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Macchu Picchu

We are considering an Odysseys Unlimited tour to Peru (Treasures of Peru). Have any of you done this tour with this company? I would welcome some feedback on this tour operator before I book it. Thanks.

Mary

Posted by
1 posts

Hi Mary,
I have taken three Odysseys Unlimited tours in the last 2 years: “Classic China & the Yangtze’, ‘Treasures of Peru’ (with the Amazon extension), and ‘Bhutan: The Hidden Kingdom’ – all through the Penn State Alumni Association travel program. Penn State has the largest alumni association in the country so their small group tour program is robust. They are very particular about the small group of tour operators they partner with. I am about to take my fourth Penn State Odysseys trip to Australia and New Zealand.

I find Odysseys to be outstanding. I have never had anything but professional, smooth, well-run, authentic experiences on their tours, with excellent corporate support and customer service teams, communications, and value for dollars spent.

In my experience, Odysseys does everything well – logistics, hotels, tour directors and local guides, meals, transportation, attention to detail, depth of knowledge of the countries. As a value proposition, I find that Odysseys produces a very high-touch experience, but usually at a lower price point than similar tours with operators like Tauck and Abercrombie & Kent (the Odysseys tours aren’t quite as high-end as the other providers’ tours but they’re pretty close.)

And interestingly, I have had very authentic experiences in each of these tours (to the extent that you CAN have an authentic experience with 23 other people.) And that’s all a function of the Odysseys tour directors. They seem to know everything and everyone! And they make everything work seamlessly – they may be paddling like hell under the surface, but above the surface they are unfailingly calm, helpful, attentive, knowledgeable and really very fun. No problem is too big . . . or too small. The tour directors all live in the countries in which they lead tours; they know their jobs, they know their countries, and best of all, they LOVE their countries. It’s the love that gives their tours that particularly personal feel.

The Treasures of Peru trip was one of my favorites – you will particularly love staying at the Sonesta Posada del Inca in the Sacred Valley and at the Inkaterra Machu Picchu. And if you have Ernesto Riedner as your tour director, you will have a perfect trip.

I know this must sound like a commercial for Odysseys, but I promise I am a real traveler, retired (early!) from the corporate world and living in Nashville, TN. I usually travel as a single. The highest recommendation I can give you about Odysseys is this: my first tour, ever, was with them to China for 2 weeks. Prior to that, I had been a staunchly independent international traveler, with NO interest in ever traveling on a tour – all those tourists on their buses – no way. But here I am, about to take my fourth trip with Odysseys and Penn State. I’m sure there are other equally skilled small group travel operators, and perhaps the Penn State connection has given the trips an extra personal touch (I'm not even a Penn State grad), but my attitude about Odysseys is this . . . if it’s not broken don’t fix it. Enough said!

Posted by
950 posts

Thanks so much for reply. We've booked our tour and are so looking forward to it. One other question re: immunizations. The CDC list of suggested vaccines is as long as my arm for this one. Do you think I need to do all of them? I'll be like a pincushion. Thanks.

Mary

Posted by
2525 posts

CDC recommends being up to date on routine vaccines as well as hepatitis A and typhoid. Other vaccines to consider depending on where/when you travel in Peru include hepatitis B, malaria, rabies and yellow fever. Suggest visiting with your physician or a travel medicine specialist. We skipped some of the vaccines given our timing and itinerary. Wonderful visit, illness free....enjoy.

Posted by
2762 posts

I have noticed that Odysseys Unlimited is the tour operator used by many university alumni associations for their group tours. They don't advertise them that way, but if you compare the name of the tour and the itinerary, you will see this. If you book directly with OU, you will'pay less, although you won't get the benefits of the university group ( group participants went to the same uni as you). Also, most universities add their own academic person to give lectures on history and culture on the way.

I was looking at a tour of Turkey offered by the Smithsonian, and after learning about the Odesseys Unlimited connection, found that the same tour was offered by alum associations, including Brown, Rice, Michigan, UW, Smith College, Berkeley, and many others I have forgotten. I think this speaks well of the OU tours.

Posted by
802 posts

Guided tour should fully cover all logistics so you don't really need to think too much. Just to bring some high altitude medication with you and start taking them before you get to cuzco. you may also want some medication for car sickness if that's an issue, as you'll ride a lot of buses. if you don't go to the amazon area you shouldn't have to worry about malaria or yellow fever.

Posted by
2525 posts

Special medicine for altitude may be indicated by your physician. We took none and suffered no particular problems.. Coca tea (like brewed lawn clippings) and oxygen were readily available in our hotel in Cuzco (11,200' elevation).

Posted by
950 posts

Thanks everyone for your replies. We're going to forego the altitdue sickness meds as I have heard some bad things about them. I also read that those of us who already live at altitude have a higher threshold before getting altitude sickness. We live at 5280' so I'm hoping we have a leg up here. We also snowhoe and cross country at 8 to 9000' with no issues. We'll see how it goes.

Posted by
1 posts

To Canada.karma,
Thank you so much for all of your kind words about Odysseys - we so appreciate what you posted here. Even more, we value your patronage and are so very glad that you have been enjoying your travels with us. We look forward to welcoming you on Exploring Australia & New Zealand; with hope, that will meet your high expectations, as well.

Again, many thanks for sharing your comments here - we know that Rick Steeves travelers are a most discerning bunch!

