Road Scholar vs St Hilda Sea Adventures - Tour Companies Compared
Compare details and see what other travelers are saying.
Overall — 4.5
Value — 4.5
Guide — 4.6
Activities — 4.5
Lodging — 4.3
Transportation — 4.4
Meals — 4.3
Overall — 5
Value — 4.9
Guide — 4.9
Activities — 4.9
Lodging — 4.9
Transportation — 4.9
Meals — 4.9
1.0 May 2018
Does Not Recommend
Let me preface this story with some background about myself: I backpacked through most of Europe by myself when I was studying abroad in Ireland. I suffered through horrendous bus rides, getting kicked out of seats on trains, sleeping in questionable hostels, and going weeks without being able to really do laundry. I know how crappy it can be to actually get from one place to another, and how worth it is to suffer through all of that just to lay eyes on something magnificent.Read more
And yet, Road Scholar has, without a doubt, managed to give me the single worst travel experience I've ever had in my entire life, and we didn't even make it off the ground. I would never, ever, EVER recommend them to anyone looking to go anywhere, and as far as I'm concerned, Road Scholar needs to seriously reconsider their travel-making procedures and give my mother a huge apology and refund. (Also, I'm only in my twenties, so I have a lot of years ahead of me to make referrals.)
It all started with Road Scholar not getting us flights. We claimed our spot on a trip to the Lake region in Northern Italy, but no one ever called us back about any travel arrangements. It appeared we were on the trip IN Italy, but no one had bothered to make any arrangements to get us there. My mother called and left messages, emailed people, and the only response we got was that our flight should be booked at some point in early May (when our trip was set to start on May 22). Road Scholar urges people to book their flights through their preferred travel agency, which is who didn't call us back. Road Scholar, to market themselves as educational tourism rather than shallow "I just want to see things" tourism, partners up with different educational institutions, and ours was through Trinity College. The director of the Italian programs called us asking for our travel information, since she didn't have it yet. Interesting news to us. We were then told that we could make travel arrangements of our own (even though we were paying Road Scholar to do it for us) and then inform the program of our travel plans and how we were getting to our hotel. So we started to investigate making our own plans, when someone finally called us back saying that they were taking care of our travel arrangements, and they "didn't know why we hadn't had them made for us already." The director of the program was happy to hear this, because the Lake region of Italy is not as easily accessible as other areas.
We asked for upgraded seats because my mom has had both of her knees replaced, and while that doesn't inhibit her in the slightest from being active, it limits where she can sit on planes. In a cramped regular economy seat with no leg room on an international flight that was going to last 8-10 hours, she wouldn't have been able to walk off the plane because of how her knees would cramp up. But they said they could make the arrangements (which is also advertised on their website) so that was that. We got our itinerary, accommodations, and were all set. We were booked through United and Lufthansa (neither of which either of us will EVER book through again), so I downloaded the United app onto my iPhone so I could check us in and make sure we had mobile copies of our boarding passes in addition to the paper ones my mom printed out. We were all set to fly from Cincinnati to Washington D.C., from D.C. to Frankfurt, and from Frankfurt down to Verona where we would be meeting up with the group -- which, by the way, we never received any information regarding where the group was meeting, the transportation to the lake resort, etc. Nothing. Just "after you get there" stuff.
Then this morning, I woke up to a notification from United Airlines (and a text message alert that I had set up) saying that our flight to D.C. had been cancelled due to weather. Obviously I'm not blaming Road Scholar for that. What I am holding Road Scholar accountable for is what happened next: my mom called the Emergency Hotline (which is a recording -- and I HIGHLY recommend that they change this, because when I studied abroad, we had two emergency hotlines, both of which were always answered by real human beings, one for anything happening in the United States, and the other for the program, which was a different number for each location and a direct line to one of the program directors on the ground in the country you were actually in). We left a voicemail, someone named Mike called us back, and he was an absolute asshole. When you book your flight through a travel agency/group travel organization, if anything happens to your flight, it is the THEIR responsibility to take care of it. We were told by Road Scholar, and it's available on their website: "When you book your airfare through Road Scholar, we're there to help you in case of any emergencies." When Mike called us back and we told him that our flight to D.C. had been cancelled, he told us that he couldn't look up any other flights (on both United and any other airlines) for us to potentially get on to get to D.C for our transatlantic flight. Instead, he told us to call United ourselves and to go to the airport and talk to the desk agent. I then ended up on the phone (and on hold) the entire drive to the airport, which resulted in nothing because tons of flights had been cancelled due to airline politics and weather. We finally got to the desk agent at the airport, had a hell of a time getting rebooked on another flight, and weren't able to get the upgraded seats that we paid extra money for. When we called Road Scholar and Mike back to ask if during the course of our day when we would be traveling (and unable to make phone calls) he would call Lufthansa to at least make the airline aware of our need for better seating due to my mother's knee replacements, he was unhelpful and rude, at first attempting to refuse calling on our behalf and finally agreeing to, but only after repeatedly telling us "there's no guarantee of those seats" (something we definitely understood because we're not stupid).
