Santana Adventures

Santana Adventures

This company is truly unique in that they combine a cycling tour with a luxury cruise. By climbing aboard, riders are able to skip over many miles at night and see much more than they would have sleeping in a hotel. Originally founded as builders of tandem bikes, Santana started providing tours in 2005. They can supply their specialty tandems or link you with a supplier for a single. Sag-wagons do not sweep the route, but instead post at strategic spots and wait for calls. If you lament repacking after every stop of a cycling tour, then a cycling cruise may be the ticket for you.

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    Belgium, Croatia, England, France, Germany, Holland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Tahiti

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17 Reviews

  1. Jeffrey Comitalo, Pensacola, FL-Reply
    April 30, 2023 at 9:12 pm

    Our first trip with Santana (and, likely, our last) recently ended with a sigh of relief as we disembarked. My wife and I have traveled extensively by bicycle (16 trips and counting) and our trip to Japan was among the worst one we have been on. Given the terrain of Japan, we thought, what better way to see the country by bicycle than by ship, stopping from port to port. The Santana brochure gave a marvelous description of the tour, however, most of it was wrong – more on that later.

    To start, when booking a Santana cruise, you need a sizable deposit up front. You then have 2 weeks to decide if you really want to go; after that, a 50% deposit is required. This is because they need to secure the ship from which the trip will operate. If you decide to cancel, they charge a $1000 re-booking fee. If the room is not re-booked (unlikely as these trips, for some reason, are very popular) then you are on the hook for the entire amount. I personally did not have any issue with this policy though I am curious as to why one would need to hold back $1000 dollars, especially if the room is re-booked.

    Communication was poor. Do not expect much information about the trip until just a few months before you go. The first real information we got regarding this trip was December 29, 2022, and that was just about a packing list and adapters for the cruise ship outlets, not particularly critical info for a trip like this unless you had never done a cycling trip before. The next update had some helpful tips, like what Santana did not supply, such as locks, repair kit and inner tubes, water bottles etc. etc. This was more for the folks renting bikes rather than bringing their own as Santana is quite popular with the tandem cyclists. We knew there would be a pre and post cruise tour but no information on that was available until Feb 2023 (2 months before departure). And when we did get the info, you had one week to decide, otherwise the price went up $500. Based on the price, we did not want to do either one (good thing we did not as we later heard the pre-tour was a mess). However, we did inquire about what hotel the group would be staying. Santana guarded the info like it was a state secret. Our plan was to stay at the same hotel thinking that we could do our own thing before the trip and then get a ride to the ship with the group. How foolish to think that. If you do not do the pre-tour, you are on your own until you get to the ship. I do not have any problem with that policy but why not say that up front so guests can make appropriate plans? With other bicycle tours, all this information is available at the time of booking, often 8-12 month before the trip.

    More on communication: On other tours we have taken, ride profiles or the Ride with GPS maps are available for review so one can have an idea of what the trip will be like and decide what bicycle to rent (standard vs. e-bike). Not so with Santana. First e-mail that had anything to do with the tour routes was 2 weeks before the tour start, and this e-mail was geared to Garmin users. For those of us who only use RWGPS, this communication was worthless. Little did we know what was in store for us. RWGPS routes were available the night before the ride on the first 2 cycling days. On every other day, they were not available until the morning of the ride. I’ll have more to say on that later as well.
    Bicycles: Santana does not supply any bicycles for the tour. Santana arranges for rentals via a third party and you get your bike at the dock. They encourage you to pack up your own bike and bring it with you which was surprisingly easy except for lugging around a 32 Kg bike case. Be prepared for sticker shock if you rent. For a 10-day trip, a road bike will set you back about $800-1000. If you want an e-bike, $1300 (as a comparison, a cycling company we have used over 10 times charged $300 for an e-bike for a 13-day trip in Andalusia last year). And speaking of sticker shock, as this is a cruise, there are varying costs of the cabins based on size and location of your cabin. So, one person’s $6000 10-day Japan trip may cost another person $10,000 because they get a room with 50 more sq feet on a higher deck. Not really a great deal. And let’s not forget about additional charges such as port fees ($375 PP) and “cruise extras” (475 PP). This last item included off ship activities, admissions, guides, and rider support. As there were very few off ship activities with minimal admission charges, no guides per say (unless you took the bus), no support van and only 2 bike mechanics.

