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Our experience, new Covid policy

We just returned from Paris and the Heart of France. At our first meeting, one traveler said he had symptoms and would mask after that meeting. A bit mind boggling that our guide did not hand him a mask and tell him to keep it on. The first Covid case reported a few days later and then we were dropping like flies. Some reporting Covid and sitting in the rear of the bus, others coughing their way through the trip unmasked. One guy literally laid his mask over his nose on the bus and called it a day. The two of us came down with our first case of Covid. The group meals were the big weak spot in this new policy. We had a “Covid table” but it was only feet away from the others. We did room service or took plates to our room at breakfast but most folks just ate with the group. We skipped the final meal altogether to avoid infecting anyone. We have traveled a good bit since Covid and managed to stay healthy. This was our fourth RS trip and we have thoroughly enjoyed them but for the foreseeable future we will probably travel independently to have more control over the situations we put ourselves in.

Posted by
12 posts

I am so sorry, your experience was terrible. Sounds like you are saying that the Tour Guide did not tell the travelers who were sick that they had to mask? We recently received the updated protocols from RS for 2024 and they specifically state that anyone with symptoms must, and will be asked to, mask.

Posted by
20 posts

Victoria, the guide did not say anything that first night and there is really no way to be certain where it started but the first person to report a positive test did so several days after that. The guide did tell everyone to mask on the bus after that first positive test and most people cooperated. I would like to see anyone exhibiting symptoms to be asked to avoid group meals in addition to masking on the bus. That is really the weak spot in the plan.

Posted by
8615 posts

I am so sorry for your poor experience and illness. It is hard to pay so much for a tour and then have everything go sideways.

Posted by
256 posts

People on group tours have always been and continue to be susceptible to contagious respiratory diseases. Covid merely focused attention to this fact of travel life. No policy, including the more restrictive protocols RS used in 2022, will entirely prevent the spread of infectious diseases in a group setting. So those who are not willing to take that risk should not be on group tours. Tour guides cannot be the mask police.

Posted by
737 posts

Replying to tour guides cannot be the mask police. They certainly can remind people of the need to mask correctly and enforce the published guidelines. Don't they enforce other polices.

Posted by
597 posts

If tour guides are not to monitor mask usage, what is the point of the current policy for tours ‘requiring N95 mask usage when symptomatic’?

Posted by
20 posts

Covid is not just another virus. It is extremely contagious and spreads like wildfire in close quarters. The RS company has worked extremely hard to come up with policies to minimize risk but make travel feasible. I was pointing out the weak spot in this policy along with a couple of fairly easy tweaks that could help. We are all quite aware of risk involved in travel.

Posted by
2904 posts

So sorry this happened to you. The tour should be fun and stress free. Definitely include the guide’s reaction (inaction) in your tour review. Reports like this make me angry. If people are sick, at bare minimum, wear a mask, distance from others and avoid group meals. No longer are they asked to leave the tour; just to be considerate of others.

Posted by
110 posts

I am so sorry and hope you and your husband were not ill enough that you couldn't still enjoy your trip. And thank you for taking the time to share your experience.
Ironically I just re-read the Health and Safety Pledge and related policies as the date of my My Way tour approaches. There was a RS reminder to do so.
Simogolf:
If I exhibit symptoms of any contagious illness, I will notify my guide, quarantine myself, and, if requested by RSE, be seen by a health professional or be tested for contagious illnesses at my own expense as a condition of continuing on the tour.
For the 2025 tours, the language is "isolate" rather than "quarantine"?
In either case, masks are then required. And that means an N95 (firmly on your face!) when with the group. I agree with Horsewoofie that all RS guides, entrusted with the health and safety of the group, should consistently enforce what is clearly stated in the pledge tour members sign as a condition of travel.
I am certainly counting on that for my tour. And will contact the RS office otherwise.
The days of not being a grump is not enough, with the extremely contagious and unpredictable nature of COVID. I am so sorry others on your tour were so inconsiderate and another hope you're both fully recovered now.

Posted by
489 posts

Thanks for taking the time to share this report. I’ve been wondering about how many Covid cases there have been this year. I just finished the South England tour and everyone came through healthy, thank goodness. We were on a tour last year and my husband got Covid 5 days in and we had to leave the tour.

I’m curious, did anyone leave the tour or stay in their room or was everyone healthy enough to participate as you went along? It is a touchy situation to be sure. I’m sorry you missed being able to fully enjoy what that tour normally can deliver.

Posted by
855 posts

I am also sorry for your experience. You would think that after all that has happened over the last few years, all we have learned and all some of us have lost, that people would want to be more considerate of others so we can continue to travel as healthy as possible. Yes, we’ve caught colds on some of our tours, colds are not Covid no matter what some want to claim. So I say the opposite, don’t travel on group tours if you are not capable of being considerate enough to wear a N95 mask and keep your distance from others if you’re symptomatic.

Posted by
490 posts

I’m curious why the RS group dinners get blamed all the time. Perhaps it was the very sick couple who sat behind you on the plane? It’s the risk of travel, and it was so nice for it to not be the main topic of conversation on our latest RS tour. Our guide just briefly mentioned at the intro meeting to wear a mask if you exhibit cold/flu symptoms. That was the end of the conversation on that topic while on tour.

Posted by
20 posts

KD, a brief mention works if no one is ill. That was not the case in our group. Obviously you never know for sure where a contagious illness is picked up. When a group member exhibits symptoms of Covid and three days later folks start dropping like flies, you can make a pretty good guess. The group dinners get mentioned as this is a time no one, not sick travelers or those who use extra caution while traveling, can use masks for an extended time in close quarters.

