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Woes on the Loire Valley tour - 5/29 - 6/10

We joined our RS tour on 5/9 in Chartres; there were 25 of us, plus our excellent guide Virginie.

Our first Covid case occurred a few days later; the wife was tested positive, so she and her husband left the tour.

A couple of days later, our guide was tested positive, so she had to leave the tour in Sarlat, where we went on with a new tour guide for the day. One of our couples decided to leave the tour because they didn't want to risk not being able to return to the US, which requires a negative Covid test in order to board a flight home.

Now it's been a few more days and we are down to 12 remaining participants out of 25, and are on our 5th tour guide (yes, 5!). We lost two more couples this morning, and we're all so worried now that more will fall before we fly out 3 days from now. My brother and his wife were on the trip with us; they got left behind in Carcasonne when she tested positive, and another guy had to remain behind as well.

Would I have gone on this trip if I'd known so many of us would test positive? Nope. The confined space of the bus for hours at a time, combined with lots of nights where we dined together in various configurations, has made this such a mess. The spread seems to be random; spouses aren't getting it--so far no spouse has caught it from his or her partner; most of the positive cases are women. The gallows humor has started, as we all wonder who's next and whether we'll make it to the end.

My wife and I had Covid in early February, are double-vaccinated and double-boosted (as are almost all of our group); we wonder if having had it so recently has given us enough antibodies to not catch it yet.

Getting home is the big problem; if these couples can't get a negative test by Friday morning, when most of us are scheduled to fly home, they have to stay, and change their flights. Meanwhile, we continue to mask on the bus and in confined spaces, and just hope that we don't test positive on Thursday before our flights home.

If you're scheduled to travel soon, you should know the possibility of this happening in your tour group; we certainly never imagined this happening, but we're in the middle of it, and it's a mess.

On a positive note, RSE is helping as best they can. One of the big issues is that some of our couples have had to remain behind in small towns, with little options for getting themselves back to Paris for flights home. My brother and his wife are still in Carcasonne because there were no trains available until tomorrow...

Posted by
2676 posts

Yikes, thanks for your report from the frontlines! Perhaps independent travel is a safer bet, at least during this unstable transition phase from Pandemic to Endemic. I know in my recent trip to Poland I found the flexibility to pass on an overcrowded restaurant or venue invaluable. I also rented a car so I wouldn't have to worry about potentially catching Covid while on public transport.

Posted by
1666 posts

Thank you for sharing Bob. I’m so sorry your tour turned so disappointing. I am on this tour beginning Sept 11 after spending 10 days in London and Paris.

There are several current threads about masking on tours. Did you find that to be a problem? Do you think the first couple caught Covid on the plane? I know there’s no way to know, but it can be a warning to manage behavior. In your opinion was indoor dining a factor?

I find it disheartening that over 50% of your tour participants left the tour do to Covid.

Posted by
23 posts

We suspect that the first positive case was caught on the flight over, but as you said, there's no way to know. Everyone tested negative on the first day, and we consistently masked in the bus (still do). We don't mask outside, but my wife and I did mask today in a museum because there were lots of kids there.

The excursions have been excellent; our guide Virginie, who sadly got Covid about halfway through the trip, was first class and a huge loss for us. I'm not fond of the long bus rides, but there's no way to see the Loire Valley as we have, without a bus or a car.

Masking isn't a big problem, but it also isn't protecting us either, as all the positive cases have shown. I have definite opinions about how RSE deals with positive cases on tours, but I'll leave that for another time. I definitely plan to write a long email to RSE to share some of the group's thoughts about it; it's of course a huge topic of discussion these days as our group dwindles each morning.

It's odd to be on a 47-passenger bus with only 12 group members. Very sad.

Posted by
150 posts

Bob,

Thanks for posting this update. So sorry this has happened on your tour! I can see how group dinners and bus rides could contribute to additional spread. Sending good thoughts that the rest of you stay negative, and everyone travels home smoothly.

Posted by
26 posts

Wow yes at this point independent travel does seem like a better option. The US needs to drop the covid test and RS tours should just learn to live with it as well... This may be the new normal from now on continually catching more and more mild versions of covid...

I really don't like that RS Tours basically abandons you once you test positive. Although I do not know what else they could do...

Posted by
961 posts

Such a virulent spread - has anyone questioned the testing procedure - have people on the tour sought out a second test (different test) to confirm the positives? Just asking!

EDIT: Thanks for the clarification, Bob!

Posted by
23 posts

You've echoed what we are all saying today. People have been left behind in little towns and have to find travel to get to their return flight city (most of us are flying home from Paris); it's not an ideal situation for sure.

It's all so random; one spouse gets it, the other doesn't (in all 5 cases so far); 12 of us are fine so far, 6 others have tested positive. We've mixed and mingled for a week; why some get it and some don't is totally unpredictable.

We all wonder if one or more of us 12 already have it and just don't know it... and now we're about to have dinner together in a half-hour. I think they're setting up 6 tables, one for each couple. That's sad too.

Posted by
23 posts

Yes, every positive case tests a 2nd time with rapid test; each case was confirmed. Our guide then had them get a PCR test--each of those was positive as well so far.

Posted by
961 posts

"The US needs to drop the covid test and RS tours should just learn to live with it as well"

Since no one knows how they will react to catching Covid, that hardly sounds like a solution.

Posted by
35 posts

So sorry this happened to your group, Bob! I would think that catching Omicron in Feb will have protected you and your wife. This really illustrates the need for good travel insurance that covers Covid quarantine and all the potential expenses. It could be extremely costly otherwise.☹️

Just got off the Adriatic tour a few weeks ago. Fortunately nobody got Covid and we all made it home, at least that I know about so far.

Posted by
126 posts

Thanks Bob for posting this. Wow!
We are scheduled for back to back RS tours starting at the end of August and this has really made us think...more. It is so hard to figure out what to do as you just don't know what is going to happen. We are now wondering if we should cancel the second RS tour and just come home after the first one. We had planned an additional week in Paris on our own after the 2 tours, but I have read that Paris is packed and maybe that is not a good place to travel to in September.

We plan to mask up on the tours but it seems that is not always the best solution. So much to think about and it almost ruins the fun of planning the trip.
As far as the US lifting the requirement for a negative test.....am I wrong in thinking that people will just get on the plane even though they are positive because they need to get home? Or will the airline still require a negative test?
Will be thinking of you, Bob, and safe travels.

Posted by
2676 posts

So sorry this happened to your group, Bob! I would think that catching Omicron in Feb will have protected you and your wife.

That was probably BA.1, which I believe offers limited protections to the newer subvariants

Posted by
3335 posts

Thank you for taking the time to share your experience with all of us. Given your tour as an example, it actually makes sense that the US requires Covid testing before returning home and I really hate saying that. I just wish the Covid testing were 3 days in advance and not one day prior to flying home. I have a few questions if you don’t mind my asking:

Are tour members required by RSE to test for Covid every day on the tour as I am wondering how people found out that they even had Covid as so many cases are asymptomatic?

Were you able to go to every attraction/event that was listed on this tour or did they have to make some cuts?

Did RSE help arrange extended stay at the hotel or inn for those who tested positively, help explain what to do to return home to the US, offer assistance in finding local medical care if needed, and help arrange transportation (or explain how to arrange it) to the airport when tour members were allowed to travel home?

Was everybody on the tour wearing a KN 95 mask fully covering their nose and mouth especially on the bus and indoors? Or were they wearing those surgical masks that really offer no protection?

I am going on a solo trip in early October to Germany and plan get the second booster in September so that the vaccine will hopefully work its strongest as it will only be in me for four weeks. I’m hoping that will help but who knows.

I wish you a very successful and healthy remainder to your trip!

Posted by
1851 posts

@Continental I can answer one of your questions. We just finished two back to back tours in Italy in May. We were required to show a proctored negative test for the beginning of the first tour. On the second tour RS had dispensed with the initial test requirement but that was quickly reinstated for subsequent tours with a self-test when so many other tours had started testing positive. That was the only testing that was required. I brought a lot of self-tests and tested myself for several days before the end of the second tour when we were due to come home. Luckily we were negative and were able to come home.

Posted by
8833 posts

Of the folks that tested positive what sort of symptoms did they exhibit that prompted them to do a test?

