Testimonials

Hi Elayne:

Our "Danube plus" tour last month was a trip of a lifetimes. Thank you for your careful planning.
Arrived at Václav Havel airport in Prague a bit overtired to put it mildly, but impressed by how well this international airport works, modern, efficient, speedy and professional. As an observation, it doesn't seem to matter where you are in Europe; the immigration police are NOT friendly. A pleasant Hello in English or their language only gets you a cold silent stare. Maybe a hand gesture to move on.
Taxi driver gave us a short synopsis of the Czech Republic on our way to the hotel. The Hilton Prague had English-speaking staff that were attentive to any need. The Zinc restaurant had an all you could ask for buffet breakfast. The freshly baked croissants were a highlight as well as the made-to-order omelets which were cooked to perfection. A hearty breakfast meant lunch on our own could be light and inexpensive fare. Dinner the first night at the hotel was much earlier than most people eat. We were starved and totally tired. Although we were the only guests in the dining room at 6:00 pm, we were welcomed and given food and wine recommendations by the multi-lingual waiter, who was not Czech. The food was very VERY good and Czech beer is among the best Pilsner's in the world. We tried to eat locally as much as possible at food stands and small bistros. Very good and much less expensive than at the hotel dining room. Especially the Czech fusion dishes.
The astronomical clock in the Old Town was one of the highlights: The majesty of centuries-old churches, castles, and other buildings was a huge leap for me because Canadians tend to tear down its "old" buildings, those of 50-100 years of age. The Czechs have edifices dating back to the 12th century and earlier. The hotel is ideally located and within easy walking distance of the Old Town which makes it very convenient (well, for those who are not significantly mobility challenged). Saw a Pachelbel concert in the Smetana Hall of the Municipal House for approximately €30 and on our own went to the music museum where almost every instrument known to man was displayed together with their ancestors. I'll send a photo of a green "giraffe" harpsichord.
Joined the AMA Waterways tour the next evening and met our cruise director over an evening "champagne" get-together - actually sekt but good all the same. Next morning had a coach tour of the city old and new. Next day we took a coach from the Hilton to Regensburg, to Germany, a medieval walled city in Bavaria. Local guides took tours at various walking abilities throughout the town pointing out shopping and eating opportunities as well as historical sights and facts. After Regensburg, back on the coach to Vilshofen (I love pronouncing that word "FEEL SHOW fen") where 3 rivers converge. We boarded the AMA Waterways AMASerena around 3-ish, had a snack and more wine or beer, were shown to our staterooms followed by a briefing and meet the crew, about 1 crew to 3 guests). It is amazing how well appointed 250 sq feet of living space can be for 2. The French balcony, which is glass enclosed, and the outside balcony which is, well outside, were small but great for just relaxing watching the scenery go by, especially in the evening and at night. For more spectacular sights the main and upper decks were the place to be, particularly when coming into a new city or going through the numerous locks. The ship feels motionless when sailing, including docking and leaving port. There are 3 engines on the ship. I can't speak for those with staterooms at the stern as we were about midship. The Danube flows very quickly so there was often the illusion we were sailing when in fact we were docked. And vice versa when the ship was sailing and keeping up with the flow or slightly ahead of it and there was a feeling of not moving until we saw the shore going by. Surprisingly for me there is no ship's wheel that the captain steers. Just 3 black round disks something like slightly smaller shuffleboard discs with a handle on top. Watching the pulling into and leaving the numerous locks was really interesting, just slight twisting of the disks, a centimeter or 2, and the ship was inched (or centimetered) into place, usually beside another ship with 12-18 inches between ships and 18 inches