    The highlight of the trip was to cycle the Shimanami Kaido bike path. The ship was to dock at Imabari and pick up riders at the other end (Onomichi) of the 70 km bike path that crosses six islands. The ship was too big to dock at either port so it docked at Itozaki, 10 km from Onomichi (why was this not known 2 years earlier when we booked). Buses and trucks were then arranged to take cyclist and the bikes about halfway down the path to cycle back. Brochure – “the preferred starting point for this ride is the coastal town of Imibari, where our ship will briefly dock to set us off…Upon reaching Onomichi, enthusiasts celebrate at a waterfront bike shop that is also a pizzeria and cyclists’ hotel.” The only celebration to be had was packing my bike up on the ship’s deck that day as it was windy and slightly wet and Bill discouraged cyclists from riding due to the weather conditions, which, as it turned out, were not as bad as predicted. Another port of call, Kochi, has 2 iconic sites to visit, Kochi Castle and Chukurinji temple. While mentioned in the brochure, neither were discussed in the briefing of this ride and so both were missed. They were an easy bike ride from the dock. Shame on me for not looking beforehand but isn’t this what we pay the tour operators for? To quote the brochure again: “Santana’s carefully curated choice of daily routes provide interactive stops at samurai villages, feudal castles, swordsmiths, sake breweries, bamboo forests, pearl farms…” Except for the castles, we experienced none of this and these activities were not even mentioned in the daily briefings. Bill did talk about one castle in Karatsu and advised us to look it up in TripAdvisor if you wanted more info for a visit. No stop at Hagi, “another small port that rarely hosts cruise ships” per the brochure. Rather, we stopped at Fukuoka, the sixth largest city in Japan. You can imagine what cycling out of that port was like.
    And finally, about the brochure – there are many misleading pictures that are either photo-shopped (there is one of Osaka Castle with Mount Fuji in the background) or nowhere near the port. For example, there is a lovely photo of Chureito Temple and Mount Fuji. This image was even on our cruise ID and bike license plates. Unfortunately, this temple was much too far from port to visit by bicycle (70 km one way). Another is a photo of a bamboo forest we were to visit while in Ulsan, ROK. Besides not even stopping in Ulsan (port changed to Busan, the second largest city in South Korea), the bamboo forest pictured in the brochure is the one in Nara. With a quick internet search one can easily find the “photos” Santana used for these examples. One wonders how many more of the photos in the brochure are misleading (hint, most of them).

    Regarding the “carefully curated routes” – most of the rides were not very scenic, involved long stretches on very busy streets just to get out of the port town and were lacking in dining opportunities for lunch. And on several rides the RWGPS route has us turn off the main road onto a side road for a short distance (0.5 km on one occasion) before taking us back on the same road while having us cut across traffic twice in order to follow this “curated route.” Getting the RWGPS routes the morning of the ride left little to no time to plan for the day regarding cultural visits or possible stopping points for lunch. On 2 days when they did mention a lunch stop, one was closed leaving us miles away from even a Lawsons or 7/11 and the other ran out of food before we got there. And the support van was only for repairs or injuries. One rider asked if they had any food or bars on the day the lunch stop was closed and they looked perplexed, saying no, we only carry tools. Most off-ship dining involved getting a snack at the aforementioned convenience stores. Not exactly the cultural experience we were expecting. And unique to a cruise / cycling tour, if you took too long at lunch you may get left behind in port, waving at the ship as it sails to its next location. This meant time constraints on almost every ride in order to get back to the ship with time to spare.

