I have planned many excursions over the years and have never had an experience as we did with this group. I had read all of the wonderful reviews of this tour on Tripadvisor and other places and thought this would be a wonderful excursion for us when we go to Akaroa next February. I am an early planner and saw that it was recommended to write to this group early to ensure booking as it does fill up. I wrote earlier this year (January 2014) and got almost an immediate response (difference in hours notwithstanding) indicating that we were “penciled in” for the tour but to contact them in the fall as their costs may change. Therefore, I did not think I needed to do more until the fall. In mid-April, more than 3 months after receiving notice that we are on the tour, I got an email advising me that the tour was no longer available as the tour was booked for 8 people (the maximum allowed). Honestly, I was shocked and wrote back trying to understand what happened. Sandra, through the Akaroa Visitor Center, said and I quote: “I can only put this down to human error on my part and can understand your position” but in the end did absolutely nothing to rectify it. I was not only shocked but appalled that they admitted the error of their ways but we were left with no tour for that date. Yes, I can book others (which they provided me a listing of), but I was most upset because this was probably the excursion our group of 4 had so looked forward to do on our New Zealand tour. Also, I found their response unbelievable, mostly that she did not go back to the others that were booked after us to explain the “human error” of her ways. From what I understand and read about this tour on Tripadvisor and the Akaroa Visitor Center site, there is nothing that indicates one must book with a group of 8 or that a group of 8 that books together trumps others who were advised they were on the tour, nor did the person who indicated we were on the tour include anything of the sort. I did write back a few times asking what they would do, including advising the other group or some other way to assuage the situation and have received no response.
I am a frequent user of Tripadvisor and have posted many reviews (mostly positive) of where we have traveled, and we have traveled many places around the world. I find Tripadvisor is a great resource and I would want to know if there were any issues and have found the reviews on Tripadvisor very helpful. Again, people need to do their own research and due diligence on excursions, lodging, etc. However, I have NEVER had this experience (nor do I wish it for any other group) that when you assume you have booked with something that you are then not for reasons that make no sense. I still do not understand why they could not go back to the other group, make an accommodation for us as they admitted it was their fault, nor was there any reply to that effect. Therefore, I would recommend that one be very careful when booking with them as email confirmations apparently don’t have any impact on this group. At the least, it is very poor customer service and perhaps staff who needs to be better trained or counseled. In the end, there is no excuse and I caution anyone using them. It is a shame as this tour does get great reviews but be wary in case the same situation occurs to anyone booking with them.
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