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2nd half travel:Any modifications to your original description or itinerary due to covid?

Hi everyone--we are headed to Best of Eastern Europe in September.

We received a global email from RS travel, and this is what I read between the lines, that indicated that they were assessing the first half of this year's tours and making changes to the second half of the year's tours. Non specific, but dining together seemed to be in the cross hairs. This tour seems to have more bus time (translate- alot of mask wearing, I get it) than the previous tour we took in those halcyon days of 2019.

I understand that travel requires rolling with the punches, but if anyone has anything to share from the late July through August tours and any modifications, I would appreciate knowing. I don't want to approach my tour with "expect the worse thing possible" mentality because that isn't what RS tours are all about. I'm just curious if it's biz as usual or there have been modifications that ultimately impact the experience.

Posted by
8500 posts

I have not seen any changes in the itinerary for my Sept 4th tour. Last minute changes are always possible for a variety of reasons on any tour.

Posted by
111 posts

Which departure date? We'll be on the September 4 Eastern Europe tour. I did not get the impression that dining together would be out - just that RS was going to evaluate the dining locations, choosing restaurants that offered outdoor dining when possible, or more spacious and better-ventilated locations.

Posted by
11374 posts

Believing that eating as a group indoors or in poorly ventilated dining rooms may be needlessly risky, we're working to make meals safer for our upcoming groups. And to support any traveler who needs to leave the tour because of a positive test, we're dedicating more staff to help these travelers with finding accommodations, changing flights, and dealing with their travel insurance company https://www.ricksteves.com/tours/on-the-road-reports

I see that at as effort to make changes, where possible, to minimize having what is now considered 'crowded indoor dining'.; Not revamping tour itineraries

Posted by
327 posts

We are late September.

I was just asking people who have been on a tour since this email from RS office was sent, if any changes have been made to their tour. Like the group dining.

My interpretation of the RS email is that there were going to be changes to upcoming tours and I am trying to learn ahead of time what those changes were.

Posted by
111 posts

Two weeks ago, we received an email from the office that included the following:

We've learned so much through the first half of 2022, which we're applying to our policies going forward. For example, we believe one of the highest-risk activities on tour is when we have a meal together. While we strongly prefer outdoor dining anytime the weather and restaurant setting allows, the reality is that your tour will include indoor meals. We continue to look for restaurants that are as spacious and well-ventilated as possible and are doing our best to address the ones that we believe present the highest risk. (This may involve some creative solutions…stay tuned.)

Posted by
111 posts

We're leaving in three weeks. If I am able, I'll post a report early in the trip about the changes I've noticed - we were also on a May tour, so hopefully that gives me a basis for comparison.

Posted by
327 posts

Thank you Diane. Have a great trip !

Posted by
118 posts

We have an Oct. RS tour in a few weeks - fingers crossed, prayers said, mask in pile to be packed, hope to be vaccinated with latest COVID vaccine this month -

Posted by
21 posts

Just got back from BOE 14 days and 9 people from our group ended up going home by the end of week 1. At our group dinners, 1 restaurant had outdoor seating but at all the others we were generally in a different room than other diners and we were pretty well spread out. Our guides were pretty strict about mask wearing anytime we were on the bus or inside anywhere. Tour members were really good about testing and the only time our guides required us to test was when 5 people went home the same day. We didn't have any modifications to our itinerary that we didn't know about prior to the tour starting. Europe felt back to normal, hardly anyone wore masks and in fact people were often telling us "you don't need to wear those!" None of this impacted my experience, other than wishing we didn't lose so many tour members!

Posted by
327 posts

Just got back from BOE 14 days and 9 people from our group ended up going home by the end of week 1. ``

Wow--was this due to positive covid tests?

Our upcoming group only has 15 tour members. How many were in your group at the start?

Posted by
14157 posts

And just curious…were the 5 in one day from a family group?

Posted by
21 posts

@Pam and @Mo R- the 5 were 2 different couples and 1 single, from COVID. I think we had 27 at the beginning?

