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Review: North Wales

Escorted Tour - Coach

Appalling and potentially dangerous

  • By SilverTraveller TAB

    1 review

  • October 2016
  • On your own

I booked this holiday with my mother for my mother. (to North Wales) She was recently widowed and I felt that she needed to try to still enjoy things like holidays even though she is now alone. It took some cajoling on my part and she was nervous but we were attracted to what was offered and that it is specifically designed for the over 50s. I felt she would be in safe hands, with people of her own age and that this was the right choice for her.My mother is 74.

There are various issues which I will discuss later but I’m going to cut to the main one which is quite frankly very shocking. On the third day (well second really as they take ALL DAY Monday to get there) there was a trip to a castle and then onto Anglesey. At 10.30 they made their first stop to the castle and were told to be back at 12.30 to the coach. My mother as it happened was the only ‘single’ person on the coach. She pottered around came back a few minutes early, went into a shop right by the coach and came out bang on time to see the coach disappearing into the distance! Obviously she was very distraught but the guard said wait 10 minutes they will be back (how often does it happen one wonders?) so she did and then waited some more and none returned or made contact. Of course can you imagine she’s stuck there alone, now she’s frightened, all names are in Welsh she doesn’t know what to do. It was frightening and traumatic for her. Luckily two dear elderly Welsh ladies scooped her up and put her on a public bus to her hotel which took and hour and a half. At approximately 1.45pm, over an hour after they had left her the tour guide finally rung and said we are turning the coach around at which my mother said don’t bother I’m on the way back. Other passengers told my mum the guide Anna didn’t even notice until they got to their next stop where she suddenly said oh I think I’ve lost someone. No apology was offered although Anna claims differently. Anna you would think would track my mother down when she returned to the hotel and offer sincere apologies? No that didn’t happen, instead when my mum who believe me was utterly distraught by this event (can you imagine the scenarios that may have played out in different weather, different times of day, for more frail people, if she hadn’t got help from the ladies, in different locations etc – doesn’t bear thinking about) came downstairs to dinner. Anna was there and could see her but sat where she was and put her head down – ignored my mother. My mother walked over and said – do you not have anything to say to me and Anna looked up with a snarl and said well what do you want me to say? My mother said well an apology to start and Anna said I did on the phone and my mother said no you didn’t. Anna then said don’t talk to me like that and my mother said like what? Down she said, down. My mother said I’ll have to report you and walked away and Anna followed her a bit and said yeah I thought you would.

Well I’m sure I’ve no need to explain further why everything about this incident was wrong from what happened to the way it was handled. This Anna has no right to be in charge of vulnerable people, none at all. It’s undone all my hard work persuading my mother that she can still have a holiday, it ruined her trip, has left her in a high state of anxiety and of course she didn’t have the trip to Anglesey.

My other complaints about this shocking ‘holiday’ is that it took from 6 am till 7 pm to get there and nearly the same back on Friday. From where we live that is normally a 3-4 hour journey so there’s two of your 5 days gone. I was at the booking and we were shown a specific double aspect room and told how lucky she was to be getting this room as it was special and an upgrade. Guess what she never got that room but was charged a single supplement for being in a double room – hmm can see how that game works. I wrote to the travel company and said you need to sort this and sort it properly and I wanted an apology and a refund. They said they were getting written reports from those involved – that would be Anna and the coach driver she is on very friendly terms with biased accounts only. At some point I asked aren’t you going to take my mother’s account of this trip then and was told oh yes of course get her to send it. It was at that point I knew for sure they weren’t a bit interested, if I hadn’t requested that they take my mother’s written account as well then they wouldn’t have bothered. Needless to say I was right .

Here’s the pathetic response they gave:

Dear ….

I am now in receipt of written responses from all parties involved and feel able to respond with a balanced view.

First and foremost I would like to apologise that this incident even occurred and the inconvenience this caused your mother.

Unfortunately it is correct that Anna left your mother behind at Caernarfon, this was purely down to human error and a miscalculation on her part. There was no malicious intent and Anna is very distraught that this occurred. Once she realised what had happened she felt that she did everything in her power to rectify the situation, including an apology passed on to your mother when she was able to speak to her on the mobile.

It is extremely unfortunate that your mother was not able contact our 24 Hour Emergency Helpline number, which is printed on all our pre-tour information. This would have helped reduce the magnitude of the problem and almost certainly resolved it within minutes. We can only assume she did not have this information with her at the time.

In the evening it appears clear to me that no one handled the situation particularly well and we are prepared, at this time, to accept that emotions were running high. However, we cannot condone threatening and abusive behaviour under any circumstances.

Having said the above, I do understand that as a consequence of the events described your mother did miss out on her trip to Anglesey and for this I am truly sorry. It is quite difficult to place a monetary value on such a visit, so rather than try to be too exact, I am more than happy to offer her £30 off a future holiday, as a personal gesture of goodwill on my behalf. In addition I will ensure that any future holiday goes well and that your mother is safe and well looked after in the hope that this will help restore some faith in holidaying on her own again in the future.

