When I was asked by Tauck if I would like to experience a luxury European river cruise onboard one of their new ships for a few days, I was really pleased. The ms Savor had just finished its 2014 season with guests, so Tauck had arranged a one-off 4 night itinerary for invited guests, cruising on the Danube, Main-Danube Canal and Main Rivers. There were 70 of us in the group and this wasn’t just a fun trip, but a Tauck Academy trip, which involved 6 modules of between 30 and 90 minutes each, in addition to a final test. Have a look at my review below, and then call GoCruise with Ian on either 01455821770 or 0800 292 2850 for more information from your Tauck Academy Certified Agent.
Having flown from Birmingham, which is easy for me to get to, I arrived in Munich airport at just after 10am. Regardless of whether you book a ‘fly cruise’ or ‘cruise only’, Tauck includes transfers from the nearest airport or train station to your port, so I was met by a friendly face and shown to the coach for my journey to the ship. Note that within the Tauck European River Cruising brochure there are references to both Riverboats and ships, but I will stick with the term ships.
As soon as we boarded the ship we were shown to our cabins, and I was lucky enough to have been given one of the innovative loft cabins. We all then had a light lunch in the Panorama Lounge, before heading off for a walking tour of Regensburg. It is a really pretty town, with lots of history, and it was great having a knowledgeable guide, and the VOX personal audio devices make the experience so much better.
Back onboard for our departure for Nuremberg (Nurnberg), we had our first 75 minute training module, followed by a presentation from the Cruise Director, and a safety briefing by the captain. During the evening there was a welcome reception, Welcome Dinner and then some light music.
There was a choice of an early breakfast in Arthur’s, the alternative dining venue which is aft on deck 3, or a full breakfast in the Compass Rose restaurant. The morning was then taken up by two 90 minute training modules, followed by lunch, again with the choice of dining venues.
We docked early afternoon, and coaches were waiting to transfer us to Nuremberg. Our first stop was at the Zeppelin Fields, which is where Hitler held many rallies, and we then went to the famous Documentation Centre, where all the records are kept from the Nuremberg Trials. We then had a guided walking tour of the city centre, before heading back to the ship.
Dinner this evening was open seating in the Compass Rose, and tables could be reserved in Arthur’s, which serves a more restricted menu. After dinner we had an audience participation quiz which was a good laugh.
After breakfast we had a 60 minute training module, before heading ashore at 10.00am for the short drive into Bamberg. Another interesting town, built on 7 hills, and we got to see the main sites including the cathedral. Before splitting up for some free time we all tried the local smoked beer called Rauchbier. The best description would be drinking a glass of dark ale at the same time as eating Smokey Bacon crisps.
Back onboard for a 1.30 sailing, it was time for lunch, followed by some relaxing time on deck, watching the world go by. We then had a 30 minute training module, after which we got to look around all 7 categories of accommodation. We then had some delicious Gluhwein (hot mulled wine), followed by our last 60 minute training module.
The evening was taken up by drinks and another top quality dinner, followed by music in the lounge.
Early breakfast again, followed by the Tauck Academy final exam. Then the ship arrived in Wurzburg and it was time for today’s excursion to the fairy-tale town of Rothenburg, which was about a 90 minute drive away. Lunch was taken in the Eisenhut restaurant, before heading back to Wurzburg. Before actually getting to the ship there was some wine tasting to be done, which meant we made a visit to the intimate Hofkeller of the Residenz. This was an amazing setting for the sampling of some excellent wines, and while other cruise lines take their guests to view the Residenz, only Tauck gets the private tasting session.
Back onboard it was time for the cocktail hour in the lounge, followed by the Captain’s Farewell Dinner in the Compass Rose, and I was privileged to be one of the people invited to dine at the Captain’s table. After dinner it was the Tauck Awards ceremony, where I became a Tauck Certified Agent, followed by music in the lounge.
After an early breakfast it was unfortunately time to board my transfer coach, for the journey to Frankfurt airport for my flight home. It was a very busy, but extremely enjoyable 5 days, with lots of new memories to keep.
This truly has been one of the best trips I have been on as an agent, and I really got to find out just how the people at Tauck are focused on giving every customer a memorable experience. The quality of the food was as good as on any ocean or river cruise I have experienced, and this was enhanced by the quality of the drink brands available. The standard of the cabins and everything within them, and the service given by all members of crew is excellent.
Since the first Tauck Tour took place in 1925, the company has remained a family business and is now managed by the third generation of the Tauck family.
They really do offer All-Inclusive river cruising – airport and train station transfers, all dining onboard, beverages onboard (local wines & beers, premium spirits, speciality coffee, teas, water and soft drinks), all gratuities (not only onboard but also to local guides and drivers), Wi-Fi access, all shore excursions, including Signature Experiences such as private wine tastings and musical performances, as well as a number of dining and tasting experiences ashore. All port and fuel charges are also included. When I say premium spirits, I really do mean it, as there is a great choice of brands, for example there are 5 brands of vodka including Grey Goose, 7 brands of Brandy including Remy Martin V.S.O.P., 4 brands of gin including Bombay Sapphire, and 14 brands of whisky including Chivas Regal Scotch and Glenfiddich Single Malt. If you like something full of bubbles, then the choice includes Moet & Chandon and Prosecco.
