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Latest Tours Report Concerns

Hello fellow travelers!
I have been truly interested in the weekly tours report as my husband and I will be taking 2 RS tours starting at the end of August. This will be our 8th and 9th and have always enjoyed every one.
I do read the travel forum almost everyday as I find the topics and answers very informative and helpful in planning extra time before or after the tours.
With the weekly tours report, I am starting to get concerned about the growing positive numbers. This is what got me thinking:

"Two tours were hit especially hard, with over half the tour members testing positive and having to quarantine at some point."

Why can't we know which tours have been hit so hard? That means to me that half the group had to leave the tour. That is alot!

I am also concerned about the masks on the bus; group dinners, etc. If we have been asked to wear a mask on the bus (properly), then we wear a mask on the bus! What am I missing? I want to enjoy the tour, not wonder if I am going to test positive because someone else doesn't care. I am the one that will have to leave the tour, not them. Just doesn't seem right. What is the answer? Or is there one?
Thanks for listening.

Posted by
5 posts

I think two responses, first you cannot control other people you can only look at for yourself. If N95 masks and outdoor dining are not enough to put you at ease maybe reconsider the need to travel as I don't think the risk can be zero even in groups where people are "following the rules." And second, I guess you are already on the tours, but I think this may be an argument for independent travel. We were traveling through France last year during the delta surge. It was nice to be able have our own itinerary, our own car etc. We were traveling at a very busy time of the year but we felt like we were in a bubble, and a few times when things were too crowded we just kind of noped out of it. I suspect that is harder to do on a tour, you are kind of at the mercy of the transportation, restaurants, hotels and itineraries chosen in advance.

Posted by
230 posts

What does it matter which tours have been hit so hard? It could, and will, happen on all of the tours at some point.

Even Rick initially said the first thing to come back will be independent travel, yet they pushed through with tours this year to meet the pent up demand. However, having so many people test positive at the end of tours is not going to be sustainable for the RS tours.

The only way I would travel to Europe this year is independently. Still a risk, of course, but I think that being in a group, group dining, riding on a bus, and all of that is a recipe for the spread of the virus. And the truth is I have zero plans to travel to Europe this year anyway.

Posted by
844 posts

Why does it matter which tours had members with a high positivity rate? Covid is still happening all over Europe, and the rest of the world, as much as we’d all like to be done with it.

Masking is not a 100% guarantee to prevent you from getting Covid. To travel, at all in these times, you MUST accept that there is a chance you will test positive. You could get it on the airplane before you even arrive in Europe. If you aren’t ok with that, don’t travel. And certainly don’t travel in a tour group setting. You have no control over the other members of the tour group and their practices.

Posted by
1556 posts

Cindy, I share your concerns. Makes no sense to have to mask on the bus but then share group meals inside. I would hope group meals could be outdoors as much as possible. One RS tour we took did have several meals outdoors and, no, tables were not all that close.

If we go, our masks will be on and if numbers haven’t dropped significantly, we will forgo group dinners. Sad as I enjoy the group dinners a lot.

Posted by
5136 posts

Cindy, I completely understand your concerns and anxiety.

If you need more information from Rick Steves Europe, then I encourage you to contact then directly with your questions to get the answers you need. It seemed likely to me that one of those two tours was a Greece tour from the comments on other threads.

I found myself second guessing myself this week as the deadline for refund of my second tour of my back to back was today. I decided to go ahead and see what happens. There is no certainty for anyone traveling these days.

Posted by
126 posts

I hear what you all are saying. Independent travel probably would have been a better choice, but in October 2021 when the tours came up and they were filling so rapidly, we chose two that we had to cancel before. With hindsight, probably would have made different choices.
Now we are booked on the tours; flights booked; extra days of hotels booked; an extra 9 days in Paris booked. Just trying to figure out what we have to deal with.

The reason it would be of interest for me to know which tours have such high numbers, is the country. I know people are coming from all over and I can't control where they have been so it is nice to see that the negative test requirement before day 1 is back.

