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Sunday, November 19, 2017

Thoughts on Abercrombie & Kent A&K

Thoughts on Abercrombie & Kent

Let me first start by saying that I have taken many tours over the years, from cruises with multiple land tours, to land tours and river cruises with companies such as Uniworld, to cycling tours.  I expected that I would see a difference with A&K since it was twice the price I was used to paying.  
Overall I though it was not worth the money. I felt like every other tourist in Israel. The private Jordan tour was special but Small Group Journeys was not. 
Dinners were better than with other groups and generally more wine was available than described in the itinerary (except in Jordan which is a Muslim country and not alcohol is not prevalent there).

1) our tour guide and driver were outstanding.  They clearly were experienced and dedicated to an exceptional experience
2) The Kempinski Ishtar Dead Sea hotel was outstanding.
3) The Movenpick Petra was not to my liking - in fact it was the worst hotel of our entire trip.  There was mold growing in the tub and the decor seemed about 30 years old.  The Tauck group stayed there as well.
4) Crossing into Israel over the Allenby bridge was good and I felt safe and catered to, until I got to Israel.  I was not told a time of meeting although our guide kept saying that we had to be there (where?) by 330PM.  Once we got to the Israel side we did not know what to do and we waited not knowing what to expect.  This caused much nervousness on my part, not speaking the language, nor knowing the area.  I tried calling the numbers of the travel agency on my paperwork and there was not answer.  This was unacceptable.  After about 45 minutes a man sitting next to us asked us if we were expecting a ride and it was our driver al l along.  He did not have a sign with our names which is what I look for when meeting a chauffeur service.
The Israel tour portion was unorganized. I would have expected preferential entry or planning optimal visiting times for the price.
1) I would prefer a more experienced tour guide.  It was his first tour with A&K.  He was knowledgeable but did not know the logistics or locations as I would have expected.  
2) The King David Hotel was outstanding but others only nice.  I would have expected a nicer hotel in Tel Aviv where there are many better options then the Dan.
3) We had four persons with mobility issues out of 16.** One or two required walkers.  Persons who have mobility issues should not be allowed in group tours or the activity level should be more clearly explained. Those with known mobility issues could have special arrangements made. I saw this in Egypt where local men were present to assist with moving wheelchairs walkers etc through archaeological sites. 
4) Restaurant and free time suggestions typed ahead
5) I interviewed a couple on our tour. They have traveled with Tauck in Eastern Europe and considered this experience slightly more luxurious. They felt the meals better and hotel accommodations better than Tauck. I spoke with another who said this experience was not up to par with other A&K trips. Most on our trip were new to A&K.
6) At the King David I met a group who were participating in an around the world tour with National Geographic and Wall Street Journal.  This consisted of 21 days, private jet (for 74 participants plus guides!) and no more than 2-3 days in each location.  Guess what they paid? At least $82,000 per person.  Well my price at 1/10th that didn't seem so bad.
7)  When I saw that our room at the King David costs $1200 per night, the price didn't seem so bad either.  A similar itinerary for Tauck was about 80% of our price and the group was 21 persons.
8)  The size of the crowds in Israel are ridiculous.  I would suggest that A&K develop an enhanced access to sites or alternative times to visit sites.  I did not feel "VIP" at any site.

**One couple I interviewed who had mobility problems did not have these mobility issues when they booked the trip. They stated that about 6 weeks ago they tried to cancel but were told they could not. I asked of they had travel insurance and they did not. While I understand the implications of this, it was unfortunate for the individuals that do not have mobility issues. Many of us would like to walk more and we had a very active group. It was also unfortunate and unsafe to encourage the individuals participate in a tour for which they were not capable. 

My recommendation for this trip:

Make the reservations yourself and hire a private guide and driver.  For nearly $17000 for 10 days, you could do pretty well and it is safe, so don't worry.  I probably will not use A&K again.


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