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ChoralNet: Reviews of tour companies



Dear Listers,

Again, you have come through royally! The responses I received were
numerous and repetitive in some cases so I have chosen to summarize
the info. For those who may have missed the 10-page compilation that
went out from Judith Higbee in March, I will include her results
along with my own. The order of presentation is from those most
requested on down. For half of the companies I listed in my original
posting, I received no response at all.

I have discussed with David the possibility of setting up some sort
of file on touring companies where people can record their
experiences in an on-going manner and those of us who may need to,
can access them w/o posting requests. This is something Choralnet
wants to do in the future. On with the summary:

Deborah Vickers
dvicke71(a)maine.edu
Choral Art Society
Portland, ME

TOUR RESOURCE CONSULTANTS: More respondents (6) have
successfully toured w/ this company than any of the others. It's run
by David Rasmussen who used to work for ACFEA. It received high marks
in all areas - venues, audiences, accommodations, guides,
flexibility, low cost and terrific local contacts. Most said they
would not use any other company as long as TRC remained in business.
The proposal that I received was outstanding and they are definitely
in my top five.

MUSIC CONTACT INTERNATIONAL: I didn't receive much personal info as
to why MCI is so terrific but the respondents (3) who used this
company stated they had used them more than once and would not use
any other. One person described them as "outstanding." The proposal
they prepared for our chorus gets a "10."

ACFEA: This company sent me a wonderful itinerary. We voted to set
our cost ceiling at $3,000 for 12 nights/14 days. Their proposed tour
for superior tourist class accommodations was estimated at $2,896.
Trip costs will always be subjective and high cost was the only
complaint respondents registered for ACFEA (6), "I sense this relates
to their higher overhead with multiple offices, numerous agents, and
much more aggressive promotional activities." However, four others
who have used it have traveled more than once with ACFEA and
have stated that it is the only company with which they will tour.
One person commented, "You get what you pay for and we had an
outstanding trip!"

AMBASSADOR TOURS: Very popular company (4) for balance with concert
opportunities and sightseeing experiences. One person has gone with
it twice and will "never go with anyone else." Ilse Roderick was Tour
Guide par excellence and should be requested. Talk with Cathy Skinner
if you contact AT. The only negative comment was regarding
inaccessibility to instruments or properly tuned instruments but the
choir was prepared with a tape.

WITTE TRAVEL: One person has traveled with Witte about 10 times and
"likes them a lot." Another gave them high marks for keeping within a
budget, great venues and publicity - for full concerts and integrated
concerts with locals, great connections all over Europe.

AD INTERNATIONAL: The most points for ADI come from my conversation
with the President, George Plasko, who has a doctorate in music and
is a Fulbright scholar. His intimate knowledge of the cities we want
to tour as well as his flexibility in setting up a proposal that
would meet all our needs, caused me to place his company in my top
five list. Of the comments I have received, one person complained of
deplorable hotel accommodations, "We were housed in the Atlas "Hotel"
which was really a student dorm. We had not been advised of this. The
students had just left that morning. It was filthy. Three of our
members balked outright and would not even consider staying and went,
spending extra money, to stay elsewhere. Our Vienna concert was at a
retirement home...almost all the residents happened to be away on a
day outing...there were 7 people in our audience. The tour impacted
us so negatively that we were unable to raise enough interest to
mount a tour last year." Another person said to AVOID THEM AT ALL
COSTS! "They were unorganized, unprofessional, and represented the
festival we attended as international, which it wasn't. I will never
deal with them again." It is possible that these comments came from
the same person, I don't know. Another person had "nothing but good
things to say about them." The only complaint this person had was
regarding connections between Poland and Germany which were not
"handled well." Based on my positive experience, I am going to
present these comments anonymously to Dr. Plasko so as to hear the
other side of the story.

INTROPA: I know someone who has had wonderful experience using
Intropa with his high school chamber choir. I also did a tour with
this company in May of this year. My complaints were minimal in light
of the truly terrific time we had: (1) Our hotel in Vienna was a
half-hour outside the city. Our group (college students) did so much
complaining that I don't think they'll ever do that again! (2) We
traveled on an overnight train and students were given different
class compartments (ie. some 2 to a room and others 6 to a room) -
students were not happy. (3) We only had one concert in Paris [the
morning after our overnight train experience :-)]. It was a 15-minute
concert at Notre Dame given as tourists packed the place,
contributing high level white noise and taking away from the
experience for the students. We left three days later with no more
singing opportunities - a real let down. Actually, I wouldn't even
mention these except that I think they are good learning points for
people who have not had experience touring. The clearer you are about
what you want and don't want, the better your tour will be. ANDREAS
is probably the best tour guide you could ask for. We changed our
minds a lot at the last minute re: sightseeing experiences and he was
ever flexible, giving us pretty much what we wanted. Another person
who described their Intropa tour as "excellent" stated, "The best
part was that all of our concerts were in great venues with
good-sized audiences." The person who had the disastrous tour with
ADI used Intropa this year and had a wonderful tour. Ask for Eric
Rock or Judith Stuss for tour planning.