Just a lot to think about.

Posted by
1216 posts

I'm afraid there is no good answer. Mask wearing is going by the wayside. I wear mine indoors but most stores I visit, I'm the only one. This is partly why I've put off long distance travel until next year. Just today, two more relatives have gotten Covid and several friends kids have it.

Basically, it's a gamble and you should do what feels comfortable. If you still feel vulnerable then perhaps a refund would be best.

Posted by
21054 posts

Here are two sources for monitoring infection rates by country. There are many others.

https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/. If you click on a country's name, you'll get a page with some useful graphs showing the day-to-day movement of various COVID statistics.

OurWorldInData. You can select from many different types of statistics via the pull-down boxes at the top. I like to look at the statistics for Confirmed cases - 7-day rolling average and Confirmed cases - weekly change

Posted by
1763 posts

Thank you, acraven. I am glad to have these resources.

Posted by
230 posts

Now we are booked on the tours; flights booked; extra days of hotels booked; an extra 9 days in Paris booked. Just trying to figure out what we have to deal with.

Just a thought: you can still go to Europe, but punt the tours? Take your basic itinerary framework and paid for flights and already booked rooms and create a DIY "bubble" using rental cars, eat only outdoors or takeout food, stay out of touristy crowds...what are your options for getting out of the RS tour obligation at this point? Also, you doubled your risk by booking back to back tours; if you test positive during or at the end of the first tour, what happens to your second tour?

Posted by
2643 posts

I'm beginning my first of two back to back RS tours tomorrow. I'll be focused on the fact that over 1500 (1563 per May 20th On The Road report) tour members did not get covid this week and doing what I can to make sure I'm in that group. And if it does happen, I have my Plan B in place at home and here, including quarantine insurance coverage.

Posted by
126 posts

Thanks, acraven. I will definitely look at those.

Jojo Rabbit: You are right with the back to back. It is my understanding if we would test positive at some point during the first tour, we need 10 days before the start of the next tour to test negative. No matter how we look at it, we probably would be done with our trip.

Posted by
79 posts

The tour report for last week was 3% testing Covid positive. That means 97% were negative. The odds are greatly in your and my favor. Although no statistics are available, I would guess that at least 5% of participants in pre 2020 tours had some contagious disease while on tour. But no one was tested or booted off the tour or denied return to USA. We all carried on and dealt with any illness. The difference now is the extreme focus on one disease and the resulting rules imposed by government and tour operators. I commend RS for providing the weekly reports and hosting this Forum. As with other social media, the Forum posts and posters are not representative of the vast majority of RS travelers, most of whom never read or post here. I suspect the 97% who tested negative are not posting here so we only read about the bad news. I’m not letting a 3% chance of an inconvenience keep me from returning to Europe this year. As others have said, expect a fun and safe tour, but just be prepared if you are the unlucky 3%.

Posted by
346 posts

Covid is surging in many places including Europe and the USA. The tours just reflect the countries they are in. The good news is that its happening now in May - you aren't travelling for another 3 months . Have you ever seen a covid surge last 3 months - no - so you appear to have excellent timing.

BTW we are triple vaxed and got Covid recently in Fiji. We spent the entire time outside of our room outside - the pool bar, the restaraunts, boats, beaches, the excursions were all outdoors. We spent a total of 8 days there and a total of 2 x 30min bus transfers that entire time.

I got Covid there - I have zero idea how - we didn't even have long conversations or shared tables with any one else. Al

Omicron is infectious - and although masks slows it down it doesn't stop it. Also I didn't htink I had it and wouldn't have tested except it compulsory to test on return to NZ - I thought I had a mild cold

Posted by
386 posts

Regarding the comment by someone that "I would hope group meals would be outdoors as much as possible:"

On the RS tour we got home from 2 weeks ago, we had 28 group members. (No one got covid during the tour.) I don't think you should count on outdoor dining at small and spaced-apart tables. We had six group dinners and two group lunches on our tour, and all eight of those meals were indoors. For almost all of them, we were seated at 3 to 4 large tables with 8 to 10 people per table. Two of the group dinners had smaller tables with 4 to 6 people per table. Unless you're going to opt out of all the group meals, or ask to be seated by yourself apart from the group, you're going to be seated side-by-side with tour companions who are unmasked while eating, drinking, talking and laughing, for up to a couple of hours at a time. If that makes you uncomfortable, then you probably aren't yet ready to assume the risks inherent in a guided group tour.

