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Queenslander Tours: The Real Story

Cortland, New York
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Queenslander Tours: The Real Story

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.

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1. Re: Queenslander Tours: The Real Story

Thank you, Laural for your Real Story on Queenslander. You did a great job describing your adventures in Italy.

Almost hard to believe it all went so smoothly...to your credit and Queenslander, Your vast research ahead of time will save us weeks of work , if your experience is all true! ( time to 'fess up...). My husband is newly retired as well. 2 weeks in Italy next fall would be a treat or an expensive mistake depending on our choices.

If you have time, I would enjoy hearing from you

Happy Retirement to you!

RI Susan

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2. Re: Queenslander Tours: The Real Story

Hello Susan....No need to 'fess up...this is all true! Who could make this stuff up?!! Congrats to your hubby for retiring. It seems like I still work almost 60 hours a week...but have retired from my "real" job! I am sending you a PM with my contact information so that you are able to have specific questions answered.

I'm so glad that I gave you the information you need to help plan your trip. Trip planning is a lot of fun for me, and I enjoyed that aspect of the trip also.

pittsburgh
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3. Re: Queenslander Tours: The Real Story

Great review, Laurel. It's just the info I've been looking for in order to help my In-laws with a trip they are planning. As you know, I don't do tours like this. The problem I've been having is that's all they do, organized tours. It's great to read a review I can trust. I will be forwarding it on to my MIL so she can take a look at it.

Once again, great job.

Donna

Cortland, New York
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4. Re: Queenslander Tours: The Real Story

Donna-I feel honored that a review I wrote will be able to help someone that you know. Obviously you are very well traveled!! I really have appreciated your advice on many occasions prior to our trip to Italy. If your MIL would like to contact me, shoot me a PM and I will give you my e-mail address to give her. I would be more than happy to answer any specific questions or concerns that she or they have about the experience.

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West Chester...
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5. Re: Queenslander Tours: The Real Story

Congrats on your retirement tour. When we retired almost 5 years ago we were busy trying to sell our house and move back East so didn't get a chance to take a real indulgent trip (except for a short trip to the Uk for my FIL's funeral and clearing out his apartment). Finally did it this year to celebrate significant birthdays and did 3 weeks in Italy, Part 1 on our own in Venice, Part Two with tour guides in Abruzzo, part 3 in Farnese where my wife did an oil painting class, and Part 4 where we visited ancient ruins in areas around Rome. Quite a memorable trip and we recently put together 3 photobooks for Parts 1-2-3. In Abruzzo we used Maple and Saffron Tours, a wonderful young couple who knew all the owners/chefs at the most amazing restaurants and the historians who knew all the details of the churches, museums and ancient ruins we visited. Using them allowed us to schedule our days there as we wanted with their expertise and be as flexible as we needed to be to enjoy our first time there. They arranged a great hotel, fabulous meals, tours of our choice, and experiences like truffle hunting and dining! Hated to leave and we still email with them almost every week. They also do other areas of Italy so we look forward to being with them again once we replenish our bank accounts after this long trip and the cost of her painting workshop.

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6. Re: Queenslander Tours: The Real Story

It sounds like your trip was great! Continue to enjoy retirement, and take fantastic voyages!

Colts Neck, New...
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7. Re: Queenslander Tours: The Real Story

Hi. Just read your review. We are booked for QLTtrip you were on for June 2014. I have no doubt we have picked the right trip after reading your review. We too are creatures of habit eating at 5-6 pm each night and I am worried about the later dinners. Also I had a bad leg injury in 2011 and slightly apprehensive about the degree of walking. Did you fly business class?

Edited: 8:21 pm, January 09, 2014
Cortland, New York
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8. Re: Queenslander Tours: The Real Story

You have made a great choice for Italy travel and will find that out for sure in June! I worried so much about dining late, but it was no problem at all. Contrary to what I thought Italian food was all about (pasta, cheeses) I found that eating fresh food, with limoncello as an after dinner drink it never seemed like we were eating late at all. The food was not at all heavy like I find "American/Italian food". We slept like babies every night...and both of us physically never felt better than in the 15 days we were away.

As far as walking, we had a lovely lady in our group with ms, and a woman who had a little trouble walking. Both did well, and sat if they needed to. There is quite a bit of on your own time where you can do your own pace.

I wish we had spent the $$ to fly business class. Our long leg from Toronto to Venice was so very small, uncomfortable, and a super old plane...Yuck! Would not recommend Air Canada. I did love our flight times!

I would be more than happy to answer any questions via the forum or PM. Wish we were going with you in June!

Edited: 8:51 pm, January 09, 2014
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9. Re: Queenslander Tours: The Real Story

Hello, I enjoyed reading your very detailed review of your Italy trip, LauraP and I would have to agree with you wholeheartedly in your enthusiasm for the trip!! My husband and I did the same trip in 2011 and we said that it was the trip of a lifetime. Since then, we have taken three more trips with Queenslander Tours, and they have all been fabulous, and are booked for two more trips this year! The company, the people in their office and the tour captains (we loved our tour with Jodie!) are all amazing people!! I have met many of them at this point, and they take infinite care to see that every detail is perfectly planned. We have felt so special and like honored guests on each trip. Congratulations on your retirement - remember that gives you more time to travel!!

If anyone would like to send me a private message with any questions, feel free to do so.

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10. Re: Queenslander Tours: The Real Story

JNMarr...your life is my wish!! Clearly we will have the opportunity to travel more in retirement. (ironically I am working more hours now than I did when I was teaching full time!!) I would definitely travel with Queenslander again. Saving our pennies for a trip to Australia/New Zealand with Queenslander! They are good people at Queenslander, and Mark runs a great company. So glad you were able to tour with Jodie-she is just wonderful.

Enjoy your trips this year! We're heading to Jamaica in April...but hoping for Australia very soon!

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