7 On Your Side helps couple get a travel refund

July 30, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
Travel to a foreign country can be both exciting and daunting. Many travelers rely on maps and tour guides to get around. However, a retired Bay Area couple says their tour company caused them to miss out on a tour of Venice.

Venice is known for an elaborate system of canals and bridges, which can be like walking through a maze. The couple contacted 7 On Your Side, saying they never got their gondola ride through the Italian city, all because the tour company steered them wrong.

Lucia Tran and her husband were on a cruise that stopped for a day in the quaint city of canals and gondolas. They wanted to see as much as possible, so they booked a special "Discover Venice Walking Tour and Gondola Ride" day outing.

"The highlight of this particular tour was the gondola ride," Tran said.

The couple followed the tour company's instructions to get to the starting point, which states, "Take the people mover to St. Mark's Square and proceed to the tourist office." Simple enough, if only that were correct, "We thought we were going directly to St. Mark's Square. To our surprise, when we got off, that was not St. Mark's Square," Tran said.

The people mover left them off somewhere in the middle of Venice, surrounded by a maze of canals and bridges with no idea where to go, until they found a tourist office, "The lady told us we were not even close to St. Mark's Square," Tran said.

The couple then took a water bus and hurried through narrow streets, hoping to catch their tour, "There's lots of canals," Tran said. "So you have to cross a bridge this way and then later on, went back on the other way."

When they finally arrived in St. Mark's Square, it was even more confusing. Dozens of archways lead into a long block of buildings with no indication as to which one was the tourist office, "Looking at the signs, they're all in Italian," Tran said.

By the time they found the meeting point, Tran says the tour was nowhere in sight, "It was gone, they left without us."

Lucia later demanded a refund of the $187 she paid for the tour, saying poor instructions caused them to miss an important part of their last trip to Venice.

"Most likely, I will not go back. So that will be something that I will miss forever," Tran said. "Yeah, that is a sad part of it."

The tour company, PortPromotions.com of Texas, offered only 25 percent to Lucia, until 7 On Your Side checked on the directions. It turns out the people mover terminal is about a mile and a half from St. Marks Square. It's a winding route not mentioned in the instructions.

Port Promotions acknowledged it's a 30 minute walk to the square. In a statement, however, the company tells 7 On Your Side it was the couple's fault for missing the tour, writing, "We are perplexed as to why this guest was unable to reach the meeting point as all other guests reached the tour guide on this date for this tour and were on time. St Mark's Square is a major tourist attraction and very well marked. We don't feel a refund was warranted. However as a gesture of goodwill to Ms. Tran we have refunded her as she requested."

Lucia says she doesn't know what she missed in Venice that day. But she's happy at least to get her money back, "

"Yes, I'm glad. I'm glad I called 7 On Your Side," Tran said.

The lesson here is carry maps or guidebooks with you when you travel, even if you've booked a tour, in case something like this happens. Lucia says she now wishes she'd been a lot more prepared to get around in Venice.

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