My husband and I and two other couples enjoyed The Taste of France Cruise on the Swiss Emerald May 4 through 12. We began in Paris with Tauck's included transfer from the airport to the hotel Intercontinental Le Grand. It is a lovely hotel right across the street from L'Opera. Our room was small (typically European) with large windows that opened in both the bedroom and bath. A huge buffet breakfast was included each morning. Wi-Fi and use of the internet was also included.
We were part of the Taste of France sailing that featured many special food and wine activities. Included in Paris was a hands on cooking class. Our welcome dinner was at Fouquet's -- a lovely experience. Our Tauck Tour Managers Anne Peault, Veronika Finollo, and Lydia Adler were fabulous from the moment we met them.
After a first class TGV train to Lyon, we boarded the newly refurbished Swiss Emerald. She is a beautiful small vessel. The common areas are elegant. Our small cabin was comfortable with a French balcony that made it seem larger. Our favorite part of the ship was the Sun Deck. The six of us spent every evening before dinner on that upper deck sipping cocktails watching the beautiful scenery and experiencing the locks. Food on board was excellent and I am known to have very high standards. There were many choices for all meals. The food in the small special restaurant, the Bistro was not as good as in the main dining room. Wines were also excellent. If we did not like one, we just asked for another. Service was great. After the first evening, the waiter always brought me the cocktail I ordered the first night. Note: the ship is owned and staffed by a Swiss company Scylla. They operate it to Tauck's standards.
The included shore excursions in every port were super with a focus on food and wine. The special lunch and afternoon at the bull ranch in the Camargue was amazing. The unlimited chocolate tasting at Valrhona was a chocoholic's dream come true. The walk across the Pont du Gard and dinner on the terrace overlooking the ancient viaduct was really special as the cooking class at Scook.
Absolutely everything was included. Yes, the experience was expensive, but worth every penny.