Messages From CDV

Please have a look at our status update to see the recent situation in Italy.

Aug 6, 2020

Who would have guessed just a few months ago that life would be back to normal in Italy, and they would have a ban on most of us visiting there? Sadly, the chaos of Covid in North America, along with the uptick in Australia and South Africa has left most of Europe closing their borders for now. As such, for CDV, 2020 will forever be the year that wasn't. With the restrictions in place and the number of cancelled flights, we are left with no choice but to postpone all of our summer and autumn 2020 vacations until next year.

The good news is that CDV remains sound and able to ride it out. With the promise of therapeutics already starting to show effectiveness, the promise of a vaccine, and the weakening of the virus itself, we will go into 2021 with total and absolute confidence... and when we get back in the saddle, we are going to celebrate! We have some wonderful plans for 2021 as a way to thank all of our wonderful family for not only being so understanding, but riding through this with us!

July 4, 2020

Our Canadian and Australian guests are now allowed to come back to Italy and Portugal, pending reciprocity from both countries. The United States has not yet been cleared, but will be reviewed again on July 14, and again every two weeks. We will be keeping a close eye on this, and remain optimistic that this will change given that while the number of cases has increased with the massive increase in testing, the fatality rate has been steadily decreasing, and hospitalization rate for covid-confirmed cases has not spiked.

June 17, 2020

What a bunch of crazy stuff we’ve all been going through. We sincerely hope that you and yours are all doing well and getting back to your routines.

What a bunch of crazy stuff we’ve all been going through. We sincerely hope that you and yours are all doing well and getting back to your routines.

I can speak for all of us at CDV that we’ve been looking forward to the re-opening of Italy, Portugal and the rest of the world. We are excited that both Portugal and Italy are planning to be fully open at the end of the month. For as bad as it was at one point, both countries have been out of lockdown for about a month and a half, the numbers continue to decline across the board, and life is getting back to normal.

Our CDV community family has been overwhelmingly generous and has shown us an immeasurable amount of support for our crew and our friends and partners in Italy. Through social media and live video chats along with live stream cooking classes, we have been able to stay connected with our guests in ways not previously imaginable. We are incredibly grateful to have such wonderful and thoughtful guests that have reached out and have given us so much positive encouragement when things were looking very difficult. Especially when we were forced to postpone our spring vacation dates. Many were new guests, along with alumni guests that had planned many months in advance to come to Italy and Portugal.

We all had to play a waiting game to see what was going to happen with the pandemic and how the world was going to respond. Along with governments and health officials giving reports that were either often inaccurate or contradictory. Who were we to believe?

But the reality evolves and the “curve” went way down. It is hard to get the images out of our heads of all of the news we saw out of Europe, but here is what is going on in Italy now:

  • Italy peaked in early April, and started a very steady decline in cases, hospitalizations, and deaths since then.
  • On May 4th (6 weeks prior to this writing), Italy lifted its quarantine, and reopened. While there was certainly a fear of a new outbreak, it didn’t materialize.
  • New cases, hospitalizations, and deaths have continued on a very steady downward trajectory.
  • The numbers are now around the average number they have at this time of year with a typical influenza.
  • For the Italians, as the one of the countries that took this more seriously than most with Covid-19, they no longer see a light at the end of the tunnel. They are realizing they have exited the tunnel altogether.
  • And there are still another two and a half months before our season resumes.

To put this in perspective, our home province where Soriano is has not seen a new case since May 26. The entire city of Rome had only 1 new case this month. The areas we go in Sicily have zero cases, Umbria has zero cases, the areas we go in Tuscany have had a total of 2 new cases this month, there are no cases along the Amalfi Coast, and so on. Even for our Bologna trips, places we visit close to the biggest initial outbreak area have dwindled down to single digits.

Life has returned to normal, and the restrictive measures have been dramatically decreased. Restaurants are operating at near capacity, without the use of face-masks, only some social distancing. Medium-size groups like ours are permitted to seat together. Still, after over six weeks, the cases, hospitalizations and fatalities have been on rapid decline.

One of the greatest fears we hear from people is that of a possible “Second Wave”. While we certainly don’t know what will or will not happen, there is a great deal of information now that we did not have the luxury of months ago. We absolutely do not want to dismiss fears people may have, but rather offer some possibly comforting information that gives us a great amount of hope and confidence. Perhaps enough to assuage those fears.

As we have lived through the pandemic, we have seen experts tell us to brace for all sorts of possibilities. Some came to be, and some did not. One would have given us more reason to expect a second wave was that as the Southern Hemisphere entered winter, that it would begin to see a massive rise in Covid-19 cases. This was fed by the fact that we came to understand that that virus does not spread well in warmer weather. However, the Southern Hemisphere is now in full winter. But if you look at their data, the timeline is nearly identical to the rest of the world. They peaked in April, and have been trending downward since. This would contradict assumptions that bases the virus worsening as the weather gets colder again.