or so to the lock's walls. Fascinating engineering marvel in my mind. And if you weren't watching you would never know what was happening. The ship is very "green". Vacuum toilets hardly use any water and don't smell at all; mostly LED lights, among other efficiencies. There is an elevator going to all floors except the top deck. AMA has small swimming pools, the only river cruise line to do so. Oh yes, potable water throughout the ship. Bottled water for shore is excursions and upon return along with cool towels and cold flavored water tea or water. You notice how superior AMA is when passing other river cruise ships and especially when docked aside another ship in port. To get to terra firma, it was sometimes necessary to pass through the lobby of another cruise line's ship. We had limited opportunity to see the other ship beyond the lounge, dining room, and top deck. However none of the other ships appeared to have French and outdoor balconies like AMA. Most had only big windows in the staterooms. Can't speak for food aboard other ships but it was excellent on the AMASerena. The Chef's Tasting Table was a culinary experience not to be missed. Without being asked dietary restrictions substitutions were made by staff. Personally, a beautiful and delicious diabetic dessert was presented without request. At each meal wait staff always asked if there were any dietary restrictions, dairy, eggs, gluten, diabetic, low fibre, fish, etc. and accommodations were suggested and seamlessly made. The chef's recommendations, including regional wines and foods, were always a good choice. If nothing appealed, you could always order off the menu with selections such as filet mignon, vegetarian, vegan, pasta, eggs Benedict for breakfast, and more. You only need to ask. In fact, if one were on a gourmet glutton trip there was an opportunity to eat all day and most of the night.  Early riser and late riser breakfast as well as "regular full course breakfast"; tea coffee and cookies or sweets; light lunch in the lounge or full course lunch in the dining room; afternoon tea in the lounge; full course dinner in the dining room; sweets and coffee or tea in the lounge; late evening tacos in the lounge, followed by coffee/tea and sweets in the lounge before bed. And tea or coffee and biscuits at any time in the lounge. Then you could drink off menu to your heart's content until midnight or so to the music of the ship's onboard musician, or regional folkloric music and dancing after dinner. The beer and wine selection were for the most part among the best of the countries visited. Unfortunately many are unavailable in Canada and were very good. There was a wine for most tastes, if not all.
Shore excursions were varied. Hiking, cycling, regular walkers' groups as well as gentle walkers (aka slowpokes) for city tours; bus tours; making soup and plum polena pastries in Bratislava, Slovakia at the Bratislava Hilton where we were also treated to a Slovakian dry red or white wine as well as the fruits of our labor and we got to keep our chef's apron. In the Wachau Valley in Austria there was the opportunity to learn about and taste apricots in all forms, jam, apricot liqueurs among other treats. Or one could go on a walking tour of Melk, where the 9th century Benedictine Abbey. 9th century, just think of it! Vienna was next. Who can say enough about Vienna. Too bad the visit was so short. A lifetime is too short, even with a Mozart/Strauss concert in a former palace thrown in. Thank you SMA for the complementary Mozart/Strauss CD included in the optional night tour. Finally Budapest. One of the most beautiful scenes in the world, especially on the Illuminations Tour the Captain took us on at night. The ship sailed back up the brown, not blue, Danube so that when we rounded the corner to come back into Budapest, the whole city was lit up, especially the parliament building. "Magnificent" understates the magic of the view.
Probably the best tribute to AMA is its staff that go well above and beyond to serve the needs and desires of its passengers. Staff make you feel like a welcome guest, not just a paying customer. Particularly so for people with disabilities. It is the "ne plus ultra" of cruise lines.
Thanks again Elayne/Absolute Travel for making the arrangements for a trip of a lifetime. - Janet Pond

