Tauck is 6 stars -- perfection -- but never again

Welcome to Cruise Critic! If you'd like to participate on our forums by joining in the conversation, please Register Now! Be sure to visit our FAMOUS Roll Call forums, where you can meet other cruisers sailing with you and share a tour or shore excursion and SAVE MONEY!


Unregistered, just back from your river cruise? Get published on Cruise Critic; Write a Review!
River Cruising
Find Others on Your River Cruise! River Cruising Roll Calls
All times are GMT -4.
The time now is 10:52 PM.
#1
1,647 Posts
Joined Apr 2014
We are back from our first and last river cruise and I was asked to post and reflect on the experience.
We did a 14 night Amsterdam to Budapest cruise on the Tauck Esprit. The ship was only 2/3 full which of course was a big plus. Tauck did a fabulous job.

Tauck staff was amazing
Ship was gorgeous and ship's staff provided A+ service.
Food was out of this world.
Lots of ethnic specialties and local wines available
Local guides were superb
Special events -- e.g. private opera performance at a gala dinner in Vienna -- were over the top.
We enjoyed our fellow cruisers very much.

BUT

We find river cruising far too regimented for our tastes. Be here at this time; there at that time.
We usually only book private guides when we cruise and tour in groups of 6 or 8. This river cruise reminded us of how much we detest bus tours with 25 plus people. After the cruise we hired a private guide in Budapest who took us to a small town on the outskirts. That was great.
The tours go to the usual places -- palaces, museums and churches. Not our kind of travel. We want to experience something other than landmarks. We have seem too many palaces, museums and churches.
The scenery was gorgeous in some places but ugly in others. There is plenty of industry along the Rhine.
There was nothing to do on the ship. Found it rather boring.
We like sea days. A port a day is no longer for us.
The cabins are ridiculously small. We booked a mini suite and I immediately regretted not booking the larger suite. We like to cruise in a large suite with a butler.

If river cruising is for you -- and I know many who love it - then I cannot say enough good things about Tauck. Best of the best. But you won't be seeing us on board.

Hope this is helpful for those considering river cruising.
#2
London, UK
1,534 Posts
Joined Apr 2010
I can relate to your comments. I felt exactly that way after my first river cruise on Uniworld. River cruising is not for everyone. It is very different from ocean cruising. It is all about out the stops.

It can be about doing your own thing. At the smaller stops, go for a bicycle ride along the canal. Many cruise lines like Uniworld provide bicycles and Crystal Cruises provides e-bikes for the more.....lazy?

Don't feel obliged to go with an "included excursion" just because it is complimentary. Do what you want to. If that means getting your own guide at the large stops, then do. In Vienna, there is so much to do that I find cruise lines do not include so we do our own thing.

I have seen more elderly guest get the front desk to arrange for taxis at some of smaller stops to drive them around so they could explore on their own instead of going on the coach. You need to invest in doing your own homework here in working out what to see. On the other hand, you have Cruise Critic where many are eager to offer suggestions. Never short for an idea or two.

River boats have small rooms. You should have been warned about this. This is a key point to look out for now that you are in the know. Always get the largest suite you can afford to.

As I said, I too initially felt river cruising would not work for me. For various reasons, I gave the Crystal Mozart a go and I was sold second time around. I did pay a Penthouse Suite and would not go to any size smaller. Crystal do provide butler to all their staterooms so it becomes nothing more than glorified room service but the offering is there. They are on duty and a phone call away.

I will concur there is nothing much to do on board most vessels while it is sailing. It is about sitting on the top deck taking in the view if the weather permits. It may not always been pretty but it is a moving landscape to observe. They do not keep you occupied in the same way ocean ships do.
#3
1,647 Posts
Joined Apr 2014
To me it makes no sense to organize and pay for my own shore excursions when I am paying for them already. Towards the end we just wandered on our own

But we have never travelled on an organized tour. A river cruise is an organized tour on a boat. Just not our thing

I knew cabins were small and I was advised the basic cabin would be fine. I didn't listen and went for the mini suite. Even that was insufficient for our needs

I doubt we will try again.


Sent from my iPhone using Forums
#4
NY, ZG/Colorado
931 Posts
Joined Jun 2013
Bitob,
I agree with everything you said. We did have the larger full suite on our recent Tauck cruise Prague to Budapest. The space made the difference.

Our last evening in Budapest, we decided to forgo the "event" and walked about a block down from the Four Seasons to a local restaurant and had the most wonderful dinner of local cuisine while dining al fresco. A few glasses on local wine and an early turn in made our day.

