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Sceptre Tours/Dooley Vacations: Some Pros and Cons

Pasadena, California
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Sceptre Tours/Dooley Vacations: Some Pros and Cons

We visited Ireland in April on a “package deal” offered by Dooley Vacations, that included 6 nights at the Ritz Carlton Powerscourt, a car and R/T airfare from New York.

The quality and value of the accommodations were unbeatable. The same package was offered by Sceptre Tours, which seems to be a related company. While there may be differences between the two companies that I could not detect, the basics seem to be the same: in fact, we confusingly got a mailing regarding our trip from Sceptre Tours, with our Dooley Vacations confirmation number attached. A phone call to a customer rep confirmed that the two companies were “closely related”.

There are already a few threads in the Ireland forum about Sceptre and Dooley. Some people rave about the great value and wonderful trips, while others are very unhappy with poor customer service and difficult communications. I thought I’d try to sum up what I learned from our vacation, for “searches” by future travelers considering using these packages. I hope it will be useful for someone out there. Of course other travelers can add to the thread, if interested.

IS THE TRIP IS GOOD VALUE? Price all the elements separately and make sure it is a very substantial savings. Don’t just take their word for it. Our trip was an amazing value; so much so, that we started thinking about taking another package, to Italy, for next year. We priced it out, and it wasn’t nearly as big a savings. Due to the drawbacks mentioned below, I’ll only use these companies for good value packages, not just as a travel agency.

IS IT THE TRIP YOU REALLY WANT? Don’t buy impulsively. Make sure the included hotel is well reviewed; that it is in an area you will be happy staying; that it is within a reasonable drive to the places you want to visit; and that the time of year that it is offered is an enjoyable time to visit. Research the trip carefully before you buy.

CAN YOU MODIFY THE TRIP? While we loved our package, we wanted to stay longer and visit other areas. We were able to keep the car a few days longer for a nominal cost, and fly out later, from Shannon instead of Dublin, for no additional cost. But these modifications HAD to be done at the time of booking the trip.

DO YOU EXPECT A “WHITE GLOVE” TRAVEL AGENCY? If so, these packages are not for you. I called numerous times, and each time was on “hold” for at least 30 minutes. If booking with these companies, expect to:

1. Before travel, independently confirm all your bookings directly, with the airline, car rental agency, and hotels.

2. Before flying, check with the airline to make sure your flight has not been changed or cancelled. Sceptre/Dooley are not going to keep track of this for you, and if you miss your flight, you are out of luck.

3. Carefully read all the fine print. There isn’t much flexibility once you’ve booked and paid. Make sure you understand that before booking.

4. There are some additional fees. Ask what they are, if you don’t understand.

OTHER STUFF, NUTS AND BOLTS:

1. When booking the trip on the phone, write down any additions to the basic package, itemizing the amounts, and keep that list. We added several things, including car insurance, but I lost the paper that I had scribbled the itemized costs on. When the invoice arrived, all the costs had been combined and the only number was the final amount. Keep your itemized list; otherwise, you won’t be sure if the figure is correct, or be able to remember what, for instance, you paid for car insurance.

2. Price out car insurance separately, before buying from them. I bought theirs, out of laziness. It may have been a good deal, or a rip-off. Research CDW and SCDW on this forum before your final booking, unless you want to possibly pay extra to be spared the bother.

3. Buy travel insurance from another company, through Insuremytrip.com, or Travelguard, or the like. Don’t buy it from Dooley/Sceptre—it isn’t comparable.

4. Your travel documents will come on plain white computer paper, not even company letterhead. It is a bit of a shock. Make sure all the information is completely correct, and that any upgrades are completely spelled out. Make sure there is a separate sheet for each element of the trip (car, hotels, airline, etc.) Read the documents carefully, and then print out extra copies, one to leave at home, and another for your other suitcase or carryon. These papers have your ID number on them.

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1. Re: Sceptre Tours/Dooley Vacations: Some Pros and Cons

Thank you for your post. I am taking a trip through Sceptre in September. It was considerably cheaper than booking myself.

