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1st Timer and definitely do not want to be a grump

I am starting this thread from something I thought about while reading another thread called "No grumps policy". Some one stated that they had been on numerous RS tours and encounter some people that were first timers that had not read the RS policy. They were surprised at having to carry their luggage, walk up steps, get up early, etc. Well I agree that there will definitely be people that figured that was just nothing but legalize that it would not really be that bad. I know that I will be carrying my luggage (got my new backpack bag to practice with), walk up steps (have stairs in my house so been doing a lot of them), get up early. Well that is where I cannot practice because I have no idea what is early for a RS tour? I will be doing the Best of Europe 21 day tour starting in April 2015 and just curious what is the earliest that travelers need to be ready to go? Is that the time after you have had your breakfast or the time you should be down in the dining area for breakfast? I plan on being very able and ready for this trip and we are very anxious to go.

I am in no way disagreeing with the post from the other thread agree wholeheartedly. You should figure out that there is a lot of walking just from watching his shows. Thanks for any and all information. Let my "getting up early" practice begin.

Posted by
263 posts

We did the GAS tour last summer and had one day where we had to be ready to board the bus by 6 am. Breakfast was served beginning at 5 am that day, so there we had plenty of time to eat and get to the designated spot. The other days we had to be ready by 8 (usually), and breakfast was always served an hour earlier than the gathering time. I think you'll find there might be one or two days that are earlier than the others. Having said that, early is a relative time. As a high school teacher, I'm always up by 5 anyway, and at school by 7am. 8 was practically sleeping in for me. I think the time depends on the bus scheduled (how long of a drive there is for the day), and any stops along the way.
On a related but side note, we didn't have any real "grumps" on our tour. It seemed most were just so happy to be on the tour that any unpleasantness was viewed as "just what happens". Happy people just tend to bring out the happy in others. Our guide was very good at just facing rain and traffic delays as no big deal. It happens in the States, it happens in Europe.
Have fun and enjoy the trip. We're scheduled for the Athens tour next summer and can't wait. In fact, I'm putting the stair master at the gym into my routine, just so the steps to the Parthenon don't get the best of me :)

Posted by
1894 posts

In my experience, the "walking tour" day begins right around 9am. Or if it's a travel day, the bus is USUALLY ready to leave (and you should be also) around 8-8:30am. Breakfast is USUALLY available from 7-7:30am, depending on the hotel. That being said, sometimes the bus needs to depart earlier (anticipated traffic, longer driving day, what the itinerary is for that day, etc.). You will be informed well ahead of time by your guide what time breakfast will be available, what time any scheduled activities will begin and/or what time you and your "stuff" need to be on the bus and ready to go. The next day's schedule is posted every evening in a conspicuous spot in your hotel. You will find out all these important logistics at your first meeting with the tour guide and your fellow travelers. You are going to have a great time; I can tell by your already "no grumps" attitude! Have a wonderful trip!

Posted by
5646 posts

Carole, we've only been on one so far, but I was surprised to find that many people in the group were unfamiliar with the RS TV show and/or had not really read the guidebooks. Yes some people struggled with having to be ready to leave in the mornings. You can skip breakfast, or have something ready in your room if you want to save some time. But there is a time the group has to leave, especially if there is a reservation at a museum for example. You can always opt out of a day's activities, but you can't miss the bus when its leaving. Its OK to be grumpy, just don't share it.

Posted by
507 posts

I would begin getting up @ 5:00 AM.

I am willing to send you my puppy to help as that is the time he begins making noises in his crate to let me know he needs to go outside. (joking) He is basically my alarm clock to get me ready for a trip next year.

On a pilgrimage our (DH & me) alarm did not go off as expected. Our bus was getting ready to leave when our 23 yr old banged on the door to wake us. Forget breakfast! We were out to the bus in 10 min.

I see grumps as a sun shower. Like rain they may temporarily dampen the spirit while the sun continues to shine.

My 2-Cents Worth

Posted by
556 posts

Carole,

I've taken 4 RS tours and as others have stated most tour days the bus leaves between 8:00-8:30 am, with breakfast usually starting an hour before that. Of course, there will be those days that you need to leave super early for a long drive, but those are fairly infrequent on tour. Don't worry about "grumps." Even though there seem to be more and more people signing up for a RS tour who don't necessarily know his philosophy, most people are just happy to be on vacation. And, many of those that do sign up for a tour and are familiar with his philosophy, tend to be similar in personality and pretty open-minded. :) Enjoy and Have Fun!

Posted by
11450 posts

I have only been on one tour. the 14 Day Family Best of Europe Tour.. and we seemed pretty lucky.. no 5 or 6 am departures at all!!

Usually had to be at breakfast between 7-.730 and bus usually left by 8.30.. but one morning it didn't have to leave till 9 am so we all had a later breakie!

Five is too early for me.

Six is ok.

Posted by
6 posts

There is WAY more to the "no grumps" policy. Nobody really has a problem with carrying their bags or what time the bus leaves.

First let me say that I have taken a Trafalgar and a Globus tour and I preferred the Rick Steves tour. That being said, the RS tours fall short in many areas. If this is the best of the guided tours, then I much prefer to travel on my own.

You will know when something is coming up that you will not like because there will be a pre-emptive "nobody ever has a problem with this" speech. Since you will be the first person in the history of travel who has a problem with it, you are a grump. Our guide even said "you get what you get and you don't throw a fit". This was said in a joking manner, but you could tell they really meant it. The only problem with that is that we are not in kindergarten and we are paying over $5,000 per person.

You will be staying in 2 star hotels. Slightly lower than a Days Inn quality. If you have been to Europe before and you know that they have better hotels and better breakfasts than what you get on this tour, you will not buy the party line of "this is what their hotels are like" and "this is what their breakfasts are like". I think they could afford to stay in better hotels, but that is not really my problem. My problem is that they lie about it and rely on the fact that most group members have not traveled to Europe before and do not know better. I guess this makes me a grump.

You are supposed to stay in small, family run, centrally located, memorable hotels. If that were true I would be willing to give up some comfort or convenience. The hotel in Haarlem, Rothenburg, and Beaune were all that and I enjoyed them very much. Most of the others were subpar. The hotel in Switzerland was the worst. It was in the middle of nowhere. There was not one other thing to do for miles. Yes the land there was pretty, but it was just as pretty in nearby towns that had more to offer. Anything to offer.

They say you are traveling "like a temporary European". The only problem with that is that we lived there for 5 years so we know better.

A few more specifics:
No AC and no fan. No AC is fine, but at least give me a fan.
Many breakfasts will be terrible. Bread and bad coffee.
You may share a bathroom with 6 other rooms. This is a bit much.
The age restrictions will be completely ignored. You may have children of all ages on your tour.
The assistant guide may stand in the front and block your view even though she has been to this place dozens of times. But when you have a question about this same place the answer will be to ask the lead guide.

Your guided tours, often complete with showing you pictures out of a book, will take up most of your time and you will have only a few minutes to explore on your own. If you want to spend 10-15 minutes each on only a few pieces, you are in luck. If the 4 pieces they choose to stop and show you are not what you were hoping to see, then you are not in luck and you may be a grump. At the Ufizzi Gallery we had 10 minutes on our own and at the Colosseum we had 15 minutes. I think they should tell you at the beginning what the schedule will be so you can choose whether you want to go on the guided tour or explore on your own. After the first couple of tours we started exploring on your own, and to the guide's credit, he facilitated this for us and did not treat us like grumps for wanting to break away.

I hate to be a grump, ok I don't really, but in my opinion "no grumps" = "be a sheep".

Posted by
639 posts

I've only encountered about 2 high maintenance, grumpy people on 7 tours. One of them clearly didn't familiarize herself with the RS travel philosophy. Essentially, everything about the tour was done wrong. Hearing the whining got really old, really fast.

The other was convinced that everyone hated Americans and gave her bad service because of it. Her definition of "bad service": different than what she was used to in the U.S. Expected everyone to change their customs to suit her notions of the way things should be.

Best advice I heard from a guide on my first tour in Italy: "bend like the willow".

Posted by
11450 posts

Wow Ann. I thought all our hotels were very nice, and we never shared a bathroom, and had ac in a few of them.

