Spirit of the Desert bait & switch

I am at the end of my Spirit of the Desert tour & it has been very dispirited. I feel like I was sold a bait & switch tour. I’ve done many tours with Tauck & have had very good experiences, but this tour is definitely not up to Tauck standards. You rarely stay at lodging within the National Parks, as advertised. Instead, you’re lodged at a Hilton with a view of the parking lot & construction & a very very long hike to your room, as well as food from their restaurant for several days, which is ranked 35/66 restaurants in Moab. Our Tour Director kept giving the group names of alternate dining, but what’s the point if you’ve already paid for it ahead of time? There are no cowboy bbq’s or special meals, as advertised, unless you consider a cold breakfast burrito acceptable or sitting on hard uneven stones with your paper plate in your lap a special meal(I have done many Tauck tours with spectacular special meals…this is not it.) We had several members in our group get sick during the trip, presumably due to altitude sickness. One member had to be flown to an outlying city & undergo an emergency stent placement. During some of these crisis, Tauck has been almost impossible to contact. What is going on with their customer service?
Overall, the tour was a huge disappointment. Beautiful scenery, but not so great accommodations & food & terrible communication with Tauck.

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Comments

  • Was the Red Cliff’s Lodge closed? Was anyone else disappointed? Who was your TD?

  • No, Red Cliffs wasn’t closed…. I wasn’t personally notified about the lodging changes, which was the case with several people on our tour. We actually drove past Red Cliffs on the way to our River raft tour( which was great). Many of us became even more disillusioned because we had been looking at a parking lot all week. Many were disappointed. There are only 2 Uber drivers in Moab, no embellishment, so you have to walk everywhere in the heat. Tauck doesn’t offer any other type of transportation.

  • Our Tour Director was very green. It was only his 3rd travel tour ever. I would rather not give out his name, but he’s not an experienced traveler

  • Sandkeytiki1 - what a disappointment that must have been. I am a huge fan of Tauck but this sounds very atypical. I am sure Tauck will compensate you financially but that will not make up for such a badly planned trip. Here’s hoping you future travel is much more in line with what you paid for.

  • Sandkeytiki1, oh dear. This sounds bad…so didn’t you stay at any of the advertized hotels, because the others mentioned on the tour are all in the park.
    Our upcoming Alaska tour has been changed, one of the lodges has been closed because they can’t get the staff, and one of the ports of call has been eliminated, we are disappointed but hope to make the best of the changes.
    I do believe Tauck puts their new TDs on the US tours first, but also their old most experienced ones who get first dips at which tours they lead…our only disappointing TD ever was a very experienced one on a US tour
    Please write to Tauck and fully explain your disappointment with examples and let us know of your response.
    Tauck usually only pick the best of the best people to be their tour directors and there has always been a lot of competition to secure jobs with them,

  • Thank you Bsp51…I hope this is a one off for Tauck, however, the inability to get through to anyone is paralyzing. I actually had an issue with my post tour & was locked out of my room when I came back from a day at the pool at the Four Seasons LV, which was an awesome hotel & I couldn’t get through to anyone at Tauck, so I ended up dealing with it through the manager at the Four Seasons, who was very helpful.

  • Dear British, I have been trying to get through to Tauck, however my TD initially gave me the incorrect phone number. I am trying to communicate with Tauck, including Arthur Tauck. I would just like to let everyone know what to expect in regards to this tour. The fact that you’re not lodging within the National Parks makes a huge difference as far as getting back & forth to your hotel. Tauck offered 2 shuttles at Zion at 7:30AM & 1:30. Zion had a shuttle system, but it was very confusing.
    We stayed at Bryce at the Lodge for less than 24 hours. We stayed at the Grand Canyon Lodge(beautiful). We didn’t stay on the Park grounds at Zion or Moab(which is more than half the trip) & is what I was really looking forward to…I had to look at a parking lot & the tour bus at Zion.

  • edited June 13

    Did you write up your experience on the Trust & Hope form at the end of the trip? You will get a response from Dan Mahar and perhaps you can then reach out to Tauck at that time. It took nearly a month after we returned in April to get a letter. I would encourage you to write down your experiences, perhaps bullet point format…so you can keep the details fresh in your mind plus good talking points should you get a phone call. Your experience would have really disappointed us…and as you said, it’s not at the level we expect and pay for when traveling with Tauck. I was searching for an email I used several years ago and can’t find it…don’t give up!

  • edited June 13

    Sandkeytiki1

    I have seen what it says on the website, but what did your e-green book say? Were you supposed to stay in a Park lodge at all parks on those days you did not, i.e. did the green book say you would be staying in the Park at Zion and Moab? By the time you received the green book it was a bit too late to cancel without a hassle, but that might have been better than what you experienced. I will be interested to hear how this all plays out. Nancy has some good suggestions. Also, when you call Tauck, one of the phone options is if for those who recently returned from a tour, so I assume it is for people with issues like you had.

    I just heard from Lynne, another Tauck traveler friend who we have traveled with and who was on your tour. She has an even more scathing report!!!