Baltimore, Maryland
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2. Re: Sceptre Tours/Dooley Vacations: Some Pros and Cons

If you happen to check this site I would like to know how your Sceptre trip went. I am thinking of using Sceptre to book a trip to Italy. Thanks very much.

Tulsa, Oklahoma
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3. Re: Sceptre Tours/Dooley Vacations: Some Pros and Cons

Excellent summing up of Sceptre! Thank you for taking the time to do so, pasca. We have used Sceptre twice with no problems at all. As I have said in other posts, you have to be your own advocate. I checked our flights on the airline website at least weekly before traveling and were made aware of changes. I never called Sceptre regarding these changes, I emailed them and always got a response within 1 day as we were still months out from traveling.

I researched both companies on the Better Business Bureau website and the two companies are indeed related, and at the time I checked last year they had no complaints listed.

Knowledge is, indeed, power!!

Pasadena, California
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4. Re: Sceptre Tours/Dooley Vacations: Some Pros and Cons

Thanks. I hope someone finds it useful...or at least can find it if they do a forum search.

Gilbert, Arizona
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5. Re: Sceptre Tours/Dooley Vacations: Some Pros and Cons

Thank you for posting this info - we just received info on a Sceptre tour through travel zoo - and have wanted a trip to Scotland - but the deal sounds too good to be true. I have a question for you - what airline did you take? Were you flying from the US? How were you treated? When you made changes to your flight from Shannon vs. Dublin - did you book that through Sceptre? Did they e-mail you the confirmation or just via. postal mail?

Thanks for all the info - we have never been - and will need any great info we can get! Thanks!

Philadelphia...
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6. Re: Sceptre Tours/Dooley Vacations: Some Pros and Cons

Just a quick note on these companies... Sceptre is the technology behind Dooley Vacations and Aer Lingus vacations. They provide the booking engine which includes Aer Lingus flights and Dooley rental cars so you're right -- it is the same exact package, branded through many different sites.

They have AMAZING deals by this partnership -- along with hotels, to bring in the business. The bottom line is # of passengers they move which means that service can sometimes go by the wayside... sorry to say.

The VIP Car Insurance is actually quite nice -- it is a good deal. And everyone is going to "electronic documents" to save postage and printing -- which means a PDF that YOU print on your own printer with confirmation #s. It's all about reducing the CCP (cost per passenger) to get you booked and on your way so the less you talk to someone, the lower that cost which allows them to pass it along.

When you find the package, you can use your local travel agent for the booking -- same price, no more and no less -- HOWEVER you will (hopefully) get their full planning services and protection, should anything happen.

Pasadena, California
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7. Re: Sceptre Tours/Dooley Vacations: Some Pros and Cons

"Thank you for posting this info - we just received info on a Sceptre tour through travel zoo - and have wanted a trip to Scotland - but the deal sounds too good to be true. I have a question for you - what airline did you take? Were you flying from the US? How were you treated? When you made changes to your flight from Shannon vs. Dublin - did you book that through Sceptre? Did they e-mail you the confirmation or just via. postal mail?"

For our package (Ireland) the airline was AerLingus, round trip from NYC. We booked LAX-NYC ourselves.

The service was sort of nonexistent but also not needed in our case. When we called, we were on hold for a long time, so make sure you have all your questions ready so you don't need to call back 5 minutes after you hang up (like I did at least once).

Read my initial post carefully, plus also search for other posts about Sceptre.

We changed our departure date, added days to the car rental, and changed our airport of departure from Dublin to Shannon AT THE TIME OF THE RESERVATION, NOT LATER. Changes after the initial reservation/deposit are not particularly welcome and will cost you, if available at all.

So look carefully at the package, price it out separately, decide if you want to go to those particular cities and hotels, decide if you want to visit other places in Scotland for additional days... and then call and see what they can do for you. Maybe they can be flexible in your case, maybe not.

We got email confirmation but printed "vouchers" on plain paper came in the mail.

