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Selecting an Alaska Caravan

Alaska Caravan

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#1 rga48

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Posted 04 March 2014 - 05:41 PM

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:

·         Strengths

     o   Knowledge of tour routs, facilities, and tours.

·         Weakness

     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.

 

Tail Gunner

·         Strengths

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.

·         Weaknesses

o   Experience and knowledge of routes, tours, campgrounds, etc.

o   Leadership skills were not evident but that is part of TG role.

 

Additional comments:

 

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.   


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Rich & Patty Abrams
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#2 zorro2kita

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Posted 09 April 2014 - 09:06 PM

Sorry to hear about your misfortune.   However, we just had the opposite experience with Fantasy doing their 60 day trip of Western Canada and Alaska last summer .  The WM and wife could not have done more for the 22 guests on this caravan.  We always felt we got more than we paid for.   They always seemed to find money in the budget for "extra" items not listed in the itinerary!   Yes, the roads in AK and Canada can be challenging but we went slow, why rush when you know you have a rv site awaiting you at the end of the day.   The tailgunner had to leave the caravan in Fairbanks due to a health issue; the Head WM showed up next day and covered for him for the rest of the trip.

 

I feel so strong about the superior service we received from Fantasy that I have not removed the sticker from my coach -  still promoting this company when people ask.


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#3 billbaldwin

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Posted 10 April 2014 - 10:01 AM

Sorry you did not have a good trip.

 

I have traveled with Fantasy and we had a great time.  I think as much as anything the WM makes the trip.

 

I am looking to go on the Alaska tour in 2016. 

 

Who was your WM, I'll be sure not to get this guy.


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#4 zorro2kita

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Posted 11 April 2014 - 06:42 PM

Bill -  we had Ben and Nancy Rose on our trip last summer -  I believe they are doing an AK caravan next year  -   They are very professional and you will not regret going with them -  let me know if you need any further details -- 


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#5 rga48

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Posted 11 April 2014 - 11:28 PM

If the caravan tour group does not provide necessary safety equipment; i.e. satellite phones, inter-coach communications, etc. you are placing you and your significant other in danger in Alaska.  It is not like being in the lower 48.  Cell phones do not work 90% of the time.  In addition, you don't want to pay for junk; i.e. Disney World make believe Alaskan Villages, gold dredges,  and other such worthless activities.  If you want that just go to Disney World.  Fantasy Tours does the same routine and has the same equipment or lack thereof no matter who is the WM.  As I said I have not had any response to my complaints about their service.  We were stranded three times with no communications other than our own.  Neither the WM or TG could communicate with anyone unless they used our cell phone booster.  During the Top of the World Highway portion of the trip, no one had communication capabilities for two days and hundreds or miles.  If you or anyone in your caravan had a medical emergency, you were out of luck big time.  Do not risk your life to the caravan outfits that do not have your safety in mind. 


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Rich & Patty Abrams
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#6 lmsooter

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Posted 12 April 2014 - 12:13 AM

We went to Alaska in 2012 with Adventure Caravans and had a great experience. Probably 70% of the couples on that trip still communicate with each other.
After we returned, we have talked with three couples who had used Fantasy and they were pleased with their experience.
Our caravan traveled in groups of 3 or 4 rigs (we had a total of 21 rigs) and we communicated within our group with CB radios and walkie talkies. Several rigs had mechanical problems throughout the trip but the TG was always able to contact the necessary service provider.
While a small number of events were of the Disney style - gold panning at the dredge in Fairbanks - they were still fun and different.
We were very pleased with out WM and TG. They went all out to bring us together as a group and to arrange later events for those affected by mechanical breakdowns.
We were pleased to get a tour of the gold dredge at Dawson City - part of history. As I understand it, the tours were to be discontinued due to funding cuts.
I hate to see that someone had a bad experience there because there is so much to see and enjoy. Hopefully any trips you might make in the future will be better.
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#7 McBrian

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Posted 12 April 2014 - 07:40 AM

I am glad to hear that Ben and Nancy were good WM as they will be our WM this June. 
 
I don't think that Fantasy uses the feedback form as a communications device other than what it says, "feedback." As I understand it, they want the customers feedback to make sure that the WM, TG, Campgrounds and all the other parts of the trip were meeting expectations.  I would think that if you wanted a reply from them you would have called or wrote to them.   
 
It's great that you have shared your experience with others here so we are more informed and I'm sorry to hear about your troubles but can you really blame Fantasy for your illness and two breakdowns?  Personally, if I had been as unsatisfied as you seem to be, I would have written a letter to Fantasy and laid it all out, requesting a reply.  You can still do just that, a good, old fashioned letter is still the best way to communicate with a company.
 
Well, I'll be sure to let everyone know what kind of trip we have this summer in Alaska. This will be our third trip with Fantasy and we have no regrets so far.
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#8 rga48

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Posted 12 April 2014 - 09:52 PM

We did send letter to Fantasy Tours and independently we had conversation with FT follow-up but no formal response was received to either.  You are not understanding,  the caravan tour group does not provide necessary safety equipment; i.e. satellite phones, inter-coach communications, etc. You are placing you and your significant other in danger in Alaska.  It is not like being in the lower 48.  Cell phones do not work 90% of the time.  If everything goes well, you don't need the caravan to provide security or the additional $7,000 to provide you good time friends.  You expect the caravan to provide security.  In all three of our breakdowns, we were on our own because neither the WM nor TG had any form of communication to support us.  We had to make our own arrangements for tow trucks and repair facilities.  There was no benefit to travelling with a caravan to us. 