Sue for Odysseys Unlimited

Posted by
4677 posts

Just make sure your medical prep decisions are well-informed, not just hearsay. Altitude medications aren't nearly as scary as malaria. BTW, we found (in Africa) that some anti-malarial side effects can be trouble sleeping, so we switched from "with dinner" to "with breakfast". We had no problem in Peru with carsickness, but you need to be sensible about eating just before a switchback-y bus ride.
Inkaterra is a swell hotel in Aguas Calientes, but we were glad we sprung for a tour that included a night outside the gates in the phenomenally expensive Sanctuary Lodge. It's all a matter of taste. In any case, the clouds/fog were so heavy that there was no "sunrise over Macchu Picchu" for us, one reason people stay up there. We did get a nice sunset, after the last bus to Aguas Calientes had left, and one hour in the empty historic site.
Regardless of tour operator, it's important to be prepared for the morning schedules of any trip like this. The pre-departure itinerary does not give a vivid enough picture of vast, banquet breakfast-buffets that open at 5 or 5:30 AM and luggage in the hall at 5AM, on the bus at 6AM. (Not referring to Odysseys, but to Macchu Picchu trips in general.)

Posted by
2525 posts

Fortunately, our great tour was a small number of folks and we did not experience anything like ..."vast, banquet breakfast-buffets that open at 5 or 5:30 AM and luggage in the hall at 5AM, on the bus at 6AM." Choose a tour wisely.

Posted by
4677 posts

Well, Bruce, two people on our tour of 18 or so, Central Tours AFAIR, were put out of action by altitude sickness. Even with medication, we had to stop at every stair landing at Macchu Picchu. Individual mileage will vary. Myself, I like some choices for breakfast other than scrambled and swine on a kaiser roll.

Posted by
950 posts

OK. Thanks for the responses. So we've decided on the DPT and hep A and getting the altitude sickness meds just in case. There is no malaria where we are going, we've both had the childhood diseases (mmr and chicken pox), yellow fever does not exist at the altitudes we will be travelling and we plan to use 40% deet and sunscreen. Our tour will start in Lima, flight to Cuzco and immediate descent from there to the Sacred Valley for a day or so, then down to Machu Picchu for a couple of days, back to Cuzco for 2 days and then to Lake Titicaca so I would assume that we will be at least partly acclimatized. In addition, our hemoglobin level is already up as we live at 5,300' and walk 3 miles+ a day. Per the poster from NJ who said 2 members of his tour were laid low by ams, were these people flatlanders? In addition, you said you were huffing and puffing at MP. Although fitness level has nothing to do with who gets ams, what is your fitness level? if you're not fit, you might be out of breath climbing stairs anyway. Per the early hours for the tour, we're very early risers anyway (4 or 5 am) so that will not be a problem for us.

Posted by
2525 posts

Our tour members were of varying ages (30s-60s) and all trained properly and were in fit shape. Fortunately, no one became ill due to the altitude and I am unaware of anyone taking special medications other than drinking the awful tea available at hotels. One member experienced a minor digestive issue, but continued the activities even though not 100%. Have a wonderful trip.

Posted by
4677 posts

< Although fitness level has nothing to do with who gets ams, what is your fitness level?>
Your statement is correct. I was 55 at the time, and healthy, and able to walk two miles a day, like most residents/workers in New York City. Most of NJ is near sea level. You cannot benefit from altitude pills if you wait until you feel bad to take them.I'm concerned that maybe you get your vaccine advice from Jenny McCarthy?
I can normally walk, briskly, up at least five flights of stairs without getting winded. I'm saying that after ten to twenty steps at Macchu Picchu, it seemed wise to wait a few moments before proceeding. I kind of liked the coca tea, but it seemed to have no effect. We did Ecuador and Galapagos before Peru, so we flew from Quito (layover at SWISSOTEL QUITO one night) to Cuzco, with two nights in Cuzco before the dawn train to M.P. . We didn't do the Sacred Valley in between. One night at SANCTUARY LODGE, M.P. .
Our apparently sub-par breakfasts were at the EL PARDO DOUBLETREE in Miraflores neighborhood, Lima and LIBERTADOR HOTEL in Cuzco. (sorry caps in my old itinerary document) The only bigger breakfast buffets I've ever seen were at the Shangri-La chain in Beijing and Shanghai. I'm talking thousands of square feet.
It is my observation that the early departures are to avoid any risk of missing prebooked seats on large jet flights to the desired destinations. The Lima airport makes La Guardia (LGA New York) look like the third world!

Posted by
950 posts

To Tim in NJ
"I'm concerned that maybe you get your vaccine advice from Jenny McCarthy?"

I get my info from the CDC and the NIH which are hardly "Jenny McCarthy". After 64+ years, I do my own due diligence. Perhaps I take a jaundiced view of the medical/industrial industry after years of being mistreated, overtreated, given addictive substances, 2 weeks in a hospital near death because of an approved FDA device and being flat out lied to. I no longer blithely drink the Kool Aid. Just as I would not go to an auto dealership with my 7 year old car and hand over the keys to the service department and say "fix what needs to be fixed" and then be shocked when I get a bill for $10k, I do not rely solely on the medical community that is driven by fear of malpractice and their own bottom line. I have to decide what is in my best interests and weigh the risks and rewards for myself. And yes, I ask others what their experience has been and I always consider the source.

Posted by
1 posts

Besides alumni associations, the Smithsonian uses them to Peru, but charges rather more. (They throw in a Smithsonian guide.)
We used Smithsonian (OU) in Africa and were quite pleased. We had problems with luggage due to Emirates Airlines. The OU staff worked hard to sort it out.
Smithsonian says that their motto is "Best available" and that applied to the Africa trip. We will be using OU in Peru in September.

jt