  • Hi Alan, I never received a “green book” & many people on the tour didn’t receive notification regarding the lodging changes. They didn’t disperse any tags prior to the tour. The whole thing was very disorganized. When we were at the Hilton in Moab, we were given a silver card which was supposed to indicate that we were with the Tauck tour for meals. Every time any of us presented it, we got deer in the headlights! It was a very frustrating process.

  • Hi Nancy, I would love to have an opportunity to discuss the tour with someone once Tauck responds

  • edited June 13

    Sandykeytiki1. Did you use a travel agent or book directly with Tauck? That is often where people seem to not get certain tour information. Tags are no longer distributed before a tour….this is part of the ‘Green book’ information that people talk about on the forum…it is however no longer a booklet or paperwork you get in the mail, it is instead all in an email. Have you checked your spam to see if you have missed any communications from Tauck?
    The Tauck email address and phone numbers are here on their website.
    I emailed Tauck this week, I rarely do, but it was to clarify one of the changes on our upcoming tour. Most surprisingly, I got a reply the next day. In the past, it’s taken several weeks to get a reply. To call Tauck, you are given the option to get a call back, but it is not always clear at the start of the call, you have to wait to hear about that option, it seems to work very well.
    There are obviously administrative problems that we have never come across before. Last week, we got a fat envelope form Tauck with paperwork for a tour we are taking next July 2023. It was confusing, so we called. The agent could not understand why we had been sent it in the mail, our email address was on file, she did not either know that it had been sent or why, but could at least explain what it all meant. .At one time, we never had to call Tauck, but recently, we’ve had to call for clarity on several things, never mind all the cancellations. Multiply that by everyone else doing the same, they could never have enough staff. And now the relaxation of Covid testing, they miss be getting floods of calls for new bookings.
    Your tour experience does indeed sound unacceptable so please do document it and communication with Yauck, this needs an explanation. Best of luck!

  • edited June 13

    Sandkeytiki1

    Lynne- Joanie sent me your email, I didn’t know the post was by you! 😀. As British posted, green books are now digital and sent via email to whoever does the booking- the traveler or the travel agent. That still doesn’t explain all the other issues. You appear to be a possible victim of a double whammy- Tauck and possibly your TA. 😳

  • Hi Alan, unfortunately, Tauck had a nonfunctional email address listed for me despite my asking 3 different people to correct it. I was shocked to see it listed on the yellow form that you receive the first day of the tour. So, I have no idea how many emails that I potentially missed. However, many people in the group didn’t receive their green book, including myself, & were unaware of the changes. Apparently, our TD didn’t send out the usual welcome email the week before because no one stated that they received one from him. I booked directly with Tauck for this tour. My TA didn’t survive the business stresses of Covid. I’m concerned because this is how Crystal ran their business before filing for bankruptcy. I lost a lot of money from them. I was booked on the World Cruise for 2023 & had paid quite a bit on that departure. They finally shut their phones off & left many clients in a lurch. It makes me nervous to make any further bookings & pay deposits. Do you have any thoughts about this? I know that you’re very knowledgeable regarding Tauck.

  • Hi British, I have tried to contact Tauck by phone & email since last week, with no response. I even had an issue with my post excursion room & couldn’t get a response, so I discussed it with the manager at the Four Seasons & they were very responsive & helpful. For some reason, I got checked out of my room a day early. I spent the day at the pool, came up to my room & couldn’t get in & couldn’t charge anything to my room.

  • edited June 14

    We initially had issues with the Grande Bretagne (Marriott) hotel in Athens, Greece, but it was the hotel’s fault- tried to bill us for a paid pre-stay, checked us in two days before we arrived- our TD called us when she couldn’t find us- unfortunately, we were still at home, the front desk or concierge misplaced our Tauck info package (a lot of finger pointing ensued 😀), our room keys were deactivated- we got an apology and a free meal. They had a lot of new people working the front desk- every time we went there, one or more new (very young) people were being trained by regular staff- sometimes the experience was painful, sometimes humorous.

  • edited June 13

    Sandkeytiki1. I still don’t understand how you have not been able to get in touch with Tauck, have you tried the call back feature.
    Funnily enough, we had an issue with our Four Seasons post stay on our Desert Oasis tour in January. They tried to charge us for the extra night, we said it was paid for, the desk person said no, they had no record of that, made us feel like criminals and called the manager. They initially said the TD had not paid out bill, we said it was not at the level of the TD who paid the bill, it was centrally from Tauck. She corrected it, and then when we got our Amex bill, there it was on our statement again. My husband was furious, thank goodness he had a copy of the bill we agreed to. He had to make several calls to Four Seasons who again basically called us liars. In the end we called Tauck and they helped sort it. Apparent this does happen but it has never happened to us before since we started traveling with Tauck almost twenty years ago. It took weeks to sort out. Tauck has only started using Four Seasons in recent years, the ones we have stayed in tend to be way out of town and really inconvenient once you are on a post stay.
    You mention about the TD sending out a welcome email a week before a tour…..we have never had an email from any TD before a tour, we never know who it will be until we get the Welcome packet at the hotel. Some other tour companies do that, Tauck does not.
    About your wrong email address, when we book a new tour, every time, the Tauck agent confirms the email they have on file for us before she sends the email confirmation of the new tour booking. Do they not do that with you?

