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RS tour and included meals

We have taken 7 RS tours since 2004 and are registered for Sicily tour in 2019. The last four years it seemed like we were guaranteed half our lunches and half our dinners. In checking the “what’s included” section of 2019 tours it states “all your breakfasts and half your dinners “. There is no mention of lunches. I am certain many lunches were included in our 2018 Village Italy tour. Has there been a change in policy from 2018 to 2019?

Posted by
2581 posts

I think it means "half your other meals," other than breakfast, that is. On our Sicily tour we had several large lunches included. On some tours we only had dinners, no lunches. It varies with the guide, as well as how the schedule breaks. One one of our Sicily tours (we did this one twice), our "final dinner" was actually lunch.

Posted by
3538 posts

Maybe its an artifact of the itinerary. On other tours we've done, lunch was included when it was the most convenient way to handle it between sights or on the bus journey.

Posted by
2207 posts

Lunches were never on the list as included meals. I have taken RS tours all the way back to 2005. The included meals list has not changed.

However, on several tours some lunches were included when it meant that the overall flow of the day went better. The tour guide would set up a picnic to allow maximum time at whatever site we were at and then we ate before getting back on the bus. On a couple tours, we would have lunch provided at the place we were visiting. One memorable one was at a distillery in Ireland. The soups and sandwiches were very good and unlimited. All of these were paid by the tour guide costing us nothing extra (except for alcohol if we wanted).

On a couple stops on some of the earlier tours I took we were all asked have lunch together but to pay for what we ate. These were in smaller villages with limited eating options.

Posted by
2641 posts

I have taken 16 RS tours including the Sicily tour in May and we have experienced sometimes getting a lunch instead of a dinner that day which was the case in Sicily. We have always gotten breakfast. We have never been on a tour where we got both half our lunches and half our dinners. Many of the times where we have had group lunches, they were more than enough to hold my wife and I for the rest of the day except where gelato was available for a treat later in the day.

Posted by
29465 posts

sally,

As I recall, there were a few lunches provided on my Sicily tour. One was at the farm of a Contessa (or some other regal person) and included Pasta alla Norma and Linguine with freshly made lemon cream sauce (it was very good!). Another lunch was at a winery on the slopes of Mt. Etna, and it was also exceptional. Our final wonderful group lunch was held in a small seaside town called San Leone (not far from Agrigento).

Hopefully things will be much the same on your tour. In any case, I'm sure you'll dine well on that tour and will probably put on a few pounds.

Posted by
44 posts

I'm old school. Diner means the largest meal of the day. It can be either lunch or supper.

Posted by
1389 posts

Hi sally, I've taken 9 RS tours since 2007 and I don't think lunches were ever "guaranteed". On the longer tours the guide usually arranged a picnic or two but I always thought of them as "bonus" lunches.

Posted by
1369 posts

I agree with the comments of prior posters, it will depend on the guide and a variety of other factors (weather, route, holidays, etc.). I have taken four tours and never had half of lunches and dinners covered - on a couple of tours there were a very few "extra" covered meals, but I assume it was because the guide had been prudent budgeting. If you look closely at the detailed itinerary for your tour, you'll notice mention of lunches and dinners that may be covered - for example, day 3 mentions lunch, day 6 says there is a midday feast. Again, it could differ based on many factors. In my experience, the guide will probably provide a few treats/snacks along the way and also give you ample opportunity to fend for yourself on the free time meals.

Posted by
861 posts

On our 2015 17 Day Best of Italy tour, I cannot remember any day where lunch was included. We sometimes ate lunch together, like at a road stop, but we were able to order what we wanted and we had to pay for it.

Posted by
15405 posts

Hi, Sally. This is not a recent policy change. It was actually many years ago (maybe 2002) that RS Tours discontinued including half of lunches and half of dinners. Others above are correct that lunches are only included now when they're in out-of-the-way locations or special experiences that fit better at midday than in the evening, such as at the Contessa's farm in Sicily. This varies by itinerary. If a lunchtime stop has only limited options, and they're not used to serving many people rapidly, then it can be very slow and ineffective to "set you free" for lunch.

P.S. On a recent stop of my driving trip in France (Jumièges Abbey), there were only 4 places open for Sunday lunch, 3 of which were full, so Mom and I ate at the remaining creperie. The restaurant was pretty back-logged and a French couple seated before us had to leave without their meal to catch their tour bus.

Posted by
1039 posts

I returned from the 13 Days Best of Turkey tour a month ago and I believe there were 3 lunches that were included for the reasons stated above. Lunch time occurred on the way somewhere and a couple times we had a special picnic lunch, outside under beautiful trees. The other time in a restaurant with rustic decor and delicious food served family style at long tables. It was a festive experience.
I almost forgot, we were treated to a traditional lunch in a Turkish woman’s home in a small village. A highlight of our trip. She was very gracious and welcomed us warmly.

Posted by
6271 posts

Included lunches/suppers/dinners would mean absolutely nothing to me...Half the fun of traveling is trying new food in local shops - not being corralled into a touristy restaurant with preset menus arranged by my tour guide. Get out there and live life while you're on these tours.