You must have very expensive tastes and like big chain hotels, and yes, have been visiting Europe since 1972, many many months under my belt.
I have stayed in at least 40-50 hotels in last 30 years, I feel the hotels rs use are quite typical. No one promised you 4 star hotels( and no I found the tour could afford them in some cities, in Paris a 4 star starts at 4-500 euros !!
Perhaps in the countryside it's better, bit then point is not to be on boonies.

The hotel in Switzerland was awesome , lovely walk to the castle. Its not all about the cities.

Breakfasts in some countries really is bread/pastry and coffee and the tour package does state that information,did you read it?

We had more time then you so can't address your issues with that.
Frankly , you do sound like a grump.. And not as experiencd in real travel in Europe, bet you lived on a base .

Posted by
11450 posts

Ann , would love to know which tour you took that you had to share a bathroom with SIX people!!!

Posted by
3 posts

Gee Ann, you make it seem like you were in prison, served bread and water/coffee and was let out for 15 minutes of sunshine, lol. Euro breakfasts are not like American ones.

You took other tours with big name companies besides Rick's, so you had some comparisons. As you know, with the other large tour cos, they have much larger groups - more sharing of space, more attention needed from the TD, more time spent on shopping and allotting for tips here and there. Rick has no more than 28 to a group, and a lot of the logistics are taken care of. Rick's itineraries and travel philosophy are spelled out. Once in a while things change for whatever reason as stated. But you would get that disclaimer on any tour.

If you lived in Euro for a time, then you should be familiar with it and know that Euro and American hotels are very different. You could have done a "my way tour" instead that gave you more free time and independence. That's why it's best for anyone to do their homework before jumping into travel. A lot of people love the charm/quaintness of Euro hotels/B&Bs. Some Euro hotels/B&Bs don't have elevators, AC or window screens like we do. I'm not sure about 6 people sharing a bathroom. Do you mean there was only 1 bath and was shared by all on the floor? Some Euro hotels/B&Bs don't have private bathrooms. I think if people travel abroad, it might be good to leave their comfort zone mindset at home, try to enjoy where they are and make the best of it.

About the kids being on tour - the parents or guardian are responsible. If anything was amiss, then the TD/TL should take care of it, just like they would/should if an adult was not nice. The comment about the 'sheep' - on a guided tour, the members do rely on the TD/TL to lead them along and instruct them, teach them about the sites/history they are going to see, etc. Isn't that why some people take a guided tour?

Posted by
64 posts

We've had wonderful experiences with Odysseys Unlimited - small groups (12-24), great itineraries, excellent guides, plenty of time to explore on your own, no added excursions, and very nice, higher end hotels. The prices are similar to RS, maybe just a tad more.

But, OU doesn't go to a few places I want to visit. I would love to take the RS England and GAS tours but I am very hesitant. My hubby and I are in our mid sixties and I've read too many comments here and in the trip scrapbooks where people stated they were "worried" when they saw older people in their group, or "relieved" that there were not too many seniors on the tour. I don't want to be seen as a hindrance or undesirable person on the tour. We are definitely not grumps, but we are people of a certain age. Just not sure if RS is right for us.

Posted by
672 posts

Anna, I'm completely baffled reading your post. You're referring to RS tours? We're currently on our 20th RS tour and we've never had to share a bathroom with one other person, let alone six. I feel we have quite a bit of free time to explore museums and various sites included on the tour. I'd be interested to know which RS tours you've been on.

Posted by
1064 posts

I have not read the No-Gumps posts nor taken a tour of any kind. I do wonder, though, if someone has lived in Europe for five years in the past, why would they want to take a tour? Even under perfect conditions, tours cost more, are locked into to fairly rigid schedules, and have a limited range of lodging and meal options.

Posted by
6 posts

Well Pat, I would like to take that bet. I did not live on a base. There are other reasons to live overseas, not just military. Someone thinks they are a little more clever and well traveled than they are. You can not really compare frequent travel to living in a place for years. I have done both. Sorry, you will not be able to one-up me on travel experience.

And yes, my tastes do run a little higher quality than we were provided on the tour. However, as I stated, I was willing to give that up in exchange for small, family run, memorable, centrally located hotels, which we did not get.

As for being a grump, I did not share my opinion unless I was asked, in which case I was honest.

Here was a typical scenario:
Guide says this (fill in the blank) is fantastic.
Tour members: Isn't this the best (fill in the blank) ever?
Me: No. It's OK or It's pretty bad or it's the worst (fill in the blank) I've ever had.
Tour members: Yeah, you're right I've had better or it's pretty bad or it's pretty awful.
Me: OK, so why would you just repeat what the guide says?
Tour members: Well, he said it was the best so it must be.

I have my own mind. I have my own opinion.

Not a sheep = grump. Fine with me.

Posted by
177 posts

Wow. I sure did start something. My whole intent on this thread was to find out what time "early" was when on the tours. My fault including grump in the title (just used it referencing where my question started). I believe the times that have been listed are really not early while on a tour. We prefer to get started as soon as possible to be able to enjoy as much as we can while in Europe. We (my husband and I) are fully aware of the extensive walking, climbing stairs and moving along but we also know that we will have down time. As for the places we stay during the tour we prefer to have something quaint and references the town we are in, do not want to be staying in places that look like something from home. We can go to the hotels here in the states anytime want something different. Thank you for the helpful information received through this thread and we plan on not taking any time (if possible) away from the planned events. In fact looking forward to it. We know how to keep on the move (been to Disney World many times). Thanks again.

Posted by
20 posts

A few years back my sis and I took the Venice/Florence/Rome tour. We were definitely not part of the "couples" clique who went out drinking in the evenings - weren't even invited. It was ok - we did our own exploring after hours. Our guide was a little on the "touchy" side - but she did certainly prepare us for being on our own in those places - and she got us to and back easily. We got on with her fine and I thought everyone else did as well.

I was then, a little taken aback, to discover on the after tour reviews how much some of the "clique" didn't like her and posted terrible things about her. Sis and I wrote to the RS company to counter those reviews and they were eventually taken down. Maybe we just weren't listening to the "grumps" on the tour.

Posted by
6243 posts

Wow, Anna says her RS tour was better than the Globus and Trafalgar tours. If what she says about the RS tour is any indication, I shudder to think what she says about the other tours. Let's face it, not everyone is a 'tour' person. I took many tours in the past with several different companies but now travel mostly independently. I always enjoyed my tours no matter how things turned out, I was just happy to be there and at the time that was the only way I could afford it and wasn't ready to do it on my own. Now that I travel independently, I doubt that I'd ever go back to tours - mostly because on a lot of my tours there were 'grumps' and 'ugly Americans' and I no longer have the patience to suffer them, maybe that makes me the grump now. Ha

If what she said about sharing the bathroom with six others was true (and not an exaggeration) that would not make me happy either. I think the 10 mins free time in the museum may have been a slight exaggeration, unless they arrived late for their time at the museum for whatever reason and that's all the time that could be spared before their next scheduled stop.

And, Carole, please take what Anna said with a grain of salt and don't let it color your decision about the RS tours.

Posted by
507 posts

Carole,

I stand by my suggestion to wakeup at 5 AM (5:30 latest)
to give yourself time to casually get yourself together, & to enjoy sometime to yourself before the beginning of the tour day.

My 2-Cents Worth

Posted by
688 posts

Lol, Carole......aren't you glad you asked ;)

Hubby and I have to be at work at 5 am so I know every day on our RS tour will be like sleeping in! I did order an alarm clock ad well as a couple packing cubes and a day pack for hubby.....getting really excited for our trip (and I can assure you I won't be a grump, but 8 can't speak for hubby).

Posted by
524 posts

Carole, it sounds like you are well prepared for the trip. If you can do Disney, you can do RS. I remember my own doubts when I signed up for my very first tour. That was over 10 years ago. I still take tours and travel on my own too. I guess I am now a person that is looked upon as old by some tour mates. However, I am able to take long hikes, climb lots of stairs, and spend hours in a museum without needing to sit.
I have been on 9 tours, Europe in 21 Days being one, the 10th coming up next Sept. I, frankly, do not recall ever leaving before 7 am, usually it's more like 8 or 8:30 am. I am one that likes to get up, get ready, and then relax before going down to breakfast. That is just my preference. I have been on tours where some folks would sleep till the last possible moment, then rush to eat breakfast and make the bus. That is their preference. The one single most important rule to remember is: do not be late.

Posted by
11450 posts

Anna.. I think you are exaggerating.. I do not believe you were made to share a bathroom with six other people on a Rick Steves Tour. I think you made that up. I asked you the name of the tour,, you have side stepped it.

