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Are the hotels for Pilgrim Tours really this bad???

Washington DC...
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Are the hotels for Pilgrim Tours really this bad???

After getting EXCELLENT advise from people on this forum as to apartments to rent, my husband and in-laws decided they would really prefer to do a tour. This way, everything is planned and taken care of and we are provided with food, transport, guides, etc. ok, fine.

I was interested in Christian (evangelical) perspective tours, and several recommended Pilgrim Tours. I viewed the itenerary and it looked fairly comprehensive for a first time visit to Israel. Also, the price seemed very good for four adults. I emailed a representative to enquire about the hotels - this is the list I received:

Mediterranean: Blue Bay Hotel – Netanya (rated very, very low and assaulted in the forums!)

Galilee: Magaan Kibbutz (can't find any information or review on the forum OR google)

Dead Sea:Moriah Classic (rated DEAD LAST in the forum and the pics are atrocious!)

Jerusalem:Grand Court (not the worst ratings, but definitely not great).

ok, this tour adverts specify that these are "first class" and "four star" properties. Seriously? Can anyone offer me further insight as to:

1. the quality of this tour - first hand knowledge

2. these hotels (eek!) and whether they are really that bad

3. a "bible land" or "life of jesus" tour that has perhaps better hotels and smaller groups?

thank you so much - this is my husband and my annual Christmas trip, but it is "once in a lifetime" for my in-laws - any help would be greatly appreciated.

Washington DC...
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157 posts
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1. Re: Are the hotels for Pilgrim Tours really this bad???

wow. I just researched "pilgrim tours" and "hotels" on this site. Now I'm even more conflicted! I see that one person at least reported very negatively on the choice of hotels.

Any help to my original questions would be great appreciated. I'm beginning to think I need to go back to the drawing board and find a new tour!

israel
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for Tel Aviv, Galilee, Israel
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2. Re: Are the hotels for Pilgrim Tours really this bad???

There was a long discussion on this forum about the hotels Pilgrim provides. They claim that they have sent a delegate incognito to the hotels and have done changes so that the comfort and cleaness level are good now. Of course those of us that live in Israel do not use hotels so much. Maybe a more recent traveler can give his/her impressions.

NYC/Israel
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for Israel
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3. Re: Are the hotels for Pilgrim Tours really this bad???

I am only familiar with two of the hotels listed. The Blue Bay in Netanya ( where I am right now) is first of all not in a great location. On the sea it is NOT walking distance to anything--so if you have free time... The lobby has been redone but many rooms have not. ( the hotel itself was closed many years) Maybe if I have time I'll try to get up there and see if I can see a room ( or 2 or 3) They do have a beautiful pool and health club!

The Grand Court is a relatively new Hotel. The cabbie I use regularly for years and years stayed there a few months ago when his extended family got together for a Shabbat. ( In Israel, even non-religous families will sometimes do that--it is a time when most have off from work) He told me that the hotel itself was beautiful, clean and the food good. However the location isn't the best. You either need to take a cab to get places in Jerusalem or you walk through some areas that leave people uncomfortable.

I noticed while discouraging a Jewish friend from doing it that Perillo is now also running tours to Israel. I do not know where they stay but I do know they have a good reputation for their tours to Italy. ( and I discouraged the Jewish friend because they are Christian tours)

Seattle
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4. Re: Are the hotels for Pilgrim Tours really this bad???

I’ve taken a few groups to Israel and would dare to say that while I have not used Pilgrim Tours, they have a good reputation. In an effort to keep their prices down, tour companied like Pilgrim have to find a good value at a hotel that offers reasonable service and good surroundings. That’s not always easy and it’s always a balancing act. A few random comments:

-Many people on tours to Israel have such an amazing time that overlook problems with a hotel. So often hotel problems are under reported (IMHO) to the tour group organizers.

-Many of these hotels are older and undergoing constant refurbishment. You might get a really nice room in the same hotel that someone else gets a room filled with problems. That’s why you can get such varied reports.

-When these hotels are full, the service can get really poor. They know you can’t move to another hotel. It also means that if you have a problem with a room, they have nowhere to move you to.

-Hotels in Netanya and the Dead Sea tend to host tour groups for one night only and seem a little less service oriented, probably because of that. The Dead Sea is an especially expensive area and the hotels that aren’t expensive all seem to get bad ratings. On my last trip, I was going to have my group spend a night at the DS, but didn’t want to add $100 to the cost of the trip to get a reasonable hotel there. That said, these places are is a place to sleep for one night.

-If the quality of hotels is really important, there are tour agencies that specialize is high end tours and stay at top notch hotels, but the cost can be 50-100% higher than other tours.

The hotels you quote:

Mediterranean: Blue Bay Hotel – Netanya

-Never been there, but I’ve read nothing but bad reviews too.

Galilee: Magaan Kibbutz

-Ma’Aggan is charming, but a little rustic. Right on the southern shore of the Sea of Galilee. There have separate little bungalow type rooms and a bit of an outdoors resort feel. Some rooms need updating and there is nothing fancy about the place. Some people really like this place, others really don’t. I’ve had people say this was the best place we stayed on the trip and others who couldn’t wait to leave. www.kibbutz.co.il/kibbutzhotels/maagan.htm

Dead Sea: Moriah Classic

-Never been here either, but I have never heard a good review of the place.

