Swallow’s Next excursion not a ‘visit’

This item appears on page 34 of the April 2008 issue.
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During a very pleasant cruise through Ukraine with smarTours, Sept. 25-Oct. 7, 2007, at Sevastopol I took an optional overland excursion to the famous Swallow’s Nest.

On our itinerary, this portion of the excursion was described this way: “Sep 29 (Sat): Sevastopol/Yalta. . . After breakfast, while your ship sails on to Yalta, you may join an optional overland excursion ($45) to the famous Swallow’s Nest, a striking Gothic-style building resembling a castle built on the huge overhanging cliff. . .”

After a tedious bus ride, we stopped on the road at a concession gift shop. We were directed to look toward the river at the Swallow’s Nest, which was over one mile away. Time did not allow us to walk to the Swallow’s Nest. I got a better view of the Swallow’s Nest from a 20-cent postcard.

The excursion then continued to the next stop, the White Palace.

I wrote to smarTours for a full refund. No response! We were misled. We did not go to the “Nest”!

CHARLES NELESON

Coconut Creek, FL

ITN sent a copy of the letter on the previous page to smarTours and received the following reply.

Thank you very much for allowing us to respond to Mr. Charles’ Neleson’s letter concerning his river cruise in the Ukraine last fall. Please be advised that we responded to Mr. Neleson directly on Nov. 26, 2007, and he may have not received the letter since it was sent to his New York address while he already relocated to Florida.

I would first like to point out that Mr. Neleson’s letter states that his experience on this unique cruise with smarTours was “very pleasant.” The fact that Mr. Neleson determined that the overall experience was very pleasant is extremely gratifying given that tourism infrastructure in the Ukraine is still in early development stages.

It appears that Mr. Neleson’s only complaint relates to one specific optional shore excursion, sold aboard the cruise for $45. Since the vast majority of passengers taking this cruise purchase this optional excursion and since we never heard a similar complaint from another guest, we can only conclude that Mr. Neleson misunderstood the description of this optional excursion.

The description given to the passengers details an overland excursion from Sevastopol to Yalta featuring the following highlights:

1. Travel by road through the scenic route from Sevastopol to Yalta.

2. Visit Livadia Palace, the “White Palace,” a former royal residence of the czar and now a museum. It also served as the site of the 1945 Yalta Conference. The tour includes an extensive guided inside visit to Livadia Palace.

3. “Swallow’s Nest”: This was not represented as an inside visit, as there is really nothing to see inside the building that is now privately owned. It is the outside structure that is of most interest, and the impressive position of the building overhanging the cliffs provides for an excellent viewpoint.

The optional tour stops at the best viewpoint to allow passengers to enjoy the views, admire the structure from the outside and take photos. As stated, the building is not open to visits and the description of the tour did not call for an inside visit.

4. Commentary by a professional English-speaking guide is provided throughout this optional excursion.

It appears that Mr. Neleson misunderstood that the Swallow’s Nest is not visited but rather viewed. He did, however, enjoy an inside visit to Livadia Palace, which is the highlight of this excursion and was provided with a scenic ride from Sevastopol to Yalta and panoramic views of Swallow’s Nest.

LINDA NICE, Manager, smarTours, 501 Fifth Ave., Ste. 1402, New York, NY 10017

Please login or subscribe to ITN to read the entire post.

During a very pleasant cruise through Ukraine with smarTours, Sept. 25-Oct. 7, 2007, at Sevastopol I took an optional overland excursion to the famous Swallow’s Nest.

On our itinerary, this portion of the excursion was described this way: “Sep 29 (Sat): Sevastopol/Yalta. . . After breakfast, while your ship sails on to Yalta, you may join an optional overland excursion ($45) to the famous Swallow’s Nest, a striking Gothic-style building resembling a castle built on the huge overhanging cliff. . .”

After a tedious bus ride, we stopped on the road at a concession gift shop. We were directed to look toward the river at the Swallow’s Nest, which was over one mile away. Time did not allow us to walk to the Swallow’s Nest. I got a better view of the Swallow’s Nest from a 20-cent postcard.

The excursion then continued to the next stop, the White Palace.

I wrote to smarTours for a full refund. No response! We were misled. We did not go to the “Nest”!

CHARLES NELESON

Coconut Creek, FL

ITN sent a copy of the letter on the previous page to smarTours and received the following reply.

Thank you very much for allowing us to respond to Mr. Charles’ Neleson’s letter concerning his river cruise in the Ukraine last fall. Please be advised that we responded to Mr. Neleson directly on Nov. 26, 2007, and he may have not received the letter since it was sent to his New York address while he already relocated to Florida.

I would first like to point out that Mr. Neleson’s letter states that his experience on this unique cruise with smarTours was “very pleasant.” The fact that Mr. Neleson determined that the overall experience was very pleasant is extremely gratifying given that tourism infrastructure in the Ukraine is still in early development stages.

It appears that Mr. Neleson’s only complaint relates to one specific optional shore excursion, sold aboard the cruise for $45. Since the vast majority of passengers taking this cruise purchase this optional excursion and since we never heard a similar complaint from another guest, we can only conclude that Mr. Neleson misunderstood the description of this optional excursion.

The description given to the passengers details an overland excursion from Sevastopol to Yalta featuring the following highlights:

1. Travel by road through the scenic route from Sevastopol to Yalta.

2. Visit Livadia Palace, the “White Palace,” a former royal residence of the czar and now a museum. It also served as the site of the 1945 Yalta Conference. The tour includes an extensive guided inside visit to Livadia Palace.

3. “Swallow’s Nest”: This was not represented as an inside visit, as there is really nothing to see inside the building that is now privately owned. It is the outside structure that is of most interest, and the impressive position of the building overhanging the cliffs provides for an excellent viewpoint.

The optional tour stops at the best viewpoint to allow passengers to enjoy the views, admire the structure from the outside and take photos. As stated, the building is not open to visits and the description of the tour did not call for an inside visit.

4. Commentary by a professional English-speaking guide is provided throughout this optional excursion.

It appears that Mr. Neleson misunderstood that the Swallow’s Nest is not visited but rather viewed. He did, however, enjoy an inside visit to Livadia Palace, which is the highlight of this excursion and was provided with a scenic ride from Sevastopol to Yalta and panoramic views of Swallow’s Nest.

LINDA NICE, Manager, smarTours, 501 Fifth Ave., Ste. 1402, New York, NY 10017