    And one final note – this trip likely had over 300 cyclists (ship capacity 312). It may have been the biggest trip Santana has ever done. On our previous tours with other companies, there were on average 10-14 riders. This was quite a change from the much more personalized attention and cultural experience we are used to getting from our bi-lingual guides. It also meant leaving the bikes outside when you finished the days ride, sometimes in the rain, in order for the crew to bring them back aboard. This is not ideal if you brought your own bike. When putting mine back together once home, there was already some rust on the chain (bikes are also kept up on deck, exposed to the elements). The crew did a great job getting the bikes down 5 decks around a spiral staircase each morning and back up again later in the day.

    This review is rather long but I think you can understand the level of disappointment everyone in our party had with this trip. We did almost nothing that was described in the e-mail brochure nor was much of any of it discussed in the daily briefings. Many rides involved navigating through very busy port towns and were not particularly scenic. Almost all dining was aboard the ship and was typical cruise fare. While it was good, there was almost no local flavor to the menu. Not having to live out of a suitcase for 10 days did not make up for the fact that we were not really visiting Japan, but merely cycling in a foreign county only to return to our English speaking, “westernized” floating home at the end of each day. The best 2 days of this trip were after we disembarked and met up with our private guide for a 2-day tour of Nara and Kyoto. This review will not change any minds of the many repeat customers of Santana. It is not meant for them but rather those who are on the fence deciding on their first cycling cruise. While other Santana destinations and itineraries may be better, I am not willing to spend the money to find out.

  2. Japan biking-Reply
    April 27, 2023 at 4:28 am

    Embrace the Chaos!
    This is the most disorganized and disappointing company I have ever traveled with. Bill is absolutely awful and does not care about anything except the money he makes off of the trips. He also cares about his wine. The routes were horrible and the planning was chaotic. Please do not use Santana Adventures

  3. Stephanie, Oregon-Reply
    April 15, 2023 at 6:22 pm

    We are really impressed with Santana; we just signed up for our fourth trip. They take the ordinary hassle of cycling tours and elevate it beyond one’s imagination. The negative reviews below are old and illustrate how little the people understood before they signed up. We’ll never ride with another company!

  4. Janet Mayer / Greensboro, North Carolina-Reply
    December 30, 2022 at 11:44 pm

    BYER BEWARE! We signed up for and paid for a trip to Tahiti that was postponed three times and in the end we could not participate in. After “making our case” to Bill McCready, owner of the business, that we did not receive what we had signed up and paid for , we were told it was just “our loss”.

    I would never recommend taking one their “adventures” again to anyone!

  5. M Steffey Marco Island FL-Reply
    November 21, 2022 at 1:44 am

    We traveled with Santana to the Greek Isles in 2021 and Memphis to New Orleans in 2022. We have traveled with other bike outfitters. Disorganized, understaffed. burned out. arrogant only begin to describe the experience. Note that the positive reviews on other sites are vague and short. Believe the detailed, specific reviews that remain online (Santana is very good at removing negative reviews, I have screenshots of reviews that are long gone). Take your time and money elsewhere.

  6. Ty, TX USA-Reply
    May 2, 2022 at 5:35 pm

    We just completed the Tulip Tour with Santana Adventures. Not real impressed.
    First the good – the ship and crew were good with exception of internet wifi service which was horrible. Breakfast and Dinner were well prepared.

    Made the flights leaving and ship on time at call points.

