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Make sure your RS tour complies with COVID test

Unfortunately on the tour I just finished last Saturday they did not ask for the COVID rapid test at the first Sunday meeting. On Monday and Tuesday of the tour one man was coughing , red eyed and wiping nose. I noticed this at the restaurant as I sat in front of him at a 4 top table. I should have gotten out of that place asap but I did not. I really let my guard down. Needless to say on the farewell dinner only 8 attended. Several were out with COVID. My husband and I also tested positive at end of tour. We have mild symptoms as we got the new vaccine right when it came out the first of September. For our last week in Spain we are holed up in the hotel where our tour ended. I think if they would have required the test at Sunday meeting this one man would have tested positive and could have been removed from tour and saved lots of people from getting COVID. He said it was a cold when I asked. But even colds can take you out for a week or more and ruin a trip. I just reread that RS pledge you have to sign. Your supposed to remove yourself when you have a cold or cold like symptoms. I think RS needs to rethink the restaurants on the tour. This is where I think the spread happened. We spent a week previous to our tour solo and ate outdoors. Stay safe everyone and speak up if someone on your tour is sick.

Posted by
3 posts

Dear Marina,

So sorry this happened to you and your husband, and other tour participants.

If everything you state is true, this is a horrible breakdown of Rick Steves Tour Policy. The guide did not properly follow stated company guidelines that every tour participant has agreed to adhere to. This placed the entire group at risk with terrible consequences.

We are currently in Spain awaiting the start of our tour. We will insist our guide follows the agreed upon rules. If not, we will leave the tour and request a full refund.

It is not the prerogative of individual guides to choose if they will or will not enforce the rules.

Webmaster -- Please publicly reaffirm all Rick Steves guides must follow and enforce tour guidelines that all participants have agreed to. Thank you.

Posted by
7135 posts

I’ve just been on two Rick Steves tours and all protocols were followed. We all showed our tests and vaccine cards prior to the first meeting. All the guides have been informed to do this and for your guide not to have done so was in my estimation an offense that could be considered cause for termination.

I do wonder, however, why you didn’t speak up and ask the guide why he/she had forgotten to do so? If you did, what was the response?

I agree that the restaurants are the Achilles heel of the tour program. Despite written assurances from RS tours that they were working to improve the situation with meals, I still saw several situations that were less than ideal in terms of spacing and ventilation. Some of the problem stems from RS tours has places they like to go and change is difficult. The rest of the problem is that change is even harder for the restaurants.

I hope you are feeling better soon.

Posted by
332 posts

@Marina, thank you so much for your candor here. Agree with the others and if something like this happens on my upcoming tour, I will say something right away both to the guide and the office. Not cool.

Posted by
34 posts

We are currently on the Village Italy tour and I’m happy to report that our guide did check everyone’s test results as well as our vaccine status.
Our tour originally had 25 people; one couple apparently tested positive just before leaving USA and one unfortunate couple tested positive the day the tour started so they were quarantined in their room and we never met them.
Thus our group began Day One with 21 people. the guide, Patricia, has been great about insisting people are masked on the bus and strongly encouraging mask wearing in crowded conditions.
We took Best of Greece in May and also had a guide who followed RS guidelines.
Really unfortunate that it seems not all guides are consistent.

Posted by
13051 posts

You really can't be sure where you caught Covid.

I was on a tour last April (non-RS). A few people on the tour tested positive on the final day. Two women, who I sat next to both on the flight to our final city and had dinner with the last two nights, tested positive. I never caught covid.

Everyone was required to wear masks on the coach and everywhere indoors. We could only take our masks off to eat or when walking outside.

Posted by
11898 posts

Thank you for posting. I have done a lot of tours and it would not have occurred to me that the RS guide would not follow procedure exactly as RSE has been very specific about requirements. I do have a tour coming up and the guide is experienced with RS so hopefully will not have to remind her.

People can always skip group meals if they are now going to work for you. I've traveled a lot with another tour company which has more meals included and wind up skipping quite a few of them. I'm vegan and the other company often uses hotel settings while I'd rather go for something more interesting. Yep, I know I've paid for them but it doesn't bother me to skip.

Posted by
6 posts

Hello Pam,
Your suggestion to skip a group meal as needed is good advice. Thank you.

Posted by
846 posts

Hi all,

Not to take away from the seriousness of this report, but I wish to begin by reminding those on upcoming tours that I can count on one hand the number issues we've had with guides as it relates to following our covid protocols on tour. That's with 27,000 people taking our tours this year. I may not be aware of all instances (though I'm quite well plugged in), so maybe it's on two hands. The point is that this is exceptional, and we're handling these issues as soon as possible once we become aware. Furthermore, we are trying to be as transparent as possible about the risks with covid on our tours in our weekly On the Road Reports at the following link. Current covid rates hover around 2%.

As to the specifics of Marina's report, we as a company do not find the reported actions to be acceptable and we will be following up directly with the guide to ensure our established protocols are being followed. While we will privately use our discretion to come to the right resolution with that guide, know that we're not afraid to replace a guide if that's what it takes. My point is that other tour members should not expect this on any upcoming tours.

I do want to say that you as a tour member on a Rick Steves tour are empowered. If speaking with the guide about an issue does not lead to a timely resolution to a problem, we do want to hear about it at our head office. We have a covid helpline phone number available to our tour members that you could use, or you can call the office directly (if you get voicemail, we're transcribing all calls and escalating emergencies).

Thanks to Marina for her report, and we'll be contacting her privately.

Posted by
11898 posts

Thank you Webmaster for being on top of this. I truly appreciate your work behind the scenes!