 

In addition, we were subjected to worthless Disney World type tourist attractions which the WG most likely received compensation. At one such location my wife was sick from flu from other members of caravan, I requested that I be given a bad of "pay dirt"  from this attraction because we had already paid for both of us for this attraction.  The WM said it would cost us an additional $10.  When I complained that we had already paid the full price of admission via our $7,000 fee, he arranged to get us a bag of "pay dirt" as long as we didn't tell any of the others suffering from the flu; i.e, money he pocketed. 

 

I think that people supporting FT are either totally ignorant or they are associated with FT as WM, TG, etc. because they do not understand the risk that FT places their customers or how they thrive on the failures of their customers.


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Rich & Patty Abrams
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#9 McBrian

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Posted 13 April 2014 - 06:30 AM

So I guess your saying that traveling alone is safer.  Sorry you had such a bad experience.


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#10 marcyberliner

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Posted 13 April 2014 - 02:44 PM

I have been on 7 tours with Fantasy RV Tours and have enjoyed every one of them. To select a company simply because they have Sat phones seems NOT the thing to do. You know as RVers we are responsible for your own health as well as the mechanical components of your rig. Seems like you are blaming the company for your own personal misfortunes. Their insurance is very clearly intended NOT for mechanical breakdowns but for health issues either for you or immediate family. And as for campgrounds, if you needed those great ones that we have in the lower 48, respectfully, maybe this trip was not for you.


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#11 rga48

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Posted 14 April 2014 - 12:16 AM

marcyberliner 

You sound like you are either a FT WM or have some connection FT because I could not understand number one why you would do 7 caravans or your lack or understanding on why you would pay any outfit to put you at risk especially in Alaska.  We would have been much better on our own.  I have much better communication equipment than either the WM or TG.  We had to be towed two times and neither time was the WM or TG able to assist us. The first was a broken hydraulic line most likely from the Top of World Highway's pot holes and washboard dirt road.  The second time was from a pot hole or 2X4 that blew our toads tire and destroyed rim and running gear.  

 

The WM lost his Toad 3/4 the way through the Trip and the TG dropped out 3/4 of the way through the trip due to mechanical breakdown.  We also lost two other rigs during the trip.  One rig broke down only a 1/4 of the way through the trip and lost the remainder of the tour and the money associated with it.  I got the impression that the more people who broke down or got sick with the flu the more money the WM pocketed.  Our misery was FT's added profit.

 

Unlike RV Alaska Tours (http://www.rvalaskatours.com), FT does nothing to help prepare coaches and toads to minimize damage. RV Alaska insisted on minimum protection for toad and in Dawson Creek helps caravan members place film on coach and wire mesh over radiators. We had people in our group that had no idea of how to prepare for this trip.  Even with our prep based on RV Alaska Tour information we had significant paint chipping of coach and toad.  I lost count of the number of broken windshields in our group.  Even with a yoga mat across our toad's windshield we still got hit with stone in bottom right corner of windshield.


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#12 McBrian

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Posted 14 April 2014 - 05:24 AM

Ok, so everyone is a wm, tg or is somehow connected to Fantasy if they question you or make a comment.  It seems each post you make the trip get worse.

 

What trip did you go on with Fantasy?  They have many different Alaska trips.

 

I'm certain that things can happen no matter which tour group you choose.  It's just a choice we make and is a matter of personal preference.  How we handle these things will determine how good or bad our trip is.  I have trouble blaming someone for a pothole, illness, or stones thrown by passing vehicles.  These are things that we or anyone else have little or no control over. Preparedness is your due diligence when you go on any trip, even a trip to the neighborhood market.


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#13 Elkhartjim

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Posted 14 April 2014 - 07:22 AM

I have trouble blaming someone for a pothole, illness, or stones thrown by passing vehicles.  These are things that we or anyone else have little or no control over. Preparedness is your due diligence when you go on any trip, even a trip to the neighborhood market.

 

X2.

 

We would not be interested in a caravan type trip anywhere, but thats just us.  We do take cruises and I believe its our responsibility to do due dilingence for the cruise for things like - will it go to the ports we like and yes, we even enjoy the private islands that some cruise lines own that are a little "disney landy". 

 

BTW...be advised if you come to west Texas and spend much time in the Big Bend area you will not have cell communications usually.  I wonder how those poor wagon trains crossed this great land?

 

I'm curious, rga48, are just just needing to vent your frustrations or do you want/need a written apology and check from the tour operator?

 

As far as I'm concerned, this is a dead issue.  I don't see that its contributing anything positive to motorhoming.

 

 

 


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#14 FMCANationalOffice

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Posted 14 April 2014 - 08:13 AM


As far as I'm concerned, this is a dead issue.  I don't see that its contributing anything positive to motorhoming.

 

Agree. This topic is now closed.


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