Posted by
6627 posts

I think its incredibly responsible and forthcoming for RSE to share this information with people. I'm not sure what people expected to see, or how you would interpret the information on past results to predict the future. They can't wrap the bus in a plastic bubble. People want to act like it's over and it's not. So the conscientious pay the price.

Posted by
9696 posts

Cindy, I just have some thoughts on group tours. I have not done a Rick tour this year but am booked for Best of Italy in the Fall.

Let me set the scene.

I just finished a 2-week Road Scholar tour. Road Scholar is in no way forthcoming about their Covid rules. For a while I did not think they had any as our substitute leader (original leader had a heart attack and had to depart the tour!) said there were "no rules" but the main office called me this week and among other things said they did indeed have policies both for their domestic and International tours. In any event, there was no checking of CDC cards, no masking on the bus, in groups, on public transport, anywhere. We were in Belgium and Netherlands which also did not have any masking rules when I was there.

There apparently were no policies (or at least none adhered to or mentioned) regarding what to do if someone tested positive and furthermore, what to do with the spouse (or I guess roommate in some cases) if they test negative. No rules on the spouse masking until they turn positive.

So....18 people + leader + various local guides and random bus drivers. Only 2 of us wore masks. I wore an N95 ALL the time. Two people tested positive during the tour on about day 7 and 9. I was sitting behind this couple on the bus for a long bus day - one seat in between us. I was masked and they were not. Everyone was unmasked at meals including me although I generally tried to mask as soon as I took my last bite/sip.

End result? Even with no masking with most of the group, only those 2 tested positive. The day before the tour ended, 14 tested and everyone was negative. I frankly was shocked.

I'm telling this long tale to say that just because some test positive on the tour it does not seem to mean that everyone will test positive. I would not hesitate to go on another group tour but I will continue to use N95s unless things change with the US and Rick Steves requirements.

Posted by
106 posts

I wish there was an answer. I don’t think there is. Just because someone is on a RS Tour doesn’t automatically mean they care about how their actions might negatively affect others. Masks are not foolproof especially if someone has an active case and you’re sitting near them on the bus for a long period, as was our scenario. Travel in groups has a lot of risks right now. If you go in accepting that you may test positive, that you may have to sit in a hotel room for ten days and have planned for it with travel insurance then maybe you might not worry and be able to enjoy your tour. And, if you notice someone is experiencing cold symptoms, for Pete’s sake, be “one of those people” and say something to the tour guide.

Posted by
230 posts

Travel in groups has a lot of risks right now.

This says it all. And if you travel independently, ideally via car instead of on a tour bus, and stay out of maskless crowds, and avoid communal indoor dining situations, you can mitigate many of the risks of group travel and reduce your risk of infection. There is no zero risk anyone can achieve, but the group travel is currently part of the problem.

Posted by
375 posts

I took the Rick Steves “Heart of Belgium and Holland” that started on March 30th. My husband and I were in Belgium for a week before the tour started. We wore KN95 masks on buses and trains before our tour. Everyone wore them. On the Rick Steves tour, we all wore masks unless we were outside or eating.

