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RS Tour for a non-drinker

We're considering RS Village Italy tour. I have read a lot of comments about whether wine is or is not included, the advantages of pooling $ for wine, meeting in the evenings for wine and snacks.

How awkward will it be if I just don't drink? I'm not offended by others who have wine with dinner, but I'm not interested in being on a tour where drinking alcohol is the most important part of the day. I'm also fine with seeing how wine is made, etc.

Thanks.

Posted by
1173 posts

I have been on the Italy tours several times, went to Rome tour twice, the Florence tour twice, Venice on the BOE tour, been to Italy years ago not on RS tours. If you don't drink, it is not a problem or awkward at all!! Not at all. No one thinks anything of it, no one cares and no one says, why don't you drink. If the dinner comes with wine and you don't want any just say so, or even better give it to someone who would enjoy a second glass of wine. I know that drinking wine is not the most important or for that matter important at all on the tours. There is always something other to drink. Not everyone can drink or wants to drink. Go on the tour it is wonderful. Wine is part of the culture but it is not something to even consider important if you don't drink. If you don't want to pool money for wine no one will be offended or annoyed. You just order what you want to drink. Have a great time.

Posted by
57 posts

Thanks, Ann. RS certainly has plenty of alcohol pictured in his advertising. Made me wonder.

Posted by
8060 posts

I agree with Ann, not a problem at all if you don't drink. It was never the focus of the day.

There is sometimes a wine tasting. On the Village Italy tour we went to a winery in Orvieto owned by the family of a RS guide. It was also our lunch stop so there were a bunch of pizzas to try with the wine. Not a problem to not have wine if you don't want it. I can't remember if there was another wine tasting or not. Sometimes I drink wine, sometimes not. There is always water available or if you want a soft drink you can purchase separately at meals. No one notices whether you drink or not.

I did find that the Best of Ireland was more pub centered at times because that is where the traditional music is in the evenings. The pub culture was not of interest to me so I usually skipped but some of my travelmates who did not drink were fine just ordering tea or a soft drink.

In 7 RS tours I have never been on a tour where money was pooled for wine. There were times when wine was not included as part of a group meal and the guide made that very clear so each person/couple purchased what they wanted on their own.

Posted by
1910 posts

Our Village Italy tour last June was a family affair. My adult son doesn't drink and it never seemed to be awkward or uncomfortable for him. No one even mentioned it to my knowledge. He would generally have a soft drink, tea or just water. Often opened bottles of wine were placed on the tables and people just helped themselves-or not.

Posted by
1844 posts

I don't drink at all. I've never said a word to offer explanation on any tour and no one has ever asked me any questions. There have always been some people who drink a fair amount in the evening...thinking of a recent tour of Turkey...they'd hang out as a large group in their room pre-dinner, drinking. They'd be "happy" by dinner hour. They were fine though...not my favorite people on the tour but they were ok. This was not a RS tour....Smartours.

Posted by
1173 posts

I have been on one tour Rome 2008 where whoever wanted to pool their money to have wine with the meals could do so. If you did not, you just did not partake in drinking the wine. No big deal. Now it seems more and more the wine is included with the meal but as I said, just say no, or give it to someone who would like a second glass. Sometimes there are wine tastings on the tour, but again, just don't drink. No one minds. Again, no everyone can drink due to whatever, including taking meds that drinking interferes with the meds. Ireland tour, you can order anything to drink, not just beer. There is always other options. I wish I was going on that tour!! Maybe some day. I am going on the Gas Tour.

Posted by
600 posts

I'm glad you asked. We've been on a Rick Steves tour to Scotland and Germany Switzerland and Austria, and it was never a problem that we didn't drink. But I was a little bit nervous about how it would go in Italy, as I know the wine culture is important there. I'm always willing to try it, but I just don't like it. I'm glad to hear from so many people that it won't be a problem on the Italy tours either!

Posted by
2258 posts

Janet, I agree with the others, there is no problem. I have been on several RS tours, another scheduled this spring, and have never encountered any mention of pooling funds for wine. You might want to mention to your guide that you won't be drinking wine or beer, and he/she can probably assure that an alternative beverage you like is available at group meals. I hope you can enjoy a stop and meal at a winery where they I'll probably explain how the grapes are grown and the wine is made. You can learn, and photograph, without drinking the wine. But Janet, make sure you are drinking something, it's of course important to stay hydrated! (:->)))

Posted by
1047 posts

I did not drink due to the medicine I was taking and it was not a problem at all on our Best of Italy tour. Those who wanted wine got together to decide on what wine they wanted and were given a separate bill for the wine. They then split the cost evenly. There were times when a person only had one glass while others drank more and they adjusted the bill accordingly. You will not have any problems if you don't drink. We always had bottled water, both sparkling and not, and when the bottle was empty, another bottle was always brought. Also, you could order soft drinks and surprisingly they sometimes came with ice.