They do it 6* but river cruising is not for us either.
Expand Signature
Collapse Signature
"I haven't been everywhere but it's on my list".....
-Susan Sontag
#5
Long Island, NY
6,384 Posts
Joined Apr 2000
I think another thing to consider is the length of the cruise. 14 is too long for a first river cruise. Perhaps a week Cruise with pre and post stays at a world class hotel with private guides would be another option. Also understand the ports. If the small charming towns are not in your wheelhouse, one needs to choose the itinerary carefully.


Sent from my iPhone using Forums
Expand Signature
Collapse Signature
Got2Cruise
Planning the cruise is half the fun.
#6
Ontario, Canada
2,312 Posts
Joined Mar 2008
I really think that if you had done your homework and asked lots of questions, used this website, etc. you would have been better informed and NOT booked a river cruise! You can easily read the river cruise reviews and realize that you are "toured" all together on excursions, you can look at the cabins and read the size and see the layout. People have actually posted pictures of the cabins on the river cruise ships and the ocean cruise ships. If you had read the itinerary before you booked your cruise you would know exactly what you were going to see and go to. How can you do a river cruise and say that "Palaces, Museums, Churches" are not your thing.....what is your thing to see other than the cities and the attractions within the city and surrounding area. What kind of different experience" were you looking for? You certainly can't control the scenery and there are ugly parts of every city you see all over the world so why should cruising along the Rhine be any different. With all the social media around today you can find out anything you want just by searching, reading and asking questions. Sorry you had a disappointing experience.
Expand Signature
Collapse Signature


Past Cruises

Viking Star- Danube river cruise - 2001
Avalon Tapestry - Rhine river cruise - 2008
Carnival Sensation - Bahamas cruise - 2008
AMA MS Tolstoy - Moscow to St. Petersburg - 2009
Golden Princess - Hawaii - 2010
Insight Vacations- Nile river cruise-2011-Cancelled
Emerald Princess - Baltic Cruise - 2011
Emerald Princess - Eastern Caribbean - 2012
Island Princess - Panama Canal - 2012
Emerald Princess - Southern Caribbean - 2013
Carnival Glory - Canada/New England - 2013
Celebrity Infinity - South America - 2014
HAL-Nieuw Amsterdam- East/West Caribbean-2015
Crown Princess - Mexican Riviera - 2015
HAL-Eurodam - Caribbean Collector - 2016
HAL-Oosterdam-Med cruise-Barcelona to Venice - 2016
Celebrity Equinox - Mardi Gras - 2017
Celebrity Equinox - Caribbean - 2017
#7
North Carolina
5,632 Posts
Joined Apr 2005
River cruises aren't for everyone. I did lots of research, knew exactly what to expect, had a lovely river cruise but still decided it's not my cup of tea at this stage of my life. My reasons vary slightly from the OP - I prefer diy travel and find river cruises too expensive because tours are included. Sure, I can diy, but I've already paid for the tour, so....

It's ok to do your homework, know what to expect, and still not enjoy a river cruise....Sounds like OP went in with an open mind, had a lovely experience that just isn't what s/he wants again in the future....
Expand Signature
Collapse Signature
Azamara 10 night Thailand/Vietnam Nov 2016
Avalon Vista Christmas Market 12/2014
Pacific Princess 12 day Black Sea 9/4/11

HAL Westerdam 15 day Panama Canal 10/08
Pacific Princess Alaska 9/5/2007

HAL Maasdam Southern Caribbean 10/28/06
HAL Alaska 1986
#8
Here and There
480 Posts
Joined Oct 2014
Being too regimented seems to be your biggest complaint. Just wondering, how many ports involved bus rides? I'm on this same cruise this fall. Good to hear that Tauck was first rate!
#9
Sacramento, CA
1,214 Posts
Joined May 2003
I'm on this same cruise - but the reverse itinerary in a little under 3 weeks from now. Same ship too. It's my first river cruise so I was very happy to read your excellent review of the ship and Tauck.

I normally do ocean cruises and spend loads of time pre-planing tours so as to avoid most ship sponsored tour, but sometimes it's nice to just be a "sheeple" and let someone else do the leading.

As for cabin size, to me everything is tiny in Europe but I don't mind. As long as my feet fit on the bed and there is a toilet and fresh towels, I'm good to go.