You just wrote a little sample of a conversation you would have on the tour.. and frankly.. you sounded rude,, really .. you are bragging that you contradicted the guides up beat talk.. for what purpose.. to make yourself feel superior. Others seemed happy enough.. until you pointed it out to them. are you for real?

PS..I know people live in Europe for years and never become aclimatized.. never learn the language or adjust to the customs.. they stay in their expat world and stick their noses up.. good for you. You do not have my respect as being more experienced,, since I now doubt anything you say is true.. that bit about sharing a bathroom with six people .. well .. if a person says one untrue thing.. they likely say others.

Posted by
1064 posts

Anna, you may be on the level, but your failure to be specific casts doubt on your criticisms, which do not seem based on experience at all. As Pat asks, what RS tour did you take? Where did you have to share a bathroom with up to six people? And to rephrase my question, how could you expect a small, family-run place when the hotel would have to be big enough to house a tour group? After all, there are numerous lists of small B&Bs on the web.

Simply put, everyone is free to post opinions but general criticisms w/o supporting specifics don't carry a lot of weight.

Posted by
2147 posts

And this is why I choose to travel solo! I'm not a morning person at all and frankly some days on vacation I like to sleep in and get out the door at my leisure (generally by 9 am). Other days I have plans that entail getting out the door at 6 am, like a day trip via train, etc.

The thought of having to deal with grumpy or unpleasant people on a tour or staying in accomodations I did not choose for myself based on criteria (A/C, free wi-fi, en suite bathroom) made me try my first trip solo to London 3 years ago and I discovered I liked being accountable to no one but myself. I like a 3-closer-to-4 star hotel and budget accordingly, but everyone should choose according to what will make them happy, and frankly, being unpleasant on a tour is just plain rude. As the OP pointed out, Rick's tours don't seem to have any hidden surprises.

Posted by
8293 posts

It's bad enough to be a grump on an RS tour, but to be a grumpy SNOB is beyond the pale.

Posted by
1269 posts

drspoon - You will fit right into an RS tour. Most of the people I have toured with are in their 50s, 60s, or 70s, are fit and eager and able to participate in all tour activities. I've been on two tours in the summer where we had some kids and younger people. The fall tours I've taken have been mostly adults in the 50s to 70s age range. I've had people in their 80s on tours and they have been accepted and kept up with the others. I don't think it is an age thing, more a fitness and attitude issue.

Some people are just not tour people and it sounds like Anna isn’t a tour person. Tours and RS Tours aren't for everyone. There are many threads and posts from satisfied RS tour participants.

The RS hotels I've stayed in on 5 tours have been mostly 3 star with an occasional two star, and no shared bathrooms. On our tour last fall, I was surprised that a four star hotel was included. All hotels were at least OK, many were quite memorable due to interesting characteristics, caring owners, or outstanding locations. I've enjoyed the guided tours very much, and always felt I could wander away or skip any that didn't interest me. I don’t remember starting any earlier than 8:00 on any tour, sometimes 9:00. There is usually a day or two on each tour where nothing is planned and so tour members can sleep in if they choose. There is always time for breakfast before leaving for the day. You certainly don't have to get up at 5:00 or 6:00 if you don't want to as long as you are on time for the morning activities.

Posted by
672 posts

My experience has been exactly the same as Grier's. I would never go on a tour that required rising at 5 a.m. As for the age question, as long as you can keep up with the group, there's no problem what your age is. Generally, we've found that those who struggle aren't the oldest members, but rather those who are out of shape.

Posted by
64 posts

@Grier and Nancy,
Thank you! Your posts are encouraging to me. I agree that attitude and energy aren't always age-related. We had lots of fun on our last tour with a couple in their 80s.

Posted by
1894 posts

Grier and Nancy, I am in total agreement with your replies. You have succinctly expressed exactly what I have found on my 16 RS tours.

Posted by
556 posts

DrSpoon,

I am often someone who mentions ages of other tour members as something I try to find out about before signing up for a tour. I am in my early 40s and I often wonder to see if it's just me with "a whole bunch of 60 and 70 year olds." However, that doesn't mean I don't want to spend time with people older than myself. I just hope that there is maybe 1 or 2 other tour members closer to my age to chat with (just as I suspect you wouldn't want to be the only 60-something on a tour with all 30-year olds -again, you would still have lots of fun but you might wish there was at least one other 60- something). I have a wonderful time with all people of all ages on the tour. Most tour members have very similar styles and attitudes so RS tends to attract very similar people with similar personalities. Go and have fun!

Posted by
20 posts

First off, I love RS Tours. It is our preferred mode of travel. However, on the Scandinavian Tour, our group was split between 3 Bed and Breakfasts on Aero Island in Denmark. Six people shared two bathrooms.

Posted by
1527 posts

Drspoon- the steps to the Parthenon are not so bad. Our RS guide did them in stages, so that by the time we actually got to the top, it was kind of a surprise. Do be aware the stones can be a little slick, so don't rush.

You're going to have a blast!

Posted by
234 posts

Ok, I read all these posts and I just want to say - we are going on our 1st RS tour after doing our own thing for 20 years. I won't tell you how old we are and I won't say which tour (ok, Eastern Europe, twisted my arm). We are going to have FUN and if there are any grumps or Ann type people, I will be poking you in the eye. Be warned.......

Posted by
263 posts

@Judy in Saskatchewan- you have the absolute best attitude! Life is what you make of it, and you will have fun on the tour. For others that are a bit more negative-just remember that signing up for a tour means giving up some measure of control, and that not everything is going to be your way one hundred percent of the time. Flexibility means being able to fit in, choose to enjoy the experience (no matter what it is), and living life to the fullest!

@ Anna-please tell me what future tours you will be on so I can plan to NOT be in your group. I'm a happy person by nature, and really try to keep toxicity out of my life!

Posted by
11450 posts

Love Judys post too. you will have a blast.. really.. the people are fun.. ( well most of them apparently ) and I liked the hotels!!

Posted by
8009 posts

Carole, I am in the middle of the 21 BOE. we just arrived in Monterosso last night so it's a free day. So far we have had 3 departures at 745, the rest at 8 or 815. The first was the day we drove from Reutte to Venice which is a long way, the second was our tour day in Rome which unfortunately coincided with the free entrance Sunday. There were no reservations allowed so our guide wanted us there early which was a good move. We also left Rome early yesterday to be able to spend some time in Orvieto. The other days the departure times have been 8 or 815.

Btw, this is my 3rd RS tour and there are no grumps. I'm traveling solo and there are always people to do something with if I choose or I can do what pleases me. There was a grump on my 2nd tour...she griped about everything including the weather.

I have also done 2 Road Scholar tours to UK and that company would do well to adopt the no grumps policy!

You will have a wonderful time on this tour! Just a note about your April date...our guide said on his first 2 trips this year he had to shovel steps in the snow on the hike in Switzerland!!

Also a note about the guides...they are all different. I usually have a chat the first evening to let them know I am vegan and to say if the group meal restaurants can't accommodate me to let me know amd I can work out food on my own. This guide looked me in the eye and in his charming accent said Do not worry, I will take care of you. It is my job. and I have had delicious vegan meals every time. He is awesome.

Pam

Posted by
1269 posts

I think it’s unrealistic to think that everyone who goes on an RS tour loves it or is completely satisfied with it. I remember learning from a woman on one of my tours that her husband didn’t really have a good time and she would probably take another tour without him. On another tour, I heard that a couple wasn’t happy with the guide, as they believed they hadn’t been assigned any of the “better” hotel rooms at each stop. In both cases, the unhappy campers kept their negative comments to themselves or addressed them quietly to the guide, and didn’t complain and spoil it for the other tour members. I think the RS organization does a good job in preparing tour members for what to expect as far as hotel quality, amount of walking/standing, luggage handling, free time, guided tours etc. I interpret the “no grumps” slogan to mean if you are not happy, please don’t spoil it for others in the group. In the five tours I’ve done, there haven’t been any grumps.

Posted by
1131 posts

In 5 RS tours I would say start time (not including breakfast) was usually between 8 to 9a.m. And if it is a bus day you can always use that time to catch a few more z's. Also, I have never had to share a bathroom and many of the hotels were 3 stars or very nice 2 stars. I have only had one bad hotel room and that was probably because I was a solo traveler and was given the worst room (other folks reported nicer rooms.) I have had 3 great guides who are still Facebook friends, and 2 who were knowledgeable but arrogant. Finally food was always acceptable, sometimes outstanding (and I am a vegetarian. ) You will have a great time and make many friends because you already have the right attitude.