Before we came to Europe, we thought very hard about not going on the tour. I didn’t want to spend all day wearing a mask. In the Netherlands we were going to have to test for Covid almost every day until late January, when the rules changed. Then, the Ukrainians invaded. We were very close to cancelling the tour. My husband and I talked about it and decided that we wouldn’t let Putin or Covid win, so we went. We were nervous about getting a negative test before flying home, but figured we’d deal with it if it happened. We had already booked our airfare so we thought seriously about doing the entire trip on our own. Then we figured that the tours take over a lot of the logistics and headaches. We learn so much more from the guides than we can get from a tour book. So we stayed with the tour and we were so glad we did. Yes, it was an annoyance to wear a mask a lot of the time. Taking a Covid test before we were allowed on the Rick Steves tour was a pain in the neck, but when we stepped out on the canal area in Ghent and met our tour mates we figured out we made the right decision. The magic of a Rick Steves tours is still there! Europe is still special and we had a wonderful trip.

Posted by
325 posts

Our group was very good about wearing masks on the bus, but at least 4 of our dinners were inside. Less than half of our group tested (all negative -yay!) by the end of the tour as many were staying for more days. I don't think any of their results get added to the weekly counts.

Posted by
4988 posts

We’re booked on back to back tours this spring. Our first one ended a little over a week ago; the second begins tomorrow.

There were 28 people on our Loire to the South of France tour. One person tested positive about 4 days into the tour. He and his wife left the tour, per the agreement we all signed when we booked.

Of the remaining 26 people, 14 tested negative before leaving for the States. None of the others had to test at that time.

All group meals were indoors (except a picnic.) Almost everyone masked appropriately on the bus and in the hotels.

We’re booked on the South Italy tour that begins tomorrow. I’m curious about how many people might have changed their minds about joining the tour since a negative test taken the first day of the tour is now required. If we weren’t already in country, that might have changed our minds.

Posted by
110 posts

Then, the Ukrainians invaded...

Huh???

It's in all the history books. Next Chapter....Germans bomb Pearl Harbor

Posted by
5618 posts

Cindy, if the weekly tour reports continue, three months from now, you’ll have seen a lot more reports. Hopefully, the results by early August will be encouraging. If they’re discouraging instead, at least you’ll have more data to help make decisions.

We just got home last week from an African safari tour (not done by Rick Steves, of course), and masks were required on tiny plane flights going from one country and/or game viewing camp to another. Our group of 12 (all over 50, vaccinated/boosted, and negative-testing prior to beginning the tour) rode in semi open-air Land Cruiser safari vehicles together, shared boat spaces, and ate together in dining rooms, all unmasked. All tested negative before flying back to the USA. A few days after arriving home (but a week before me and my husband, as we stayed an extra week in South Africa), two of the group tested positive for Covid. They’d been a subgroup of 6 who had a separate guide after the main tour ended, and the other 4 of those tested negative. Some suspected this separate guide at the end, who apparently displayed some suspicious symptoms, may have given Covid to those two - but if so, not everyone got the virus. If Rick’s guides are keeping themselves safe, and doing their utmost to keep the tour participants safe (including enforcing any policies that are in place), the odds are resoundingly in your favor.

Continue to control what you can, try to not get distressed over what you can’t (which can be hard), and enjoy your tours! A lot can happen (hopefully all good news) between now and August.

Posted by
11243 posts

The tour report for last week was 3% testing Covid positive. That means 97% were negative.

We forget that 97% because of the all the fear There is so much talk, and so much fear mongering that it has become the pandemic of this board......fear.

It is possible that you can get Covid while on a tour. It is possible you can get Covid while traveling independently. It's also possible that you can get Covid while going to your local supermarket.

Covid is a part of life. Just because you are going to Europe doesn't mean you are destined to test positive. (Although it is a possibility.)

Why can't we know which tours have been hit so hard?

What does it matter? Do you think if you take a tour that has reported no covid cases that you are safe? No. You could still get it.

Covid is here. Covid isnt going anywhere. Masks help to lower your odds of getting it but they won't protect you 100%. Vaccines help your body fight the virus so that if you get it it probably won't be too bad. New medications are now available that will help you get over Covid quickly.

