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Queenslander Tours: The Real Story

Cortland, New York
Level Contributor
3,753 posts
439 reviews
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.

Wethersfield...
2 posts
21. Re: Queenslander Tours: The Real Story

We are considering both the Best Cities of Italy, and the additional 3 day Amalfi tours......just concerned that it will be too much on the first trip to Italy for the senses, the packing, everything!! I don't want to zoom through it all and feel like I didn't see it, in an effort to get everything in. So, I guess I'm asking you if you considered the pace to be moderate and would you suggest that we do both tours together, as you did. I so appreciate your very thorough review.....for people considering QL Tours, it is really helpful!!!

Cortland, New York
Level Contributor
3,753 posts
439 reviews
22. Re: Queenslander Tours: The Real Story

I'm glad you found the review helpful. When we went on this trip to Italy we were "Italy Virgins"!! It had always been a dream of ours...but limited time and limited funds prevented it from happening earlier. Since we had just retired we decided to make it a priority to finally make the trip we had dreamed about for over 30 years. My hubby is Italian, we live in an Italian community and we had always just wanted to visit the country to see it for ourselves.

I stressed a LOT about packing...and I shouldn't have! We wore clothes more than once (which is NOT my usual way to vacation...but everyone else was doing it to so I felt better!!!), and brought clothing that was similar colors (lots of black/gray with colored scarves) that made it interchangeable. Yes...we did a lot, but the trip did not require it, we did extras on our own choosing. Of course it was for sure senses overload...so many beautiful places to see. We wanted an overview in an efficient way of the country of Italy. I was happy that the "overview" was enough for us to feel like we had seen as well as experienced Italy. It did not feel like we did a "drive-by" at all...I do believe that many tours of Italy are like that! In a perfect world we would be able to stay for six weeks (my current dream by the way!!!) and leisurely enjoy all that Italy has to offer. For us-this tour had the perfect blend of seeing a lot, not feeling rushed at all (Amalfi was super relaxing), and feeling like we had the Italian experience. I really feel that adding the day at the beginning and at the end that we did on our own (although it was reserved through Queenslander and was considered part of our entire trip) made us feel like we relaxed at the beginning and relaxed at the end so we felt energized do "tour" along with the group!

So happy to answer any additional questions!

Wethersfield...
2 posts
23. Re: Queenslander Tours: The Real Story

THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!!!!!!!!! These TA posts are so helpful to people travelling to places they have never been........packing is always an issue for me, but when I think of what I will be seeing, the stress goes away. We are planning to go May of 2015, so along the way, if I have any questions, I will repost and again, SO APPRECIATIVE of your response. Time to plan YOUR next trip to Italy!!! Thanks again.

Cortland, New York
Level Contributor
3,753 posts
439 reviews
24. Re: Queenslander Tours: The Real Story

Glad to be of help! Don't you worry...I plan trips every day-if not for myself, for others, which is almost as much fun!!

Be glad to help in any way-and if you would like I would be happy to answer a PM.

Happy travels!

Boston...
Level Contributor
105 posts
4 reviews
25. Re: Queenslander Tours: The Real Story

Thank you for all the information! We are also chatting with Queenslander for a trip in late March/early April 2015 also! What can we expect for weather? Thanks!

Cortland, New York
Level Contributor
3,753 posts
439 reviews
26. Re: Queenslander Tours: The Real Story

I am unable to help with the weather question. You may want to post the question in a separate forum post. We traveled in late September/October so I only know about that weather! (Hotter and wetter than I thought!!)

Manahawkin, New...
1 post
27. Re: Queenslander Tours: The Real Story

Hi Laurel, I am wondering if these small trips are guaranteed? Do they ever need to cancel because they are not full? Also is it very rushed or they take their times on the tours? Did you have to stand in line for hours at the Vatican?

Bristow, VA
Level Contributor
15 posts
14 reviews
28. Re: Queenslander Tours: The Real Story

Hello, Patricia - My husband and I have taken 4 Queenslander tours and have numbers 5 and 6 booked for this year! You can tell that we think the company and their tours are excellent! I know that their departures are guaranteed, and I know that one trip to Spain and Portugal (not the one that we were on) had just 4 guests. From what I understand, the 4 guests and the tour captain had a terrific time!

We took the Italy Great Cities tour in late May 2011. The weather was spectacular and it is already getting quite warm at that time (low 80's). As far as the Vatican is concerned, we did not wait in line at all to get in. The only place that you can't go to the head of the line is in the Sistine Chapel, but we didn't wait long. Once inside, it was pretty crowded and we had the best views by going to the back of the chapel. You're not supposed to take pictures in the Sistine Chapel, but people were taking them all over the place! Having a city guide makes every tour so much more meaningful, and the guides are all wonderful - very well educated in history and art. On the great cities trip, guests are inclined to dress a little nice - such as a little black dress (or nice slacks) for the farewell dinner (you are in Rome at that point). Slacks or capris during the day - and everything looks better with a nice scarf worn nonchalantly!

May 2013 we took the Northern Italy, Switzerland and Austria tour which was fabulous! It rained every single day and was quite cold (you never know). I wore my Isotoner gloves every day, and was so grateful that I had them. Always bring a small umbrella. MIne broke in Salzburg but I was able to buy one at a booth in the market in Salzburg. Thank goodness we returned home the week before the floods in Europe.

We took the Deluxe tour, but half our group did the Classic and they were perfectly happy (they wanted to have more money to buy shoes and other leather!). I would definitely recommend doing the dinner package - it is absolutely worth it! The food in Italy is fabulous and every Queenslander dinner is a great event! You absolutely get to choose any and every thing on the menu if you want! For example, in Rome, I had lobster linguine and Chateaubriand, crepes Suzette and it was spectacular! Another night it was white truffle risotto. (That is why I'm going back to Italy with QL Tours in May!!) If you have any other questions, please feel free to contact me.

Cortland, New York
Level Contributor
3,753 posts
439 reviews
29. Re: Queenslander Tours: The Real Story

JNMarr..Thanks for your wonderful review! It sounds like your experience was exactly like ours-terrific in every way!

Patricia-I have heard from a guest that had her trip to Australia cancelled. Not sure how early it was cancelled. Other than that I have not heard of any problems. I imagine all of the Italy tours are pretty full-there were 2 completely full tours traveling at the same time that we went in September/October.

I did not feel that the tour was at all rushed. Guided tours were generally 8AM to about noon, then the rest of the day for your own decisions. Sometimes the tour guide offers a free walking tour-but certainly it is your choice to go or do your own thing. I thought it was the perfect blend of time.

I highly concur with JNMarr-book the dining even if you go with the classic-it is so worth every penny. We did book deluxe, and would make that choice on future Queenslander tours.

We did not stand in line for hours at the Vatican. It certainly is a busy place-but we had a guide who was able to avoid the lines as much as possible. We did not walk right in-but I don't think that would be possible whoever you choose to travel with-a lot of people want to visit the Vatican...and it is definitely worth the wait! The Sistine Chapel...priceless!

Be glad to answer any further questions you may have. Happy travels!

Gloucester VA
Level Contributor
8 posts
12 reviews
30. Re: Queenslander Tours: The Real Story

Thank you for taking the time to write an great review with details that are helpful. My husband and I are going to Italy and Switz. soon and are taking in some of the very sights and cities you have mentioned. We are doing part on our own and part w/a tour. I hope our tour will be as memorable as yours. I have had some concerns as to amt. of walking and some late evenings/ dinners, but your experience sounds as though your company was most accommodating. Thanks again for all info.