Sarah Symonds review 6 Oct 2019
1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?
Beautiful mountain walks and views.
2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?
Make sure you have a decent level of fitness. We walked circa 10 miles a day. One person on our trip was not fit enough and they were miserable the entire week.
3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?
We got our picnics from the local Aldi stores rather than independent retailers, so, no, I don't think it benefitted local people as much as it could have. Regards enviro impact, there was a lot of driving every day. However, one of the accommodations used solar energy to heat the water. Unfortunately, this meant that there was no hot water in the morning, only in the evening!
4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?
On a positive note, we had excellent weather, a nice group of people, good guides and we visited some lovely national parks. On the down side, however, the 'optional activities' day I'm afraid to say was a rather cynical money-making ploy by the operator- the accommodation did not have any access to walks, activities or indeed anywhere by buy food. Therefore one did not have any option but to pay the equivalent of about £80.00 each to be driven to a city (a 2-4 hour drive depending on where you decided to go). In the event, several of us mutinied and asked to be taken back to the Plitvice Lakes National Park, which was only a 15 minute or so drive away (which was not given as an actual choice). Clearly, there was no justification to charge us for that journey and the guides kindly took us to a shop to buy food on the way, so that was ok. Another annoyance was that in the itinerary we were sent at the outset, Rijeka was mentioned as a departure airport. We were later sent an e-mail setting out departure airports that did not include Rijeka. In the confusion, we accidentally booked flights departing from Rijeka. The operator pointed out that they could not delivery us to Rijeka and that we would have to find alternative transport to the airport. This was our mistake, so we organised bus tickets. However, our guides told us that if the operator had contacted them and explained our situation, they could have made arrangements to take us to the air port themselves. It seems that the operator did not bother to check for us, which we think was amiss of them. The accommodation was pretty basic, but it was clean and all the beds were very comfortable. However, we didn't really get a good shower all week. One of them was dangerous as the water came out scolding hot and the shower head was broken and kept falling off! All other showers were not hot at all. Food was basic, but ok - nobody went hungry, although there was often little choice.
Read the operator's response here:
We are glad that some of the aspects of your trip were good, but several things came as a big surprise to us so we need to comment.
There are no Aldi stores at all in Croatia at this time. We checked with the guides to see where shopping was arranged for lunches. They said stops were made at several large shops with larger selection of food, drinks and snacks, as well as some smaller ones when available localy. When guests requested to stop at one of the larger shops, the guides did so. We appreciate that you may have been in the other van when this request was made and were not aware why the group stopped there.
The tour you participated in is a tour of Croatian national parks. Their geographical location is what it is. Three of the five parks you visited are spaced further apart, but two are very close to accommodations and require very little or no driving. We do offer another walking tour that does not visit as many NPs and therefore includes less driving.
Some of our guests decide to use the free day/optional trip day to rest and others prefer to participate in one of the trips that are available at the given time of year. Optional trips you were offered – a visit to Zadar (2 hour drive) and a visit to Zagreb (2 hour drive) were priced 40 euros/36 GBP per person and 35 euros/31 GBP per person respectively, with a 4 person minimum. We do not offer any optional trips at £80.00 each as stated. (Please note that three guests decided to go to Zadar and were charged 45 euros per person, since there were only three and the minimum number of four was not reached.)
In case when the group decided to stay in the village and simply rest, the guides always arrange a drive to a local shop for those wishing to purchase snacks/lunch. In case when one or both guides remain in the village, they can even take a group to a local restaurant for lunch. So it is completely incorrect to imply that the only way to get lunch that day is to pay for the optional trip out of the village.
Plitvice Lakes park visit is not offered as an optional activity as it is already an activity included in the itinerary and the price of the trip. The guides were surprised when we asked them about a mutiny described in the review and said that while the group was deliberating whether to do any optional trips, one person asked if she could go back to Plitvice. Then several others embraced the idea as well and the trip was arranged. Please note the cost of optional trips is there because expenses that incur need to be covered.
Problems at accommodation
In case you did not report this to the guide/accommodation while still on tour, please let us know where this happened so we can report it to the owners and they can get it fixed.
Finally, Rijeka airport is listed only as arrival airport in several places on our website. Only Zagreb, Zadar and Split were sent as options before the booking was made. We caught one spot where it was still mentioned as departure in the document sent after the booking is made, our apologies. This has now been corrected.
The guides are employed by us and receive all instructions for the tour, including transfer lists from the head office. When asked, neither could confirm that they told you they could have made these transfer arrangements for you. Rijeka airport, which is out of the way, is not included as departure airport because of the length of drive and additional cost. Our guides cannot make the call to use the company vehicle and take guests to a location which is not included or not en route. It is our office team's job to know what can be arranged and what cannot. The guides check exceptions with us, not the other way round.