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Report from a RS tour during Covid

I just returned from the Best of Ireland RS tour and can report on the Covid situation. Both my transatlantic flights were about 2/3 full and masking was pretty lax on United. I took a short flight on Aer Lingus from Belfast to London and they were very strict about wearing masks.

Our tour started April 24 and we had to have a negative test to start the tour. I asked the receptionist at the hotel the best place to get this and she directed me to a site about a 15 minute walk away. I booked online in advance and they had plenty of availability of times to choose from. The location was right by a couple of the sites that I wanted to see so after I had a quick nasal swab I just went on my way sightseeing and received results via email. The first night of the tour we were asked for information regarding both our immunizations and the test I took the day prior. After that, I had no further need for the vaccination record on the whole trip.
Masks were required on the tour bus but not when we were off and about. Seating was as normal, there was no requirement to sit in the same spot. Our guide did pass out antibacterial wipes often so we could clean our area. The group meals were all inside restaurants and masking was up to the individual to monitor as they saw fit. As always, some people were more diligent in wearing it and some less so. Unfortunately, one of our tour members tested positive for Covid on the last day of the tour. The rest of us did not see him or his wife again but I understand the RS staff in Edmunds helped them figure out logistics of his continuing care and helped coordinate information with his insurance company.

As far as the rules and behavior in Ireland, I found that there was very little mask wearing or crowd control regarding Covid. As in the US, there are labor shortages in Ireland causing services to be decreased and restaurants to be closed. There were a few sites that were totally closed due to Covid and there were some that had reduced hours. Our guide had information about where to get a Covid test for the return flight and walked a few of us to the site on the last day of the tour. It was easy and the results were available within 40 minutes.

Regardless of the added layer of Covid concerns, the tour was great! I kept a KN95 in my back pocket and would pull it out as I saw fit. Many of the things we saw were outside, so I felt mask wearing was not needed. All of the guides were superb and seemed to be glad to finally have work. A few people along the way thanked us for coming to Ireland. Yes, there were a couple sites that were not included but that has happened on tours in the pre-Covid days as well. It is just a part of travel. Pubs were a lot of fun, even if some were crowded. Our weather was much better than expected—a few sunny days, many grey ones, but only one day of rain. The land was beautiful and it was lamb season, they were so cute and everywhere we went!

I hope this might help others decide if a tour is for them this year, I have another tour planned for October and have no second thoughts about going, given what I saw in Ireland.

Posted by
70 posts

Thanks for the report. I’m still on the fence about booking, but giving it a lot of thought..

Posted by
960 posts

Nicely done, thanks! Dear wife won't let me travel till next year but I'm signing up for Spain the instant 2023 tours are available.

Posted by
158 posts

Thanks! We're going on back-to-back Italy tours in the fall. This helps us plan.

Posted by
42 posts

Good that things went well. We just returned from the first BOE14 and results were similar.
Jody was our guide and was exceptional! She reviewed the expectations at the check=in meeting. We were told that NC95 masks were required on the tour bus. I'm happy to report that our group had 100% compliance for the entire tour! She also had a stash of masks that she carried that were just in case. Group meals were mostly in 4 or 6 to a table. Jody also mentioned that she had a supply of do it yourself COVID tests that would be available (YIPPEE! No one showed symptoms,) The only concern I had was when on METRO in Paris when we were sardines and riders were 33% to 50% masked. Testing prior to flying home had a minor bump. The tour ended on Sunday, May 8 which is a French national holiday (VE day). Almost all pharmacies were closed but those in need of a Sunday test all were tested. Our hotel was near the Arch and security was tight==lots of police and closed streets--sort of neat to experience.

Flying home check in was a breeze. We arrived at CDG at 6:45 for our 10:30 flight to SFO. It took all of 15 minutes to get all the medical info, passport checks, outbound immigration and security checked. (Remember that TSA Pre-check does not work in France!) Even the lounge was empty.

