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Review : Grand Canyon South Rim Bus Tour

Discussion in 'Shows & Entertainment' started by Nevyn, Sep 29, 2012.

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  1. Nevyn

    Nevyn VIP Whale

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    Apologies if this is the wrong location ... couldn't decide whether to put it here or in Getting There and Getting Around.

    I took the South Rim bus tour from the Grand Canyon Tour Company (you can follow Sonya's link to the left). It says it is retail 179, on special for 79, but as near as I can tell, that special is always on, so I wouldn't rush to book.

    I booked on the web about 5 days in advance. You are prompted for a credit card #, but they only use it to hold the reservation in advance.

    They follow up with an email including an "e-ticket", and ask you to call in to confirm once you are checked in to your hotel in Las Vegas. This is the clunkiest part of the experience, as the number you call in on could have you on hold for awhile (I was for about 5 mins), which isn't ideal. But she confirms for you where at your hotel they will pick you up and when, and its not a huge inconvenience. Have your confirmation code handy for this call (only time I needed my e-ticket)

    My hotel pick-up was scheduled for 6:55am (ouch), and the driver arrived on schedule. From there, they take people to Planet Hollywood, where they take over a lobby in the underground parking area and line up their buses. Everything was well organized and went smoothly. They have a checklist of names. They parade everyone through inside, identifying which tour you are on, giving you a name tag corresponding to your bus, and charging you for the tour.

    There is a small snack area, and a snack consists of one protein bar or small pre-baked good, and a coffee.

    Passing the Hoover Dam, you are using the bypass bridge and there is no stop. You are in the opposite side of the road, so can't really see the dam at all on the way there.

    Then the buses load up and are off. There are two breaks on the drive up. The first is in Kingman, Arizona for a 15 minute bathroom break. But the location he stops at has some food for sale (pizza slices, convenience store food, fruit) if you didn't manage to get breakfast first. Just take your pitstop first, as there can be a line for the restrooms, and the driver does NOT want to wait.

    The second stop is in Williams, Arizona, at the Grand Canyon Railroad, for lunch. You get there around 11:15 am. It is a buffet and included in the tour cost (the restaurant recognizes tour participants via the stickers everyone wears). It is typical buffet fare (BBQ chicken, pulled pork and slider rolls to put it on, vegetables, etc). The only thing I didn't like was the Mac and Cheese.

    For the drive up to the Canyon, the driver gives you some interesting historical facts based on where you are driving by at the time. This alternates with a couple videos he puts in (he has a DVD player up front and there are a couple overhead screens thoughout the bus). The first is a video about Grand Canyon mule rides. The next is about Route 66. Then there is another historical Grand Canyon one (the imax movie, so it really doesn't translate to tiny screens).

    The movies are a mixed blessing. They help to pass the time, but if you're plan was to sleep all the way up there, they will probably nix that plan (personally I can't sleep on a bus anyway).

    At the Canyon, there is a trail you can walk that goes for 2.4 miles along the South Rim. The driver will warn everyone to be sure they can do it, and officially there is meant to be 90 minutes to do this, but in practice we got just over 2 hours. For people who can't/don't want to hike, you can take pictures at the start point, then the driver will take you to the end point, which also has a souvenir shop, etc).

    The 2 hours doesn't sound like much, but its enough time that you can do a lot of stopping for and posing for pictures, and still make it with time for a quick restroom break.

    There are 2 stops on the way back as well. The first is a short break at a Western themed souvenir shop, and the second is at Kingman (opposite end of town from the stop on the way up). This is fuel stop, but there is time to go inside and get a sub (there is a Subway) if you can't wait for Vegas to have dinner.

    On the way back, he puts in DVD's of movies. For us, he put in Sherlock Holmes (but it sort of crashed halfway through, and later put in Old Dogs).

    Going back over the bypass bridge, you are now on the proper side, so you can see the Dam. It may be dark, but if so the Dam is lit up. The driver goes slow practically on the shoulder so everyone can get a good look, but good luck getting a picture.

    The tour got back to the Vegas strip about 8:30. The bus driver drops off the passengers. If you want to be dropped somewhere other than your hotel, probably a good idea to tell him on one of the stops before, as he picks his route based on where people are being dropped off.

    There is a note on the info sheet you get when you get on the bus that a 'suggested' tip for the driver would be 15-20%. I tipped the driver 20 bucks, some others didn't tip at all.

    All in all I thought it was a great experience. I felt I had enough time at the canyon. Unless you want a mule ride or other trip down to the bottom, its a good enough amount of time. The driver was very professional and informative, and kept things moving well.
     
    Last edited: Sep 29, 2012
  2. DonD

    DonD Super Moderator

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    Thank you for a well done review.
     
  3. nostresshere

    nostresshere Mr. Anti Debit Card

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    Awesome review
     
  4. heatherlovesvegas

    heatherlovesvegas VIP Whale

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    Sounds cool! Wow what a long day though.
     
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