Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Ramses Tours and Egypt - Some Additional Thoughts

As you know I write exactly what I think and am honest with the good and the bad.  Well, today I received an email from Ramses Tours very upset with my last entry both as it relates to my impressions of my tour and of Egypt. I write with integrity and those that read my blog know that I stand by what I say and will correct any error and will readily amend what I say if it add content or context.

What I think is very good news is that Ramses Tours has been extremely responsive to me and what impressed me is that the first email expressed concern and requested I let them know what I liked and what I didn't like.    It did not use the "You should have told me sooner when I could have done something" excuse or, frankly, any other excuse.  Then we had a bit of an email discussion and came to a quick and fair resolution. This is a refreshing approach and I give Ramses Tours a lot of credit for being responsible for what happened.

I think it is important to remember when traveling that there are so many variables and that sometimes an operator or hotel or travel agent normally provides a wonderful experience fails to provide that though the intentions are otherwise.  A luxury hotel can have a miss with the front desk, a guide can be less than what is expected because of a personal problem or whatever, a bus can break down, a site can be unexpectedly closed.  You may recall my recent post about "The List". The key is not to focus on what went wrong or who dropped the ball, but on enjoying every moment you can. 

I cannot tell you my tour with Ramses Tours was perfect.  What I can tell you is that the most important aspect of the tour for us - seeing the ancient sites - was overall a great experience.  While I can complain about the van or my desire for a guide that went the extra for me, I can't complain that we had two adjoining rooms at the best hotel for our trip.  I can compliment that arranging for us to be at the Giza pyramids first thing in the morning was huge and greatly enriched our experience from just being there in solitude to experience quiet awe, to photos, to visiting the interior of the Cheops pyramid to our extended camel ride.  These things were arranged with Ramses and not another tour operator...and if the other tour operators had arranged these things I guess I would not have been there first, would I?

I do not want anyone to think I am endorsing or not endorsing Ramses Tours.  What I am telling you is that a decision as to which tour operator to use should be based upon many factors.  My personal experience was far more good than it was bad.  My guide was there when he was supposed to be (unlike my driver in Kusadasi), I went to the sites I wanted to go to (no sorry, we can't do that because of X or Y), I was protected from a major baksheesh incident when the tourist police wanted me to have protection for the day and Ramses made sure that didn't happen and, without limitation, I got back to the ship on time.

One thing you might want to keep in mind (and something I most certainly will).  Because of Ramses Tours quick response to me and its fair treatment of me, I am pretty confident that the experience let downs I had will not be so quick to recur. I have seen hard evidence that it has a concern over the quality of its product...possibly moreso because of what I previously wrote, but nonetheless it is there and it clearly is at the fore of its present concerns.

Another thing I want to mention, along those same lines, is that while my overall impression of Egypt is one of huge cultural differences and lots of pollution, they are not a reason to avoid visiting the country.  Seeing the Cairo Museum was definitely a great thing and visiting all of the ancient ruins was truly awe inspiring.  Remember that experiencing travel is not always the most comfortable and the ones that are challenging may well hold the greatest highlights.  (Read my comments about the Jerusalem Hotel - which I just recommended to a very experienced travel client of mine today - and you will understand what I mean.)

So don't start a "List" and don't say I won't use or won't see.  Remember what we really want (I hope) is to travel.