  • Obviously Tauck made tour changes that were less than ideal and I'd probably be upset too. Yet there's some stuff in this thread that doesn't add up.

    Sandkeytiki1 mentioned not getting a green book or luggage tags ahead of time. If they had taken previous tours and not received these by mail did they start calling Tauck asking about them?

    Can't get ahold of Tauck? Their phone number is right on the website and also on the website for months has been the top banner warning they are swamped. The call back feature works. I've used it multiple times. You have to listen and follow all the instructions.

    Obviously they are aware of the forum since they joined 29 April. If they had been reading the forum for the past months they would have been aware of this change is procedure. To log into Tauck's website you have to provide an email address. Is this a correct email address for sandkey? Obviously it worked to log in since they are posting here.

    Email not working? What documents does the poster have that they even signed up and paid for this tour? Payment statements, air arrangements?

    And no, a welcome email from the TD is not the norm. In 8 tours we've only been contacted by the TD prior to the tour once.

    As nice as it is to have Tauck or any other tour organization take care of the details, you have to be your own advocate to keep track of what is going on. Especially in this world of covid where requirements and plans are constantly in flux.

  • Claudia Sails, you hit the nail on the head. Something doesn’t add up is an understatement. You made brilliant deductions with your analysis. Yes, we all have to be proactive not assume anything even when traveling with a high fund your company. It sounds as though they required their hands held from the initiation of planning their trip to the last day. It’s unfortunate they had a negative experience when it didn’t have to be.

  • Hi Alan, I heard that your tour got off to a rough start! As far as people saying that things don’t add up, that’s part of the whole frustration. I have received a “Welcome” letter in the past. In fact, there’s a couple from our group who stayed on in Las Vegas & are doing another Tauck tour. They received a Welcome email while we were traveling on the bus during our tour, which is why I asked about whether or not one was sent out with our tour. As far as my email is concerned, you’re right, when I booked the tour they sent a confirmation to that email & that’s the email that I’ve been using for years with Tauck, so I’m just as baffled as you are, why did it get switched? I have no clue other than an internal mistake. How would I have known that the emails were being sent out when I wasn’t receiving them? I contacted them (yes, I spoke to someone & was able to get through) after I tried to call Red Cliffs Lodge & schedule horse back riding during my pre stay. Red Cliffs Lodge said that they didn’t have a Tauck group staying there during that time, that’s how I initially found out that I wouldn’t be staying there. I called Tauck to find out what was going on & they said that they had sent an email, which was probably the “green book” informing everyone on the tour about it. I asked her which email she used since I didn’t recall getting one & that’s when I found out that they were using a wrong email. Why it was changed, I have no idea. I’ve been traveling with Tauck since 2017 & I’ve done several trips with them & I’ve been very pleased. This trip just seemed to be a comedy of errors. I joined the Forum in April in order to see if there have been any issues regarding traveling & Covid. After my experience with this tour I thought that it would be beneficial to let people know what happened. I’m not here to argue.

  • edited June 13

    Sandkeytiki1, I’m certainly not disputing your experience. Do you have an Account dashboard on the Tauck website, what email does that have?
    I’ve also never received a Welcome email while on a tour. This must be the inexperienced new TD taking it upon themselves to be a little more proactive in communication with the group.
    If this was not your first tour, didn’t you think it was odd not to get final confirmation of your tour with your final payment or paperwork about the tour, information about where to meet at the airport etc. .
    If indeed they were sending an email that you have never given them, then you required some sort of explanation and apology from them. And you say you did get through to Tauck when previously you said you didn’t, so I guess we are all confused now.

  • Sealord - Nobody is forcing you to read it.

  • What I did not say is there is a baitless hook in the water, and many are biting at it.

  • We've taken a number of tours with Tauck and did get a welcome email from the TD for our trip to Morocco. As far as I can remember, that was the only one. The email was a week to 10 days before the start of the trip (as I remember it).

  • Personally, as soon as I saw the topic of the thread, I knew the ensuing comments were going to be suspect. The author of the post led you to believe that these changes occurred without any warning, but with further reading he/she admitted that only some on the tour did not know of these changes. Then the story starts to evolve with other perceived slights.

    Regarding the room key not working, I have been on a few tours whereby we were told to surrender our key(s) if staying for a post-tour stay so that a new key could be issued. Regardless, if the key did not work why would one be compelled to call Tauck? Just go to the front desk and let them know. As Claudia Sails mentioned, there are many things that do not make sense.

    Notice how he/she is only responding to those who are offering an ear. I agree with Sealord that the author has found his/her targets and is thoroughly enjoying the forum (no pun intended). Just my opinion.

  • I just got off the phone with Guest Relations at Tauck. I hope that my conversation with them will help improve the tour for others. As far as the emails are concerned, it was an internal error which occurred after my booking & they graciously own the mistake. Apparently, they are working on getting the Tauck App up & running again, which should alleviate several of the issues which occurred during my most recent experience with Tauck.

  • I guess we all have too much time on our hands but this forum makes life interesting.

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