As we all know, the situation with COVID-19 continues to be unpredictable. Currently, Europe is starting to open this summer for U.S. residents who intend to travel. I am hopeful that by the time of our departure next summer that we will be back to normal in both the U.S. and Europe. However, there may be new travel requirements that will be imposed by European countries. Currently, travelers must provide negative COVID tests both upon entry and exit from Europe. This could be the case next summer. Expenses for any required testing will be the responsibility of each traveler. Individuals who have been fully vaccinated will very likely be treated as European citizens, meaning that there will be less restrictions. There is a possibility that European countries (and/or the airlines) might require proof of vaccination to enter a particular country (similar to a visa requirement). If this were to be the case, then you might be refused entry if you cannot provide proof of vaccinations. But this is all very speculative at this point and uncertainty is the rule of the day. It is important that you know that if this were the case, travel insurance would not cover the cost of the trip if you were denied entry to Europe due to specific laws. Additionally, you would be subject to the same cancellation penalties by Nawas if you were not permitted to travel due to European law requiring vaccines. Once again, there is not clarity at this time as to what Europe is planning regarding COVID-19; all this could be moot by next summer if infection rates continue to drop precipitously.
To Sign Up
Students, staff, faculty, alumni, friends of the university, et al. can begin enrolling on this tour:
- Review and complete the Reservation Form (either online or printed and mailed)
- Submit a color photo of your passport (either online or photocopied and mailed)
- Secure your space with an $800 deposit (paid via credit card online or mailed check. If paying by check, your space will not be secured until check is received).
If Reservation Form, photocopy of passport, and/ or $800 deposit will be mailed, please send to:
Concordia University Irvine
ATTN: Michael Bergler
1530 Concordia West
Irvine, CA 92612
Travelers must provide their own passports. Passports must be obtained before signing up for this tour. Please note: All travelers are required to have a passport that is valid for at least 6 months after the return date of the trip. No travel visas are required for this trip.
We will be met in Frankfurt by a bilingual Tour Director (TD). A TD will remain with us during key points of the trip. TDs are very experienced and usually are natives who speak fluent English. They are warm, bubbly, and are excited to show off their country to us; they often make the trip! Depending on various municipal laws, we will be accompanied by the TD and/or a local guide who will lead us through a particular city or site. These guides are very knowledgeable and will enhance our trip greatly.
Since the majority of us are departing from LAX together, we can expect approximately either one or two legs on our journey to Frankfurt and then home again. While we will very likely have a direct flight, there is the possibility of connecting through Chicago, Dallas, Dulles, or JFK. We will have our exact itineraries 60 days prior to departure. We will meet the other travelers coming from other places in the US in Germany.
Nawas reserves airline seats by individual name; nonetheless, airlines no longer provide seat assignments for groups, and Nawas does not guarantee specific seat assignments. Once you have your e-tickets, you may log on and request special meals, upgrades, etc. Just be aware, airlines are being somewhat strict on upgrades, even with miles.
Some of you might want to go early or stay behind. Others might want to arrange their own flights so that they can use miles. Nawas will accommodate these requests if you contact them directly and reduce the cost of the trip in a commensurate fashion.
Special Meals on Airlines
You must request special meals on the flights through the airlines directly. Once we receive confirmation of our reservations (30 days out from departure), you can take care of these requests on your own through the airlines.
Nawas International Travel books rooms in first class/select hotels. Hotel rooms abroad are often less modern and standardized than in North America. Each room will have a private bathroom. Hotels that are in the city center are usually smaller and more typical of old European-style hotels; hotels in the suburbs are usually larger with more amenities associated with American-style hotels. We’ll likely have a mix of both styles of accommodations. In Oberammergau, we’ll likely be in private homes or pensions, as it is a small Bavarian village.
Some other common differences from North American hotels include:
- In simpler, family-run hotels, the rooms and beds are usually smaller than those in North America, and rooms seldom have air conditioning or televisions.
- Few European hotels have elevators; if there is an elevator, it will be small!
- Shower pressure tends to be much weaker than in North America, and in some countries the showerhead may be directly above the toilet or sink.
Since we are more than a year away from the departure date, we certainly do not know which hotels we’ll be staying in. That information will be sent after final payments for every traveler have been received. Once I receive that information, I’ll send you the dates, locations, and websites, if available. The hotels that Nawas secured for my travelers in Germany (2017) and Greece (2018) were elegant.
The tour price is based on two persons sharing a twin-bedded room with a private bath. Travelers may upgrade to a single room for a single-room supplement fee. Please arrange this with Nawas. If you do not have a travelling companion and do not want to upgrade to a single room, we’ll try to match you up with a roommate. Roommates are usually paired in order of application received, but we can adjust this somewhat. It’s easier for me to find women roommates than men and non-smokers rather than smokers. If I can’t find you a roommate, you’ll need to pay the single supplement.