Posted by
2207 posts

Tim,

Have you ever been on a RS Tour?

Most of the meals included on the tours I have taken were at small, locally owned, not so touristy restaurants or through special arrangements. In fact, there have been several where we take over the entire restaurant and the family running it provides a nice meal. Yes, it is a preset menu in these cases, it would be impossible for any place to handle nearly 30 meals all at once otherwise, but the menu has options. Some have been more successful than others, but all have provided a local experience.

And there are plenty opportunities to find meals on your own since only half the dinners are included.

Posted by
861 posts

While in Siena on our Best of Italy Tour, we were treated to dinner in a church by the winning Contrada of the Palio horse race. All of the dishes were prepared by the church members. It was an amazing dinner. You could never experience this on your own. Also on the nights when dinner was not included, our guide would extend an invitation to accompany him for dinner. He knew where the best restaurants were and we never had a bad meal accompanying him. Usually around ten of us joined him for dinner. I am sure he enjoyed the company or he wouldn’t have extended the invitation.

Posted by
5866 posts

"Most of the meals included on the tours I have taken were at small, locally owned, not so touristy restaurants or through special arrangements."

Mark, I was thinking the same thing with Tim's remark. The meal that came to mind immediately was on the Villages of Southern England tour in Salisbury. We ate at the Giggling Squid, which is a Thai restaurant altho a small chain. It was excellent food and a fun time. There was a pre-set menu as they brought out a variety of dishes for us to try but no one minded, I don't think!

https://www.gigglingsquid.com/our-story/

Posted by
360 posts

I agree that the included meals are usually quite good, and local. I think the guides are tasked with them, and know good places.

Posted by
2581 posts

Yes, it's my understanding that the guides have a lot of leeway in choosing venues for meals. And almost always there are several mains from which we can choose. And, as someone else commented on another thread, we almost always have the option of saying, "No, thank you, I'll find my own dinner elsewhere."

My DH learned to like escargot on a RS tour, and he probably would never have done that on our own. The group meals generally consist of local specialties, which, of course, is what most of us want.

Posted by
50 posts

I took the Sicily tour this past October. We had a couple of lunches tied in with a food demo. One was served buffet style before our almond cookie demo, another had cheese and nibbles with a wine tasting and the third was fried tiny sardines and a pasta - we had a pasta demo here.
The dinners on my tour definitely focused on seafood (which make sense for an island!) - lots and lots prepared about every way imaginable. Just too much for me since I'm not a big seafood fan.

Posted by
94 posts

Lunches aren't regularly included, but most tours usually include 1-3 group lunches at special locations. All breakfasts and half dinners has been standard forever.

What has changed, however, at least in my experience, is how much alcohol is included. In past years it seemed like you could get wine included on the first and last night and maybe once in the middle. Now it's either the first or last night, if that.

Personally I think I was just spoiled on my first France tour with the amazing Patrick Vidal. He used a lot of his discretionary budget to treat us to wine, food, and more wine and food.

Posted by
781 posts

The amount of wine included seems to vary based on the country. We have been on RS tours in England, France, Spain and Italy. In Sicily wine was included with every meal, presumably because it is so inexpensive. On the other hand, wine was seldom included on the England tour. We were also told that in England wine is not an automatic part of the meal like it is in Italy.

Posted by
2581 posts

We were told by one of our guides (in Spain, I think) that whether or not wine is included with dinners depends primarily on the cost. We have taken tours in Spain, Sicily, and other parts of Italy where wine was regularly included. (Not all the tours in these areas include wine.) We have also been on at least one tour where we had to pay for wine at the final group dinner.

And Justin's point is well taken; the guides do have discretionary funds to spend as they see fit or necessary. On one tour, our guide had so much extra cash he was buying our lunches, until he got a memo to knock it off. Or so I was told. :-)

Posted by
240 posts

My first RS tour included 1/2 of the dinners and the lunches. I assume that economic conditions have changed and to be competitive they had to remove the lunches. IMHO, one is fed so well at the dinners that eating a big lunch is foolish. On the group dinner days, I split a sandwich or such with my travel partner, or sometimes skip lunch altogether and simply have a pastry and some coffee mid-day.

In my experience the guides have some leeway in terms of how the meals are arranged. On one tour the bus and touring schedule was such that one day our guide suggested we trade one dinner for two lunches. The group easily agreed to this change, and the lunches were wonderful and very filling. Another time, on a hot tiring day in Rome, our guide arranged for a stop at a local bar that included lots of cold Aqua Minerale, coffee drinks and gelato. At other times, changes to things like museum schedules or bad traffic has caused a guide to move a dinner from one night to another. OTOH, on my last RS tour the guide stuck 100% to the itinerary in regards to the meals.

Posted by
1990 posts

Having taken various RS Tours every year since 2013, I agree with the other comments that most tours often include a few group lunches, generally tied into special experiences like farm or winery visits, or visits with families in their homes, with local hand-prepared foods. I easily remember these as wonderful informal features of the Sicily, Spain, Portugal, Bulgaria, Adriatic, and Turkey tours, maybe others. And in general, group meals were excellent and not in touristy restaurants.