Another consideration is that of Herd Immunity. While it is true that you cannot achieve 100% Herd Immunity until a majority of a population has been infected, you do achieve a measured amount, even with lower infection rates. This makes it significantly more difficult for the virus to spread.

The third piece of information we have is based on something the medical experts in Italy have been noting lately. What they have seen is that not only are fewer people getting infected now, but of those that are getting infected and showing symptoms, those symptoms have been significantly milder on average. This also coincides with the fact that Italy is experiencing an unusually cold Spring. Many virologists are concluding that as the virus has spread from person to person, it has also become weaker. This may also help explain why, for example, in Florida the number of cases has gone up, but the hospitalization and fatality rate has continued to decrease.

With all of this in mind, CDV is preparing to operate all of its scheduled vacations beginning in late August through late October. But we also want you to feel comfortable. We know that some of you have some concerns and apprehensions, and here’s what we will be doing moving forward:

That brings us to the question of how we will be proceeding for our upcoming vacations. We see a clear fizzling out of the virus in Italy, and while travel restrictions are still in place, they are expected to be removed at the end of this month. At the same time, we want to assure your comfort as we prepare to re-open, and are keeping a revised cancellation policy in place, which allows you greater latitude than the policy that was in place when you booked. This new policy is an incentive for patience.

  • Between June 1 2020 and Sep 1 2020, we will not process any balances due until 45 days before the planned start date, rather than the 90 days according to our standard policy.
  • If we are required to postpone a vacation you have not cancelled due to Covid-19 or other unforeseen reasons, 100% of your initial deposit payment would then become a credit that be used any time before the end of 2022, which is also transferrable to another person not currently reserved on any of our trips.
  • As an additional thank you for your patience and optimism, we will provide a $300 voucher for any other future travel with us. This is not transferrable.
  • We are also planning something special during your vacation week that is outside the itinerary and will be a “one-time” experience for our 2020 guests to celebrate the recovery.
  • If you choose not to wait, and decide to cancel a 2020 trip on your own, we will issue you a 50% credit of your paid deposit to be used any time before the end of 2022, which is also transferrable to another person not currently reserved on any of our trips.

Given all the personal precautions we can individually take, we would like for all our guests to also know what our hotel and other partners in Italy and Portugal will be doing to help prevent the spread of any kinds of bacteria or viruses.

  1. All hotel room surfaces are completely sanitized before a guest checks in.
  2. All linens are cleaned and disinfected (including bedspreads and pillows)
  3. All surfaces of our vehicles are disinfected several times per day.
  4. We will have hand sanitizer available on all vehicles, and provide personal hand sanitizer for all guests.
  5. We will provide masks for all guests that wish to wear them. – Although we don’t believe it will be necessary.

Also keep in mind that our tour buses are quite large and have about twice as many seats as we would normally need, so we will have plenty of space for our guests to feel comfortable.

We are extremely confident that things will be back to the way they should be, and we are looking forward with faith instead of fear. So we will be looking forward to your arrivals!

We are always happy to answer any questions or concerns.

With Sincerest and Kindest Regards
The Entire Culture Discovery Team

May 1, 2020

This has been one wild ride for all of us. Just a few weeks ago, we were bracing for potentially millions of deaths from Coronavirus, we have been locked in our homes for nearly 2 months, and fear has gripped the world.

We are not going to try and minimize things. This pandemic dealt a serious blow to CDV. We don't just lose our income for the duration of a lockdown. In this case, the lockdowns happened the just the right time to completely wipe out our income for at least half our year, and crippled our income potential for the following year. All the while, we are all like family to one another, and in no way operate like a traditional company. So we were not about to start cutting the costs that put food on people's tables! Not a single person was laid off, and we still have hopes for our autumn season, while we are planning a full 2021 season to come!

We, a small company, are surviving this. But here's the thing. Our ability to find a path through this has been partially in how we handled things internally, and a great part of it has been how amazing our guests have been! All of the sudden vacations were just not happening for hundreds of people, and how did you react? You told us "Don't worry, just move our trip to a later date". Instead of worrying about your deposits, you worried about us! When we realized that the people that are purely seasonal workers in Italy would have no income, we started a Gofundme donation page to help them, and you have donated nearly $14,000 to it so far. When we talked about the artisans that were losing their livelihoods, you started placing tens of thousands of dollars in orders for wine, balsamic vinegar, and olive oil for them to ship to you... a world away.

Like most small companies, we did't make it to the front of the line for government handouts. It all ran out before we were considered for aid. But that didn't kill us, because we had you supporting us all the way. That helped us limp through the peak of this crisis! Finally, we did get some help in he second round of the emergency PPP program on May 1. That helps us a little bit with the few people we have on payroll in the U.S. Our sister-company on Italy (Splendido Vacations), which handles all of our logistics that require a registered Italian company is also expecting some aid from the Italian government. That Gofundme donation page will take care of our team that is not on fixed payroll. All in all we never had any doubt that we would make it through, we just were not sure what "making it through" would look like, and now we are seeing that our guests have played an amazing role in that!