    Then the bad:
    Routes had not been scouted in quite some time (probably 2 years, Santana staff often mentioned “last time we did this tour two years ago”). Lots of construction and unknown / no guidance detours had to be made. At two points we had to carefully ask heavy construction equipment to stop work while we walked past. Don’t do this group if you are not thoroughly comfortable navigating foreign countries rural areas on your own.
    Was not possible to obtain a sample of the likely routes pre tour. That would have allowed a little better personal planning on our part and aligned the expectations. Yes, we did ask for them a few weeks prior via email – received no answer on that request.
    Tulip Tour. Not a single tulip field ridden by or around. Missed completely one of the principal points of the tour.
    No sightseeing guidance and little time in towns to look around. Not even a city highlights ride route provided. Only thing provided was a brief writeup about the towns we stopped at.
    No snacking food offerings outside of the planned meal times.
    If you aren’t in to 35-60 miles per day, this isn’t the group for you. And this was a relatively flat tour. Be very cautious on tours in more hilly terrain.
    Limited choices in daily routes for length and difficulty. Minimum 30+ to 60 miles.
    Support while biking is LIMITED. Pay good heed to what they say they do. They aren’t kidding.
    Claims of clothes washing included in gratuity are for cycling clothes only. This was mis characterized in the pre-tour info.
    Complimentary wine, beer, and sodas are at dinner only. All other times charged. Water is your only free choice at all times. Mischaracterized in pre tour info.
    Forget lunch being part of your inclusion. Lunch most days are on your own with no suggestions. Mischaracterized in pre tour info. Only way to have lunch you paid for most days is to not ride. Further, “lots of places to eat along the way” comment from Bill simply wasn’t true on half the days.
    The non rider bus was ill planned and not well executed on 2 of the 6 days. Just understand, this is NOT the focus of this group.
    Somewhat of a medical emergency – tour staff never checked up. Thank goodness ship crew did and offered use of blood pressure cuff and other vital signs measurement tools. No sign of Bill and team. In trying to be fair, didn’t seek them out in the moment (but running out of dining room pushing people aside to vomit with wife running after crying ‘oh god’ thinking I was having a stroke, pretty noticeable, ship staff sure did). Did hear stories of other medical emergencies they did tend to.
    A participant made a mistake, albeit large one. Bill got up and ‘ranted’ to entire group over microphone at dinner calling the participant ‘stupid’ among other inappropriate comments. Eventually one of the other participants told him to knock it off. Most of us in shock.

    Unless you are a hard core biker, preferably on a tandem, who likes the “adventure” part of the equation with limited support, and maybe being called stupid in front of everyone, look elsewhere.

    Another thing that irked me was that staff acted a bit like this was their vacation ride. Staff are at their own prime center table and didn’t seem to make “customers first” the impression. This comment is just a feeling I was left with. Hard to pinpoint the reasoning, which is why I break out this comment here – so take this comment with a grain of salt. The other 14 points above are all factual.

    If those are your thing – then this is your group.

  7. Melinda S. Marco Island Florida-Reply
    April 18, 2022 at 9:50 pm

    Santana is a chaotic, unprofessional mess of a tour company.
    Some good parts: Fun and interesting fellow travelers, nice job on board by the American Queen Cruise Line Countess staff.
    Pre trip instructions stated E bikes were unnecessary, would not be supported, and are not available for rent. Because it’s flat. Arrived to find @ 15 e bikes, including rentals, and had two days of 1000 foot climbs.
    A “mid day feast” consisted of some kind of meat and seafood (server did not know what was in it) mixed with pasta,served in a styrofoam box with a stale roll. Vegetarians got 1/2 cup iceberg lettuce and the stale roll.
    The boat Bill chartered required us to carry our bikes up and down four flights of stairs every morning and evening. No rigging or plan on the top deck to stabilize or organize bikes.
    Nothing but sarcasm and non answers from Bill, the rest of the staff did a great job hiding, except the bike rental representative. Never knew what we were doing until we were heading out the door, and even then…
    One day the “short” ride was 40 miles : 10 miles on the levee (scenic, paved, bike path) and 30 miles on the levee service road (farms, industry, trucks, and no restrooms).
    The chaos takes its toll on the participants and the ship’s crew. Santana is clearly cutting corners to maximize profit. Tandem and single bike riders deserve better.

  8. Emily, Santa Cruz-Reply
    December 5, 2021 at 12:03 am

    ABSOLUTELY AWFUL EXPERIENCE. Went on the Bari to Venice cruise. Every day was planned by the seat of their pants. Almost every day, a road was closed or there was some other impediment to completing the course (inadequate time, launching us on a freezing, snowy mountain where the course took us up to higher, more treacherous road conditions). Tour director (owner) verbally abusive to guests. Ship and ship’s staff (not part of Santana) were great.