I look forward to hearing from your mother at some stage in the future, when I will endeavour to reassure her to book again. We are a reputable firm that carry thousands of single travellers a year without incident and I am very sorry that this situation occurred.

Yours sincerely,

Tour Services Controller

So be warned everyone if they leave you behind somewhere, the focus is on you not the tour guide to rectify the situation. YOU must ring the emergency number, never mind the guide who has not even noticed she has left you behind for a good hour or so its up to you. As I told them – she didn’t take it and nor would I on a supervised trip I would assume it wasn’t needed. I would take the emergency number for if I ventured off on my own or if I needed it at the hotel room during the night if taken ill etc. I’ve explained to them that had she known she was going to be abandoned then yes she would have taken it.

No apology was given even so let’s say it was given but not heard on the phone when my mother was so distressed – is that really enough ? Wouldn’t any decent human being (especially one who was by all accounts so distraught they had made such a gross error!!) go seek out the person and say shake their hand or apologise profusely? You would think that would happen wouldn’t you but no Anna was clearly to distraught to make the trip to the room to do the correct professional thing of apologising in person.

And although there is a clear acknowledgement that Anna did not handle the evening well my mother is labelled as abusive for asking for an apology? Let’s see, Anna messed up, Anna didn’t go seek out my mother, my mother says she made sure she was very polite (she wanted Anna to face up to what she had done and apologise). Anna said my mother was rude, my mother says Anna was – I wonder who is the most credible in the situation? The woman who failed spectacularly at her duty and didn’t do anything to make up for it, identified by her own company as having not handled it well or my mother the victim?

And oh yes the spectacular compensation for a holiday ruined, a trip missed, a new bus fare shelled out for and immense emotional damage sustained – 30 quid off a future booking WITH THE SAME COMPANY WHO WRECKED THE HAVOC. Are they serious?

I think any mistake can be rectified depending on how it’s handled, it’s what separates the good guys from the bad guys – how the aftermath is dealt with. Not only do UK Grand holidays fail on their holiday but they fail on how they handled it and their subsequent dealings with my mother the victim. This has set her back so much now she won’t go away again. For that alone I’m furious.

Like everything some people will go away and have a nice trip but you have been warned – for those that they leave behind or treat badly it’s a terrible experience. I will continue to fight this but through solicitors now. Safe to say no-one I know will ever darken their doorstep again.

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Other Members' Thoughts - 8 Comment(s)

  • sandra_42
    over 2 years ago
    You don't expect to carry the emergency help number when out with the guide.
  • ESW
    over 2 years ago
    People who know me well will tell you I am always very wary of negative reviews, especially if it is the first time someone has posted. Not in this case. I feel there is a serious issue here which has not been adequately addressed by UK Grand Holidays.

    This reviews needs to be read in conjunction with a similar trip in 2013.
    http://www.silvertraveladvisor.com/review/escorted-tour/147624-review-north-wales
    This may be a 'reputable company' with a lot of repeat customers but it is interesting that the only two reviews on Silver Travel are so negative.

    The response in both cases by UK Grand Holidays is very revealing....

    At no point has there been an explanation of why your mother was left behind. In my expereince both tour guides and drivers always check and then double check numbes before starting. It is inexcusable for an experienced tour guide to make such a fundamental mistake as this.

    If the tour guide had been doing her job properly, she should have been aware this was your mother's first trip by herself. That as well as her age should have meant the tour guide was keeping an extra look out for her.

    The tour guide should be well trained in customer care and should have diffused the situation without it escallating to this extent.

    This is a company I would avoid using.
  • TAB
    over 2 years ago
    Dear Silver Travel advisor,
    I'm not sure whether you will allow another comment but it will be my last if you do. Thank-you for asking the tour controller to comment as I believe this gives validity to my review in case anyone was in doubt and both sides should always be heard . I wish to make one last response as I don't believe this forum is a place for a game of verbal ping-pong .
    Everyone makes mistakes that is true but it what you do with that mistake that marks out honorable people and companies from the others. The tour guide and the tour controller who I have communicated with a great deal did not deal with this honorably at all. The guide did nothing to make up for her error and was intolerably rude to my mother, for me that's gross misconduct.
    I did not get an unreserved apology , people can see from that one letter I posted here and certainly the subsequent ones were of the same ilk. Example:
    'in the evening it appears clear to me that no one handled the situation particularly well and we are prepared, at this time, to accept that emotions were running high. ..' So here the clients are being blamed ! what that should have read like perhaps was' we apologise that our guide did not seek your mother out to apologise and that when she did her behaviour was not to our standard.' There a real difference between a genuine unreserved apology and what we had .
    As pointed out rectifying your mistake is not a gesture of goodwill it is rectifying your mistake and this company failed to do so both during and after the incident. They removed the guide from the trip that is true although she did reappear to thank everyone for their generosity and fish for tips briefly but subsequent claims that they took care of my mother and escorted her for the return journey are false and I have written and said so .
    So yes now I'm here on this website where people are reading reviews, I am hearing all these emotive words and phrases such as 'very sad' 'apologised unreservedly,' 'shattered' but words mean nothing at this point . They were not words expressed to me in the communications I received, they were not backed up with concrete actions and actions were laid claim to that did not happen and they are empty phrases devoid of any real empathy or attempt to rectify the situation. My mother will not ever be erase the trauma of this event but had the guide come and found her straight away, had the tour controller sent genuinely apologetic emails, had she actually been taken care for after the event ,had some sort of compensation or nice touch been done for my mother then this never would have escalated to the stage it has. So perhaps when the tour controller is next crying ' we all make mistakes ' she should reflect that all of us know that , we make allowances for that and for people rectifying their mistakes but when you continue to compound your mistake with further ones you only have yourself to blame.
  • Silver-Travel-Advisor
    over 2 years ago
    We've asked the Tour Controller to comment on this review, as we take very seriously any negative feedback. The response is below. We would just like to add that we have worked with Grand UK for a number of years as a reputable company, and we are very sorry to read about this incident.

