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

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#81
San Francisco Bay Area
8,324 Posts
Joined Jul 2008
Originally posted by Starlaker
Why did we chose to take a river cruise and not take the included excursions? The convenience of unpacking once, the experience of cruising along the river, the people we met along the way, the convenience of travel from one spot to another. You are right, to each his own. We enjoyed it very much and would not have seen all those towns in such a relaxing manner if we had done it totally on our own.
Fair enough
#82
New York
7,984 Posts
Joined Aug 2011
Originally posted by lackcreativity
It is funny, but I always though I had no interest in taking an ocean cruise. However, after our first Viking River cruise on the Danube, we learned about the new Viking Ocean division. There was an itinerary in the Eastern Mediterranean (Athens to Venice), that sounded very appealing, so we decided to give it a try.

It was a small ship (930 passengers), no casino, no children, no rock climbing walls or water slides, and turned out to be a wonderful experience. There were three resident historians traveling on the ship who provided enrichment talks, along with the daily port talks. The food was wonderful, as were the staff, and we met some wonderful guests. It was very much like the Viking river cruise, only bigger. We had such a great time, we have now booked our second ocean cruise with Viking. Apparently, I do like ocean cruise (at least this kind!).
There is a major divide between ocean cruises on mega-ships in the Caribbean [which is what many non-cruisers think of when you say 'cruise'] and small ships in interesting places [basically everywhere else in the world ]. If you want to enlarge your options beyond Viking Ocean, you would find the experience similar on Azamara, Crystal, Oceania, Regent, and Silversea [except more formal dress code on the latter]. Each of these lines has different inclusions, but what they provide is on the level of Viking Ocean and those that don't include shore excursions can be quite a bit less expensive. I'm still looking forward to my first Viking Ocean cruise next year, but it is by far the most expensive per diem and as my plans get more detailed the number of included tours that I plan to take keeps decreasing. That may well send me back to Azamara [on a value basis] no matter how much I enjoy the cruise.
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Email me: [email protected]
Blogs: Jazzbeaux Blogs

I am not an employee of Cruise Critic and I don't speak for Cruise Critic. All opinions are mine alone. Also, I'm only a Host on the various River forums -- everywhere else I'm "just plain Jazz."

Booked:
Crown Princess Classic Canada & New England 10-2017
Azamara Quest Costa Rica 1-2018
AMA Discover Africa 5-2018
Viking Sun British Isles Explorer 8-2018
Celebrity Edge Caribbean B2B / Celebrity Equinox Caribbean B2B 1-2019 [will choose one!]

Completed:
Norwegian Pride of America Hawaii 10-2016; Azamara Quest Norwegian Fjords 8-2016; Celebrity Constellation Greek Isles 5-2016; AmaDagio Provence 9-2015; Celebrity Xpedition Galapagos 5-2015; Celebrity Eclipse Southern Carib 3-2015; Fresco Tours A Kinder Camino walking tour 9-2014; Crystal Serenity Mediterranean 5-2014; Coral Princess Panama Canal 1-2014; AmaCello Rhine 8-2013; Coral Princess Alaska 6-2013; Ireland Fly-Drive 9-2012; Norwegian Dawn Caribbean 3-2013 / Celebrity Summit Caribbean 1-2012 / Oceania Insignia Mediterranean 5-2011 / Fair Dinkum (Erie Canal bareboat) 7-2003 / Costa Italia Caribbean 5-1974
#83
Nottingham, MD
61 Posts
Joined Aug 2015
Originally posted by Host Jazzbeau
There is a major divide between ocean cruises on mega-ships in the Caribbean [which is what many non-cruisers think of when you say 'cruise'] and small ships in interesting places [basically everywhere else in the world ]. If you want to enlarge your options beyond Viking Ocean, you would find the experience similar on Azamara, Crystal, Oceania, Regent, and Silversea [except more formal dress code on the latter]. Each of these lines has different inclusions, but what they provide is on the level of Viking Ocean and those that don't include shore excursions can be quite a bit less expensive. I'm still looking forward to my first Viking Ocean cruise next year, but it is by far the most expensive per diem and as my plans get more detailed the number of included tours that I plan to take keeps decreasing. That may well send me back to Azamara [on a value basis] no matter how much I enjoy the cruise.
Thanks for the recommendations. I don't doubt that there are other cruise lines that we would enjoy as well. Depending on how long our health and our finances allow us to continue to travel, eventually, we may seek out other options based on itinerary.