Posted by
177 posts

I appreciate all of the responses. It looks like the times are very manageable. In fact when you go to Disney World and can get in early we are at the park by 8 and that is with taking a bus and having breakfast. So the times will definitely not be an issue. Thanks again. Waiting anxiously for the trip.

Posted by
234 posts

Thanks for entertaining posts everyone, it's maybe good to be able to vent a little , however perspective is needed on what actually is a legitimate complaint and what is simply a a "s..t happens, you're in Europe" complaint. On the topic of early rising to get on a bus.....when you sign up for 8 days, 10 days or 21 days to do a trip, you have to know you are going to be on a bus for a length of time. I have been going to Europe for 10 years , 8 countries and still haven't covered the ground that a 21 day bus trip would do. I KNOW we will be on a bus and will be up and at it early. Luckily, we are going a few days early, before the tour starts and will be staying a week after the tour ends to catch up and slow down! Like my DH keeps saying ,"it will all be good"...

Posted by
4452 posts

Goodness, what a lot of fuss about bathrooms. We did the 21 day BOE a few years ago, and indeed we had to share a bathroom with 2 or 3 other rooms at one hotel. The hotel, in Switzerland, was more of an agriturismo or B and B. It was an actual working farm, and was delightful. Sharing a bathroom is not a problem: knock before entering, and don't wait til the last minute to "go." The breakfasts at this place were magnificent, by the way - new laid eggs, for example.

We did have one hotel on that trip (in Rome) where the breakfast was definitely sub-par. A few pastries and surprisingly bad coffee. Bread did show up as we were leaving, that first morning. The next day a few of us brought fruit and cheese to share, and it all worked out.

Carole, keep your sense of humor, be open to new and different experiences, and have a wonderful time. 21 day BOE really is the trip of a lifetime.

Posted by
8009 posts

Just wanted to add just checked in to the Hotel Stechelburg in Switzerland. I am in the annex. Rooms 21-26 on my floor which are 2 single and 4 doubles are sharing 1 ladies toilet, 1gents toilet and 1 shower. One double room is not occupied so 8 of us will be sharing.

The grump factor has been low on this BOE but I feel it will rise over the 2 days here.

Posted by
7 posts

My wife and I traveled this year on one of the May 2014 BOE tours. We had a wonderful time and enjoyed all of the hotels and meals provided. Special food requirements were never a problem (all of the food, including the "substitutions" were delicious). We stayed in the hotel in Switzerland with the shared baths. Each room had a private sink, one of the shared lavatories was available each time we went to use it and sharing the shower was not an issue, just required a little coordination of shower times. The staff, food and especially the scenery far out-weighted any small inconvenience. We had a wide range of ages represented and there was not a single grump in the group. We'll do it again.

Posted by
12131 posts

I have gone to the tablets of he who is Rick and I have deciphered the tablets and I reveal to you the truth. As it was written, so shall it be.

RS publishes that the hotels are “memorable, centrally located hotels” and you must be able to “Sleep with no (or inadequate) air conditioning and street noise in some hotels”. RS promised memorable. Sharing a shower with 6 others I think falls under the category of “memorable”. And at least one hotel didn't have AC; so I would say promise kept.

I didn’t see any statement of how many stars or private baths. Generally staying at a 4 star hotel would be a marketing advantage and would be promoted as such. No such promotion was made so you should not expect anything other than a common native hotel which is what it sounds like he is using.

I saw no age restrictions only; “Children under age 18 must room with and be accompanied on the tour by a parent or guardian, who is responsible for participating in all tour activities in which the child partakes” And the tablets in all of their glory were incomplete and it was found that there were indeed some age restrictions to be found in the Holy place of FAQ's.

You aren’t in Kansas any longer. Welcome to Europe. Use the experience to appreciate how good we have it in the U.S.

Posted by
875 posts

Regarding the age thing, I think in general you'll find that the city tours tend to draw a younger crowd (e.g., some upper 20s, 30s, 40s up to 70/80s). Due in large part that a lot of us are still working full-time and/or have less cash on hand (maybe) to do a two-week stint. I've only been on one of the 16-day tours. I was one of the youngest (around age 30 at the time), but there were others in their 30s on that trip.

The whole bathroom thing... my view is that it's two nights out of your life; it's not going to kill you. I also grew up in a big family, so this stuff just isn't a big deal. Get in and get out.
Read the literature, be prepared, but enjoy what you're doing. I think that's what RS is getting at with the no grumps thing is: put things in perspective and realize at the end of the day, you didn't starve, you didn't die, you didn't lose your house, and if anything, you probably had a nice history lesson, got to look at some pretty art, had a darn good cup of coffee at a cafe, and you got to look at a beautiful mountain. And you're not at work. A lot of people would LOVE to have the opportunity to travel so enjoy it! :) Have a great trip!

Posted by
21 posts

First of all, I love rick and own pretty much everything he's ever sold. I just returned from a boe 21 day tour in august. I thought the tour was pretty fun. I lived in germany for 6 years and return a couple times a year and have many friends there. I wanted to take a trip i didnt have to plan. I thought most of the dinners were great,some just good. Most of the breakfasts were pretty subpar, a few were great. As for the they don't eat breakfast or have good hotels or private baths is pretty old school. Maybe in the 80s, not now. Just walk around any town in europe and you'll see signs everywhere in hotels and restaurants advertising american or british breakfast. The hotels were hit and miss, some pretty nice in good location, some in towns or areas that didnt make much sense (lorch,reutte,florence). Most were 2 star a couple were 3, it's on the front door, can't miss it. Europe is like anywhere, you get what you pay for. The breakfast and rooms are on par with the quality of the hotel. I think the subject here is value for money. At 5400 dollars the tour is not cheap. I think the problem some folks have is most of the hotels are 70 to 80 dollars a night,(look them up) and as a couple you are paying 550 a day. The same old school goes for the hotels, with the internet and more options available hotels are way cheaper than in the past. By the way, I kept my opinions to myself. The hotel in switerland IS 3 miles from anything, only thing there, very pretty location but what part of the valley isn't? It would have been nice to not have to hop a bus or hike three miles to eat or do anything. You do share a bathroom, on my tour with 10 other people. Not a big deal, but with a tour full of teens it did get old to have to clean the urine off the seats every time you use it. As for the age issue, it's on the dvd for the tours, in the tour book and on all the paperwork I received. Children age 8-12 are welcome on the family tours and teens are welcome on the adult tours. I had a 9 year old on my tour and have been told by many other members that children of pretty much any age go on all tours. Look at ricks blog, 2 children under teen age were on the tour he just took. On my tour the 9 year old hit someone on the luge, hurting their hand pretty badly, rammed peoples trays at dinners, gave out candy or treats to people she liked and didn't to others she didnt, etc. BTW, it wasn't me, but I still did not enjoy seeing her do it to some of the other children. And before you say its the parents' job, remember she wouldn't be there without the tour allowing it. I think lots of people would not wanna go on tour if they knew kids of any age will be included. As far as the guided tours we were given 7 minutes at the uffizi and 15 minutes at the colosseum of free time to see them. I couldn't tell you about the rest, after those I skipped the guided tours the minute we entered a site. Just let me say that these were my experiences on my tour, not yours on your tour. I think people should be able to give their opinion and can agree to disagree. If i disagree with you I don't think you're a liar or a snob or dumb. I just have a different point of view and you weren't on my tour. The tour is like anything you purchase, you're allowed to say I like it or not. As for grumps I'd have to say that anyone who resorts to name calling and accusations if they don't agree with your opinion of something is someone I dont want on my tour.I had a good,not great time and that's ok.I just wanted to tell others about My tour experience.

Posted by
627 posts

just want to chime in about the Uffizi. We went on the 21-day best-of-Europe trip a few years ago and I kept a daily log. So I went back and looked. On the day we visited the Uffizi we had a guided tour in the morning and the rest of the day was free. So we could have spent as much time as I wanted in the museum. Perhaps the day is organized differently these days.

Posted by
1064 posts

At least it was someone citing experience, not submitting a laundry list of undocumented claims.

