I booked a 9 Day Classic Day Classic South America (Buenos Aires, Iguassu Falls, Rio de Janeiro) with Gate 1 Travel.Before I booked with Gate 1 Travel, I checked Gate 1 Travel references. Gate 1 Travel is a member of USTOA, as if Gate 1 Travel should be more reputable than other tour operators who aren't members of USTOA. I'm a very conscientious travel agent because I was a consumer of travel before I was a travel agent, and I have had some bad past experiences with tour operators. Also, I think the U.S. Government should regulate tour operators like the airlines, ete.
We had a number of complaints from the beginning of the tour before Gate 1 Travel booked us at the upgraded Rio Othon Palace Hotel, Rio De Janeiro, Brazil is in the heart of Copacabana Beach. Gate 1 didn't fore-warn us that Copacabana Beach has a lot of crime. Conversely, Ipenema Beach doesn't have as much crime. Also, most of the American tourists stay on Ipenema Beach. These are some of the following incidents that happened while we stayed at the Rio Othon Palace Hotel in Rio De Janeior on Copacabana Beach:
a. One of Gate 1's guest and his daughter in our group was almost mugged outside the front entrance of Rio Othon Palace Hotel by some Brazilian's young men.
b. One of Gate 1's guest was accosted by a prostitute outside the front entrance of Rio Othon Palace Hotel.
c. Twelve of Gate 1's guests decided to walk to the flea market across the street from the Rio Othon Palace Hotel approximately after 10:30 pm after removing and leaving all our jewelry and accessories in the hotel safe. While we were waiting for the street light at the cross walk, about 50 Brazilian children between the ages of two and 12 circled us begging for money. Since I had already been mistaken as a Brazilian several times while I was in Rio, I started screaming at the Brazilian children in a couple of words that I knew in Portuguese because these Brazilian children were targeting Gate 1's white Americans trying to get into their pockets to grab there money and wallets. Also, I noticed 100 feet away that the parents had encouraged their kids to go after the American tourists, and there was approximately another 50 kids standing around with their parents at the fence watching. The children took off, but we'll were very traumatized by what had just happen. Your blond hair and blue eyed guests stated that they would never return to Brazil, and I don't blame them if I was blond and blue eyed too.
Gate 1 has an office in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, and you know that it isn't safe on Copacabana Beach. Why didn't Gate 1 book us in a hotel on Ipenema Beach which is much safer? Why didn't Gate 1 tell us about the crime on Copacabana Beach?
d. While we were staying at the Rio Othon Palace, Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, one of the tourist at the hotel was mugged and robbed on Copacabana Beach while we were there. While the tourist was making a purchase across from Rio Othon Palace Hotel on Copacabana Beach when he took his money out to pay for the purchase, a gang of Brazilian men circled around him. They took over $250 Brazilian money and his hotel safety deposit key.
(e) While guest(s) at the Rio Othon Palace Hotel, we had to pay for ice; we were asked to go purchase towels across the street when we used the pool at Rio Othon Palace; we couldn't get an iron and iron board in our room; we were accused of using water, etc. from the non-locked mini-bar when we didn't get anything out of their mini-bar; etc.
My travel partner has a medical problem, and she needed ice on a daily basis. It took an act of God to get ice at Rio Othon Palace Hotel. Gate 1 Travel doesn't book at hotels that provide service for their clients who has medical needs, i.e. diabetics.
The Rio Othon Palace Hotel's staff had an attitude toward American tourists. It was obvious that the staff at Rio Othon Palace Hotel don't like American tourists. I was told that Rio Othon Palace Hotel is owned by a Brazilian, and isn't an international hotel. Why would you book American tourists in a Brazilian hotel that only want our money, but don't want to provide us with American standard services?
(f) Gate 1 booked a Hindu couple on this tour that are vegetarians, but didn't provide vegetarian meals for them. I had ordered my own vegetarian meals on the returned flight to Miami, Florida on Varig Brazil that I gave to them. I think that it is very insensitive to book Hindu clients, and don't provide them with the service of vegetarian meals.
(g) Day 8, Friday Gate 1 tour guide left us again at the Brazilian barbecue with another one of Gate 1's staff. On the way back to Rio Othon Palace Hotel, one of Gate 1's guests on the bus asked the driver to drive pass the Xmas tree floating in the lagoon. According, to Gate 1's staff interpretation of what the driver said, I don't have time, the driver lost about $75.00 - $100.00 U.S. Dollars in tips that evening. Everyone on the bus was upset with the driver because it would have only taken him an additional 5 minutes to drive us to see the Xmas tree's lights.
Again, a lack of customer service from Gate 1 Travel. There were some other incidents that happened while we were on the 9 Day Classic South America, but they were too numerous to mention.
The purpose of my trip along with one of my clients was to do a site visit before taking a group on the tour. There is no way that I would take my clients on the 9 Day Classic South America (Buenos Aires, Iguassu Falls, Rio de Janeiro). If I were to take any of my clients on this tour, I would no longer have any clients because of the way we were treated. Also, I would never use Gate 1 as a tour operator for any of my tours.
Saint Petersburg, Florida