Posted by
26 posts

"The US needs to drop the covid test and RS tours should just learn to live with it as well"

Since no one knows how they will react to catching Covid, that hardly sounds like a solution.

I'm curios what RSE did when people caught colds on their tours in the past?

I wonder If RSE Tours will be able to remain profitable having to refund so many tour members. It just seems inevitable packing many people on a small tour bus for hours at a time, that people will get covid.

I know I am seriously rethinking my fall tour and would not book another one under current conditions...

I am not worried about covid, being double vaccinated, boosted, and having caught it (twice for my wife). I am more worried about being dropped off in some small town and having to figure out how to get back to where my flight home leaves from...

Posted by
164 posts

Yiiiiiikes. Thanks for the report. My husband and I are scheduled for Best of Istanbul in October which does not involve any bus time, but the dinners and whatnot still have me concerned. We have another month before we have to cancel and I'm really torn. I am definitely in the "drop the requirement and live with it" camp, especially since masking is not required on most flights - to me it seems that the odds are against us from the start if masks and negative tests aren't even required on the way over.

Posted by
334 posts

Wow, 5 guides!

We had a wonderful trip last month, and luckily all of us tested negative at the end. I realize that without any of us doing anything differently, it could have gone more like your trip.

I felt being on the bus was quite safe. We had the opportunity to distance, we all wore masks, and the air flow seemed good. I was a bit concerned sitting so close to others at the dinners, but not enough to skip the meal and miss all the fun! Plus, I paid a lot for that food;)

I'm sorry your trip was such a mess. I hope no one gets very sick and you all make it home sooner than later.

Posted by
961 posts

"I'm curios what RSE did when people caught colds on their tours in the past?"

There is no equivalence between the 2, period.

Posted by
5696 posts

Sorry about your trip. I remain cautious about Covid and haven’t used public transport anywhere in more than 2 years. Sorry, but there is no way I would go on a bus tour at present, masked or not. Masks only give a degree of protection, as your participants have discovered. People aren’t masked at meal time.

I am currently in France on holiday, but I am staying in my own caravan, have only eaten outdoors and have been focusing on walking and cycling and avoiding indoor activities.

I know of several couples (all fully vaccinated and boosted) where he has caught Covid and she hasn’t. Odd.

Posted by
2050 posts

Just home recently from my Eastern France tour and since I was on the same tour, I agree with all mnannie reports! No issues for any of us. mnannie, I’m so happy you didn’t miss any of the fun or the good food-I would have missed out on meeting a new friend!

Posted by
186 posts

I am sorry to read about your experience. It shows that the pandemic is not over and even taking reasonable precautions are no guarantees against catching COVID.

I realize that travel, or for that matter daily activities comes with risks. Hence, other than 10 days at an all inclusive resort (10% occupancy) we have not travelled. We are planning a trip, but it is going to be a self driving tour, with planned excursions and whenever possible private tours. We realize that this is more expensive and will not eliminate the risks of getting sick. It will eliminate the long periods traveling with others in a confined space. It will allow us to dine alone, again reducing our risks.

We realize we give up the group interaction and we are okay with that. We found that two weeks with the same people can tire quickly and there is always someone holding up the group.

So for us the cost of independent travel is worth the risk mitigation.

Posted by
8833 posts

It just seems inevitable packing many people on a small tour bus for hours at a time, that people will get covid.

RS tours do not have people 'packed on small buses'. They use 54-60 passenger buses that have 28 tourists, plus the guide and driver. Certainly not packed. Much more spacing than in any kind of economy section on an airplane.

Posted by
443 posts

"I'm curios what RSE did when people caught colds on their tours in the past?"

On our very last tour (and the very last Best of England tour of 2019) a person caught a cold by the time we reached Keswick. Within several days at least 5 more people contracted the virus. I still remember people whispering "avoid so-and-so, they caught a cold" but no one was removed from the tour. In fact, a handful continued to develop symptoms and were coughing badly in London. Several consulted pharmacies where prescriptions were issued. I recall the same occurrences on previous RS tours as well. It seemed rather common for people to contract colds as travel can be rather stressful on the body's resistance.

Posted by
935 posts

If we knew exactly how covid spreads, we'd have effective protocols. If we knew exactly how the vaccines and antibodies worked together, we'd have 100% effective vaccines.

All we can do is the best we can do.

Posted by
4590 posts

Bob, that is so sad after anxiously wanting to travel again!

Could your brother & his wife fly home from Toulouse instead of Paris? That would sure be less stress on them. We did an independent trip to France and our last stop before flying home from Toulouse was at Carcassone. We were flying Delta/Air France.

Posted by
2744 posts

Everyone is so eager to travel ... but perhaps it's still time to wait. I think Rick is going to have some explaining to do ...

Posted by
99 posts

We do know how Covid spreads: primarily in the air. We also know that one of the best ways to reduce the risk of transmission is by using N95 masks that are well fitted. Unfortunately the risk % goes up as soon as you are around others in more congested spaces that may be poorly ventilated and no one is wearing a mask: indoor dining. What we don’t know is why some get it and others don’t; it can feel like luck (or bad luck) for want of another explanation.

We just successfully (no Covid) completed a 3.5 weeks trip to France (Paris & Dijon). But we were hyper vigilant with N95 masks always (the double strapped ones on the plane, train, taxis, and airports); outside eating or in our room; open windows for ventilation in our hotel room always; no daily housekeeping (allowed twice and then we aired out the room for a few hours); no Metro use in Paris, only buses.

We had Covid in late December 2019 before the world knew what was coming. It was awful and left one of us with residual health issues. We don’t want to get it again in spite of being vaccinated. We do still want to travel and are willing to make the necessary modifications to minimize risk.

Covid is airborne, plain and simple. Minimize masking and air ventilation, increase your risks.

Posted by
8860 posts

I’m so sorry to hear about you tour experience. Best of luck with the rest of your travels.

“ on the tours but it seems that is not always the best solution. So much to think about and it almost ruins the fun of planning the trip.
As far as the US lifting the requirement for a negative test.....am I wrong in thinking that people will just get on the plane even though they are positive because they need to get home? Or will the airline still require a negative test?”

Exactly. I’m sure that many people would consider their own interests and fly home when positive if there is nothing preventing them from doing so. And there is no longer a requirement to mask on planes, so there’s even a greater chance that they will spread it. Covid can’t be compared to a cold. I have in the recent past and will be traveling in the future independently. I’ll wear a mask indoors, outdoors in crowded situations and on public transportation. In other words I don’t trust most people to think about how their actions affect others.

Posted by
5508 posts

This is certainly a concerning report. I did want to point out that 50% of the participants did not get covid as mentioned above. Many of the positives had covid free spouses that opted (and I understand why) to leave the tour with their covid positive travel partner.

We don't have the "total picture" here on the forum. It does seem like some tours often have little or no problems and then there are tours with big problems such as this tour. The challenge is that a person doesn't know in advance which version of the tour they will end up on. The covid free or the covid heavy. Those on the covid heavy have certainly reported some major challenges that they faced here after that positive result.

I do think that any traveler needs to understand that when he/she travels, whether independently or on a tour, the risk of illness or travel disruption due to covid is present. Each individual then has to choose whether that is an acceptable risk for him/her or not.

I also think that where you travel can make a difference on your experience. Are you in a country that requires strict isolation or a minimal number of days of quarantine (Italy., France....) or are you in a country that has less strict requirements such as the UK, Spain, or Iceland?

I don't think any of us that signed up for a tour this year envisioned an experience like Bob or others have had. I'm still going on my September back to backs, but I am going with my eyes wide open that things may not go as I hope and that preparation for possible positive test and flexibility will be some of the most important things I bring with me.

Posted by
243 posts

Do you know of anyone that tested positive had any serious symptoms and/or needed medical attention? All the reports I read on this forum and the flyertalk.com forum people described very mild symptoms or were asymptomatic.
As for me I am not going to participate in the testing theater, I will return to Vancouver and cross by bus to Seattle and fly home. I supported and practiced every recommendation and will still wear my mask but the testing requirement is no longer about the science.
https://www.travelweekly.com/Travel-News/Government/Travel-industry-getting-tough-on-Covid-test-rule

Posted by
5750 posts

Everyone is so eager to travel ... but perhaps it's still time to
wait. I think Rick is going to have some explaining to do ...