Regarding service: everything went well for us, so we didn't need any. However, we were there during the volcanic ash travel crisis. As it happened, we were on the first flight that left on schedule in a week. But I was a little worried about Dooley/Sceptre, in that the website was not too helpful about what we should do in case our flight didn't go. It just said, call your airline. We met other people at the airport, who had travelled on Sceptre packages, and whose flights had been cancelled. They said Sceptre was not very helpful to them, although Aer Lingus honored the tickets and the hotel they were staying at (in Adare) gave them a favorable rate for the additional days they had to stay.

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8. Re: Sceptre Tours/Dooley Vacations: Some Pros and Cons

Pasca, thank you for leading me to this forum. I booked and purchased our 6 night Ireland air/hotel/car package (stay at The Heritage Golf and Spa Resort) from Sceptre Tours this morning. You're right, after receiving the email confirmation, Sceptre Tour and Dooley Vacations (Car Rental) are linked. The price was really good for all 5 of us. 3 adults and 2 kids (1 kid's plane ticket has to be purchased separately because this package is based on 4 adults) and since there are 5 of us, car rental has to be upgraded to a mini-van. The total is $5,426 (including my son's extra ticket and all taxes and VIP Express Car Insurance). Sounds like a good deal to us as an adult's plane ticket would have cost us $925 to fly in July. We live in the Northwest so we will have to find some cheap fares to get all 5 of us to New York and extend our vacation. But if we flew to Dublin from the Northwest in summer, it would cost us $1160 just for airfare. But I do have to call Sceptre Tours back tomorrow (every time I called, I needed to wait for at least 5 to 10 minutes, so far not as bad as people said 30 minutes) and ask about the 6 day car rental. Since we will arrive at 9:30 am and departs at 5:00 pm, it will be 6 1/2 days of car rental. I wondered if we would have to pay an extra day of car rental because the confirmation didn't list out from what time to what time we could keep the car for. It only said for 6 days. Reading people's questions and comments, I feel like I am a little aware and prepared how to deal with Sceptre. I hope our trip will go smoothly with no delays and flight cancellations. As for the hotel we are staying, I was aware that it's located in the middle of no where but the price was so good that my husband was willing to drive everywhere given that Ireland is not that big but he definitely will miss the crowd and fun when it comes to looking for a beer to enjoy in the evening. One bad thing I found out was that the villa we're staying does not have washer/dryer in the apartment. I don't think we will use their laundry service as it will be too pricey. Good thing is we will be able to use their facilities such as swimming pool. Our kids will have a blast in this 5 star resort. As for me, I can't wait for some relaxation at this resort. Also, anyone has any idea which castle would be a good place to stay for a night? Any experience to share? As you have suggested, I might have to learn how to start a new link on the resort's experience. (A staff at Sceptre suggested I called early in the morning EST or after 1:30 pm EST, for some reason he found the phones were less busy around those times.) Pasca, thank you for your help.

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9. Re: Sceptre Tours/Dooley Vacations: Some Pros and Cons

"As for the hotel we are staying, I was aware that it's located in the middle of no where but the price was so good that my husband was willing to drive everywhere given that Ireland is not that big but he definitely will miss the crowd and fun when it comes to looking for a beer to enjoy in the evening."

Teddycat, even though The Heritage is a little off the beaten track for nightlife, I must tell you that there is a nice bar called "The Thatch" right there and locals do frequent it. They have traditional Irish music every now and then. Also, the town of Portarlington is about 3 miles away and they have loads of pubs. O'Dea's is a nice pub and they have live music on Saturday and Sunday nights. It has good atmosphere with a nice local clientele. They even do meals there which I have to say are very good and very good value. You could taxi there from The Heritage one night for a few euros if you wanted to have a few drinks. Have a wonderful time!

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10. Re: Sceptre Tours/Dooley Vacations: Some Pros and Cons

I have booked a tour for the summer. How far in advance did you guys get your paperwork?

We are 2 families and have 2 mid size cars, Sceptre said they did not have van big enough for us. On Dooley website it appears they do. Do you think Dooley will negotiate trading in the 2 car vouchers for the van directly?