At the beginning of our re-caps I mentioned I would wait to talk about the actual tour group experience and accommodations after I finished sharing all the cities we visited. While it’s still fresh in my mind I wanted to share our experiences, mostly because I found a lack of information online while I was deciding to book our trip.
Like I said before, I used Groupon Getaways as a researching tool to see what kind of places Mike might be interested in visiting. When I came across the ‘9 Day Crown of Central Europe’ it not only looked like an interesting group of cities, but the price was pretty good too.
The tour was through Gate 1 Travel, and was an escorted tour through the advertised Prague, Munich, Salzburg, and Vienna. What interested me was the transportation/ accommodations were included and one less thing I had to research on my own.
My only apprehension was my preconceived idea of group tours: an older set of travelers. Mike and I are pretty active when we vacation and were concerned that we would be the youngest couple. It might have been because of the Groupon, but on our tour, that wasn’t the case. There were 38 people in our group, and about a third were older, lets say 60+, another third 40-60, and the rest were under 30.
The other concern was an overly upbeat tour guide. We saw many groups along the way, and many had silly stuffed animals, or signs on sticks guiding everyone through. Mike and I are much more low-key and I was worried we would get someone like that. Instead we got Dean Mladenvic.
The Tour Manager
Dean was laid-back, very knowledgeable, and generally just really excited about helping people enjoy the trip. He was our ‘Tour Manager’ and traveled with us the entire trip, sharing history and facts along the way. In addition to Dean, in each city we had local guides. Each guide was obviously very informative and very enthusiastic about their respective cities. They all spoke English very well, and with the help of whisper radios we were able to enjoy the tours while seeing the everything and hearing the information without stopping and trying to hear someone yell.
As I said, the transportation to and from the airport, and the bus we drove along the trip, as well as the hotels were included in the price. All the hotels provided breakfasts, (not the American continental breakfast either – full hot breakfasts with the usual fare as well as some neat local specialties like sausages too) and about half had free wifi. Something also to note is that like inner city apartments in Europe, the rooms were all on the smaller size. While it was fine for Mike and I, some were smaller than others and we had to adjust how we spread out and used the space.
Our first hotel was the Jurys Inn Prague. It was clean and modern and was within walking distance of everywhere we went.
It is also located across from the Florenc underground Metro station, although Mike and I didn’t use the underground while we were there, our local friend Doug mentioned this was very convenient.
The room was a decent size as far as the other rooms we stayed in during the trip. And it should be mentioned that the lobby also had a nice bar with some decent Czech beers that Mike enjoyed!
In Munich we stayed at the Sheraton Munich Westpark Hotel.
The hotel felt a little more dated, but was still pretty nice. The location was a little outside the city, but the Garmischer Strasse / Ridlerstrasse undergound station was right outside the front doors. This was probably preferable to being in the middle of the city since they had the big festival in the center of the city that was still playing music at midnight when we left.
We stayed at the Hotel Europa in Salzburg.
It was the most dated hotel room, but was clean and while it was outside of the city by 10-15 minutes, it was only about 20 minute drive from our country dinner, so it was a decent location. We were also only there for 1 night, so we were fine anyways.
The restaurant for breakfast was on the top floor, which had some nice views of the city and mountains.
The last hotel we stayed in was the Leonardo Hotel Vienna. This was very modern and nice, but the smallest of all the rooms. The bedroom was fine, but the bathroom as very tiny, only one person could be in there at a time – somewhat difficult when there’s two people trying to get ready in the morning.
I honestly can’t remember the proximity of the hotel to the city center since we were traveled to Schönbrunn Palace first thing, then stayed all day downtown, but it wasn’t that far of a drive. I do remember having to pay for wifi here. Mike and I didn’t, but a couple people with us did and it was 6€ per day. The breakfast was nice, (seriously all the hotel breakfasts were awesome) and they even made to go boxes for those in our group that left to go to the airport before the restaurant opened.
The bus we traveled with was a Mercedes Benz coach bus. It wasn’t fancy but it had a bathroom and was clean!
I mentioned before, most of the dinners were included and while some were actual places I had found during my research as places I would like to try (we weren’t told what restaurants we’d be visiting so I was surprised when they were places I had on my list), some were not places Mike and I would probably find ourselves in, although that’s not a bad thing. They were all very good and definitely showcased the local fare, which Mike and I both appreciate as we’re not chain restaurant people at home, and definitely try to find the local joints when we travel.
Gate 1 Travel Review
Overall, we had a really great experience! I’m not sure if it was the actual sights we saw, the people in our group, or the travel agency itself, but everything together made for an awesome trip! I’ve read some not so great reviews of Gate 1 in different countries, a lot complaining of their tour manager, but if someone were interested in the Central Europe trip, I would recommend it in a heartbeat. A couple of our friends gave us the side-eye for doing an organized bus trip. As you can tell we DIY a lot and allowing someone to have complete control over a big vacation like this was scary, but I thought it was a great way to travel – I admit though that it would rely heavily on the tour manager and types of people in the group, but for us, it worked out perfectly. Researching the trip before hand I found it’s very easy to travel throughout Europe by train, but we wouldn’t have stopped in some of my favorite places, like Pilsen, Melk, or Berchtesgaden. Overall we were happy with the Groupon process, Gate 1’s customer service during the reservations and the tour manager and guides along the way!
The only thing we’re bummed with is that it’s over!