Posted by
1064 posts

Rephrasing my previous comment, emphasis added:

In this case, it was someone citing experience, not submitting a laundry list of undocumented claims.

Posted by
11450 posts

"Hotels were 60-70 dollars a day .. look them up."

I have.. the hotels we stayed at on the 14 day Family Europe tour were not 45-55 EUROS .. no where near.. I booked the hotel at beginning and end of tours( in Rome and Paris ) for a few extra nights.. and neither were less then 95 euros a night.. the one in Paris was actually 125 euros.. I would love to know where all these 2-3 star hotels for 45-55 euros are !!! Of course prices will vary from season.. but I can only imagine was a 45 euro hotel room is like .. and my sympathies to those of you who apparently were put in such rooms on your tour. Our tour much has been special.

And remember tour costs are not just your hotels.. GAS for that bus costs tons.. paying the road tolls.. and all the admissions that are covered ( unlike many tours that nickel and dime you .. showing a cheaper up front price but then you discover you have to pay extra to go into many places)
Your driver and tour guide are well paid.. many tours you are expected to put in at least another 100 EUROS each for both as a tip.. theres a few hundred dollars you didn't see in the upfront price!

AS for the age of children on tour and their behavior.. sorry .. that's reaching.. our tour had 14 kids on it and they were all well behaved , got along and were charming really.. I believe the poster who mentioned that one rude little girl is telling the truth.. she was saddled with a rude little girl on tour.. but that's a chance we all take with adults companions too on tour.. its not the norm.. its a fluke.

Posted by
21 posts

Pat,i didnt say 60 or 70.I said 70 or 80.and i'd be very interested in knowing how you looked them up since you don't know what hotels we stayed in and the guide told us 3 of them were the first time a rs tour had stayed there. As for the children, if they were great on your tour then that must be the rule.The point is according to all the paperwork from rse she's too young to be on the tour.so,i guess we ignore the rules that we want and are totally bound by the others.None of these things would have happened if they stuck to the rules they made.I guess by the reaching comment,i'm lying too.If the age isn't an issue then why have the rule?Because lots of people would choose not to take the tour.As i said before check rick's blog two children under age on his tour.I got the info from fellow travelers on my tour,many had taken lots of tours and they all said that was the norm.

Posted by
21 posts

BTW,you were on a family tour,age's 8-12 welcome.I was on an adult tour.According to all the paperwork,13 and above only.I would expect lots of kids on a family tour.I'm sure not all hotels were the same as your tour and mine was a week longer.

Posted by
21 posts

I would also guess,all of us are still "reaching" about the bathroom situation in switzerland.

Posted by
11450 posts

OK one bathroom situation hardly the whole rs tour experomce.

Secondly I just reviewed the tour FAQ , no where is there a " rule" about the ages of children on adult tours. There is some suggestions but no rule prohibiting children.

I think on 99% of the posts I have read about " adult " tours here that did in fact have a child or teen on them, yours is the first very negative one. Understandable perhaps as this child sounded like a bit of a brat, but most kids are not brats. I think its like a person going to Paris for one day and getting a rude waiter. He then tells all his friends the waiters in Paris are rude. He is not lying about his experience but he is attributing his one time experience as being the norm.

Posted by
21 posts

In all the paperwork and on the dvd it's said teens are welcome on adult tours and 8-12 on family tours.Maybe i misunderstood,but sure sounds like a rule to me or at least implies that's the way it will be.I've been around children all my life and I think I know not all are brats.When i asked the rse tour office about age's on the tour,they said they sometimes make exceptions to the policy.If it's not a rule then why do they have to make exceptions to something that is just a guideline.

Posted by
21 posts

I never said the bathroom situation ruined my tour,I just said it was the truth.Unlike other posts from people who were not there,but
knew everything about others tours and said people were lying or making things up.You're knowledge base of all rs tours, hotels ,rules ETC. is very impressive,especially considering you've only been on one 14 day family tour,5 years ago.

Posted by
12131 posts

@pat, I am with you on most of this. I haven't found the term "Adult Tour" yet, but I did find the distinction between "Tour" and "Family Tour" and the age requirements associated with the two options in the FAQ. To be honest I doubt that I could with any certainty identify a 13 year old vs an 11 year old or maybe even a 9 year old in some instances.

Are there any age restrictions for tour members?

Teenagers are welcome on all Rick Steves tours. Anyone under age 18
must travel and room with at least one parent/guardian. Our tours are
educational (heavy on art, history, architecture, etc.) which some
teens find borrring, so it helps for parents to prep them ahead of
time.

Teens and Pre-teens (ages 8+): We offer two kinds of tours that are
especially popular with families: Our two Family Europe tours are
educational and include kid-friendly group activities (swimming,
hiking, etc.) along with some flexibility for families during
unstructured time. These tours have a discounted price for kids 17 and
under. For details, see our Family Europe Tour Q&A. Our "un-guided" My
Way® Tours are also family-friendly. While not specifically designed
for kids, My Way tours give parents the freedom to decide on each
day's sightseeing priorities and pace. Our tour staff is happy to help
you find the best match for your family's needs.

Then there is the issue of what you get for the money. Do you realize that the 21 Day BOE costs $250 a day? In my humble opinion you can't beat that with a stick. But it wouldn't be possible with 4 star hotels. Again, in my humble opinion, It sounds like the RS tour folks are pretty much getting what they pay for so much as it can be controlled by RS. But RS tours aren't for everyone .......... including me ( I can't stand children and wouldn't want to be on a trip with even one well behaved child ). If what you have read here doesn't sound like your cup of tea there are some first class tour companies where you can get a 4 star or even a 5 star hotel, very small groups and all of the other trappings for as little as $750 a day.

Posted by
21 posts

Ok,I'll admit I was wrong.It's a restriction,not a rule.Big difference.I guess.

Posted by
177 posts

OK people I am the original poster and this topic has gone off the deep end. I believe I got my answer to my original post a long time ago. Some are now gone to another subject that has nothing to do with me. Please start another thread if you want to keep discussing. I am going to ask that this thread be closed by the webmaster. Thank to everyone that gave me the info I was looking for. Have a good day.

Posted by
12131 posts

Carole, you can always delete the thread yourself. Sometimes that is a good idea when it gets a little nutty or nasty.

Posted by
7657 posts

Carole, I've actually learned a lot from reading this thread. I've always wanted to do a RS tour, but now, not so much. I had always heard only wonderful good things about them, it's actually helpful to hear about the possible negatives. I could never be up and out at 7:45 am, or even 8 am, for instance (I've always been told RS tours don't leave before 9am). So, this thread has been very helpful to me. Thanks!

Posted by
21 posts

Carole, I would say the same thing about your thread.I just wanted to tell people what my tour was like and to inform others that may be interested about what it's like from my experience.I would think it's good for everyone to know a little about the tour.For some the children or hotels or breakfast are no big deal,for others they are a huge deal.I would think everyone would want informed people on the tour with them,if any of these things would bother tehm they may choose not to go and not make others unhappy.I said from the beginning that I liked the tour,didn't love it.I think 5400 dollars plus airfare and expenses is a lot of money and I wish I knew then what I know now and wanted to let others know and make up their own mines.You will probably have a great time and I hope you do.Sorry if it got ugly,I feel that I was just stating the facts from my experiences.

Posted by
1269 posts

It's good that this thread has provided different opinions and experiences. I do think that is more helpful than some previous threads where the opinions were uniformly enthusiastic. Another reason why it would be nice if RS returned to the old tour review format where one could read varying opinions.

I just want to point out that the shared bathroom seems to be limited to two tours, the 21 day Best of Europe and Scandinavia tours. There are lots of other RS tours that don't have shared baths. To avoid children, choose a non-summer tour date. Tours aren't for everyone and all the tour itineraries aren't alike and the more info one has the better to make a decision.

Posted by
875 posts

The more I read, it sounds like it was NOT the Swiss hotel we used on the tour I took, and the youngest person I've seen on an RS tour was about 15, so it does sound like we've all had some different experiences.

Susan, you can decide whether or not it's for you, but I think one of the city tours or regional tours taken in the shoulder season would likely have more adults, and you'd likely not need to share a bathroom, (if at all). Also, the actual time you leave the hotel on most days of RS city tours is closer to 8:30/9:00. So, I wouldn't throw the baby out with the bath water necessarily.

Carole, I hope you have a great trip!