I don't think Ricky (or Lucy) has any 'splainin' to do. RSE has been pretty clear in what they have been telling, and continue to tell, their customers to expect (and yes, in some cases how they need to behave) if you're going along with them.

The pandemic is not over. No rational person has ever said that. Yes, lots of things have changed since the dark days of 2020-2021, but not everything. And one can not responsibly just travel and behave like it's 1999 (though some do). Traveling during a pandemic requires some behavioral adjustments, some awareness, some risk tolerance, and some consideration, in order to stay safe and to safeguard others. It doesn't matter if you declare you don't care about getting COVID (the person sitting near you may care a lot if you do). COVID doesn't care what you believe US government policy should be, or what agreement you signed when you opted-in for a tour.

Many people have just given up, declared they are "done with COVID and are moving on" (no shortage of people here in the forum regularly express this defiant view). Giving up and abandoning all public health guidelines is not a brave stand, it's not a declaration of your love of freedom...because if you get sick, those around you stand a much greater chance of getting sick, too (and they may care a lot more than you).

You can not control what others do (including fellow tour-members) when they are away from the group. But RSE can (and should, IMHO) take steps to ensure their customers have the best chance to complete a tour without getting sick. They have always taken pride in being an ethical company; helping customers avoid getting sick is also in their best interests. They have skin in the game: if enough people on their tours end up getting sick (or just testing positive) at some point that's not sustainable from a business perspective (I'm sure going through 5 tour guides on a single tour is stressing their ability to manage business). If they want to keep leading tours and stay in business (a goal I think everyone shares), they need to do what they can to keep people as COVID-free as they can. That includes, unfortunately, enforcing compliance with their stated mask-while-on-the-bus policy (ask any flight attendant how much fun that has been...).

It's not perfect, there's no guarantee that everyone will make it without testing positive. Tour participants (and independent travelers they cross paths with) can help do their part. Wearing a mask when appropriate is one way. Following the rules that you explicitly agreed to is another. So is behaving smartly and responsibly even when not with the group, remembering that the pandemic is not over, and that COVID is all around you.

Let's all hope that what's reported in this thread remains an outlier, rather than an indicator of a trend (they've gone through 4 tour guides, and more than half the tour participants bounced from this tour -- that just ain't sustainable). We all can do our part. Or we can behave like "it's nothing" and see where that gets us.

Posted by
99 posts

Cafetista, random PCR tests are done at the Vancouver airport with passengers arriving on international flights so you may not escape testing. My spouse was chosen when we returned 12 days ago and he was one of many.

Posted by
2142 posts

Bob,
I’m so sorry to read your post. I just completed a Best of Scandinavia tour, my 8th, and 5 tour mates tested positive out of 22 people, at the end of the tour. Masks were not enforced by our guide only occasionally. I tried to remind her and wore mine on the bus and in indoor spaces, but even I was inconsistent. The 5 positive cases were all clustered in the back of the bus. I know masks are not a panacea but combined with social distancing you have more protection. I have a few weeks before the final payment for my Poland tour in September, I’m considering not going because of the need for a negative test before coming home. The anxiety! I will do a pro/con list before I make a final decision.
Again I’m sorry about your tour.

Posted by
1851 posts

Thank you to Carol now retired and David for your replies. Spot on.

Posted by
21293 posts

Bob didn't specify that the use of five different guides on his tour was the result of four guides with positive tests. I suspect one (more likely more than one) of the guides was intended to be a short-term fill-in until a replacement could get to the tour location.

At the individual level, the efficacy of one's own immune system (after vaccination/boosting) is obviously a factor in determining whether one manages to escape infection--thus the many reports of uninfected spouses. At the group level, I suspect it matters quite a lot if a tour member or guide was exposed the last day or so at home or on the way to the tour and just didn't yet have a heavy enough viral load to be positive on the pre-tour test. If the group is seeded with an infected person as of Day 1, 2 or 3, there's considerable time for others to get sick. You could go through two transmission cycles before the end of most tours.

I saw an article recently about the possibility that some allergies may offer protection against COVID. I either read carelessly (I don't have allergies myself, except to cats) or the article was light on specifics, because I can't tell you what the "good" allergies might be.

Posted by
3335 posts

Thanks Mary. So it sounds like there is no requirement to test daily but those people on Bob‘s tour did perhaps because they felt sick. It sounds like these tour members were left to fend for themselves in small towns. I think that’s awful.

Posted by
7695 posts

Can you change your flight to Nice and avoid time on the train? That’s a long time traveling with everyone else unmasked.

But most people on the plane won't be masked, either.

(Maybe you consider a flight would be preferable because it takes less time ?)

Posted by
1330 posts

I just can not get worried about group dinners. My wife and I have been doing dine-in restaurant meals, 4 times a week, for over a year. No problems, YET. That said, we are still not doing overseas travel until the return testing requirement is lifted. Just do not want to chance it. We have been traveling in the US where we ate in restaurants 3 times a day.

Posted by
334 posts

I’m so happy you didn’t miss any of the fun or the good food-I would have missed out on meeting a new friend!

I'm so happy I got to meet you and the rest of your fun group, and I'd love to be on another tour with you in the future!

Oh, and I should have ordered the goat cheese salad instead of the eggplant in Vaison-la-Romaine:)

Posted by
169 posts

The back of the bus. That seems to be a repeated theme on some threads here regarding RS bus tours. RS tours with a bus that holds twice as many seats as people on the bus. Spread out. Except maybe in the back of the bus.
I think that the back of the bus is the place where those who want to talk congregate. It has always been so. It is so on public buses. On school busses when I was a kid. Everyone at the back gregarious and talking.
Everyone at the front listening to the guide. Looking out the window. Quiet.
Still everyone spread out.
So, what do you think will happen if you want to see no tests at all on the plane ride back home?
Do you believe in the magic of the ventilation system touted for airplanes? Remember sometimes nothing happening with that ventilation until take off. Sitting there for an hour onboard, before the engines ramp up.
The whole plane will be back of the bus. Excepting not so much continuous talking.

Posted by
1126 posts

Is 25 people considered a small group, or is that the normal RS tour group size?

Posted by
36 posts

That's a fairly normal size for a RS tour. We had 22 on our Paris and the HOF tour in 2017.

Posted by
382 posts

We took 2 back to back RS tours in April and no one got Covid during the tours. Several did afterwards. Yes Covid is still out there and yes, there is risk involved in ANY travel, European or otherwise.

Posted by
334 posts

The back of the bus. That seems to be a repeated theme on some threads here regarding RS bus tours. RS tours with a bus that holds twice as many seats as people on the bus. Spread out. Except maybe in the back of the bus.

This isn't what we have seen on our three RS tours.

For the most part, all 26 of us on our May tour sat in the same seats the entire time. I was happy to get the back row to distance a bit and to sit in the middle so I could see down the aisle. There was no one in the row ahead of us, and less people in the back then the front. There was little chatter amongst anyone in the back of the bus. We always head to the back because it isn't as crowded, as people tend to want to sit up front.

Posted by
279 posts

Bob,
I'm so sorry to hear about your tour being turned upside down. I hope everybody who is positive recovers quickly! Ditto for Virginie, whom I had as my guide of the Best of Paris tour in 2018 and who is, indeed, spectacular. I'm also due to the start this tour (on June 19th) and will be keeping my fingers crossed. If the guides are cycling like that, maybe I'l be seeing Virginie again!

Caroline

Posted by
371 posts

Folks, regardless of whether one is on an RS tour or in a crowded local bus or in a restaurant in your home town. It's not enough to wear just any mask. Those cloth fashion masks, the 'surgical' style masks, the ordinary dust masks, are not good enough to protect you. Better than nothing, yes. But, not as good as a properly fitting N95 or KN95.

Wear an N95 mask that fits tightly. I had to cancel my planned RS tour this Summer because of medical issues (not related to Covid), but had I gone, I would have brought an ample supply of N95 masks, the 3M ones that are ugly as can be, but fit me nice and snug with almost no leakage.

I notice that RS states it should be an N95, KN96 or KF94 mask. That's very good advice. They come in different styles. The mask that fits me well, no leaks, nice and snug, may not be a good fit for your face. Try a few different ones.

I wonder if most of the people on this tour and other tours are wearing an N95 or KN95 mask?

"Will I need to wear a mask in Europe and what kind?