Posted by
311 posts

Thank you, Webmaster. As has been my experience with Rick Steve’s organization, top notch in every way.

Posted by
1817 posts

We finish our Portugal tour on 9/23 and then start the Barcelona Madrid tour9/25. One couple left due to Covid. Masking is done on the bus but some people tend to not put them on until they are seated. Not one dinner was held outside! Mask wearing outside picked up a little for a few days but tapered off with only 5 or 6 of us wearing them outside in crowded spaces. We are currently in Porto and it is mobbed.

Posted by
4990 posts

Not one dinner was held outside!

I am not surprised by that. I haven’t seen many restaurants that can accommodate 30 people outside (in Europe or the U.S.) and even if they could, they probably wouldn’t be inclined to reserve that space for a tour group. I know that was one of the things I debated when I was deciding whether or not to take a RS tour this year. I don’t blame the RS tours for this. You’d need to either take a my way tour or RS would need to come up with a new flavor of tour where meals were on your own. Breakfast rooms and indoor seating at restaurants are probably the biggest areas of risk, regardless of whether you are taking a tour or traveling independently.

Posted by
2050 posts

Marina, SINCERE THANKS for sharing what you experienced. Now with our fifth covid shots (two original vaccines and three boosters, along with "still" masking when indoors publicly and yet to even dine in a restaurant here at home, I have been looking at group tours, thinking perhaps with extra protection now, we might go boldly forward. We cannot "hide under our beds" (we are not really) forever!!

To be honest, your post has given we "cause for pause" --- it is, indeed, not yet time for us to join a group tour.

As a customer of any business, it is reasonable to expect promises will be kept. I am glad that the webmaster will be reaching out to you. While they cannot roll back the clock to redo what has happened, hopefully they will offer a future trip (and flights) to you, as well as compensation for your responsibly quarantining ( so as to not "spread the joy" to fellow passengers on the flight home). If the front-end promise had been fulfilled, I would not even suggest such........but, there was serious slippage of "brand promise," which seems to have had some serious consequences for you and other fellow travelers, who arrived in Europe with great hope and joy, assured certain precautions would be followed.

While, as an other poster suggested, it is not possible to be 100% sure where/how you got covid, but I think a jury of peers would make the same assumption you did..........especially since the guide failed miserably to take the promised front-end checking of test results. Yeesh.

That said, as I have been checking with some of my several favorite tour providers, not one seems to be taking nearly the promised precautions and reimbursements (if covid presents on a tour and one cannot continue) that the Rick Steves' organization is offering. Rick Steves' and company are to be commended for that!!! And, I can be pretty certain some serious follow-up has been taken with the guilty guide!!

And, if there is a mask mandate to be followed on the tour bus, I have to admit, if people were waiting until they were seated before putting on masks, my personality would subsequently have me standing outside the bus door to remind them, IF the guide did not agree to do that (and I would also ask the guide to make the long distance call to the RS headquarters so I could talk with them).......and, of course, I would do that in the calmest, most charming way possible......never raising my voice or being disagreeable.....just kindly, yet firmly asking that the "brand promise" be fulfilled.

As I noted above, I am NOT yet ready to join a group tour, so do not worry anyone (you will not see me at the bus door playing the role of "mask police" )....LOL :)

Yeesh....just yeesh!!!!

Again, thank you for sharing your experience. May all your future travels be filled with nothing but joy!!

Posted by
6 posts

I do believe that after almost three years lapses can happen but I am very secure that Rick Steves group has handled this situation very well. I would not consider any form of compensation from the company because I bought travel insurance for that although I don’t need to use it. I would say keep up with boosters so that you have mild symptoms if you do become sick on a trip. My trip to Spain was still wonderful and I learned so much. Happy Travels!

Posted by
1921 posts

Good attitude, Marina.
Hopefully people are going to the tour page the Webmaster linked above.
Though individual tours have different outcomes, a 2% positivity rate overall is pretty darn good.

Posted by
1350 posts

I recently completed a Rick Steves Tour. One of the things I did in preparation for my trip was to consider how I would feel and what action(s) I would or would not take if something like this happened to me.
I think hearing this story emphasizes how helpful thinking ahead could be.

It is mostly irrelevant to my point, but based on my experience up to now, I am on the more cavalier end of this issue. I do not wear a mask unless it is required. I did not wear a mask on the metro in Paris after my tour was over. I did comply with all of the rules on the tour (well, I was a little late in putting my mask on when we entered Versailles, but as soon as I noticed, I put it on).

Even with my lax attitude, I would have questioned the guide during the first meeting if she neglected to check vaccination records and test kits. Every tour member signed an agreement to follow a basic set of rules in order to reduce risks to the group. This only works if all comply and it is monitored and enforced. If I wasn't comfortable (I would be) speaking directly to the tour guide, I would have called RS main office and reported it. This way, there is a chance of righting the situation before it got out of hand.

If you don't consider the possibilites ahead of time, you can get caught off guard.

Posted by
94 posts

While our upcoming Oct 7th RS trip will be our first since Covid – we had a RS guide several years ago who I’d think RS would find well below standard – many of us on the tour felt this guide often acted rudely, like a teacher who no longer cared because he had tenure / spoke several languages - so sadly, since that experience, I can see how a RS guide could not care about the rules - ***hope that’s now taken care of & is no longer a threat to us

My husband & I haven’t gotten Covid. We live a healthy lifestyle in a tiny mountain village. We do wear mask around other people inside (sometimes the only ones) & we got our Moderna Bivalent Vaccine September 9th

Fingers crossed that people do that right thing & that no gets ill