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Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Lessons Learned Scheduling Shore Excursions: Your Guide to Scheduling Tours Online

What is the difference between a good tour company and a great tour company? Service and confirming the proper arrival location!  Check out our guide 

Experiences help us learn from our mistakes! Don’t get mad but understand what happened so you don’t let it happen again!  Hopefully you can learn from our mistakes too!

Courtesy of HBO

Recently we took a repositioning cruise on the Sky Princess to Sevilla. Knowing that there were some important locations for filming Game of Thrones in Spain we looked for tours to see the Alcazar (Dorne) and Dragon Pit. Since we are BIG Game of Thrones fans and had great experiences with other GOT tours, we scheduled a shore excursion with for us and 5 other passengers. Our itinerary said Seville (Cadiz), Spain and we told the company Seville.


Communication seemed excellent and their ratings were reasonable on TripAdvisor, and we placed deposits. Our options were to pay the balance ahead or pay balance in cash that day. We decided to pay for our group ahead by credit card for convenience and have everyone reimburse us.

Pickpockets are very common when going to a crowded market in Europe.  The market in Valencia was not crowded when we were there, but we experienced VERY crowded markets in other cities like Barcelona where attempts were made on our secured belongings.  One person in our tour group pictured here had their cell phone stolen in Barcelona.  LTD can't stress enough the importance of antitheft bags and vigilance!  We recommend the Sherpani AT sling bag for men or women.  It is lightweight, comfortable and looks great!  This is especially good for persons with back pain to minimize pressure on the spine.  The anti-theft features include zipper locks, anti slash bottom and strap, chair loop lock system and RFID protection.  Click the photo to learn more at Amazon and support our blog!  Thank you so much!!!

After speaking with the company over email for weeks, we decided to book directly but in hindsight booking through TripAdvisor May have been better for two reasons: payment is more clear and organized, recourse for lack of service would be better and we could review directly on TripAdvisor!

Sevilla4Real told us they would meet us at terminal with a sign. Upon arrival in Seville, our group went ashore only to not be met by anyone. Shortly I received an email asking what port we arrived at. We replied the name on the sign: Cadiz.

The Tour that Didn’t Happen: 

Unfortunately our driver and guide were at Seville which is 80 miles inland! Apparently some yachts and smaller cruise ships can navigate the river to Seville.

Sevilla4Real told us we could pay $300 euros extra to have the driver come to Seville and pick us up in 90 minutes but we would probably have to cut the tour short because entry to Alcazar is timed and they had another tour at 230 PM.

We decided to end the tour and we requested that our final payment be refunded since we had the option to pay via cash the day of the tour anyway. We felt this was fair since Sevilla4Real hires the driver, guide and purchased tickets as far as we know.

We blame ourselves for not researching well enough and not paying balance in cash (we hate carrying a lot of cash and feel credit cards offer protection for issues like this! We’ll see!). We blame princess for not putting Cadiz plainly on itinerary. And most of all we blame the local tour company for not looking at where and when our ship docked as most tour companies do. We had three other tours on this cruise each of whom researched our arrival location and did not rely on us, who were from abroad to know the geography! We can't say enough about Sea Saffron in Valencia, Lisbon Explorer Private Tours, and Madeira Taxi Tours by Diogo.

Sevilla4Real offered to refund us 200 euros to PayPal (we believe they weren’t sure how to refund to a credit card), not our full amount of final payment.  But after we made a credit card claim, which was denied, Sevilla4Real refused to refund the euros offered.  Sevilla4Real does not understand customer service that will lead to fans and patrons for life.  Check out this example of a follower of ours who had a great experience with Crystal Cruises - and yes they will be lifetime customers now!

Always remember that you can petition your credit card - even for international transactions - for services not provided. We did this immediately upon return and submitted all communication records for evidence. Our final payment money was refunded. Again, we felt it was fair to allow Sevilla4Real to keep the deposit from us as would have occurred if we opted to pay by cash at the time of the tour.
Alas, we won't see the Dragon Pit or Dorne....

Courtesy of HBO

Courtesy of HBO

Lessons learned:

Take a minute to research the cruise terminals and be very specific with the tour company about the pier and location of meeting place. Give the tour company a copy of your itinerary with port highlighted (or at least only the port if you don't want them to know how long you will be away from home for security purposes). Make final payment as late as possible if cash pay on the day of your tour is possible or book through TripAdvisor!

Here is our new checklist when scheduling adventures on TripAdvisor or Viator.

  • Schedule with TripAdvisor and Viator for the most recourse and best cancellation policies, but you can schedule directly with the tour company if you feel comfortable after contacting them and they have good reviews.
  • Always check the reviews.  Try to get the excursion with the most 5 star ratings and go into the written reviews to look at them.  Companies and individuals can manipulate reviews but not hundreds.
  • Be very specific about the meeting place.  Send a google map or request a google map if you can.  It is easy to pin locations on google maps.  
  • Ask the tour company for a photo of meeting place and guide so that if you taxi or walk to meeting place you have a reference and stay safe
  • Send a copy of your itinerary if you have one and hotel to tour company -- you can black out specifics other than where you will be staying or the meeting port. 
  • Pay everything as late as possible and if you have the option to pay in cash on day of tour, take it.  Things happen!
  • If you have paid by credit card, challenge the payment if things go awry as soon as possible.  You only have a brief period to do so, and in our case it was 90 days from charge. 
  • Use American Express to pay for international purchases including tours if possible because their customer support is better than VISA, and MASTERCARD as we experienced here.  With AMEX, the customer is always right. 
  • Get a What'sApp phone contact for the day of the tour and confirm plans 24 - 48 hours before departure.
  • Most of all...HAVE FUN!!!

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