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"VIP Colosseum at Night Tour" by The Roman Guy: A Great Disappointment.

My wife and I joined the "VIP Colosseum at Night Tour with Underground and Arena Floor" by The Roman Guy in late August 2019. We had four tours during our time in Italy, including two in Rome. Three of the four exceeded our expectations. One tour was well below expectations on almost all aspects - sorry to say this was the Colosseum Night Tour.
A great disappointment.

Though I had seen the Colosseum in the past during the day, without a tour, this time my wife was with me and we were short on time - thus we signed up for this tour. If we were to do it all over again, we would skip this tour and wait to go in with individual tickets during the day. We would have seen more. (Together we had previously seen Roman amphitheaters in France and Croatia, and had a much better experience.)

During the morning we had joined a Vatican Museum tour from a different tour company - it was fantastic.

Pros: Online sign-up process and pre-tour directions.

Cons:
- The absolutely awful film shown at the end of the tour. Apparently this is a recent addition to the tour (EDIT 9/18: removing "that all tour groups must suffer through - regardless of tour company" as this assumption has confused some readers, and also it could be unfair to other tour companies). Based on earlier reviews we were eagerly looking forward to walking out onto the arena and seeing the Colosseum under the night sky. Instead we walked out and saw a film screen blocking the view. What a waste! Then we were forced to sit down and watch a ridiculous 15 minute dramatization that explained nothing new nor interesting about the Colosseum. We couldn't bear it, and joined a couple of other people walking out while the film was still playing. (Two other people had left before the film even started).
- The inane videos with audio quotes that are shown at times during the walk around the upper decks. The visuals add nothing. As another person said as she was viewing one of the films: "Strange." A waste of valuable time.

The guide was sincere and knowledgeable, providing interesting explanations. (MUCH better than the ridiculous videos.) In terms of connecting with and managing tour members, though less capable than our other three tours she was adequate.

Posted by
180 posts

When you are walking around the upper decks, where are the videos shown? Do they have large LCD TV's all over the place? I'm confused

Posted by
130 posts

Reply to question on videos: As the guide leads one along the upper decks, every few minutes the group stops to watch a short video projected on a wall. These videos are audio quotes about the Colosseum from people of old Rome, with video of the silhouette of a man in a toga (as I recall). Then, when one enters the Arena there is a BIG screen set up and a final 15 minute video is shown. (Sidenote: during the tour our tour guide related that gladiators were actually quite large with fat -- unlike the sculpted figures seen in gladiator movies. Yet the weird 15 minute dramatization at the end of the tour showed sculpted gladiators.)

All tour groups -- regardless of company -- apparently have to suffer through this circuit of videos. I had the impression that the management of the Colosseum set this up to hustle groups through as quickly as possible in order to maximize revenue. Was awful.

Posted by
23851 posts

I'm a little confused. Your review condemns The Roman Guy tour, but in the detail it sounds like you are upset with the videos that every tour group - regardless of company - had to stop and watch and how poor the videos are. But surely the videos are put on and made for the Colosseum facility, not the tour group.

So it sounds like your gripe is with the Colosseum itself, isn't it? Why did you dislike The Roman Guy?

Posted by
4140 posts

I’m equally confused, Nigel. Seems unfair to the Roman Guy.

Posted by
130 posts

I DON'T KNOW that the experience would have been equally disappointing with all tour operators. I DON'T KNOW if all tour operators operate this tour with an equally large group. I can only provide the circumstances around the tour operator I used.

Similar to the great experience I posted about our Early Morning Vatican Tour: though apparently all tour operators follow the same basic route on that tour, I only praised the tour operator we used.

In short, for a complete review I think it only fair to be as factual as possible, which includes providing the name of the tour operator who was paid to provide the service. If other community members paid other (or the same) tour operators and had a different (or similar) experience and post that information, the information will be helpful for others in making choices about tours and tour operators.

Posted by
1568 posts

Jeff,

The Roman Guy tour company gets many, many very good to excellent reviews about their tours.