Some countries have begun relaxing mask requirements, while others still require everyone to wear a mask while indoors or on public transportation. It's smart to bring some masks to cover any eventuality. But don't bring cloth masks; most countries require a medical-grade mask. The European term for this type of mask — which you might see on signs — is "FFP2." This is comparable to the N95, KN95, or KF94 masks that are readily available in the US. Disposable surgical masks are also accepted."

Posted by
279 posts

@acraven,

I saw that article too and it was indeed light on specifics. I got all excited because I thought my annoying shellfish allergy was finally going to pay off. It sounded like the research is very preliminary; they didn't specify beyond food allergies.

Caroline

Posted by
2212 posts

Wow, sorry this happened Bob, what a mess as you said. My husband and I were to take an RS tour in April. He tested positive in Paris before the tour started, so we were not able to do the tour. By the time he was scheduled to fly home 12 days later, he was negative. I was negative every time. Yes, it’s just random who gets it and who doesn’t.

Posted by
1851 posts

@joe32F

“RS tours do not have people 'packed on small buses'. They use 54-60 passenger buses that have 28 tourists, plus the guide and driver. Certainly not packed. Much more spacing than in any kind of economy section on an airplane.”

We had 47 person buses in Sicily and Southern Italy with 28 and 29 tour members on board. The first row behind the guide and the driver were to remain vacant. There were a number of singletons who had one row to themselves and then two mother/daughters traveling together and they each took a row to themselves. Couples sat together. There was not a lot of breathing room on those buses and we were packed together. We were told there were less seats on the bus so we would have more legroom but I didn’t find it any roomier than the 54-60 passenger bus. In fact, it felt less roomy and more crowded. I suspect these were smaller buses. On the 3 past tours that we have done, no one had to sit with a spouse unless they wanted to. Everyone had their own two seat row.

Posted by
135 posts

Bob, Are you saying you have had 5 RS our guides on this one tour? Or have you had tw o RS tour guides and multiple city guides?

We are scheduled to do a tour in mid August and yes, the testing is a concern.. RS is a really stand up guy and I am sure he must be pulling out his hair about now..

I thought I read on RSE everyone has to move they are double vaccinated and doubled boosted before joining the tour… is that not the case with your tour? Because you state “ most people are” did your tour guide not check before the start of your tour?

Posted by
279 posts

Regarding booster requirements: When I checked the Rick Staves tour FAQ page last night it said all "eligible" boosters, which I assume means that travelers under 50 just have to have the one.

Posted by
60 posts

@cafetista.bruja -- My daughter got Covid when we went to Hilton Head from the west coast. We live in 2 different states but met in Atlanta and then, flew to Savannah together. We arrived on Friday and by Tuesday she was sick as a dog. She had laryngitis, lack of appetite, very sore throat, and extreme fatigue. We took her to urgent care and the doctor swore up and down that she didn't have Covid. Gave her a prescription for her laryngitis which helped a lot. We flew home the next Friday. Our flight from Savannah was majorly delayed because the A/C was not working so, they eventually decided we needed to fly without the A/C. It was so, hot. My daughter did wear a mask but totally overheated as a result. She made it home and decided to home test and she was positive. We (husband and I) took 3 home tests over several days and never tested positive. So, we can't decide if the doctor was telling the truth and she got Covid on the plane or if she got Covid on the way to Hilton Head. She is still fatigued. She can't do her weekend hiking group. She had to miss 5 days of work. Silly thing is she is a Covid nurse. She knows how to protect herself. We never thought about taking home tests with us on our vacation. It didn't even cross my mind (this was early May). There were none in the drug stores in Hilton Head. I feel, we were totally irresponsible but we didn't know and we totally believed the doctor. So, I'm not sure if it is as simple as just having a cold. She was positive 5 days after her initial symptoms.

Posted by
60 posts

@bob... I'll be keeping my fingers cross that you don't test positive for Covid. Thanks for keeping us updated.

Posted by
9904 posts

As far as the US lifting the requirement for a negative test.....am I wrong in thinking that people will just get on the plane even though they are positive because they need to get home?

This is exactly what happens on any domestic flight in the US now.

Bob, I am so sorry about your trip. Fingers crossed you all continue to test negative.

I’ll add some non Rick Steves tour data.

Road Scholar April tour to Belgium and Netherlands.

18 tour members, 2 different guides (because the first one had a heart attack), different bus drivers for every day trip.

No masking on the bus or group activities. I wore an N95 which fits tight on my fat face all the time except when I was actively eating. There were one or 2 who wore masks on the bus. Road Scholar provides nearly all lunches and dinners so we were together at mealtimes a lot more.

1 person tested positive after being unmasked the whole time. His wife was allowed to continue to come to activities until she tested positive. She came to the 1st activity after the husband’s positive test wearing a vented mask. I gave her an N95 which she did wear.

I am still not sure how this happened but everyone but the 2 tested negative for the return and even a week after we were home no one tested positive.

I’m just adding this to say that there are times when close quarters and non-masking don’t necessarily lead to spread.

Posted by
1102 posts

“As far as the US lifting the requirement for a negative test.....am I wrong in thinking that people will just get on the plane even though they are positive because they need to get home?”

Yes, they will. It would be the same thing coming back to the US then as it is right now going over to Europe depending on where you are going. There are a lot of countries in Europe where you no longer even need proof of vaccination let alone a negative test to go there. Which is why my mask will be up the entire time on my flight and I'm praying all the others on my tour do the same thing on their flights so that we don't have the 'seeding.'

Posted by
398 posts

If you are on the Loire to the South of France tour that began 5/29 and ends 6/10, as indicated in the title to your post, and your brother and sister-in-law got left behind in Carcassone when she tested positive for Covid, that positive test would have been just two days ago, on June 5. Carcassone is a single overnight on the 8th night of the 12-night tour. You report some of the couples on your tour are stuck in small towns with few options for getting themselves to Paris for their flights home, one such couple being your relatives who are stuck in Carcassone because there are no trains until tomorrow. How is it that she is able to leave and travel to Paris? I am reading that France requires people who test positive to self-isolate for 7 days (or 10 if not fully vaccinated). I would think she would be restricted from traveling on public transportation. Just curious as to what’s being required/enforced in France because I’ll be there later this year. I’m sorry your tour has been such a chaotic and disappointing experience.

Posted by
10 posts

As far as the US lifting the requirement for a negative test.....am I wrong in thinking that people will just get on the plane even though they are positive because they need to get home?”

Yes, they will. It would be the same thing coming back to the US then as it is right now going over to Europe depending on where you are going

It's also the same as flying domestically, going to a crowded supermarket, restaurant, movie theater or religious service, except that those places don't have HEPA filters that airplanes do.

Covid is not going to disappear, we're just going to have to learn to live with it and realize that thanks to vaccines and effective treatment options, it's no longer a plague it was 2 years ago.

Posted by
11434 posts

For those who think the testing requirements are good for those entering the United States, keep this in mind....

1) Only passengers entering the United States by AIR are required to show a negative test. Those entering by land or sea do not.

2) Passengers are not required to show a negative test when flying domestically.

So why are air passengers coming from outside the USA required to test but others aren't? If testing is done to keep out new variants, then this is not a good idea as the virus is not limited to traveling by air. ( An airborne illness does not mean it is spread by airplane.) If testing is done to help protect passengers on international flights, then why doesn't the CDC care about all the others? Sure, you might find comfort knowing that the people sitting near you on your international flight tested negative the day before--it doesn't mean they don't have it today--but the people on your connecting flight may have it since they don't have to be tested.

Traveling these days, anywhere, brings the extra risk of testing positive for Covid. It seems, from personal reports, that there is no ryhme or reason as to who will be infected. Both vaccinated and unvaccinated test positive although those vaccinated usually have lighter symptoms if any at all. Mask wearers and non mask wearers test positive including those wearing medical grade masks.

Sure, you can limit your chances of testing positive by not going anywhere crowded, not eating in restaurants and not taking public transportation. But that sure takes a lot out of the enjoyment of visiting a new place.

And, remember, with all the talk of testing positive, the majority of people still test negative.

I''m not even going to start on wearing a mask on a tour bus. Especially ones like Rick Steves where passengers can distance themselves. I believe in masking in crowded situations, I do it with a KF94, but sometimes, masking requirements seem more for show than anything else. Like having to mask on a tour bus, and some getting mad because one passenger lowered their mask below their nose, but a few minutes later be willing to sit with them, maskless, in a restaurant.