Posted by
76 posts

I just got home from our tour of Berlin, Prague and Vienna starting on 8/21 and ending on 9/1. I just got that email right before we left, and I didn't notice any changes. We had a few group dinners that were in old "wine" cellars. Poorly ventilated rooms as well. Not once did we have a meal outside ( I just remembered we had one lunch outside). We had an opportunity to eat outside once but the threat of sprinkles changed that. I was disappointed as inside was hot. Berlin was the only city where it appeared they did not allow tour groups inside of tourist sites like churches and museums. In Dresden, Prague and Cesky Krumlov the only people wearing masks were Rick Steve Tourist. This includes the subway in Prague. Not a single person was wearing a mask. So, far since I've been home, I've tested negative.

As for flying to Germany, we had to wear masks on the plane. However, flying home from Austria it was optiohal.

Posted by
4171 posts

I was on the Best of Ireland in 14 Days tour, 7/24 - 8/6. We lost a couple in Dingle and one in Northern Ireland just a few days before the end in Belfast. In both cases only one person in each couple initially tested positive. I don't what happened to the other ones later.

My understanding is that in the Republic of Ireland at the time there were isolation requirements. But in the UK there were not. If you test positive, what happens next will likely be dependent on the country you are in.

I myself tested a strong positive on 8/7 in Llandudno Wales. Fully vaccinated and boosted, my only symptom was a slight fever. I was able to limit my contact with others in my B&B except at breakfast and even then our tables were spread apart. I was the only person who masked at any of the places I stayed or went the whole time (2.5 weeks) I was in Wales. On 8/14 my test showed a weak positive and the result on 8/22 was negative. Textbook and fortunately, it didn’t affect my Wales trip much at all.

On the tour we were required to mask on the bus and in indoor locations. Apparently, some people didn’t get or read the 2 emails I got that said we needed to wear N95, KN95 or equivalent masks, not surgical ones. I had to experiment with 5 different versions before I found one that didn't hurt my face. Per the guidance discussed on the Forum, I took enough masks to be able to label them by day, use one and let it sit until the same day the next week. This is a link to that discussion: https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/tours/another-mask-question

People on the bus were diligent about wearing their masks, but some were just surgical masks and some people obviously wore the same mask, surgical or KN95 every day on the tour.

The tour group dining together concern isn't trivial, but on my tour I'd be likely to think catching Covid had more to do with socializing together in the general public of the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland since mask wearing was so marginal by locals and a lot of the socializing was in pubs. Anyone having to leave the tour is sad, but considering the fun people were having, I'm surprised we didn’t lose more.

To answer your basic question, as far as I know, our tour itinerary wasn't changed at all and masking was the only thing different from the RS tours I went on in the summer of 2019.

Posted by
1103 posts

We cancelled two RS tours scheduled for 2022. Since then I have been reading forum posts about actual tour experiences. I have read over 20 messages from people who tested positive on a tour, or had others test positive. The reports range from the poster's own experience testing positive to the following challenging situations:

Loire Valley/South of France: - May 2022 Tour members dropped from 25 to 12 members.
By the middle of the trip, they were on their fifth tour guide.

Sicily - May 2022 - 50% of tour members tested positive.

Scandinavia - May 2022 13 out of 18 tested positive

Scandinavia - May 2022: five out of 22 tested positive

Ireland - May 2022: 8 tour members tested positive after the tour.

Greece - May 2022 - four positive tour members

Unspecified tour: five positive tour members

My Way Alpine - July 2022 - two positive tour members; poster and spouse tested positive upon returning home.

Non-RS Tour: 50% positive

Non-RS Tour (Peru-Ecuador) - eight out of 12 positive

Best of Europe (14 days) - August/September - nine out of 27 left the tour after the first week

Loire Valley/South of France (September) - As of six days into the tour eight tested positive. Half of the tour members left or are leaving the tour either because she/he tested positive or are the companion to someone who did.

Spain (September) - Tour guide did not ask for tests at the start of the tour. Several tour members came down with COVID.

Village Italy (September) - Four tour members tested positive.

Heart of Italy (September) - Four different tour guides were assigned due to COVID difficulties on this nine day tour.