Posted by
6 posts

So, I have not been paying much attention to all this. I am shocked by all the name calling and personal attacks by the good-natured open-minded RS travelers. If I had known this was an official inquisition I would have been more attentive and provided the specifics that were requested. I apologize for not reading this forum every day like a teenage girl checking facebook every minute.

I have to say, David, why in the world would someone who is a self-purported open-minded flexible kind of guy have such a problem with another point of view, to the point of resorting to name calling and personal attacks.

Some people on here love to say how smart they are and how stupid I am. An occasional fact here and there would go a long way towards your argument.

In my experience this is what zealots resort to when they do not have a real point to make.

Please take this for what it is, a free exchange of ideas and information, not an attack on your belief system.

Just sayin.

Posted by
6 posts

I would like to add that my comments were greatly exagerated by subsequent posters.

I never said that sharing a bathroom with six rooms, not six people, ruined my vacation. I said it was a bit much. I still think it is a bit much for 10 adults to share one shower.

None of my issues by themselves would ruin a vacation. However, given all the negatives I mentioned, as well as some I did not mention, I conclude that my tour was over priced for what you get. No one else has to think that. I will not say you are stupid if you disagree. That's a decison we all get to make for ourselves. Even me.

Some people might also me interested to know that our tour did not stay in Bacharach. We stayed in a town on the other side of the river called Lorch. Never heard of it? Neither had anyone else in our tour, including our guide. Bacharach was one of the places I was most looking forward to visiting. I know the literature says they may change hotels. But how about changing towns? How about skipping a town that so many people list as their favorite stop? The itinerary goes into great detail about staying in Bacharach and how great it is. There was really no hotel available in Bacharach? If that is acceptable, I guess it would be acceptable to change all the cities. Maybe Naples instead of Venice? Italy is Italy after all. While we're changing towns, why not change countries?

Posted by
3450 posts

Consistent with the theme of the OP, I can understand how someone might be a grump if they signed up for one thing and got something significantly different. I'd be grumpy myself at having to share a shower with 9 other people. That sounds more like a hostel than a hotel.

I'd be more than grumpy if we were supposed to go to a town I was excited about going to only to find that we were spending the night across the river. Somehow that misses the whole point.

It's really not about the specifics, but rather about the product as described vs. the reality. In this example, if we knew upfront that we'd be sharing bathroom facilities with 8 other people, my husband and I wouldn't sign up for the tour. The same goes for not staying in Bacharach.

There have been ups and downs with the lodgings we have rented over the years, but most have not turned me into a grump until we hit Bruges last year. We rented an apartment through VRBO for a week. It was a lovely place online and the exchange with the owner while booking was cordial. We arrived there only to find in the house rules that we were expected to clean the place the morning we left. There was absolutely nothing anywhere online or in our email exchanges that mentioned this. I was furious.

As we were using the place we found several maintenance issues, which my husband took care of. I would swear that the rugs in the bathroom hadn't been washed in ages. I tried to use the oven, only to have smoke pour out when I was heating it because the previous tenants had cooked something that left lots of grease inside and not cleaned it up. Fool that I am, I assumed it was clean and the glass front was black, so I didn't know there was an issue until it started smoking.

I tried to clean up the oven and finally gave up. I just shut the door and didn't use it. I cleaned the place the last morning while my husband did laundry down the street. I deliberately mixed up all the dirty towels with the rugs on the floor in the bathroom so that the owners would hopefully feel compelled to wash all of them. The sheets had seemed clean when we arrived, but my husband stripped the bed and put them with the towels and rugs so that they would hopefully be washed for the next tenants as well.

I can honestly say that the place was cleaner when we left than when we arrived, but I do not go to Europe to clean apartments. I learned my lesson and now make sure that cleaning is included or is at least mentioned. I don't mind paying for cleaning, but I will not stay in a place where I'm expected to do the work.

The point of that rant, is that when you contract for a product, you expect it to be what you contracted for. Grumpiness will occur if it isn't.

Posted by
6243 posts

"It's really not about the specifics, but rather about the product as described vs. the reality. In this example, if we knew upfront that we'd be sharing bathroom facilities with 8 other people, my husband and I wouldn't sign up for the tour. The same goes for not staying in Bacharach."

Very valid point you make Lo and I agree. The thing with any commercial group tour is that their contract (if there is one) will always have the caveat "we reserve the right to make necessary changes to hotels or itineraries". The same goes for cruises, they always reserve the right to change the order of ports or even the ports themselves. As long as you know that could happen, then if you sign up you accept that chance. My friend and I did a Caribbean cruise once that was scheduled to go to St Lucia - that port was the one I was most interested in - guess what? No St Lucia. Yes, I was very disappointed, but every other place we went was beautiful so I wasn't a grump for long.

I personally have never taken a RS tour and I don't know what the legalese in their documents says about these kind of things (possible hotel changes/itinerary changes, etc.). But it pays to read everything carefully before signing on the dotted line and if something you care about isn't clear - ask. If you know the possible risks and decide to go anyway then you can't complain and be a grump if it happens.

Posted by
21 posts

As I said before on this thread, I just returned from a 21 day rs boe tour. I also took an oddessey tour a couple years ago. The prices are very similar and theirs includes airfare with transfers to and from the airport ( no tip or charge,even if you use your own airline.). You can opt out of the airfare and get your own and the trip is actually less then rs. We stayed in all 4 or 5 star hotels, mostly 5 and they were really centrally located. All the breakfasts, lunches and dinners were awesome.With about the same amount supplied as rs.They all have ac,private bathroom,internet ETC. I guess in these hotels they don't have real european breakfast, none were just bread and coffee. In paris I was a 5 minute walk from the eiffel tower, in Amsterdam in the middle of the old town,in the middle of old town in brudges. All hotels were really centrally located. I never had to walk with my luggage for a mile to get to a hotel in some alley. Just let me say that if you have to hop a train and travel 20 or 30 minutes to see the sites, which we had to do at almost every rs hotel, you are not centrally located. I guess I don't understand the 4 or 5 star hotel not being european, all their hotels were european brands or owned by a european family and most were in old castles or in a 1100 year old former palace,former 14th century monastery Etc,sounds pretty european and memorable to me. A few are modern but,in the middle of the old town or right beside the main attractions of the city. They also have a 15 or older policy and they actually stick to the policy. Our group was 17 people on a 50 seat bus. On rs it was 28. I own a small business and don't know any business that gets a pass on everything as long as they tell you things may not be to your liking, but you can't complain or have any problem with anything because we warned you. I wish I got that kind of deal, I'll have to try the no grumps policy at my business. On oddessey all tips are covered except the guide, they suggest 100 euro's only if you're happy, with no pressure. Probably half gave something,half didn't and they didn't know who gave or how much,they gave us an envelope and said for everyone to turn one in even if you give nothing.So as to not be embarrassed if you gave nothing and left the room. Also no optional excursions or shopping tricks like the other companies (not rs). I guess my view of luxury is european, what watch or car or clothing or wine or whatever that's a luxury item isn't european? If you mean backpacking teens, that's a different thing. 2 star with shared baths,no ac, bad beds Etc is european for them. We saw 2 european family's look at the swiss hotel we were in and they both passed. As far as being friendly or nice, the people in a 5 star hotel are pretty darn nice and helpful. I don't always stay in 4 or 5 star hotels but I'm on vacation and don't really want to be covered in sweat trying to sleep with no fan or ac or very poor ac, bad pillows Etc.(in most of our rs hotels)and having to clean urine off the toilet every time I use it. Doesn't sound like a 16000 dollar vacation, that's what we spent with airfare and meals and transportation for three weeks.It's true they don't go everywhere rs does and he also doesn't go places they go.I'm not saying they were perfect,but way closer for about the same money per day.Just trying to point out we all have options.They also tell you what hotels you will stay and you're guide before you sign up and nothing was changed.We had two classical music concerts and farewell dinner in a palace (included in tour,no charge)Plus all admissions and front of line Etc.

Posted by
12131 posts

What's wrong with sharing a shower? Was it too small for all 16 people? I'm confused again................

I think @Anna came up short in the pre-trip planning. But hey, I do too sometimes. And yes, I can get grumpy if things aren't how I envisioned them to be. I don't doubt anything she has said about her experience. But to give a little credit to RS, I don't think any of the portion of the trip under RS control was outside of what was promised ... except maybe the underage kids. So I have compassion for her experience because it could have happened to me, but I also don't believe she was intentionally misled by RS either.

