Grand Circle Travel

time icon 6 min read update icon Sept. 20, 2019
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Grand Circle Travel is the leader in sailing adventures. Experience and enjoy exotic places in the comfort of a privately-owned ship.

Perhaps you’d like to take a vacation, but the thought of flying everywhere on the trip is not appealing. Dealing with airports, luggage, waiting, and more waiting doesn’t sound like too much fun, does it? What if you took a river cruise, or a small ship cruise? You would get to experience the excitement of travel without the airport hassle. If this sounds like your cup of tea, you can rest assured that Grand Circle Travel has a vacation ready for you. 

While Grand Circle Travel does offer many different land-based trips, they primarily offer a large number of Small Ship Cruises and River Cruises, all on Grand Circle Cruise Line vessels. Grand Circle Travel (GCT) is a leader in small ship cruising. Because the ships are small, they can get into smaller, more remote ports where large ocean liners cannot venture. This opens up a world of interesting day trips for your special vacation.

Grandfolk Scoring
Food 9/10
Ease 10/10
Getting there 10/10
Accommodations 8/10
Cost 7/10
Trip length 10/10
Warranty 5/10
Cancellation 5/10
Customer support 10/10
Medical insurance 8/10
Travel locations 10/10
Activity level 10/10
Can you accommodate special diets?
GCT can usually accommodate special dietary requirements. Be sure to speak with your Travel Counselor when you sign up.
How easy is it to sign up?
You can sign up online or call the number on the website.
Getting there
Are international travel and ground transportation included?
Depending on the trip you choose, your airfare may be included. You can also ask GCT to make your international travel arrangements.
What kinds of accommodations are provided?
If you travel on a land tour, you will stay in carefully selected small hotels. If you take a Small Ship Cruise or River Cruise, your accommodations are cabins on the ship.
How much do the trips cost and what is included?
Tours begin at around $2,000 and cap at around $9,000. Each trip includes accommodations, most meals, guided tours, exclusive discovery series events, all internal transportation, gratuities, beverages during lunch and dinner onboard GC Cruise Lines, and all port charges (up to $250 per person).
Trip length
How long are the trips you offer?
Trips range from 12 days to around 25 days.
What if I am unhappy with my experience?
Once you have traveled, there isn’t much you can do except leave a review. Prior to your trip, you can cancel.
Cost and difficulty to cancel?
Cancellation fees vary depending on when you cancel. All cancellations made later than 21 days after booking are subject to a fee of $300.
Customer support
Ease of access to customer service
Representatives can be reached by phone 9 AM-9 PM EST Mon-Fri and 9 AM-7 PM Sat-Sun.
Medical insurance
What if I have a medical emergency while I’m on the trip?
GCT strongly advises every traveler to purchase some travel insurance to cover medical issues, travel problems, etc.
Travel locations
Where can I go on these trips?
GCT travels to Africa, Antarctica, Asia, Central America, South America, North America, Cuba, the Middle East, the South Pacific and Europe.
Activity level
What is the activity level on the trips?
Tours are ranked from 1 to 5 (Easy, Moderately Easy, Moderate, Moderately Strenuous, Strenuous).
Age Score:
50-64 Years
65-74 Years
75-84 Years

Grand Circle Travel (GCT) offers tours for mature adults ages 50 and over. You can sign up for a romantic cruise on the Rhine or explore Christmas markets along the Danube. You can even experience England, Scotland and Wales on foot and motor coach. Whatever your choice, GCT will most likely have a tour for you. Be sure you check the physical requirements of the tour you are interested in. Even on a tour labeled ‘Easy,’ you must be able to walk three miles unassisted and most likely spend 3+ hours involved in physical activity. You should already lead an active lifestyle. Once your mobility has been compromised, it would be advisable to avoid these tours.

Health Score:
Poor Health
Fair Health
Good Health
Great Health

As noted above, you should already be leading an active lifestyle before you travel with GCT. Even ‘Easy’ tours are not for people in poor shape. Walking on uneven surfaces like cobblestones and even stairs can make these tours difficult. Balance and agility are also required. Some tours are not accessible by those in wheelchairs. It would be a shame to book a tour and then not be able to participate in daily activities. Those who are in less-than-good health should honestly assess their ability to go on one of these tours. The terms and conditions you must accept before traveling are strict, and any medical problems are the sole responsibility of the traveler.