You should expect food and eating habits to be different from what you are accustomed to at home. Daily breakfast and six dinners will be included (see itinerary), but you will be expected to pay for soft drinks, bottled water and/or other beverages with their meals. You’ll be responsible for paying for your own lunches.
Special Meals on Tour
If you are vegetarian or have other dietary needs, please let me know.
We will follow the local laws regarding drinking beer, wine, and spirits. If students have a problem with self-control, we’ll have a little talk. But I’ve very rarely had problems with this on my trips, as our students are exceptionally mature. Bring some extra money though, as we tend to go out in the evenings to local pubs. These night-caps are of course optional.
Apparently the U.S. Surgeon General’s warnings have not reached Europe. It seems as if everyone smokes. At least in the countries we’ll be visiting, most restaurants and bars will follow the new European law that does not permit smoking indoors.
All travelers are required to have a passport that is valid for at least 6 months after the return date of the trip. You must have your passport before you sign up for this tour through Nawas. I also require each traveler to bring two colored copies of his/her passport. You’ll keep these in your luggage in case your own passport is lost or stolen. The copy will be helpful in getting a replacement. Of course, you may keep a digital copy on your phone if you prefer. U.S. Passports are a hot, black-market commodity selling for up to $2,500, so securing your passport is a priority. Detailed information is available from the U.S. Department of State.
IMPORTANT: The name that you provide on your application must match exactly with the name on your passport. Let me repeat that! Your name must match your passport exactly!!! If Nawas issues a ticket with an incorrect name, that participant will not be allowed to board the plane.
If you have a passport card, you may lock your passport book in your hotel safe and just carry your card. They cost $30, but you must send in your passport book. If you want to get a card, please do so immediately, so you’ll receive them back from the government before departure. I myself carry my passport card while traveling and leave my actual passport in the hotel safe. Just don’t forget to retrieve it as we check out!
No visas are required for U.S. citizens on this trip.
Participants who are not U.S. citizens should contact Nawas for advice on how to secure the necessary visas. You may also visit embassy.org for more detailed information. Each participant is responsible for obtaining the correct travel documents for destinations you will visit or airports through which you will transfer.
Reservations, Deposits, Payment Methods, and Final Payments
Reservations will be secured upon completion and receipt of the reservation form, copy of passport, and payment of an initial deposit of $800 per person. No reservation is considered firm until your deposit has been received. Your initial deposit payment shall be deemed to be an acceptance of all the terms of the Booking Agreement Terms and Conditions.
Tickets to the Passion Play are limited and available on a first come, first served basis. A second deposit of $1,200 is due by Tuesday, July 20, 2021 [total deposit required by 7/20/21 is $2,000 ($800+$1,200)]. Anyone joining the tour after 7/20/21 needs to pay an initial deposit of $2,000. The balance of payment is due 135 days prior to departure (Tuesday, February 22, 2022).
Concordia University Irvine will handle the processing of payments via check/ money order and/or credit card and securing your space with Nawas International Travel. You have the option to pay in full or, after the complete $2,000 deposit is received, you may make payments on the balance via check/ money order and/or credit card. Each credit card transaction will incur a 2.5% credit card processing fee.
Travel Insurance and Indemnification Forms
You are strongly encouraged to purchase a Travel Protection Plan. You may purchase travel insurance independently. Additionally, Nawas offers a third-party Travel Protection Coverage for trip cancellation, medical evacuation, medical emergencies, baggage, etc. A travel protection pamphlet will be sent upon written request. Please refer to the travel protection plan policy for complete details.
If you choose to travel without adequate coverage, we will not be liable for any of your losses howsoever arising, for which trip protection plan coverage would otherwise have been available.
Please keep in mind that your personal medical insurance may not cover you overseas; if it does, you will likely have to pay for all services up front and then seek reimbursement. Please consult with your health insurance supplier to obtain the necessary health/medical coverage for overseas travel.
If you purchase travel insurance from Nawas or another carrier, you’ll note this on the required indemnification form. If you chose not to purchase travel insurance, you’ll note this on the same form. The indemnification form is required by Concordia University Irvine.
CUI students: travel insurance is required! If you are an enrolled student at Concordia and are traveling, you are required to purchase travel insurance. You must provide CUI with a copy of your proof of purchase.