As far as the attitudes of people here. I think it gets a little rough sounding. There are those who are just obnoxious by birth and there are those that forget that the written work can be misconstrued if you don't provide some context for your attitude and emotion.

Posted by
40 posts

Rick's core philosophy is "through the back door," right? In Rick's super-clearly-stated opinion, you're not in Europe to experience luxury hotel accommodations, you're in Europe to experience the art, history, and culture. If you are in Europe to experience luxury hotel accommodations, his tours are absolutely not for you.

He says in just about every show I've ever seen that staying in luxury puts a huge buffer between you and the culture you're there to see. As he says, "it slams the back door shut." You're not in Europe to experience the joys of enforced shopping for tour company kick-backs or tipping your guide, you're in Europe to push the tables back at a tiny restaurant in Carcasonne and dance to ABBA after having the best cassoulet you've ever had in your life. He uses the money he saves from putting his tour members up in less-than 4 star hotels on, for example, having preeminent historians show you around a world-renowned cathedral. That's his style of travel. It might not be yours.

There is no sense in getting angry with people who went on a Rick Steves tour and didn't have the time of their lives because they didn't like the hotels or whatever. Some people love his tours, some don't. But to those people who didn't like the hotels or whatever, I have to wonder if you knew of Rick Steves before you signed up, understood his fundamental philosophy about such things, or read the tour materials. Because if you know of Rick Steves, you'd know that 5 star... even 4 star... hotels are absolutely not his style. Nor are big fancy breakfasts (especially not ones that advertise as "American-style,"), etc.

Do your research. If anything less than a 4 or 5 star hotel doesn't appeal, absolutely don't take his tours. If you love your big, American-style, fantastic breakfasts, guaranteed every day, don't take his tour. Personally, I am used to traveling lean... on my own, I have, for example, very willingly stayed in veritable broom closets, sharing bathrooms with multiple rooms of strangers, in Rome and thoroughly enjoyed my roll, Nutella, and drip coffee in the included hotel breakfast because I was in Rome to experience the culture and art and history and... Romanness... of Rome. Saving money on a room I was barely going to be in anyway so I could spend more money in museums, at little out-of-the-way shops, on cases of wine to ship home, and on fabulous meals (and of course the hundreds of euro spent each day on gelato) made a lot more sense to me, and is very much my style of travel. Which is why, I guess, Rick's style of travel and I get along so well. ;o)

Posted by
6243 posts

I'm not sure deleting the whole thread would be the best thing to do since there is some good information here for people thinking about a RS tour. I think the webmaster can, however, lock the thread to new postings without affecting people's ability to read it.

Posted by
10344 posts

Nancy, I've been trying to ignore the thread, but it keeps coming up. Jjust now scanned it and I see what you mean: contains some useful information.

Posted by
12131 posts

Here, let me see if I can get the post killed

"He says in just about every show I've ever seen that staying in
luxury puts a huge buffer between you and the culture you're there to
see."

I dislike absolutes. You would be hard pressed to convince me that I somehow I lost some sort of cultural experience if I were to stay at the Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace Budapest (#1 Hotel in Europe and #3 in the World 2014, Travel and Leisure Magazine). I would prefer to think that I would have a cultural experience that few would have the opportunity to experience. But for my taste, and its not right or wrong, but only my taste; I like a trip that has a little bit of a lot of extremes. We recently trekked across Bulgaria climbing into huge caverns, wadding into rivers and finding the joys of "Turkish Toilets"; ending in Istanbul were we stayed 5 Star and enjoyed the shortcuts provided by a top guide.

I think the RS tours are targeted at a certain income group and designed in such a way as to maximize the experience for the investment; and it appears they do a dang good job at it.

Posted by
21 posts

I'm trying to stop but just can't help responding.I've been watching Rick for probably 20 years.I love his shows and his view on almost everything.They are not big american breakfasts,they are very european with sausages,cheese,cold cuts.But,breakfast is not the most important thing in the world.I think I know what the problem is,everyone thinks you stay in the hotels on his dvds of his tv show or of the tour.or at least something similar.About half are sorta similar.The other half not so much.Florence- 4th floor of office building,Lorch,Ruette new motel 6ish hotels, Steckelburg hostelish.Lorch and Steckelburg not even same city as you think you're getting..Believe me if we stayed in the hotels like on his shows i'd be very happy.I agree with him about hotels,If you stay at a hilton 30 miles from the city you get very little europe experience.But a former castle really downtown.full of europeans is hardly a buffer and getting a good night's sleep will really help with the enjoyment level.Not all tour companies are the same,as I said Oddessey has no tipping,no shopping,no optional excursions.Very similar to RS.Great downtown european hotels and smaller groups and are cheaper.I'm not here to beat up on RS,just to tell people about other options.Our historian in Haarlem was our waitress at dinner.She was great but not a historian by any means. Almost all other guides especially for museums,castles ETC are employed by the place and every tour group gets them.I was really looking forward to the tour by the retired school teacher in Bacharach.Didn't stay there or meet him ( read the reviews,lots of peoples favorite thing on the tour).I totally understand when on your own you budget your hotels with other interests,I do the same.But,at 5400 a person,seems a little expensive for what you get.
Plus,if you have an age restriction you can't allow kids of pretty much any age to go,lots of people don't want to vacation with small children and would not go if they know it's possible they will be on tour with them.

Posted by
177 posts

Nancy I am working on getting the web master to disable the thread because I do not want to delete it either. James the thread needed to be killed way before your comment. Strayed from the original question and thought a long time ago. I plan on having the time of my life on this tour no matter what kind of hotel. I know what is in store for sure after all the information I received. Thanks to everyone on the wanted and unwanted info good or bad.

Posted by
21 posts

I guess I don't understand why some would want this thread locked.I agree it strayed from the original topic,but,I think most people agree it strayed to an informative place.This is a forum and it says rant,rave, talk about travel.Isn't that what is happening? I thought this was a place for open thought,idea's and discussion.Just because you do or don't agree or it strayed? I'm sorry sounds more like a fan club,not a forum.I like hearing everyone's opinion doesn't matter if I agree or disagree.I think I learn more talking to people I disagree with than people i do.

Posted by
1352 posts

I've stayed out of this discussion, but have to say - vicham I believe you have had your chance to rant. Sounds to me like you should stick to Odysee tours from now on.

I mostly travel independently, but have taken 1 RS tour in which all hotels were small, family run, centrally located and very similar to the ones on his shows (with wonderful breakfasts). I loved the tour and have been trying to get my husband to go with me on another. I also prefer to stay at RS type places, but will stay at a 4star if it saves me money (by bidding on price line). Would never want to do a trip where I only stayed at 4 or 5 star as I know its a very different experience and you have a totally different appreciation of the local culture at small places.

Posted by
40 posts

I dislike absolutes. ... I think the RS tours are targeted
at a certain income group and designed in such a way as to maximize
the experience for the investment; and it appears they do a dang good
job at it.

Great point, James. You're right, that is quite the absolute there. I think the bottom line is your last sentence, that Rick's tours target a certain income group and a certain style of travel, period. They are absolutely not for everyone. As I said, they fit my style of travel very well for an organized tour. Since, while I much prefer to travel on my own, his tours expose me to things I'd never be able to do on my own (like visit a private, family-owned vineyard, tour it with a detailed explanation of the harvesting and wine-making process, then sit down to a lunch prepared by that family), for which I am incredibly grateful. And as I said, I will stay in broom closets if it means I get to be in Rome, so I completely understand his idea of, "we'll not spend the majority of the money you're paying for this trip on luxury accommodations, but we'll spend it on other experiences."

I personally don't feel the cost for the Europe in 21 Day tour is too much for what you get, since what you're paying for is the guide's time, if you have an assistant guide, the assistant guide's time, the local guides and historians, half your dinners, petrol for the bus, rental of the bus (very large, so each person on the tour gets at least two seats to themselves which, for the amount of time driving, is a huge bonus in my opinion) the bus driver's time, all museum fees, miscellaneous expenses like impromptu picnics or boat trips and the like, and finally, the hotels. Etc. and so on. Plus you must factor in whatever the dollar-to-euro conversion rate is at the time, since 100% of your on-tour expenses are in euro, but you pay for the trip in dollars (right now it's at about $1.30). Honestly? $5400 sounds about right to me.

