So I contact Tom’s Barefoot Tours to book me a one day tour from Maui to visit Pearl Harbor about 10 days before my trip. Joy tells me the reason why the price is more than what’s posted online but it sounds shady. I specifically wanted to travel from the small airport at Kapalua so I selected a tour with Mokulele Airlines and pay by credit card $412. The airline calls me about 36 hours before the tour to say it’s cancelled. The excuse is the plane has to be inspected so it can’t fly. I ask if I can get on another tour within the next 8 days and they say no, sorry.
So I contact Tom’s Barefoot Tours again and tell them what happened and Joy knew nothing about it. Lovely. She checks and says she can book me for more money (now the total is $465) for a similar tour on the same day, from the same airport with the same airline at the same time but it’s through a tour company called Aloha Sunshine Tours. With few options available at that late date I agree and my credit card is charged the additional cost. Is this a shake down?
I ask Joy what side of the plane has the best view. She says it doesn’t matter - one side gets it for the trip there and the other side gets it going back. I’m on the right side of the plane both ways and the left side had the best view by far. I ask the pilot when we returned why the right side got shafted the view and with a smirk and a shrug he said there was an empty seat in the front on the left side, you should have moved. He explicitly told us before take off to stay buckled in the entire way. Lie #2.
When you sell an expensive day tour experience, you better ensure your clients receive what you call out in the bullet points. The first one was “Enjoy an aerial tour of 4 Hawaiian islands.” What needs to be done is for Mokulele Airlines to consider those of us on a tour when assigning seats so that we can enjoy the view. The woman on my left was a commuter and never even glanced out the window. The flight portion of the trip failed to deliver on the views so that’s a big disappointment.
We arrive on Oahu and wait more than 20 minutes for the tour bus. Our driver is Jorge, he has a thick Mexican accent. There are only 3 of us and I get the impression Jorge is new. He proceeds to tell us about such an incredibly important day in American history and I’m doing my best to interpret and glean what he says. He memorized the material and recited it but the delivery was emotionless and hard to understand. I would have much preferred to hear a recording - this is hardly “expert WWII narration.” Lie #3
We get to the Arizona Pearl Harbor Visitor Center and Jorge gets us in, hands us tickets for the movie that was to begin in an hour and is ready to say goodbye when a fellow tour operator nearby said he forgot to mention something important. Go to the bottom at the movie theater because the doors open from down there to board the boat and you can get a seat at the railing. That was the best advice we were given the whole trip and it wasn’t our guide. We walk the museum and it’s awesome - incredibly moving. We head to the theater and follow the lady’s advice and sit in the front. The movie is very informative and engrossing but the lights come up half way into it for a group/family to noisily come in and find seats. The lights eventually dim again but the disruption ruined it. Why did they let them in? If you’re late, wait for the next one.
The boat ride to the Arizona was a big disappointment. Joy told me it goes closer than it actually does. It’s a quick ride out and back, hardly worth it. I almost didn’t do the tour at all when I learned the Arizona memorial was closed for repairs but Joy said they tell you everything you’d get in the monument and you can see the ship in the water so you’re really not missing much. She said they take extra time on the boat to compensate for not being able to disembark at the memorial but in fact they take far less time. Lie #4.
When we get back from the boat, we don’t have enough time to tour the submarine because you need an hour and we had only 35 minutes before we had to be where Jorge asked us to be in the parking lot at 11:50am so we checked out a bit more of the grounds and then went to the gift shop. The other couple on the tour said they were hungry and I said I was too. I told them we are probably going to get some lunch. We had to be at the airport at 6:15am so none of us had breakfast. We wait in the hot parking lot for Jorge for 40 minutes. He proceeds to put us with another tour for our trip to the Missouri because he doesn't have the credentials to take us there. The new driver was wonderful but I didn’t get his name. I’m doubting he worked for Aloha. This now is Lie #5. Lie #6 is that they don’t provide lunch, you can buy something to eat and drink at the concession. Had we known this we could have eaten while we waited for our missing driver. We all agreed that the tour description said lunch is provided but when you read the paperwork you get after you pay, it says food is available for purchase. When you drop $500 for a day tour, the total when you add transportation to and from the airport, how much trouble is it for Aloha Sunshine Tours to have a cooler with ice water? It’s hot and windy and you’re parched. Never have I been on such a poorly run and poorly serviced tour.
We were not able to get to the bridge at the top of the Missouri and also do below deck to see the exhibits there - you had to choose and I went below deck. This was an amazing tour and I would have loved to cover every square inch of the ship. We needed another 30 minutes to have seen the bridge but we had to be by the bus at 2pm. The bus takes us to the Aviation Museum which we can’t go in - just waste the time dropping others off then we return to the Arizona Visitor Center.
We rejoin Jorge on the little tour bus and we see other people's belongings on it. We look for ours, which he told us we could leave, and he hands them over. I doubt the people who left their stuff would have appreciated knowing we could have easily rifled through and helped ourselves to whatever! He speeds as fast as he can to fly by the sights of Honolulu. We get to the Punchbowl Cemetery and I'm disturbed to find we are only driving thru it, we can't get out. That's extremely disappointing - we couldn't have been there 5 minutes.
We are allowed to step out to photograph King Kamehameha’s statue, a 10 minute stop, then we are in traffic all the way to the freeway and dumped off at the airport. It’s 3:30 and the flight is at 4:45. This is a tiny commuter airline-there’s no TSA or any of that crap. Jorge has to dash to get the next bunch of dupes waiting in a hot parking for him.
I voiced my extreme disappointment with Joy who replied that someone from Aloha Sunshine Tours will contact me by the next day. Kylie called and asked me to go point by point so she could address each failure and I was happy to do so. I realized at that time that we did not even visit a memorial, the USS Oklahoma. Her reply was, "Oh, that's just a little tribute." I said I wouldn't know because I didn't see it but it's interesting that she minimizes it now when it's listed on the website as a bulleted point the same way the Arizona and the Missouri is listed.
Finally, Kylie asked me, "What do you want?" I told her, good question! What I wanted was to see Pearl Harbor and have a great experience, how do I get that back? I asked her to figure out what it's worth and tell me. After 4 days she calls me to say that she negotiated "on my behalf!" and, PENDING THE REMOVAL OF ALL MY NEGATIVE REVIEWS she'll credit 15%. Hilarious. When I told her 50% would be more of a starting point she jumped at it and said she'd get back to me. Clearly it's all about the money with Aloha. She called me back to say that - as soon as I remove the negative reviews - she'll credit 50%. I told her I couldn't trust a word she was saying because everything about the tour was misrepresented so how can I believe her. I wonder how many negative reviews she's bought back. I told her to keep my money and I'll keep my reviews.
I truly hope they implement all of the fixes that need to be made with this organization because their customers deserve nothing less. My recommendation is to beware of all three of these players.
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