Our rebooked flight wasn't set to leave until 7:45 PM tonight, putting us in Verona at 4:05 PM the next day (4 hours after the group transfer to the hotel), so we returned home instead of waiting around the airport for 12 hours. We got on both United and Lufthansa's websites and discovered that not only had our original itineraries not been removed, we had been double booked, one for a flight out of North Carolina to Munich through Delta, and another out of D.C. (the 7:45 PM flight) which had a 23 hour layover in Munich. A call to Road Scholar resulted in us being told that we had to contact the airlines. My mother was on the phone, talking to either United representatives or Lufthansa representatives, from about 9:30 AM to 2:00 PM. We were told we had reservations but no tickets, told we had tickets but couldn't see the numbers, told there were seats available for us to get upgraded to but we would have to try to get the desk agent in D.C. to arrange that for us, told that there was no guarantee we could get those seats, and more. It was incredible the amount of bureaucratic bullshit we had to put up with, especially since each airline wouldn't take any responsibility for us getting the seats we paid for and on a new flight, telling us "we'd have to talk to the other company about that." We finally called Road Scholar to see if there was anything more they could do, who encountered the same mess we already had, and all they did was eventually advise us to go back to the airport (a 45 minute drive) and talk to the desk agent to see IF they could put us in the upgraded seats -- ones we had already paid for and my mom couldn't make the trip without!
Then when asked how they would be getting us to our destination in the Lake region (which is not an easy place to get to, as I looked up the train and bus schedules myself, because - remember - I have tons of experience at this point traveling on the ground across Europe), they wouldn't outright say what our plans would be, which could've been anything from picking us up in the airport in a car, giving us a damn rental to drive ourselves, or simply paying for tickets and expecting us to haul all our luggage from the airport to the shuttle to the train station in Verona, take the 2+ hour train to a town an hour away from our destination, have to catch a bus to the actual town we were supposed to be in, and then walk the rest of the way there. Seeing what all happened, I would bet it would've been the latter, which isn't a problem for someone like me, but is an issue for someone like my mom.
The moral of the story here is that my mom and I shouldn't have had to be on the phone with anyone other than Road Scholar, PERIOD. Seeing as we paid well over $10,000 for this trip, the minute the flight was cancelled, Road Scholar should've called us to let us know that they would be making other arrangements for us to get to our trip in the Lake region of Italy. THEY should've been the ones on the phone, dealing with the airline bureaucrats, working their hardest to get us any combination of flights to get us to Italy in the seats that we paid for. Or, if it really came down to it, they should've made arrangements for us to be on this trip at another point in time, offered us another excursion in its place, or simply given us a refund. Instead, they didn't want to do the jobs that we paid them to do, and we were the ones that had to take time out of our day, which was already scheduled to be a hectic and stressful time because traveling is simply just that, to do Road Scholar's job. They didn't look out for us one single bit and completely and utterly RUINED what was supposed to have been a wonderful trip for me and my mom.
My mother has an adventurous and curious soul and hasn't gotten to go to Europe the way she always wanted to. Since I graduated college, my mother suggested taking a mother-daughter trip. This was supposed to be incredibly special for the both of us, getting to go somewhere new together (I hadn't explored Northern Italy much and that's where we decided to go), learning about the food and the culture, and bonding over all the amazing things we were going to be able to do. I think my mom was even more excited about this trip than I was, voraciously reading all the required/recommended reading, practicing Italian in her room so she could order correctly at restaurants, not giving up when we hit little bumps in the road along the way. Instead, we have been nothing but doubtful at best in the entire planning of this trip, and deeply disappointed and angered at worst. I will never again recommend Road Scholars to anyone looking to go on group trips. Instead, I will steer people away and recommend that they either find a better travel agency, book the trip themselves, or go through Rick Steve's program.
Road Scholar should issue my mother a refund and an apology or risk being sued.