 

Elayne: We love Xandari. After an 0300 awakening in Canada and long plane ride(s), getting to our room 30 minutes after landing was a welcome relief. The airport transfer was flawless. We’re feeling a bit guilty about taking up two huge villas — could certainly have fit comfortably into one — but they’re very nice. In fact, possibly the nicest we’ve stayed in. We’ve also enjoyed the beautiful grounds, the trails and the pools. The view over San Jose at night is lovely. We have yet to see our first mosquito. A few minor ailments accompanied us from Canada - colds, upset stomachs, a sore foot. Accordingly we made contact with the local B&R rep at 0700 the next day, asking whether we could rework the first day’s expedition to start later and be shorter. His answer was, “Of course. This is your trip and we will make whatever works best for you happen. We’re here 24/7, at the following local numbers …”. The perfect response. Our guide showed up at 11, introduced us to Costa Rica through a narrated driving tour, and took us to an authentic (i.e. local-filled and tourist-free) place for lunch. Back at the hotel, we swam in a waterfall on the grounds, dined, fell asleep. The next morning, the girls did not feel entirely well. Thus the boys set off with our guide for a tour of the La Paz Waterfall Gardens - spectacular flora and fauna - and then the volcano. Our guide inverted the order of events, fearing the volcano would be fog bound, and avoiding the crowds at La Paz - correctly on both fronts, as it turned out - the benefits of a private tour. We then lunched al fresco at a small place off the beaten path, set out in a private space. Very welcoming host, fantastic food, then back to the hotel to chill. Another memorable day. The kids are getting getter at Spanish. Whoever found our guide should see if he has any brothers or sisters that might be interested in guiding. Our general take is that Xandari is so nice that we’d be happy staying here for the rest of the vacation.
Pacuare was, as expected, a unique and fascinating place. Rafting in sets the tone - active, wild and, once there, quite luxurious. The Jaguar villa was gorgeous and huge (and had power). The attached plunge pool was lovely, as was the little tree platform overhanging the river, on which my son spent many happy hours reading. The food was also excellent … in net, quite an accomplishment given the logistics of getting stuff in. We enjoyed the canopy tour, except one part.The canyoning I found quite unnerving, as did my daughter. It just did not feel as safe as the zip - one rope only, with no safety back up and the guides seemingly offhand about things. In this it was similar to the last stage of the canopy tour, in which participants are lowered from the nest on a single line. A number of other guests remarked that they hadn’t liked the sensation at all. I think we’d have been reassured by a backup line and the implied dedication to safety; Pacuare should consider adding one, even if they feel it to be overkill. Otherwise they seem to be one equipment failure away from disaster. We later learned that the government inspects all the components of the the zip on a regular basis, something they might consider telling guests before the adventure … not sure if the case is the same for the rappelling equipment. The balance of our stay was excellent and the rafting out a spectacular finish. I’d highly recommend the place to prospective guests with two caveats: the one above as well as an admonition that Pacuare is truly in the wild, with highly poisonous snakes and ants and spiders etc. about. According to the guides, no guests have been bitten so far although there have been some close calls (and no antivenom on site although a helicopter is said to be standing by for evacuations). There were no mosquitos to speak of (and if there had been, they wouldn’t have made it through the netting in the villa). El Silencio, high in the cool cloud forest, was again an entirely different experience from the other two. We were in a master suite: spacious and modern, but requiring a short shuttle from the main lodge … not a bad walk along the road, although a path through the woods will hopefully be cut some day. The service was highly attentive, and the activities exceptional. My son and wife really enjoyed the local village visit, returning with tortillas and other foods they’d made. On night two, our family took over the smaller restaurant, where one of their chefs brought us back into the kitchen and joined us in preparing and then consuming dinner, teaching us his tricks along the way. Very special. The next day a private tour was organized to a local waterfall with an excellent and flexible guide; it was stunning. On the way back, they’d laid out a beautiful picnic lunch which we enjoyed, looking out over the mist-fringed hills. Again, a special event, and like the others one vastly improved by not having to be done on anyone else’s schedule. The transfer to the airport at 0400 took an hour and twenty minutes; we were happy to have spent our last full night at Silencio and not to have transferred to a marginally closer place. All of the transfers were executed flawlessly and included nice touches, such as refreshments on board and an Internet connection. One of our guides showed us around a local Wal-Mart, which was fun. I have only one small suggestion, which is that the company coordinating these supply a printed page (or email) with local emergency contact numbers in case, say, we’re not feeling well and need to alter things or can’t connect with the driver. In summary, a brilliant vacation, perfectly balanced between physical/intellectual activity and leisure. As I kept telling our hosts, God seems to have an especially soft spot for Costa Rica. We’d be happy to return and sample its other delights. Thanks to you and Elayne for your work to make it possible. CLICK HERE TO VIEW SUPPLIER WEBSITE

Elayne: I just want to thank you for the excellent service you provided. I had been to see a local agent a few times but always felt that I was being too fussy and taking up too much time. She didn't take the time to review /suggest any options that fit what I was looking for but slightly outside of my initial requirements. Your quick replies, confidence in making recommendations which reflected my preferences, enthusiasm for your job and attention to detail has been exemplary! Thank you for all of your help and I will definitely recommend you to others.