Posted by
672 posts

I don't think you need to worry at all. I often have wine with dinner, but not always. It's never been a problem. The one tour where we had a wine kitty was structured so only those who wanted in pooled their money. I've been on 21 tours and never has drinking alcohol been the most important part of the day. That definitely wouldn't be a tour for me! There is always water on the table for group meals and you can order (and pay for) other beverages.

Posted by
3449 posts

I have never been on a RS tour where drinking alcohol was the most important part of the day. (Been on 10 of them so far.)

Yes, you can drink if you want, all day long if you want, and some drink more than others, but it is not required and if you don't drink no one cares. A wine choice was included with every group dinner on the recent Best of Italy tour I went on, but there were soft drinks, juice or assorted water choices at no additional cost for those not wanting the wine. Even on the Ireland tour where we spent most evenings in pubs listening to music there were many who only drank soft drinks or tea and no one felt left out.

Posted by
11450 posts

Janet your concern seems a bit unnessesary , i have only been on one rs tour. Some peole drank some didnt. No one cared or commented.

They are certainly not drinking tours.

Posted by
2786 posts

I have been on 13 RS tours (soon to be #14) and my wife and I do not drink alcohol and it has never been a problem. When we first starting taking RS tours in 2002, wine was often provided by the guides. No longer. If you read the RS "fine print" you will discover that no alcohol will be provided by the tour. If you want alcohol, you can always order it and pay for it whenever. We have been to several wine producing places on a couple of tours which did provide samples of their wines. In every case non-alcoholic beverages were provided along with finger food. I have never been aware of anyone on our tours taking up a collection to purchase alcohol. It may have happened and they just skipped us. I do remember some rumors several years ago about RS perhaps starting a non-alcohol tour but have not heard anything lately. I would encourage you to not worry about it and just go and have a great time. Happy Travels

Posted by
127 posts

Janet,

I think that if you do drink, trying local wines is part of the experience. But, all four of my RS tours have had multiple non-drinkers. The tour guides were diligent in making sure that non-drinkers or those with dietary requirements were accommodated. In short, not drinking wouldn't be awkward at all.

Posted by
1529 posts

Just let your guide know that you don't drink alcohol - you can even mention it when you sign up on the tour (they ask about any special dietary needs). I have been on four RS tours, all in countries that love alcohol, and there have always been on-drinkers in the groups. The only time it was slightly awkward was at an actual wine tasting in Hungary - but the guide made sure there was some kind of alternative beverage (I think it was apple juice). Though there are many opportunities to imbibe, I don't recall any tour member being disrespectful to anyone who didn't drink (or had a dietary constraint). You need not pool your money for an activity you don't want to partake in - but enjoy the happy hour anyway with a mineral water or juice. It's enjoyable to socialize with your tourmates.

Posted by
524 posts

Have been on tours where tour members did not drink, not a problem. If drinks were provided, then the guide made sure to arrange for both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drink selections. I have been on only one tour where the guide arranged for a wine kitty, Southern Italy. There was no pressure to participate. Some tours have visits to vineyards, Village Italy being one, but there are always alternative drinks available.

Posted by
7205 posts

Don't understand why "wine" would make anybody "nervous". If someone offers you a diet coke, but you prefer the non-diet version does it make you nervous to say "no thanks"? Why would it be any different for wine? Some Americans just approach the European wine scene in such silliness. If you don't like it, then decline the offer. Likewise if you don't care for brussel sprouts or broccoli then decline that in the same way. It's just not a big deal, folks...unless you MAKE it a big deal :-)

Posted by
5729 posts

Wine or other alcohol is not included in the meals that are pre-arranged. as part of the tour However, you should know that sometimes the hotel arranges a small greeting party with alcohol, or the restaurant will offer a free drink as part of the meal. You won't feel awkward in drinking something else.

Posted by
4478 posts

Stan, on some tours wine is included; we've been on three that included wine. Non-drinkers were offered soft drinks, instead. It was never a problem.

Posted by
3449 posts

A general comment on the inclusion of wine and other alcohol on the trips.

