My first problem started when we arrived and endured a long bus ride without a rest stop until we hit Ennis for lunch. At this time I spoke to the tour director to remind her we had elderly on the bus that needed to stop more frequently. When we finally arrived at out hotel in Galway we were informed it would be a wait for our rooms due to a previous wedding group that had been slow to check out; however, I watched other travellers checking in and receiving room keys while our group waited after long flights from the U.S. On day day 3 we were assembled to encourage more people to sign up for an optional tour that they reduced by 50%. I signed up only because we would be going to Ashford Castle for tea and scones. It was believed by all that we would see the inside of the castle. When we got there our tour director informed us that we would be taken to a cottage for the tea and scones and were refused entrance to the castle. I watched other tour buses arrive and enter the castle for a tour. Although Kylemore Abbey was included in this optional tour, it was not worth the additional monies even with the 50% off.
My main reason for going to Ireland was an interest in the standing stones and especially the circular standing stones. When I asked the tour guide when we would see them (over 300 in Ireland) the bus driver said they were too far off the road, and most had no roads to them and if they did there was no parking for the bus. I spoke to other tour groups that we met along the way and they told me that they had gone to several standing stone locations that were within walking distance and their buses had no trouble parking. I felt deceived by both the driver and tour director. The tour director became very defensive any time I mentioned hearing from other groups.
The next aggravating issue was there was nothing in place to insure that all had a chance to sit in the front of the bus. I had mentioned this to the tour director and she mentioned maybe having a rotation but it never materialized. I had to get a 40 minute head start to the bus on the days I wanted to sit in the first half of the bus; it was a relief after spending the first week in the back half that felt every bump in the road. The other problem with the bus is that the driver never opened the side door like other tour buses were doing. When I questioned this he stated that the stairs were too steep (but the toilet facilities were there) and their insurance would not allow them to open except for emergencies. Another problem was the tour director and driver playing a CD of Irish tenor music that included religious songs, specifically Amazing Grace and Nearer My God To Thee, that played over many times (4). When we stopped I asked the tour director not to play that CD because it might be offensive to some on the bus of other faiths. A few days later it was being played again and I asked the bus driver not to play it. He argued with me that it was NOT religious music only Irish tenor songs but it was played at a lower volume that we could still hear through the overhead speakers located just overhead of the seats.
There were some good and great days on this tour too. A visit to Rathbaun farm that included teaching us to make scones (we got to eat our own) and a sheep shearing demo. A harp recital back at the hotel that was fabulous. (Day 3)
Day 7 was a Killarney tour including Muckross House and a jaunting car ride with very entertaining drivers.
Day 10 was a tour of Blarney Castle with enough time to roam the grounds. We also visited Charles Fort in Kinsale and visited St. Colemans Cathedral with an organ recital.
Day 11 was a trip to Waterford to see how Waterford crystal was made. The tour was quite interesting.
I was very disappointed with this tour and, if ever returning, would use a different tour company for this land tour. I did a previous tour with Vantage to Norway and I still consider it one of the best cruises.
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