Since I am still working and my husband runs a small business, we are only able to take one vacation a year. We are quite content in the least expensive cabins, so the cost fits our budget. Our trips on Viking have been so enjoyable, that for now, we will remain brand loyal.
#84
Washington State
640 Posts
Joined May 2008
Originally posted by Paulchili
I understand your logic of not wanting to be herded but am somewhat confused. As river cruises are quite expensive - compared to ocean cruises, for example - why pay for all that, including the excursions and expert local guides when you could easily do this trip on your own, seeing how you prefer to DIY in all the places visited.
For that money you could have stayed in 5 star hotels that are much nicer than the ship - especially as hotels are per room and cruises are per person (i.e. double cost). In addition, you could eat what and where you want for less and better. A hefty price for convenient transportation, IMO.
To each their own, I guess.
And I am a bit confused at your disdain without knowing us or our circumstances. We lived in Germany for four years when we were young and energetic. We traveled through Holland, Germany, and Austria with our "Europe on $10 a day" book and our Michelin guide. We took in all the sights, toured the castles and cathedrals, read the history, went to all the museums. This time around we were taking a trip down memory lane (river) for our 50th Anniversary. We are now older, slower, and more interested in taking it easy and having a bit more luxury than sharing a bathroom down the hall. We enjoyed our jaunts into towns with stops for beer, wurst and pretzels as we sat in sidewalk cafes people watching. We thoroughly enjoyed doing it our way.
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Previous cruises:
Carnival Inspiration -W. Caribbean '02, Carnival Victory - E. Caribbean '03, Carnival Glory - W. Caribbean '04, Carnival Valor - E. Caribbean '05, Diamond Princess - Alaska '06, Crown Princess - Baltic '08, Sapphire Princess - Mexico '09, Coral Princess - Alaska '09, NCL Pride of America - Hawaii '09, Island Princess - Panama Canal '10, Oceania Regatta - Amazon '10, Caribbean Princess - British Isles/TA '12, Crown Princess - W. Caribbean '13, Grand Princess - Hawaii '13, Golden Princess - Alaska '14, Oceania Marina - Spain '16.


#85
Washington State
640 Posts
Joined May 2008
Originally posted by Paulchili
Fair enough
Just saw this. Thank you.
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Previous cruises:
Carnival Inspiration -W. Caribbean '02, Carnival Victory - E. Caribbean '03, Carnival Glory - W. Caribbean '04, Carnival Valor - E. Caribbean '05, Diamond Princess - Alaska '06, Crown Princess - Baltic '08, Sapphire Princess - Mexico '09, Coral Princess - Alaska '09, NCL Pride of America - Hawaii '09, Island Princess - Panama Canal '10, Oceania Regatta - Amazon '10, Caribbean Princess - British Isles/TA '12, Crown Princess - W. Caribbean '13, Grand Princess - Hawaii '13, Golden Princess - Alaska '14, Oceania Marina - Spain '16.


#86
FL
14,305 Posts
Joined Jul 2003
Originally posted by Starlaker
Why did we chose to take a river cruise and not take the included excursions? The convenience of unpacking once, the experience of cruising along the river, the people we met along the way, the convenience of travel from one spot to another. You are right, to each his own. We enjoyed it very much and would not have seen all those towns in such a relaxing manner if we had done it totally on our own.
We feel (and do) exactly the same. My husband calls our DIY land trips a "forced march" as I like to keep busy and moving. We move cities/hotels every 3-4 days, and generally day trip from our main locations. The moving and trains and baggage can be a bit draining (we won't drive in Europe) and a river cruise is a nice change to a more relaxed vacation.