Does it make sense?

Posted by
2404 posts

Regarding booster requirements: When I checked the Rick Staves tour
FAQ page last night it said all "eligible" boosters, which I assume
means that travelers under 50 just have to have the one.

I'm also only eligible for one Booster. I questioned the RS guidelines because as Canadian, I may not be able to follow his rules as they are based on CDC guidelines which aren't the same as Health Canada guidelines. The answer I got back was vague and disappointing, so I'm betting if you were to turn your assumption into a question, you may get a vague and disappointing answer.

We were hoping to book Sicily 2023 as soon as it goes on sale this month. We've made the decision not to based solely on vague and disappointing answers.

Posted by
7695 posts

I just can not get worried about group dinners. My wife and I have been doing dine-in restaurant meals, 4 times a week, for over a year. No problems, YET.

Have you and your wife been dining with 8-10-12 people at your table when going out to dinner?

Yes, there is risk anywhere when you are dining in a restaurant (we've all seen the diagrams), but it's a little different if it's the two of you face to face at your table talking to each other throughout dinner or if you each have two people on either side of you, effectively upping your immediate table mates (and immediate air-sharing space) to six.

Posted by
200 posts

Bob, I’m sorry that your tour group has run into so much disruption and disappointment due to so many (or their spouses) testing positive. Thanks so much for posting your truthful trip report which will be very helpful in my planning and decision making re whether to take tours or do solo travel next year. At the very least, I’ll plan back up solo trips if I sign up for any 2023 tours and reassess much closer to the tour refund deadline.

I hope that your wife and you test negative prior to your return flight!

Posted by
23 posts

Are tour members required by RSE to test for Covid every day on the tour as I am wondering how people found out that they even had Covid as so many cases are asymptomatic?

No; we all had to test on the day we first met in Chartres to begin the tour; all 25 of us, plus our guide, were negative.

The first positive case occured on day 3; she self-tested when she felt bad. When that happened, a person who sat next to her was asked to test as well.

This continued with each occurrence; when my brother’s wife tested positive 2 days ago, their dinner mate tested, and was positive, but my brother was not. My wife and I voluntarily tested then, and were negative.

Were you able to go to every attraction/event that was listed on this tour or did they have to make some cuts?

Yes, those of us who remain (12) have continued the itinerary in full; RSE even added an additional dinner last night for us.

Did RSE help arrange extended stay at the hotel or inn for those who tested positively, help explain what to do to return home to the US, offer assistance in finding local medical care if needed, and help arrange transportation (or explain how to arrange it) to the airport when tour members were allowed to travel home?

ABSOLUTELY. RSE has been helping every way they can, as have the guides; big thumbs up to RSE. What a great company.

Was everybody on the tour wearing a KN 95 mask fully covering their nose and mouth especially on the bus and indoors?

I can’t say that they were all wearing KN-95s, but we do, and I think most are, but everyone wears masks on the bus, fully covering nose & mouth. We’re fairy well spread out—now, the bus looks almost empty.

Could your brother & his wife fly home from Toulouse instead of Paris?

I don’t think so; they were able to get a train for today (haven’t spoken to him yet today), and their return flight to Houston is on Friday, and they’re hoping that they’ll both test negative tomorrow so they can get home.

Someone mentioned masking and confined spaces; since RSE groups dine together, I think that’s probably how it’s spread through our group. While we mask whenever we’re on the bus or in a confined room, nobody can mask while eating.

I want to emphasize that our guide was hyper-vigilant, as have most of us been, but it didn’t prevent her getting sick, or the others in the group.

…am I wrong in thinking that people will just get on the plane even though they are positive because they need to get home?

They probably would, if they weren’t required to test; but, if I catch a cold, I still fly. At this point, if you’re double-vaxxed and double-boosted (as we are), the effects seem to be very minor (we had it in February).

Do you know of anyone that tested positive had any serious symptoms and/or needed medical attention?

No, so far nobody’s had serious issues, although one of the wives (she came down yesterday so they’re still in the hotel here with us, and her husband (who’s negative) came to breakfast just now, told us his wife is more congested today than yesterday.

the testing requirement is no longer about the science.

Respectfully speaking, it’s ALL about the science; we test so that we don’t spread the virus even further. The group’s latest consensus is that we should probably test every 3 days, out of caution, and everyone should’ve tested when the 1st positive was discovered.

Of the folks that tested positive what sort of symptoms did they exhibit that prompted them to do a test?

Mostly A little bit of headache, some sniffling, almost cold-like symptoms.

I am not worried about covid, being double vaccinated, boosted, and having caught it (twice for my wife). I am more worried about being dropped off in some small town and having to figure out how to get back to where my flight home leaves from...

Us as well; we are double vaccinated and boosted twice. Getting back is the bigger issue.

Posted by
23 posts

I am dictating this from the bus, so please forgive any strange words that seem out of place!

We had a local guide yesterday for the day, who never wore a mask. He apparently came onto the bus with Covid because he tested positive today. All this now makes seven people who have been part of the store who have come down with Covid. I should emphasize that he was not a normal Rick Steves guide, but someone who filled in at the last minute.

Posted by
23 posts

“ thought I read on RSE everyone has to move they are double vaccinated and doubled boosted before joining the tour… is that not the case with your tour? Because you state “ most people are” did your tour guide not check before the start of your tour?”

Yes we had to show our vaccination cards, and we were all self-tested the day we joined the tour in Chartres.

Someone asked how my brother and his wife were able to get on the train today. My brother tested negative; I think my sister-in-law is wearing double masks, and because trains don’t ask for any proof of vaccination, I doubt she showed any documentation. They will arrive in Paris this afternoon, take a test tomorrow morning, and if she is negative, board their flight for Houston on Friday.

We wear KN95 masks, as do most of us who are still on the bus.

We have a plan; if we test positive tomorrow, we will double-mask, take a 30-minute train to Monaco, and wait it out there.

Posted by
8502 posts

Sounds like you have a good plan, Monaco!

Good grief.
The tour manager didn't tell the local guide to mask up? This becomes more and more mind boggling.

And as someone above asked, your sister-in-law is taking the train before her five, seven, or whatever, quarantine days are finished?
If she's not symptomatic, in some countries people are told to just carry on, but not in France, though I'm sure many do now that there's no more Pass vaccinal.

Frankly, I think in Europe, where there's more interaction and activity has returned to normal, many, many of us are walking around at any given time with some virus particles up our noses and in our throats. It's a question of how much and actually becoming ill. In April I was sure I had C-19 again but tested negative at the pharmacy. And in November, I kept testing negative at the pharmacy, even with a fever and a C-19 positive spouse. I finally tested positive once all my symptoms were finished. I was trying to beat the clock for a flight to the US. And for US-bound travelers, it's a question passing that final test.

If your SIL first test was a home test, unreported, when she tests to fly, she's taking a gamble since that test will be an official, reported test. If she tests negative, no one would know about the earlier positive. But, if she tests positive on the official test for the flight, her quarantine clock will start only at that point. If she had an official test (not a home test) 2-3 days ago, her quarantine clock would have started 2-3 days ago.

Edited:
Airlines to the US want 10-days before clearing you to fly to the US; it's likely she won't be allowed to board. And, a negative test so soon after a positive is very rare, again based on quantity of particles still in the nose. Please let us know what happens. This is a twist of events many can learn from.

Posted by
23 posts

I forgot to mention:

First guide was our fabulous RSE guide Virginie; when she got Covid, they flew in a 2nd guide for one day, a woman who did a great job but who was not a seasoned RSE guide. She could only do one day.

Then they added a 3rd, who was local to Arles, and she did that town.

Then, they flew in a RSE guide, Esther, from Hungary; she speaks very little French, so they added a local guy who spoke French. He was supposed to continue with us to Nice, but tested positive this morning, so Esther will be with us until Friday morning, the end of our tour.

