The Ups and Downs of Using a Tour Company

Throughout my travel experiences, I have been part of many tours.  Some were days long and some were hours long.  One of the two tours we chose in Paris was part of a gift for Samantha’s birthday.  It included a dinner in the Eiffel Tower, a river cruise on the Seine and tickets to the Moulin Rouge.   It was a package deal I booked through Viator which aggregates tours from all over the world.   The local tour company in Paris was CityRama.  If you were to sit at a café you would see the CityRama buses stroll by as they offer a number of different tours.

We appeared to be all set for the night as I confirmed with Viator that our tour was on and received confirmation emails as well.  I had no idea what to expect but assumed we would show up for dinner where someone would then drive us to the cruise, followed by the show and then back to our hotel as advertised.  We were wrong.

View of the Notre Dame from the river cruise. 
To start, Samantha and I both dressed up for the evening as it said elegant attire.  We assumed we would be meeting at the Eiffel Tower so we cabbed it down there and made our way through the touristy crowds all dressed in t-shirts and shorts as we sweated away in a suit and a dress.  Needless to say we stood out. 

After ten minutes of trying to find the entrance to the restaurant, we finally went up to the ticket lady only to find out we had to wait for the CityRama lady to show up.  She was naturally 15 minutes late and when she arrived we were not on the list.  She called the office and they said they did not have our reservation and she quickly ran off saying she had other people to tend to.  We were left sweating at the base of the Eiffel Tower not knowing what to do. 

We quickly hoped in a cab to head to the CityRama office as she told us to do that.  When we arrived we showed them our voucher but they had never received it.  Luckily, they were willing to honor it and provide us tickets to both the boat cruise and the Moulin Rouge and refund us for the dinner.  We were told to meet back in 45 minutes where a tour bus would take us to the cruise. 

That’s right a tour bus, 45 minutes later, about 40 of us boarded a bus to be taken to a dock right outside the Eiffel Tower where we boarded a boat full of more tourists.  It was not exactly the setting we were hoping for but the cruise itself was fantastic.  It showed you all the major sites and the sun was setting on the Seine which provided picture perfect moments.
Walking into the Moulin Rouge. 

Afterwards we had to wait for everyone to make it back to the bus before we departed for the Moulin Rouge.  One of the best parts about the tour if not the best (other than the show and cruise) was we did not have to wait in line for the Moulin Rouge.  If you buy tickets it is first come first serve so people line up hours before hand but because it was part of a tour we were able to skip the line.  Of course Samantha and I bum rushed our way to the front of the group so we were some of the first seated which provided us with great seats. 

As I mentioned earlier, the show was fantastic.  We had champagne and were entertained throughout the entire two hour performance.  At the end, part of the tour was for the bus to drop us off at the hotel.  This was both good and bad, for one it prevented a high cab fare and it was late at night (2AM) so we could not take the metro.  However, we also had to wait for everyone to get back to the bus and then we were one of the last stops so it took about 50 minutes to get home after the show ended when it could have been a 10 – 15 minute cab ride.
Samantha and I in our elegant attire at the show. 

Basically, the moral of the story is you do not know what you’re getting into with tours if you do not know someone who did it first-hand.  Of course I read reviews, most were good, but my perception of the night was completely different than what happened.  The cruise and show both exceeded my expectations but I did not expect to be ushered around on a tour bus with 40 other people. 

If you are headed to Paris I would say buyer beware when using CityRama.  For me, I might try to do these types of things on my own in the future unless it is an intimate tour such as our wine tour (see next post).  Groups of 30 – 40 are just too much for me and we probably could have planned it on our own.  Even though there were a few mishaps, Sam and I had a great time and would recommend the cruise and Moulin Rouge to anyone else (but not in elegant attire). 


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