We just got back from the Lake Constance tour. This tour is brand new this year and VBT has a lot of kinks to work out. While the lake was pretty and some scenery was beautiful, many of the bike paths were just next to railroad tracks or busy roads and the lake was not visible. Many of the towns we stayed in were nice, but overall the biking was not especially pretty or scenic. The mileage was very low every day and the trip should be rated as not even just easy, but beginner.
The first day we took a ferry across the lake and biked through Switzerland and Austria. This was the only time (maybe 20 minutes) that the tour was in Austria and only about one hour in Switzerland. The tour description is misleading suggesting more time in those countries. We stopped in Bregenz and took the cable car up the mountain. This was not included on the tour but after I mentioned it to our guides, they told the rest of the group and we all went up. Perhaps VBT should include this on the tour. It was a beautiful view over the lake from the top of the hill. The schnapps distillery tour that was promised in the afternoon was not offered. When we were deciding on a trip, this was one of the reasons we picked this one, so were very disappointed that this was had been cancelled. The hotel in Lindau was beautiful and right on the lake although it appeared that VBT was given the absolute worst rooms since everyones room overlooked an interior courtyard.
The hotel and time in Meersburg was the best part of the trip. It was lovely, the rooms large and the staff incredibly helpful. The town is charming and we had a great dinner/wine tasting in the hotel restaurant the first night and a lovely walk into the old town the next night.
The fondue lunch was great and at an excellent cheese shop, however many of our group lingered at a museum in the morning and the owner of the cheese shop was clearly upset that we were not there on schedule. The fondue making was supposed to be a group process but since we arrived well before all the others, my family and one other couple made the fondue. It was fine for us, but the rest of the tour group did not get to participate.
The visit to Mainau was wonderful and the gardens were gorgeous, however the biking around Richenau was not particularly pretty and the bike paths took us through mainly greenhouses and agricultural fields. While the old church was interesting, the rest of the island was not.
On the day of the picnic, it was raining so we went to a restaurant along the route. We were offered a small bowl of oversalted soup and a small salad that was so overdressed as to be inedible. Many of us did not eat any of the lunch. VBT should have rain plans for things like this. It appeared our guides just planned this at the last minute since the directions to the restaurant were vague. We were told it was at distance 5.8 on our daily bike route but instead was at 10+.
Lastly, the hotel in Konstanz was TERRIBLE….an absolute DUMP! . For the amount of money we paid, to be stuck in a third rate hotel for three nights was insane. Tripadvisor actually rates this as one of the worst hotels in the town. The furniture was dirty and stained and the towels threadbare and grey. The rooms were so small that my husband and I could not get up and walk around at the same time. The shower was so tiny that every time I turned around, I would hit the faucet and turn it off. The area was noisy and we were woken up every morning at 4:00 by street cleaners and other road noise. The rooms were hot with no ventilation and the front desk staff was overworked and barely had time to answer any questions. From others on our trip who have been on multiple VBT trips, we were told that this was the rock bottom, worst hotel they had EVER stayed in and one couple even went so far as to look for another hotel.
The only upside of this vacation were the two guides. Andy and Martin were absolutely fantastic. Despite the rain for half the tour, they were cheerful and enthusiastic. They always had great restaurant recommendations and were knowledgeable about the area and the history. On the last day, we wanted to visit the Rhine Falls and Martin gave us an extremely helpful itinerary on how to get there by train, including times, tracks and costs for each leg of the trip. We took the excursion boat back and he even had times for that as well as connecting train information.
After this trip, I’m not sure we would go on another VBT tour although from what I heard from the rest of the group, this trip was unusual and other tours are much better. The routes were not very pretty and many of the activities, such as Mainau, would be better offered as a side excursion than as part of the main tour (as well as the trip to the prehistoric village). The bike routes were too short each day and the short option only consisted of not biking for the whole day and taking the van back to the hotel. Having not done a VBT tour before, I don’t know if that is typical, but I imagined that the short option would take you back to the hotel and the longer mileage would be side trips to other areas. As I heard from other people on our tour “We could be biking anywhere”. Rain plans would also be a good idea. On one day, we were told that we could sit in the van all day and drive to the next hotel or pay for a boat ride to the Meersburg. The alternate lunch for the picnic day was inedible. The rainy season in the area ends in early July so perhaps starting this tour later in the season would be better as it rained on most of our trip and we were told this was common for the time of year. VBT should reassess the route and change the Konstanz hotel.
Response from: Product Team
Thank you for your candid feedback about your experience. We’re sorry to hear that parts of the tour did not meet your expectations. We continually make improvements to our tours based on constructive guest feedback. Some of your concerns are being, or have already been, addressed. To follow up on your feedback:
Two of our rides travel through Switzerland, and as you pointed out, only one ride goes through Austria. Because of how Lake Constance is situated, most of the highlights of the region are located in Germany. Our goal is to feature the best aspects the region has to offer.
Yes, the Pfänder cable car offers spectacular views of Lake Constance. We’re happy to hear you enjoyed your ride up the mountain and that you were able to share that experience with other travelers in your group. Because we already spend time traveling by ferry across Lake Constance in the morning, we opted to offer more cycling as part of our itinerary in the afternoon. Of course, the cable car is an option for travelers who might be interested.
In order to incorporate more time riding along the lake, we chose to replace the schnapps tasting in Austria with a wine tasting in Constance. We have received positive feedback from our travelers regarding this change.
We are aware of the issues with the final hotel in Constance. Our guests will be staying in a new hotel starting in September of 2014. Thank you for sharing your concerns.
Our rain plans on the final day of riding includes an indoor lunch, instead of our typical outdoor picnic spread. Thanks for your feedback regarding the quality of this lunch.
In regards to the routes, the tour is advertised as an easy tour–ideal for beginner cyclists with longer options available for more avid bikers. There are daily options available for riders up to 35 miles daily.
Thanks for your positive comments about trip leaders, Andy and Martin, as well. We will be sure to share your kudos with them.