Travel Info for 2022

June 13, 2022

Travel is 99.99999% back to normal!
For months, the entire travel industry has been actively lobbying respective governments to ease up on restrictions for travel. We at CDV were signatories on a petition to the U.S. Government to remove the requirement for pre-flight testing before entering the United States, and we were finally heard!

  • Vaccine cards and Covid Tests are no longer required to enter Italy.
  • Portugal still requires proof of vaccination.
  • U.S. citizens returning to the United states no longer need to show vaccination status or pre-flight covid testing.
  • Flights to Canada no longer require pre-flight covid testing.
  • As of June 15th, masking is optional everywhere in both Italy and Portugal.
For guests departing on a cruise before or after a vacation with CDV, there may be additional requirements. If you booked the cruise with us, we will provide you with all of the details and take care of anything you need.

May 10, 2022

There have been many changes regarding the requirements for travel over the past 2 weeks. The basic changes are:

  • Italy no longer requires a pre-entry test for fully vaccinated travelers to enter.
  • Italy no longer requires visitors to fill in a passenger locator form for entry.
  • Portugal's criteria for recognizing US, Canada, and Australian vaccination certificates is very unclear. They have been accepting them for our guests, but we have heard of some people being rejected. So we suggest all travelers get an Antigen test the day before travel.
  • Portugal no longer requires visitors to fill in a passenger locator form for entry.
  • Fully vaccinated Canadians no longer need to get a negative test before returning home.
  • Fully vaccinated Australians no longer need to get a negative test before returning home.
For more details on these changes, click here.

Apr 13, 2022

Omicron BA.2 and Omicron XE Update

As expected, the Omicron BA.2 wave was extremely mild and weaker than even the original omicron. There was a slight uptick in "cases," but no statistically significant change in hospitalizations and outcomes. In other words, this variant simply presented as a mild cold. It peaked on March 29, and has been on a steady downturn since.

Some may have heard of yet another new variant called Omicron XE. This is a combination of Omicron BA.1 and BA.2. While it is not yet in wide circulation, the consensus among epidemiologists is that this is a simple continuation of the patterns we have been seeing, such that it may be a bit more transmissible, but is proving to be even less severity than prior Omicron variants. XE has not been declared a variant of concern.

Mar 17, 2022

Omicron BA.2

A sub-variant of Omicron called "BA.2" is becoming the dominant strain world-wide, and has been the force behind the higher positive test numbers throughout Europe. The bad news on this is, of course, that the world is always wondering about what the next variant will bring, so we tend to get nervous. The good news, however, is that BA.2 is already showing to be even milder than the original Omicron variant. In fact, as positive cases increase, we are seeing hospitalizations continue to go down. Most have reported a couple days of mild headache and some muscle aching, and a few with low fever.

Why is this good news? Because it is mid-March, and this strain is very mild and very short-lived. Omicron came and went in about a month, and this is showing to be very similar. More importantly, this follows a very clear pattern that we have seen with Covid in Europe. Each new wave has been milder, and the timing has become remarkably predictable:

March 2020 - First wave hits Italy
May 2020 - First wave is over in Italy
November 2021 - Second wave hits Italy (more transmissible, slightly milder)
February 2021 - Second wave is over in Italy
March 2021 - Third wave hits Italy (more transmissible, slightly milder)
May 2021 - Third wave is over in Italy
July 2021 - Fourth wave (Delta) hits Italy (more transmissible, much milder)
August 2021 - Fourth wave (Delta) is over in Italy
November 2022 - Fifth wave (Omicron BA.1) hits Italy (more transmissible, much milder)
February 2022 - Fifth wave (Omicron BA.1) is over in Italy
March 2022 - Sixth wave (Omicron BA.2) hits Italy (slightly more transmissible, slightly milder)

So we are at a point in which by late April, early May, we will be looking at this in the rearview mirror, just as we did last year and the year before, except now we are not dealing with the beast we were dealing with two years ago.

More promising news: The Omicron wave was huge in numbers of "positive cases", but when it came to people that were actually feeling ill, the numbers proved to be exactly on par with what they were seeing in previous years with influenza and colds. In other words, while Covid was a major problem in terms of illness and death in the early waves, but the time Omicron hit, all of the numbers were back in the range of a typical flu season. For March, we are seeing the same already. The numbers are on par with the average for this time of year with colds and influenza. To put it in better context, while there were. 72,000 positive tests nationwide yesterday, there were only 31 hospitalizations. This is in a country of 69 million people.

