Disappointed in Ireland arrangements

By: Mary Kirson
This article appears on page 26 of the November 2017 issue.

My husband, Robert Bierman, and I took an 11-day trip through Ireland, May 21-31, 2017, that was arranged for us by Journey Through Ireland (JTI). I booked the trip about six months in advance, and we paid $9,578, not including meals.

About two months before the trip, having not heard from the company since making the final payment — and still waiting for vouchers, final itinerary, information about our accommodations and guide, etc. — I emailed the representative who had issued our reservations, but I heard nothing. After a week, I wrote again only to be informed that the woman had left the company.

During the course of planning our trip, I dealt with five different JTI representatives, two of whom I was told had left the company. None of the replacements reviewed or answered my questions to the previous agent.

Because I had Hilton reward points, Robert and I had decided to book our own hotel in Dublin and tour that city on our own. A little over a month before the trip, I asked JTI for background information on that area to help us know more about where we could go. To be sure we got it in time, I asked that it be express-mailed. It was sent regular mail, and we received it just a couple of days before we left for Dublin.

I also asked JTI to recommend a Hilton in a central location in Dublin. The one they recommended was on the outskirts of the city, near the zoo, which made it more difficult for us to get around.

While I booked that hotel and the final one at the airport, JTI booked three accommodations for us. In several of my notes to JTI staff, I specifically asked that our room always have two beds. I also asked that the accommodations be centrally located so we could walk to restaurants, as we wouldn’t have a car. And it needed to be a SHORT walk, as Robert and I are both in our mid-70s. 

Less than half of the accommodations were within a short walk of a restaurant. One was two miles from the nearest restaurant, while another was a 15- to 20-minute walk away. 

Our apartment in Galway, although centrally located, I would describe as spartan, at best. It was set up as one bed, and the bed was so lumpy that I could feel every spring. I didn’t sleep at all the first night. However, recognizing that the beds were unacceptable, the manager had new mattresses delivered to the apartment the next day.

I have stayed at self-catering apartments frequently, all over the world, but, based on the price we paid, we expected more from this one. There was no coffee maker, no paper goods of any kind and not even an ice cube tray in the freezer. 

Once we left Dublin, we had a driver every day. JTI said we would have an experienced guide/driver. Although Frank was a pleasant fellow, it was obvious he was only a chauffeur and not a guide. 

He picked us up on a Sunday, and we had only one attraction on the agenda that day. We left at 9 a.m. and got to the castle in less than an hour. However, the castle didn’t open until 11:30 a.m., and except for a church that was having services, nothing else was open until the afternoon. An experienced guide would have known this in advance.

As for the apartment that JTI booked for us, when we found nothing in the pre-trip information indicating how we were to get into it, we assumed there would be someone there to let us in, but the door was locked and there was no one on site to help.

I asked Frank how we were to get the key, but he had no idea. I asked him to call the company, and we learned that the key was at a hotel a few blocks away. Again, an experienced guide would have known this.

One of our trips was to the Aran Islands, and on the day before that trip we asked Frank about the schedule for the ferry. He had no idea. We asked him to contact the tour company’s office.

It turned out that only one ferry left in the morning and one returned in the evening. Had we not brought up the subject, we would have missed this part of our trip. To make matters worse, when we arrived at the ferry terminal, Frank had no idea we needed to take the vouchers to the ticket office in order to ride the ferry.

Frank simply drove us from point A to point B, and when we got to a site, he would deposit us at the entrance and tell us to take our time, saying he would be there when we returned. He knew little if anything about the areas we visited.

After the trip, I sent a letter, return receipt requested, to Journey Through Ireland at their headquarters in Ireland. It was returned to me unopened, with the notation that the addressee had refused to accept it.

MARY KIRSON

Philadelphia, PA

ITN emailed a copy of Ms. Kirson’s letter to Journey Through Ireland (info@journeythroughireland.com and info@irelandtouring.com) but received no reply. The company is based at Cadhan House, Harbour Rd., Mullingar, County Westmeath, Ireland, N91 K2V8, and has offices in Hammonton, New Jersey, and University Place, Washington.