Newton St. Loe
- Madeira is stunningly beautiful, and the walks were well planned to provide a great variety of terrains across different parts of the island. The group was great, although 15 is verging on too large. Generally, it was a good trip, marred by just one problem - although this put a serious dampener on the whole trip - which was the guide. He was a nice guy, and his knowledge of the local environment was extensive and genuinely enthusiastic, but he took the "let's exploit the customers" to extremes. While it's generally known that tour leaders will recommend restaurants where they can get a free meal and better, a small commission, a recommendation is one thing. When it turns into a situation where the trip is dominated by regular arrangements with friends in different towns, and group members are effectively press-ganged into coming by pushing the "antisocial" tag on them in front of the group, that's something else. In this case, we were asked verbally about arrangements for meals in front of the group every night, and on some occasions told we had to commit the night before because his friend needed to know how many pieces of fish or chicken to buy. Mostly the food was really good (not always), but meals averaged 25 euros without drinks. That's about 10 euros more than a decent restaurant in Funchal. It was also inevitably limited in choice, and usually took about an hour and a half to serve after the group arrived, so we'd end up not eating til 9:30pm. Since meals were also often in a different village to where we were staying, that meant dinner typically took three hours and we wouldn't get back to the hotel until after 11pm. If you didn't want to participate, no alternatives were ever offered, and ultimately it caused some quite major tensions in a group that otherwise got on brilliantly. I know it's hard to control, but Explore seriously needs to keep a check on this.
The other thing - what on earth was all the waiting about for? Why the constant constant extended coffee stops after leaving the hotel right after breakfast en route to a walk that starts fifteen minutes away? Or on the way back after a five hour walk in the sun where you really just want a shower or to jump in the pool?
Published on: 18 June 2016
Thanks for your feedback regarding the above Explore holiday, we’re glad to hear you enjoyed your trip. It’s disappointing however, that you were not as impressed with your Explore Leader, Benny, especially as has worked with us for a couple of years and always receives great feedback. We did address your points with Benny and he has explained that he will always recommend dining venues that are away from the tourist areas, so our groups can experience the local culture and try traditional food. We must also note that while it is common for restaurants to give our leaders a free meal, it is against company policy for our leaders to accept any commission. Although it is entirely optional to choose where you eat for non-included meals, Benny also advised that he will always give other options to the group, but in certain areas they are limited.