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21 Day Best of Europe Thoughts

Hello Everyone!

I went to put a deposit down on a cruise for 15 days for the British Isles. Then in the back of my mind, something was telling me to check out Rick's tours. I was SHOCKED to see the 21 days of Europe and it was $4,000 less than the other one I just put a deposit down on! However, I want to make sure, for that length of time, it was a good value. If anyone has been on this tour, can you please provide some feedback on it? I would greatly appreciate it!

Thank you!

Nathen Erickson

Posted by
39 posts

Hi There!
My family took this trip many years ago and we had the greatest adventure of our lives! We loved it so much that we went on to go on many other tours after that initial tour. I think it is the best tour with the best value that Rick Steves offers. Years later we still talk about that trip! Best of luck with whatever you decide.

Posted by
6364 posts

It is a great value! We've actually done it twice!

And I'm glad you asked if it was a good value. Is it expensive? Yes, it is. Do you get value for your investment? Absolutely! Could you do the trip cheaper on your own? Yes, of course. Would you have the same range of experiences? Almost certainly not.

Enjoy, and report back to us after you tour. We love trip reports.

Posted by
65 posts

Hello, We have that tour booked for August 20th departure. So we can’t report on it yet but I will say I’ve been on 16 Cruises and 4 of them were in the Mediterranean. I do like to cruise but it’s definitely different than land based tours. We plan on spending 2-1/2 weeks in the Uk and Wales after RS Tour. Will still probably be less than the cruise as all tour excursions can add up fast. I believe if you are able I’d take the 21 Day Tour over the cruise imho.

Posted by
15564 posts

Really understand that taking a RS tour is completely different from a cruise.

On an RS tour...

--you are limited to one carry on size bag and a personal item. You can bring bigger but you are responsible for your bag. No bellman service. This may include lugging the bag a few blocks from where the bus drops you off to your hotel and walking up stairs with it in hotels that don't have elevators.

--your room may not have A/C which could be needed depending on when you travel.

--you will change hotels every 2-3 nights.

--there are sometimes early starts.

For most, the above is not a problem. But if you are comparing to cruises it is a big difference.

Posted by
1579 posts

If the RS Tour is $4000 less than the cruise, that is some suite you must have booked!

I do like a cruise, but you will always see more on a land vacation, either tour or independent. So I guess the question becomes do you want the cruise experience? -or do you want to see Europe more fully? Even with the fast pace of the RS tours you'll still see more than you would on a cruise (European nights can be magical).

Posted by
1080 posts

A Rick Steves tour is unique, that's why I've been on eight of them. If you like learning about other cultures, interacting with locals in a meaningful way, walks through historic town centers, eating in places that the locals eat then the Rick Steves tours are perfect for you. The Hotels will be clean, centrally located and often quirky( in a wonderful way) but are rarely 5 star rated.

The experiences are what set the RS tours apart, I have made almond cookies with 80 y/o lady in Sicily, visited the manor house of a Countess and listened to her sing opera, made pasta with a Italian chef and then shared a lunch with him, sat on a rock as a Scotsman demonstrated his sheep dogs, sat in the small church where Silent Night was first performed as a local sang it for us, I could keep going but the point I'm trying to make is that RS tours have provided experiences that I treasure and are unique, if your the type of person who seeks this than the tours are awesome!

Posted by
1393 posts

I guess I shouldn’t complain, because my country made the cut, but I’m not sure I agree that this tour really covers the best of Europe.
Europe is spread out from Scandinavia in the north to Spain and Greece in the south. It’s pretty arbitrary to label the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Italy, Switzerland and France as “the best of Europe”.
I fully understand that “21 day tour thru 6 Western Europe countries” isn’t really a catchy name for this tour, but I feel that calling it “the best of Europe” doesn’t do justice to the other European countries that are skipped on this tour.

Posted by
56 posts

We did this 21 day tour this past September/October. This was our third RS tour and absolutely the best. The places visited, the sites seen, the local tour guides, the restaurants, etc. etc. all were excellent. The pace of the tour is quick but plenty of down time to recharge. Our guide was Andy Steves and he added much to the experience with his depth of knowledge especially in Rome and parts of France. Switzerland was our favorite stop. This is very much high value for the money spent.

Posted by
1259 posts

However, I want to make sure, for that length of time, it was a good value. If anyone has been on this tour, can you please provide some feedback on it?

The Best Of... tour are super popular around here. As others have tried to point out, comparing a river cruise with a bus tour is not easy. One of them may not interest you in the slightest for one reason or another. You can visit the RS video library and yootoob channel to view at least one clip about every city on the BOE tour, how to pack, and what to expect from your guide. You can also see Rick's complete guide to Mediterranean cruising to get a good comparison. And, of course, there literally hundreds of river cruising-specific yootoobs from happy and upset consumers and all the major and minor cruise operators.

The question of value is dissected into perception and cost. Only you can decide if the expense of either trip might satisfy your perceptions of entertainment, customer service, and adventure.

While I have not been on a river cruise in more than fifty years, a long and multi-river trip is definitely on my list. The idea of having the same room for two to four weeks appeals but I can see the imposed time restrictions and schedules perhaps becoming tiresome.

