We received a brochure from a company named Collette. They have a tour/cruise of Egypt that has great prices. Anyone know of this firm?
Yes, I have had brochures from them in the past, though have never travelled with them. An acquaintance regularly travels with them, and only has good things to say about them, most recently about a tour in the US.
Collette is a family owned tour company based in the USA (with offices in other countries) that has been operating for many decades. Reputation is positive. Accommodation and meals are likely more moderate than the higher end Tauck tours company, for example (hence the prices you referenced).
Collette Tours is based in Rhode Island, USA. They have offices in other parts of the World too.
Collette is a third generation, family-owned company with offices in the United States, Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom.
They have been around for eons. At times, they do mailers to certain demographic areas to amp up interest or business.
Here is a sample of their tours -
History - https://www.gocollette.com/en/about-collette/collette-history
I've not done a Collette tour. I have done 11 Rick Steves tours and 10 Road Scholar tours with #11 coming up in October.
I looked at the Collette website and looked at the Italy tour just because that is what came up and because I'm not familiar with Egypt. What I see right away is that they have a number of "optional" tours which includes some of the good stuff you'd hope would be included on any tour. Price these out along with the base tour price to see what you will really be paying. Tour companies like Rick's and Road Scholar are very upfront with what they include on tours and don't have optional charges. We did have an option of a gondola ride in Venice when I took the 21 Best of Europe. The guide hired the number of gondolas needed plus musicians and we divided the cost and paid him back. I think it was 25 or 26E per person.
I did find an FAQ section as I was searching to see if tips for the guide are included. They are not. Here's what their verbiage says:
"The land price does not include air travel, airline fees, airport or departure taxes, transfers, visas, customary end-of-trip gratuities for your Tour Manager, driver, local guides, hotel housekeepers, cruise ship waitstaff, and any incidental charges."
I think the going rate for tips for a guide is $5-7/day per person and $3-5/day per person for the bus driver. You'll also be responsible for tipping local guides (not sure, maybe a couple of Euro since you're in a big group?), housekeeping maybe a Euro a day. This will figure into your bottom line budget.
I didn't explore the website enough to see what the normal group size is but take that into consideration.
Good luck with your search! I am not an expert on Egypt but this is not a country I'd go for the least expensive tour. I'd probably go as high end as you can manage just assuming they would have the best security in place.
I used to work in the travel industry. They have been around forever. My mom took one of their tours and enjoyed it.
As the others have mentioned, Collette has been around since 1918, so they've been offering tours for awhile. The reviews on this site seem generally good - https://www.tourradar.com/collette-vacations .
I've researched Collette in the past, but my impression is that their tours are structured somewhat like Trafalgar, with 50+ tour members in each group. I much prefer the "Rick Steves model" with smaller groups of about 30, but of course those tend to be a bit more expensive since there's fewer tour members to split the cost of a full size coach, tour guide, driver, etc.
I would recommend taking a look at Scenic USA for the Egypt tour. They are an Australian company with branches in the US. The Egypt tour is a small group tour (24 or 26 people). We have travelled with them twice (Cambodia/Vietnam and Egypt/Jordan) and have been very pleased. There are no hidden costs. Our tours included airfare, transfers, tips and the visa in Jordan. The group will mainly be Australian with some Americans. I wouldn’t go cheap on a tour to Egypt.
I have looked at Viking as well as Vantage World Travel (we have done 3 great cruises/tours with them). Also, some of the other big name river cruise lines. Going rate for a 10-11 day tour is a little less than $6000 pp.
Scenic seems to be even more at $6,395.
All seems to include five star hotels and I am sure quality tours. Some include airfare from NYC to Cairo.
I took a closer look at Collette's tours and the hotels that are included are what I would call 4.5 star. Not Hilton, but not far below.
Perhaps their tours include a full tour bus instead of half a tour bus, but other than that, the differences are minor.
When Collette gets it done for about $2500, it is appealing.
I have already done Egypt (been there twice) and the second time did Cairo and that area again, then did the Nile river cruise. At the time (1985), most of the cruise ships were owned by hotels. The one that I did cost about $300 pp in a triple room. It was with the Marriott Hotel chain and we stayed in the Marriott in Cairo as well. The Hilton cruse was about 50 % more, but went to the same places.
I agree that one doesn't want to do Egypt on the cheap. However, it appears that Collette is not cheap, just more moderately priced for a few reasons that don't seem problematic. My wife has never been to Egypt and I want her to enjoy the trip. It appears that Collette would fit our expectations.
You might also have a look at Insight Vacations as their tours feature smaller "Rick Steves" type groups (they actually remove some of the seats from the coach to make sure the group stays small).
Let me chime in since I used to work as a tour director and I'm familiar with Colette. (And I can counter some of the things the Rickniks have said.)
Collette is an excellent company with a very good reputation. Yes, they do try to fill a coach but that may not happen. Some sightseeing is included and some is optional which means you have the choice of doing that--for an extra fee--or doing something else on your own. You can get a list of these before you book to see what they cost or they may already be listed in your tour brochure. Tipping is not included but seriously, is it that earthshattering? The tour documents you get will suggest tipping amounts for your tour director and bus driver. The tour director will tell you the suggested tip amount for everything else. And remember, tipping is always optional. (On Rick Steves tours, all of this is included whether you like it or not.)
But since RS doesn't go to Egypt, I don't understand why it was even brought up. It's like someone asking for a recommendation of a Chinese restaurant and someone else responding saying they like Indian food. How does that help the person asking the question?
"But since RS doesn't go to Egypt, I don't understand why it was even brought up. It's like someone asking for a recommendation of a Chinese restaurant and someone else responding saying they like Indian food. How does that help the person asking the question?"
