Personal Evaluation of Overseas Adventure Travel -- Tunisia: From the Mediterranean to the Sahara
Once we arrived in Tunis, Tunisia from our pre-trip to Morocco we quickly saw that things might be different. Our new Tour Director (TD) Khmais was waiting for us but we did not see him. We finally did recognize him, his OAT sign was a white sheet and he had it by his leg, not holding it up for us to identify him!
As we were the first to arrive and part of a group of 11 that had prearranged a joint trip, we looked for other members of our group. After 90 minutes all the flights had arrived and we transferred to a very spacious bus.
Our evening meeting was very poorly arranged. We soon found out that this was Khmais’ first OAT trip and he had not arranged for a room for the meeting nor did he have the usual OAT paperwork. The group saw that he was lacking in knowledge of OAT procedures.
He had no personal information forms on what we wanted to see, special diet needs, contacts, medication, etc. I gave him a prepared sheet with questions about Tunisia and things we would like to see from our pre-trip preparation. We never received any response.
To try to make this more concise I will list our observations.
1. No concern for Adventure Club members. Of the 14 on the trip, 12 had previous trips with OAT. One couple had 15 trips, we had 14 and several others were approaching 10. There were no benefits provided.
2. He did not discuss marriage, abortion, crime, economy, and other controversial subjects.
3. He was usually the last off the bus. Therefore we had to wait anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes for keys when we arrived in the hotels. And usually with heavy cigarette smoke in the lobby.
4. We were usually late leaving all locations - from morning to evening. We were in the bus but he was not.
5. He would not give us a specific or concise schedule before we left the bus in the evening – times for dinner, breakfast, luggage, departure - we had to ask.
On the positive side, Khmais was super on his historical knowledge, providing us with discoveries, stopping for pictures, pointing out special areas and many other things. He did go to bat for us at the hotels on getting us rooms that were commensurate with what we asked OAT in their forms.
Unfortunately, the hotels did not care. He had a positive and funny sense of humor. And he was very concerned with our safety and well being throughout the trip.
Bus driver Riadh was excellent and if not for him many of us could still be in the hospital as he avoided several serious collisions.
OAT Tunisia had some problems also.
1. We had a horrible hotel in Sousse (Sousse Palace). It is the worst hotel I have been in on all my trips with OAT.
2. In Kairouan, we had a bad, contrived buying experience at a carpet store.
3. Every hotel in Tunisia served watered Tang instead of orange juice even though fresh oranges were available on the street for pennies.
4. The Red Lizard Train is nothing like the OAT advertisement. We arrived 45 minutes early and could only find a place to stand outside between the cars.
OAT Boston concern.
Ticketing for six member of the group were processed as a “DIFFERENT TICKET STOCK” (DTS). This means that OAT bought separate tickets for our flight to JFK on Delta, separate ticket on Air Maroc, separate ticket for Alitalia and separate ticket for Delta flight home from JFK.
On our return from Tunis, we flew to Rome for an Alitalia flight to JFK. Our flight was 7 hours late in departing Rome and we 11 missed our connections. Once the six of us who were given DTS arrived at JFK, Alitalia told us that due to OAT’s processing of our tickets as DTS, we were on our own. They had no responsibility for lodging, meals, etc. Other 5 were taken care by Alitalia.
We contacted OAT and were put on hold and then disconnected. At 9:30 PM we contacted a hotel at JFK, got reservations and spent the night. Next day we all flew out. Our flight to Denver was at 6:30 PM. We are awaiting OAT’s refund on lodging and meals for the 22 hours we spent in New York.
If anyone has OAT arrange their flights, be sure to inquire as to the ticketing. Never allow them to provide a “DIFFERENT TICKET STOCK”. After 14 trips with OAT, this was the first time we faced this problem, but now we know what to ask.
Just before we were to go on our first journey of 2020, the COVID-19 virus hit and the world shut down for travel and adventure.
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