It sounds like the Rick Steves' style of travel is not to Anna's liking, and vicham would be much better served on her beloved Odyssey tours, which is awesome. Absolutely nothing wrong with that. I wouldn't call either Anna or vicham "grumps," I would call them folks who would be better served on other tours by other tour companies.

Posted by
21 posts

I have to add one more thing,I've heard over and over again about other tours that rs doesn't do and that's shopping trips on his tours.I remember 2 at least,In Venice we went to a mask making demo and through out the demo the lady was telling us about how they are the best,cheapest etc.and her shop is right over there.In Beaune we went to a wine tasting and the lady also was telling us how their wine was the best in france,blah,blah,blah and after the tasting came around with bottles and asked each person if they wanted to buy a bottle or two.That's two I remember for sure,both seemed pretty sales like to me.I might be wrong,but I sure felt like i was at a sales presentation.

Posted by
1352 posts

Wow Vicham - you sure have a bone to pick. I independently did a tour of a glass blowing factory in Murano where there was also a sales pitch at then end. I don't think you can expect to go to things like those without expecting a sales pitch whether you are on an organized tour or not. RS tour was just trying to give you the experience - I doubt very much if they cared whether or not anyone from the tour actually bought anything, and I'm willing to bet they did not receive any kickbacks. It seems to me you are using this forum to vent all of the frustrations you felt with your RS tour. Why don't you send them an email directly and get it all out of your system?

Posted by
8009 posts

I found the same as Vicham. While there was absolutely no pressure from the guide to make purchases it felt weird to watch the demo at the mask maker and the glass blower in Venice and the wine tasting in Beaune with no intent to buy. On future RS tours I will probably wait outside during a demo.

Posted by
64 posts

I appreciate everyone sharing their experiences here, including Vicham. Knowing what to expect when choosing a tour is crucial. It would seem that some of the actual experiences on RS tours vary a little from what is promised or advertised. That wouldn't necessarily keep me from choosing an RS tour but it's good information. I do think RS and Odysseys are similar options for small group tours (Odysseys caps at 24). Both have excellent, local tour directors, a nice mix of guided and independent time, and "back door" experiences. The main difference is type of accommodation and luggage handling. I would feel comfortable choosing from either company based on the itinerary offered as they both are great alternatives to the large group tour companies.

Posted by
7657 posts

Vicham, I appreciate all you've written here, thank you, it's been very helpful and informative for me.

Posted by
1269 posts

I appreciate all the comments too as it's clear that there are lots of different experiences on RS tours. My last RS tour included a pottery demonstration, a visit to an alabaster workshop, a visit to a Carrera marble mine/store, a wine tasting, and an olive oil tasting. I enjoyed all but one and didn't feel any pressure to buy but many of us did buy. Our guide specifically said there was no pressure to buy anything and said that the normal guide kickback was passed along to our tour members. She didn't receive anything and we got the best price. On previous tours I'd had wine tastings included in the tour but no visits to stores doing demonstrations with products to buy.

Posted by
40 posts

Huh. vicham, you really do seem to have a bone to pick about RS tours, and seem to be actively attempting to dissuade people from signing up for them. Again, just because clearly RS tours are not the right choice for you, that doesn't mean they're not right for everyone. I suggest you stick to Odyssey tours, since those seem to be clearly much more to your liking.

It's true that Rick Steves tours don't include shopping trips. They don't take you to a mall or to an outdoor market or to a leather shop or whatever with the express reason for tour members to buy something. If I'm wrong, please point to specific examples of this kind of thing. What you're saying is, a mask making demonstration, which is an experience. It happens to be in a shop where they sell masks. That's not a "shopping trip," that's a trip to see a mask being made. You said glass blowing demonstration. That's not a "shopping trip," that's an experience of watching someone blow glass, which happens to be (as they all are) in a glass blowing shop. You said wine tasting. That's not a "shopping trip," that's a wine tasting experience that happens to be run by a place that sells wine. What Rick Steves says is, they don't include enforced shopping trips specifically so the company can receive kick-backs from the merchants they take their tour members to. There is no pressure to buy from the guides on experience trips like, for instance, glass blowing in Venice. None of these are "shopping trips," they're experiences included on the tour. The people who run these places are probably going to ask you to buy something. But as Jill and others mentioned, there's clearly no pressure at all to buy, and if you do buy, not a dime goes back to RS. That is different from other tour companies. That's what people are saying. And on my tour, our guide actively DIScouraged us from shopping on the trip. She said, "I can't stop you from doing it, but that's not what Rick's tours are about. If you want to shop, please do it on your free time."

And the people defending RS tours are not doing so because they're brainwashed or because they're sheep or whatever. They're enthusiastic about his tours because they're excellent tours, and we have all had great experiences on them. Again, though, they're clearly not for everyone. And you're included in that "everyone," his tours clearly are not for. Go to Odyssey from now on and have a lovely time.

Posted by
21 posts

I did send private emails to the tour office,asking about the 9 year old on my tour,they replied that they reserve the right to waive the age restrictions ( which I found out later is common place) if they want.I then emailed them back, informing them about my calling before booking to make sure no one under 13 would be included and being assured that by the office that restriction is enforced and all the info from them saying teen or above only.I'm sorry,i don't wanna vacation with small children,my personal preference.Their reply back was my email is very important and someone would get back with me,I'm still waiting,it's been almost 2 months.The reason i'm posting here is I don't know of any other of place.I just want people to know things I wish I knew before I purchased.I think It's good for everyone,If you don't mind all these things wouldn't you perfer that someone who does not go be on tour with you? I also think that entertaining my group for an hour or two at no charge to me is sorta kickbackish.I'm not saying Oddessey or anyone else is flawless,just different but in some ways very similar.If the age restriction was adhered to and the hotels were just a little better (not 4 or 5 star) just upper 2 or 3,I would take another rs tour in a heartbeat.If you read the latest tour reviews others had problem's with the hotels as well.Maybe some have changed since some of you took a tour,I know on my tour our guide said 3 of them were the first time a rs group had stayed there.And btw,I never said that people that love rs or his tours are sheep or brainwashed,I own ,I think almost everything he's ever done,I like him alot.

Posted by
64 posts

I've been on tours with three other companies and have never been taken on a shopping trip. All three companies did have the demonstration-type experiences, after which you had the option to shop with absolutely no pressure from anyone. RS is not any different here.

Posted by
11450 posts

drspoon,, sorry.. those "demonstrations' are just shopping trips,, of course you don't have to buy , but if you do the guide enjoys the kick backs.. and most people do buy..

Have you been on a RS tour??

Posted by
295 posts

This thread is very long and has a lot of tangents. But I want to answer your question about timing for breakfast and when you need to be ready for your day. On average for the BOE tour we depart for the day around 8:30. That's an average. Sometimes as early as 8 and as late as 9. You will also have one or two free days when you can sleep in and do what you like. Breakfast typically starts at 7 but can be adjusted for the group if we need to leave earlier so folks aren't rushing. My tip would be on the days you check out of the hotel I bring my bag down to the lobby so I can enjoy breakfast and then be ready to go. I'm not a morning person but I still can get up at a decent hour and get breakfast and some coffee before taking off for the day.

Posted by
6 posts

Pat, you have seen fit to share your vast experience with RS tours based on your one tour 5 years ago. You have called me a liar about the facts of my tour (rs boe 21 day in July of 2014). I must be lying if all the details of my 21 day tour in 2014 do not exactly match the details of your 14 day tour in 2009. And now you are also the authority on all other tours:

'sorry.. those "demonstrations' are just shopping trips,, of course you don't have to buy , but if you do the guide enjoys the kick backs.. and most people do buy.. '

Please do share how you obtained all the knowledge necessary to make that statement. You surely must have been on many trips with other tour companies within the past year, or at least the past couple of years. You not only have knowledge of all the other companies demonstrations/shopping trips, but you have the inside scoop on who gets what monies. My goodness, you must constantly be on tour. Lucky you.

Posted by
55 posts

OK guys. Just saw this thread, since my colleague responded to the original question.

There seems to be lots of name-calling and accusations and downright rude responses here, which is not in-keeping with the tone of this forum. Carole, it seems your original question has been answered. I'm going to lock this thread now to prevent further unpleasantness, but I'll leave it here since responses, both on-topic and off seem to be informative and helpful to folks.

Some people like our tours, some people don't. It's the nature of the business. Thanks to EVERYONE who has shared their opinions and experience, both positive and negative.