Dear Shelley - Thanks so much for making these latest arrangements for us. As usual, your efficiency and attention to detail are amazing! Thanks to you our previous trip to Italy and France was stress free and dream perfect. Your suggestions with regard to hotels resulted in our staying in unique (in the best sense of the word), comfortable , and easily accessible spots in Rome, Florence and Paris. In Florence, we were able to walk from our family run hotel, complete with balcony overlooking a shade-dappled, quiet inner courtyard, and walk 15 minutes to the Duomo! Doesn't get any better than that! Thank you very much. I'll be in touch as we make more detailed plans for this latest adventure.

Best wishes,
Margaret & Ray Rockwell

Hi Shannon,

"I was in the process of writing you a "real" letter, but will send an email, instead!

First of all, thank you so much for your generosity in donating a trip to the IWK. I always buy a ticket, never expecting to win, and was beyond excited when I did. I never could have (or probably ever will) afforded a holiday away, and you made it possible through your
generosity. Thank you.

Second, thank you for all your help. I realize that you don't get much out of helping someone who you are GIVING a trip to, and you were very patient with all our changes and discussion and fussing.
Thank you for putting up with it, and facilitating our trip on such short notice!

Finally, the trip was great. All of our connections and stuff worked smoothly, and Transat was very helpful and nice.
If you are looking at sending someone there, the location is wonderful - right on the end of all the resorts, so you can walk for endless kilometers on the beach, past houses and parks and nothing but wilderness. The resort is quite small (500 rooms?) and it was only
about half full - the paradise side that we were on was almost empty, so very nice and quiet! The resort was beautiful, especially the rooms. Service was friendly, if not very prompt because they are understaffed, and we were expected to tip everywhere, which I wasn't really expecting so didn't have any small bills. The food was reasonable as well, and the little village nearby was very normal, not touristy at all. I would go again, but not until it is finished. We had to wait quite awhile when we got there because the room was still under construction.
The pools are fabulous, and the spa on-site is AmAZING. We did a tour with AllTournative, and went rappeling, zip-lining, swimming in cenotes, kayaking, messing around in mayan ruins, etc. The guide was fun and very knowledgeable as were all the guides from that company. we learned a great deal about the Mayans and their culture, and the tour was eco-friendly and locally supported, A very slick and professional outfit that provided a real adventure without all the kitsch and touristy stuff. We went to Coba and I would go again in a
minute. We also went snorkeling on the coral reef - for 2 dollars they took us out in the boat, provided all the gear, and a guide to the reef. Best $2 spent EVER!

Thank you thank you thank you!! It was great!!!!!!!"
Eileen Burchill

"just wanted you to know that you guys are awesome. Seriously, within 24 hours of other agencies telling us it was an impossible task, you had everything arranged and fixed for us, every detail, even the smallest. We especially saw your commitment to us when we had a weather delay on our return flight and within minutes you had our flight rescheduled and a hotel booked when the City was sold out. We would not have been able to finish shooting without your expertise, Thanks a bunch for all your work."

Graeme Hopkins, Assistant Production Coordinator, Trailer Park Boys.

"I just wanted to take a minute and drop you a very well deserved note regarding the top notch job you, Fred and Shannon have been doing for me, my family, and our corporate employees.

Today when I called you at the usual last minute, to change tomorrow's Montreal trip with my Specialty Services Manager, and asked you to reschedule for April 4th, including hotels and car, you did not miss a beat and in fact within an hour you had Shannon call to confirm new times and details.

In looking back I see that you have arranged over 14 trips for Tammy and I (sometimes with our children)in the past two years alone, over 25 business trips for me personally, at least 12 package vacations for our employee incentive plans, and countless other business transactions for Hoyt's staff members from air through hotels. The common demominator in all of this is that not once have we had a connection problem, never have we had a problem at a hotel check-in, and even last minute flight changes have been caught and we were advised in advance.