Posted by
398 posts

Your announced plan to double mask and get on a train if you are positive is an admission of an intent to violate France's regulations requiring a 7 day isolation period. It appears your SIL has already violated them. It's one thing to mask up on a tour bus to protect yourself and others from possible exposure to Covid when nobody knows what they or others might have picked up. But once you test positive, you're kicked off of the tour bus. To then get on a train and expose even more people seems negligent even when it's not a violation of the law, which it appears to be. I don't think anyone should be using public transport when knowingly ill with the virus. When we traveled to Europe twice within the past 6 months, we accepted the risk that if we came down with Covid, we'd be stuck in whatever town we happened to be in, unable to move until testing negative, obtaining a certificate of recovery, or meeting whatever the country's rules might be for release from quarantine after no more symptoms.

Posted by
1666 posts

Someone mentioned masking and confined spaces; since RSE groups dine together, I think that’s probably how it’s spread through our group. While we mask whenever we’re on the bus or in a confined room, nobody can mask while eating.

Bob, thank you so much for your continuing report. Has RSE addressed the dining issue? Instead of large communal tables, are 4-person tables spaced apart used? What about outdoor seating or picnics?

I was just about to cancel my trip yesterday after I first read your report. 50% of tour members leaving the tour because of their covid or their spouses' is just more than I can handle. I called a friend who leaves in two weeks on another RS tour. She talked down my anxiety. We think and hope yours is a one off disastrous trip. From RS weekly trip reports 2 to 3% of participants are testing positive.

So as of today, I'm planning to go, have fun but be super cautious. The meal issue worries me. Maybe I get a doggie bag for my room or eat outside on the curb if the meal seating is not addressed?

Posted by
150 posts

Wow! I would really not be happy after everything else you've been through to have the local guide not masking and then to be positive. Your experience and some other threads suggest the RS organization should make some structural process improvements to ensure tour guides know and follow the current RS guidelines.

(I'm not debating the guidelines and I understand there are some cultural differences in Covid approach.) But I'm reading about enough inconsistency in interpretation and enforcement on various tours to conclude this seems to be an improvement opportunity. The RS organization is very reflective and responsive, so I have no doubt they will learn from this.

Posted by
1851 posts

“Bob, thank you so much for your continuing report. Has RSE addressed the dining issue? Instead of large communal tables, are 4-person tables spaced apart used? What about outdoor seating or picnics?
I was just about to cancel my trip yesterday when I first read your report. 50% of tour members leaving the tour because of their covid or their spouses' is just more than I can handle. I called a friend who leaves in two weeks on another RS tour. She talked down my anxiety. We think and hope yours is a one off disastrous trip. From RS weekly trip reports 2 to 3% of participants are testing positive.
So as of today, I'm planning to go, have fun but be super cautious. The meal issue worries me. Maybe I get a doggie bag for my room or eat outside on the curb if the meal seating is not addressed?”

Bob, thank you again for taking the time to answer all of our questions. As others have said, I hope you are able to return home safely. I also hope that the other adversely affected tour members are returning to health and able to return home soon as well.

@horsewoofie Our final tour payment for the 14 day RS Scotland tour is due in 5 days and the 14 day Ireland tour is due two weeks later. Like you, I have seriously considered canceling our two upcoming tours and eating the loss of the deposits. Yesterday I took out pen and paper and researched options for doing Scotland on our own with public transportation but trying to do that on short notice is really difficult considering that some transportation from point a to point b is not the best and that there are places that we want to see that will not be easily accessible. My husband has driven many times in the UK and Ireland with a standard transmission (and that includes taking a UK rental car by ferry to the continent which was probably a violation of the rental terms) but we are now of an age where it would be too stressful which is the main reason we booked these tours. I know it can be done but trying to put together a coherent plan on such short notice is really difficult. My husband talked me down from canceling. We also plan to be super cautious at meals and will wear our masks until the food is served and then promptly put them back on and not linger in the restaurant. As we will be in Scotland and Ireland for a month, eating outside is probably not going to be an option considering the climate and weather. I have also researched where to get takeaway meals in all the tour locations. On our last two tours to Italy, we dined as a group without masks obviously and were lucky to all test negative. There was good ventilation in most of those dining venues or we were outside. @Frank II We would not sit next to the couple who were not wearing their masks properly on our southern Italy tour at mealtime and avoided any close contact with them even outside. My only hope at this point is that the policy of having to test negative to come home is done away with. We are all flying around domestically with no test rule and no mask rule so we are just as likely to be flying with someone who has covid as we are flying home from Europe.

Posted by
23 posts

Someone wrote, "Your announced plan to double mask and get on a train if you are positive is an admission of an intent to violate France's regulations requiring a 7 day isolation period. It appears your SIL has already violated them."

No, if you are a French professional you are allowed to travel home, so Virginie went home from Sarlat. She never advised anyone to travel while testing positive.

Also, some of those who tested positive were forced to change hotels because the current hotels were already booked for subsequent notes. They were moved to other hotels; my understanding is that they double or triple-masked as directed, and this was not violating any French rules.

We'll isolate as long as we need to (will probably test negative after 3 or 4 days, like when we had it in February), then we'll travel wherever we want. But I'm optimistic that we'll test negative tomorrow.

Posted by
1362 posts

It sounds just awful and certainly not a tour experience anyone would be happy with, but as a first time tour member (this September), I hope that the safety rules aren't made more stringent as a result. I understand and signed the waiver, but wouldn't be happy if there was more to deal with. I want the RS experience!

We had to test when returning from France last October, but that was before Omicron, so less of a concern. Right now we have no testing requirements.

Posted by
23 posts

"Has RSE addressed the dining issue? Instead of large communal tables, are 4-person tables spaced apart used? What about outdoor seating or picnics?"

We had dinner together last night; each of us was at a separate table, properly spaced apart.

I want to stress that Rick Steves Europe has done everything in their power to help all those who have had to leave the tour; they've helped with hotel arrangements, rescheduling travel, anything they can do. They've also provided self-tests to all of us in case we feel that we need to test.

I can't think of anything that RSE could do that they haven't thought of; our driver tested every morning, and even though he's in the front of the bus where most people sat, he's remained negative throughout the journey. We just arrived in Nice, where we said goodbye to the bus.

There are 6 of us traveling on Friday back to the US, so we 6 will test in the morning at a local pharmacy.

Posted by
111 posts

I truly appreciate that Rick Steves posts the weekly “travelers-testing-positive” percentage.

However, a large number of us extend our tour by a day or more. On my upcoming tour at least half of the group are staying an extra day or more. I don’t think these posted Covid-positive numbers include anyone who didn’t test by the last day of the tour…? And if not, the percentage is certainly higher.

Posted by
23 posts

Someone said, "Wow! I would really not be happy after everything else you've been through to have the local guide not masking and then to be positive."

He may have masked until he started talking to us on the bus (I don't know but assume he did); however, because he was telling us about the area, he was unmasked while he talked to us. I suspect he joined the group having already contracted it.

Also, readers of this thread should keep in mind that RSE was truly scrambling to find guides for us; this is a busy time for Rick Steves guides, so they were very fortunate to get Esther to fly in from Hungary and take over for poor Virginie. Esther has done a super job and is to be commended for stepping in and putting us all at ease.

Posted by
334 posts

I truly appreciate that Rick Steves posts the weekly “travelers-testing-positive” percentage. However, a large number of us extend our tour by a day or more. On my upcoming tour at least half of the group are staying an extra day or more. I don’t think these posted Covid-positive numbers include anyone who didn’t test by the last day of the tour…? And if not, the percentage is certainly higher.

I have wondered about this, too, but at least with our tour, our guide stayed connected with all of our tour members, and she emailed us when that the last couple headed home with the good news that everyone had tested negative. So, for our group, there was no change. It wouldn't be fair to Rick Steves tours to report positives that are detected several days after the end of the tour.

Posted by
31 posts

Wow, what a situation. Sounds like you are still in France.
We were on the Loire-South of France trip that started 5/15, so a couple weeks ahead of yours.

All went fine till Sarlat, where my husband tested positive, and we were dropped from continuing on the tour. We’ve tried to ascertain where he might have gotten Civid - his best guess was in Amboise at the Leonardo da Vinci home - many groups of unmasked school kids in the indoor areas. While the Sarlat market was very crowded, the Amboise site fits as it was 2 days before the onset of symptoms.

We had a lot of swizzling to do to wait out the 10 days before traveling home. While my husband got a recovery letter, turns out we both tested negative before our return flight. So that’s one good thing.

You raise excellent points about bus travel and indoor dining. Our next planned trip isn’t Europe at all, but south of Chile and Argentina with Overseas Adventure Travel. I’m hoping more of a “travel bubble” experience. It’s not till March 2023.