Nothing to do on board? Sounds great! That means more time to sit and gaze at the passing scenery or relax with a glass of wine and a good book.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
Expand Signature
Collapse Signature
-- sherita

Read my travel blog: scluvsrain.blogspot.com





1997-Statendam-Alaska
2003-Noordam-Baltic
2004-Amsterdam-South America
2004-Zuiderdam-Eastern Caribbean
2004-Amsterdam-Seattle-Vancouver
2005-Westerdam-Transatlantic Ft Lauderdale/Rome
2007-Statendam-Hong Kong to Osaka
2008-Prinsendam-Celtic Kingdoms Cruise
2009-Oosterdam-Med Kngdms-Venice/Turkey/Greece
2013-Volendam - Singapore-Thailand-Vietnam-HK
2013-Zuiderdam-Pacific Coastal
2013-Eurodam-East Coast/Canada
2014-Eurodam-Viking Passage
2015-Westerdam - Seattle to Alaska
2015-Veendam - Boston to San Diego
2016-Zaandam - South America/Antarctica
2016-Westerdam - Circle Hawaii, Tahiti & Marquesas
2016-Maasdam - Alaska - 14 day R/T Seattle
2017-Amsterdam - WORLD CRUISE!!!!!
2017-Prinsendam - North Cape Explorer
2017 - Tauck River Cruise - Budapest to Amsterdam

2018 - World Cruise segment - Auckland to Hong Kong
2018 - Prinsendam - 28 Day Rivers Holy Land and Ancient Kingdoms Explorer
2019- Prinsendam - Grand South America
#10
1,647 Posts
Joined Apr 2014
Originally posted by cormike1
I really think that if you had done your homework and asked lots of questions, used this website, etc. you would have been better informed and NOT booked a river cruise! You can easily read the river cruise reviews and realize that you are "toured" all together on excursions, you can look at the cabins and read the size and see the layout. People have actually posted pictures of the cabins on the river cruise ships and the ocean cruise ships. If you had read the itinerary before you booked your cruise you would know exactly what you were going to see and go to. How can you do a river cruise and say that "Palaces, Museums, Churches" are not your thing.....what is your thing to see other than the cities and the attractions within the city and surrounding area. What kind of different experience" were you looking for? You certainly can't control the scenery and there are ugly parts of every city you see all over the world so why should cruising along the Rhine be any different. With all the social media around today you can find out anything you want just by searching, reading and asking questions. Sorry you had a disappointing experience.


You make laugh while you insult me and you don't know me

Of course I did my homework. I knew what to expect. I wanted to see if the experience of cruising down a river with (not so) lovely scenery would compensate for the organized tours and the rest of the experience. I have friends who rave about river cruises. It is not for us

Insulting people or making assumptions about whether they did homework is bad manners. Shame on you





Sent from my iPhone using Forums
#11
1,647 Posts
Joined Apr 2014
Originally posted by Gourmet Gal
Being too regimented seems to be your biggest complaint. Just wondering, how many ports involved bus rides? I'm on this same cruise this fall. Good to hear that Tauck was first rate!


Most. Some were very short rides. Or you got a bus tour of sites before arriving at the destination for the tour


Sent from my iPhone using Forums
#12
1,647 Posts
Joined Apr 2014
Originally posted by scluvsrain
I'm on this same cruise - but the reverse itinerary in a little under 3 weeks from now. Same ship too. It's my first river cruise so I was very happy to read your excellent review of the ship and Tauck.

I normally do ocean cruises and spend loads of time pre-planing tours so as to avoid most ship sponsored tour, but sometimes it's nice to just be a "sheeple" and let someone else do the leading.

As for cabin size, to me everything is tiny in Europe but I don't mind. As long as my feet fit on the bed and there is a toilet and fresh towels, I'm good to go.

Nothing to do on board? Sounds great! That means more time to sit and gaze at the passing scenery or relax with a glass of wine and a good book.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk


You will love tauck. Enjoy


Sent from my iPhone using Forums
#13
1,647 Posts
Joined Apr 2014
Originally posted by Got2Cruise
I think another thing to consider is the length of the cruise. 14 is too long for a first river cruise. Perhaps a week Cruise with pre and post stays at a world class hotel with private guides would be another option. Also understand the ports. If the small charming towns are not in your wheelhouse, one needs to choose the itinerary carefully.


Sent from my iPhone using Forums


We refuse to unpack and pack for less than 14 days. Our ocean cruise minimum is around 21 days


Sent from my iPhone using Forums
#14
Hermosa Beach
521 Posts
Joined Feb 2017
Originally posted by Got2Cruise
I think another thing to consider is the length of the cruise. 14 is too long for a first river cruise. Perhaps a week Cruise with pre and post stays at a world class hotel with private guides would be another option. Also understand the ports. If the small charming towns are not in your wheelhouse, one needs to choose the itinerary carefully.