Posted by
11 posts

We just returned this week from a fabulous Best of Venice, Florence & Rome 10 day tour (8/26/22-9/4/22) with no covid itinerary modifications. We had 28 tour members and 3 RS guides. We had daily group breakfasts and several organized dinners/lunches together as a group (as originally planned) and only one dinner was in an outdoor restaurant. We were asked to wear masks in the bus between cities and in very crowded museums and everyone happily complied. No one contracted covid during the tour (although, unfortunately, at least one did afterward which may have been from the airport - who knows).

Posted by
327 posts

I’m a little slow to respond. Broke my wrist and hard to type. Verbal is an alternative for text but with so many corrections may as well type.

I appreciate the reports. We leave next week for Europe Starting at Oktoberfest. Then Onto Prague for BOEE.

Our group is only 15 members. Apparently RS tours limited the group to 16- I state this only because our tour was on sale and “only 1 seat left”

A coworker just returned from Scotland last month and said same thing. No one wore masks.

I have a few dozen masks- kn95- whatever is the compliant one ready to go. Have test kits. We are getting the new bivalent booster too. We’ll be wearing masks at Oktoberfest and just do what we can do.

Your trip reports have been very helpful

Posted by
118 posts

Mo R RS groups are not limited to 16 as our tour starts in 3 weeks and there are 28 in our group - the best of Munich, Salzburg & Vienna - hope your wrist heals soon.

disneyfreak67 I am so happy to hear you say ‘ flying to Germany, we had to wear masks on the plane’ as my husband and I are flying into Munich to begin our RS tour October 9th. We too are flying home from Austria – don't like hearing that mask were optional - but at least it's on the way home.

We are all taking a risk by traveling – hoping for the best. It certainly seems that some people are more susceptible to Covid than others. Hoping no one else gets it on any more RS tours – but then some people aren’t following the RS rule as stated by Lo “Apparently, some people didn’t get or read the 2 emails I got that said we needed to wear N95, KN95 or equivalent masks, not surgical ones. People on the bus were diligent about wearing their masks, but some were just surgical masks…”

This will be our first time out of the country since our October 2019 RS tour to Venice, Florence and Rome.

My husband and I got the new Moderna Bivalent Vaccine September 9th and have N95 masks – free from our library.

Safe travels everyone.

Posted by
327 posts

Thx Julie. We leave next week. Hard to believe! We got variant boosted too. We stop at Oktoberfest prior to the tour and we’re grateful that the new booster was available before we left.

For whatever reason, our group is only 15 people. But it will be a fab group of 15.

I was just wondering if RS was limiting capacity. Maybe it’s just the dates. Who knows?!

We are looking forward to our adventures!

Posted by
14157 posts

I was just wondering if RS was limiting capacity. Maybe it’s just the dates.

I’m on the Best of Italy beginning Friday with a starting roster of 28 as well so count yourself lucky with a small group!

Posted by
323 posts

Got home last week from BOI and had no Covid issues on our tour. We had a fantastic time!

Posted by
185 posts

I just returned from the Best of England tour. I did notice some changes. During our first meeting, we were in the hotel’s breakfast room sitting close together in rows. There were a few of us wearing masks. It was indoors and we were in close proximity. The tour guide handed out a paper with expectations during the tour. One of the expectations was that we would wear masks on the bus as well as in crowded indoor areas.
I asked for clarification on masking indoors as instructed in the hand out. He said that was no longer necessary, just on the bus. We could, of course choose to wear masks indoors which a handful of us did, but it was no longer a requirement. Out tour guide never wore a mask for the whole tour. On the bus, he said no one would hear him if he was wearing a mask.
That being said, everyone tried to be respectful of our personal space, and nobody got sick. Our tour guide said they lost 7 people to Covid in his previous tour, and our tour guide assistant said there was a tour in Italy going on at the same time, that finished with only 4 tour members. No doubt there were a lot of spouses and travelling companions that chose to leave with those who tested positive.
We had a wonderful time and our guide (David) was terrific. We felt safe, and we’ll cared for the entire time.

Posted by
327 posts

Our tour is in full swing. Day 4.

So far, no changes to our itinerary. Everything has been great. At a minimum we are executing the itinerary we signed up for--our tour guide has been fantastic and only has enhanced what we've been doing.