Tour Road Scholar Company Reviews
1.0 May 2018
Does Not Recommend
I had high hopes for Road scholar. However, when I was diagnosed with cancer I got no sympathy from Road Scholar. The agents and management kept saying you should have purchased insurance. But the insurance was extremely expensive and would not have covered the cancellation fee either. I ended up attending anyways because I didn't want to lose my money. I felt sick the entire time and could barely complete the activities. The group leader was wonderful. But the program was very strict and I felt that they over charged for everything. They demonstrated shocking behavior for a non profit that is supposed to be all about education and supporting the elderly. Yet they constantly are sending catalogs and pushing expensive programs. I highly recommend taking your money elsewhere. They do not respect their customers and only care about money. They took advantage of a cancer patient and according to the others on my trip this is common.Read more
3.0 August 2017
Does Not Recommend
I would have enjoyed this trip much more if I felt I was being treated as an adult, the educated, enthusiastic traveler that I am.Read more
Unfortunately, I took a fall and broke my arm near the end of the trip. I was shocked at the very insolent, uncaring attitude of Road Scholar. I received two calls from the insurance program my husband was encouraged to pay for for the trip (we usually use Travel Guard who is great). Both calls were very negative. Neither expressed concern about my condition and both apparently had called to state that ROAD SCHOLAR
WOULD NOT PAY FOR ANYTHING! WOW! A WAKEUP CALL FROM HELL. I WILL BE SHOUTING THIS FROM THE ROOFTOPS SO NO ONE ELSE
HAS THIS EXPERIENCE. DO NOT PURCHASE ROAD SCHOLAR INSURANCE -- IT IS A BOONDOGGLE!
Tour Road Scholar Company Reviews
5.0 October 2017
This is a holiday gave me a chance to slow down, and take the time to feel part of the natural world: the sun, to notice the hook-beaked oyster catchers and families of rare seals, to enjoy the wonderful food, the sunshine, scudding clouds, waves lapping and the feeling of being held safely by the St Hilda whilst being at the mercy of winds, tides and waves. It was fun to share tasks with fellow passengers and to laugh. I haven't laughed so much for years. And I loved seeing beautiful coastal parts of Scotland for the first time from the sea, gaining the chance to wonder at the histories and cultures that have flourished, been lost and yet live on in the remote, unusual places where we moored. I discovered my sea-legs, but I found much more - the pleasure of a little bit of distance from land, the new perspectives it gives and sheer joy of experiencing the sea, and its role in revealing new dreams and uncovering old ones. All this was in the company of knowledgeable crew - sea-farers who made the whole cruise delightful from start to finish and easy-peasy for a land-lubber like myself.Read more
5.0 October 2017
This was a fantastic holiday - there is something magical about being in a ship, relying on wind and waves, seeing beautiful scenery, eating lovely food, helping sail the ship and enjoying the experience with a group of witty, friendly, knowledgeable people.Read more
5.0 October 2017
This holiday was like no other: it was stepping into another world where the wind, sun and sea mattered because our lives were held by the ship and these big elemental forces. It was a realm of sea faring lore, laughter and fun, where the elements - water, wind and tides - mattered and shaped and influenced our journey. It's easy to laugh on a ship because you are sharing the camaraderie of crew and ocean and somehow the sea is lighter than the land. Instead you have the myths and stories of sea and mysteries of the deep - Moby Dick, Jonah, Noah's Ark and Ring of Bright Water! It's fascinating to be on a slow journey with time to reflect and to be looking at the strange, populated and then depopulated, fought over Scottish coastal landscape from a new perspectives. It's fun to work with the charming, witty, friendly skippers and fellow crew hauling anchors and sails. But, most of all, it's a joy to be on, and in, and feeling the elemental ocean. I felt safe and found my sea-legs, but I also stumbled into a new world, one that enriches and ignites dreams.Read more
Tour St Hilda Sea Adventures Company Reviews
|Tours||283 Trips||8 Trips|
|Average Trip Price Per Day||$ 262||$ 166|
|Operator Type||Group Tour Operator||Small Ship & Expedition Cruise Line|
|Size||Global Operator||Local Specialist|
|Headquarters||Boston, Massachusetts, United States||Oban, Scotland|
|Solo Friendly||N/A||Good for singles|
Founded in 1975 as Elderhostel, Road Scholar took its new name in 2010. The name change was meant to better reflect the non-profit educational travel organization’s mission, which is to offer lifelong learning opportunities to adults.
Besides it’s a clever play on words (the takeoff on Rhodes Scholar), “Road” stands for the journeys the group offers, while “Scholar” indicates the deep devotion to learning that participants possess.