  • You can arrange for pre- or post-trip extensions on some tours.
  • The website is excellent, and provides details of the physical requirements and accommodations for each trip.  
  • GCT offers several ways to save on your trips, including reserving early, frequent traveler credits and last-minute travel deals.
  • Each trip includes the services of a resident Program Director, who speaks fluent English.
  • If you book two trips that run consecutively, you save an additional $250 per person.


  • There may be between 24 and 47 travelers on a tour.
  • Cancellations are costly; be sure you are comfortable with the tour you choose before you book it. 
  • The insurance can be quite costly and does not cover as much as you would expect.

Bottom Line:

Grand Circle Travel (GCT) is a large company owned by Alan and Harriet Lewis. They are part of the “Grand Circle Family” of tour operators. Most GCT tours are held on small ships and riverboats. You can travel from place to place in luxury on a privately-owned ship. GCT has been highly rated as one of the best in cruise vacations by USA Today’s 10 Best, Travel + Leisure and other companies in the touring business. Although it is not accredited by the Better Business Bureau, it has received an A+ rating. 

GCT hosts thousands of tours annually, and there are bound to be a few unhappy customers when numbers get so large. Most of the complaints found on various websites are related to the Terms and Conditions document which everyone must accept before traveling. You should read and understand the terms and conditions carefully before agreeing to them. Despite these complaints, GCT has an A+ rating and thousands of travelers who return again and again. If you go in with your eyes open, you can have a wonderful vacation!

Frequently Asked Questions:

Can I add extra days before or after my trip? Some trips have extensions available, while others do not. The trips that do have extensions often have different lengths available to choose from.

What happens if world events might impact a trip? If there is any chance of danger on a given trip, the company will make a judgment about whether or not to cancel.

Do you make provisions for disabilities? Most Grand Circle trips are not advisable if you are wheelchair bound. If the trip is wheelchair-accessible, you must provide your own small, collapsible wheelchair. 

More Information:

Product Details



Overview:  All Grand Circle Tours include accommodations, most meals, guided tours, local Program Directors, most gratuities, all port charges (on sea-based tours) and baggage handling. On many trips, you can extend before or after the main tour, and these extensions often have at least two different lengths. Most tours have Optional Tours (for an additional fee) to enhance your trip. 

Package Details: GCT offers over 50 different tours: Small Ship Tours, River Cruises and Land Only Tours. Each tour has several different departure dates to choose from. Each tour is exhaustively described on the website, covering the accommodations, what is included in the fee and the physical requirements necessary to complete the tour. Each page also provides information about the weather, tips and advice for your trip, and detailed visa information. 

Other Services: GCT also sells travel insurance.

Additional Company Details

Contract Details: Reservations for land-based tours require a $350 deposit. Reservations for sea-based tours require a $500 deposit. Final payments are due at least 90 days prior to departure. Cancellation fees vary depending on when you cancel. All cancellations made later than 21 days after booking are subject to a $300 administrative fee. Furthermore, you will also be charged a portion of the trip cost depending on when you cancel. This can range from 10% of the tour price to 100% of the tour price. All travelers are strongly encouraged to purchase trip insurance that includes medical and evacuation insurance. The company can make your air travel arrangements for you upon request.

Warranty: GCT guarantees the best price and value for your tour. If you find a lower price for a comparable tour, the company will match it.

Accreditations: GCT has been ranked #1 (best cruise line) by Condé Nast Traveler readers for 5 years in a row (2012-2016). It has also been selected by Cruise Critic as an Editors’ Pick, and has been ranked among the best cruise lines by Travel + Leisure. GCT is not Better Business Bureau accredited, but has received a rating of A+ from the BBB.

Company Details: Grand Circle is dedicated to helping retired Americans lead vital, challenging lives. The company is the brainchild of Ethel Andrus, who founded the AARP in 1958. Grand Circle Tours is now owned by the Grand Circle Corporation, which was purchased by Alan and Harriet Lewis in 1985. Its mission statement is to be a “world leader in international travel, adventure and discovery for American Travelers over 50.” 

Additionally, GCT offers special awards and product training trips to associates, among other perks. It is a socially responsible company, and gives back to local, national and global communities through the Grand Circle Foundation. 



Grand Circle Travel
347 Congress St.
Boston, MA 02210
Tel: 800-221-2610

Donna McDurfee - Senior Advisor

Donna is senior researcher with Grandfolk® providing in-depth product and service reviews to empower senior buying decisions.