The officially stated RS policy is that the tours do not include anything other than water to drink during the group evening meals. This is stated so no one arrives on the trips expecting wine or beer and then being disappointed when they have to buy their own. If there is a wine tasting or a brewery or distillery tasting or a planned group happy hour at a pub as part of the trip, that is detailed in the itinerary. So therefore expectations are properly set.

However, I have noticed that this is not always the case where drinks have to be purchased. The last few tours I went on there has been the welcoming happy hour where various drinks and snacks were provided. We have had picnic lunches at the bus where local alcoholic beverages were provided as part of the drink selection. On some trips there is wine included with the group meals, or beer if you are in regions that are more beer centric. It might be just a single glass per person, or sometimes (especially on the more recent tours I have taken) unlimited glasses. Who is paying for this? I don't know. It could be the restaurant including a house beverage at no additional cost with the meal for the group since the group is fairly large. It could also be the tour guide feeling generous and buying a round because he/she negotiated a lower price for other activities and had money left over to spend. No matter, it does make the tour members feel grateful that they are getting something for "free". And of course there are non-alcoholic beverages provided in every case.

Posted by
5729 posts

Jane, Mark describes my experience too. On one tour, when wine or an aperitif was offered at some meals, it was being offered by the restaurant, as told to me by our RS guide when I asked. Other times drinks and snacks were offered by the hotel also not paid by RS. One time, wine was arranged by the guide for a voluntary extra contribution, in which about half the group participated.

Janet, even at stops to tour wineries, there was never any pressure to drink and plenty of other things to see and do while there.

Posted by
4478 posts

Yes, Mark hits it again. On every tour we have taken, there has been at least one meal or "happy hour" where wine was provided. On three tours (Barcelona/Madrid once and Sicily twice) wine was provided with all group dinners and some lunches. I've always assumed that RSE paid for the wine on those tours. And there are always more informal get-togethers where the tour members BYOB or chip in to buy something. And at most, but not all, of the initial "meet the group and guide" sessions, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks were available. So I guess every tour is different! We always assume wine is not included with the meals, but we've been pleasantly surprised a number of times.

Posted by
4478 posts

But Janet needn't worry or feel awkward about not drinking. It's always okay to say "No, thank you."

Posted by
8060 posts

Each guide also has a budget to cover some extras so sometimes the wine is out of the guide budget and sometimes it's from the restaurant/hotel. I've had the guide use it for bike rental in Lucca and other small extras as well as wine for some of the group dinners.

I read somewhere or was told by a guide (really don't remember!!) that Rick is pretty insistent about them using the whole budget up instead of returning it to come in under budget. Apparently this concept is difficult for newer guides as other companies don't operate that way.

Posted by
600 posts

Tim - it may be silly, but being in situations where everyone else is drinking and I'm not does make me uncomfortable. I have never liked the taste of alcohol, but sometimes wish I did so when I was in groups with people who are drinking socially so I dont have to listen to the comments about my lack of an alcoholic beverage or probing questions about why I don't drink, including the long list of suggestions - "oh, that must be because you haven't tried such-and-such before" or "you must not have acquired the taste yet, but don't you worry, you will" and so on. People will joke that I don't know how to have fun or just need to loosen up. None of these things are a big deal, but when you are the sort of person who likes to fly under the radar in social groups, these discussions can bring you undue attention. For some reason people are a lot more interested in why I don't drink than in why I don't eat Brussels sprouts! ;)

Posted by
3192 posts

Great question Janet. I've actually wondered this myself before. The advertising seems to stress drinking quite a bit.

Tim- you obviously have never experienced how drinkers can get a little upset with nondrinkers in some social situations and become quite rude and belittling to someone for saying, "no thanks." You only have to experience this treatment once to become a little wary. I do think that people are far better about this than in the past and don't seem to feel that they need to pressure others the way that once happened.

Posted by
408 posts

At least in my experience of drinks at dinners it is NO big deal if you are drinking or not. These are not wild parties but group dinners. On the four tours we have been on I never noticed who drank or not. It sounds though that maybe these tours might not be to your liking since people do drink. Just a thought.

Posted by
210 posts

Oddly enough, I had a coworker once commented that when he watched the RS shows, he got the impression everyone spent most of their tour time drinking wine. It was just his perception, but he spent a lot of time drinking regardless of where he was. Drinking seemed to be very important to him……that's probably why he was drawn to those images. But…….sometimes perception is reality.