Posted by
398 posts

SIL means sister in law. I wasn't referring to your guide.

Posted by
23 posts

Again from Vicky: "SIL means sister in law. I wasn't referring to your guide."

I knew that. I wanted to be clear.

My sister-in-law traveled to Paris because they could no longer remain in the hotel they were in, so they had to go elsewhere, and decided to get near their departure airport.

You're not here, and you didn't experience what we did; you don't know what it was like for this to happen, nor do you know how you'd handle not having a hotel, in a tiny town. Their choices were limited; travel was necessary.

But thanks for your input.

Posted by
961 posts

Bob, your blow by blow has been invaluable - a true boots on the ground when everything goes awry - and it's a lesson of the struggles that can occur, and shouldn't be taken lightly by those planning trips.
.
And a shout out to @ Bets - on the testing / quarantining clock timelines required.

Posted by
23 posts

“Bob, your blow by blow has been invaluable - a true boots on the ground when everything goes awry - and it's a lesson of the struggles that can occur, and shouldn't be taken lightly by those planning trips.”

Thanks so much!

It’s easy for people to judge when they are not in the middle of it, trying to figure out how they will get home, where they will stay while isolated, whether they will be able to use their flights home.

Having been through this now for almost a week, I know that it was not a fun experience, and had I known that there was a possibility of this happening, I don’t think my wife and I would have chosen to go on this trip.

Having said that, we have had a great time, excluding the Covid issues, have seen some wonderful things, and have shared some magical times. It’s hard to appreciate the paradox between experiencing wonderful things, while knowing that your brother and sister-in-law, and 10 other people, are isolating in their various hotels.

My wife and I took two Viking ocean cruises in the last six months; we tested every morning on both cruises, came home healthy. However, I just spoke to a friend who got off a river cruise, and he told me that six people came down with Covid on their cruise.

I am afraid this new variant is so virulent that it may very well compromise many tours in the next few months. We just spoke to one of the men who was positive; he is 84 years old but in very good condition, and walked everywhere with the best of us. He told me that yesterday was really difficult and that he felt awful; today however he says that he feels back to normal.

Tomorrow morning my wife and I will go to a pharmacy to be tested for our flight home. I am optimistic that we will be OK, and will post the results as a final report from our “interesting” tour.

Posted by
1666 posts

Bob, I hope you and your wife test negative and are able to go home or to your next destination. You have been through so much. Thanks you for sharing your experience. It’s a lesson for all of us that you sadly have had to experience.
Kathy

PS I sent an email to RS tours asking if there is a better way to handle group meals. And asked that the webmaster post an answer to this thread.

Posted by
5508 posts

Bob, you make a great point that none of us can know exactly what this feels like unless we are going through it.
I hope that you, your wife and all of the others on this tour either stay negative or test negative shortly.

Posted by
8502 posts

Periscope, I'm not quite sure anymore which country requires which amount of time. It was 10 for us in November, reduced in both the US and France now.
But many people have reported here that their airline still requires 10. I can say that friends and family in France are living with the virus, whereas in the US friends and family react much more cautiously, no in fact alarmingly and frightened.

Yes, this new variant is changing our assumptions. Good news: I read that one of the companies has applied for approval today for a booster that targets Omicron.

Good luck to everyone staying well, getting well, getting back to the US, sooner or a little later. I'm sure everything will work out. Monaco is a good idea no matter what.

This has been such a valuable thread that I hope you report back on how the four of you managed to get home.

Bonne chance.
Bonne route.
Bon retour.

Posted by
35 posts

I agree that nobody else can know what you're going through, and how stressful trying to navigate this situation must be. Those who are trying to criticize and lecture sound like a real joy to travel with. I definitely appreciate all the information, it's impossible to plan for so many possibilities, and I'm glad that the RS group has been very helpful to those affected. My group that recently finished up were very fortunate that not a single one of us tested positive before our return to the US, though one couple went on a Viking cruise afterwards, and said that 40 out of 150 people tested positive during the cruise, with several people leaving every day.

Posted by
23 posts

“Those who are trying to criticize and lecture sound like a real joy to travel with.”

Having traveled professionally with recording artists all over the world for 20 years, I was often forced to deal with self-appointed tour guides, know-it-alls, whiners, always-tardies, and rule-quoters.

We have a fantastic group on this tour—no whiners, busybodies, or controllers. We’ve made some great friends, whose company we’ve thoroughly enjoyed.

Fortunately, I learned along the way to dismiss irksome people as quickly as possible, roll with changes, and find good in difficult situations. I remember being stuck in North Dakota in a snowstorm, running through airports to board changed flights, tour dates cancelling, much more. This trip has been just another story to tell!

We test at 11am; feeling good!

Posted by
5149 posts

Bob, we’re on tenterhooks awaiting your results.

Stan and I recently completed two RS tours. On the first one (Loire to the South of France,) one person tested positive during the tour; he and his wife left but their friends remained. All the tour members who tested at the end of the tour tested negative,

On our second tour, South Italy, we all had to show negative tests at our first group meeting. Nobody tested positive during the tour, and everyone who tested at the end of the tour was negative.

I personally know two tour guides who have had NOBODY test positive during their tours or at tour’s end.

Thanks for this thread. You’ve given all of us, as well as the folks at RSE, a lot to think about.

Best wishes to you and your family.

Posted by
23 posts

Well, the results are in.

My wife and I are negative, thankfully; sadly, one of us , a very nice woman, tested positive.

I don’t know their plans at this point, but I assume they will stay here in Nice until she can test negative.

My sister-in-law tested this morning and is still positive; they’ll test again on Sunday.

We are very relieved, but sad for our friend; we had dinner with them two nights ago, but we were spaced fairly wide apart from them.

Tonight we’ll have our farewell dinner. From the original 26, including guide Virginie, there will be 10.

Thanks to everyone for the positive vibes; we leave for Paris at 6am, will be home in the Dallas area at 3:30pm.

Mary and Bob

Posted by
201 posts

I literally came back here to see how things turned out for you. Yay!!! As for the other gal, at least she's not stuck in a small town. She should be able to get what she needs

I'm on the same tour in September and I'm very nervous. I plan to opt out of the group dinners and The DaVinci house based on everything I've read here.

Posted by
23 posts

“ I'm on the same tour in September and I'm very nervous. I plan to opt out of the group dinners and The DaVinci house based on everything I've read here.”

Honestly, we didn’t think the Da Vinci house was worth the cost (it’s not included in RSE tour). Others went to the chateau, and it sounds like it was a better choice. Lots of kids in the DV house too.

Posted by
1666 posts

Bob and Mary, so glad you both tested negative. Have an enjoyable last tour day. Hope your brother and SIL will been able to go home soon.

Your report has been an eye opener, an anxiety teeter-totter for future travelers. Please write a tour highlights report when you’re home. What did you do during your tour free time? I have a list of things to do and see so am curious how it compares to yours.

Posted by
35 posts

“Fortunately, I learned along the way to dismiss irksome people as quickly as possible, roll with changes, and find good in difficult situations. I remember being stuck in North Dakota in a snowstorm, running through airports to board changed flights, tour dates cancelling, much more. This trip has been just another story to tell!”

You sound like the perfect RS travel partner, that’s how you do it right!

Very sorry about your friend testing positive, what a bummer to have made it so far, and now be stuck. I’m guessing that when you and Mary got Covid in Feb you were not so pleased, however, that’s likely what saved you from getting it on this trip. I hope you two have an uneventful flight home.

Posted by
77 posts

So relieved to hear you are negative, but yiiiiikes, that was a trip for sure. On a side note, I was relieved to hear that RSE was helpful in navigating through all of this.

I’m still leaning towards going on my RSE Barcelona-Madrid trip in November, but will opt out of all indoor group meals.

Posted by
23 posts

OK, so now 9 people have tested positive, with 4 who have yet to test before their trips home.

I am a jazz musician and have a gig Sunday night in Austin; my bass player texted me just now to tell me he has Covid.

When does it ever end? :)

Then I talked to a friend in Memphis a few minutes ago; he and his wife have it, as does one of his employees.

Wow.

Posted by
8502 posts

Moderna applied for approval for a new mRNA booster that targets both original and Omicron COVID. For the fall.

