We are a retired couple aged 65 & 73 who love to travel and especially cruise. We have cruised on both large & small ships. This was our first river cruise and our first with Tauck, but not the last.
First, the Esprit is a lovely ship with I believe a maximum of 118 passengers. There were 99 on our cruise. We had a category 7 suite (#313) that was very comfortable and plenty large enough for the 2 of us. The bathroom was well appointed with a large shower. The bed was comfortable and the walk-in closet was large enough with shelves and a couple of small drawers. Storage in the room was ample, we actually didn't need all of it even for a 2 week cruise. The ship is owned and staffed by Scylla, and the tours, entertainment, etc. are handled by Tauck employees. They work together seamlessly, and if we hadn't been told they were 2 separate companies we probably would not have even known it.
Food is such a personal choice I hesitate to comment on it. There were a couple of nights when the main choices didn't appeal to me, but the optional ones available every day were still good. Soups were always delicious! The food was always well prepared and beautifully presented. Dining and bar staff were efficient and served with a smile and friendly attitude. They all seemed to enjoy their jobs. One young lady in particular, Fani, especially won our hearts. Her ever present smile and humor were contagious. If I don't give the food a 5 star rating it is only a personal preference, not a statement on the menu or preparation.
Tours, entertainment and Tauck staff: I can't say enough about how wonderful they all were. The Cruise Director, Mary, and Tour Directors Joe, Maggie and Anna couldn't do enough to go out or their way to make sure everyone had a superb experience. They didn't miss anything we could possibly have wanted, even anticipating desires we didn't ask for. If there was a 10 star rating they would definitely deserve it! Local entertainment brought on board as well as the lectures by the Tour Directors were all enjoyable and well presented. If I had to pick a favorite it would be the glass blower, he was very entertaining and funny.
Shore excursions were well run, it seems that Tauck hires only quality companies and guides. They are knowledgeable about their areas and their history and give you an all around feel for the area. The highlight was the dinner at the palace in Vienna. I don't want to say too much and spoil it for anyone taking this trip, but suffice it to say we really experienced what it was like to dine like royalty, in a beautiful setting.
Every detail from the time we arrived in Amsterdam to the time they dropped us off at the hotel in Budapest was handled flawlessly without a hitch and with smiles and professional attitudes.
Be prepared for a wonderful experience and excellent service. Tauck also provides extra surprises that aren't advertised in their brochures. I would recommend this trip to anyone and can't wait for our next adventure with Tauck!!