We are back from our Caravan bus tour of three of Canada's Maritime provinces, and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised.
We'd been independent travelers all our lives, but at our advanced ages (I'm 72, she's ageless) it just seemed easier for us to let someone else do the planning and driving. All-inclusive guided package tours save money not only on motor fuel but also meals, lodging and attraction fees. Of course, this means one has to travel with a lot of other people, and if one is not particularly sociable . . .
We chose Caravan for its excellent reputation as a budget tour packager (its ads say the costs are "from $995" but those are for extreme off-season dates). The reports on TripAdvisor are particularly enthusiastic.
I'm not going to get into a detailed travelogue here, but can tell you that riding with a group of 47 tourists on one bus (in the previous blogpost I had stupidly envisioned half that number) can be remarkably rewarding.
We were almost all retirees. A few were in cliquish peer groups from flyover blue states, but some were globetrotting Australians and many were professionals and academics. Two were retired Foreign Service diplomats. Two were National Park Service rangers who had spent the first fifteen years of their retirement living out of a motorhome. One octogenarian couple (he a retired biology professor and former Peace Corpsman with a wide knowledge of birds) shamed us all with their energy and eagerness. These were interesting and congenial people.
Even the inevitable chatterbox of the group had engrossing things to say, and they were never about herself.
Every one of these people had the courtesy to be right on time for everything. We had to wait for no stragglers. There was no pushing or shoving to get on or off the bus, and everyone was fine with the technique of sitting in alternate seats and debarking in alternate rows the efficient tour director imposed upon us.
Many of our fellow travelers were on their second or third Caravan tour, and every one of them who had taken the Costa Rica and Guatemala trips recommended them highly.
The downside: Riding on the bus for hours every day. The seat pitch on a 48-passenger tour bus is as short as that in a cattle-car 737. But the cushions are sufficently comfortable, and one can while away the hours with a Kindle. There are plenty of pit stops, a necessity for short-ranged elderly men.
One more thing: Every one of the hotels was among the best upscale lodgings their communities could offer. The meals (not all of them included in the price) were first-rate.
Would we do it again? Absolutely.