    Dear Silver Travel Advisor

    As the staff member responsible for Tour Manager recruitment and training I am deeply upset to read the comments posted by the daughter of our client, and very sad that this matter has escalated in this way.

    I have been with my company for 28 years and I can assure you that the well-being of our clients always come first. However, in this particular instance we have fallen short and I have apologised unreservedly for this. Sadly, at times, human beings do make mistakes, and in this respect we totally accept the worry and anxiety caused to our client.

    I feel that I did everything within my power to ensure that the remainder of our client’s holiday went without incident, and I am sorry that the gesture of goodwill I offered has been seen as insulting. This was obviously not my intention and I am absolutely shattered that anyone would think that way.

    Yours Faithfully

    Tour Services Controller

  • TAB
    over 2 years ago
    Thank you so much for your kind and detailed replies . I sent them all to mum and I think they
    We're a great comfort . I think she may be considering Newmarket tours for a trip to bath - Christmas market after what was said here . My
    Parents had used them several times previously so I think it struck a chord . For my part I refuse to let this matter go with UK grand holidays even though apparently I have had an unreserved apology ( I somehow missed that especially the unreserved bit ) . I don't wish for this to happen again and I don't think we should allow companies to treat folk as badly as they seem to these days . Your responses were a great comfort and also full of useful ideas that we will definitely take note of . Thank you to all .
  • ESW
    over 2 years ago
    I read your review and I can empathise with your mother. I’m a few years younger but also widowed last year and rebuilding my life to include holidays. It isn’t easy and the first step is always the worst and she couldn’t have had a worse experience than this one. I do hope it hasn’t permanently put her off.

    I don’t drive and a coach holiday should be fairly straight forward BUT coach companies can vary so much..... I’ve used two local companies. One is a lot better than the other. I’ve never used a national company and certainly not UK Grand Holidays. One of the great advantages of using a local firm is that you can go and talk to them. Good firms quickly get to know their customers and their likes and dislikes. They become ‘friends’ rather than clients.

    It is inexcusable that your mother was left behind. On all the trips I have done the driver has always done a head count before the coach starts and then double checks. For something this basic, human error should not happen. I understand it can happen that people are left behind if they are late back to the coach although this has never happened on trips I have been on. The fact she was a ‘single’ person should not have made any difference and if the courier was doing her job properly she should have been aware of this and taken extra care when checking before leaving. One tip here is to tell the driver or the person in the seat near you that you are back but just need to do.... and please don’t go without me!

    The issue of the time it can take to get from starting point to destination is a common one - particularly if you are using a feeder coach or else the coach travels all over the local area to pick people up. A neighbour booked a coach trip to Scotland a few years ago. They were picked up at Scunthorpe around 8am. By mid afternoon they were still picking up passengers in West Yorkshire. I’ve learnt that you have to double the time it might take you in a car. Many five day breaks actually only work out as three days at your destination.

    The single supplement is always a contentious issue. Depending on the company and the deal they can get with the hotel. There may not be a supplement or it may only be a nominal sum. Other times it can be quite a substantial percentage of the holiday.

    Do you have a good local bus company that runs daytours? Perhaps you could persuade her to try a day trip to gradually rebuild her confidence. Go in and talk to them about your mother's experience and I am sure they will go the extra mile to help your mother have a good time. Once she has regained confidence then it might be time to consider a short break with the company. By then she will be known by the drivers and may well recognise other people on the trip.
  • discerning-traveller
    over 2 years ago
    So sorry I forgot to mention that the company I was recommending is Newmarket. Again, I do So hope that your mother doesn't give up. Really feel for her
  • discerning-traveller
    over 2 years ago
    Goodness, you and your Mother are upset and rightly so, too. How unfortunate. I have been on my own for three years now and know how much courage it takes to venture out alone at first. Please don't let her give up. There are many reputable companies out there. I did a tour of the Highlands of Scotland this year. We flew to Edinburgh which cut the travelling time down and we were looked after (and counted!) throughout. There were 10-15 solo travellers on that trip but obviously that varies.
    Thanks for the warning about Grand tours. I have been sent their brochure without asking for it.
    I do hope that your mother will try again with another company. Saga are also very responsible and helpful for people who are nervous.