We have been on one previous Tauck Tour (Machu Picchu & Galapagos) and loved it. That was with a very small and physically active group. We decided to book a 12 day river cruise on the Rhine (Amsterdam to Basel) together with another couple with whom we often travel. Overall, the trip was good but different from what we expected.
First the many positives - The ship (MS Inspire) is brand new and very nicely appointed. The hot showers work great. Bed very comfy. The engines are very quiet and the ride is so smooth it was usually difficult to feel the ship was moving. Definitely no sea-sickness issues. As expected the Tauck staff was fantastic! All the guides (Bettina, Cindy and Mark) were very friendly, well informed and always helpful. Bettina is German and her narratives and background stories were very interesting and insightful. The wait staff and rest of the crew (Scylla not Tauck) were also always helpful and very pleasant. The other passengers (total 120) were mostly from the USA, very interesting and fun to get to know. The dominant age range was 65-75. Amsterdam is a great city to visit. Tauck choose the Grand Hotel Sofitel for our pre cruise night and it was very nice.
Day 1 Board MS Inspire about 3:30
Day 2 Canal tour of Amsterdam (on small canal boat) was very nice. Visit the Rijksmuseum - excellent.
Day 3 Nijmegen, Holland - 1 hr bus trip to De Hoge Veluwe National Park and Kroller-Muller Museum. Second largest Van Gogh collection in world. Beautiful grounds with many sculptures. Reboard in Dusseldorf - not much to see.
Day 4 Bonn walking tour of Bonn not so good. Lunch at Grand Hotel Steigenberger was very good with excellent views of Rhine/City.
Day 5 Cochem on the Mosel River is a beautiful little town. Visit Reichsburg Castle - excellent. Bus to Schlagkamp Winery in Senheimis for wine-tasting with cheese and cold cuts - Fun - but winemaker's talk was a bit too long! The views on both sides of the Mosel are beautiful with many vineyards.
Day 6 Bernkastel a small very pretty town. Then a long bus ride to Luxembourg City. Most of the old walls/ruins have been destroyed/removed so it is a nice modern city. But we did not think there was all that much to see. Shopping good. Then went to the American Memorial Cemetery in Hamm, Luxembourg which is very moving & powerful. George Patton is buried here and most of the dead are from the Battle of Bulge.
Day 7 Still in Bernkastel. Took bus to Trier, the oldest city in Germany. This was the best little city we visited so far! Has an enormous Roman Gate - Porta Nigra - and a great market square and cathedral.
Day 8 Boppard is a very pretty little town with large Roman ruins. Fun to ride bikes through the town. Many half-timbered houses. Take the lift (Sisselbahn) to top of hill for good views of the "big bend" of Rhine. Boat then sailed to Oberwesel via the Middle Rhine Valley with many impressive castles and past Lorelei's narrows. Great views! Took bus to Castle Reichenstein which although dating to 11th century was all rebuilt about 100 years ago and is now much too commercial. Beautiful views from roof but the "medieval dinner" with lute music, etc. very "corny", very loud and too long.
Day 9 Worms. Took bus to Heidelberg (about 1 hr). Heidelberg Castle was very impressive. Then lunch at Hotel Zum Ritter was very good. Brief walk in old town then bus to meet ship in Mannheim.
Day 10 Plittersdorf. Bus to Baden-Baden (30 min) which is a lovely Spa town that dates from Roman times. Beautiful Casino and many upscale shops/baths/apothecaries but not too many historical sites.
Day 11 Dock in Kehl, Germany across Rhine from France. 30 min bus to Strasbourg. Bus tour of more modern city which was excellent. Drove past Parc de l'Orangerie with many tree top storks. Then walking tour of old city was excellent. Notre Dame is amazing with its wonderful stained glass, and amazing astronomical clock and overall construction. Wonderful lunch at La Corde a Linge along the Ill in Petite, France. If you get back to the ship and the weather is nice grab a bike and ride toward the right. After the pavement ends a very nice gravel nature path goes for several miles with interesting fish, birds, etc.
Day 12 Basel. Arrived on Sunday and most shops closed. The old town, Cathedral and town hall were interesting but really only takes about 1.5-2 hrs. Several good museums. But if you have an option take the bus ride to Lucerne.
The ship passes through many(30+) locks which are quite interesting.
Our personal favorite stops in order of preference:
Mosel River Vistas
Middle Rhine River/Lorelei Vistas
Heidelberg old town and Castle
De Hoge Veluwe National Park and Kroller-Muller Museum
American Memorial Cemetery Hamm, Luxembourg
Negatives - The ship was very new - great - except the staff was also new with many trainees still in the learning phase. We expected great meals and they all did look beautiful - presentation was excellent - however, the taste was generally mediocre. Most people we spoke with were also disappointed with the quality of the food. Some meals had to be returned, which I have only done once before in my life. The soups were very good. The desserts were fair at best we mostly stuck to ice cream. But the food quality definitely improved as the trip progressed and perhaps the staff is rapidly getting better. The optional dinners in Arthur's were usually much better - eat there at least a few times. The staff was very attentive to everyone's special food needs. Internet access is free but very spotty and very slow. Our biggest disappointment was the relatively long bus rides to visit most of the interesting cities/towns. We mistakenly assumed that the ship would dock within beautiful cities along the Rhine and Mosel but this was not the case. Most days we took 45 min - 1 hour bus rides to the places we visited. Our tour also skipped Cologne and its cathedral which we would have loved to see. Not sure why since we stopped at several ports with little interest. Would rather have spent more time at the better stops. Also the first 3 days traveling in this direction are through industrial Rhine and not picturesque. Glad we went in the direction from Amsterdam to Basel or our trip would have gone from good to great to poor vis a vis the scenery and ended on a down note (although Amsterdam itself was excellent).
Overall a good but not great trip. I think that with tweaking by Tauck and Scylla, it can become a much better trip.
PS I wrote this review before “seeing the posting by “tonir1025” and it is amazing how similar our reviews are. And we both have gluten dietary issues!