Western Highlights USA tour

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NickyYates's review of Virgin Holidays - www.virginholidays.co.uk

★★★★☆

“Western Highlights USA tour”

Written on: 02/07/2014 by NickyYates (1 review written)

This Western Highlights (Virgin) tour is tiring and full on with a 6-7-8am routine. There were always adequate rest stops. Only at Yosemite was lunch included so budget for 3 meals as well as time in the morning to find breakfast.WiFi is only usually available in the lobby.
San Fran is vibrant and buzzing but also occasionally a little cold even in June. Tour around the city with a walk over the GG bridge is comprehensive. The Powell Hotel is central though can be noisy if overlooking the cable car area and had a free continental breakfast, though bakery outside is better with cereals too. A visit to Alcatraz is a must though book up in UK before you go as tickets run out. Fisherman's Wharf and Pier 39 are very busy/bit tacky but still need to be seen. And the cable car MUST be done but be prepared to wait up to an hour to get on.
Yosemite is amazing though not enough time is had there to soak up the sights and unfortunately having to stay in Fresno was not a great end to the day - apparently away from the hotel is not safe and a 20 min walk to any restaurants - all of us ate in the hotel once we realised this and food choices are limited and dear.
Las Vegas is hot and loud - So many hotels to see esp Bellagio foyer and fountains. The upgrade to Tropicana was a good suggestion as Circus Circus is so far out and overlooks building sites and cost in taxi rides. The evening tour (at a cost) includes a trip to Fremont Street where there is free light shows with live bands. it is good to see the strip this way but could do on your own. You can book shows even when you arrive and any Cirque du Soleil is great. It is advisable to taxi from one end of the strip to the other as very tiring with the heat or walk through the hotels but this takes 3x longer. The Venetian gondoliers sound great but bit of a let down. Shopping is for those with money - south mall not as good as North mall and plenty of tack everywhere. Buying a cheap discount voucher for dinner can get you up to 50% off entrees so good value.
The Grand Canyon free tour is amazing so I would recommend going on the Helicopter ride down to the canyon - in June the base was hotter than hell but the boat ride was worth it. The Skywalk is a second way to see the base but be aware you cannot take your own camera on it and official pics cost a lot.
Los Angeles - Sheraton Hotel at LAX was a let down as little outside the hotel and Starbucks/restaurants inside but expensive - in/out burger etc a good 20 min walk or taxi back into LA. It would have been better to stay in Santa Monica and Sheraton for our last night. Santa Monica is a great beach area with good restaurants. Only bonus was heated pool open 7am-12 midnight. We had free day and so went to Disneyland - much smaller than Florida or Paris but good fun.
Best bit was heli ride over rim of Grand Canyon - worst was breaking down in Mohave desert but like true brits we took pics and laughed.
Take a neck pillow for travel and a jumper for San Fran. Our tour director and driver were knowledgeable and so very helpful at all times. As have to live out of a suitcase I would make compartments in suitcase - take a travel kettle with tea/coffee as not all hotels have these but they all had a good hairdryer and decent towels. Take into budget account tipping at all and any opportunity (in package portage of bags was included). Look out for Walgreens as can pick up good fruit pots/drinks and sundries cheaply.
All in all a good trip but exhausted. It is a good way to see the highlights of California and we will be back but to see the coastline.

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Jaynieb's Response to NickyYates's Review

Written on: 03/07/2014

Thankyou for your review, I found your review really helpful. We are going on this tour in August but ive heard really bad reports about the Powell Hotel. Virgin want £244 to upgrade to Stanford Court Hotel which I find very expensive, Customer services are not very helpful unfortunately..

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Nickyyates's reply to Jaynieb's Comment

Written on: 04/07/2014

Powell Hotel has small rooms and was fine for 2 nights - bathrooms were very clean but it looks old fashioned. Stanford is in a more chic area of San Fran. We had already been moved from Whitcomb before we left at no charge. Our First choice rep and virgin contact were very helpful esp about vegas. The Powell is opposite Westfield shopping complex and on flat area whereas Stanford looks like up the hill. We had a 19yr old and 21yr old with us so our experiences would be different to others. The kettle was useful and we got milk from Starbucks/bakery. Look up shows in Vegas now and book online or ask tour director to book as soon as meet him. Also our director only took optional tour costs at end of week so one whole cost. We also took a prepaid cash card from Thompson and in US they do not ask for pin number but need this to get money from ATMs.

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Jaynieb's reply to Nickyyates's Comment

Written on: 04/07/2014

Thanks again for reply, We will definitely take your advice about Alcatraz and book online, We've already been to Vegas before so we know about shows etc.. I'm still a little unsure on Powell Hotel, Virgin have changed our hotel From Whitcomb and changed our hotel in LA 3 times, Unfortunetly the virgins statement of "Unleash your Mojo" means nothing to us as we feel now that once theve had your money they just don't care.. but any way I really appreciate your feedback.

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