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We've missed you: CIE Tours returns to Ireland

After the pandemic pause, travelers find the welcome is as warm as ever.

Ireland opened its doors this summer, awakening after a long pandemic pause. Shopkeepers dusted off their tills, jaunting car drivers readied their horses, and castle guides got to their posts, ready to welcome back travelers hungry to see the wonders of the world beyond their bubbles.

And how was it for the travelers? “We had a wonderful time – everyone thoroughly enjoyed it,” said Pennsylvania travel agent and traveler Madonna Boyce, who led a group of 12 people. It was Boyce’s 19th trip to Ireland, and as she turned 80 during the trip, she says it’s likely to be her last. As for her traveling companions, “it was the first time going to Ireland for all of them – they were just amazed at everything!”

And what a greeting they got, as they were the first travelers most of the tourism industry staffers had seen in over a year and a half. “We got a warm welcome everywhere we went. Every hotel we went to, every attraction – they were so glad to have us and so glad to be open again. Everyone went out of their way to make us feel welcome.” At Blarney Castle, they were greeted by an excited young staffer who said, “you don’t know good it is it to see you walking up that path to the castle.”  On a Killarney jaunting car ride, “the driver said to us, ‘we’ve sure missed you. It’s so nice to have the business again. I’ve spent enough time at home with my family,’” she laughed.

James Taguchi and his family were on their first trip to Ireland this summer – as part of the Irish Heritage tour, the first group trip that CIE Tours conducted once Ireland had opened  to tourists. “We got treated especially well, and it was so much fun,” he said. And the feelings of delight were mutual. At one stop, at CIE Tours shopping partner in Killarney, Moriarty’s, the staff was so excited that “one of the people came on the bus and said we were the first people they had seen in 18 months!”

“It was a great trip,” he said. “Everything we saw – from the Cliffs of Moher, to the Ring of Kerry, to the sheepdog demonstration. It was fabulous.”

CIE Tours Chief Operations Officer Stephen Cotter, who traveled on the same tour as the Taguchis, concurred. “For the first tours back it was an extra treat to be on ‘the maiden voyage’; if you like. They had a super time. The guides were fantastic.” And the best part? The normality. “The guests all enjoyed it the exact same way as they would have beforehand. They mingled - it wasn’t any different. They were having a super time - just that feeling you’re doing something that’s normal again.”

Pandemic safety measures were in effect, but did not prove too obtrusive, James said. “You needed a vaccination card, and an ID to prove it was you.”

Stephen adds, “Some people have their proof of vaccination on a card, others on their phones – we haven’t had any problems with them so far”. Stephen noted that the guests kept their masks on in the bus and at indoor attractions, which hasn’t been an inconvenience . “You don’t notice it after a while.”

American guests need to take a Covid test at the end of their journey, due to US government requirements for inbound international arrivals. Stephen notes this hasn’t been problematic. “Our operations team setup the appointments for the return testing, and the guests pay for the return tests directly to the test provider. So far it's gone really well.”

Overall, Stephen said, the transition back to traveling been very smooth – thanks to the hard-working teams on the ground. They have had some minor adjustments in the tour itineraries, and have had to work on ensuring that the testing process has been seamless.  “Things have worked out really well, and the customers have been having a good time. Thankfully, we haven’t dropped any of those balls. It’s a huge credit to all the teams that we’ve managed to keep it going so smoothly…we’ve managed to deliver something that made people really happy.”

This has left customers able to just sit back and enjoy the trip – and both James and Madonna report they had no trouble doing this. James said, “We all had a good time. It was a really good family trip.  My 22-year-old son just loved Ireland - he was ready to move there.”

A special highlight for Madonna was the night her group visited Taylors Three Rock, a pub that features lively traditional entertainment. Knowing it was her 80th birthday, the staff had decided to throw a special party just for her, complete with musicians and dancers – and even a birthday cake and celebratory whiskey and wine. “I will never forget how special they made me feel,” she declared.

The trip was a tremendous capstone on Madonna’s lifelong love of Ireland. She said that at one point her group stopped at a particularly splendid area for a photo opportunity, and her group commented on how beautiful the scenery was.  “I had to hold back tears as I told them that I felt like Ireland belonged to me and I was so privileged to be able to share it with them.”

Have you taken a vacation with CIE Tours, recently or in the past? Share your recollections with us on our Facebook page. We’d love to hear about your experiences!