If you must cancel your reservation on this trip, you must provide a written cancellation statement to Nawas and to CUI. Unless stated otherwise in the individual trip brochure, the prorated refund schedule is as follows:
- The $800 per person deposit due upon registration is non-refundable
- The additional $1,200 per person deposit is non-refundable upon receipt
- From 134 to 100 days prior to departure, refunds will be made less a fee of 50% of the total tour price per person or $2,000 (whichever is higher)
- From 99 to 65 days prior to departure, refunds will be made less a fee of 75% of the total tour price per person
- From 64 days up to and including the day of departure, reservations are subject to a 100% fee
Why are the cancellation fees so harsh after 64 days prior to departure? By this point, airline tickets, hotels, ground transportation, etc. are already reserved and paid for. In addition to the above cancellation fees, airline tickets are not refundable once issued, due to the nature of group fares. They are, however, good for use within one year of date of issuance. In certain special cases, where airlines or hotels charge non-refundable deposits to hold bookings, Nawas may require a larger non-refundable deposit. This will be specifically noted in the individual brochure's General Conditions section.
Many sightseeing tours are on foot, so you will likely do a lot of walking. That said, anyone in average physical condition can handle this tour just fine. Regardless of your age, you will want to bring good walking shoes. For our older travelers, you need to know that these tours are moderately paced. If it’s just too much after several days, sit down, order a coffee, and wait for the group!
Age Range of Travelers
This trip is designed for a variety of travelers: students, alumni, faculty, staff, friends of Concordia University, congregational members from local churches, etc. We may have traditional college students on this tour, and we’ll have active, healthy, well-traveled people who are in their 70-80s. More important than age is health and attitude!
Currency and Spending Money
The currency that we will use during this trip is the Euro. Many restaurants and shops will also accept Visa and Mastercard. However, you must contact your credit card company so that the card will work in Europe (you’ll need to name each country we’ll be traveling in). Debit cards will work in most bank ATM machines as well, but make certain to inform your bank concerning the dates you’ll be out of the US. The easiest and cheapest way to secure banknotes is from an ATM. Finally, I would like you to have at least 100 euros exchanged before departure, as we will not have time during the first day or so to exchange currency. I do not recommend changing money at the airport. Your local bank, with a few days’ notice, will supply you with euros at a much more affordable exchange rate. I do not recommend bringing travelers’ checks, as they are no longer accepted widely.
There will be a pre-departure meeting held at Concordia University Irvine, likely early July 2022. We’ll discuss final travel arrangements (hotels, airlines, etc.), packing details, cultural customs, etc. I’ll collect the tip money at this time ($150), indemnification forms, etc. This will be our last meeting before departure. We’ll finish the meeting at a local ethnic restaurant (German, perhaps). If you cannot make it, we’ll introduce everyone in Frankfurt!
While all non-discretionary gratuities are included in the Nawas’s total tour price, it is customary to present the Tour Director (TD) and driver(s) with a token of appreciation at the conclusion of the tour. It is customary and typical to offer $6-8 per person per day for the TD, and a minimum of $3-4 per person per day for the coach driver. We will also tip our local guides/docents at $2-3 per person for full-day sightseeing tours.Rest assured that if we conclude that they have not earned it, we’ll reduce the amount. I’ll also use this money as a temporary emergency fund on the trip in case anyone’s money is lost or stolen. That person will then have a day or two to replace it. Each person will need to contribute $90 for TD, $30 for drivers, and $30 for other guides. Total = $150.
It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve traveled abroad, arrival day can be exhausting The best way to adjust to the time change is to adapt your behavior to the local time of day. Since most transatlantic flights from the U.S. arrive in Europe in the morning, it’s likely that your hotel rooms won’t be ready upon your arrival. We’ll hit the ground with a walking tour. Be advised that we will devote ourselves to the day’s events; you’ll be tired. After a full night’s sleep, everyone should feel well rested and ready to explore!
Due to space limitations on NAWAS motorcoaches, you are permitted one piece of luggage per guest plus a motorcoach carry-on bag with dimensions of 12”x11”x6” maximum which must fit in the overhead bin or underneath the seat in front of you. Porterage is available at most hotels; however, porterage will not be available at airports. Porterage is not provided in the Oberammergau area.
Some Packing Suggestions
- Pack comfortable shoes and an umbrella or raincoat, no matter the season.
- At some religious sites, visitors will be required to wear clothing that covers their shoulders and upper arms, and shorts may not be permitted.
- Carry any valuables, medicine and an extra change of clothes when transferring between cities. Leave valuable jewelry at home and carry passports and money at all times.
- Participants with prescription medication should give you a copy of the prescription for safekeeping. Customs officials may want to verify that a container’s contents match its label, so all medication should be carried in its original container.
- Travelers who wear contact lenses or glasses should bring a back-up pair and a copy of their prescription.
- Electrical current in Europe is 220V, standard continental two round pins (you’ll need a converter).
- I recommend that, where possible, you leave electrical appliances at home. If nothing else, it will lighten your suitcase!
What to Bring
For additional ideas on packing for Europe, see Rick Steves’ suggestions.