Posted by
14163 posts

I'm not sure you'll find anyone who didn't enjoy their 21 Day Best of Europe! I did it in 2014 and after 12 RS tours it still ranks up there as one of the top experiences. Wow. I saw so much, learned so much and enjoyed so much! Here is a link to my very old TR.

https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/tours/21-day-best-of-europe-8-26-14

I do recommend going in to Amsterdam at least the day before the tour starts to allow yourself some time to adjust to jet lag. As others mentioned this is a busy tour and you'll do better if you are well-rested to start with. I'd also recommend adding time on in Paris afterward!

I will add that I am not a cruise person. I think that is probably a very different experience. You do want to be in good walking shape. I like to be able to walk 6-7 miles a few times before I go on a big tour. I think there were 2 times we did 10 miles on this tour (Amsterdam and Rome). Of course you always have the ability to opt out but my word...I never want to miss a thing, lol!!

IF you wanted just Britain, the 14 day Best of England (or Britain as the guides refer to it) is an excellent way to see a variety of sights in England. The guides I've had for my tours in England have been awesome as well.

Posted by
8528 posts

@Frankll. Please stop telling people that RS tours limits them to one carryon luggage and one personal item. This simply is not true. This combination is the highly recommended one, but the truth of the matter is 1) no one checks how much luggage you brought 2) the truly important measure is can you handle your luggage yourself over a distance of several blocks or up and down a staircase.

Last year I brought a rolling carryon bag, a backpack carryon sized bag and my personal item. I found that Covid supplies just took up some extra space. Nobody blinked, nobody cared. As long as I managed my own luggage it was a non-issue. In fact, I often helped an older tour mate with her bag as well.

Posted by
1625 posts

Just did our first cruise to Mexico, and it in no way compares to traveling on the ground. The only authentic experience we had was one I booked on my own, a food tour in Puerto Villarta a 30 min drive from the cruise port, experiencing local food and drinks, taco stands, agua fresca on the side of the road listening to the story of the families that operate each place we went, walking the streets, interacting with the locals. Every other place felt fabricated and fake, with me watching the clock all day long. Our guide told us about a family that makes it's own chocolate and coffee, but the owner said don't bring the cruise people in too many of them, so after the walking tour I went there on my own and bought coffee to bring home.

The cruise is about the cruise not the ports. You get a small taste of each port and only see the touristy part of it, that is not traveling to me, it's like a rat race, rushing to see (not experience) the thing you're supposed to see being shuttled around and everyone knows you're from "the cruise" and you're treated that way. We did enjoy the service, the on-board activities, but we had 2 days at sea that I felt were wasted, I would rather have been on the ground doing something.

You will get a much more authentic experience with a RS tour on on your own.

Posted by
4 posts

My husband and I, along with another couple, did the BOE 21 tour in 2019. It was an amazing experience; such a wide variety of regions, cities and experiences. Our tour guide filled our bus time with background knowledge and history “lessons” of the area we were visiting, so we had a much better understanding of our experiences. We thought there was a perfect balance of small, historic areas and the bigger cities. And the included tours of museums, monuments and attractions were extensive - really a great value. We paid entrance for very few attractions on our own. Two we did arrange ahead of time were a tour of the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, and a ride to the observation deck of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Both are well worth it - particularly the Anne Frank House.

Although each tour member is responsible for their own luggage, we had no issues doing so (and we aren’t youngsters by any means!) I second the suggestion to pack a smaller bag to take to Venice and leave your bigger bag with the bus. It made that portion much easier.

You will have a wonderful time on this tour. We still talk about it among ourselves - lots of fantastic memories!

Posted by
1579 posts

Do we know if the OP went with the cruise? The tour? Or something else entirely?

Posted by
2464 posts

You must be booking one of the luxury cruises if it is $4000 more than the RS tour. I wouldn’t be spending anywhere near $4000 for a 15 day cruise ! Cruises by definition visit places that are near/on the coast. That’s why for me they are best for islands or places like the part of Alaska that cruises go to. For most of Europe and the British Isles, a land tour is much superior.

Posted by
14163 posts

@severhart - Wow, what a wonderful scrapbook! I loved your pictures...and wowser...did they bring back wonderful memories of this tour. Thank you for posting the link! I didn't know enough about tours and planning when I booked this one to think about doing it when you could visit Keukenhof. I had to do the Belgium and Holland tour a number of years later to get that in, lol!

Posted by
15 posts

I can't speak to this tour but we took at RS Tour during summer 2022. Afterwards I tried to price it. I found the hotels and looked at room rates (realizing they change constantly). I priced tour meals at $10/course because that's about what we paid eating independently. If we had a local guide for something, I looked up the cost of a guided tour of whatever. I priced the tickets to get into attractions and I put us on a train from place to place. Basically I found that the RS tour was about 1.5 times as expensive as my "do it yourself" version, but for us it was worth it. We never got lost with our tour guide. It was much for efficient. For example, in Rome, we boarded a bus with our luggage, got dropped off near the Forum, spent a few hours sightseeing and then got on the bus to go to Volterra. I wouldn't have wanted the luggage with me sightseeing and if we would have had to return to our hotel, gather our luggage and then head to the train station, we would have lost a couple of hours at least. Especially with a tour of as many places as you will see in that 21 day tour there is no way that on your own you'd be able to see as many places and do as many things if you tried to recreate the trip independently.