My wife and I took the South Bound Christmas Markets on the Rhine tour. The cruise cost roughly $1000 per day with a 100% cabin upgrade rate. Cost affects my review to a great extent, particularly regarding value received. It rained ... Read More
My wife and I took the South Bound Christmas Markets on the Rhine tour. The cruise cost roughly $1000 per day with a 100% cabin upgrade rate. Cost affects my review to a great extent, particularly regarding value received. It rained everyday, and temperature varied from very cold to warm.
The boat was new and the cabin was outstanding, but for the price it should have been. It was very quiet and the bed comfortable. I have no complaints regarding the cabin at all save the lack of a tub as found on their other boats in this class of cabin. The crew were mostly Romanian, with a Filipino kitchen staff, all with varying English proficiency. That said I have no complaints about them, in fact I got along with them better than most of my fellow passengers. They all tried very hard, and seemed to be earning their salary. The cabin attendant did an outstanding job, and was waiting by the door every morning when we left for breakfast to clean the cabin. The wait staff varied from competent to outstanding. The Tauck staff varied from very accommodating and kind to condescending and overbearing. I did not care for the cruise director at all. The tour guides were basically competent but the tours themselves were fairly superficial. There was only one night of local entertainment, some Alsacian dancers. The other nights were left to the bar crawlers amongst the passengers.
My fellow travelers were basically retired and well to do, and mostly Tauck fanboys. Many showed an unnatural affection for the brand bragging constantly how many Tauck trips they had taken and how many they had planned for the future. Nobody seemed to talk about the present, just a constant babbling about their past Tauck experiences. It really got boring. It seemed as if everyone was trying to convince themselves that Tauck really was the best and they were the smartest kids in the class because they always travelled Tauck. I didn't go away feeling so enthusiastic I'm afraid.
Everyone is interested in the food. I was told that Tauck had outstanding food, well maybe, but not really my experience. My honest evaluation is that the food was of high quality, basically pretty good, but rather boring. Every night a new main was offered, but the soups and desserts were repetitive. Some were excellent, like the lamb chops, others not so much so. The "duck" offered one night was unidentifiable, and tasted nothing like any duck I have ever eaten. My menu said duck, another tables menus said veal, I have no clue which it really was. Very odd that two menus would describe the same entree but one as duck and the other as veal with the same sauce etc.
I would say that the food was designed to be "safe" for the mostly elderly Americans onboard. Nothing too spicy or seasoned, nothing odd or unusual, just basic US diner house fare. Medium upscale is the best classification I can come up with. NO regional foods were offered, but it seems I may have been the only one bothered by that. I noticed one man ordering the same New York steak every night of the trip. Lunch and breakfast were almost identical every day. Don't get me wrong, I didn't go hungry and most of the food was good, but for the price paid I could have eaten much better ashore.
There was one off ship lunch which was average at best, typical sausage and kraut type affair that I guess tourists think is German food, and one day we were given money to buy our own lunch. That might have been fine had there been any tourist friendly restaurants available. At least one group from our boat was not seated as the French staff didn't want to deal with English speakers. Not the tour's fault, but expecting a bunch of tourists to fend for themselves in a very overcrowded French village during the Christmas market where NOBODY seemed to speak any English or even German was a cop out. We ended up with stall food and a medicine cup sized glass of overpriced wine. A sack lunch would have been better.
The itinerary was not particularly interesting. Köln was a dirty "multicultural" city with more sushi bars than German restaurants and roaming gangs of North Africans and Algerians who appeared to enjoy tormenting the tourists, as well as an inordinate number of drunken young people making fools of themselves. This may be attractive to some, but not to me. The Christmas market was incredibly busy to the point of making it impossible to move about. Aachen had little to offer except the unique cathedral. BUT it is the only Catholic Church I have ever been in that expects you to pay for to take photos. Heidelburg might have been a nice layover but our excursion was delayed until 1030 because the "other" Tauck ship was in port and they had the 1200 lunch reservation and we had to waste time at the castle until 1400 so we could have lunch after they cleaned out the earlier sitting. This left little time for seeing the markets. It was the same at the other destinations. A one hour bus ride, 45 min. superficial tour, and an hour or so free time before jumping back on the bus. The French city of Colmar was a confusing over crowded mess and was easy to get lost in. Making the meeting time, and finding the meeting place proved very difficult. Strasbourg was rife with con men and pick pockets. I literally had to chase away two guys wanting me to buy junk fake gold to help them get home...yada yada.
All in all my feelings are pretty mixed about my experience. I liked the boat, but it did not seem superior to the AMA boat we tied up next to on one occasion. Cabins and facilities seemed pretty equal. Yes Tauck is all inclusive, but the wines served were "ok", and yes a blended red from Chile of all places was served while docked in the wine region of Germany with France but a stone throw away across the river. Why? No premium liquors were served to my knowledge.
The Rhine river itself is mostly not beautiful, it is basically a commercial canal that in many places you could probably throw a rock across. Almost all of the cruising was over night. The only river views were from commercial landings. Consequently I can not report any particularly satisfying cruise experiences except for the half day around the Lorelei. Docking was NEVER in the town we were visiting except in Rudesheim, and then it was a 15-20 minute walk to town. There was always a bus or shuttle ride involved. Although I appreciate the convenience of a traveling hotel, I'm not sure the experience was worth the premium price paid.
And finally, the pre-cruise hotel Mondial in Köln, booked through Tauck, was a disaster. I found out that Tauck charged me over twice the list price for the room I had. I know they have to pay for transfers and such, but twice, really? The hotel failed to transfer my luggage, and caused me a lot of unnecessary stress at the beginning of my trip when I arrived onboard and found my luggage missing. They told the ship I was a "no show", hadn't stayed there, even though I had checked in and out with their desk clerk, and said that they had no idea where my luggage was. It was found by the Tauck rep who had to take a taxi back to the hotel where he searched and found it still in the room where I was told to leave it, but it took 4 hours to find it,during which time I was trying to figure out how to get by with one change of clothes!
I doubt that I would book with Tauck again. For 1k a day I can almost hire a limo and stay at the best hotels in town. I have always travelled by rental car in the past, but I'm getting old and I thought the convenience of the cruise would justify the cost. I am not convinced this is the case anymore. Read Less