Posted by
20 posts

The guides carry extra masks. They tell you that. He could just as easily have told the traveler to go upstairs and put a mask on immediately.

Posted by
669 posts

Thanks eds_77845 for sharing your experience. Within the last 12 months I traveled excessively with tour groups including RS, small groups with friends and family, and on a large cruise ship. Although I’ve been fortunate to not come down with Covid others have. On the other hand other respiratory illnesses have successfully attached my body as a result of someone joining the group while in the midst of an illness. It is no fun at all. I appreciate your thoughts and am reminded to remain vigilant.

Posted by
1411 posts

“ When a group member exhibits symptoms of Covid and three days later folks start dropping like flies, you can make a pretty good guess. “

Can you please explain what you mean by “dropping like flies”? Did tour members become so ill they had to be hospitalized? Or did people have to leave the tour?

Posted by
20 posts

Dutch_traveler, I am seeing you are from The Netherlands... maybe this is an American phrase? It just means people started getting sick at a pretty good pace. No one left the tour, no one was hospitalized. Thankfully, that is not happening much with Covid these days. Unfortunately it is still very, very contagious. In close contact, as on a tour like this, it is hard to avoid spread of the virus if someone is sick. RS has worked hard to come up with a policy to move forward but it does demand travelers and guides follow policy and show basic respect for other travelers.

Posted by
56 posts

We did the Best of Europe in 21 days back in September of 2022. Our guide was Andy Steves. Andy did a great job of informing us all of the protocols for handling Covid on that very first meeting at the first hotel in Haarlem. Throughout the tour Andy reminded people of the need to wear masks on the bus. We did have one person contract Covid while in Venice and they had to leave the tour. Andy kept reminding everyone to mask and anyone who was sneezing or coughing he had them test. The guide can indeed impact the potential for exposure but I agree, they can only do so much. On one of Andy's previous BOE21 tours in 2022 he had 14 out of 28 come down with it. We head to Greece in June and will wear masks on the plane when not eating. We are travelling independently and will avoid groups as much as possible. That and up to date vaccinations are about all you can do if we want to continue to travel.

Posted by
2499 posts

I am sorry for your tour experience. Paris and the Heart of France was my first Rick Steves tour, it remains one of my favorites! I have to add my experience to this topic. I went on 3 Rick Steves tours in 2023 and only one person came down with Covid and as a result, left the tour several days before the end of the tour. Her mother also left the tour. No one else became ill.
The tours were: South England in April- this was the tour with the Covid illness.
My Way Alpine in September and the 7 Days in Paris in December were the other tours. No one became ill and we had significant bus time on the Alpine tour. Also, we had group dinners indoors and no one became sick. Maybe we were lucky. I know I have learned from the Pandemic to maintain distance from people when in conversation, to not be too close to someone’s mouth as they are speaking.
I am leaving in a week for the Rick Steves Poland tour and will pack Covid self-test kits and N-95 masks. I will mask on my flights and be prepared to mask if necessary on the tour. Fingers crossed.

Posted by
110 posts

Per my previous post, what I'm still not seeing here is concern about the enforcement of the mandatory RS Health and Safety Pledge required prior to departure- as the original post shared, from the very start of the tour, this clearly wasn't followed by either the guide or some of the others in the group:
"Am I required to wear a face mask during my tour?
"Wearing a face mask while on tour is optional unless you're exhibiting symptoms commonly associated with a contagious illness (such as a cold, flu, Covid, etc.) while on tour, you will be required to wear a N95/KN95 mask on the bus and in other settings when with your group."

"I'll wear a mask AFTER the group meeting. Cough. Hack. Sniff." !!!!! What? Absolutely the guide should have pulled one out on the spot!
That RS has thoughtfully modified his company policy (one example: proof of current vaccination or carrying the CDC card no longer required) to still mitigate the risk of COVID in guided group travel is something I trusted enough to spend thousands of dollars on a My Way tour this summer.
The weak link is the at best ignorant or at worst selfish actions of others on the tour, and the need for every guide to adhere to the stated policy.
More thanks for sharing your experience!

Posted by
580 posts

Thank you for sharing your experience and sorry you got sick. I usually travel solo, but am seriously considering my next trip to Europe to be on a group tour, either a RS tour or another company. This was a very good reminder for me to consider the health factors that go with traveling with a group.

Posted by
144 posts

Thank you for sharing. I am so sorry to hear about your experience and of your first case of Covid. We have had it several times and some were mild and others debilitating, ugh. We are taking the RS BOI tour in August and I am concerned about the long hours on the bus. We will mask on the flight over except for meals. We will also mask on the bus. It makes you wonder if maybe that first meet and greet should be an open air event (not saying that is when the germs started spreading necessarily) rather than a large indoor group dinner. My thinking being that most everyone on tour will have recently been traveling through some very crowded places. Maybe if the first group meal were several days into the tour it could somehow weed out those who begin to feel ill before the large gathering. I for one love eating outdoors, weather permitting. Again sorry to hear about your experience.

Posted by
20 posts

LindaJ… we traveled with RS in both 2022 and 2023 and followed the precautions you mention. We are not masking much at all at home but we do traveling to avoid sickness which is no fun traveling! We escaped Covid both trips, even though one had a good number of cases. A bit of caution and respect goes a long way.

Posted by
965 posts

Thanks to everyone here for sharing their experience with our tours. Covid is still around, and eds_77845’s experience shows why we stress with our guides to follow our publicly stated protocols. This sends an important message, which we take seriously, and we assure you we will review all protocol with our guides and help limit the spread of Covid and other illnesses.