 

Ireland Tours

Showing 16 of 16 total

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Irish Heritage

Starting from $2495

4.9
7/8 Days

See all the highlights on this classic tour - and on our 8-day option, luxuriate in a stay at the elegant, five-star Dromoland Castle Hotel.

​Guided Tours, Guided Small Groups, Independent Adventures

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Irish Spirit

Starting from $2060

4.8
8/9 Days

This leisurely Irish tour covers the spectacular scenery of the countryside and seaside, with plenty of stops in the Emerald Isle's vibrant towns to stop and explore.

​Guided Tours, Guided Small Groups, Independent Adventures

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The Irish Pub Tour

Starting from $2270

4.8
8/9 Days

Irish pubs are the hearts of their communities—a source of camaraderie, stories, and song. Raise a glass (or two!) to rich pub culture and history on this guided tour of Ireland, which offers…

​Guided Tours, Guided Small Groups, Independent Adventures

Irish Legends

Starting from $2570

4.8
9/10 Days

Delve into Ireland and its past on this tour, which mixes in plenty of hidden gems and off-the-beaten-path sights among the tried-and-true favorites. 

​Guided Tours, Guided Small Groups, Independent Adventures

Jewels of Ireland

Starting from $4065

4.9
14/15 Days

Enjoy the splendor of every corner on this leisurely Ireland tour of the essential—and the unexpected.

​Guided Tours, Guided Small Groups, Independent Adventures

Evergreen Ireland South

Starting from $1150

7 Days

This spirited tour offers many of Ireland’s must-see highlights, with plenty of time for independent exploration.

​Guided Tours, Guided Small Groups

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Evergreen Ireland North

Starting from $1120

7 Days

Scenic wonders, lively cities, and cozy firesides: this winter tour of Ireland showcases the best of the northern half of the island.

​Guided Tours, Guided Small Groups

Southern Gems Self-Drive

Starting from $1595

7 Days

Explore Ireland’s top highlights, and stay in Dublin, Kinsale, Dingle, and Shannon. Explore the beauty of the Dingle Peninsula, visit Blarney Castle and the Cliffs of Moher, and dine medieval-…

Independent Adventures

Mystical Ireland Self-Drive

Starting from $1835

8 Days

Go a little off the beaten path as you explore the best of the north and west of Ireland, including Donegal and Connemara. Visit the Giant’s Causeway, Titanic Belfast, and the Cliffs of Moher.…

Independent Adventures

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Taste of Ireland Self-Drive

Starting from $1595

7 Days

This fast-paced, short-and-sweet Ireland tour features top Irish highlights: the Ring of Kerry, Blarney Castle, the Cliffs of Moher, and a medieval castle banquet. Stay in Dublin, Killarney and…

Independent Adventures

Irish Gold Self-Drive

Starting from $2125

9 Days

Venture to the most acclaimed sights and scenic byways of the West and South of Ireland. Visit Kylemore Abbey in beautiful Connemara, raise a glass in Sean’s Bar – Europe’s oldest pub, stroll…

Independent Adventures

Irish Odyssey Self-Drive

Starting from $2725

12 Days

Explore gorgeous scenery and intriguing culture as you drive around the entire Ireland on this comprehensive tour. Visit Kylemore Abbey, the Giant’s Causeway, Titanic Belfast, and enjoy a stay at…

Independent Adventures

Irish Adventure with Driver

Starting from $5525

9 Days

Your dedicated driver/guide will bring you around the entire island, sharing a wealth of stories along the way. Discover Glendalough, the Giant’s Causeway, and the Cliffs of Moher. Stay in Dublin…

Independent Adventures

Irish Classic with Driver

Starting from $8870

13 Days

Skirt along the entire rugged coastline as your specialist driver/guide shows you all the highlights. See the Giant’s Causeway, Donegal, Westport House, the Cliffs of Moher, Dingle, Waterford, and…

Independent Adventures

Irish Explorer with Driver

Starting from $6585

10 Days

See the beauty of the Atlantic coastline as your specialist driver/guide gives you all the local lore. You’ll stay two nights each in mountainous Donegal, vibrant Galway, and friendly Killarney.…

Independent Adventures

Best of Ireland South with Driver

Starting from $4625

8 Days

Your dedicated driver/guide will tour the best of Ireland with you, giving you all the history and lore to make your trip exceptional. Visit the beautiful Dingle Peninsula, kiss the Blarney Stone…

Independent Adventures

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