Mar 05, 2022

The Status in Ukraine, Lifting Covid Restrictions, Covid in Retreat, and Life Back to Normal

While this page has been long dedicated to keeping people up to date with the Covid situation in Italy and Portugal, that has taken a back seat to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, causing some to have a different kind of concern. To begin, our hearts are held out for the people of Ukraine that are dealing with horrors and realities we hoped we had left back in the 20th century. It goes so far as to be personal for some of us, as CDV's founders have a dear friend that lives about 200 miles west of Kyiv, and have not been able to contact him. That said, please keep your thoughts and prayers with our friend, Arsen (as well as the whole of Ukraine).

On the topic of Covid, everything is in excellent shape. As we posted in earlier updates, the Omicron wave in Europe was huge in cases, but hardly a blip on the radar in terms of hospitalizations and deaths. It came and left very quickly. The numbers of people sick with Covid are now at pre-omicron levels. More importantly, when looking at the statistics of normal seasonal virus-related hospitalizations and deaths (including cold and influenza), Italy and Portugal are both experiencing the kind of numbers they saw in an average year pre-covid.

As such, they are ending the state of emergency and all emergency measures are gradually being lifted over the next few months. Here is what we know so far:

  • There is no longer a requirement for Covid testing to enter the country for vaccinated travelers.
  • On March 31st, the official state of emergency will end.
  • The need to present proof of vaccination status at many venues will also be steadily removed
  • While unvaccinated travelers still are asked to self-isolate for 10 days, and need a negative test for entry, it is expected (not guaranteed) that this will be lifted at some time in April.
  • Outdoor mask requirements were lifted in February, and indoor mask requirements are expected to end in March.

Jan 24, 2022

The Omicron Variant

What We Are Seeing in Italy

The Omicron wave started in Italy in late November, 2021, and peaked on January 6th, 2022. Since the peak, testing has been going exponentially higher, but the number of positives have been coming down at a consistent rate.

The Variation Rate
The chart here shows that the variation rate has gone below zero in Italy, meaning that the virus spread is getting much lower, signaling that they are near the end of the Omicron wave. In fact, this is the first time it has gone below zero since June 2021.

In many countries we talk about positivity rates, case rates, etc. But since the beginning of the pandemic, much of Europe has relied on the "variation" rate to predict the trajectory of the various waves, and this has been by far the single most accurate predictor in all four waves of the pandemic to date. In order to calculate this, it is necessary to have excellent tracking of new cases and recoveries. Italy has done an excellent job in assuring that there has always been a difference between presumptive cases and confirmed cases. Furthermore, unlike in the US, if you test positive one day, and test positive again a few days later, they don't count the second test as a new "case." With respect to recoveries, they track this by requiring anyone that has tested positive have a series of two tests with negative results, at least 24 hours apart. Once that happens, the person is considered "recovered" and no longer a "case."

This allows them to very accurately see if the virus is in a pattern of spreading more, or if it is going away, and to what degree. Simply put, if there are 200 new case in a day and 100 recoveries, the "Variation" is +100, meaning 100 more people tested positive for the first time than were marked as recovered. The higher this number is, the more the virus is spreading. The lower it is, the less it is spreading.

The WHO and Italian Health Authorities Are Predicting an End of the Pandemic by Early Spring
More and more experts that have been tracking the pandemic have come to the conclusion that what we have been seeing in the Omicron wave signals that as this wave goes away, we are looking at the end of the pandemic. Europe has an extremely high vaccination rate, and extremely high recovery numbers between the four waves. Add that to the fact that each wave has been weaker than previous in terms of severity of illness, they are signaling that Covid has become endemic, and moving into what we normally consider seasonal colds and flus.

Additionally, the Italian government is already talking about dates when they plan on removing all restrictions. While there are no lockdowns anymore, there is still indoor masking, and some capacity limits for indoor places. These are things that had no effect on us in our 2021 season, but the fact that they re already talking about removing virtually all restrictions is a very positive sign.

Following The Science

The statistics behind the science are very revealing now that we are two years into Covid. Italy keeps meticulous data every day on just about anything that can be measured. In previous waves of Covid, the hospitalization numbers started to show their rise and fall average twelve days after case numbers were reported. On November 13, 2020, Italy had its highest peak in positive reported cases, then started to go down very quickly. The peak in hospitalizations was on November 25th, and they then went down at the same rate as cases.