Jerusalem: Grand Court

-Grand Court is very new and sits in a row with three hotels that cater to tour groups. Nice rooms and good food. If there is any problem, it simply that because of the many groups that stay there it is a bit busy as groups come and go. Some people don’t like the location, but IMHO it’s fine, especially since you won’t be walking a lot. I think you’ll like it. The Olive Tree next door is nice too.

You might just want to look for a tour that skips the DS overnight stay. You can just as easily tour the area from Jerusalem and that means you have one less time to unpack and pack.

You can always ask the tour company how many people they anticipate on a given tour. They like a full bus, but I find 40 people on a tour too many. What I often suggest is that you look around for a church that is doing a tour, talk with the leader, and join that trip if you feel comfortable with them. Usually, the groups are smaller. You can even ask a tour agency if they have any custom group tours booked from your area.

Good luck!

PS - Christmas is a busy time and tour companies will have fewer options for places to stay. Thinks can also be crowded.

Morgantown PA
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5. Re: Are the hotels for Pilgrim Tours really this bad???

You have been getting excellent advice from the Israel experts.

I have been to the hotels and would rate them as follows:

Blue Bay - Basic 4 star hotel, good beach access, acceptable food. The location is such that we get a jump on the sightseeing the first day which is important because of the multiple things on the schedule. Most people make do with it and we rarely get complaints.

Ma'agan - Cottage type rooms, most of which have been updated. Because it is a kibbutz, it is more basic in amenities with good food services and housekeeping. The location (on the Sea of Galilee) and grounds are delightful. We almost always get positive reviews.

Moriah Dead Sea – You do not want to miss the Dead Sea stay. You will enjoy it very much and it allows better access to the things that should be included while in the area. This hotel is a good 4 star property and our reviews are consistently very good.

Grand Court – A basic 4 star hotel with acceptable services all around.

David Nyce

President/Pilgrim Tours

israel
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for Tel Aviv, Galilee, Israel
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6. Re: Are the hotels for Pilgrim Tours really this bad???

This is a fair description. I love the Ma'agan location, but have never stayed there.

mid-hudson valley...
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7. Re: Are the hotels for Pilgrim Tours really this bad???

David, as an objective observer, I have a question/comment. From what I understand from reviews and comments, including yours, these hotels (perhaps with the exception of the Grand Court) are best approached with modest expectations. I think describing them as 4-star properties runs the risk of raising expectations beyond what they can be expected to deliver. From everything I've read, they sound much more like 3-star properties to me in terms of what travelers should expect.

Cincinnati, Ohio
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8. Re: Are the hotels for Pilgrim Tours really this bad???

I'd join in that comment, David. The issue may be the gap between expectations and reality. Americans are often a bit taken aback by Israeli hotels generally, as the standards are somewhat different. in the US, there are more plush, resort-level properties, and people see those as the five-star places. Calling these places just below that may set up unrealistic expectations and then disappointed and complaining customers.

Douglas Duckett

A proud patron of three-star hotels :-)

Morgantown PA
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9. Re: Are the hotels for Pilgrim Tours really this bad???

I know what you are saying and it is a topic of conversation in our office on a regular basis.

I think I may have misled you with my comments on the hotels in question. They are 4 star rated Israeli hotels and I actually like the Dead Sea and Tiberius properties more than I like the Grand Court. Another very important point is that I personally have read many comments over the past month from clients who were thrilled with this exact same program. If we were receiving negative comments, you can rest assured that things would change immediately.

Primarily due to Tripadvisor, we are continually looking for optional facilities and many of our upcoming tours have different hotels than those listed on this date. It is unfortunate that some of the properties are getting a negative reputation when most people would not agree with this assessment.

It is difficult to determine what level is best for the average client. If you compare our product and price, I believe you will see that we offer a great deal in comparison to other similar packages. It is very important to me that we can sell a product of very good value that the average person can afford. If we were to offer all superior 4 star or 5 star properties, our prices would be quite a bit higher and I do not think that we would be able to continue to provide the services that we have today.

We now have a hotel rating comparison on our Israel index page in an effort to clarify this dilemma. I hope that it will help, using the jargon of the day, to “be more transparent” for the future client.

Thank you for your advice and suggestions.

David M. Nyce

President/Pilgrim Tours

israel
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for Mitspe Ramon
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10. Re: Are the hotels for Pilgrim Tours really this bad???

dw325 and Douglas have pretty much hit the nail on the head but just to make sure the point is taken and after following the Pilgrim threads over the last few weeks the main problem seems to have been a pure case of expectations not having been met.

Expectations are of course subjective to a point but as both dw325 Douglas and others have said the US clients have slighly higher expectations from their stars so the hotels should perhaps be rated accordingly - no one will complain if they get upgraded but if they get down graded you'll never hear the end of it and no matter how much you tell an irate client that the hotel is rated 4 stars if it only delivered 3 star satisfaction you have not got a hope in hell of making him happy.

I can't help feeling that the Pilgrim guys could save themselves a whole load of expalaining if they re-rated some of the hotels or at least stated that there may be a slight difference between the rating here versus the rating of a similar premisis in the US.