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“Battenkill Canoe - Best of Vermont River Sampler”

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BattenKill Canoe Day Trips
Reviewed November 24, 2013

My wife and I had wanted to visit New England in the fall for many years. When we saw the "Best of Vermont River Sampler" offered by Battenkill Canoe, we signed up for the September 2013 trip. We were not disappointed. Vermont at that time of year was beautiful of course, but seeing the fall foliage by canoe over 5 days was a very special experience. All of the arrangements were flawless - the packing list, transportation, lodging, meals, and choice of rivers. It was evident that Jim, our host, had developed long-standing relationships with local B&B's and we were warmly welcomed at all of them. He provided excellent equipment and skilled on-river guides who helped us navigate the technical sections.

1  Thank rockrabbit1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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3 - 7 of 10 reviews

Reviewed August 20, 2013

I brought a group of 7 to canoe on the Battenkill River with these outfitters. I was so disappointed with the customer service. The woman on the phone had answered questions for me but not in a friendly, helpful way. The person fitting us with life jackets, dry bags, and giving instructions was could have been much friendlier and helpful. He did not offer information freely, so we had to ask about pick up times, places etc. His big piece of advice was to lean forward to duck the tree limbs, rather than backwards because you might scratch your face. He was also 20 minutes late picking us up. The bathroom was just a porta potty that did not flush. I was very disappointed in this place. For a price of $65 a canoe for 3 hours, I was very disappointed.

1  Thank PollyCM
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed November 6, 2012

I've just returned from the Cevennes canoe trip wth Battenkill and I am still struggling to find the words to express my profound disappointment with this trip. Let me just dive in with the gist of it: Battenkill, and specifically it's owner, Jim, who was the lead guide on this trip, are seriously out of their depth when it comes to planning and executing a multi-day trip in France. It is quite possible that Battenkill's locally-based (Vermont) and day trips are fine, but leaving home is quite another thing. In short, not only did we not canoe once, nor did we even see much of the water, we did not do ONE SINGLE ITEM DESCRIBED IN THE OFFERED ITINERARY. The entire group left three days early.

Now, Jim blamed a lot of this on the fact that it was unseasonably cold and wet and that by late October, most of the Cevennes was closed. At one point, he said to a fellow and well-traveled member of our group, "You obviously haven't been on many adventure travel trips or you'd know that things happen." My response to this is that Jim obviously has not organized many multi-day tours out of his home turf or he'd know that:
-- Things DO happen, and it is a tour leader's job to have a suitable Plan B at the ready, which is part of what we pay for,
-- A responsible tour organizer has established local contacts and relationships, or at the very least some passing understanding of the local language, so that Plan Bs can be put into place or clients can be notified in a timely fashion about possible changes,
-- A responsible tour organizer does not advertise an itinerary that was reasonably foreseeable as totally unworkable (the detailed descriptions of all the towns we would see and stroll through was pretty much dismissed when we arrived because "everything is closed this late in the season" -- true, but he should have told us before we paid for the pleasure)
-- A responsible tour organizer does not make clients pay out of pocket for Plan B, however paltry plan B might be (Jim disappeared when we arrived at the ticket window for some natural caves on Day 2, and then grumbled about having to pay 18 Euro for parking to visit the Pont du Gard),
-- A responsible tour guide has decent communication skills and does not alienate both clients and inn proprietors with passive aggressive and insensitive behavior.

This is the short version. I have left a fair amount of detail about large and small things that left me and the rest of our group slack-jawed about the attitude and incompetence we experienced. I believe we were all pretty flexible and ready to go with the flow, but when it dawned on us that our guide had really done less pre-planning than we could have with limited French skills and a guide book, it rankled. Jim's number two guide did her best to keep the peace, given the difficult situation she was in, but it was clear that ultimately we were all at the mercy of Jim, who appeared to want to be anywhere other than leading us on a tour of the Cevennes.