A combination of a short river cruise and time DIY in Europe keeps us both happy.

Adapting it to our tastes is exactly what we do on our river cruises.
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143 cruises since 1964, 15 on the river.
Looking forward to:
Le Lyral, The Adriatic, September 2017
MS Joy - Magic of Advent, December 2017
Crystal Esprit, February 2018

Amadeus Provence, November 2018
AmaKristina, Christmas Markets, December 2018
Scenic Eclipse, April, 2019

Our river cruising history:
Avalon Luminary B2B- Christmas Markets, 2009
Avalon Affinity - Christmas Markets 2010
Avalon Panorama - Danube New Years Cruise, 2011
AmaDante -Vineyards of the Rhine and Moselle 2012
AmaCerto - Budapest to Nuremburg, 2013
AmaBella - Tulip Time, 2014
AmaDagio - Provence, 2014
AmaReina - Holiday on the Rhine 2014
SS Catherine - Provence 2015
AmaSerena Christmas on the Rhine, 2015
Scenic Diamond, Bordeaux, April 2016
AmaVida, Douro, August. 2016
AmaSonata, Romantic Danube - Oct. 2016
Joie de Vivre, Paris and Normany - April 2017
#87
Western New York
187 Posts
Joined Nov 2012
@ Hoyaheel:
Re your post on your cruise in which you were able to dock and walk into town. It was Avalon and the boat was Vista or was that the name of the tour? Also, what does NUE-BSL mean? I am particularly interested in cruises that dock where I can just hop off the boat and look around.
Thank you.
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Alaska Marine Highway System. 2006
Viking. The Forseti. May, 2014 Chateaux, Rivers & Wine
Viking. The Prestige. October, 2015. Danube Waltz
#88
353 Posts
Joined Mar 2010
Originally posted by dogsarepeopletoo
I am the flip of the OP -- l have next to zero interest in ocean cruises.

Good thing we have differences!
We're the same way.


Originally posted by Starlaker
Why did we chose to take a river cruise and not take the included excursions? The convenience of unpacking once, the experience of cruising along the river, the people we met along the way, the convenience of travel from one spot to another. You are right, to each his own. We enjoyed it very much and would not have seen all those towns in such a relaxing manner if we had done it totally on our own.
Prior to our last Christmas Markets cruise (and being the warm weather wimps that we are!) my husband said that if the weather were too cold and miserable he'd be perfectly happy staying warm and cozy on the boat the whole time. As it turned out, we had great weather most of the time but we still were selective about which tours to go on. We'd often start out with the group and then break away to explore on our own.
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Upcoming:
2018 - Uniworld SS Maria Theresa - Danube Holiday Markets, Budapest - Passau
Past:
2016 - Uniworld SS Maria Theresa - European Holiday Markets - Vienna to Nuremberg
2015 - Uniworld SS Antoinette - Castles Along the Rhine - Amsterdam to Basel


#89
FL
14,305 Posts
Joined Jul 2003
Originally posted by MalibooNewYork
@ Hoyaheel:
Re your post on your cruise in which you were able to dock and walk into town. It was Avalon and the boat was Vista or was that the name of the tour? Also, what does NUE-BSL mean? I am particularly interested in cruises that dock where I can just hop off the boat and look around.
Thank you.
Avalon Vista is a vessel.

NUE = Nuremberg
BSL = Basel

Our favorite itinerary was the Rhone as we were docked in town and stayed in several ports overnight and were able to go out for a walk after dinner.