FRIENDSHIP AMBASSADORS: Received high marks in all areas prior to
1990. One person stated, "They had an excellent reputation for
running tours in the Communist bloc; since that no longer exists they
aren't so unique anymore." This same person stated that the publicity
for their concerts was not very good. Another said, "They were
wonderful...but their best man, Dennis Hunt (who arranged our tour),
left to form his own company, Concept Tours. I recommend him highly."
Another person didn't like FAF because "you go on their schedule, not
your own." A final person stated that they had traveled with FAF in
1976 and 1982 and their tours were "outstanding." They used to do
tours by invitation only but that does not seem to be the case at
this time as I have received a lovely itinerary from them at our
request. I have not, however, received feedback from anyone who has
toured with them since 1990.

BRITISH EUROPEAN SPECIALTY TOURS: Of the three respondents,
two highly recommended BEST. One stated that the success of his trip
was due to David Searles, "an individual of great integrity, who is
particularly well-suited for travel in England where he knows the
major church musicians personally. They usually offer a very
competitive price because of the low overhead of their operation due
to David's hands-on management style." One person would not use them
again, "I really did not like the way I was treated and how they
dealt with my families."

CONCEPT TOURS: Two respondents have had experience w/ Concept Tours.
This company is run by Dennis Hunt who used to work for FAF in the
'70's and '80's. He was described by one person as being "very
well-connected abroad." Another, who has traveled twice with CT,
stated that he has a wonderful 'taste' in choral music, literature,
and venues." Sean Fagan was also recommended for tour planning.

MUSIC CELEBRATIONS INTERNATIONAL: Received high marks across the
board by two respondents, one having done 5 tours with this company.
He describes it as being first-rate and has spoken on their behalf to
other prospective clients. Another stated, "Our tour guide, Ivanna,
was so completely prepared, there was never a snag. All concerts were
well-publicized and attended. All hotel stays were in very nice
hotels." MCI's Gayle Heatherington is a member of Choralist and
responded to Judith Higbee's query in March. It impresses me that
someone from these companies cares enough about what we think to tune
in and contribute. I heard of MCI at the ACDA Convention in Chicago
and was very interested in their literature and presentation.

BLUEHEART TOURS: This company was not on my list but one respondent
was so impressed with a tour they had taken that they wanted me to
contact BT. The staff was described as "extremely professional and
thorough." They manage the National Symphony tours. Contact via
e-mail: bluheart(a)ix.netcom.com or visit their web site:
www.BlueHeart. com.

EDUCATIONAL TRAVEL EXPERIENCES, INC: One respondent stated that
in 26 years of touring with several tour companies, this one was "the
best and most reasonably priced." He is planning his 3rd tour with
ETE. The owners, Clyde & Lyn Barr, personally take your entire tour
to check out hotels, concert venues, buses, vaporettos, publicity,
etc. long before you leave. They can be contacted at (717) 245-2826.

KINGSWAY: Three respondents mentioned Kingsway. One person stated
that a trip to China "could not have been better." She worked with
Robin and Ruth and felt they "really knew their job." The staff went
out of their way to make the trip wonderful. They give one free trip
for every 8 paid trips. Another person who recommended Kingsway
also recommended Dr. Gary Unruh, a long-time choral director with
many overseas touring experiences. A third person stated that when he
had requested info sometime ago, a few people had responded that
"they had heard nothing very positive about Kingsway." This person
used Kingsway just the same, had a very good tour and is using them
again.

EF TOUR CONSULTANTS: Recommended by one person for great service and
low cost. You receive one free trip for every 6 paid trips.

**********

I hope this has been helpful. For companies where I have given no
contact information, you can find the needed numbers, etc. in the
Choral journal. Shalom and happy touring!!




Thanks for all of your responses (and your patience - end of school!). A few
are going on trips in June and promised to provide feedback. I'll post those
then!

Thanks and Happy traveling!

John Delorey
Clark University

I am pleased to recommend two companies that both done very fine work
for me.

For England particularly, I would recommend BEST (British European
Specialty Tours), from Indianapolis. David Searles is the president of
the company and personally deals with each client. He has sung
professionally in England, notably at Canterbury Cathedral, and has many
fine contacts that can open doors for you.

Also well versed on England, and very capable to managing a trip on the
rest of the continent, INTROPA tours based in Dallas is very fine.
Their president, Deana Roberts, has Italian roots and much tour
experience throughout Europe. They have a very professional staff and
have offices in Vienna.

I am traveling this summer with my choir and orchestra under the banner
of INTROPA to northern Italy, and traveled 2 years ago with BEST on a
Bach heritage tour. Both continue to deliver fine services. Both are
well managed and fiscally responsible.

Dr. Michael Shasberger
Minister of Music
Augustana Lutheran Church, Denver, CO

•

I have toured with ACFEA since 1982. They craft a tour which fits your
choir - meet special needs, are thorough and dependable. Strong
recommendation. Rebecca Rottsolk

•

I used Tour Resources Consultants for our Italian tour last summer and
we are using them again for our Ireland/England tour next summer. They
are a wonderful company with the right prices.

