We recently returned home from our 40th Anniversary adventure that included Tauck’s French Escapade from Paris to Monte Carlo. Everyone knows I’m a big Tauck fan and I found this cruise package to be up to their usual high standard but I have to say the trip really fizzled at the end in Monte Carlo. More on that later. This was our first “Package Cruise” and I have to admit that I wouldn’t do anything similar in the future. If we can afford to venture out again it would be on a river cruise only deal.
This adventure starts in Paris and Tauck put you up in the very opulent InterContinental Hotel le Grand where we were treated like royalty. The accommodation and meals were first class. Tauck’s three TD’s seemed to be everywhere and were always available to answer questions and point you to the right bus. Our time in Paris with all its included sightseeing was highlighted by our welcome dinner at Fouquet’s brasserie. Then it was off to Lyon via the very fast, high speed train. We travelled first class in airline type seats and Tauck even supplied us with chocolates on the journey.
Then came the part we really wanted to do and that’s river cruise. Our boat the Scylla crewed Swiss Emerald has just undergone a re-fit and looked and felt brand new. The partnership between Tauck and Scylla is perfect with these vessels specifically built for Tauck. This cruise was fully booked yet with only 118 passengers aboard you’d never know. There is always room to sit and talk and this lack of crowding is one of the main reasons I prefer Tauck over other all-inclusive companies that pack 169 people into a similar area. This cruise covered both the Saone and Rhone rivers with history and grandeur at every stop. Whilst some itineraries, Tauck included, are specifically designed for either wine tasting, food tasting or history cruises this one gave us something of everything.
On the Saone our first stop was at Chalon-sur-Saone and we had the first of our Tauck surprises. On our local walk through town in groups of around 20 Tauck included stops at a bakery where we were all given bags of the bakers various products to sample and at the end of the tour a stop at a local chocolate shop where we had a brief history of chocolate and then more samples than the average person could eat. By the time we got back on board the baker had joined us to show us how to make Croissant – more eating and best of all I now know how to tell the difference between a machine made one and one made by hand. That afternoon we went and sampled the wines at Chateau Chamirey and Chateau Rully. There would be an abundance of food and wine tasting still to come.
There was the history of the Chateau de Cormatin, the medieval houses of Macon, the Cluny Abbey and the Haras Equestrian Centre, an outstanding lunch in the gardens of Chateau de la Barge all that before we reached Lyon on a mad Sunday. Why mad I hear you ask well there will probably be others here that can comment as well but on Sunday 31st August 2014 it seemed that every boat on the Rhone stopped at Lyon on that day. The parking area around the Basillca Notre Dame de Fourviere was packed. It seems that Viking, Avalon,AMA, Uniworld, GCT, CrosiEurope and Tauck picked this morning to hit Lyon. Travelling is fun and you never know who you’ll run into and sure enough we came across a couple from our home town of Mackay. We spent a coffee checking out each others choice of cruise line and I’m happy to say Tauck came out in front. Even though it was Sunday with all those boats docked in town you’d never know with most of the shops open for your business.
The cruise down the Rhone gives you the opportunity to see Roman history almost everywhere but particularly in Vienne and Arles where the examples are magnificent. There’s the history of Avignon and the French Popes own vineyard the Chateauneuf du Pape where I tasted some of the best reds I’d drunk in all of France and even a Roman influence here as the cellars are part of the Roman system. AND then there’s Viviers the little village that time seems to have forgotten with its narrow streets and well preserved medieval houses. I’m very glad I got to see and explore Viviers even if I found I’m a lousy Petanque player.
The highlight of this trip came almost at the end where you get to see a working bull and horse ranch in the Camargue. A Tauck exclusive. We were treated to an outstanding lunch and then a demonstration, a training exhibition really, of the art of bull fighting where the bull is never hurt and wins many of the competitions and thus the prize money. After the final dinner on board we left for Nice and our last stop Monte Carlo and this IMO was where the trip fizzled out.
WE said farewell to our crew and were bussed to Nice where we had quite a few hours to explore this great city then it was off to Monte Carlo and the 5 star Fairmont Hotel. I quickly found that Monte Carlo is not for me. Not only is it full of very rich pretentious people of all ages it is very, very hilly and getting around on foot is very difficult. Our hotel the Fairmont was of similar ilk. It had a 400,000 Euro Ferrari on display in the lobby but it treats tour group people as if they all have leprosy. We didn’t eat with the regular clientele instead we were herded into our own room for eating. The breakfasts were deplorable with the only egg choice powdered scrambled eggs and the pastries on offer looked and tasted like leftovers. Even the Tauck farewell dinner which is usually of high class was very poor. I’m sure I’m not the only one who informed Tauck of these problems. I’m sure it would have been better to stay in Nice with a day trip to Monte Carlo.
You are on a high, or at least I am, when I’m cruising on the rivers and leaving the boat is always a let down but to me leaving the boat to continue a tour was an anti-climax. I’m most likely in the minority here and my feelings should not deter anyone from considering this otherwise outstanding cruise. Tauck are truly all-inclusive from the Moet anytime you want it to having snacks delivered to your cabin. I realise others have their favourite river cruise companies but I’m afraid you’ll never convince me that you get more from your cruise than I got from mine.
This is a standard Tauck/Scylla cabin with a French Balcony. Whilst the specs tell you the area is only 150 square feet with all the space to store your clothes it seems a lot bigger. The bathroom is a one person at a time size but is well equipped, has enough space for all your bathroom things and comes with top class toiletries. Having a small fridge always stocked with your choice of beverages is always appreciated. With the small amount of time you spend in your cabin you'll not find fault with one on a Tauck/Scylla vessel.