Sunday, June 11, 2017

Europe (Eastern) May 2017

" My 14 days 11 nights package tour to Eastern Europe covering Germany, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary & Austria organized by Roystar Travel & Tours from 28/5 to 10/6/2017 in late Spring season - my 6th visit to Europe "

Travel Itinerary: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia > Ho Chi Minh > Frankfurt (Germany) > Nuremberg (Germany) > Prague (Czech Republic) > Wroclaw (Poland) > Warsaw (Poland) > Krakow (Poland) > Bratislava (Slovakia) > Budapest (Hungary) > Vienna (Austria) > Salzburg (Vienna) > Innsbruck (Vienna) > Neuschwanstein (Vienna) > Frankfurt (Germany) > Hanoi (Vietnam) > Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia)

Total expenses incurred (14 days 11 nights) : Rm8,318 + Euro$120 = Rm8,900 (Euro$1,831)

Roystar Travel package tour fee inclusive of discount, airfare, airport taxes, tipping - RM8,198
Travel Insurance: Rm120
Food & sundries : Euro$40
Optional tours (Budapest cruise & Swarovski Crystal World) - Euro$80
Exchange Rate : Euro$1=Rm4.86

Total distance travelled involving 6 countries (ground transport provided by Roystar Travel) : approx. 3,534km

Frankfurt > Nuremberg (290km)
Nuremberg > Prague (303km)
Prague > Wroclaw (325km)
Wroclaw > Warsaw (347km)
Warsaw > Wieliczka Salt Mines > Krakow (370km + 15km)
Krakow > Bratislava (454km)
Bratislava > Budapest (200km)
Budapest > Vienna (243km)
Vienna > Salzburg (296km)
Salzburg > Innsbruck (163km)
Innsbruck > Neuschwanstein Castle > Frankfurt (528km)

My wife & sister in law were very keen to visit Eastern Europe on a package tour and after making a few inquiries with 2-3 local travel agencies, our group (mainly from the Subang Jaya community) decided to sign up with Roystar as their tour package price was very competitive - a 14 day 11 night costs Rm8,198 covering 6 major countries (11 cities) in Eastern Europe. Hotel accommodations are of 3 star category & 75% of  meals are to be served in Chinese restaurants !

But we had a "shaky" start after our "early birds" booking in late Oct 2016. One month before the departure, Roystar advised that our late March 2017 departure had to be cancelled as our group has less than 15 members so a no go for us -  what a disappointment & a big let down !

However, we were given an option for a refund of our Rm1,000 deposit or transfer to a late May departure. As majority of our group members decided to accept the new date of departure & a few weeks later, Roystar broke a good news to us that our May departure is now a confirmed one - what a great news to us so our anxieties were finally over !

However, in the meantime, our group had to deal with Roystar on issues relating to changes of airlines (from Emirates to Qatar to Vietnam Airlines), request for an early separate progress payment (equivalent to a return air ticket price) by Roystar to secure our airline confirmed booking, late issuance of our travel insurance despite receiving our payments much earlier, late notice of two optional tours (Euro$80) whatapps to all tour members 2-3 days before departure (without divulging much info on these tours) which was not in Roystar tour brochure agenda etc. These issues had upset our group members to a certain extent ! Moreover, this tour group of 27 was split into two flight groups, ie 15 on Qatar Airlines & 12 on Vietnam Airlines (our group was without the accompanying of a tour guide). Our Vietnam Airlines flight is expected to arrive in Frankfurt half an hour earlier. As our Malaysian tour guide chose to accompany the Qatar group - our main concern is if due to unforeseen circumstances ie flight disruption, delays, bad weather etc and without a local guide with us, who will be looking after our group's interest when our group stranded in transit or on arrival in Europe. Our group will probably be squatting & sleeping in the airport  lounge for days until SOS arrives !!! This is scary if such thing happens to our group. I wonder whether Roystar has any contingency plans should such thing happens ?

Nonetheless, both flights arrived in Frankfurt on time & there were no major hiccups in our 14 days trip in Eastern Europe - overall it was a smooth one ie no undue delay in ground transport arrangements; drivers were professional in their service altitude & conduct in performing their duties; food & hotel accommodations generally met our tour group's expectation, all the sight seeing & tourist sites were fulfilled in accordance with Roystar travel itinerary although in certain tourist site visits, it was a rush affair due to a tight schedule !  

The day weather in late May in certain cities in Eastern Europe was warm (28-30c) so the ideal time to visit is probably in April / early May as the weather during this period is much more pleasant in Central & Eastern Europe. 

In summary, there are pros & cons in free & easy travelling & joining a package tour due to differential pricing (early birds, Matta Fair & late comers) & the level of customer services offered by different travel agencies, issues relating to the tour guide leadership qualities, PR skills from their Sales & Marketing department in dealing with their customers or potential clients at the front line need to be addressed as well etc.

In my all these years of travelling, sometimes you win, sometimes you lose but more importantly sometimes you learn !

But as a traveler, I enjoy the fun of travelling .......

Travel Highlights:

Image result for eastern europe map
Touring countries - Germany,Czech, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary,Austria

1) Frankfurt, Germany

Frankfurt Train Station
2) Nuremberg, Germany

Old Town of  Nuremburg

3) Fussen, Germany

Fussen, Germany / Austrian border

4) Prague, Czech Republic

Historic Centre of Prague (UNESCO)

5) Wroclaw, Poland

Old Town, Wroclaw

Centennial Hall, Wroclaw (UNESCO)

6) Warsaw, Poland

Old Town, Warsaw (UNESCO)

7) Krakow, Poland

Wieliczka Salt Mines, Krakow (UNESCO)

Historic Centre of  Krakow (UNESCO)

8) Bratislava, Slovakia

9) Budapest, Hungary

Budapest (UNESCO)
Buda Castle (UNESCO)

Heroes' Square (UNESCO)

10) Vienna, Austria

Palace & Gardens of Schonbrun, Vienna (UNESCO)

Historic Centre of Vienna (UNESCO)

11) Salzburg, Austria

Old Town, Salzburg (UNESCO)

12) Innsbruck, Austria

Golden Roof, Old Town, Innsbruck

13) Neuschwanstein Castle, Austria

14) Optional Tour - Evening cruise (1 hr) along Danube River in Budapest, Hungary

15) Optional Tour - explore crystal in all its facets in Swarovski Crystal World Museum in Wattens, Austria

KM Cheng's group of 8 tour members for this Eastern Europe trip from Subang Jaya, USJ & Taman Equine

Simon, Mary, Miss Liew, Boey, Soon Mae, KM, Seet Mei & Soon Hoh

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