Final comment! Global Entry was a breeze! Took all of 3 to 4 minutes There must have been 200+ in line for regular customs.

Bottom line. RSE and our tour guide did their homework and went beyond our expectations. Can't wait for our next trip.

Posted by
6483 posts

Thank you for your report and reminding me of how wonderful Ireland is.

Remember the first time I laid eyes on it from the air on a flight from England. Cloudy but finally as we approached Dublin the clouds parted and I gasped….
“ Bad word, it really is that green!”

Love Eire!

Slainte

Posted by
158 posts

Thanks for both tour reports. We are going on back-to-back tours in September/October and, to be honest, I was getting a little nervous about COVID. These reports make me feel much more confident.

Posted by
32 posts

Best of Ireland may be my next RS tour. Love the report, thanks so much.

Posted by
20 posts

Just returned from the Paris and Heart of France tour and had similar experiences: Linda was our wonderful guide. At the introduction meeting, she looked at everyone's COVID cards to verify vaccination status and reviewed expectations. She emphasized reporting any illnesses immediately so that it could be handled early on. On the bus and Metro, masks were required. People were allowed to change seats on the bus. While outside, masks were not required although some people wore them. Since our tour arrived back in Paris on a Sunday, the company arranged to have a private nurse come to the hotel and do COVID tests for anyone flying out on Monday. The cost was 20 Euros and the results were provided in 15-20 minutes. Thankfully, everyone tested negative.
I enjoyed the tour immensely and was very happy with the precautions RS provided to keep people safe.

Posted by
235 posts

Reporting similar experiences as noted above for the RS 21 day BOE that ended May 7. There were 25 people on the tour. Happy to report 0 cases of Covid!

Posted by
1 posts

My husband and I returned from the Athens and Greece Tour in 14 Days at the end of May. I tested positive for Covid on Day One of the tour. My husband tested negative and joined the tour group.

This whole situation could have been a nightmare, but we had several people who rallied on our behalf and made a very unfortunate situation bearable. Iris, our guide, arranged for testing in the hotel, left me snacks at my door before leaving on the tour bus, arranged for a hotel room for my husband the night before the tour was to leave Athens so he could isolate from me and asked the hotel to see what they could do as far as extending my stay in my current hotel room. Heidi, from Rick Steves sent me an email a couple days later, explaining all the steps I could follow in regards to getting help from the travel insurance company they are affiliated with and how to best maneuver through Covid in a foreign country. The RS Hotel was very accommodating. They made sure I didn't have to move to another room which allowed me to stay where I was for the next 12 days. Room service in the hotel was equally accommodating.

My husband left the tour after 4 days as several other travelers had tested positive and had to isolate and leave the tour group. He didn't want to be so far separated from me in Athens if he were to get Covid himself. Iris, was extremely helpful to those who had to stay behind and was fine with the decision my husband made to leave.

When we returned to the states, Heidi from Rick Steves was so helpful and explained the steps I needed to follow to get the refund for the missed tour days for both my husband and myself. The process was seamless and our refund was immediate.

We have been on 14 Rick Steves Tours (well I guess 13 now) and are now working on our next tour. We will continue to travel with Rick Steves even more so now that we have experienced an unexpected "blip" in our latest tour and found that Rick Steves had our back from beginning to end. Thank you! Christine

Posted by
5770 posts

We have been on 14 Rick Steves Tours (well I guess 13 now) and are now working on our next tour.

I'd call that at least 13-and-a-half. Glad to hear you had a smooth, if not exactly as-you-had-expected experience. Kudos again to RSE and their staff for seeing you through, and doing what they could to ensure a positive outcome.

Posted by
1856 posts

@chrisvall4 I am sorry that you didn’t get to enjoy the tour. What a disappointment for you. Thanks for letting us know how RS handled things for you. That is very reassuring and I hope it continues since the testing restriction to come home to the US is no longer in force. It is interesting that your husband will be issued a refund even though he voluntarily left the tour when he was not positive for covid. I wouldn’t have expected that.