When my son had a medical problem in Cuba, you personally took the call and arranged for our Medical Insurance to pay the Cuban Hospital. When I wanted to make a last minute change in Europe, one call and you had it under control. While standing in an airport line-up in St. John's due to an aircraft malfunction I called and you had my flight changed and a confimation number for me before I reached the counter. Subsequently I avoided what turned out to be a five hour delay for my former fellow passengers as you nabbed me one of only two empty seats on an earlier flight that was about to depart.

Through your connections we watched the Rolling Stones from three rows back from the front stage, and saw the Eagles in Toronto from the VIP section. The hotels you arranged in London, Paris, Barcelona, St. Tropez, and Florence on just some of the different trips you helped plan were all clean, comfortable, and places we would return to in the future. Your level of detail in arranging "all inclusives" and cruises has been impeccable, and we have yet to encounter any problems of any type from connections, counter staff, room quality, level of service or quality and selection of food and beverages.

Elayne, you and Fred should be proud of what you have built, as evidenced by the level of service you have consistantly produced for us every time we have called on Absolute Travel. The words "personal touch" (although used far to often by advertisers) truly describe what you have delivered for us on each and every occasion.

Sorry to ramble, but this THANK YOU is way past due!"

Best regards
~ Randy Hoyt

President
Hoyt's Moving and Storage Ltd.
902 876 8205
902 456 2799
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

"OH MY GOD!!!! Where to begin.............seats were awesome, Elton John
was FABULOUS!!!!! We've been to a lot of concerts but this by far, was
the best. I could go on and on but I suspect you're going to here
exactly the same from everyone else. Thank you so much. Please keep us
in mind when you have other concert packages, but I doubt any will
measure up to this one. We're especially interested in an "Eagles"
package. Hope to talk to you soon"

Thanks again.
~ Patti Reynolds

"Good Morning Shannon. I smiled when I got your email because I was planning on getting in touch anyway.
We had a wonderful vacation. The Iberostar Varadero was lovely. The barstaff, food service staff, our maid Vivian and the entertainment staff were all great. Some of the girls in the entertainment staff remembered my name and always called me in for the activities, which I really liked. I'd go back to the Iberostar in a heartbeat, or another Iberostar. Great place for kids. Thank you Shannon for all of your very helpful assistance. Tom and I appreciate all of your efforts more than you know".
~Melody

"AWESOME!!!! I don't know how u managed it but we had the best room in the resort...and there were 2200 people there that weekend! Oceanview, right on the beach. It was Room 1928. Any room in the 1900 block on the second or third floor would be absolutely fine but we were right in the middle and couldn't have been more perfect!!!! Very quiet. The food could have been better but who cares!!! The resort itself is clean, the shows were great, many pools, many bars, and much much fun!!! Our plane was early...and thank GOD we were on CanJet. We had these Digi Players and we watched two movies on the way down, we had hot towels, had a snack...and I got bulkhead going down. Perfect!!! No problems whatsoever with my legs either way!!!! The 6 am Sky Service flight that was supposed to leave at 6 am was delayed and we ended getting there before they did. Our room was ready upon arrival and we were at the pool bar by 11:30 a.m. What a trip!!!! Nothing went wrong!!! Amazing. Fat Cat Catamaran was awesome and u can recommend to others going down. Snorkeling and speed boating. Bob caught a 22lb Barracuda off the back of the boat. Ask me if he was excited!!!
We met and hung out with 5 different couples from across Canada and the US and we all had the same
experience. Wonderful!!!! Everybody remarked on the resort. It is nothing short of spectacular!
Well, well worth the money. Thanks for recommending it!"

~ Fredricka MacLean

"Hi Elayne,
Just a quick note to let you know our trip was excellent. Hotel was
awesome (perfect location - walked everywhere!), flights were great,
and INXS concert was out of this world! They were absolutely amazing!
Thanks for everything."
~Gerri

"The Madonna concert was fantastic! We are very glad that you had a concert
package for her concert. The Hotel was great. It was a great trip!"

Thank You!


