Last year we selected Fantasy Tours for our Alaskan Caravan 2013 because of their affiliation with FMCA. The following is a portion of the feedback I provided to the tour company at the end of the tour on July 28, 2013. As of 3/4/2014, I have not received any feedback from Fantasy Tours.
Feedback Questionnaire Questions and answers:
12. What part of the tour did you enjoy the least?
We had two mechanical breakdowns while on the tour that impacted our ability to utilize normal tour provided meals and/or campground facilities. Each time we missed campground, meals and entertainment. Each time the Wagon Master (WM) failed to try to compensate us by providing meal vouchers or alternate campground fees; i.e. Fairbanks Salmon Bake or campground fees when we had to return to Valdez Eagles Nest campground.
Because one of the tour participants had a flu virus that spread through the group, Patty (my wife) was not able to attend the Gold Dredge #8 tour in Fairbanks, AK. As part of the tour each tour participant received a bag of “pay dirt”. When I asked the WM for a bag of “pay dirt” for Patty, he told me it would cost me $10. I protested saying that we had already paid for her full entry and should not have to pay additional fee. He later gave me a bag of “pay dirt” but admonished me not to tell anyone else on the tour about this “deal”.
In our opinion, these actions amounted to either Fantasy and/or WM pocketing addition profits at the expense of their customer’s misfortunes.
The Irkutsk, BC campground and meal were terrible. The water coming out of the faucets was black. The voltage was minimal; i.e. 104 VAC. The grass at campsite was so high that automatic RV steps would not fully extend. The meal was canned cream corn and overcooked beef of some type.
14 How do you rate the included side tours?
Some of the side tours were too Disney like for our taste; i.e. the River Boat Cruise and Gold Dredge #8 in Fairbanks. Both of these tours were an insult to the intelligence of your customers to pander them for worthless trinkets.
22 Additional comments:
Wagon Master Strengths and Weaknesses:
o Knowledge of tour routs, facilities, and tours.
o Technical understanding of minimum voltage and water quality requirements for RV’s.
o WM failed to establish social interactions within the group by failing to promote gatherings other than those required by tour. The majority of social gatherings were imitated by customers.
o Both the WM and his wife lacked genuine empathy for their customers. They went through the minimum requirements to meet Fantasy Tour questionnaire requirements but nothing more. Example: When coffee ran out the response was “It is going to take an hour to make more” and then provided no additional coffee. The same type of attitude was evident on other occasions. So if you were not first in line for any food type of occasion, you were out of luck for coffee or anything else that was provided. Because of this people would show up an hour to half hour before schedule to ensure they got their meal.
o Two of the meals required customers to provide essential ingredients; i.e. eggs for omelet in a bag and chili for chili dogs which for the money spent for this tour was insulting.
o The “Family Style” meal provided in Fairbanks was just that. If you were at the far end of the table, there was either nothing left or it was the pieces that no one else wanted. We felt like the classic “Redheaded Step Child” with little to no food worth eating.
o The TG has strong trouble shooting ability.
o The TG has great empathy for customers especially during customer misfortunes; i.e. breakdowns and illness.
o Experience and knowledge of routes, tours, campgrounds, etc.
o Leadership skills were not evident but that is part of TG role.
We feel that Fantasy Tour placed their customers in extreme risk by not having reliable communication in the remote areas of Alaska. The WM and TG should have been provided with satellite cellphones in order to communicate to emergency service providers in the event of medical or mechanical emergencies. In the two mechanical breakdowns that we experienced, the TG was not able to contact emergency services or WM using their personal cell phone. Because the caravan can be stretched over 50 miles, the use of Walkie-Talkie radio is not adequate due to their short range. Customers should be provided VHF radios for more reliable communication with WM and TG and other customers.
The Fantasy Tour Insurance gives a false sense of security for the customer’s investment in that it fails to include mechanical failures incurred. We did not realize this until we encountered two mechanical failures that could have cost us major losses. This travel insurance fails to cover normal losses during this tour; i.e. mechanical breakdowns or illness. This insurance is duplicate of insurance we already have.
The Fantasy Tour VEHICLE PREPARATION CHECKLIST fails to provide adequate instructions regarding the preparation for road conditions in Alaska; i.e. protections for vehicles and their radiators of from rocks and stones. Note: Both WM and TG suffered disabling damage from radiator damage to their RV or TOAD.
Overall we were terribly disappointed in the services provided by this caravan and will NEVER participate in another tour or caravan of this type again.
If you absolutely want a caravan tour of Alaska, I recommend that you take an Alaskan tour with “ALASKAN DISCOVERY RV TOURS" which we hear about from fellow FMCA members after we return and told them our story. This caravan uses satellite phones for external communications and VHF radios for communication between members of the caravan that are not spread out over 40-60 miles like other tour groups. This tour company ensures that vehicles are prepared to prevent as much damage as possible prior to the trip. This company also emphasizes history and cultural elements of Alaska and not the Disney like tourist attractions.