Canyonlands and Covid on 12-Sep-21 Tour
Just back and want to report on how the current Covid situation influenced our tour. The TL;DR is there were many differences in this tour due to Covid but it was still a Tauck tour. So what was different?
Vaccination Requirement. When checking in for the Welcome Dinner we had to provide proof of vaccination which was copied by the TD. We left our CDC cards at home and brought printouts from our health provider showing when and where we were vaccinated.
Group Size. This was a small group tour, maximum of 24, which was fully booked a few months earlier. We had 14 in our group. TD said her last group was 16. At Zion we crossed a group on Spirit of the Desert that had 15. We had a very good group and the size worked well to give us opportunities to get to know everyone. On the negative side there was not much interaction on the coach since we were spread out.
Itinerary Changes. No dinner at El Tovar (see Food Service below). The Navajo Nation was operating at reduced capacity and there was no slot canyon tour. Tauck substituted lunch, normally not included that day, along with a demonstration of Navajo weaving, music, dance and culture. The Monument Valley excursion was available on the date we were there. The Lake Powell dinner cruise was not available, but this was due to low water not Covid and is not likely to be available any time soon if the lake continues shrinking.
Masks. Masks were required indoors almost everywhere unless seated to eat or drink. Tauck required masks when boarding and departing the coach. All the parks required masks in the park shuttles, lodges and other public areas. At the Grand Canyon the Park Service required masks while seated in the Tauck coach. At the Grand Canyon there also were also signs requiring masks outdoors in areas where people might congregate but these were largely ignored and unenforced by the park rangers. At Zion masks were required in the open air trams.
Food Service. Between the Park Service requirement that employee dormitories be limited to one person per room, instead of the usual two or three, and the general difficulty hiring workers food service suffered. Many of the meals had to be selected far in advance. At the Grand Canyon they did not provide any support for groups. Instead of dinner at El Tovar Tauck substituted a group dinner at a steakhouse outside the park, alcohol included. For breakfast we received $30 cash per person so we could have breakfast on our own at El Tovar. At the Lake Powell Resort service was often very slow. At Bryce Canyon the full menu was available but everything was takeout with the auditorium set aside as private seating for Tauck. As a takeout restaurant they had no liquor license so no alcohol was available at Bryce. We stopped at a liquor store before heading to Bryce for those who wanted to provide their own. At Zion we had group meals at fixed times in a private room with all meals selected well in advance. On the plus side we avoided the horrendous lines in Zion for those trying to get food. In the parks all silverware was plastic except for steak knives provided for those ordering steaks. Although you don’t go to the parks for the food, it seemed to me that with the exception of breakfast at El Tovar the food was a cut below the park food we have had in the past.
Hotel Service. With reduced staffing service in general was slow. At Zion and Las Vegas the bellman apologized for the delay delivering our luggage saying he was the only one working. The Lake Powell Resort does not enter your room while you are there. However at both Four Seasons hotels they serviced our room twice a day.
No Group Photograph. Nor any official exchange of contact information though this may not be Covid related.
So given the above, how was the tour? It was great. We had a TD who took care of the mundane details, provided lots of background information and suggestions, and kept us on track. We had lodgings in the parks. It was still a Tauck tour and after two years of sitting at home it was wonderful to get out.