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Uniline Tours "The Best of Bohemian and Saxon Switzerland"

I'm in Dresden, and today I took this tour with Uniline Tours, which operates out of Prague. There were seven of us, three who were picked up in Dresden, and the other four who came from Prague along with our guide and met us at our first stop. Our guide was Alena, a young American woman, recent college grad who has been living in Prague for less than a year.

Rather than describe everything and write a review, I'll just copy the email I sent the tour operator after I got back. It is in the first comment. You might want to refer to the link above so you can see how the tour is described on the company website.

Posted by
1772 posts

Here's the email I sent to the company:

I am back from my excursion, which was very enjoyable, but I do want
to address a concern I had. In the van on the way back to Dresden, the
two other participants and I discussed this, and we all agreed in our
concerns about the quality of the tour.

First, the good things: the itinerary was excellent! I think we all
enjoyed the visit to Bastei Bridge, the hike up and down from the
Sandstone Arch, and the boat ride through the gorge on the Kamenice
River. Having a beer overlooking the arch, and the lunch in Mezna,
were great. And it was a fun group.

The problem was Alena.

She's a lovely girl, but she is simply not qualified to be leading a
tour like this. And I don't blame her. I blame your company. She has
not been properly trained and is just not qualified.

While we were on our way to Bastei, she called the driver and was on
speaker phone, apparently wanting to talk to us. But she never even
introduced herself, so we weren't even aware who she was.

Once we arrived and the tour was underway, she offered little or no
context about what we were seeing. When I asked her questions, she
generally did not know the answers. She didn't correctly estimate time
or distances or explain the agenda for the day. She knew nothing of
the history of the area nor the botanical and geographical features.
She really provided no leadership or "guiding" at all. In fact, she
told us she had never done the boat portion of the tour before. How
do you put someone in a position to lead a tour that she has never
even been on???

Your website refers to "the medieval ruins of Felsenburg Neurathen,"
but I never once heard any explanation from Alena that we were seeing
such a thing or what it was. Nor did she refer to Pravcicka Gate as
anything but "the sandstone arch." When I went back to your web site
just now, I wondered what Pravcicka Gate was, and I had to look it up
to determine that this is the actual name of the arch we visited.

In addition, I had no sense that she was equipped to handle any
emergency that might have arisen. (Thank goodness nothing did go
wrong.) She doesn't speak Czech, so I don't know how she would
communicate with authorities if that were necessary. At one point when
she was purchasing tickets, she seemed to be having trouble
communicating with the person at the ticket desk.

Alena is a nice girl who has come to Prague to have a great experience
living in Europe. She is not a tour guide. The fact that Uniline Tours
has decided she is qualified to be put in charge of a group of eight
diverse travelers on a ten-hour hike speaks very poorly of your
company.

There were a few other issues. Your website says we will enjoy "an
informative of the passing landmarks" on the way from Dresden to the
park. No such description was provided. After we visited the sandstone
arch, we enjoyed a beer at the on-site restaurant, but it was already
12:30 pm. Alena told us we would have lunch at the end of the hike.
But none of us realized we had a two-hour hike ahead of us. (Your
website states that the restaurant is "within seeing distance" of the
arch. We didn't get lunch until 3:00 pm. And the hike from the
restaurant to the Kamenice River was downhill on a tricky path. I
think your website should do a better job of explaining what the
experience is like.

Fortunately, the experience was enjoyable in spite of Alena's
incompetence and the other issues I've mentioned, but I would never
recommend Uniline Tours to any of my friends or family.

Posted by
6788 posts

Thank you, Lane for sending feedback to the tour owners. Hopefully they will take it to heart.

Posted by
11507 posts

Lane I think you handled this nicely , I would be rather unhappy on a tour like this so thanks for the heads up

Posted by
4386 posts

Thanks for the info. You are admirably adventuresome to step outside the RS comfort zone and it sounds like this tour should have had a very enjoyable itinerary. Your experience reminds us again of how the guide can make or break a tour. Unfortunately, this is why so many of us rely so heavily on day tours recommended by Rick or other people on this forum. Every time I have utilized one of his recommendations, I have been more than satisfied.

Posted by
1772 posts

I got this reply from the company:

I am really sorry about the bad experience you had on our tour. I will
speak with Alena, becouse this was not her first tour, she is even one
of the guides that people did ask us for during their booking (not
your group tho). She was guiding the winter tours and the boats opened
last week and we did not take into consideration that she never went
there with us (even tho we gave her all the possible materials to
study it from). We were sure that we did our best to train her
properly as same as with our other guides.

We will off course deal with all your concerns so this will not happen
again. She is currently not avaliable on the phone so will contact her
first thing in the morning.

We will have to discuss with her how it is possible that she did not
give you enough information since the guide that was training her told
us that he gave her all the informations needed to provide quality
tour.

Also not even introducing herself is unacceptable and this was
confirmed already by the driver.

Within emergency situations there would not be an issue since all our
autorities do speak English. We have warned her in advance that the
lady on the boats does speak English but only Czech and German.

The fact that it took you so long to the lunch will need to be
adressed too becouse the path you have taken we only do take during
winter time and never use it in summer since it is too long (we walk
back on the same path as you went up). We did tell her this one her
first training run but sadly she decided that for your enjoyment it
will be better to take the other path. This was a bad judgement and we
will have to deal with the consequences.

I will write to you again after I speak with her and if she confirms
that the tour did not go smoothly as we though we would also like to
offer you a partial refund for the tour.

With deep apologies,

And by the way, caia, I don't plan my trips within any kind of RS comfort zone. I have used his recommendations from time to time, and they have often, but not always, worked out well. I've also disagreed with Rick's assessment of various museums and places of interest, so I plan using a variety of printed and online sources, including other travelers on this forum. In this case, I knew I wanted to go to Saxon Switzerland, and I looked at various options, and this seemed like the best itinerary. I don't regret doing it by any means; it was really special. And RS doesn't mention Saxon Switzerland in any of his guidebooks.

Posted by
3878 posts

Thanks for sharing your feedback to the company, Lane. I'm headed to Saxon Switzerland in the next year or two. Like you, I use a variety of sources for trip planning and, for me, this forum is one that is quite helpful. Thanks again for contributing.

Posted by
2 posts

I will leave it up to everyone's judgement whether they chose our company to travel with or not. We are used to providing the best services, having great guides, and we plan on continuing to improve.

As it seems my reply containing the email from Lane where he actualy said that it was decision of his and other travelers to take the longer path, explaining that she done a good job before and after, containing five star review from the same day from the traveler that was traveling with Lane from Dresden was removed.
That is quite a shame that travel agencies do not have much right to defend themselves especialy when not the whole story is told.

Thank you for reading.
Erika from Uniline Tours