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Escorted Tours & Cruise Vacations

Travel Tips for a Cultural Tour of Spain

January 15, 2014 - 5:35pm
Senior travel tour members can prepare for a trip to Spain by understanding these cultural nuances.

Europe tours allow seniors to discover the unique and diverse cultures of countries all across the continent. While some locales have customs and traditions similar to those found in the United States, other destinations' practices may prove shocking for the first-time visitor. The people of Spain, for instance, have a culture unlike any other, embracing a romantic language, rich history rooted in the Roman Empire and daily lifestyle focused on pleasure and living in the moment. Tour members can prepare for an excursion to the enchanting country by understanding these facets of Spain:

Dining customs
Senior travel groups will eat most of their meals aboard the cruise ship; however, group dining is a major part of daily life in Spain, and it's beneficial to understand this huge aspect of the culture. While breakfasts are generally small and quick - a roll or toast and a cup of coffee - friends and family often gather at restaurants to socialize and enjoy their afternoon and evening meals together. Lunch is typically heavy, consisting of an appetizer, main entree, dessert and after-meal coffee. Dinners are lighter and tend to feature only one course that's preceded by a starter and followed by a dessert. Between meals, people usually snack on tapas, or appetizers.

Note that mealtimes run later in Spain than in the United States: Residents eat lunch around 2 p.m., while dinner doesn't start until 9 p.m., and dining in Madrid is even later. During weekends, locals may push their mealtimes back an additional hour.

While on a Grand European Cruise and Tour, seniors will have the opportunity to savor the regional flavors at a Spanish establishment. After the meal, it's not necessary to leave gratuity as is common in the United States. The tip is included on the bill, though restaurants rarely list this service charge on the check. If a server has given particularly excellent service, it's acceptable to leave a small tip of 10 percent or less. Those who are eating only sandwiches or tapas tend to leave just enough to round to the nearest euro. Patrons at bars and lounges are generally expected to give their cocktail servers a tip for each drink - typically not more than half a euro. All gratuity should be left in cash, as most establishments do not give the option to leave a tip on credit cards.

One tradition in Spain that senior group travel members may find unusual is the siesta. This is a time during the middle of the day (between 2 and 5 p.m.) when workers and students head home for some rest and relaxation. The siesta generally consists of a short nap - from 15 to 20 minutes, but people also use this time to sit down and spend some quality moments with their families as well as to enjoy lunch. During this time of day, travelers may notice that many businesses shut down, particularly in small towns and villages. In larger cities, the custom is beginning to die out due to the need to keep up with commerce.

These customs and traditions help make up the alluring and exotic culture that attracts millions of visitors to Spain each year. By familiarizing themselves with some of the unique nuances of the country, escorted vacationers can enjoy a more educational and entertaining exploration of one of Europe's most intriguing destinations. And those who are perplexed by certain aspects of Spanish living can always turn to their knowledgeable tour guides for help.