This continues our series on Alternative Suppliers and why you should ask about them. This post describes what an alternative supplier is and what it means. CIE is a great travel supplier that you might not have heard about.
CIE provides land tours of Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales. Here’s some reasons to love CIE:
CIE and Ireland: deep roots and connections
No one knows Ireland better than CIE. They have deep roots there and are in fact owned by the Irish Government. They’ve been touring for decades. That means a couple of things:
- Their routes are time tested. while they are always tweaking and improving, rest assured that they’ve been through this before
- they have deep relationships with hotels and attraction. that means that when something needs adjusting, they have the relationships to make it right.
- Clout: They are the 800 lb gorilla in Ireland and so can negotiate great rates. They also get priority when it comes to attractions.
- The guides are authentic and proud Irish. You get a sense of locality but also deep product knowledge.
The British Isles: CIE offers more choices than anyone else
CIE offers so many different itineraries. Consider choices across duration, locations and schedule. And these are guaranteed departures. One thing to be careful of with some of the competitors is that some departures are dependent on the number of passengers that sign up. Try booking airline tickets with that uncertainty.
You have your choice of:
- Brohure tours: here one of about 45 people on a bus. this is a great way to see the sights as well as meet lots of new people. Clearly the most economical as well. These can not be customized.
- Small Group Tours: Similar to the Brochure tours but your group is limited to no more than 24 people. This means more individual attention with the guide
- Customizable groups: With as little as 10 people, you can customize your own itinerary. Our clients who have done this loved it.
- Private driver: Have your own Chauffeur and choose any of the special pre planned itinerieers or one of your own.
- Self drive: Some clients would rather do their own thing. CIE will book hotels and tours as you’d like and provide you with your own car. This offers lots of flexibility while making sure you have great accommodations along the way.
CIE prides itself on offering everything you need during their tours. Some tour operators, however, require you to add extra tours during your vacation, lest you be on your own for an afternoon or so. Moreover all tickets, excursions, transfers and attractions are included. Further, they are very clear which meals are included.
When we visited Ireland using CIE, we noticed that other tour operators were using the same hotel. The tour companies always post the next day’s itinerary in the hotel lobby as a reference. And sure enough we saw in plain sight that they offer several optional tours for additional money.
There’s four main features of quality when it comes to an escorted tour:
- Hotel quality: The hotels CIE used were excellent both in terms of location and facilities. They do offer some tours with upgraded hotels. But we stayed at the typical hotels and they were all excellent.
- Food quality: I’m always dubious when a tour operator provides dinner or breakfast in a hotel restaurant. But every meal we had was excellent; we always had plenty of choices and the food quality was excellent. And never an issue on quantity either.
- Bus Quality: Face it, you’ll be spending a little time on the bus (or motor coach as they like to say). We found the buses to be clean, roomy and comfortable. Nothing more to ask for.
- Driver / Guide Quality: A great guide can make a tour. Our experience is that CIE has great guides. They are personable, have deep knowledge, are articulate, like to have fun and can keep a large group in control.
Interested in some more information? Read our series about our CIE trip.
While we love CIE, it’s not for everyone. Contact us to see if we think it’s a great fit for you. If not, we can direct you to other alternatives as well. After all that’s what a great travel agent does.