Some Omicron Statistics for Italy

  • The hospitalization rate at the peak of the Omicron wave (Jan 6) was 75% lower than at the peak of the 2021 winter wave, and two weeks after the peak, they remained 75% lower than 2 weeks after the peak of the winter 2021 wave.
  • The death rate at the peak of the Omicron wave (Jan 6) was 90% lower than at the peak of the 2021 winter wave, and two weeks after the peak, they remained 90% lower than 2 weeks after the peak of the winter 2021 wave.
  • 80% of those hospitalized throughout the Omicron wave were unvaccinated.
  • As of today, Italy's Vaccination rate is 91.72%.
  • As of today, Italy's Booster rate is 77.02%.

Keeping It In Context

We have all experienced a couple of terrible years, and just the word "covid" makes us think of all we have suffered in previous waves. As we hear about new cases, it is difficult to change how we think of those numbers, but it may help to have some context. For the most part, this new variant is more similar to a common cold or light flu, rather than the devastating virus we have come to know. If we can think of the Omicron variant in that context, the numbers may not seem so scary, because few of us ever considered how many "cases" of cold and flu we have each year.

In 2018, there were 41 Million KNOWN cases of influenza in The United States. Over 700,000 of them were hospitalized, and up to 95,000 of them died. We used to take those numbers for granted to the point we didn't even report on them in the news. The numbers of cases for the common cold are so much higher that we cannot even count them. Naturally what we saw in 2020 and 2021 was nothing like those numbers, but it looks like we may very well be edging toward Covid numbers going forward (in terms of people getting sick enough to need medical attention) that will be low enough to lump in with influenza and colds we take for granted as part of everyday life.

Over the past few years, we have necessarily done a great deal of studying of statistics as they have related to pandemics and epidemics over the years, and while nothing in life is guaranteed, Omicron seems to be similar to mutations of past viruses, in that over time they mutate in such a way that they weaken significantly over time, and eventually get lumped into what we generally call seasonal flu or colds.

Reasons to feel VERY Confident About Travel to Europe in Spring/Summer/Fall of 2022 in addition what what you have already read:

  1. Vaccine Makers are already working on Omicron-resistant boosters. This will not be like developing a new vaccine, but updating existing vaccines, making it faster to produce. The expectation is that if they are even required, they will be widely available well before our season starts.
  2. We now see a great deal of data that shows the Omicron variant is significantly less potent than earlier variants, and presenting more like a common cold. This is historically consistent with the science of how viruses tend to mutate over time. They become more transmissible, but less potent. This has been the case with other coronaviruses over time, including types 229E, NL63, OC43, and HKU1. These are now simply referred to as "The Common Cold," as they have become so weak. We were similarly concerned a few months ago with the "Mu" variant, that ended up not being a big problem. Of course, we do not know how it will react with certainty, but we will surely have a better grasp in the next few weeks. If we continue to see extremely high number of "cases," but low numbers of vaccinated people with serious illness, this will be excellent news. As noted above, vaccine makers will have new boosters specifically for this variant if it becomes a concern.
  3. Aside from vaccines, Pfizer and Merck have developed anti-viral pills that show great success in treating Covid. Both have already been given the green light by the FDA, and will be available to all by the end of January. These anti-virals are expected to be game-changers with Covid, as you can take them the moment you find you are infected. The Pfizer pill has shown to reduce hospitalization by 90%. Add that to the much lower hospitalization rate with Omicron, and we are very likely looking at the end of the pandemic, although we will see big numbers in January.
  4. Now that we have nearly two years of data with Covid waves, we can see the trends world-wide. Europe has seen each of its waves come in winter, while by early Spring, the numbers have gone significantly down. We are seeing this play out again, except with each new wave since vaccinations began, there were more mild or asymptomatic cases, and very few hospitalizations. This trend continues to date.

Status Of 2022 Travel with CDV

In September and October of 2021, CDV operated 16 tours with 236 guests throughout Italy and Portugal after reopening, and despite the concerns of the Delta Variant, everything went beautifully, and we are happy to report that we had zero covid cases among guests and team. As of this writing, all of our 2022 vacations are going forward as scheduled, and should you change your mind before the trip, please look at our cancellation policy for rescheduling options.

