Excursions from CG, Part II: ‘Nobody Likes to Feel Like a Part of an Assembly Line…’

It’s great to travel for a week or two with your friends, an adult group. So you can go on any tours without any restrictions.

But what if you’re on holiday with children? Little travelers will obviously get bored when seeing famous historical sites and listening to a very interesting but rather difficult for comprehension guide’s story.

Or you’re in Tunisia just for a couple of hours because the country is one of the stops in the itinerary of your cruise ship. Can tourists go exploring Tunisia in such cases or a walk along the shore will be the only experience they can count on?

The specialist with many years of work experience in the travel industry, Tunisia Destination Manager in Carthage Group, Mrs. Irina Boukadida, will tell us how to cope with such tasks.

In the first part of the interview we’ve discussed excursions for adults. Will they also be suitable for travelers with children?

Many of us, the Carthage Group team, have children. And we know for sure that a truly interesting and informative excursion is a kind of exploration which will help children prepare for adult life. Little travelers can get a unique experience on tours: they get used to long-distance trips, meet new people, and learn other people’s boundaries. On excursions kids learn and learn a lot, acquiring various useful skills, for example, just to keep up with the group!

However, it’s crucial not to make this experience a boring one for children. A guide may be super professional, information – really interesting but things that may fascinate an adult may not impress a child at all, so that the most wonderful excursion will seem dull and needless to him/her. That’s why it’s so invaluable for parents to be able to offer their child an itinerary and escort focused specifically on children’s perception.

Do you have any special family excursions?

I can say that Carthage Group is an innovator in terms of making up author’s family tours. Together with our colleagues, the team of the Tunisian hotel chain Novostar Hotels, as well as in collaboration with tour operators, we have developed the programs «Quest Trip to the Friguia Zoo Park», «Family Trip to Carthage» and others.

Tour operators provide vehicles for trips that meet all the requirements of safety and comfort when transporting children, and Novostar’s talented animators turn every excursion into an unforgettable adventure.

A Quest Trip to the Zoo? It sounds really interesting!

Yes, on the tour around Friguia Park the participants of our excursion not just look at animals as they usually can do on an ordinary trip to the zoo but make amazing discoveries.

For example, do you know how a leopard eats and if a mongoose can talk to a person? And which of the animals produces the magic pink milk? Our young guests know the answers to these questions! You should see how delighted children are when they count stripes on a lemur’s tail, measure how fast an ostrich runs and count how much time a giraffe sleeps, and finally get a ‘Young Zoology Professor’ diploma. The program of the quest-tour also includes a picnic and a mini-disco which give little travelers a whirlwind of emotions, much fun and bright smiles. 

On such a trip to Friguia Park no one will get bored! What about tours to historical sites, for instance, to Carthage which you’ve mentioned. The information given on a tour there is much more difficult for comprehension. How do you deal with boredom on such trips?

Speaking about Carthage, we’re happy to discover this wonderful ancient city together with the most curious little travelers, mainly schoolchildren. A guide in a simple, easy-to-understand language tells young tourists about the rich history of this place and gives interesting tasks, for which diplomas are also awarded.

The names of the first sailors and the main gods of Carthage, the chronology of amazing events that ancient stones remember – the participants of our excursions not only gain new knowledge, but also consolidate it in an exciting game with riddles, puzzles and crosswords. Information, obtained not in a tedious lesson but on the spot in a game-like form is memorized very well. A trip to Carthage is another family tour which both parents and children find enjoyable and interesting.

What about sea trips? Do you have any boat tours for the entire family?

Usually sea trips in Tunisia aren’t very exciting: there are pirates and animation, the program is quite ordinary and predictable. We offer our guests an ‘Adventure on a Pirate Ship’. It’s a special and memorable tour program that includes such non-standard activities as a treasure hunt, face art, swimming in the open sea and much more.

Parents are always happy to get involved, whether it’s a Pirate Ship Trip, or a tour to Friguia Park or ancient Carthage, in other words, they participate actively in all the family trips that we offer. We’re sure that such excursions aren’t just an effective way to learn a lot but a wonderful opportunity for a family to spend a great quality time together, to be on the same wavelength. It’s exactly like parenting books recommend but our ‘books’ aren’t boring at all!

Let’s consider some other ‘difficult’ cases. For example, when travelers don’t have much time because a stop in Tunisia is a part of a cruise itinerary. Can they really count on exploring the country in the circumstances?  

