This forum post is intended for people who are looking for a tour experience of Italy. I spent a year researching Italy, this company, other tour groups, and continued researching almost a year after I booked. We just returned a week ago, and I promised to give back to the Trip Advisor community by posting a review with specifics so that others have knowledge of Queenslander Tours to aid people in making a decision. It will be a very long, specific review.
There were absolutely no financial surprises on this trip! We booked the Deluxe package and added the Amalfi Extension. We came a day early, and stayed a day late…and are super glad that we made both of those decisions. Other additions that we added were transfers to/from the airports, the Uffizi in Florence, ferry to Capri, Pompei guided tour, and our flights. All breakfasts, 1 lunch, and 6 dinners were included in our cost. On the included dining nights appetizers were ordered for the table, and then we each ordered from the menu. The wine and limoncello flowed freely all night, and I never saw any attempt to slow it down. Most nights that we did not have an included dinner our tour captain invited us to join her for dinner at our own costs. Generally we went, as did many others in our group. Mark Story, the owner of Queenslander oversees a very organized/logically planned program. All of our hotels (details later) were in the center of the action and very lovely. All luggage was moved seamlessly from place to place.
The earliest time we left in the morning was 8AM…very different from other tour companies that I had researched. A few times during our travels it rained, and Queenslander picked up the taxi cost. The tour had a great blend of included tour time, and free time to explore on our own. Generally hubby took a one hour nap every night before dinner to reenergize!!
We had a slight problem when QLT booked our flights and a spelling error occurred. It was caught immediately by Queenslander, but Air Canada would not deal with it until 72 hours before travel. (We had booked last December). 72 hours prior Ron Gholston had to end up rebooking the entire flight for a change fee of almost $400. Queenslander paid that without a question, and Ron handled everything very professionally. This was the type of customer service that we encountered every time we contacted Queenslander.
Jodie Hedrick was our Tour Captain. There were only 16 of us in the group. We all came from very diverse backgrounds and got along famously. Jodie was such a caring, knowledgeable person, and was gifted at working with many different personalities. Everyone felt very special on this trip. I feel very blessed to have had the opportunity to travel with such a travel enthusiast. Her enthusiasm was infectious.
VENICE: This was our favorite city of the trip. Private water taxi was the transfer, with a greeter to meet us at the airport. We stayed at Hotel Saturnia & International. We had a huge room. The hotel is very close to Piazza San Marco. Included tours: Grand Canal, Piazza San Marco, Basillica San Marco, Gondola Ride, Doge’s Palace, Bridge of Sighs, and a water taxi to visit of the Island of Murano. In addition, we independently visited the Campanile, the Opera House, the amazing Rialto market, and walked miles and miles getting lost in Venice and loving every second of our experience!!
FLORENCE: We arrived via the Silver Bullet fasttrain. Our hotel was Helvetia & Bristol which was a quick walk to the Duomo. Included tours: Duomo, Galleria dell’Accademia (David…the most impressive thing I have ever seen!!), and the Basillica di Santa Croce. Independently we went to the Ponte Vecchio, the Uffizi and the Market.
CORTONA and the Tuscany Region: We traveled here by small bus and stopped at San Gimignano for a few hours. This is a very cute, medieval town, but it rained our entire stay. Independently we did the Church of Santa Maria. We had an included lunch at Castello della Paneretta; a winery that included wine tasting. The Cortona hotel was our favorite hotel of the trip. We stayed at the Villa Marsili. Stunningly gorgeous, and we had a very large room.
ROME: We traveled to Rome by small bus, stopping in Assisi for a few hours along the way. We visited the St. Francis Basillica. Our hotel in Rome was Grand Hotel de la Minerve. It was located 10 yards from the Basilica of Maria Sopra Minerva, and 100 yards from the Pantheon (we visited both independently) Included tours: Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, Piazza Navona, Campo di Fiore, Roman Forum, Colosseum, Vatican, St. Peter’s Basilica, the Sistine Chapel. We also walked to see the Castel Sant’Angelo at night from the bridge. Beautiful!
SORRENTO and the Amalfi Coast: This gorgeous area of Italy was our favorite area of the trip. We loved the food in southern Italy the most, although all of the food was great throughout our vacation. We drove the Amalfi Coast Highway (the “Mama Mia” Highway-so named for its very winding curves.) Our stay here was at the beautiful Hotel BelAir which is literally cut into the cliffs, so the views are absolutely amazing. Free view of Mt. Vesuvius every morning from the balcony! We took the ferry to Capri for the day. Luckily while we were waiting for the ferry, a gentleman by the name of Salvatore Cioffi offered to guide us on the island for a fee. This was worth every penny, and without his help we would have spent a lot of time wandering aimlessly around. His private transportation took us to Anacapri so we could ride the chairlift to the top of Mount Solaro. Stunning, and one of those “Wow” experiences. I highly recommend his tour services if you want to see this island in its totality. We also spent the morning at Pompei.
Overall, we had the time of our lives on this celebrating retirement vacation. No company is perfect, but Queenslander is very close. The only discussion I heard from anyone throughout the trip was the comparison of individual hotel rooms. I believe everyone was happy with the hotels themselves, but some guests had suites, and some had smaller rooms than others, and it actually was quite simply the luck of the draw. The hotels themselves are limited in types of rooms available for groups. This really is not a Queenslander problem, but worth mentioning that guests will all have individually different rooms, and some rooms will be better than others.
Queenslander Tours are worth the money spent in my opinion. Generally you get what you pay for, and I am so happy we made the decision to book with Queenslander. I’ll be happy to answer any questions about our trip.