Grand Circle Travel began as part of Ethel Andrus' dream to help retired Americans lead more vital, challenging, and politically active lives. In 1958, Andrus - a retired teacher and principal - founded the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP). She then created Grand Circle Travel to be the travel service arm of this new organization.
Recognizing the power of travel to offer new challenges and to invigorate minds, she insisted that Grand Circle tours be designed specifically for her peer group-offering excellent service, easy pacing, and unique opportunities to discover local people and cultures firsthand. Today, these founding principles still shape Grand Circle vacations.
In 1985, Alan and Harriet Lewis purchased Grand Circle Travel and moved its offices to Boston. In 1998, the company launched what is now known as Grand Circle Cruise Line, a fleet of some 60 privately owned and/or chartered ships that bring Grand Circle Travel and Overseas Adventure Traveler passengers on river cruises and small ship adventures around the world.
The Grand Circle River Cruises Experience: Today, Grand Circle Cruise Line offers a variety of river cruise itineraries in Europe on The Rhine, Main, Danube, Mosel, Elbe, Seine, Rhone and Volga Rivers. Grand Circle offers a 4-star experience at a 3-star price for $50 to $500 less per day than other small ship cruise lines. The company strives to change their traveler's lives by offering affordable river cruises that engage them with local people and cultures. To date, 550,000 people have traveled with Grand Circle Cruise Line.
Fellow Passengers: Grand Circle's River Cruise ships were built to ensure the comfort of its customers who are retired Americans, age 50+. There is a high level of camaraderie onboard because the travelers are like-minded, well-traveled American retirees-many of them doctors and professors. Most of them are repeat Grand Circle customers who have developed a fierce loyalty to the company.
About one-third (32%) of Grand Circle's river cruise passengers book as solo travelers, 92% of whom are women, prompting Grand Circle Cruise Line to offer free or reduced single supplements, free single supplements on pre-and post-trip options, free roommate matching service, a complimentary online Travel Companion program, a best price guarantee, and a free 126-page tips booklet, 101 Tips for Women Travelers," which is available by contacting the company.
While occasionally Grand Circle travelers will bring their grandchildren on a cruise, it is rare and the minimum age requirement is 13 years old. Other than that, there are no age restrictions.
Amenities/Décor/Atmosphere All cabins are "outside" so every traveler can enjoy the passing scenery. Included amenities vary by ship but in general, cabins offer two beds, closet and storage space, a desk with vanity mirror, a private bath with shower, a direct-dial telephone, a flat-screen color TV. Certain cabins also feature balconies.
The décor onboard is casual (as is the dress code) and the ambiance is friendly and intimate. The staff and crew mingle with the travelers, which often leads to a very convivial atmosphere. All ships feature a smoke-free main dining room with a single open seating; a bar and lounge; complimentary coffee & tea (24 hours a day in the ship's lounge); a sundeck and fitness equipment. Complimentary wireless internet access is also available in the common areas.
Itineraries/Ship Sizes/Special Programming Goals The river itineraries offered range from 7 nights to up to 14 nights onboard and the smallest ships can accommodate 46 and the largest, 216 passengers. Grand Circle has more than 30 offices worldwide, which enables it to hire and train its own local Program Directors (guides) on its river cruises, operate and staff its river and small ships to control quality, and create "real deal" itineraries for travelers that include such activities as visits to homes, meetings with leaders, students and artists, and frank discussions about a destination's history, culture, politics, challenges and more.
All Grand Circle river cruises offer a good balance of included activities, optional tours and "free time for independent exploration".Gratuities
Shipboard: Shipboard gratuities to the cruise personnel are not included in the cost of the cruise. The ships' tipping guidelines recommend a flat tip of $10-$12 U.S. per person, per day, which will be pooled among all cruise staff.
Grand Circle Cruise Line Program Director: It is customary at the end of the trip to express a personal "Thank You" to the Grand Circle Cruise Line Program Director assigned to the group, especially if he/she has provided individual assistance. We recommend $4-$6 per person, per day.