I was expecting to have the "value added" experience of dealing with tour company that promotes an entire trip 24/7 access and support while in the country, New Zealand. I had to access a third party while in New Zealand as bad weather necessitated rescheduling, and connecting with providers of specific prearranged and prepaid tour experiences. Actually, I was dealing with the local companies directly myself. This happened when the tour described on my itinerary from my travel agency was drastically different from the one I was booked on. In Paihai, I was to have an exclusive seaplane tour of 6 hours with lunch. What I received was a 4 hour tour with a group of 6 others, no lunch and no seaplane. I was assured I got what I paid for, and "sorry for the mix-up". In Nelson, the trip to Abel Tasman, a tour that was to include a full day of kayaking, two beaches, and walk, had to be cut short because of the transportation choice by the tour company. I spent 3 hours on a coach bus that toured through the local communities delivering passengers and 'bread' for local stores. That was longer than my kayak experience and I was identified as having to leave earlier to satisfy the bus schedule. It was also quickly obvious that there were other much superior options for transportation that involved a 50KM journey. One was with the company that gave us a ride from the airport to our bed and breakfast. I was very upset with this considering the tour company knew our kayak and fitness levels and experience and our standard of travel. This B&B was nice and the people there were instrumental in making our trip in Nelson great, as they recommended a charter fishing outfit, the tour company did not have any of (?), and I dealt directly with the captain. (Fine with me). This is not the end of my story, as there were more minor incidents. However, here is a copy of the e-mail I received from our travel agency.
"If you encounter any issues or have any questions during your trip call the tour company as they will be in a much better position to help than me.
I look forward to hearing all about your trip after you return!"
The land and the people of New Zealand were phenomenally kind, helpful, and possessed a great perspective on life and relationships. The food was fresh and healthy, and provided with care and attention. I was able to find help when I needed it, and met many people who taught me much about the land, the culture, and in the end - myself. My husband feels the same. Our accommodations were well suited and varied. We will return to explore what we missed this time around. Initially, the tour provider suggested we drive the two islands. Fortunately, I had some advice from people that live there and advised us that this would be a horrible choice. I requested flight transfers and these were great.
The diversity of the trip with long hikes, bike rides, ocean experiences, great food, and a huge range of geographical landscapes made this trip memorable and fantastic.
One thing that I would change, is not to have three tour companies part of the expense of the trip. I would also would not spend the night before my flight home to Canada in Queenstown. Two days before we were to depart, the flights out of Queenstown were cancelled. If this had happened to us we would have missed our fight home to Canada, and we would have had great difficulty finding accommodation. This is something a local tour company would have known was a possible risk.
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