Sent from my iPhone using Forums


We are going on our first Tauck river cruise - Seine with Paris and London - which includes pre and post stays at hotels. How do you book private guides? Do we do that through Tauck? We will have lots of free time to explore so any suggestions greatly appreciated.


Sent from my iPad using Forums
#15
1,647 Posts
Joined Apr 2014
I don't think you need guides for Paris or London. Easy to do on ur own unless you want to leave the city

Cruise critic ports of call board and trip advisor are good places to start. I would just get a good guide book


Sent from my iPhone using Forums
#16
Virginia, USA
3,456 Posts
Joined May 2007
Reminds me of what the guide said to us on the Discover Scuba excursion: What some people discover is that they don't like scuba!
River cruises are not for everyone. Overall I've found ocean cruises cheaper and more relaxing.
However, I found a river cruise a great way to see places one cannot see on ocean cruises and way more relaxing than the bus tours we've taken. Yes, you do ride on a bus to excursions, If this is intolerable along with the small cabins, one shouldn't do another one. River cruises are also a lot more physically demanding. I ended up with an aching foot and joints from all the walking tours but no weight gain!
I agree with the person who said included tours were paid for and that it doesn't make much sense to do one's own thing on a river cruise. If you want to do your own thing, perhaps flying in and having a private guide is the way to go.
We did that precruise in Transylvania when we couldn't get the Viking precruise and it was the highlight of our trip.
#17
1,647 Posts
Joined Apr 2014
Originally posted by HokiePoq
Reminds me of what the guide said to us on the Discover Scuba excursion: What some people discover is that they don't like scuba!

River cruises are not for everyone. Overall I've found ocean cruises cheaper and more relaxing.

However, I found a river cruise a great way to see places one cannot see on ocean cruises and way more relaxing than the bus tours we've taken. Yes, you do ride on a bus to excursions, If this is intolerable along with the small cabins, one shouldn't do another one. River cruises are also a lot more physically demanding. I ended up with an aching foot and joints from all the walking tours but no weight gain!

I agree with the person who said included tours were paid for and that it doesn't make much sense to do one's own thing on a river cruise. If you want to do your own thing, perhaps flying in and having a private guide is the way to go.

We did that precruise in Transylvania when we couldn't get the Viking precruise and it was the highlight of our trip.


We spent two weeks in Romania with a private guide. One of the best trips we have ever taken. Bucharest is nothing. It is the countryside, the gypsies and the Dracula stuff that is fabulous


Sent from my iPhone using Forums
#18
New Jersey, the Philly end
6,759 Posts
Joined Jan 2004
Originally posted by bitob
I don't think you need guides for Paris or London. Easy to do on ur own unless you want to leave the city

Cruise critic ports of call board and trip advisor are good places to start. I would just get a good guide book


Sent from my iPhone using Forums
Absolutely agree. As far as leaving the city, say for Versailles, Hampton Court, or Windsor, you can probably get all the help you need to supplement your guidebook from the Orel front desk or concierge.
#19
The Third Coast - Nashville
7,610 Posts
Joined Mar 2001
Thank you for your review. I happen to really enjoy river cruises, but your post will help others who are considering a river cruise or are on the fence about it. The review was very even-handed and realistic.

On Uniworld I found the walking tours, specifically for the active walkers, to be smaller and involved no or very little bus travel.

As far as ocean cruises being a better value, I agree. Economies of scale river cruises can't compete with.

Roz
#20
North Carolina
5,632 Posts
Joined Apr 2005
Originally posted by Roz
On Uniworld I found the walking tours, specifically for the active walkers, to be smaller and involved no or very little bus travel.
I think the issue of bus/no bus has much more to do with the specific ports you visit, where your ship must be docked for that port (which can even vary by week on the same ship!) and time of year (eg if you have water level issues).

The most you can do is read reviews from past visits to that port to see if normally you are at a dock within walking distance or not. But know that can change at the last minute as docking is under local control, not the ship/captain/cruise company.....

That said, every tour we did on Avalon involved walking. Sometimes we had to take a bus to get from the boat to the town where the walk began, but...We didn't do anything that was bus only. I'd say for our itinerary a little less than half the ports were accessible by walking from the boat into the old town/area of interest (NUE-BSL itinerary).
Expand Signature
Collapse Signature
Azamara 10 night Thailand/Vietnam Nov 2016
Avalon Vista Christmas Market 12/2014
Pacific Princess 12 day Black Sea 9/4/11

HAL Westerdam 15 day Panama Canal 10/08
Pacific Princess Alaska 9/5/2007

HAL Maasdam Southern Caribbean 10/28/06
HAL Alaska 1986