Posted by
447 posts

Bob, I've been reading your post from the beginning. I have been struck by your positive attitude and having a "plan B" if you and your wife tested positive at the end. I am thrilled that both of you tested negative and are able to return home as scheduled. What an unusual tour. It will make for great storytelling for years to come. Thank you for taking time to relate what was happening to your group. I feel that I can learn from your postings for when we are on RS' tour in the fall.
I hope your trip home is uneventful.

Posted by
23 posts

OK, so a footnote to my last footnote:

When we lost our tour guide Virginie 5 days ago, one couple decided to leave the tour because they absolutely HAD to get home. So, they took a train to Arles, where we caught up with them day before yesterday. However, they stayed away from us, kept to themselves, and apparently didn't do anything risky.

Today we all tested, as did they, since they needed to get on a plane tomorrow.

The wife tested positive.

So even though they stayed away from the tour for 5 days, she was still positive this morning, and they can't get home. They did everything right--masked all the time, stayed to themselves.

So that brings the total to 11 positive cases; we had 8 at the table tonight.

To just add a little more to the story, apparently there are strikes occurring in Paris, so we don't know what we'll find when we get there, but if we have to stay a night in Paris, I can think of much worse things!

Posted by
5508 posts

My goodness, you couldn't make up a story like this. I had wondered about the couple that left tour voluntarily. This seemed like such a major decision to make because I don't believe the RS refund policy extends to those who decide that they just don't want to be on the tour anymore (I could be wrong). I'm sure they really thought through their decision. In the end, it looks like it really didn't make a difference. I am sorry for everyone who is inconvenienced this way.

The bottom line for everyone planning a trip to Europe is that you need to accept that you may need to spend an additional 10 days at the end of your trip and to pre-plan for it. If you can't do this, then you really need to think about whether this is the right time for you to travel.

Posted by
60 posts

@carolnowretired I don't know if I can cancel right now. My trip is in August and my final payment is due soon. Already purchased my airfare. I had no idea this was going to be such a big deal. I'm just gonna hope that nobody gets Covid on our tour. It seems like when one is positive it is like a domino effect. So, crossing my fingers. I cannot afford to miss 10 days of work. We still work unfortunately.

Posted by
5508 posts

@disneyfreak. The good news is that most tours do seem to do fine. I am going to be very hopeful that all will turn out well for you. I realize that need to return to work really adds an extra level of pressure and I am sorry for that.

Posted by
4776 posts

Bob,
I just read your post from the beginning and I can’t even imagine what you’ve been through.

Your attitude is definitely admirable.

It’s good to hear that you & Mary tested negative. I hope your SIL’s test is negative in a few more days so they can get home too.

One quick question about your comment:

So that brings the total to 11 positive cases; we had 8 at the table tonight.

So out of 26 participants (including your original guide), there were 11 positive cases, not including the 4 persons who still need to be tested, is this correct?
Wow!

Wishing you a safe flight home!

Posted by
23 posts

“So out of 26 participants (including your original guide), there were 11 positive cases, not including the 4 persons who still need to be tested, is this correct?”

I think there were 10 total cases (hard to keep track at this point). None of the 7 spouses tested positive, which is strange.

Four couples are staying in France a little longer, so the end of the story will come later. One of the couples is headed to Paris to do a 2nd RS tour.

At the airport; I’ve seen 2 masks so far.

Posted by
8502 posts

I wondered if there wasn't a COVID version of Typhoid Mary in this group, a carrier who tests negative due to low nasal particles but unknowingly infects others.

Posted by
1362 posts

Am I correct in recalling if your spouse tests positive along the way, you also have to leave the tour? Or have I imagined that? Because otherwise both of us are quite happy to continue without the other!

Posted by
5149 posts

Andrea, Stan and I have also broached that conversation ….

Posted by
93 posts

Bob,

We came back on May 24th a few days after our 14 day BOE concluded. Very few people were wearing masks in Europe and the concept of even personal space was non existent so we were nervous the whole tour and wore our masks a lot. Our tour guide was very emphatic about masks on the bus because she felt that's where the sickness spreads, even colds. We still wore masks on the plane outbound and inbound to the US as a precaution as well. Although everyone in our group that had to test prior to coming to the US tested negative, it was always on our minds that we could be stuck somewhere. I know it doesn't make you feel any better, but for those of us that completed a RS tour, we could have been in your situation.

Posted by
23 posts

"Am I correct in recalling if your spouse tests positive along the way, you also have to leave the tour? Or have I imagined that? Because otherwise both of us are quite happy to continue without the other!"

No, a spouse or travel partner doesn't have to leave the tour, but all of the 7 spouses on our tour chose to stay with their partners. I would've done the same if my wife had tested positive, and she would have as well. I can't imagine leaving her somewhere in France to fend for herself.

Just today, it was announced that the testing requirement for entering the US will be lifted at midnight on June 12th:

https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/covid19/us-will-end-covid-19-testing-requirement-for-air-travelers-entering-eff-sunday-pm-12-june

It's too late to help our group, but it might help my brother and his wife to return--although he did tell me this afternoon that United Airlines is giving him a hard time about their flying on the 12th. I haven't spoken to him again (it's now 2:41am there) to find out what happened.

My wife and I got home safely--so glad to be home. We'll be self-testing in the morning before we see any family.

Posted by
1126 posts

but it might help my brother and his wife to return--although he did tell me this afternoon that United Airlines is giving him a hard time about their flying on the 12th.

I read somewhere earlier that there's already confusion about whether the end of testing at 12:01 a.m. ET June 12th means your flight arrives at or after that time, or your flight leaves at or after that time, etc. It's covid, so why should the rules not be confusing until the bitter end, right? lol

Posted by
186 posts

The US standard regarding flight rules has not change in terms of how rules are applied. Do they check you against the Do Not Fly list before your flight departs X country or when you arrive in the US? Everyone knows the answer- before departure at the time the plane is sealed (doors closed) and they head to the US. It is ALWAYS the rules in effect when the plane is cleared to depart for the US. So if your flight is leaving Paris at 8pm on June 11th you have to have the Covid test- the rule is still in effect. The rule change occurs at 12:01 on June 12th in the US so if your flight departs at 12:03 am (US time) no test. The rule in effect when your flight is cleared to fly to the US is in effect.

Remember: the control date and time is 12:01 on June 12th is US based. Not 12:01 where you depart but United States time. Sooooo you need a 9:01 am flight if departing Paris on the 12th….

The CDC site is very quite clear in this.

Posted by
23 posts

"Am I correct in recalling if your spouse tests positive along the way, you also have to leave the tour?"

No, no rule about that, but spouses on our tour chose to stick with their significant others (as my wife or I would have as well).

Probably time to end this thread.

Best to everyone; glad to be home.

Posted by
9 posts

Sorry to add one more comment...recently returned from BOE 14 day trip (May 23-June 5). We started with 23 people in Florence and only ended up with 7 in Paris due to positive Covid cases and spouses/family members staying behind with them. We also lost our original tour guide due to Covid and had another jump in quickly in Munich to cover the rest of the trip. It was heartbreaking to leave our new friends/tour members behind in each country as they tested positive. The symptoms were a stuffy nose, sore throat, and a bit of a cough. We all diligently wore our masks on the bus, in metros, cabs, inside museums and such. We all really did follow protocols to stay protected and stop the spread. But, this is Covid and it spreads easily and anywhere. Europe was amazing, but Covid is still out there and might affect your trip.

Posted by
8 posts

Bob, thanks for posting your tour experience. I’ve postponed this trip, plus the Paris trip, for two years. Sigh. I wasn’t even worried about Covid on this upcoming trip. My concern was for global issues that might include food shortages, decreased museum hours and/or labor strikes. Well, looks like I am cancelling this year. Much as I enjoy chaos and finding my way around strange cities (yup, I do!), this year has too much stacked against it! 👍🏻 Better luck next year.

Posted by
83 posts

I know that this post is supposed to end but I gotta say “WOW” You are one positive guy Bob. Your positive attitude as well as your empathy for your guides and fellow travelers no doubt added strength to you and Mary. Like reading a great book I couldn’t put the thread down and while reading decided to cancel my fall trip to Italy at least 3 times only to come back to “going for it”. Nothing is a sure thing, but armed with a positive attitude, boosted, plan B and fingers crossed (over my N95 mask) I will continue with our travel plans. Amazing post!