What Makes Road Scholar Stand Out?
Tours specifically designed for older travelers and with a heavy focus on gaining deeper knowledge through educational activities, led by guides who are experts in a variety of fields.
Instructors accompanying Road Scholar trips are experts in their fields, delivering lectures and leading field trips. Trip themes may range from history and culture, language study, and music appreciation to birding, bicycling, and baseball (proving that learning can be light-hearted, too).
Traveling with Road Scholar is like a study abroad experience, with classes and instructors, with a group of people the same age who have a similarly extensive hindsight on life - and love to learn.
Who Will Enjoy Traveling with Road Scholar?
The first thing to note is that Road Scholar trips are specifically intended for travelers 50 and above (often 65+).
Open minded, active, and worldly life-long learners who have a sense of adventure and willingness to try new things, will love the cadence of a Road Scholar trip. Road Scholar is often the first guided trip experience for older travelers.
Perhaps in your younger days you loved going it alone, planning out your itinerary, and loved the spontaneity of traveling off the beaten path. Now you’re ready to have that same spirit, but with a few more ducks in a row and maybe hit some of the classic sites you missed or didn’t truly appreciate before.
Road Scholar has recently added special grandparent-grandchild trips and programs for three generations traveling together. Keep in mind that the focus remains on education, distinguishing Road Scholar trips from most commercial tours.
Group sizes with Road Scholar vary, but many small group study tours are limited to 10-24 participants. They are also very friendly to solo travelers - offering many tours for solos and singles where you can meet new friends, and romantic interests!
Road Scholar allows for particular good compatibility between you and your tour mates as each journey is designed around specific themes from an educational perspective.
With a special Road Scholar operates tours in 150 countries, as well as every state in the U.S. Aside from the educational days, many trips include activities in nature, with hiking, kayaking, and other outdoors experiences.
Road Scholar Travel Style
Road Scholar creates their itineraries to encourage learning - both in a scholarly way, from knowledgeable guides, and experts in various fields, and also in a holistic way - from the accommodations, meals, and transportation. Your entire journey with Road Scholar is designed as an educational experience.
Tours are referred to as “programs”, guides, tour directors, and leaders are “faculty” and they even have an online “campus store”. Programs are designed to be immersive and very different from a canned experience.
Walking trips, train treks, small ship cruises, and riverboat voyages are among the options for trip style. Prices typically stay in the budget/value range consistent with the company’s roots.
Road Scholar offers may ways to save on their trips. These include scholarships, friend referrals, and various specials and deals throughout the year.
Why Choose a Tour With Road Scholar?
On a Road Scholar tour you can expect a lot of unique cultural, artistic, historic, and local insights. Meet artisans, learn local crafts, and feel the camaraderie of being around other travelers who enjoy the educational aspect of travel.
The original Elderhostel grew out of the vision of the late Marty Knowlton, who spent four years backpacking around Europe while staying in youth hostels -- and wanted American adults to have access to similar cultural experiences.
If you consider yourself a lifelong learner and want to spend your vacation amongst others who share your passion for travel and education, Road Scholar is the place for you.
St. Hilda provides the unique experience to see Scotland by sail. They offer many activities and private excursions - a perfect travel experience for families, older travelers, and small multi-gen groups.
What Makes Them Stand Out?
Taking only up to 6 guests, their tours are incredibly unique, as you sail aboard a classic ex-tall ship that looks straight out of the past. Activities include sailing, swimming, fishing, rock pooling, and lobster potting. Or you can choose to just relax and watch the spectacular wildlife and scenery float by. If you bring your equipment you can canoe, kitesurf, and windsurf as well.
Who Travels With Them?
All ages and all types enjoy traveling with St. Hilda Sea Adventures. Families, couples, and solo passengers are all welcome. Passengers can choose to do as much or as little as they like. This is a great trip for young kids to enjoy as well, for the thrill of hoisting the sails like a true sailer.
Where Do They Operate?
The West Coast of Scotland is where they specialize, the Outer and Inner Hebrides and Argyll specifically. Such a niche focus is a huge positive for those interested in getting a unique view of this part of the world.
Why Travel With Them?
These cruises give you the opportunity to see extraordinary wildlife, sail aboard an ex-tall ship with skipper and chef, with a small group. All food is included, and there are many opportunities for interesting excursions. Some excursions are included in the price, however you can also arrange excursions based on your interests. These are not included but allow for a wonderful amount of personalization to your travel experience with St. Hilda Sea Adventures.