I paid $8,200.00 for a Senior Tours Canada Inc. (STC) tour of China and Hong Kong featuring Yangtze River Cruise which employed their Vancouver Sales and Marketing Manager Daryl Dutton as our Tour Manager even though he could not speak Chinese and he had never visited many of the locations listed on the itinerary. While on tour, we bypassed popular historic sites, endured a dangerous nighttime trek to the MV President Prime ship then, a cabin up-selling scam once on board. Even though STC claims to have “20 years of touring in China” our tour was scheduled during two well-known Chinese holiday travel crushes. I have written to Danny Shay, the President of Senior Tours Canada Inc. in Toronto who denies any responsibility for their unprofessional performance. This is an amateur operation profiting off older travelers. I took the Senior Tours Canada Inc. (STC) tour of China and Hong Kong featuring Yangtze River Cruise from September 17 to October 07, 2012. This was a premium-priced tour with sub-par performance. Specific information follows. Our Tour Manager (who is actually the Sales and Marketing Manager for Senior Tours Canada in Vancouver) had no knowledge of Mandarin Chinese or any other dialect and was completely at the mercy of local guides assigned by the China International Travel Service (CITS) and any hotel staff who spoke English. He could not communicate with tour bus drivers. The first night at the Capital Hotel in Beijing when the waitress brought me a beer, I asked him how to say “thank you” in Chinese and he had no vocabulary for even this most basic of phrases. What competent company sends a group to a foreign country with a unilingual Tour Manager? At Fendu when part of our group wished to return to the boat, he could not communicate with the shuttle bus drivers and was reduced to standing in the middle of the market and shouting, “does anyone here speak English?” Truly ridiculous. He had not even visited all the cities included in this tour itinerary before leading it so he had limited knowledge of what was available at different locations. We never did get to the Temple of Heaven in Beijing. When we were unable to visit the Three Gorges Museum in Chongqing because of immense crowds during the National Day and Mid-Autumn Festival holiday, Senior Tours Canada had no contingency plans to visit other local attractions such as the Old Town, Hot Springs, Ci Qi Kou Porcelain Village or Dazu Rock Carvings. Our Tour Manager did not even know about them and the local guide did not enlighten him. Instead, our group sat in an empty restaurant for the entire afternoon of October 2nd before our evening flight to Guilin. What reputable tour company does this to its clients? Knowing the local language is essential to managing a tour effectively. How can a Tour Manager “oversee the daily operations” when he has not even been to all the included sites on the itinerary, is ignorant of optional excursions and, cannot communicate with locals? He cannot. Period. And we, Senior Tours Canada customers, bore the brunt of his ignorance. We also suffered because Senior Tours Canada (STC) cannot pre-plan a tour effectively. They claim to “have been sending tour groups to China for over 20 years” so they must know when National Day holidays (always on October 1st ) coincide with Mid-Autumn Festival holidays which fluctuate between mid-September and early-October. Crowds are immense. And if they truly are so mindless that they did not know then their planners could have readily checked online for exact holiday schedules listed years in advance. If I can get this information then why can a so-called ‘professional’ tour company not get this information and use it for the benefit of their clients? This tour could easily have started one week earlier on September 10th and avoided a multitude of access problems. It is inexcusable for Senior Tours Canada to book a tour overlapping with the one week in the entire year when half the population of China is on the move. Train stations and airports were packed. We could not enter the Three Gorges Museum because of the crowds. Later, we could not visit Elephant Trunk Hill because of the crowds, or Seven Star Park, or Folded Brocade Hill. We had to walk two (2) kilometres to our bus in Yangshuo because crowds had overwhelmed local transportation. Senior Tours Canada does not understand the concept of strategic planning. They were well paid to provide expert tour planning for this China tour and they failed miserably. Remedial training is needed to bring this company up to 21st century travel industry standards. Senior Tours Canada has a group block airline seating policy which slams customers into remaining seats in the rear of international flights lasting 12 to 15 hours without any regard for seat selection. A prime selling feature of this company is “all inclusive tours” but you “can