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Transat Coach Tours

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Pickering, Ontario...
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Transat Coach Tours

We're presently trying to put together a coach tour of Italy. We like the itinery of the Bernini tour through Transat holidays. Has anyone had any dealings with this tour company? They are out of Quebec and my concern is that the tour is operated in English...also how many tourists they usually have on the bus tour as opposed to a Globus tour. Any information anyone has on hotels and optional excursions would be appreciated. Hope to hear soon so we can make our decision.

Montreal
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1. Re: Transat Coach Tours

I doubt that Transat runs its own tours in Italy; the tours are probably run by local operators and may include people who did not arrive with Transat. Tour guides on Transat tours will be bilingual; whether they use more English or more French will depend on the language of the majority of the people on the bus. Bus size, I think, would be the same as for a Globus tour.

Bobcaygeon, Canada
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2. Re: Transat Coach Tours

Hi

I am not a destination expert.

My wife and I are also looking at the Bernini trip to Italy. So, I have been doing some investigating.

Since the kids in Italy go back to school in mid September, we are looking at the 15th September 2012 Bernini trip.

The 2012-13 Transat Holidays Europe Collection e-Brochure is available online.

I looked it up and noticed an AuraTours logo. I then went to the AuraTours website.

I looks like Transat Holidays has taken the AuraTours Bernini tour and added 3 Days in Amalfi.

In the Transat Holidays Brochure, around page 10 under Coach Tours Inclusions, it states, "The services of a professional English-speaking guide throughout the tour"

We have not been on a Transat Holidays coach tour before but we have been on other coach tours in Europe and tour guides have spoken English, the host country language and a few others.

The minimum they need for a trip is 15 people. The type of tour buses AuraTours uses looks like they would carry about 40 - 44 people.

The hotel possibilities are listed on the same pages as the Bernini Tour in the Transat Holidays Brochure. Go to Tripadvisor website and search on these hotels and you will have all the info you need and then some.

Once I know where the hotels are located, I get a map of the city we will be visiting and pinpoint where they are on the map. I then look up the transportation system of the city we will be in and figure how to get where.

As to the trips, the TH Brochure lists all the included sights. What I check for is the free time available. Then I figure out what I want to see in the time available and use the local transit system to get there.

For instance, in Amalfi, we will use the bus system and the train to get to Pompei on one day. On another day we will use the Ferry system to visit Salerno, and Sarento and back to Amalfi.

Of course, all of this is just my view of things.

Regards,

Ron L

Bobcaygeon, ON Canada

Pickering, Ontario...
3 posts
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3. Re: Transat Coach Tours

Thanks Ron for the information........there are 4 of us travelling together and while I was leaning towards the Transat Holiday because of the amount of free time, my fellow travellers seemed to prefer to Bernini trip, which takes us a little further north in Italy. So I'm just back from booking the trip...we are booked for the 6th of May. I'd be happy to give you my thoughts once we get back (if you're interested).....I see you are from Bobcaygeon...we have a cottage just north of there on the Catchecoma Lakes. Small world isn't it?

Bobcaygeon, Canada
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4. Re: Transat Coach Tours

Yes it is a small world.

Sure would be interested on your thoughts about the Bernini Trip.

In particular the timing of things.

ie. Flight times, and free time available.

Regards,

Ron L

Sudbury, Canada
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5. Re: Transat Coach Tours

My wife and I too are looking at Air Transat to do the tour later in June but we are interested in the Grand Tour Of Italy. This will also cover Sicily, which we are very interested in seeing. Hope the 4 Star hotels turn out to be nice. Let me know who your trip goes.

Whitby, ON
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6. Re: Transat Coach Tours

Hi Ron, did you book the Bernini trip for September 15th. My friend and I booked the trip. I was looking on line for other people who had taken the trip already for basic information regarding, weather, attire, enjoyment of the trip. Any suggestions where I might find a blog or chat room to this respect?

Whitby, ON
2 posts
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7. Re: Transat Coach Tours

Hi Ron, did you book the Bernini trip for September 15th. My friend and I booked the trip. I was looking on line for other people who had taken the trip already for basic information regarding, weather, attire, enjoyment of the trip. Any suggestions where I might find a blog or chat room to this respect?

Bobcaygeon, Canada
4 posts
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8. Re: Transat Coach Tours

Yes we have booked the Bernini trip for Sept.15th.

