Albertans have been turning to AMA Travel for all kinds of group getaways over the years: that destination wedding on a white-sand beach; that corporate retreat to sunny Orlando; that long-anticipated family trip to Disneyland with multiple generations in tow. But there’s also a whole other class of group trip waiting to make travel dreams come true—escorted tours and cruises, hosted by seasoned AMA Travel experts.
“The people we send to escort these trips are extremely passionate about travel, and the destination,” says Roland Van Meurs, AMA Travel member services manager for St. Albert, who has been escorting groups around the world for more than a decade. While on the trip, these individuals lead each day’s activities, and help with needs and issues as they crop up. This could be anything from arranging an impromptu whale-watching tour or recommending local cafés to assisting with unexpected flight changes and medical emergencies.
AMA members Elaine and Lawrence Rowan were on Van Meurs’s most recent escorted trip last fall, a Canada-New England cruise. “We’d been on non-escorted cruises before, where if we needed something we were pretty much on our own,” Elaine says. “It was really reassuring to know AMA Travel was there. It gave us a safety net if we needed some help.”
Then there are the perks. AMA Travel escorted trips are typically fixed-price. They include extras—like special dinners, cocktail parties and activities—not found on other group tours. And there are always thoughtful touches you’d never expect: On the Canada-New England cruise, Van Meurs hosted a unique Canadian-inspired gathering with Tim Hortons coffee for his group. On another trip, to the Cook Islands and Tahiti, he made arrangements for a local craftsman to create wood carvings for the participants.
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When a group of Albertans gets together, new friendships are likely to bloom. “It’s often the social aspect that draws people in,” Van Meurs says. “Even if the participants don’t need any of our services on a particular day, sometimes they just come by to say hi.”
For those who worry about cost, escorted tours sometimes offer better value than self-planned trips. “When you’re doing it on your own, there’s a lot of work that needs to be done. You have to research the heck out of everything,” Van Meurs says. “And then when you factor in all the little costs—transportation, activities and the like—a lot of times it isn’t cheaper. Or if it is, you’ve missed out on many of the things that escorted tours include already.”
3 WAYS TO GO
There’s an AMA escorted tour to suit every travel style. Here are our most anticipated 2018 adventures:
Cruises: Despite the crowds, cruises can sometimes feel lonely—but not AMA Travel escorted cruises, which bring together groups of 30 to 90 Albertans. Participants can spend as much (or as little) time together as they wish, but still get the benefit of an expert onboard, plus extras like special meals, prepaid gratuities and enhanced excursions if desired.
Scottish Highlands and Icelandic Fjords
AMA Travel cruise guru Shelley Samycia leads a voyage to Scotland, Iceland and the Shetland Islands, departing from Amsterdam aboard Holland America’s ms Prinsendam. On land, you’ll explore Edinburgh, the Faroe Islands, Iceland’s fjords and more. Aug. 19–Sept. 2
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Land tours: These fixed-priced tours with 15 to 40 participants depart year-round to destinations around the globe—South Africa, Greece, India, China, East Africa and Myanmar, to name just a few. Thanks to AMA’s exclusive supplier ties and depth of travel knowledge, the itineraries are unique and not possible to book with other tour companies.
New Zealand South Island
Explore this ruggedly beautiful island with AMA Travel’s Roland Van Meurs, a.k.a. the “Travel Guy.” You’ll go whale watching in Kaikoura, visit penguins in Dunedin, walk the Franz Josef Glacier and cruise among the rainforested peaks and waterfalls of breathtaking Milford Sound. Oct. 14–27
Go Solo adventures: These “alone together” tours are for solo travellers who prefer the security and camaraderie of travelling with a group. They’ve marked the start of many a great friendship and opened up the world to those who may not have travelled on their own. Past destinations have included China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Morocco, Peru and South Africa.
Best of East Africa Safari
This 11-night tour led by an AMA Travel specialist is split between lodges and tent accommodations. It offers an up-close intro to the Maasai people, and features safaris in the Maasai Mara and Serengeti Plains (including the Ngorongoro Crater), Africa’s top wildlife-spotting sites. Nov. 12–25
BOOK WITH AMA
Contact a travel specialist about AMA Travel’s upcoming escorted adventures, by calling 1-866-667-4777 or visiting AMATravel.ca/Groups