Contact them at TourReCons(a)aol.com. You will be very impressed with
this group.

Lon
•

The company I use is Tour Resource Consultants. They are a smaller company
and that gives me LOTS of personal attention. The owner is David Rasmussen,
and he used to work for ACFEA, but left to start his own company. TRC put
together our choir trip in 1998 to Italy, and our tour this summer to
Budapest, Vienna, Prague and Leipzig. I have been very pleased with their
work. You can reach them at:
Tour Resource Consultants
P.O. Box 2350
Evergreen, CO 80437
1-888-330.5500
Fax 303-674-2947
email: TourReCons(a)aol.com

Hope this is all helpful.
---Ann

Ann S. Ables
Director of Music & Fine Arts
Memorial Drive United Methodist Church, Houston, Texas
713-468-8356 ext.125

•

I friend forwarded your request on Choralist to me. I work for a very
reputable tour company, Music Celebrations International. MCI is based in
Tempe, AZ and we work exclusively with performing groups. I would be more
than happy to send you a brochure and a list of references. You can also
check us out at www.musiccelebrations.com.

I am also a singer and my husband is a choral and orchestral conductor in the
Chicago area. We became acquainted with Music Celebrations International
when they planned a European tour for the community chorus in which I sing
and my husband conducts. The trip was excellent! We then used MCI again for
our church choir tour. After these experiences, I went to work for MCI. So
I can say (from outside and inside!) without reservation that it is a very
good company.

In addition to information on MCI, I would be happy to have a proposal
prepared for your tour (no obligation) so you can see what we offer and what
our prices would be. I look forward to hearing from you.

Gayle Heatherington
Music Celebrations International
800 328-1040
847 677-3906 fax
email: gayle(a)musiccelebrations.com

•

Just back from Ireland. We used Tour Resource Consultatns, and they were
great. Maury Schulte (mlstrc(a)aol.com) was our contact. He did all the
arrangements in Ireland in person in the fall (rather than using a tour
company over there and taking their word for everying), checking out the
cathedrals and hotels personally. And then he was our guide in Ireland, and
everything went extremely smoothly. Venues were great, hotels were fabulous,
and it was even sunny, tho' I'm not sure he was repsonsible for this last
thing. And their price was the best I received. Their quote was low but
when the final cost arrived it was even lower!

DJ

David Griggs-Janower
228 Placid Drive
Schenectady, NY 12303-5118
518/356-9155 (h); 442-4167 (w)

Albany Pro Musica
PO Box 3850
Albany, NY 12203-0850
Ph/Fax: (518) 273-6510
http://www.timesunion.com/communities/apm.htm

•

PS - I also used EF Tours (Boston) two years ago for Italy, and they were
very good. I liked Maury better, but I would recommend EF as well. If you
by chance DO use EF, tell them I sent you!

DJ

David Griggs-Janower

•

on June 11, 2002 10:00pm
After a number of tours arranged by one or another of the large tour companies, we chose to have our last tour arranged by Calvin Hooker of Adventures in Language and Culture -- ALC. ALC is a small company that can and does give all its attention to suiting a particular tour to the needs and wants of a particular group in a particular place. Calvin knows the areas in which he arranges tours -- he's met the hotel owners, visited the sights and sites and eaten at the restaurants. He's a singer himself, and he knows what makes a good concert venue.

We went on a ten-day concert tour in Italy last summer, and we were delighted with the balance of sight-seeing and free time, the hotels and their locations--big cities and small villages, our concert venues and the timing of concerts throughout the tours, the discovery of "special" places to sing -- small churches with wonderful acoustics that were ready to welcome us for an impromptu concert. We had several group meals at wonderful restaurants, where we were welcomed and fed glorious food -- fortunately, AFTER our concerts!

We were so satisfied with last year's tour that there was no question of using any other agency for next year's tour to France. The dedication to detail and to finding the unique venues, the interesting towns, the scenic roads, the comfortable and well-located hotels -- these are the reasons we will continue to consult ALC for our tours. You can contact them as follows:
Adventures In Language & Culture
P.O.Box 264
E. Derry, NH 03041
603-432-1445 (T)
603-434-8612 (F)


on June 30, 2002 10:00pm

Ellison Tours (a Carlson-Wagonlit Travel agent)- Exeter, Ontario, Canada

For those touring with children's or youth choirs in Canada, this company is the best! We have used them on 3 separate occassions (Niagara Falls and Toronto, Montreal and Quebec City, and the Maritime Provinces) and have been pleased with each experience. Consultant Sandie VanderSchot is in tune with what students will enjoy and also manages to schedule activities that the chaperones love as well! She is thorough from day one, keeping in constant touch by e-mail, fax, or phone. Before departing, Sandie sends a binder with pages of information and maps for each activity. And the Canadian exchange rate is so good, who could resist a trip to our neighbors up North. I highly recommend Ellison tours.