I checked on the specific tour you took and only one review mentions the video at the end about a "day in the life of a gladiator." Seems that person liked it. They don't have a lot of reviews on their specific site though.

It seems one or two of their tours have a larger crowd participating. Some of their other tours have a max of maybe 15 to 18 people.

I did not go on to Trip Advisor to read anything. You wrote (on another thread) you reported the experience to let others know.

Maybe you should call the Customer Service department at The Roman Guy and speak to them about your disappointment. If other tour companies are showing a short film at the end of the Colosseum tour, then it is not entirely fair to slam TRG. When a person signs up for a tour, you may love all of it or some of it.

Posted by
130 posts

Girasole,
The summary you provided about reviews is very useful in helping people make decisions on tours and tour companies. I can only speak to my experience, positive or negative, providing as much information as possible so readers can use it as one data point in making a decision.

I did have post-tour communication with the tour operator. They received the feedback first. (FYI we were not interested in a refund. A refund would not have eliminated our disappointment. Time was our most limited resource in Rome.)

Posted by
245 posts

I’m equally confused, Nigel. Seems unfair to the Roman Guy.

Not unfair, because the Roman Guy was the tour provider (and sales rep). If Roman Guy had prepared people better for that part of the tour, people could make more informed choices.......Some people might have liked the idea and signed up expecting it, other people who didn't want that type of inclusion in the tour wouldn't have signed up and so wouldn't have been disappointed. If I signed up (and paid $100) for a small group walking tour with an informed guide and found out only once on the tour that 15% or more of the tour was a video provided by the site, I'd be upset too.

Posted by
23851 posts

I'm still trying to understand. Just so you know -- I don't do organized tours, and I don't know the Roman Guy or the other groups.

You say:-

A lesser con: The number of people in the tour group. ... it had the most number of people, at about 21.

But the website for this tour says that they have 25 people on the tour. So how is 21 a con?

Posted by
130 posts

Nigel: fair point. I edited that out.
In any case it was a minor factor.

Posted by
1568 posts

I did have post-tour communication with the tour operator. They received the feedback first. (FYI we were not interested in a refund. A refund would not have eliminated our disappointment. Time was our most limited resource in Rome.)

Ok Jeff. It is a shame. I am sure The Roman Guy reps felt bad that you did not enjoy the night tour. I don't know any of them personally. But they seem to be very popular (like Walks of Italy) and seemingly stand by their service/product.

Posted by
1468 posts

This brings up an interesting issue and I hope I can articulate it clearly. It will also speak to Nigel’s question. Was the it The Roman Guy guide, or was it the limitations placed on the tour by The Colosseum management that impacted the way you felt about the tour?

The reason I ask is that we took a tour with Through Eternity tours for the Domus Aurea. Domus Aurea management restricts guiding in the interior to their guides. But, because the Through Eternity guide was so much better, I’m glad we paid the $. If I reviewed the tour, it would go in favor of the TE tour, even though we could have done it cheaper through the site.

Posted by
130 posts

Hi Patty. The tour was not what we expected. (At least) six of the 21 people (about 29%) in our group walked out early. Since you mention TE tours, I will say that they were the company with whom we had our morning Vatican tour. The TE tour guide did an outstanding job of setting expectations, and managing the customers. (I also posted a review about that tour.)
I have experienced the Colosseum in the past and it was a great experience; the same for amphitheaters in France and Croatia.

Posted by
11700 posts

Jeff, I think we're still trying to drill down to whether the problem was specifically with your guide or with the management of the Colosseum. Based on this statement in your first post, it appears to be the latter?

Apparently this is a recent addition to the tour, that all tour
groups must suffer through - regardless of tour company.

As the night tours are very popular, you must have observed other groups "forced" to endure the films, correct? And aside from the objectionable video presentations that your guide evidently could not control or avoid, you did say that he/she, "was sincere and knowledgeable, providing interesting explanations. (MUCH better than the ridiculous videos." It's very possible what was difficult for you to have to "bear" was difficult for them to work with as well?