Battenkill should never have offered this trip to begin with, and that is the point our guide perpetually failed to acknowledge. Too many variables were obviously in play and he seemed unwilling to except responsibility for lack of prep landing, communication or coming up with some sort of mildy acceptable alternative.

I will just finish with two illustrative points:
-- as the group decided to leave three days early, Jim did offer to take us to Avignon that day, which was where we were slated to wind up at the end of trip anyway. However, when we asked him to take us to the Avignon Information Center, two blocks inside the city walls of a relatively small city, he refused because, as he said, "I don't want to get caught in traffic and I don't know the way out." So he left us at the curb just inside the walls. This after five days of riding around in a small van, ill-suited for long drives,, looking at closed-up towns, and never once getting in, or even strolling by, the water. This was typical of his attitude from beginning to end.
-- When we told him we wanted out, he said not to expect any refunds. I will, however, be asking for a refund based on the fact that absolutely nothing offered by Battenkill came to pass, which could have been anticipated by a professional and experienced outfitter familiar with the Cevennes. I will also point out that Battenkill has pocketed any money that would had gone to the canoe outfitters in the park (we figured it roughly $200 per person). By the time we decided to leave the tour, Battenkill had completely failed to perform their side of the contract. I will be taking this up with them directly and will update my post depending on the response I receive.

I feel bad that such an amazing opportunity was lost. I feel bad that my partner and I took valuable time and money and entrusted it to someone who place no apparent value on that. I feel bad for anyone else who may have saved and planned with the hope that they would be going in a trip of a lifetime with Battenkill but were disappointed and left feeling taken.

I agree completely with the observations made by a previous poster who went on the Dordogne trip one month prior.

6  Thank LittleAbby011
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed October 4, 2012

A tour outfitter is only as good as it's guides. We recently returned from the France trip and although the Vezere, Cele and Dordogne paddles are beautiful without compare, the haphazard last minute dinner arrangments and bungled reservations for Font-de-Gaume left me feeling "unguided". One evening we drove around the beautiful French countryside looking for a restaurant that would take a party our size without reservations. Luckily we ran into a couple that recommended "Le Source"-- lucky for our group Edwin Zandvliet allowed us to dine with him-truly a great meal. The major part of the trip (as advertised in the Trip Notes) are visits to two prehistoric caves: Font-de-Gaume (which we didn't get to see thanks to a "mix-up" in reservations) and Grotte du Peche-Merle. One guide stated that missing Font-de-Gaume wasn't a big deal we simply saved the money on entry fees! Thanks, but the prehistoric caves and the difficulty in getting reservations for these attractions were the reason I booked with Battenkill. The owner called to apologise--actually make more excuses. It was that conversation that prompted this review. When managment doesn't want to acknowledge obvious shortcomings, you know the problem will arise again.

One guide wouldn't clearly communicate (I took it as the "knowledge is power" mindset), unfortunately a guide is SUPPOSED to communicate, the other couldn't meet time deadlines for take out. Neither could read the reservation confirmation for the cave. Neither seemed able to make reservations for dinner. The hotels were inconsistent. One was a Gitte(hostel). All were clean. One B&B had stairs so narrow (approximately 8") and steep that I decended on my rump for fear of falling. Needless to say, getting baggage up to the room was a challenge. Several "inns" did not have in-suite bathrooms which required you to walk down the corridor to use the toilette and/or share the shower. Food was generally very good. Weather was great. Equipment was satisfactory. I just feel cheated. The Dordogne is a BEAUTIFUL part of France not to be missed, but my experience with Battenkill doesn't allow me to recommend them.

This trip was not a value. There are always complainers, and I am proud to say that until last week I was not one of them. How hard is it for a "professional" companyto make reservations? How hard is it to READ your reservation confirmation?

5  Thank R H
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed August 17, 2012

Great place to rent canoes and kayaks. We were traveling with our 2 mini schauzers and they allowed us to take them along. Very nice ride, we went to NY, a state park. The only thing I would say is maybe they should post a sign for the places that they pick you up. Great time!

Thank kathy b
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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