Tulip Time also had easy access to town/city center.
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143 cruises since 1964, 15 on the river.
Looking forward to:
Le Lyral, The Adriatic, September 2017
MS Joy - Magic of Advent, December 2017
Crystal Esprit, February 2018

Amadeus Provence, November 2018
AmaKristina, Christmas Markets, December 2018
Scenic Eclipse, April, 2019

Our river cruising history:
Avalon Luminary B2B- Christmas Markets, 2009
Avalon Affinity - Christmas Markets 2010
Avalon Panorama - Danube New Years Cruise, 2011
AmaDante -Vineyards of the Rhine and Moselle 2012
AmaCerto - Budapest to Nuremburg, 2013
AmaBella - Tulip Time, 2014
AmaDagio - Provence, 2014
AmaReina - Holiday on the Rhine 2014
SS Catherine - Provence 2015
AmaSerena Christmas on the Rhine, 2015
Scenic Diamond, Bordeaux, April 2016
AmaVida, Douro, August. 2016
AmaSonata, Romantic Danube - Oct. 2016
Joie de Vivre, Paris and Normany - April 2017
#90
North Carolina
5,632 Posts
Joined Apr 2005
Originally posted by MalibooNewYork
@ Hoyaheel:
Re your post on your cruise in which you were able to dock and walk into town. It was Avalon and the boat was Vista or was that the name of the tour? Also, what does NUE-BSL mean? I am particularly interested in cruises that dock where I can just hop off the boat and look around.
Originally posted by caviargal
Avalon Vista is a vessel.
NUE = Nuremberg
BSL = Basel
Caviargal answered the basics. My review has the specifics of which towns we were able to access on foot https://www.cruisecritic.com/memberr...EntryID=268791

But be aware - much more than ocean cruises, ports can & do change for river cruises! Sometimes due to river conditions (high or low water) and sometimes due to local conditions - like, a lock is backed up and someone else beats you to a dock and the local dockmaster sends you someplace else, etc. The cruise director will always handle the transportation for the tours, but you might find yourself at an industrial port instead of Old Town and unable to just hop off and see the (pretty) sights....
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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
#91
ca
1,064 Posts
Joined Jul 2008
Originally posted by bitob
Ask away. I will try to help


Sent from my iPhone using Forums
Thank you so much.

1. Any must not miss sights?

2. Favorite excursion ?

3. What did the men wear at the off ship dinners?

4. Did you like the grill?

5. Did you book your pre cruise hotel through Tauck?

I'm sure I will have more questions as my trip gets closer. LOL

We did book Category 7 so I hope we won't feel too cramped. did you by any chance see a category 7 ?

Thanks for you willingness to answer my questions.
#92
Southern California
620 Posts
Joined Nov 2008
Originally posted by bitob
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.
I was not on a 6 star ship, we were on Vantage which I guess would be 4 star, they state 5 star. I was in a suite, so room was comfortable, but food was below par, service was ok, tours were good..no entertainment to speak of. I feel exactly as you do, never again on a river cruise. We don't want to eat dinner exactly at 7pm.. we did a private guide in Budapest for 2 days, just my DH and I, it was fantastic. We do small group tours on Ocean cruises which I have arranged through CC guests. So those of us who enjoy our independence will continue to go on Ocean cruises. I have two at the moment booked, our favorite, Celebrity in a suite, and going to try Viking Ocean. Have been on Regent and Azamara and enjoyed both. Have fun cruising, either river or ocean..
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#93
NY, ZG/Colorado
931 Posts
Joined Jun 2013
Originally posted by vino100
Thank you so much.

1. Any must not miss sights?

2. Favorite excursion ?

3. What did the men wear at the off ship dinners?

4. Did you like the grill?

5. Did you book your pre cruise hotel through Tauck?

I'm sure I will have more questions as my trip gets closer. LOL

We did book Category 7 so I hope we won't feel too cramped. did you by any chance see a category 7 ?

Thanks for you willingness to answer my questions.
I am not Bitob but just did the Danube with Tauck this past April.

3. Men wore jackets to the dinners off of the ship in Prague and Vienna. These were special evenings and the Opera in Vienna was my favorite evening.