Yes, they can. But there are some nuances that should always be kept in mind. Thus, cruise ships usually spend 8-10 hours in La Goulette, the main port of Tunis. However, it’s impossible to get off a cruise liner right after it got moored in the port, and it’s necessary to come back in advance. Hostesses who work on board often recommend travelers to entertain themselves for 5-6 hours, for instance, have a walk around the port or take a taxi to Carthage.

It sounds like a good idea but the hostesses aren’t experts on Tunisia and don’t take into account some circumstances that make staying in the country not a pleasing experience at all.

Speaking about walking around the port, there’s absolutely nothing to have a look at, there are no souvenir shops, restaurants or cafes. It’s just a typical port, that’s all. As a result, it’s boring and sad, time’s wasted and the cruise ship continues the journey. 

A trip to Carthage by taxi can be an even more disappointing experience. 

Passengers of cruise ships are often considered by some entrepreneurial locals as Moneybags, so taxi drivers often charge fantastic prices for their services, much higher than the actual ones. And it’s quite explicable because the liner will sail soon, so there will be neither complaints about the service, nor tour operators as customers’ protectors. Easy prey! Moreover, during such a trip travelers will hardly see something really special since it’s rather difficult to get your bearings in a new country immediately. So, it’s highly likely that legendary Carthage will still be a mystery.

What if not to put your fate in a Tunisian taxi driver’s hands and book a tour with a professional guide in advance? Cruise ships quite often cooperate with DMCs, whose offices are located in the port. 

It’s one of the options. An advantage of such a solution is that everything will be well-organized: a fixed price, a vehicle with air conditioning, perfect timing. The offered tours are always almost the same: a half-day trip to Carthage or even for the whole day if a traveler has enough time, or an eight-hour trip to Dougga, which is a well-preserved ancient Roman city. It seems like a good idea but still there is a disadvantage of such excursions.

Such mini trips will probably be very bland. Tour guides, hired for a season, often mechanically declaim memorized information as if they were reading a guidebook. Ordinary ‘look to the right, look to the left’, that’s all. Maybe some tourists are OK with it but not everyone likes feeling like a part of an excursion assembly line. After gaining such an experience many travelers come to the conclusion that Tunisia is a country for a one–time visit and it’s not worth returning there.

To be treated as a Moneybag or a part of an excursion assembly line is really disappointing and unsatisfactory. What do the specialists of Carthage Group offer transit travelers?

We’re primarily interested in making every tourist who comes to Tunisia, be eager to come back to this country. That’s why we offer only author tours made by experienced guides, not temporary ones. For example, it’s an excursion ‘The Treasures of Old Tunis’ which is organized in the medina of Tunis, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s a walking tour that includes visits to gold and perfume markets, examining the fortress gates of a centuries-old Arab city, a walk through its nooks and crannies and a cup of famous local green tea with pine nuts in a cafe. It’s unusual and delicious.

Speaking about tastes, there’s another bestselling tour, a gastronomic excursion, which is not less popular than a walking tour to the medina. The first part of the excursion is a cooking master-class which we usually have at one of the restaurants of the capital region or at an olive oil factory. Tourists put on aprons like professional cooks and try to cook Tunisian stuffed pies, briks. There are no bad photos after such an event.

The second part of the excursion is a tour to the olive oil mill of the company Al Jazira. There travelers will have a unique chance to taste natural freshly-extracted olive oil, not a mixture of different varieties, which is usually sold in supermarkets. The taste of a natural product is a real discovery for many travelers!

Moreover, visitors can buy olive oil right there, it will be poured into a tightly closed container, in which the purchase will reach its destination safely. There’s an extra bonus: such a pleasure is cheaper than a store-bought mixture.

It sounds great! And what about the ancient city-state of Carthage? Do cruise ship passengers have an opportunity to explore it with your guides?

Sure. We invite travelers to both wonderful blue-white Sidi Bou Said and, of course, to Carthage. By the way, our tour program includes visits to some sites and attractions which are not included in the tour itineraries of many other companies. For example, our guests can see the villa of a rich Roman with a well-preserved mosaic depicting birds, and cisterns designed to supply water to the ancient city, and much more.

We adapt each of our excursions to a different number of participants, their age and interests; the main thing is to discuss all the details in advance. However, to discover Tunisia in a few hours is really impossible. But it’s perfectly possible to fall in love with the country and the hospitality of its residents, get a whirlwind of emotions and positive impressions. And Carthage Group will be happy to share the happiness with everyone.