As always, we urge all guests to obtain "Cancel for Any Reason" insurance for their trip if they believe they may cancel out of fear. Cancellations due to other reasons are generally covered by normal travel insurance.

CDV's State of Affairs with Covid

When the pandemic first hit, like so many, we were devastated. We see our guests as family, and most certainly do not want to see them lose out. But at the same time, we needed to survive as well. Unlike airlines and cruise lines that got billions in bailout money, companies like ours got nothing. Even the famed PPP and EIDL programs were not designed to help companies like ours. We were left in the cold to fend for ourselves. The silver lining is that CDV has always been a debt-free company, so we were able to ask our guests to simply postpone the trips they had already planned with us. As such, we had enough in our company savings to ride out the worst period of Covid without laying people off or putting guests in a position to lose money. In fact, we went online and started doing much of what we do virtually, for free. It was an incredibly bonding experience. But of course a small business can only do that for so long.

Once we saw that by Spring of 2021, vaccine rates were skyrocketing and new cases were dropping significantly, we decided that we would re-start with a mini-season in September and October of 2021. It looked a little concerning at first as the Delta wave started hitting, but based on the variation rate projections, we were able to tell that it would subside before our season started, so we asked the brave guests that booked for that 2021 season to be patient and put trust in us. Of course, had it gotten bad, we would have done what we did in 2020. But 236 guests chose to trust us, and the wave did subside by July, right when it was getting bad in much of the United States. By the time we restarted in September, the Delta wave was entirely over in Europe. We went ahead with 16 tours, and each went off with perfection. Moreover, every one of those 236 guests told us it felt like the weight of the world had been lifted off of them. Many had been so anxious about travel before the trip, but the trip was the cure for their anxiety. Away from the 24 hour news cycle of doom and gloom, it was glorious for all of us. In fact, we made an emotional video that highlights it. You can see it here: We suggest you really watch the whole thing. It speaks volumes!

With what we saw in 2021, we decided that unless we saw another 2020, we would do a full 2022 season. More importantly, we realized that absent any lockdowns or travel restrictions, anyone choosing not to go would be doing so on an emotional basis of fear, generated in great part by the politicization of the pandemic at this point... a kind of politicization were were not seeing in Europe. As such, we made the decision to lift the amendments we had made to our cancellation policy and go back to normal. After all, we also have hundreds of vendors that are mom and pop companies that rely on us. We needed to give them some stability as well. We needed to continue with a science-based strategy, not one based solely on fear or lack thereof.

When Omicron hit, we watched very closely. It became very apparent within just a few weeks that the data we were seeing out of South Africa and Europe was not consistent with how the media in North America was reporting. It was immediately clear that this was a significantly weaker mutation of the virus, and those hat got it were getting it for extremely short periods. We saw hospitals not filling up, but asymptomatic cases skyrocketing as they exponentially increased testing. In other words, when we looked at the data out of Europe, the hospitalization and death rate during the Omicron wave was largely identical to what has always been the hospitalization and death rate for this time of year pre-Covid. In other words, those flu and pneumonia hospitalizations that everyone took for granted pre-covid were now being reported in headlines because they were now attached to Covid. But the actual number of sick people was entirely typical of that time of year.

With that knowledge, we decided to do another "wait and see." Just as we anticipated, it spiked, then started to go down. The numbers are even on a greater downward trend than they were in the summer of 2021, when there was almost no transmission at all. In other words, last winter they were dealing with the ravages of the Alpha Covid virus. But by April, it was all but gone. Now, they are dealing with a very weak Omicron variant, and peaked earlier than they did in 2021... and that wave started going down faster than in 2021. So it is entirely natural that by Spring of 2022, the situation will be even better than it was in 2021, when we had zero problems.

Vaccination Status When You Travel

While CDV is not legally allowed to require vaccination for travel, Italy and Portugal are expected to require it for entry in 2022. It is highly likely that you will not be considered fully vaccinated unless you have had the two shots plus the booster by the time our season starts.

Our Policy on Cancellations

CDV takes every precaution with regard to the safety of our guests and team. While we understand that some may cancel out of fear, this is not a reason for moving trips to new dates outside what our policy already allows, which is very liberal compared to most. With that said, if circumstances reach a point similar to 2020, in which travel is not possible in any of our locations, we will offer to move deposits to future vacations as we did in 2020.