4. Grill is decent for a quick meal if you are tired of the dining room or just plain tired ;-)

5. Yes, we arrived early and stayed at Tauck hotel (Intercontinental in Prague). Nice location to get around everything.

We were in Cat 7 and the suite is a very nice size and laid out well. You will not be disappointed. A nice walk in closet, lovely bath, sitting area with couch, a great bed.
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#94
194 Posts
Joined Feb 2005
Thank you for this review! I am an ocean cruiser wondering about a river cruise and I've enjoyed all the discussion.
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#95
ca
1,064 Posts
Joined Jul 2008
Originally posted by portofinoitaly
I am not Bitob but just did the Danube with Tauck this past April.

3. Men wore jackets to the dinners off of the ship in Prague and Vienna. These were special evenings and the Opera in Vienna was my favorite evening.

4. Grill is decent for a quick meal if you are tired of the dining room or just plain tired ;-)

5. Yes, we arrived early and stayed at Tauck hotel (Intercontinental in Prague). Nice location to get around everything.

We were in Cat 7 and the suite is a very nice size and laid out well. You will not be disappointed. A nice walk in closet, lovely bath, sitting area with couch, a great bed.
Thanks for the info. Sounds like you were pleased with Tauck.
#96
Toronto, Ottawa Valley ON, and Dunedin FL
14,188 Posts
Joined May 2001
I just read this thread, and find the OP's assessment very interesting, and wanted to make a few comments. We were booked on this cruise, AMS-BUD in fall 2015, on Tauck, and it would have been our first river cruise. We ended up having to cancel for various reasons, so we're still European river cruise virgins.

We did do our first river trip in that same time frame on the Nile with Uniworld, and loved the whole experience. BUT, Egypt is a whole different environment than Europe. Not one where you would wander off by yourselves much. And...given the political situation in Egypt at the time, our group onboard was 12 passengers. So all over our (carefully planned) excursions were obviously in a small group, which was great. Yes, there were some long bus trips, although I found just watching the culture roll by quite fascinating in itself.

Not sure now if I would feel the same in Europe. No more river trips in our plans, but if we did, it might be the Seine or the Douro (love Portugal).

Size of cabins: our cabin on River Tosca was wonderful for us. It was about the same size as a standard cabin on the luxury cruise line that we've sailed on most--Regent Seven Seas. That is, 300 sq ft or more. "French" balcony hardly open because of the heat, but great because of the floor to ceiling windows the full width of the cabin. Huge bathroom. Sometimes we sail in small cabins, will be in an Azamara cabin next year with 175 sq ft. This is the smallest I can imagine. And as for never being in the cabin, we found that our bed was a great place to watch the Nile go by during "downtime" after touring.

Another aspect--we're getting to the age where we don't mind being "shepherded" around. Although it's not optimal (we have loved independent travel over the years), we're not as physically energetic as we were, so most planned excursions would be fine with us, and if not, a stroll in town would be an nice change.

But there are lines that do not include many excursions in the price, so if one wants to be independent, one could choose one of those--most aren't apparently luxurious, but it's an option.

I've always said in the past that Europe's not an ideal place for an ocean cruise. And the river cruise seems to solve that, but the destinations are limited, aren't they? Last fall we did a 7-night Rome-Rome cruise down the Amalfi Coast to Sicily and back, bracketed by almost two weeks of land touring in Rome and Florence--a perfect combination, in my books.
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⚓ Upcoming Cruises:
Paul Gaugin Cook Islands & Society Islands, October 2017

Azamara Journey, Norwegian Fjords, Edinburgh - Copenhagen, July 2018
⚓Past Cruises:

Seven Seas Mariner, Miami-Lima, January 2017
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Paul Gauguin 2000, 2003, 2005, 2008, 2014
Oceania Riviera, Nov. 2013
Seven Seas Navigator, Dec. 2006, Alaska May 2012
Radisson Diamond June, Black Sea 2004
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