  9. Curt Haws-Reply
    October 20, 2021 at 8:39 pm

    Run! This was total chaos from start to finish. Any information about routes, ports, events , etc was treated as a state secret and not provided until the very last moment. The routes were not verified and some were dangerous (we are strong experienced riders that travel to cycle often so when I say dangerous I mean it).
    We met a lot of great people on the trip who are very loyal. I liked their companionship but don’t understand why they go back again and again. I’m glad they like it, but I hated it and will never be a repeat customer.

  10. Gee, VIC, Australia-Reply
    October 12, 2021 at 12:27 pm

    I am extremely angry and disappointed that Santana Adventures would not refund my family for the Italy cycling trip we had booked and could not attend because we live in Australia and are locked down because of Covid. We are legally NOT ALLOWED to leave our country because of Covid-19 lockdown restrictions and Santana Adventures told us that they will not refund or transfer the trip. They keep telling us they can’t refund the money because it is in a “trust”. And they clearly do not give a damn about their customers. There’s $8000 down the drain!!!!

  11. Kristin, San Francisco-Reply
    September 26, 2021 at 12:31 am

    Not worth it. They do not do what they advertise. Save your money and go with a more reputable company

  12. Emily, Capitola-Reply
    December 9, 2020 at 3:20 pm

    Our trip in October was canceled due to COVID. The owner, Bill, refused to refund money to the passengers. He won’t let passengers apply the funds to other trips. Instead, he is forcing us to go the following year. Many cannot participate for various reasons. The only other option if we cancel is that if can sell our reservation to another participant, he will keep $1,000 for selling our seat.

    I’m glad he’s not steering the ship. Obviously, he has no moral compass, which makes me think he has no compass at all.

  13. Catherine McCoy in Virginia-Reply
    October 26, 2020 at 2:53 pm

    Awful Company. We booked two tours with them for 2020. Both canceled because of Covid. This company has an not refunded money and they are holding it And promising to return it in two years! We had additional cruises with Viking and Princess for 2020 and received our refund within three weeks of the cruise line canceling. This is a deceitful dishonest company run by Bill McCready and his family. Do not book with them.

  14. Bev norris california-Reply
    July 2, 2020 at 12:55 am

    Really should stay away from these folks. They cancelled a trip to Tahiti for August 2020 as the ship Wind Spirit was not going into Tahiti. They cancelled, not me. Not refund of our more than $10,000 payment. Now they’ve had our money for over a 1 1/2 years. They want use to go in May, but we can not go. But will not refund our money. Be careful. Most reputable companies will refund if they have to cancel a trip.

  15. Kyle tucson az-Reply
    July 31, 2019 at 8:05 am

    Just finished a tour down the Rhine from strausburg to Amsterdam. Great concept and wonderful cruise line, but very disappointed with the Santana team. TERRIBLE customer service. They all seem very burned out They intentionally withhold information so that they can make last minute changes. They have a loyal following of tandem owners who seem to just accept Bills bad attitude. First day ride was pretty hot and the support van didn’t even have water for those who ran out. every announcement or exchange with the team was tainted with condescension. Pre and post tour group hotels were secretly guarded

  16. Shirley, Texas-Reply
    July 23, 2019 at 2:54 am

    Beware of Santana Adventures. They do not ride the ride before the guests. They get the GPS instructions off the internet the night before. Therefore, sometimes parts of the rides are not rideable. Also, they do not follow you in a van. You are on your own. There is no one to help you with breakdowns or provide water/snacks along the way. Since they are charging the same as other companies that do provide support, it makes you think twice.

  17. Shirley Crow-Reply
    May 31, 2019 at 7:19 pm

    We went on a Santana Adventure cycling trip in September 2018 and we were very disappointed. It was the most disorganized trip I have ever been on. There was virtually no planning in advance. There were many things on the itinerary that never happened or were grossly exaggerated. Many people on the trip were very upset and would never go on another Santana Adventure again.

    Read the fine print. They do not provide any support during your cycling day. You need to provide your own food and water; if you have a flat, then you need to have the tools to fix it; if you get tired, then you need to find a ride, etc. With the cost of their trips being the same as other cycling companies that all provide support, we were very disappointed.

    I could go on and on but you get the picture.