My word, Frank. I brought it up because if someone has never been on a tour then it is helpful if they understand "tour brochure language". By reading what is included on RS tours one can compare to other companies to see what they do and do not list. It doesn't matter if it's the same place but it's easy to pick out the differences comparing the brochure language in an Italy vs Italy tour.
If cost is a concern, then yes on a 13 day tour where you are with the guide and driver for maybe 12 of those days then $70 for the guide ($140 per couple) + $48 for the driver ($96 per couple) plus misc. tips can make a difference if a traveler is not expecting it.
From the extra info the OP added after I posted, it's clear they've done tours before and are experienced in the ways of tour brochure language so they'll know to have cash on hand.
I have only heard good things about Collette tours. As for Egypt, we went in February with Trafalgar Tours "Wonders of Ancient Egypt." The tour and guide were excellent. Yes, there were 39 people in our group, but we never felt like we were a "herd." Tips were not included in the VERY reasonable price, but we expected that, as tips usually aren't. I would recommend the tour we did of Egypt (2 nights Cairo, 7 nights on a cruise ship on the Nile, and 2 more nights in Cairo). All our accomodations were excellent, meals were superb (especially on our ship), and our guide not only discussed the history of Egypt, but gave us insights into the culture, the religions and the more recent history of Egypt. We all felt safe and I have to say the whole group was congenial and delightful to sightsee with. Some of us took the one optional tour to Abu Simbel (well worth it!) which entailed a round trip flight from Aswan to Abu Simbel. That was about $300.00 pp extra, but our tour cost was in the very reasonable range, but not cut-rate. We checked out Insight, as we had toured Turkey with that company and liked it very much, but they only had pricier tours for Egypt (10-12 people). That group shared our boat for the cruise portion, and they all looked gloomy all the time. I do believe we had more fun, saw more, and liked each other better! We went at a good time of the year for the weather. Summer prices were less, but the weather is much hotter then. If you go to Egypt, have a great time. (And do some research before you go. You get more out of the trip.)
For an Egypt tour, look at Odysseys Unlimited. They offer two different tours there.
I often hear offers from Collette tours, in our area they work with groups to run essentially charter tours, likely their standard tour, but maybe the local TV Anchorman, Weather guy or Football Coach goes along and does the advertising to fill the tour. I may be wrong, but I got the impression that they probably have larger groups, try to hit the highlights in lots of places, and maybe more of a commodity experience (moderate hotels, moderate meals (if included))
I have not been on an organized tour, but I would make sure it fits your travel style. Though for Egypt, I would resort to a tour for safety reasons, and probably tolerate more imposition to my travel style than for a Europe trip.
Hi geo, I took a tour (solo) with Collette a few years ago, the Pacific Northwest and California. It really wasn’t a good fit for me. There were 2 large busses traveling together. Both busses were full with 2 people in each seat. We had assigned seats and sat next to the same person all week. At each stop, 100 people piled out of the busses to use the rest room.
With one exception the hotels were fine, we ate breakfast and a buffet dinner there. Lunches were not included. On one occasion, some of my tour-mates cleaned out the entire breakfast buffet and stuffed their purses full of muffins for lunch (no kidding).
The tour was basically a drive-by. We were told “Mount Hood is over that way. We don’t have time to stop but you can get a postcard at the gift shop.” I think we stopped at every gift shop between Seattle and San Francisco.
The travelers were 70+ years old, mostly women. Tips for the driver and guide were expected.
I would definitely use a tour company to see Egypt, but based on my experience, I can’t recommend Collette.
Collette also has a 'small group' division called Explorations. We wert to Italy with Explorations this Summer and there were only 9 of us on the tour - it was amazing and so easy to move from one place to the next. I now can't do a larger tour, as I think you lose the personalization. I think 19 is their max and I believe Rick Steves is 28 - much better than 40.
I have taken two Collette tours with my mother, who loves Collette. As others have said, it is a reputable company that has been in business forever. My thinking is that they are at their best with relatively inexperienced/insecure groups who live a long way from major airports. They work a lot with local organizations --- churches, chambers of commerce, banks, and such --- to arrange tours. A representative from Collette comes to the town several months before the tour and provides a seminar on what to expect, how to pack, and how to handle money --- basically, the same stuff that you would get from reading Rick Steve's travel tips. They provide transportation from your home town to the airport, which is a really big deal to my mother, who lives in a rural area. Basically, they take care of you from the time you leave home until you return from your trip.
I recall when I took my first trip with Collette, my mom and most of the tour group were flying out of one airport, and I was supposed to meet them in Atlanta. Well, their plane was delayed and they all missed the connection. I was the only person from the group on the flight to Rome. I was totally prepared to get public transportation from the airport to Termini and then walk to the hotel, but they took care of me and made sure that I got to the hotel. I didn't have to worry about a thing.
Also, because many of the tours are locally organized, you are often traveling with friends, which is another big deal for my widowed mom.
On the plus side:
Hotels are excellent and centrally located. The hotels were more or less on a par with the accommodations I have had on Smithsonian tours.
Food is excellent.
Tour guides are excellent.
They handle your luggage for you.
On the minus side:
There are a lot of add-on excursions and meals.
You need to budget for tips.
You will see the major sites, which is fine for a first time visitor, but you are not going to get an in depth cultural experience.
You will likely have more people than with a Rick Steves tour.
So, it all depends on what you want. For my mom, Collette is perfect. She doesn't have to worry about any logistics and can relax and enjoy the trip. For me, with easy access to a major airport and no problems navigating new places on my own, there's not as much of an advantage.