The European River Cruising fleet consists of 7 premium ships, split into two classes.
Inspiration Class – 443ft (135 meters) long and 37ft (11.4 metres) wide
These ships carry a maximum of 130 guests in 22 suites, and 45 cabins across 6 categories. Onboard you will find a boutique, fitness & massage area, hair salon, Jacuzzi, Spa and a lift. The category 7 suites are 300 sq ft in size, each with two floor to ceiling windows with French balconies, walk-in closet, minibar, 32" LED TV, coffee maker, large bathroom with a large shower containing a rainfall shower head, and a queen-sized bed. These suites can each accommodate 3 people. Other cabins range in size from 150 sq ft to 225 sq ft, including 8 innovative loft cabins. These category 3 cabins are 225 sq ft in size, and have an opening window which covers two decks to allow more natural light into them.
Open seating dining is in the Compass Rose, and Arthur’s is the alternative dining venue for grilled entrees and lighter fare. Al fresco dining on the Sun Deck is available, subject of course to weather conditions.
Jewel Class – 361 ft (110 metres) long and 37 ft (11.4 metres) wide
Being slightly smaller, these ships carry a maximum of 118 guests in 14 category 7 suites, and 45 cabins across 6 categories. They have a boutique, fitness & massage area, Jacuzzi and a lift. The category 7 suites are 300 sq ft in size, and can accommodate 3 people, and they each have two floor to ceiling windows with French balconies, a walk-in closet, minibar, 32" LED TV, coffee maker. The bathroom has a large shower complete with a rainfall shower head, and a queen-sized bed. The other 45 cabins range in size from 150 sq ft to 183 sq ft.
Compass Rose is the venue for main dining with open seating, and The Bistro is the alternative dining venue for classic favourites at lunch and dinner, as well as lighter breakfasts in the morning. Al fresco dining is available on the Sundeck , subject to weather conditions.
All accommodation across the fleet has in-room movies, minibar, adjustable heating and cooling, exclusive luxury toiletries, tea & coffee making facilities, absorbent terry towel robes, fluffy towels and hairdryers. The sumptuous bedding consists of 400-thread-count linens, puffy white duvets, pillows of Mako cotton with hypoallergenic 90% down filling, 100% cotton blankets, and pillow-top mattresses. I have to say that these were the most comfortable pillows I have ever slept on. There are also a good number of 110-volt and 220-volt outlets.
Entertainment takes the form of enrichment lectures, nightly piano music, culinary demonstrations and tastings, as well as the great programme of shore excursions. For those looking for some exercise, in addition to the fitness area there is also a putting green on the Sun Deck, and bicycles for complimentary use ashore.
Each ship has 3 Tauck Directors and 1 Tauck Cruise Director onboard, to ensure that all guests receive personal attention and they even accompany the shore excursions, together with the local guides.
Itineraries range from one week to three weeks, and take in many of the main rivers in Europe, including the Rhone, Saone, Seine, Danube, Main, Rhine and Moselle. Some itineraries include hotel stays pre and or post cruise, which are always of a very high quality, for instance the Fairmont Monte Carlo, Prague Marriott Hotel, and the Ritz Carlton Vienna.
Shore excursions are included, and all itineraries include some Signature Experiences, as well as dining and tasting opportunities off of the ship. Examples include ‘Private dinner & entertainment at the Palace of Parliament in Bucharest’, ‘An exclusive pastry making lesson with a chef at Ecole Lenotre in Paris, designed specifically for Tauck guests’, ‘Visit and tasting at a 700 year old family owned vineyard’, Play petanque with the locals in France’, and ‘Lunch at a castle in Cesky Krumlov’.
Solo travellers benefit from there being no single supplement when booking a category 1 cabin.
Families are catered for with a selection of itineraries aimed specifically at multi-generational families, and they are called Tauck Bridges. With a recommended age of 8+, these 7 night and 9 night itineraries include activities onboard, and tailored excursions, specifically for families.
Watch the following short video which I took onboard, follow the link to view my photos on Facebook, and then carry on reading all about the other amazing holiday opportunities offered by Tauck, all of which can be booked through me. Please check with me for more details, including what is included on each of the different holiday types.
There is a great choice of destinations to choose from, and the following are just a few of them: –
These are special occasions or events which don’t occur too often, and can include: –
Run especially for families, there is a choice of land tours and river cruises, where everything is organised for multi-generational families to do things together
A small number of land tours, typically just around 20 guests on each, where you get the opportunity for some great ‘hands-on’ experience. These trips can include: –
They offer a range of departures using small ships such as Le Ponant, Le Soleal, Le Lyrial, Tere Moana and Wind Star, on itineraries including: –
In 2015 there are Solo Traveller Savings on all of the European river cruises, and on select departures of many of the land trips around the world. On the European river cruises there are no single supplements on the category 1 cabins, and there are savings in some other categories on certain dates. Savings for solo travellers on the land tours vary, so please ask me for details. Call GoCruise with Ian on 01455 82177 or 0800 292 2850.