"We were SO PLEASED that you and the Absolute team made quick arrangements to rebook us on Air Canada when CanJet closed operations.
THANK YOU SO MUCH"


"Hotel in Florence was FABULOUS! I would recommend it to anyone. We had a room with upstairs/downstairs, 2 bathrooms each with shower, and 2 TVS, kingsize bed. We really liked the hotel and their service. Only downside - parking (in a private parkade immediately behind the hotel) was 81E for 3 nights! One thing for sure...parking is at a premium everywhere in Europe.

Venice hotel was also FABULOUS! The staff were great and we really enjoyed our stay. Again, parkade as one arrives in Venice and then it's walking or water taxis/buses from there. Parking was 20E a night there. The hotel was quite close to the parkade so we simply walked.

We stayed at an airport hotel in Nice on the return (Camponile) and it was fine. 74E a night. Underground parking available if one needed it at 6.5E. Our return to Paris was uneventful. We had purchased all our train tickets in Paris before we left to avoid the mess at CDG when we got back so could just hop on the train and go. (Good thinking, huh?!) The Inter Hotel Francais in Paris was great! For a 2-star hotel, I considered it a good deal. The room was VERY small but extremely efficiently organized - something like a travel trailor! The hotel was diagonally located across the street from the Gare de L'Est so it was really easy to get on the metro and train system from there.

Flight back was ok, but long. The terminal 3 is not connected to the train system so we had to manoeuvre our way to shuttle to get there. A bit of a hassle but we had fortunately allowed lots of time to prevent unnecessary stress. We had a scheduled layover of 7 hours in Montreal that ended up being 9 hours because of weather issues on the eastern seaboard on Friday. We finally made it back by 1 a.m. and were glad to see our bed!

Hope these comments are helpful as you serve other clients. Again, we were really happy that you had moved quickly to rebook our Montreal-Halifax return flight since we would not have even been aware of the CanJet situation. Little Canadian news in Europe and we were not spending our time reading things on the internet.

Cheers! Have a great day."
~ Mary


"Thanks so much for meeting with Nadia and I yesterday - you were totally awsome!....as always.
Nadia felt such relief after meeting with you re details of her gift to Jenny vis a vis Florida and New York.
Your fast, efficient, compassionate help was just what both of us needed.
Thanks to you on a personal note I did book 2 Europe Rail passes with the NA site - the 3 days rail pass was the way to go - can get tickets to me in time and they did recommend reservations on the morning TGVs going south .$500 Cdn for two Paris to so of France - not too bad.
On another note - I also called CAA re International Drivers License - they stated today that Intl. Permits are now mandatory! New to me - you might want to know that. Good think you also tweaked me to call them.
Soo, many thanks for many things.
I will leave you and Nadia to work out plans and details"
Regards
~Linda Brown


"The Elton John concert was amazing!!
Our seats we unbelievable.
The weekend was great. Il Germaine is a fabulous hotel.
Thanks!!!"

~Phyllis

"We loved Venice! We were in the most beautiful location! It was called Sant'Elena. The beautiful hotel we were in use to be a convent. One side of the hotel was the area of Sant'Elena, the other was the waterside lined with a beautiful walkway and park. Right next to our hotel was a little family type Italian restaurant. One huge thing we noticed anywhere in Italy was that the service was amazingly efficient! The servers are all fast and do there job very well, it was interesting just watching them. I guess they have lots of practice from years and years of tourists! Our last location was the Amalfi Coast. Yikes! Look up that place too! Cinque Terre times 10 higher! We travelled up the mountain, (cliffs!!) winding, very narrow road, for 1 hour from Salerno to our hotel "Grand Hotel Excelsior". (about 1000 feet from sea level) I wouldn't want to be the one building those places!

A special thank you to Elayne at Absolute Travel Specialists. who met with us always at our convenience and always had the time and patience for us! In case anyone ever needs a "great" travel agent here is her email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it."

~Maria Moro-Blackburn

 

"Hi there, the Elton John concert package we purchased through you was
amazing. Worth every cent. Wouldn't hesitate to book a concert
package through you again"

Thank You so much,
~Heather Silver