So, what we're questioning is the headline of your post laying blame for the less-than-wonderful experience with a tour company versus coopculture, as they are ultimately responsible for the video/audio displays and required circuit guides might be required to follow (see link below). Unfortunately, we often find that readers form their first impressions from headlines + opening sentences and don't take the time to read the REST of the story!

https://www.coopculture.it/en/azienda.cfm?id

If indeed all tour companies must follow the same circuit and view the films, then I'd remove the name of your specific company from the headline and re-word as maybe, "Colosseum at Night a great disappointment." Providing feedback to the company regarding your dislike of the films might also assist them in pressuring coopculture to have them removed if the same complaint is frequent and consistent amongst all tour services.

Posted by
245 posts

If indeed all tour companies must follow the same circuit and view the films, then I'd remove the name of your specific company from the headline

That makes no sense, because other groups might have been managed better, had better explanations of the films, or had clients with more realistic expectations. Just because all tours to X are faced with the same issue doesn't mean that some aren't better tours than others, regardless of how much posters here seem to love The Roman Guy. Him naming his tour company is right and appropriate, as he is stating his experience with a specific tour by that company.

For instance, if all tours have to stand in a 20 minute security line, but one tour group was led to believe they'd have all 2 hours inside and there'd be no line to wait in, that's a mistake of the tour company, not of the site that has a security line.

Posted by
11700 posts

Jeff's complaint was almost exclusively about the videos that the tour guide apparently had no control over and, in his own words, which apparently each tour, regardless of company, must view. While I don't think it's wrong to mention the tour company chosen, I do think that the headline and opening paragraph can be read as placing blame on TRG for audio/visual presentations that might be an issue for ALL tour companies, not just this one.

Jeff, I am sorry that whatever the case, you had a negative experience when you'd looked forward to enjoying the arena under the stars (although they'd be hard to see in city lights!) Like Nigel, I'm wondering how the other parts of the 2.5 hour tour, with the underground and informative walk around the perimeter of the Forum, went for you? Would you have felt differently if you'd been told in advance that you'd be seeing a 15-minute film about (reportedly) the life of a gladiator at the end of the tour? From another visitor on TRG's review page:

"They even end things with a short movie shown on the arena floor itself of a day in the life of a fictional gladiator. Loved it and would highly recommend!"

Posted by
130 posts

As with my positive reviews - the name of the tour company remains as they are the company whom I paid, as did all six folks who left early.
When I wrote the review I did not know if other tour companies use the same series of videos, or use them at all; thus I used the term "Apparently" before "...that all tour groups must suffer through - regardless of tour company." I could edit the review to remove this whole sentence, but I will leave it as is.
I did NOT see another tour group viewing the videos, but I consider it likely as the screen divided the arena floor where the final film was shown.

As a community member mentioned one positive review of the video on the TRG website, I took a look at TripAdvisor reviews for Roman Guy, and see a July 6 review that reports dissatisfaction with the videos:
....We were given maybe 5 mins of time to try and look, before being lead around, stopping every few minutes to watch (quite boring) mini movies projected onto small sections of the wall....
Then we were led to the arena floor and then made to sit through the movie (very overdramatic, slow moving depicting the life of a gladiator) and that was it. When I attempted to walk to the edge of the arena to try and look around ( the reason we wanted to be at arena level) I was immediately called back. So, it seems the staging of all the films is simply to keep groups occupied while they file other groups through. The whole purpose of visiting the Colosseum, to experience the immense structure and awesome architecture was totally lost. As I said, an earlier time would have at least eliminated some of my disappointment, but if you want to just enjoy the Colosseum for what it is- don't do this tour!!

Posted by
23851 posts

I'd really like to know how the rest of the tour - how the first hour - was.

Posted by
11700 posts

Jeff, I'd read the word "apparently" as referring to the film being a recent addition, not that you'd also applied to whether or not all groups had to view it. Apologies if I'd misunderstood you there.

