the Zicasso way we are used to. Not sure who was responsible for this, the local or our travel agency.
The flight connection times were often inconvenient (leaving and arriving in the evening rather than our stated preference which was earlier in the day.) This was apparently unavoidable, but we were booking 6-9 months ahead and it shouldn"t have been that big a deal to keep us happy.
Ratings for the sub-contractors:
Ecuador and the galapagos cruise: 4/5 with a 5/5 to the tour operator who ran the cruise of Galapagos. (one upgrade in our hotel which didn't happen, but our tour company intervened and got it fixed up.)
Buenos Aires: 5/5 hotels and transfers all excellent.
Buenos Aires walking tour..4/5.
Food Tour : Buenos Aires 5/5
Mendoza 5/5 (exceptionally helpful with car rental and recommendations).
Wine Tours: Mendoza: 5/5 transfers, and wine tours were all stellar.
San Juan 4/5 Barreal accomodation
Santiago: 5/5 transfers, local tour, and hotel all stellar.
Atacama, 3/5: hotel was okay (great restaurant). Tours all had excellent guides, great content, and decent drivers) Far too large groups and we could have gone private if we had known they were available, Transfer in and out to Calama 5/5.
Santiago to Valparaiso, 4/5 generall . Guide and driver (5/5). Tour of Valparaiso itinerary was unknown to us until we got there. Hotel was great. Transfers were excellent.
1/ Galapagos by far...the guide was awesome. The food was okay, accomodations were okay. Itinerary and program was stellar.
2/ Food tour was better than expected and a lot of fun.
3/ Mendoza wine tours were brilliant, Casa de Robles was outstanding and our guide was more than helpful. Barreal was a treat and driving the mountain pass route was a lot of fun.
4/ Atacama desert was great other than the tour bus oercrowding.
I might not go with Zicasso and instead try and book independently through the various subs who were extremely helpful and efficient with transfers etc. This trip was quite complex and had a lot of moving parts which our travel company helped out with to a large extent in the planning, but their breadth of expertise seemed limited. Their logic on booking domestic flights (one airline throughout was sound, but the timing was not great at all). The hotel selection was fine.
TRAVEL COMPANY COMMENTS:
I really appreciate your detailed input with the good and bad comments since all help us to become a better company and services for our clients.
We hand pick our representatives ( sub-contractors) as you called them and we have been working together for years in order to assist our clients in any travel needs so we are proud of how we work with each of them in order for us to offer you a great trip.
We know that you were not happy with the tours in Atacama and I apologize for that. Our contracts with the suppliers don't allow us to break down the cost of each service so that’s why we cannot pass that to the client. Our invoices have been adjusted base on the changes we discussed with you while planning. But as you mentioned in your review the ratings are mostly 4 or 5 out of 5 except in Atacama. So I am glad for that :)
We were in touch constantly with you along the way since we are the responsible company that you hired for your full trip. But it doesn't look that it was enough or what you were looking for. Even though we did not have that impression from our email and phone conversations while planning or adjusting your trip.
It was our pleasure to assist you and wish you the best for your and Judy.
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