We just got back yesterday and used VIP Express for transportation from Houston. I have a bit of a mixed review for this service. First, Emanuele was excellent with communication leading up to the cruise. He was prompt to answer emails and always followed up his email with a phone call to see if I had any additional questions or needed clarification about anything. We had a group of 13 passengers ranging in ages from 2-80 and lots of luggage and car seats and strollers and everything else so it was important to me that we had enough space in the vehicle to be comfortable for the drive. He told me that we would have an 11 passenger van and a 4 passenger Tahoe and that we would have both vehicles exclusive to our group. He also provided two booster seats for us to use which was much appreciated so we didn't have to bring our own on the plane.
A few days before the cruise he called to let me know he would be charging my credit card. The total cost for 13 people was $650 roundtrip ($50 per person). Our scheduled pick up time was to have been 11:00 at our hotel in Houston. He called me a few days before and asked to move it to 10:30 which was fine with me as we had wanted to go earlier anyway but couldn't because he had another pick up at the port that morning. I had stressed to him repeatedly in the phone calls prior that we could be flexible on the times as long as we had plenty of notice as I didn't want to have all 13 of us be ready at a specific time and then have to sit around and wait especially since we had 6 kids in our group. The morning we were to leave, he called me about 9:30 and said it would be closer to 11:00 after all as the group he picked up were delayed getting off the ship. We were ready and waiting in the hotel lobby at 11:00. At 11:20 he called me and said he was "5 minutes away". He showed up at 11:40. Grrr... He also told me on the last phone call that he had two other passengers with him that would also be riding to Galveston with us. This was the first time he mentioned the other people and I will admit I was slightly annoyed. Technically there were two seats available and it was within his right to sell those seats but he had told me on more than one occasion that we would be the only ones since we had such a big group.
Once he arrived, he was very friendly and greeted everyone. He loaded all the luggage into the van and Tahoe and we were on our way. We arrived at the port with no issues. I confirmed with the Tahoe driver (who did not introduce himself and didn’t speak the entire ride so I don’t know who he was) that they would be picking us up at 10:00 on our return trip (the actual time on my written confirmation said 10:00-11:00). The Tahoe and the van had to drop off in different places so I was not able to confirm with Emanuele himself but didn’t have any reason to think that anything had changed.
On disembarkation day Emanuele called me around 7:30 and said that they would be sending two vans to pick up our group of 13 as well as 8 others. He wanted to know what time our luggage tags were for and when I told him 9:00 he commented that was late. Apparently the other group had an earlier flight out of Bush Airport (we were flying out of Houston Hobby) and needed to be on the road by 9:30. He needed to put 2 of our group into that van and I guess make them ride to Bush before dropping them off at Hobby. This was never discussed with me and I would not have agreed to it. He also told me that he had rescheduled our pick up for 9:30 prior to dropping us off a week earlier. I told him that he had not mentioned that to me nor emailed me to let me know there was a change. He said that he told the people that rode in the van with him but not one of the 4 adults who were there remembered him saying that. I told him that one member of our group was doing self-assist and might be able to get through customs but everyone else was going through the regular disembarkation process. Since that still left 12 in the other van it wouldn’t help anyway.
Disembarkation was an absolute mess on this day! We were told that there had been a medical emergency at the port as well as one of the gangways was broken so they were only letting people off in one place. I called Emanuele at 8:55 and let him know that they had just started allowing people off the boat (my brother who was doing self-assist was still in line to disembark). He claimed that the other group was already off and waiting for us. If they were, they must have jumped off the boat because everybody was at a standstill. I was waiting in the wheelchair waiting area on deck 4 and the self-assist line snaked all the way through that deck and up to 5 for as far as you could see. I told Emanuele that there was nothing we could do as we were waiting where we were told and that we would get off as quickly as we could. He then decided that he would send that van on and bring in the Tahoe for the rest of our group (which was the original plan anyway!). He said that the Tahoe was 15 minutes away so wouldn’t be a problem getting there on time.
I called Emanuele at 10:20 and let him know that we were all through customs and ready to go. He said that they were close by and would be there soon. At 10:30 he said they were 5 minutes away. He also let me know that the driver of the Tahoe would be his son and while he is a licensed drive, he did not have a “port license” so we would need to load up the car very quickly and exit the area right away. At 10:42 he called and said they were entering the port and reminded me that we needed to move quickly. I told him we would move as quickly as possible considering we had 2 80-year olds with us! I saw the van pull up across the way and the rest of our group loaded up. The Tahoe finally arrived and we jumped in. His son was our driver and was extremely courteous and a very safe driver. We arrived at the airport without incident and bid our farewells. Within minutes my dad realized that he had left his bag in the backseat of the Tahoe. I called Emanuele and he got the bag and returned to the airport immediately which was VERY much appreciated!
So overall we had some good and some not so good experiences with this company. My understanding is that this particular company is fairly new and is quite small compared to some of the other shuttle services (he told me they only have 3 vehicles). His pricing is right in line with other companies in the area that I found.
The good: friendly and very communicative before the trip, clean and comfortable vehicles with plenty of space for luggage, returned to the airport without hesitation when a bag was
left in the car, provided booster seats for the kids
The bad: I think that he tends to overbook himself and while I understand that he is trying to make a living, he also needs to make sure that he can fulfill the contracts he already has.
I also think that while his son was an excellent driver and I have no problems with him picking us up, I found it very unprofessional that we had to hurry into the car because his son wasn't supposed to be picking up passengers in the port.
While I do believe that he makes a strong effort to be on time, he tends to underestimate how long it takes to get somewhere. He always seemed to be "5 minutes away" but it sure was a long 5 minutes each time.
Disembarking the ship is always a bit stressful especially with a group of 13. I didn't really appreciate the phone calls from him throughout the morning making me feel like we were in the wrong because he had another group that needed to leave early. I know for a fact that when I booked his service several months ago that we were his only
pick-ups scheduled because we talked about it and discussed multiple times how he would send the two vehicles just for our group.
Sorry for the long review but I wanted to make sure and mention the positives and negatives since we had some of both. Overall, we made it to Houston and back and had a wonderful cruise so in the end that is all that matters!