On average the days will be 22 degrees Celsius, the nights about 16 degrees Celsius. (16 C is 60 F and is sweater weather)

Shoulders and knees will need to be covered up for entering any churches etc.

There are hair dryers in all the hotels but no irons.

I will be taking 2 pr jeans, 1 pr good slacks, 5 long sleeved shirts , 5 short sleeved shirts, 2 sweaters, 1 rain jacket, slippers, sandals, 1 pr good shoes.and of course under wear and toiletries and a sun hat.

My flight bag will weigh 20 lbs. I carry a knapsack.

I have yet to find a blog or chat room.

It is Italian tradition to go for a walk after dinner. There is a name for it but I have just forgotten it.

If you are dressed neatly you will be served neatly.

Ron L

GTA
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9. Re: Transat Coach Tours

The review posted on this forum by pvf_10 - tripadvisor.ca/ShowTopic-g187768-i20-k458980… - is pretty thorough, but I'd like to add some more information to help others plan. When I was getting ready to leave I could hardly find any information for the tour so I'd like to remedy that for future travelers! I’ll just start spewing so I apologize if the continuity isn’t great.

My family went on the Bernini 13 nights tour. The tour was conducted in English (we departed from Toronto) by a tour guide whose first language was Italian, and was employed by Aura Tours. Our particular group started off with about 40 people (the bus probably had seats for 50ish). Our group split up towards the end of the tour, as some people branched off to do the Grand Tour and go to Sicily, while others split off to leave the tour entirely and visit family. I'm not sure if all the tours are like this, but we did lose about half our group by the end of the trip, as well as spending two days in Sorrento with about 10 new people.

As for the demographics of our group, we had two large families (8-10 members) varying in age from young teens to late 70s, 3 young (aged 25-35) couples, two smaller families of 4 with kids aged 10-16, and some other small groups.

This is a fast-paced tour with a lot of walking and I would not recommend it for people who are 70+ unless they are very fit. I also wouldn't recommend it for young children, as there are significant chunks of the tour that are spent listening to a local guide discuss the cultural and historial relevance of certain areas or structures -- excellent education, but perhaps a bit boring for little ones.

If you're hoping for lots of free time, this is NOT the tour for you (unless you're okay with skipping out on the majority of the optional excursions). We had chunks of 2 or 3 hours to ourselves here and there, but other than that, we weren't truly free to do our own thing until we reached Amalfi.

One large suitcase will be handled for you throughout the trip; if you have more than that, you will have to pay extra fees every now and then. (For example, in Venice, your baggage goes to your hotel in its own boat before you do, and only one case of baggage is covered for handling. They will take extras but I think it’s 5 euros extra per bag.) Be sure to label your bags, or you may find they get sent to the wrong hotel room. Some of the hotels force you to use their porter service, and I didn’t realize my baggage tag had come off during our flight there, so I had to go on a wild goose chase for my bag a couple of times.

Our guide split with our group after Sorrento; 13 people went to Amalfi, and he carried on with the group going to Sicily on the Grand Tour. That meant that the people who went to Amalfi were in charge of assigning someone to hold onto some papers to give to the shuttle bus driver that picked them up to leave for Rome, as well as presenting papers to the shuttle driver who took them from the hotel in Rome to the airport. It was nothing complicated and there was nothing to actually be arranged, but I just thought I’d mention it as a head’s up.

The duration of your stays in some of the cities can be misleading when you read the online description. For example, “one night in San Marino” for us meant arriving at the hotel just in time for dinner, then doing a walking tour of Monte Titano at night, and leaving San Marino at about 8 or 9am the next day. I felt a bit cheated on that one, since the website says “After breakfast, enjoy some free time in San Marino.” On day 11 where it says “The morning is at your leisure” in Sorrento... it wasn’t, really. We left the hotel at about 10:30. So if you want to get up at 6 and roam the streets, then sure, the morning is at your leisure... but otherwise it’s just get up and go. (On a related note, I think the longest bus ride we had [including pit stops] was about 5 hours.)