The big question is, and only you can answer this, is what is your risk tolerance? If you are very worried about Covid and that will be your concern throughout your entire trip, will you be able to enjoy it? Or are you going to say, "I've done everything I can to lessen my odds of getting Covid and I want to travel."

You'll hear arguments on both sides. Many will try to persuade you to come to their side. But at the end of the day, it's your time, your money and your decision.

Posted by
86 posts

Exactly on point, Frank II. We’re in France right now, starting a RS tour today. We weighed all the possible situations and decided, for us, it was time to travel again.

Posted by
2464 posts

Also agree Frank, covid is here to stay, just like the flu and pneumonia. If the US didn’t require tresting to return, so many more people would be traveling. Maybe it’s to our advantage, a few less crowds here and there.

Posted by
11 posts

Just completed the Basque tour and extended to time in Lisbon and Maderia. Masks on the bus but not at the group lunches or dinners.
Our Covid tests prior to return were negative for us and friends' we travel with.

Posted by
925 posts

Frank has pretty much nailed it. The situation now is that whether you like it or not we have reached the endemic stage and at some point you are going to be exposed to the virus, most likely a variant of Omichron. All you can do is hope that the vaccines keep you from getting seriously I’ll or hospitalised.

It’s true Europe has had something of a surge, but the infections are now on the decline - that’s certainly the case in the U.K., - but we cannot consider the thing done with.

And, if my information is correct (British Doctor John Campbell on You Tube who has common sense information and figures etc on the virus and it’s latest variants etc., daily, should anybody want to check him out), one of the countries experiencing a huge surge currently is the USA. However for the most part hospitalisations and deaths are on the decline, or at least not massively increasing, as is the case elsewhere in the world. I know there are some countries that have managed the epidemic better than others and God knows we in the U.K. are not the guiding light on it to say the least, but the overall trends appear to be the same.

Posted by
126 posts

So many helpful hints and replies; I really appreciate all of them.

We are really looking forward to our trip in August and I will enjoy it to the fullest. I will control what I can and deal with the rest.
Thanks everyone!

Posted by
29 posts

As my wife and I continue to plan our trip to London & Ireland for this fall, I have to agree with JoJo Rabbit above. We can't possibly travel with zero risk, but for us, independent travel is the only way to go. That way, we can avoid groups or crowds to the greatest extent. If a pub, restaurant, or some other attraction looks too crowded, we go somewhere else. We will distance when we can and accept some risk when we can't, but I think that's the most control we're going to get. (Disclosure: we aren't group/tour/cruise people anyway, so going our own way isn't a hardship for us.)

Posted by
221 posts

(edited for clarity) Recently completed the 21 day/6 country RS BOE with 25 tour members. Members of our group who tested during the tour were negative (some self tested frequently as a precautionary measure and some self tested due to allergy and/or cold symptoms). And all 25 tour members tested negative for return to the US.

Posted by
85 posts

Min
Sounds like a great tour. But are you saying that ALL 25 tour members went home immediately after the tour ended? No one stayed longer to do additional travel?

Posted by
221 posts

@ phaedra - It was a great tour! To answer your question, several tour members stayed after the tour ended May 7. Of those, each gleefully posted their Covid test results to our tour facebook group as they prepared to fly home. I was the last to return on May 18.

Posted by
10 posts

The 3.1% positive figure does not lead to 97% being negative. The only people testing are the ones who are ending their trip and heading back to the US. Or possibly testing because of symptoms. 51 people tested positive out of 1614 currently on tour; it would be useful to know what that 51 represent as a percentage of those who did tests. If roughly half of the tours end each week, then around 800 people tested last week and the positivity rate in that population was more like 6%. Still not a huge number but worth noting.

Posted by
10 posts

I should have added that I very much appreciate that Rick Steves is providing the testing information and I don't mean to imply that i think they are being misleading. I like that they're requiring negative tests to start the tours and also that they're being vigilant about reminding their travelers to keep themselves and others safe.