Still, it's interesting that there are so few complaints about the films amongst the many reviews of the night tours, regardless of company. I see just 3 negative comments over the past 3-4 months about the films on the Walks of Italy review page for their highly-rated night tour (copy/pasted below):

"The only criticism had nothing to do with your company, (I've added the emphasis here) it was the Colosseum tour. We did not like all the holographic talks from the fictional “historical” people of the past. I would have just preferred more history on the Colosseum itself."

"...found the short video highlights boring"

"...We did not like the gladiator clips that were shown on the walls, and the last video that we sat through was boring"

That's OK, though; different strokes for different folks, eh?

Question: did you have the same guide for the Forum piece of your tour as for the Colosseum part? I'm finding it curious that many people who took the WOI night tour this past summer (similar itinerary as yours) commented on a change of guides before entering the arena. It sounded like WOI was not allowed to use their own guides for the Colosseum on this particular tour, and that their groups were passed off to coopculture-associated guides. I see the same sort of comments for the comparable Dark Rome night tour. Did you have the same experience? And yes, it would be nice to know what you thought of the parts of the tour unrelated to the video(s)?

Posted by
5 posts

Hi Jeff,

You mentioned "During the morning we had joined a Vatican Museum tour from a different tour company - it was fantastic."
Which tour company did you use for this morning tour of the Vatican?

Posted by
23 posts

We had a not so good experience with a Roman Guy tour of the Coliseum in June. Tour was supposed to be 3 hours, but it was 2. Guide kept racing away and almost losing the group. Nice guy, but kept saying "momma mia, so many people!" He made one stop in the forum and talked for a long time (losing the attention of the group). He completely ignored Palatine Hill even thought it was supposed to be part of the tour. Plus, he asked for tips. Not so impressed with that tour group.

Posted by
180 posts

that's very interesting. do you remember the name of the guide? did you complain to the roman guy? i would have

Posted by
2988 posts

Very surprised at all the reaction on this forum. Are you all related to the tour provider? Why the need to defend just so strenously?

A review is just that. One person's experience at one point in time. I really appreciate it when people take the time to post their experiences and impressions online on this forum. Your experience may be different, you may have a different opinion, but it is certainly appropriate to take another's review as their experience and accept it as such without all this nit-picking.

So OP, thanks for sharing your review. I appreciate it.

Posted by
1568 posts

Very surprised at all the reaction on this forum. Are you all related to the tour provider? Why the need to defend just so strenously?

Strenuously? Come on. Don't include me in that broad statement. Just as people can "slam" the company over and over, others may feel the need to put a positive spin on it.

It appears TRG was/is willing to work with its customers - either offering a refund or even another tour if they are still in the country of origin.

Many times, when I have referred new posters to The Roman Guy videos, as a newbie learning experience to take a look at Rome, more often than not, I try to make a point of stating, "I do not know them personally."

TRG has a lot of good reviews. No company is fool proof -- not even a RS tour.

Posted by
180 posts

The reaction is because Jeff complained about something that was out of the hands of the Roman Guy, but yet pinned the blame on them.

Alice had a legit complaint, and one I take far more seriously

Posted by
6907 posts

FYI the guides work for different companies on different days, freelance.

I had a less than stellar experience with a well-regarded company in a different Italian city. The company wisely sends out feedback forms immediately, read my review, called me for details and refunded the cost. Of course they were looking to head off any negative reviews on public forums but they did take my comments seriously.

Posted by
130 posts

"The reaction is because Jeff complained about something that was out of the hands of the Roman Guy, but yet pinned the blame on them."
As I wrote in an earlier reply -- and updated five weeks ago in my original post -- I don't know if it (the content of their own tour) was out of the hands of The Roman Guy. I do know that they are the folks we -- and all six people who walked out early -- paid based on the expectations they set and did not fulfill.

Of 4 tours we had in Italy, only this tour was a disappointment.