It is your tour. There is not a "must drink the wine/beer" clause in the fine print. Yes, there are wine tastings on many of the tours……sometimes beer…..or even scotch. It is your choice to partake. I have never felt pressured one way or the other. Personally, I usually will have a glass of wine or a beer, but not 100% of the time. I can drink at home at lot cheaper than traveling to Europe to do it…..that is not what I travel. Hopefully the "adults" on the tour will respect your choice.

Posted by
524 posts

On our Rome City Tour, this past Sept., both my husband's and my tour buddies (married couple) did not drink. They mentioned it at the meet and greet. We did not ask why, after all, they were adults. Wine was provided for two of the group meals, and the guide arranged for them to have Fanta, their drink of choice. The last group meal, in fact, had wine pairings to go along with each course. The guide supplied it, as it was from her own vineyard. Most of our tours have ended with wine provided, they must use up the funds.

Posted by
366 posts

Hi Janet:

I also do not drink as I am allergic to alcohol. I have been on 8 RS tours including one that was very wine centric. I have found that if I told the guide that I did not drink I was always offered an alternative at group dinners. Juice, water etc. Also there was usually at least one other person who did not drink. As others have said it is not a big deal.

I would say that the drinking was the smallest part of the day on the tours I went on. Even the Eastern France tour that stopped at may vineyards. There it was seeing how the wine was made and doing tasting. At one vineyard when they fund out I did not drink alcohol, I was offered wonderful grape juice.

Don't worry, go and enjoy the tours.

Posted by
34 posts

Well, there is a lot of middle ground between not drinking at all and considering "drinking the most important part of the day" as you mention in the original post. I think you'll find that people will drink wine with dinner, at the occasional tasting event, and some folks will have a drink or two after dinner. I probably averaged two drinks a day on the Best of Europe in 14 trip, but tasting wine in France and Italy, and beer in Germany, was one of the things I enjoyed.

I wouldn't consider it a problem, though, if you never wanted to drink on the tour. It's certainly not necessary - you'll be in Italy, so enjoy an espresso, cappuccino, or some other drink!

Posted by
434 posts

Hi,

I have only been on one tour. When & if we did order wine, the waiters would present us with a separate check after dinner. There was nothing awkward.

Mary

Posted by
277 posts

I went on the Germany/Austria/Switzerland tour which focused more on beer, and I'm not a beer drinker and it also was not a problem. There is one thing you might need to know about Italy. They don't serve "tap" water. (They think it isn't good). Water was always available especially at group dinners, but when you are on you own you will be charged for water. There are 2 options "still" and "sparkling". I liked the sparkling, but my husband did not. We found that bottles of water, wine or soda were the same price. So we usually picked wine, but sometimes we just had water.

Posted by
56 posts

I had similar concerns prior to a recent 14 day Best of Ireland tour & you know what? You'll be just fine. I don't drink at all either & while that tour featured multiple pub visits, tours of whiskey distilleries, & of course, the group meals. While alcohol is often present, you're not forced to drink in any situation & you don't have to contribute to what you don't pay for. If you buy a Coke, when it comes time to split the bill, you pay for the Coke. People should understand that not everyone drinks, whatever their reason, & if they don't? Too bad for them.

Posted by
97 posts

Hi Janet--date late seeing your post--on Rick's tours only once have we been around an alchol question--1st the guide at orientation ask for "hands" for non drinkers--2nd, same tour another non alchol member of our group was asked by a fellow tour member why they came on the tour (tour was in wine country)--we're tea-totalers by personal choice--we have not ever had any other issues regarding the subject--we are looking forward to April and our 14th Rick Steves tour (Italy)--hope you choose to make and enjoy a tour and your tour group members company

Posted by
50 posts

I don't drink and it was never a problem on the three tours that I've taken. Usually people just paid the waiter for any drinks they ordered although on one tour, jugs of house wine were included with the dinner. There were wine tasting events which I found interesting because I'm not adverse to taking a sip. But I would say that drinking was never the focus of any of the tours.

Posted by
57 posts

Thanks, Everyone, for your input. I seriously appreciate those who understand being questioned or encouraged to drink. We're signed up for the Village Italy tour. I am so excited!

Posted by
7205 posts

I haven't been pressured to drink since high school. Surely by the age that most of us ARE here on these forums we've gotten past the point of being "pressured". In high school you may have felt awkward saying no. As an adult I can only imagine someone trying to "pressure" me to do ANYTHING without me laughing in their face!