Posted by
29 posts

One thing you can do to mitigate your risk is getting boosted two weeks before your trip (this is what I plan on doing). Though inconvenient, covid is no longer the death sentence that it once was. In the past two weeks several of my family members got it, and no one experienced anything more than mild symptoms for a couple days. The way I see it is that I’ll take precautions, but if I end up getting covid and have to extend my European trip by several days, there are worse things in life.

Posted by
129 posts

Brian - that is what my wife and I are planning to do based upon the advice of her physician. We share your attitude about being infected on the tour too. We are in our 70s and probably won't be able to tour too much longer. We have good travel insurance. We are retired and don't have to worry about getting back to work. I'm not going to ruin my trip worrying about COVID although I will do everything I can to keep healthy and avoid infection. I'm going to keep on traveling as long as I can, and enjoying it as much as I can. Others might not be in the same situation and I understand that. In that case, other travel arrangements might be best.

Posted by
367 posts

We spent a month in Italy in April doing the Sicily tour and Southern Italy tour. Out of 28 tour members of our first tour, 1 person tested positive and had to stay an additional 7 days after the tour. My husband and myself were vaxx’d and double boosted, on March 31 for an April tour. We had Negative results to start both tours. 2nd tour wasn’t as successful testing wise, 3 tested positive out of 26 and had to stay the extra days. Masked the whole time on the bus and not as often out and about. We decided the risks were worth the opportunity to travel. I agree with Frank that the fear is the biggest issue.

Posted by
375 posts

Sorry about my mistake above. I meant the Ukraine was invaded by Russia! Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

Posted by
13532 posts

Janet, we all do typos here all the time, the next few words made it obvious it was a typo and the couple comments you received were out if line.

There is another thread on the topic of that sort of behavior.

Posted by
106 posts

Frank, I agree, Covid is here to stay and being vaccinated and boosted has reduced the severity of the virus to common cold symptoms in most people. As expressed by several people on this and other threads, the “fear” is not of getting sick but about testing positive and not being able to get home. Several people have expressed on here how they aren’t concerned about having to extend their trip for several days. Maybe they don’t mind sitting in a hotel room for 11 days (the day you test positive is considered day 0) but for most this is not a pleasant experience. Currently, the US airline and travel industries are losing millions because of the US entry restrictions and are actively trying to get the re-entry testing lifted. One can only hope that they will prevail, soon!

Posted by
83 posts

Hi Cindy,
I am concerned about the current state of trying to travel with a tour in this era of Covid as well. I am booked for two tours back to back in October. When these were booked in May 2021 I was hoping things would be as close to back to normal as possible by now. Even though my tours are not for another four months I have no hope that testing and masks and doing everything possible to avoid getting Covid while traveling will not be necessary. It is frustrating to read posts from people who were diligent about wearing their masks and avoided crowds, etc., who still tested positive before their tour, during their tour or the day before they were to travel home. Covid has it’s own plans. It seems to just boil down to luck. It reminds me of that famous line from Dirty Harry - “Do you feel lucky, punk? Well, do ya?” My deadline for canceling to get my deposits back is coming up in June. I’ve been wobbling for weeks now. I’m pretty close to scrapping the whole idea of taking the tours this year because I’m tired of thinking about all the different scenarios and what I will need to do if this happens or that happens. I just want to go and be enthralled with Europe and then come home.

Posted by
15 posts

Hi Lori,
I'm right there with you - spending a lot of time worrying about our October tour, including not only COVID, but the higher cost of tickets and airlines continually changes times and flights. We just got over a round of COVID despite being up to date on vaccinations and boosters and being cautious wearing masks. We let our guard down for a family visit once and it spread to nearly all of us. It was not a mild case. I would not want to be traveling and get hit again. Our immunity will be waning by tour time, so I'm hoping for a variant specific booster a few weeks before we fly.....

Posted by
75 posts

I’m booked on the Best of Barcelona-Madrid tour this November and am now seriously thinking of scrapping my plans. I have until July to make my final call, but… meh.