arrange your own flights independently” if you cannot take their sardine can seating. Indeed, one couple on this tour did upgrade at the last minute from their unacceptable middle and aisle seating to business class on the Hong Kong-Toronto return flight by using their Aeroplan points. However, few customers have this option and the company knows it. Furthermore, their block bookings “do not allow for advance seat selection”. In addition, Senior Tours staff need to learn how to provide clients with their booking number so they can confirm flights at home 24-hours in advance instead of at the airport and so they can possibly upgrade their seating. Contrary to what I was told by the Ottawa office, withholding this information from me has nothing to do with the “Privacy Act”. I was subsequently able to get this information but this is just another example of the amateurish operations of Senior Tours Canada and their inability to work with 21st century technology. This company also provides transportation to and from the airport but their driver who was taking me home got lost (in spite of his GPS equipment). However, their most egregious offence was our boarding of the MV President Prime ship at Yichang in the dark at 7:00 PM. We left a dimly-lit parking area, walked across a busy commercial road then stumbled down a rough, twisting pathway to the ship. Our luggage was driven past us as we shuffled toward the ship. Specifically, there were no street lights. Two dim bulbs attached to small buildings off to the side of the road were all the illumination we had. So, why did our Tour Manager who was to “oversee operations” of this company with “20 years of touring in China” not know the embarkation situation in advance and why did he and the company not have flashlights? Where was their due diligence?; their strategic planning?; their-on-the-ground intelligence?; their care and concern for the safety of their clients? Nowhere, that’s where. Senior Tours Canada was clearly negligent in protecting the safety of tour members. Ignorance of local conditions is no excuse. They are well paid to know about local conditions. Who cares if they have flashlights in future? What good is that? They did not have them when they were actually needed. We, and they, are fortunate no twisted ankles or broken bones resulted from this easily-avoidable fiasco. Then when we got on board another nasty surprise awaited us. Senior Tours Canada advertises: “No fine print. The price you pay for your tour covers all costs” and “All prices guaranteed in Canadian funds”. Well, not true. This is false and deceptive advertising. While waiting in the dining room for our cabin cards on the MV President Prime, our Tour Manager announced our cabins were small and if we wanted to upgrade to a larger cabin (same type, just bigger) the cost was $150 in US, not Canadian, funds. He did not raise any objections to this practice. Ship staff then proceeded to walk us down a hallway to see a regular cabin and then a bigger cabin for the extra money. At no time did our Tour Manager intervene on our behalf. How could he? He does not speak the local language. This is a blatant scam by Wuhan Yangtze Cruise Co. Ltd. which owns MV President Prime and, if as Senior Tours Canada Inc. President Danny Shay claims, they did not know about this up-selling *** game “after 20 years of touring in China”, they should have known. If they did know and did not tell us, they are as guilty of misrepresentation as Wuhan Yangtze Cruise Co. Ltd. Ignorance is no excuse. Senior Tours Canada Inc. and its employees are paid to know what is going on. Why did we pay a premium price for this guided tour if not to be protected from scams like this? Any promise “not to allow this to happen in future” has no validity. This tour company was paid to make sure this did not happen in the first place. How can consumers rely on Senior Tours’ firsthand knowledge when they so clearly demonstrate they do not have any firsthand knowledge? They took our money under false pretenses. Senior Tours Canada Inc. during a three-week tour of China costing $8,200: -- did not provide a tour manager who spoke Chinese; -- did not provide a tour manager with even basic knowledge of all itinerary sites; -- failed to provide safe passage to the Yangtze River cruise ship (darkness/no flashlights); -- agreed to an up-sell scheme on board to charge more for pre-paid cabin accommodations; -- omitted visits to many supposed-to-be-included sites; -- booked this tour during the busiest Chinese holiday travel week because they were ignorant of the well-publicized dates while professing to be a “professional” tour company with “20 years of touring in China”. Senior Tours Canada Inc. (STC) did not meet tour standards for modern travel. This was an expensive tour managed by amateurs in need of rigorous accountability and professional training.