After 5 days in Paris pre-cruise, we landed in Amsterdam on an overcast, rainy day but the weather got better as the holiday went on. Our Tauck representative was in Arrivals waiting for us and within minutes he had us aboard a Tauck coach which we would find out later would be one of three Tauck coaches that followed the boat to the Austrian border and on our way to the MS Treasures. On arrival at the dock we were met with umbrellas and escorted aboard. It only took a few minutes for our paperwork to be completed and we were shown our cabin 209 on Ruby deck. Now I have to admit that before we booked our cruise the only thing that worried us was the size of the cabin 150sq ft. Our fears were misplaced. The cabin is so well designed that its size became irrelevant. There is a huge amount of storage space and the bags fit nicely under the bed. The bathroom is beautifully appointed with the most modern equipment but to be fair it is only a one person at a time bathroom.
During our first meeting with the Tauck staff on board it was explained to everyone that Tauck is a Tour company and not a river boat company. The ship is owned and crewed by Scylla. They have some 17 boats cruising the rivers of Europe and 4 of those have been designed to accommodate the wishes of Tauck. There were only 4 Tauck staff on board our cruise director, Steve and 3 Tour Directors, Nicole, Glorija and Jeremy. The big advantage of having one tour director for every 30 or so passengers would become very apparent in the days to come. We discovered that there were 106 passengers, a little under the maximum capacity of 118, made up of 88 from the U.S. 2 from Bermuda, 4 from NZ, 6 from Canada and 6 of us from Australia.
From our first outing to our last you could go out with the guides or if you preferred, as some did, you could stay onboard the boat as it relocated from time to time. Having 3 tour directors as well as a cruise director must give Tauck a huge edge over those companies that dont. We never felt left out of any activity nor could we possibly get lost as our TDs appeared to be everywhere with anything you needed. Tauck employ the finest local guides at every port of call on the rivers. They all spoke perfect English, had a wealth of knowledge yet communicated to us in a light and warm manner. The voxes we used were light and easy to use and it enabled us to stop for a photo opportunity and still listen to your guide.
There were excursions everyday, sometimes two and if we needed a coach to take us up a mountain to see a castle or cathedral the Tauck coaches would be waiting for us. We got to know the 3 drivers very well and it was sad to see them leave us after we crossed the border into Austria. It is very difficult to single out any particular excursion as being the best because they were all professionally handled but the night at the Palais Pallavicini for our dinner and concert was simply amazing. This is Taucks signature evening on the cruise and I believe its what makes Tauck stand apart from its competitors.
Were not foodies but we never had a meal onboard that was not to our liking. The choices at all meals were extensive so youd have to be pretty picky not to find something you liked. Breakfast and lunch were primarily buffet style but at breakfast there was the egg station where you could have your eggs as you desired and at lunch there was always a chefs suggestion on the menu. Dinner was always a la carte and the choices varied every evening. If you wanted lighter fare or an intimate dinner there was the Lido at the stern of the boat. We and a couple of our new found friends ate one evening in the Lido and it was like having a private dinner on a yacht. In all we rated the food as top class. On one occasion we were to all eat in town and Tauck gave us each 20 euros for our lunch. That was a huge surprise.
Now we do know a bit about wine and we were delighted to find that we were served different wines every night. We were eager to taste the differences from the wines we have in Australia and although I can say I didnt fall in love with every wine we drank we did find significant differences in all the local wines and came home very happy for the experience. Taucks choices were excellent.
At the end of the cruise wed made many new friends and it was sad to say goodbye but Tauck took us to the Hotel and the next morning ensured we got to the airport. This type of service will be hard to match in the future.
There are a number of companies that claim to be all inclusive but do they do this? They included a free nights accommodation at the 5 star Le Meridien in Budapest because we were first time travellers. You received 2 free nights if you were a frequent Tauck traveller. Tauck includes all gratuities for everyone. They include all transfers whether you booked your air with them or not. You can drink all the non-alcoholic drinks you like all day every day absolutely free. They even have a fridge in your cabin that they stock with your drink requirements and re-stock it every day. You can drink all the beer you want at lunch and dinner and all the wine you want at dinner. In fact if you didnt want a pre-dinner drink then your bill at the end of the trip would have been zero. If you feel like a snack in the afternoons they will provide you with your choice of freshly baked pretzels or a plate of cheeses and fruit or a plate of sweet cakes or even a big bowl of ice cream all included and delivered to you anywhere on the boat. Tauck provided us regularly with what they call a Tauck lagniappe (a Tauck surprise). We had many surprises over the course of our trip my favourite being a Gondola ride over the vineyards and country side of Rudesheim. Another was a wine tasting in a cellar in Rothenberg. Now on this occasion a couple of people became claustrophobic in the cellar and had to leave and to their surprise one of our ever present TDs appeared to give them each 5 euros so that they could enjoy a glass of wine upstairs and much more. The one incident that will always stick in my mind as the ultimate in all inclusive was after an organ recital in Passau a lot needed to go to the toilet. In Europe most public toilets require a 50cent coin. Instead of having to find one in your pocket or purse a lovely Tauck TD was standing there giving out 50cent coins. Now thats all inclusive service.
We found Tauck to be the most professional company weve ever travelled with and the staff on board Treasures was faultless. It may take us 3 or 4 years to save up enough to visit Europe again and if we do well certainly go with Tauck again. They are simply the best.