I was worried we'd get stuck with a crummy cliff-side view room in our hotel in Amalfi, but the tour ensured that everyone had a beautiful oceanside view room, just in case that was a concern for you. I’d recommend you use the private hotel beach rather than the public beach in town. I think the public beach is free, but it’s crowded and smelly. The hotel beach was lovely; 10 euros buys you a beach chair and half of an umbrella (shared with the chair next to you) for the whole day, and you can rent towels from the front desk for 5 euros (you get that back when you return your towel). There’s a snack bar that serves just the hotel clientele, with pizzas, sandwiches, salads etc and both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. There are private bathrooms that are quite clean, and also an outdoor shower where you can rinse off the saltwater. Note that to get to the beach, you have to take a shuttle from the hotel to an elevator that cuts straight down through the rock cliff; if you’re claustrophobic, you might be better off with the public beach.

You can expect to pay a city tax for each night you stay in each city - it was usually about 3-4 euros per person per night. San Marino was an exception; no city taxes there. I think there was another place that didn't have a city tax too but I forget which one. Some places don’t make you pay for children (I think 16 or under).

Drinks are only included in two of the dinners, but alcohol is quite affordable there. I would say it's probably cheaper to get drunk in Italy than to hydrate yourself! Speaking of which, note that Rome's water is potable -- everywhere. There are fountains on the streets you can drink from. However, Florence's water tastes terrible (though it won't kill you).

Ron is quite right about needing to have shoulders and knees covered to enter churches or be in Vatican City. The guards aren't total sticklers (I saw some people in St Mark's Basilica who definitely bent the rules) but I'd still say it's better to be safe than sorry.

Optional excursions:

- Pompeii was 58 euros for lunch and the tour (43 if you just did the tour)

- The Vatican museum and Sistine Chapel was 25 euros (I think. I can't be too far off)

- We did the Tuscan vineyard dinner but I can't remember what it cost - whatever it was, it was worth it.

- We didn't do the Transat-prescribed optional excursion on Capri. Instead, our guide set up a special private boat tour for the 12 of us who were interested, and it cost 22 euros each. We toured 3/4 of the island, and swam once for about 20 minutes. The Blue Grotto was unfortunately closed due to rough waters.

- We didn't do the gondola ride in Venice, but if you've got it in your head that you'd like to do a ride with your partner and have music, I hope you've saved up! A private gondola ride for 2 with music will set you back about 270 euros, and if you want to do it through the tour, everyone who wants to go on a gondola ride has to want to pay for the music. I gather doing it on your own and not through the tour would cost even more. And if you have an uneven number of people and won't fill up a gondola, you have to share the price of the empty seat(s) between yourselves.

General Tips:

- If you suffer from motion sickness, DEFINITELY take Gravol before getting on the hydrofoil to Capri. People were dropping like flies. You know what... take it even if you don't suffer from motion sickness. I don't, and I still threw up. Also consider taking it before getting on the shuttle from Sorrento to Amalfi; the roads are winding and there's lot of sudden braking as you round blind corners and oncoming traffic appears out of nowhere!

- Bring a water bottle (the collapsible Vapur ones are great) and fill it up every morning at breakfast to help you get through the day. Water ain't free!

- If you want to tour the interior of the Colosseum (not included in the tour), ask your guide about the office in Rome where you can purchase tickets. Some people from our group did that instead of purchasing right at the Colosseum, and there was no line up - it saved them a lot of hassle. Unfortunately I don’t have more specific information about it but they should know what you’re talking about. I think there is a similar office you can use to get tickets for the Accademia & Uffizi in Florence, too.

All in all it was an excellent trip and I definitely recommend it if you’re just looking to get a taste of Italy and/or get a feel for where you’d like to go back and spend more time on your own in the future. If you have any more questions, just ask, but I've written such a novel I can hardly imagine you want to hear more from me! Haha.

Montreal, Canada
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10. Re: Transat Coach Tours

Dear AMB

Thank you for your extensive review - it is very informative.

We are going on the Bernini tour September 5-16. The tour certainly seems jam packed. I assume that no part of the tour includes the Vatican. You would think that would be the focal point of interest in Rome!

With so little free time and the fact that the Vatican Museums seem to close at 5:30 - how did you fit in the Vaatican visit? It seems we only have a couple of hours the first day we arrive and a few hours in the afternoon the day before we leave Rome. The night tour of the Vatican is out of the question since it is only done on Fridays.

Thanks in advance for any information you might offer regarding the best way to arrange to see the Vatican.

Mary