As a first-time river cruiser, I wasn't sure what to expect of ms Treasures, the newest riverboat in the Tauck Cruising fleet. How different was river cruising from an ocean voyage? How would the comfort level, caliber of service and variety of activities compare?
Ms Treasures delivered on all counts. From the cultural immersion and the private tours to after-hours museum visits and the relaxed pace of river cruising, it's easy to see why this languid approach to visiting iconic European regions and cities could become habit-forming.
The fourth bespoke riverboat in the Tauck fleet is a beauty. Ms Treasures, which debuted in August 2011, introduced Tauck's updated decor scheme, an airy elegant design that has since been adopted by the three older boats. Upgraded bedding includes 400-thread-count Egyptian sheets, plusher towels and Hungarian down pillows. Also new, all of the cabins feature two twin beds that can be combined into a kings instead of queens, again an upgrade that has been adopted fleetwide.
Cabins aboard the 118-passenger ms Treasures are well appointed and spacious, with plenty of elbow room and storage for your belongings. All have views, with the majority sporting floor-to-ceiling French balconies, giving even the smaller cabins a bright and airy feel. We loved the marble bath, which included a roomy shower. In general, the riverboat was super smooth, gliding along so imperceptibly that, except for the landscape passing by, we hardly knew we were moving. The rooms are also pretty insulated from sounds, both in the hallway and outside, making for a restful night's sleep.
Meals are a mix of Euro-Continental menus, with lighter fare available in the windowed Lido Bar if you want a break from the group scene. In general, our meals were fresh and well prepared, tasty classics geared to pleasing the majority of diners. This isn't Michelin-star fare, but it's good, solid cuisine with an emphasis on tender beef and regionally sourced seafood. Meals off the ship were a highlight, whether in an atmospheric family-owned traditional German eatery in Cologne or aboard an Amsterdam canal boat. Onboard, there's always something to munch on, no matter when you feel peckish, and service is attentive and detail oriented.
The pace of a typical cruise is languid, interspersed with the kind of unique-access, experiential touring for which Tauck is known. Those onboard never know whom they might meet, from an Italian prince who hosts a string quartet in his Viennese palace to a tulip farmer who delivers a behind-the-scenes look at tulip mania at his farm outside of Amsterdam.
Ms Treasures, like its three sister ships, is built for comfort and leisure. After our first experience, we'd definitely opt for a second, finding Tauck Cruising a wonderful way to take a more relaxing approach to discovering some of Europe's most scenic byways and exciting cities.
ms Treasures Fellow Passengers
Tauck's primary audience is the over-55 set, a well-educated and well-traveled group interested in a "stop and smell the flowers" approach to the iconic European capitals and scenic views they've likely experienced before. Typically, travelers first experience one of Tauck's land tours and often have cruised luxury vessels before, prior to booking their first Tauck river cruises.
ms Treasures Dress Code
The dress is smart casual. Depending on the weather, lightweight pants, capris or jeans are fine for women by day, as long as they have layers handy to ward off a sudden chill or rainy day. Men tend to wear jeans and khakis, along with the requisite layers. Come dinnertime, anything really goes, from designer jeans and heels to separates and dresses -- but nothing too fancy. Most men wear dress pants and button-down shirts or collared shirts. There's usually a slightly dressier farewell dinner if passengers want to trot out sport jackets or party dresses.
ms Treasures Gratuity
Tauck's pricing include gratuities for ship staff (and hotel staff if there's a land stay), local guides and drivers, Tauck directors and the cruise director. If somebody delivers exceptional service and you'd like to give a little extra -- maybe to the bartender who makes you perfect martinis or your steward who goes the extra mile to fulfill a request -- it's always appreciated. Be sure to have some euros with you for this purpose, as cash is not handled onboard.
Next: ms Treasures Cabins