If you are not one of the thousands of people that follow us on Facebook, you may have missed out on something truly amazing. We rode this out together. The CDV team, our guests, our "suppliers", and so many friends. Every day there has been a "from the heart" post about how things are going, what we are feeling. Regularly, our amazing family in Italy and Portugal would send us video messages on our Facebook page. Sometimes reading a poem, sometimes singing a song, sometimes just speaking their feelings of the moment. Every Thursday, Carla has done a live stream cooking class on Facebook, and thousands have been watching them, and we have had cooking videos from Amalfi, from Modena, and even the U.S.! Our Facebook page has been one giant worldwide community supporting one another.

So today, as we see the trends have been getting better and better everywhere in the world, we can say that it sure looks like the worst is behind us. And in saying so, we can say that not a single person in the CDV family has gotten sick from this thing. Not even a little bit. Even the places we operate have been largely untouched. Our home base of Soriano saw a grand total of 3 Coronavirus cases, none of which were severe. Even our friends from our Bologna trips up north are all doing just fine. Everyone is itching to start living life again, and everyone has a new appreciation for all of the things they have taken for granted.

So when this is all behind us, we will look at the bank accounts and see that we suffered a financial loss that we never could have imagined. But we will have survived it. More importantly, we got something amazing in return. We have always told our guests they are our family. We have always said the same to our suppliers. And through all the good times, that has been fairly easy. But we have just been through an incredible test. What did we learn? When things are really bad, we are still family. Our guests have treated us like family, we have seen you as family, all of our "suppliers" have bonded with us and one another as family, and our team has been family. In the toughest of times, we held on to what we have always treasured most.

And if that sets the trajectory of CDV's growth back a few years, it is a very low price to pay for such joy! It can only make us come out of all of this stronger than ever.

So beginning today, we will be changing the focus of most of the pages on this Coronavirus update section of our website. Because Italy and Portugal Are Opening Again! It will change from "How are we going to get through this" to "How things will be as this gets behind us". When it is all said and done, we wanna see you soon, and we want you to know that we are going to do everything humanly possible to assure we all see each other with confidence in our safety & contingency plans without losing one ounce of who we are.

March 21, 2020

Wow, we've been getting countless calls and emails lately related to travel and the coronavirus, of course. They have been coming from future guests wanting to know their options, from people wanting to postpone their trip, and countless family and friends asking us quite simply, "Are we OK?"

Let's face it, a world pandemic has paralyzed the entire travel industry, and so many more. Already, airlines, hotels, tour companies have gone under. Most that have not, have laid off their staff, hoping to survive this however long it takes... and nobody knows what tomorrow will look like, let alone a month or two from now, but we have something on our side. Hope.

So when people ask us if we are ok, well... Yes. Everyone at CDV is ok. We’re we are all self-isolating, and following every guideline beyond what is requested of our respective governments and health officials. Fortunately, none of our team (covering four countries) has tested positive, and none of our friends that we work with have either. So far, so good.

But we are watching it day by day, staying in constant contact with everyone. You see, CDV is a very small company. Unlike a giant airline or Cruise line that does everything in mass business contracts with large corporations, everyone we work with is based on personal relationships. It is about the people, not the business. And that makes this that much more difficult, because we are personally worried about all of our partners. Our friends, and their families. We are all in this together! We like to put it this way. That giant tour company is like Walmart. We, on the other hand, are like the corner grocer that knows you personally, and truly looks forward to sharing stories with you.

Those same partners that are friends, rather than signatories on 200 page contracts are being incredibly flexible with us. We have paid them a great deal of money from deposits and final payments guests have made to us, and they are allowing us to move them to future dates. All while we know each and every one of them is worried about keeping their doors open, and praying for this to end soon. So for that, we feel blessed, because it gives us the ability to let our guests change their dates without losing the payments they have made to us.

Our guests have been so incredibly flexible as well, while we figure out how to work through these unprecedented times. They have been gracious, understanding, and have shown true care. For the most part, our guests have been so incredibly kind, sending words of encouragement to us and gratitude for the flexility we’ve been able to create. And for that, we are truly blessed.

We realize that every month the outbreak lasts, the more difficult it will be on CDV, and every business out there. We've looked at the numbers from every angle, and are doing everything possible to keep from laying anyone off, and will keep that goal as long as possible. And still, we're OK. None of us is sick. So for that we count ourselves truly blessed.

So yes. We feel blessed. And also hopeful. Because we have been crunching every number, and every statistic, and we strongly believe this will run its course, and as we move into summer, this will be behind us. We look forward to sharing some serious bottles of celebratory wine with guests at that point, mixed in with some somber moments of silence.

And until then, we are ok, hopeful, and optimistic! In the meantime, we ask that you stay safe and have hope.

With all of our love and gratitude,
All of us at CDV